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HD Talk
Unbiased Coverage Of All Things HD: HD-DVD, Blu-Ray and Beyond

High-Def Revolution - Welcome to the Revolution!

High-Def Revolution

Notes from the Next-Generation Video Disc Format War


Welcome to the High-Def Revolution! For this, the first in DVDTalk's (hopefully) recurring column covering the latest and greatest in High Definition video, we'd like to give you an overview of the HD DVD vs. Blu-ray format war and make a case for why High-Def matters. Let's get the revolution started!


Amoebas, Jellyfish, and
Why Sitting Out the Format War Helps No One

Once upon a time, back when the very first HDTVs were introduced in the United States, I read an article in some electronics publication that delivered a profound piece of wisdom: "Everyone who sees High Definition wants High Definition". The source of that quote has long since been lost to the vagaries of memory, but the message stuck with me ever since. Everyone who sees High Definition wants High Definition. And why wouldn't they? High Definition video is the holy grail of home theater, the closest you can get to the quality of a movie's original film source in your own living room. More than that, it's such as obvious improvement in sharpness, clarity, detail, and color over the standard television signals we've been watching for decades that even the least discerning viewers can see the difference in quality and are almost always overwhelmed by it.

For various reasons, both technical and political, adoption of HDTV in the American marketplace has been a slow process. But here we are, finally at a time when sales of High Definition TV sets are about to overtake sales of traditional Standard Definition sets. Even better, all the major Hollywood film studios are committed to releasing their movie catalogs on brand new High Definition video discs that you can own and watch at home with all the convenience of DVD but six times the picture resolution and improved sound quality to boot. Surely, this is a dream come true for movie buffs and home theater enthusiasts.

And yet, in this midst of this technological revolution, pundits are crawling out of the woodwork to warn consumers away from the new High-Def movie players and discs. "It's a niche product. It'll never catch on"; or "There's a format war. Don't get caught in the middle"; or "Regular DVD is good enough," they say. It's perhaps that last one I find the most offensive. Good enough? Video quality is an evolving process. VHS seemed good enough for a while; when you put in a tape you got a picture most of the time and usually sound too. OK, so it looked like mud and widescreen movies were scissored to fit into square TV sets, but it let you watch a movie at home as many times as you wanted (at least until the tape wore out). Was that really good enough? Should we have just stuck with that level of quality forever? Ah, but then DVD came along to show people what decent picture quality might look like, often in widescreen and with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. Guess what happened then? "Good enough" VHS died. That was a big step forward, right? True, but DVD is still just Standard Definition and even at its best is limited to a fraction of the video resolution potential that true HD offers. Time marches on and technology inevitably improves. High Definition is the real deal, the end goal that anyone who cares about home theater has been waiting for. And it's here. Right now.

Oh, but it's slightly more complicated than that, isn't it? There's the evil format war boogeyman to mess things up for everyone. The exact chain of events that led us to two separate but extremely similar High Definition video disc formats being released to market at the same time is too long, complicated, and frustrating a story to tell here. Suffice it to say that the competing Blu-ray and HD DVD products would each be, individually, a great innovation well worth a viewer's time and investment. Unfortunately, it's the rivalry between them that's causing so much consumer confusion, fear, and doubt. What's the difference between the formats? Which one is better? Which one will win? These are the questions that bring us to:

The State of the High-Def Union

Back in March of this year, Toshiba toured around the country with an HD DVD Product Introduction Event. I was very impressed with the demo they presented, and wrapped up my coverage with the following note: "For the record, I fully expect Blu-Ray players to have near-identical quality to what we've seen of HD DVD." When the Toshiba HD-A1 HD DVD Player was released the following month I echoed those remarks and added: "We here at DVDTalk plan to give both formats their fair shake. If Blu-Ray players and software prove to be worthy of their premium prices you'll read about it right here."

What a bumpy ride we've had in the following months! HD DVD made a strong premiere, delivering reasonably-priced players and a consistently high standard of software quality. The main supporting movie studios (Warner, Universal, and Paramount) have also gone out of their way to offer an impressive breadth of releases from their catalogs. While we've gotten some of the expected razzle-dazzle action and sci-fi pictures (The Chronicles of Riddick, Swordfish, Terminator 3), we've also been given a good selection of respected dramas, award winners, and classic movies (Million Dollar Baby, Goodfellas, The Searchers). Look no further than an extraordinary disc like the 1938 The Adventures of Robin Hood for ample demonstration that High Definition works wonders for movies of all types and ages.

But the specter of Blu-ray loomed. The competing format promised even more advanced technical specifications (50 gb of storage! Uncompressed digital audio! Incredible interactive features!), as well as support from a greater number of movie studios. Blu-ray's amazing quality and features would crush HD DVD, we were told. The player hardware might be more expensive, but it would damn well be worth it. No questions asked. No debate about it. Blu-ray would be, quite simply, the single greatest invention in all of humankind's recorded history, and if you doubted that every last person on the face of the planet would have a Blu-ray player in their home by the end of 2006 you were a deluded fool.

Uh oh.

Yeah, so things didn't exactly work out as planned for the Blu-ray camp. The first Blu-ray player, Samsung's BD-P1000, and the first batch of software titles from Sony and Lionsgate launched in late June to waves of disappointment. The player, priced twice as much as the comparable HD DVD model, offered unimpressive quality and features. The initial movie discs ranged in appearance from "looks like an average HD broadcast over cable or a middle-of-the-road HD DVD" to "the worst HD image I've ever seen". And from there it just went to "easily the worst-looking Blu-ray I've seen yet, and that's saying quite a lot". This was not an auspicious debut.

To be fair, not every Blu-ray release in those first few months was awful. Most ranged from merely mediocre to reasonably decent. Still, the format had quite a shaky start, and even at its best hardly rivaled the less expensive, high quality HD DVD. There was little to justify the cost of a $1,000 piece of hardware.

Blu-ray's troubles were speculated to be the result of several factors: its inability to get dual-layer 50 gb discs working, its use of the older and inefficient MPEG2 compression codec, and (on many discs) its insistence on space-hogging PCM audio. In many discussions, MPEG2 tended to take the brunt of the blame, perhaps unfairly. We here at DVDTalk were as guilty as anyone in jumping on the anti-MPEG2 bandwagon. In truth, the compression codec alone wasn't solely responsible for the format's failures. In recent months, both Warner Bros. and Paramount have released some very nice-looking MPEG2 Blu-rays, often nearly indistinguishable from their (VC-1 compressed) counterparts on HD DVD. No, the real fault lay with the combination of factors and, to be perfectly blunt about it, the arrogance, dishonesty, and lack of care from major forces in the Blu-ray camp.

Blu-ray was so certain to win this format war and win it easily that no one bothered to make sure they were actually providing a better product. The lack of proper attention that went into the mastering of shoddy discs such as The Fifth Element or House of Flying Daggers is downright shameful. It was just assumed that if you pick a movie known to have nice photography, slap it on a disc, and call it High Definition that the public would eat it up. Never mind that the film elements used for the transfer are covered in dirt, or that the inadequate digital compression leaves the resulting image soft and filled with noise and pixelation artifacts. Who's going to notice stuff like that? Well, you know who did notice? People who care about High Definition. Early adopters certainly noticed that Blu-ray just wasn't delivering the quality promised but that HD DVD was. And the result? HD DVD software has outsold the competition by a factor of nearly three to one.

Where Do We Go From Here?

You'd think after having its hindquarters handed to it in these first rounds of the format war, the Blu-ray camp might develop some humility and set forth on a course to correct its mistakes. Indeed, in recent weeks Blu-ray quality has made some slow but steady improvements. The first dual-layer BD50 discs have successfully hit the market, some studios are beginning to use the advanced VC-1 and AVC MPEG4 compression codecs, and a little more care seems to be put into even standard MPEG2 BD25 discs. We still get the occasional clunker (Disney's Dinosaur is arguably even softer and less detailed than the DVD edition), but by and large the worst is behind us. At its best, we've gotten some exceptionally nice Blu-rays like Corpse Bride and Mission: Impossible III that are every bit as good as their HD DVD counterparts. But you'll find a rub in that. The very best Blu-rays have mostly come from Warner Bros. and Paramount, the two studios supporting both formats. These top-tier Blu-rays are usually just ported over from the studios' own HD DVD editions of the same movies. To date, it's still quite rare to find a Blu-ray exclusive title universally praised for its picture quality. Where does that leave us? For a player of twice the price, we get a format that is at best of equal quality to HD DVD and frequently inferior. What, exactly, is the incentive to buy?

As for humility, we're still waiting to see some of that. Just recently, our friends at High-Def Digest conducted a thoroughly bizarre interview with Don Eklund, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Executive Vice President of Advanced Technologies, in which the company spokesman continued to blithely insist that there's never been anything wrong with Blu-ray development, that bad picture quality is mostly the fault of the viewer, and that if a movie transfer has dirt or video noise it's because the film's director wanted them. Eklund also defended his studio's attachment to the older MPEG2 compression codec even on low-capacity BD25 discs burdened with PCM audio by criticizing "those funny amoeba-like artifacts that VC-1 can produce, where it looks like there is a jellyfish on the wall that's moving around".

Those what? Where it looks like what? I don't know in what aquarium Eklund watches his movies, but I can assure you that I've never seen any "amoebas" or "jellyfish" in any of the dozens of VC-1 encoded HD DVDs or Blu-rays that I've watched over the last seven months. And trust me, I'm as nit-picky and critical a viewer as you'll ever meet.

Personally, I believe we're moving into a phase where HD DVD and Blu-ray quality will essentially equalize, which is what I originally assumed would have happened at the start of this war. Both formats have the potential to deliver outstanding High Definition video, terrific sound, and exciting new interactive bonus features. Thus far, HD DVD has been meeting those goals but it's taken Blu-ray quite a bit of catching up. In the coming months it will only become more difficult to tell the two apart, other than the tremendous disparity in hardware cost. If they expect to survive, the Blu-ray folks will have to narrow that price gap and start learning from their mistakes. An arrogant attitude like Eklund's serves no good purpose and demonstrates an amazing disconnect from the reality of the situation.

The Fallacy of "Waiting It Out"

It's expected that early adopters will put up with all manner of quirks, bugs, and quality issues to stay on the leading edge of a new technology, but not every interested consumer has the resources or patience to buy into a new video format right away. Hence the numerous op-ed pieces and blog posts from all over the spectrum instructing their readers to hold tight with plain old DVD. Format wars are too messy, they complain. What if you pick the wrong side? It's best to just wait it out and see which format emerges victorious, then buy in later. The advice sounds reasonable enough, almost like common sense, doesn't it?

Unfortunately, there's a gaping logical deficiency in this argument. Hardware manufacturers and movie studios care only about one thing: money. When you buy their product, they make money and this pleases them. When you don't buy their product, they lose money and this doesn't make them very happy at all. When they lose money on a product, they stop making that product, and then nobody is happy. These companies will employ all sorts of high-priced analysts and surveys to gauge consumer interest, but the fact is that the corporations have absolutely no idea why anyone buys or does not buy their products. All they see is money coming in or money going out, and more often than not fail to accurately judge long-term prospects and market trends. By "waiting out" the format war, the consumer may believe he's sending a message that the corporations should set their differences aside and consolidate efforts into making one superior product to benefit everyone. That would be nice, wouldn't it? It would also be nice if every little girl could have the pony she wants, politicians didn't lie, and clouds were made of cotton candy. That's a fantasy land. The real world doesn't work like that.

Regardless of the intention, sitting out this format war sends one unmistakable message: People don't want High Definition. If they wanted it, they'd buy it. If nobody is buying it, why should the companies continue to make it? Thus, both formats die and nobody gets the High Definition they actually wanted. Everybody loses.

Believe it or not, the format war has had some positive benefits. Imagine what would have happened if there'd been no competition to pressure the manufacturers and studios into driving down prices and improving quality. Do you really think the first HD DVD players would be priced at an affordable $499 if they weren't trying to undercut the more expensive Blu-ray rival? Do you think the Blu-ray partners would have any reason to improve the quality of their recent releases if HD DVD hadn't proven the earlier BD products inadequate? Unchallenged market dominance breeds complacency. Competition drives innovation. These are the cornerstones of a Capitalist market. In the end, both products will prove better in competition than they might have otherwise been individually.

If either is to survive, much less prevail, the HD DVD and Blu-ray camps must continue to improve their products and make them more appealing. Why are Blu-ray's players twice as expensive as HD DVD's? Fix that. Are dual-format players possible? Make them. Movie studios, by choosing exclusivity to just one format you lose every potential sale from owners of the other product. Support both formats equally and let the consumers guide you. You're doing no one any favors by alienating half (or more) of your market pool, not to mention everyone still undecided.

Video hardware manufacturers, here's what you need to do: stop making regular DVD players. Since all of the High-Def players from both formats are backwards compatible with standard DVD, start phasing out your DVD-only products. Do whatever you need to cut the costs for the HD decks and release them at the same pricepoint you currently sell DVD players. Sales of HDTV sets are at an all-time high and only going upwards. People are dying for High Definition content to watch on their new big-screen TVs, but they're afraid of new technology at high prices. Don't give them any reason to not buy an HD player. If they're going to purchase a new DVD player anyway, make sure the one they get has HD DVD and/or Blu-ray capabilities already in it. Once they've got the technology in their home, they will buy High-Def software to play on it. HD will be the video drug of the 21st Century. Give them a taste and they'll gladly come back for more.

Like it or not, the High Definition format war is a fact of life and isn't going away anytime soon. Waiting for it to end will just cause both sides to pull the plug, depriving everyone of a perfectly good product they would otherwise be happy to spend some money on. If you want any form of High Definition video disc to succeed at all, now is the time to vote with your dollar. Afraid to risk the money? How much did you spend on that nice HDTV anyway? Why skimp now by losing out on the best content to watch on it? Research both products and pick the one that offers you the most content, features, quality, and value-for-your-buck. Send the corporations a message they'll listen to. Only by telling them what you want can you ever expect to get it.

Everyone who sees High Definition wants High Definition. And why wouldn't they?

- Joshua Zyber


High-Def News

Welcome New High-Def Reviewers
DVDTalk welcomes Daniel Hirshleifer and Brendan Surpless to staff as our latest High-Def reviewers. With the major movie studios ramping up High-Def disc production on both formats, we're glad to have Daniel and Brendan to help cover all the latest goodies.

Reminder - Player Firmware Updates
If you haven't already done so, make sure your HD DVD and Blu-ray players are updated with the latest firmware enhancements:

  • Firmware 2.0 for Toshiba HD-A1, HD-XA1, and HD-D1 - Adds full support for Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio via the HDMI or analog audio outputs. Also upgrades the HDi interactive capabilities necessary to use the latest high-tech special features on discs such as The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. To install: If you have a high-speed internet connection, follow the download instructions in the player manual. Or you may request a firmware CD-Rom from the Toshiba Customer Support web site.
  • Firmware 1.0 for Samsung BD-P1000 - Fixes the video stuttering problem on Blu-ray discs with DTS soundtracks. Also enables the pillarboxing of 4:3 video content on Blu-ray discs (such as bonus features, which were previously stretched to 16:9). Rumor has it that this update reduces the player's default Noise Reduction setting from High to Medium, but many users are still debating whether that fix actually went in. To install: Download the firmware from the Samsung web site and burn it to a CD-Rom. Make sure you get the file dated 10/26/06, as it seems that Samsung previously had another Firmware 1.0 file using an earlier date on their site, and the file sizes are slightly different. It's still unknown whether the two files really offer any functional differences, but it may be worth your time to upgrade again if you already grabbed the previous file.
New High-Def Hardware
If you haven't jumped into the High-Def waters yet, brand new players from both formats may tempt you. Panasonic's Blu-ray DMP-BD10 is available now (MSRP $1,299) and is said to be a noticeable improvement over the Samsung model. On the HD DVD side, Toshiba's HD-A2 (MSRP $499) should be hitting retailers in the very near future, and the high-end HD-XA2 ($999) will be released in December. And of course we can't forget that Sony's Playstation 3 will have Blu-ray playback capabilities, and Microsoft will release their XBox360 HD DVD add-on component shortly. We here at DVDTalk would be glad to put these devices through their paces and write up in-depth reviews as we did for the earlier Toshiba and Samsung models, if any of the manufacturers would be so kind as to assist us with loaners for review purposes. (Contact us. Seriously.)


Latest HD DVD Reviews
(Click on each link to read the full article.)

  • The Adventures of Robin Hood by Joshua Zyber. DVDTalk Collector Series. - "Its makers may have all passed on, but the movie is as vibrant and alive as ever. An amazing restoration for the movie that looks terrific in HD, as well as an astounding wealth of bonus features."

  • Batman Begins by Adam Tyner. Highly Recommended. - "Sharply directed, near-flawlessly cast, and intelligently written, Batman Begins is by far the most exceptional of the recent glut of superhero movies. In no way does its 2.39:1 high-definition presentation disappoint. There is not a single flaw or imperfection to mention."

  • The Break-Up by Adam Tyner. Highly Recommended. - "A refreshingly honest and extremely welcome change of pace from the well-tread romantic comedy formula."

  • Dazed and Confused by Joshua Zyber. Recommended. - "A true slice of high school life, even for those who didn't grow up in the '70s."

  • End of Days by Joshua Zyber. Rent It. - "One of Arnold Schwarzenegger's weakest movies, but has its share of guilty pleasure moments. The HD DVD has unremarkable picture and sound."

  • House of Wax by Adam Tyner. Rent It. - "If you can suffer through the barely tolerable first 45 minutes, there are some solid jump scares and a few cacklingly violent kills."

  • The Interpreter by Daniel Hirshleifer. Highly Recommended. - "A strong political thriller with an emotional core."

  • Lethal Weapon 2 by Daniel Hirshleifer. Recommended. - "The action in the film is top-notch, and the added humor works to the benefit of the proceedings."

  • Mission: Impossible III by Joshua Zyber. Recommended. - "A solid action movie with plenty of repeat viewing potential. The High-Def video quality is fantastic and demonstration-worthy."

  • New Orleans Concert - The Music of America's Soul by Daniel Hirshleifer. Rent It. - "A decidedly minor inclusion into the existing list of HD DVDs released thus far, but it's not without its pleasures."

  • Out of Sight by Daniel Hirshleifer. Recommended. - "While it's not as fresh as it once was, Out of Sight is still an entertaining diversion. This is HD done right. This movie looks utterly fantastic."

  • Spartacus by Daniel Hirshleifer. Rent It. - "Over 40 years after its release, Hollywood has yet to make a gladiator film better than Spartacus. Sadly, this HD DVD version only offers a slight visual improvement over the previous DVD versions."

  • The Thing by Adam Tyner. Highly Recommended. - "A claustrophobic, deeply cynical horror film. Essential viewing for fans of the genre. The image is terrifically sharp and detailed, offering a considerable improvement over the 2004 DVD reissue."

  • Traffic by Joshua Zyber. Recommended. - "A compelling, powerful work of socially-conscious filmmaking. The picture quality is only a minor upgrade over standard DVD."
  • 12 Monkeys by Daniel Hirshleifer. Highly Recommended. - "A unique, bizarre, thought-provoking film. Easily a quantum leap over the picture quality of the DVD versions."

Index of All HD DVD Reviews
Toshiba HD-A1 HD DVD Player Review


Latest Blu-ray Reviews
(Click on each link to read the full article.)

  • Aeon Flux by John Sinnott. Skip It. - "When all was said and done, there was really only one thing that prevented me from loving this film: it sucked big-time. The image itself looks superb."

  • Blazing Saddles by Joshua Zyber. Highly Recommended. - "Every bit as shockingly offensive, defiantly un-Politically Correct, and yes outrageously funny now as it was the day it premiered. The video transfer given to Blazing Saddles is nothing short of remarkable and belies its 30+ year age"

  • The Brothers Grimm by John Sinnott. Rent It. - "Visually entrancing but only mildly entertaining, this attempt at a big summer movie falls flat. The Blu-ray disc looks good but it has a few defects that keep it from being reference quality."

  • Click by John Sinnott. Rent It. - "Adam Sandler could possibly be a dramatic actor, but this movie doesn't prove it. The 50GB dual layer Blu-ray disc looks and sounds good though, and the fact that it has a full compliment of bonus features is a great plus."

  • Firewall by Brendan Surpless. Rent It. - "Turns from a cunning thriller to a predictable mess. I would consider this Blu-Ray release of Firewall just as good as the HD DVD."

  • Glory Road by Brendan Surpless. Recommended. - "Glory Road, flat out, surprised the hell out of me. I went in with little hope, especially considering Disney's previous track record, and I came out extremely impressed. One of the best-looking transfers I've seen thus far out of Disney."

  • Gone in 60 Seconds by Brendan Surpless. Skip It. - "I wished that the film was over in 60 Seconds."

  • Mission: Impossible III by Joshua Zyber. Recommended. - "The Blu-ray has a slightly softer picture than the competing HD DVD and lacks the Enhanced Commentary feature. Either version is excellent, and the disc comes recommended on whichever format you prefer."

  • Nacho Libre by John Sinnott. Skip It. - "How was it possible to mix two great things and come up with a disaster? This film misses at most levels."

  • Reds by John Sinnott. Highly Recommended. - "A movie that truly deserves all of the accolades that have been heaped upon it. The epic film looks outstanding in high definition and is sure to find its way into many BD libraries."

  • 16 Blocks by John Sinnott. Rent It. - "This action film is mildly entertaining but fails to really impress. The Blu-ray disc looks very good, with only the most minor of flaws present."

  • Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow by Joshua Zyber. Recommended. - "Breezy, lightweight entertainment, and a real treat for movie buffs."

  • Syriana by Brendan Surpless. Highly Recommended. - "A fascinating film that I'm sure anyone can enjoy if they let their own mind open up to the ideas presented."

Index of All Blu-ray Reviews
Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray Player Review


Staff Favorite Reviews

Since this is our first column, rather than list off every single review we've written over the past seven months, our staff has picked a selection of favorite articles to highlight.

HD DVD

  • Aeon Flux by Adam Tyner. Rent It. - "Too self-serious and pretentious for viewers who want a mindless popcorn action flick and too vapid, incoherent, and arbitrary for those aching for something substantial. Aeon Flux boasts the most jaw-droppingly impressive video I've seen from any source to date."

  • Army of Darkness by Adam Tyner. Recommended. - "Army of Darkness never really lets up -- it's one manic sequence after another for seventy minutes and change -- and that plus Bruce Campbell equals the greatest movie ever. "

  • Goodfellas by Joshua Zyber. Highly Recommended. - "One of the best American films of the past few decades and only gets better the more times you watch it. The picture and sound quality are decent, and the selection of bonus features is pretty good."

  • Kiss Kiss Bang Bang by Adam Tyner. Highly Recommended. - "Takes an armful of very conventional elements and shapes them into something shiny and new. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a stylized, stylish flick, and it looks spectacular on HD DVD."

  • The Phantom of the Opera by Joshua Zyber. Skip It. - "Joel Schumacher's unwatchable film production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's smash hit Broadway turd."

  • The Searchers by Adam Tyner. DVDTalk Collector Series. - "A masterfully composed, well-acted film that's as entertaining as it is thoughtful. The high-definition presentation is nothing short of extraordinary."

  • Serenity by Joshua Zyber. Highly Recommended. - "A fine, very entertaining sci-fi adventure that makes for a nice introduction into the High Definition videodisc era."

  • Space Cowboys by Daniel Hirshleifer. Recommended. - "Smart writing and excellent acting make for a good time that, despite what the marketing might have implied, does not have to descend to the level of a guilty pleasure. The movie has a decent level of rewatchability, and boasts a strong transfer and good audio mix."

  • Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines by Joshua Zyber. Highly Recommended. - "Somehow, despite all odds, T3 managed to pull through and deliver a surprisingly effective return for the hulking cyborg from the future. The HD DVD edition has excellent picture and sound, plus three good commentaries and the interesting In Movie Experience feature."

  • Tim Burton's Corpse Bride by Adam Tyner. Highly Recommended. - "A wonderful film that's infused with an indescribable amount of artistry and emotion, and it's one of the most easily recommended HD DVDs available right now."

Blu-ray

  • The Fifth Element by Joshua Zyber. Rent It. - "Gloriously goofy entertainment that never takes itself seriously for a second. The movie has a very vibrant and eye-catching photographic style, so you'd expect it to showcase the wonders of High Definition video. Sadly, not so much."

  • Full Metal Jacket by Joshua Zyber. Recommended. - "May not win over every viewer expecting a traditional war movie, but regardless deserves to stand among the best of the genre. Not the type of dazzling High Definition eye candy that many early adopters are probably looking for, but this HD presentation is certainly the best the movie has looked or sounded on home video."

  • Good Night, and Good Luck. by Joshua Zyber. Highly Recommended. - "One of the best movies in recent years. The movie's sterling black & white photography is represented amazingly well."

  • The Great Raid by John Sinnott. Highly Recommended. - "An interesting and at times gripping drama that seems to have passed under everyone's radar. The Blu-ray disc is exceptional with a fantastic picture and wonderful sound."

  • Into the Blue by John Sinnott. Skip it. - "Is anyone in Hollywood really surprised that theatrical attendance is down? When they put out crap like this no one should be surprised when people decide to stay home and watch TV. The Blu-ray disc looks fine, but even the beautiful Caribbean location can't save this dog of a picture."

  • Kiss Kiss Bang Bang by John Sinnott. Highly Recommended. - "A quirky, funny, and all around good movie that will surprise you at how enjoyable it is. This is one of the few Blu-Ray discs that impressed me from the first frames."

  • The Punisher by John Sinnott. Skip It. - "Two hours worth of bad acting, stupid plots, and really stupid assassins. The movie looks good but not as eye-popping or impressive as an HD movie should look."

  • RoboCop by Joshua Zyber. Rent It. - "Works brilliantly as both a slam-bang macho action movie and at the same time a parody of slam-bang macho action movies. I've written a couple of previous Blu-ray reviews where I'd called certain discs the worst High Definition image I'd ever seen, thinking HD couldn't possibly get any worse, but here Sony just keeps lowering the bar for the format." [Note: The RoboCop Blu-ray was cancelled at the last minute and not released to market.]

  • Silent Hill by Joshua Zyber. Rent It. - "There are pieces of greatness in the movie, and horror fans may find a lot to rewatch again and again, but you just never care about the characters and at 125 minutes the movie runs way too long. The movie has terrific photography and production design that should make nice High Definition eye candy, but what we get on disc alternates between periods of mediocre, awful, great, mediocre, great, and awful again."

  • UltraViolet by Joshua Zyber. Skip It. - "A movie like this isn't the result of incompetence. It's premeditated malice. It's assault with deadly celluloid. Making movies like this should be a felony."


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