BLU-RAY MOVIE REVIEWS

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David Vaughn Posted: Dec 05, 2011 0 comments

This Blu-ray boasts a solid video transfer with rich colors, revealing skintones, and reference-quality contrast, but it's the audio track that steals the show. The enveloping DTS-HD 5.1 mix features chest-pounding LFE when aliens attack, horses gallop, or when a mysterious wrist-mounted energy weapon is unleashed. Unfortunately, the movie itself is a real stinker.
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David Vaughn Posted: Nov 23, 2011 0 comments

The video quality of this Blu-ray is impressive, as long as the overused lens flare—a hallmark of director J.J. Abrams—doesn't bother you. But the audio is the real highlight here, easily matching Abrams' outstanding previous hit, Star Trek. In fact, this disc has the best audio-demo scene of any 2011 release I've heard, and it's sure to knock your socks off, as well as those of anyone you play it for. If you want to show off what your surround-sound system can do, this soundtrack is second to none.
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Scott Wilkinson Posted: Nov 23, 2011 6 comments
If you have a home theater, you probably enjoy showing it off to your family and friends. But which Blu-ray titles are best for demonstrating the audio and video capabilities of your system? That's easy—they're listed in HT's exclusive blog called Ultimate Demos, which identifies Blu-rays of superior technical quality and calls out specific scenes, right down to the chapter and time-code second, that let your theater really shine.

And now, Ultimate Demos are new and improved, with icons that let you instantly see which titles have exemplary video, audio, or both. If the stylized eye is red, you know that disc provides exceptional visual imagery, while a red ear icon indicates outstanding sound. If either icon is orange, the corresponding content is very good, but not quite up to reference quality, while a gray icon means there's nothing special about that part of the presentation.

Keep in mind that Ultimate Demos are not movie reviews—they will always provide top-quality audio and/or video, even if the movie itself doesn't measure up to the disc's technical merits. So if you've been looking for Blu-rays that kick some serious home-theater butt, look no farther than HT's Ultimate Demos.

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Ken Richardson Posted: Nov 23, 2011 0 comments

2011 Gift Guide to Blu-ray Box Sets

Scarface or Superman? Jurassic Park or Planet Earth? Star Wars or Looney Tunes? Tom Cruise or Sophia Loren? (Hmmm.) The Lord of the Rings or Pirates of the Caribbean? Ben-Hur, Citizen Kane, Harry Potter, or Willy Wonka?! Check your list twice, or even thrice: There’s plenty to go around. (Note: Prices listed for these and all other boxes are suggested retail. Look for discounts!)

 

2011 Gift Guide to DVD Box Sets

Yes, only on DVD: 62 discs of Smallville and 104 discs of Law & Order. Plus, modest but no less enjoyable affairs for the likes of Laurel & Hardy, Tracy & Hepburn, and Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends. And more.

 

 

 

2011 Gift Guide to CD Box Sets: Expanded Pop/Rock Albums

These days, the 1970s rule — judging from the number of that decade’s classic albums getting super-duper reissues, including Layla, Aqualung, What’s Going On, Europe ’72, Quadrophenia, Some Girls, and both The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here. But there are many more opportunities for giving, from Nirvana to Pearl Jam, and from Ozzy Osbourne to George Michael to Alicia Keys. Meanwhile, in keeping with the retro outlook, some titles include a version of the album on vinyl LP.

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David Vaughn Posted: Nov 17, 2011 0 comments
Things come full circle for Harry Potter in the thrilling conclusion of the popular franchise. At the end of Part 1, Harry, Ron, and Hermione escape from the clutches of the Death Eaters, but their loyal friend Dobby the former house elf perishes. The trio has little time to mourn as they continue to hunt down and destroy the horcruxes that hide tiny pieces of the evil Lord Voldemort's soul. Their quest takes them to Gringots Bank and into the vault of Bellatrix Lestrange and eventually back to Hogwarts, where Harry confronts the new headmaster, Professor Snape.

While Part 1 was a slow build toward a cliffhanger ending, Part 2 is a pure adrenaline action film from the first moments that Voldemort steals the Elder Wand from Dumbledore's casket. As a huge fan of the books and the movies, I was more than happy to see Warner split the final book into two films—something that should have been done with every movie starting with The Goblet of Fire. Even with the extended time given to the story, there are quite of few characters who don't receive as much screen time as they deserve.

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Ken Korman Posted: Nov 17, 2011 0 comments

It’s always fascinating to see how important films age over time, especially those that elicited strong, visceral reactions from audiences and critics when initially released.

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David Vaughn Posted: Nov 02, 2011 0 comments
Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) heads overseas to compete in the first-ever World Grand Prix to determine the world's fastest car, and his quirky friend Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) is along for the ride. While attending the pre-race party, Mater is mistaken for a secret agent by the master British super spy Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) and his partner, Holly Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer). Can the redneck tow truck help his best friend win the Grand Prix while fighting the forces of evil?

I've pretty much loved everything Pixar has released, but I have to admit that Cars was my least favorite of its movies. Maybe it's because I'm not a grease monkey or a NASCAR fan, but I never really connected with the story. After hearing the negative reviews of Cars 2, I didn't exactly have high hopes for this one. While it isn't a great movie, I did find myself entertained, and the spectacular 3D visuals certainly helped. Furthermore, the DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack features everything you want from a Pixar title—great sound design, plenty of dynamic range, and a plethora of discrete effects.

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David Vaughn Posted: Oct 31, 2011 0 comments
Straight-laced Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) is living the dream with a good job, nice house, and a seemingly happy marriage to his high school sweetheart. But when his wife drops the bomb that she's been having an affair and wants a divorce, he becomes a fish out of water when he enters the dating game again. Enter young Jacob (Ryan Goling), a guy Cal meets at a local bar who takes the older man under his wing in order to teach him how to be a ladies' man and to forget his ex-wife.

As far as romantic comedies go, they rarely break from the script, but that isn't the case here. In many ways, this film pokes fun at the clichéd moments found in the genre and the stars do a good job portraying their characters. I especially liked the young actor, Jonah Bobo, as he swoons over his babysitter (Jessica Tipton).

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David Vaughn Posted: Oct 28, 2011 0 comments
Steve Rogers, a frail and patriotic young man, wants nothing more than to serve his country by joining the Army in order to fight the evil Nazis. On multiple occasions, he's been deemed unfit for service and is rejected, but he refuses to give up trying. On his latest attempt, he catches the eye of Dr. Abraham Erskine, a scientist working for the Army who has developed a serum that enhances one's muscles, brain power, reflexes, and mental abilities in order to create a "super soldier."

Thus far, the movie studios haven't had a lot of success in converting 2D films into 3D in post-production and delivering satisfying results. Fortunately, the 2D-3D conversion here is one of the best I've seen. Separation between objects is exemplary, and the added depth enhances the texture and intimacy of the cinematography. Even more impressive is the DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack that features reference-quality dynamic range, an engaging score from Alan Silvestri, and plenty of window-rattling explosions.

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Eric Alt Posted: Oct 28, 2011 0 comments

We know. . . Halloween movie rentals can be as tired and well-worn as the costumes. How many Draculas do you think you're going to see? How many Freddy Kruegers? How many Jason Vorheeses? If you're tired of seeing them hogging the punchbowl, why are you still cramming them into your DVD and Blu-ray player every year? This All Hallow's Eve, get creative and infuse some fresh blood into your horror viewing routine. Read on for some ideas.

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David Vaughn Posted: Oct 26, 2011 0 comments
On a remote tropical island, an amazing living theme park becomes a game of survival for humans foolhardy enough to set foot on it. Meticulously recreated dinosaurs spring to astonishing life as a multimillionaire (Richard Attenborough) bankrolls an effort to use advanced DNA technology to bring dinosaurs back to life. When an employee shuts down the security system for personal monetary gain all hell breaks loose when the dinosaurs escape forcing the visitors to play a game of cat and mouse with the deadly prehistoric creatures.

Throughout movie history there are certain films that change the way movies are made and Jurassic Park certainly qualifies due to its cutting-edge use of CGI effects. Even to this day, the dinosaurs depicted in the film look so lifelike it's kind of creepy. When it hit theaters in 1993, it blew audiences away and became an instant classic.

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