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Flight of the Phoenix (Blu-ray)

This 2004 remake of an early 1960s B-picture was underappreciated when it first came out, and with good reason. The original starred Jimmy Stewart. A remake of any film starring an icon from Hollywood's golden age has a very steep hill to climb.

The story? A planeload of oil workers crashes in the Gobi desert after shutting down an unsuccessful drilling operation. The meat of the film is in how they survive, cope, and attempt to save themselves. If you've seen the original, you know the twists and turns of the plot. If not, I won't spoil them for you.

The story is a thin one. Even the original was no classic. But it does have a few nice surprises, and if you're looking for action thrills, this new version is the one to watch. There are at least two sequences that make this disc worth the price of admission. If you're afraid of flying, you don't want to watch the crash scene. And the end is very nearly as exciting. The film does require more suspension of disbelief than usual, but if you can go with it, you'll find it a diverting two hours of entertainment.

The standard DVD of this release was top-shelf in every technical respect. The improvements on the Blu-ray release are actually quite subtle—a little more detail here and there, and a little more of that "seeing through a window" quality. And even the standard definition DVD is one of the best-sounding action titles in my DVD/HD DVD/Blu-ray collection. That crash scene alone, played back at realistic levels, will leave you exhausted. It's almost too intense. The DTS HD 5.1 Master Lossless Audio on this disc cannot be played on any current Blu-ray player, but the (lossy) 1.5Mb/sec DTS core track is a reference-quality soundtrack in every respect.

Picture: 9.0 (out of 10)…Sound: 9.5…Film: 7.0

(Reviewed on a Pioneer BDP-HD1 Blu-ray player, Panasonic PT-AE1000U LCD projector, 78" wide Stewart Studiotek 130 screen, and NAD Masters Series M15 pre-pro and M25 power amp. Speakers: Energy Veritas v2.8 L/R, Mirage OMD-C2 center, Mirage OMD-R surrounds, and Revel B15 subwoofer.)

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