When the first Mission: Impossible hit the theaters in 1996, I found the story to be a little confusing and flat. Subsequent viewings showed it to be a movie that got better with time. Unfortunately, the sequel in 2000 was a dudthe action was great, but the screenplay wasn't anything to brag about. Lucky for us, J.J. Abrams took over in 2006 and delivered the strongest movie in Mission: Impossible III with end-to-end action and a compelling story. The fourth installment is produced by Abrams and directed by Brad Bird (The Incredibles), who shows he can deliver a live-action film with fantastic pacing and intriguing characters. I guess Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is just like fine winehe gets better with age. Not only do I think this is the best film of the bunch, the audio and video quality are demo-worthy with fabulous detail, rich colors, and one of the most engaging Dolby TrueHD 7.1 soundtracks available on Blu-ray.
Director Steven Spielberg is one of the greatest filmmakers of his generation, and he knows how to capture an audience's attention and keep it riveted to the screen. While War Horse isn't one of his best pictures, it does create an emotional bond to the main charactera horseand we get to follow his journey from his humble beginnings through his adventure in the First World War. The cinematography is fantastic, but it's the DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack that makes this a demo-worthy disc, with pinpoint imaging and some of the most intense LFE since Saving Private Ryan.
September 11, 2001, is a day that I doubt anyone in the world will ever forget. For young Oskar, it was the day he lost his best friendhis dad. Based on the bestseller by Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is an emotional rollercoaster about a preteen trying to cope with the loss of his father in his own unique way. I enjoyed the film a lot and was especially impressed with the AVC video encode with its outstanding level of detail and rich color saturation. The enveloping DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack is no slouch either and features crisp dialog and pinpoint imaging.
Director Paul W.S. Anderson isn't what you would call an A-list talent and he stoops to an all-time low with The Three Musketeers. The classic novel from Alexandre Dumas is butchered beyond believe with horrendous dialog, wooden acting, and some of the most mind-numbing suspension of belief ever witnessed in cinema (a 17th century airship battlereally?). While the 3D is a serviceable effort, the 2D encode is so good you'll want to put the glasses away and relish some of the most amazing detail you've ever seen from a Blu-ray. Not to be outshined is the outstanding DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack that features pinpoint discrete effects and jaw-dropping imaging. If you're looking for some eye and ear candy to demo your system then this would be a great addition to your library.
As a product of the Muppets generation I had high hopes for their return to the silver screen and eventually Blu-ray, but color me very disappointed. While the technical aspects of the Blu-ray are pure reference-quality with amazing detail, vibrant colors, and enveloping surround sound, the script leaves a lot to be desired with uninspiring human characters, a paint by numbers script, and middling musical numbersand no, I don't think "Man or Muppet" should have won the Oscar. My kids have generally liked the Muppet productions but were just as disappointed in this one as I was, but at least it looked and sounded great and is a worthy candidate for showing off your gear.
Based on Brian Selznick's book, "The Invention of Hugo Cabret," Hugo is one of the best films from 2011 and it certainly deserved its 11 Academy Award nominations (winning five). Acclaimed director Martin Scorsese brings the magic back to filmmaking and in the process gives the viewers a history lesson on one of the early pioneers in movie making. Going in, I had no idea what this film was about, but was blown away by the reference-quality audio and video presentation as well as the engaging story, believable characters, and exquisite set design. The film was shot on an Arri Alexa digital camera and the level of detail is out of this world. Every shot is razor-sharp in both the foreground and background and I only wish I was sent the 3D version from Paramount because I've read that it has some of the best 3D effects available on Blu-ray. Not to be outshone is the DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack that features stupendous dynamic range, pinpoint accuracy with its discrete effects, and astounding frequency response.
When The Town came out on Blu-ray in December 2010, I was blown away by the presentation. It was one of my favorite films of the year due to the non-stop action, believable characters, and some of the most realistic bank heists ever to hit the silver screen. In this Ultimate Collector's Edition, the reference-quality audio and video from the original release are still present with fabulous detail, surround envelopment, and dynamics, plus the alternate ending gives better closure to the story.
Clint Eastwood is arguably one of the best directors in Hollywood, and even though he's in the twilight of his life, he doesn't seem to be slowing down. While J. Edgar won't be considered one of his better films, I enjoyed it a lot more than most of the critics due to the fabulous acting by Leonardo DiCaprio and the historical significance of the subject. The Blu-ray boasts an above-average video encode with solid detail and intentionally understated colors, but the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack is the true star of the show due to reference-quality imaging, dynamics, and frequency response.
Originating from the other side of the Atlantic, Downton Abbey is one of the most entertaining shows on TV and looks spectacular on Blu-ray. Each episode costs a reported one million pounds to produce and it certainly shows in the marvelous costume design, lavish sets, and all-star cast. Shot with an Arri Alexa digital camera, the level of detail is mesmerizing and the AVC encode is spectacular. Unfortunately the DTS-HD MA 2.0 doesn't have robust dynamics but at least the dialog intelligibility is never an issue.
The video quality of Star Trek The Next Generation has never been very impressive, either during its original broadcast days, in syndicated reruns, or on DVD. High-definition displays only make things worse, but all is not lost. Like the original series, The Next Generation was shot on film, and that means its conversion to high-definition has always been possible as long as the studio was willing to recompose the standard-definition visual effects into HD. Thankfully, Paramount and CBS have decided to move forward on this project to bring Picard and company into the 21st century with outstanding results.
This teaser disc includes three episodes, Encounter at Farpoint, Sins of the Father, and one of my personal favorites, The Inner Light, and the results are magnificent. The multi-colored Star Fleet uniforms leap off the screen, and the detail is out of this world, especially on the exterior shots of the Enterprise. The DTS-HD MA 7.1 audio tracks are an improvement over the original stereo tracks (also included), but they aren't quite as demo-worthy as the video. If you're a fan of the series, this will certainly wet your appetite for the upcoming release of season one sometime later this year.