HBO has quite a history of delivering fantastic Blu-ray presentations, and it continues the trend here. Be prepared for reference-quality video throughout all 12 season-one episodes in the clothing, sets, and flesh tones. The 1920s costume design is absolutely fantastic, and if you're a fan of period pieces, this is right up your alley. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track is just as impressive and certainly holds its own with its rich atmosphere and crystal-clear dialog reproduction. While it took me a couple of episodes to get into the series, it ranks up there with some of the best I've seen from HBO and is definitely worth a look on Blu-ray.
WETA Digital, the effects house that gave us The Lord of the Rings, hits a homerun with its digital effects employed in this reboot of the popular 1960s franchise. Minute details in the chimp's faces look strikingly real and blow away the effects seen in any of the previous movies. They blend seamlessly into the live action shots and make you truly believe that the chimps are real creations and not CGI-based. Not to be overshadowed is the absolutely fantastic DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track that's extremely aggressive on the low end and offers an immersive and engaging surround mix. This is one of the must-see discs of 2011.
Dramas typically aren't demo-worthy showpieces, but this fabulous film features some stunning scenes with vivid color saturation and exceptional detail. The DTS-HD 5.1 audio track is no slouch, either, with spot-on dialog reproduction, but it certainly won't make your subwoofer break a sweat. The movie is set in the early 1960s at the height of the civil-rights movement in the South, and the costume and set design captures the era perfectly. Dreamworks/Touchstone delivers another demo-quality presentation.
Price: $400 At A Glance: Solid build quality• Speedy loading • Plays SACD, DVD-Audio and Blu-ray 3D • Streams Netflix, Pandora • Possible connection issues
Pioneer’s involvement in optical-disc technology started with the development of Laserdisc late in the 20th century, and the company has continued the tradition with CD, DVD, and Blu-ray. Surprisingly, despite the company’s background and solid history of new product development, it hasn’t been at the forefront of Blu-ray player innovation. The last player I reviewed from Pioneer was in 2009 (the BDP320). It offered fantastic audio and video, but its load times were poisonously slow and it offered no add-on features like streaming or DVD-Audio and SACD support.
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.
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.
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 filmssomething 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.
The wizards at Pixar discovered that when left alone, toys come to life. In Andy's room his favorite is Woody, an old-fashioned cowboy doll whose status is usurped when Andy is given the latest and greatest space toy, Buzz Lightyear. With the social dynamics thrown into chaos, Woody and Buzz end up in the clutches of any toys worst nightmareSid, the crazy young lad next door who loves to blow things up.
In Toy Story 2arguably one of the greatest sequels of all-timeWoody is kidnapped by a greedy toy collector who plans to complete his collection of the "Woody's Roundup" gang and sell them to a museum in Japan for big bucks. Buzz and the gang come to the rescue and remind Woody what being a toy is about.
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 titlegreat sound design, plenty of dynamic range, and a plethora of discrete effects.
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).