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The Last Of The Mohicans: The Director's Definitive Cut
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This is one of my favourite films. I bought it when it was released on VHS probably back in 1993, then on DVD and now Blu-ray. This is an historical epic set in 1757 during the colonial wars between the British and French for control of the Americas. This full bodied action adventure story flows along at a steady pace, it is pure entertainment and a joy to watch.
Daniel Day-Lewis gives an excellent performance as Hawkeye the adopted son of the Mohican Chingachgook played by Russell Means. As do all the cast including Madeleine Stowe, Eric Schweig, Steven Waddington, Wes Studi, Jodhi May and you also see Pete Postlethwaite. You can read about what happens in IMDB or Wikipedia but it will spoil it for you if you havent seen the film.
I would love to say the picture is excellent but I was disappointed with this transfer. It is much sharper than the DVD of course but that is just the nature of the HD format plus there are no marks or scratches that I could see so it has been cleaned. The sound better than the DVD but not as good as I feel it could have been.
My biggest problem is with the colour. It appears to have been enhanced and can look really false in many places. The most telling of these is the ever so deep red of the Redcoats jackets, in many scenes it just looks like it has been painted on right over the shadows and all. No lowering of your colour settings will fix this. During the battle scenes I noticed explosions that just got painted with red as they died and even dark halos around some of the torches. This transfer is darker than the DVD and this becomes very noticeable, there are quite a few low light scenes and the picture does appear murky here and there, and again the false colour becomes very evident.
Im not saying dont buy it because I am being critical, but if you have the DVD you might want to think twice before making a purchase. The film is only twenty years old and should have been easier to restore or transfer. When you consider the great restorations we have had on Blu-ray recently, Lawrence of Arabia, Cleopatra and Doctor Zhivago, all around fifty years old, one has to wonder why more effort wasnt made with this because It is a great film and very enjoyable to watch. I only wish whoever did the transfer had done a better job.
Prometheus 3D & 2D (Exclusive Steelbook) (With Digital Copy)
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I have to admit that while I am a fan of the Alien films and of Ridley Scott, the man who directed Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down and Kingdom Of Heaven, this film left me with some very mixed and contradictory feelings.
First of all, it is beautiful to look at, Ridley Scott can command a large budget and it is easy to see where the money has been spent. Everything from the costume and technology design to the sheer scale of the project has been applied with great skill.
The film has some excellent acting talent in the shape of Charlize Theron, Noomi Rapace, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce and Michael Fassbender. All of these actors provide believable performances particularly Fassbender who plays the Android David to creepy perfection.
The CGI and special effects are all cutting edge and the 3D was well done and easy to watch. The Blu-ray transfer is faultless with a sharp crystal clear picture and sound. In fact there is nothing to gripe about concerning the production and technicalities of the entire project.
But, despite all I have already mentioned, the story just does not work, at least not for me. You really have to suspend your disbelief in order to watch it. I dont want to spoil the film for someone who has yet to see it so I wont mention anything specific, but some of my problems with the story are as follows.
The engineers choose a very strange method of seeding life on a planet. I would have thought an advanced civilisation would have developed a less destructive method.
There are dates mentioned that do not stand up to scrutiny concerning cave paintings and the remains of dead bodies.
Our origins on earth have been scientifically pieced together from the discovered remains of Australopithecus, Homo Habilis, Homo Erectus, Neanderthal and eventually Homo Sapiens. Prometheus suggests that this and in effect all evolution is wrong.
No one would be capable of running around minutes after major surgery.
Davids motives are highly questionable, right up until the end we are never given any clear idea whos side he is on or what he is really up to.
While I am possibly contradicting myself here, I saw Prometheus 3D in the cinema and pre ordered the steel book edition as soon as it was available, plus I have watched it a couple of times since it arrived. It is possible that all the unanswered questions and plot holes will be explored in a sequel but for the present, Prometheus seems to be a very disjointed film.
Again, mindful that I am being contradictory, if you have not yet seen Prometheus, It is worth seeing, but I would advise renting it before considering a purchase.
The Woman In Black
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As with all films of this genre, the scare effect is greatest the first time you see it. While this is still the case for The Woman in Black, I have to admit that it does possess an eerie and creepy quality that continues to linger on subsequent viewings.
Daniel Radcliffe and Ciaran Hinds both give commanding performances and commit to their roles in this adaptation of Susan Hills 1983 novel of the same name. Radcliffe plays Arthur Kipps, a young Victorian-era lawyer with a small child. The passing of his Wife in childbirth four years earlier has left Kipps haunted with sorrow and unable to execute his duties to his employers satisfaction. On a last chance job, he is sent from London to settle the estate affairs of a deceased client. The old house is set in the English countryside on the outskirts of a small village and the townsfolk are typically superstitious and unwelcoming. However they have good reason, the village children have been dying at an alarming rate and a mysterious black figure has been seen in the grounds of the old house.
Hinds plays Sam Daily, one of the less superstitious neighbours in the village. He and Kipps strike up a friendship on the train journey in, and he tries to help Kipps in solving the mystery. Daily and his wife, played by Janet McTeer, have also lost a son of their own under rather strange circumstances. The Childs death has left Daily heart-broken and his Wife suffering with a mental illness.
There are some of the usual scare tactics in this film but they are done really well while some very clever new one crop up here and there. There are numerous scenes where I felt chills running down my spine. The whole film is very dark and adds to the creepy feel and impending nightmare that approaches. I found the film enjoyably scary throughout. Please remember that this was adapted from a novel, and what works well in a book does not always work well on screen, so if you have read the book, be prepared for some changes.
Because of his past acting history in the most successful film franchise ever, it will be hard for most viewers not to see Daniel Radcliff as Harry Potter. I admit to feeling the same when he is on screen but after ten or twenty minutes you soon forget his previous role and the character he is really portraying emerges. A few more decent films and I think the shadow of Potter will fade.
Being a new film freshly transferred to Blu-ray, the image is sharp and without blemish, the sound is presented in 5.1 DTS and standard Stereo. The film runs for ninety five minutes and if you enjoy clever ghost stories like The Ring, then you will enjoy this.
Highly recommended for a good fright.
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Hinds plays Sam Daily, one of the less superstitious neighbours in the village. He and Kipps strike up a friendship on the train journey in and he tries to help Kipps in solving the mystery. Daily and his wife, played by Janet McTeer, have also lost a son of their own under rather strange circumstances. The Childs death has left Daily heart-broken and his Wife suffering with a mental illness.
Being a new film the image is sharp and without blemish, the sound is presented in 5.1 DTS and standard Stereo. The film runs for ninety five minutes and if you enjoy clever ghost stories like The Ring, then you will enjoy this.
Lawrence Of Arabia: 50th Anniversary Edition (With UltraViolet) (2 Discs)
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I have been waiting for this film since I first got an HD television. I remember seeing a brief clip from one of my first Blu-ray discs, so after almost five years, has it been worth the wait? Well I am very pleased to say that it has.
This is the story of T.E. Lawrence, a British Army Officer who helped unite all the Arab tribes during the First World War. Lawrence of Arabia has some of the most stunning landscapes I have ever seen on film, the desert is not as empty as one might think. There are great mountains and wide sweeping vistas to be discovered, and David Lean managed to include all he could find. The first part of the film is the best, you are discovering the desert along with Lawrence and it is visually stunning. That scene with Omar Sharif slowly appearing from the infinity of a hazy mirage is one of the most famous ever filmed and it is crystal clear in this presentation.
The restoration is excellent, there is barely a blemish on this 50 year old film and I praise those who worked on it. The overture, Intermission and exit music have all been restored. The picture is very sharp and the colour is superb, plus I could not find any evidence of grain throughout the entire 227 minutes. The sound is crystal clear and you get a full bodied soundstage presented in DTS 5.1. This is the way all such films should be restored. In a couple of scenes there is some evidence of roller lines up and down the picture, but this is very slight indeed and I only noticed it once or twice, hardly worth mentioning really.
This is the second time this film has been restored. Back in 1988, Robert A. Harris oversaw a restoration on a 222 minute version, but at that time the technology only allowed them to go so far, there was still damage to the film that has only been recently corrected. The film was scanned at 8k and reduced to a 4k image file revealing frames that were faded, warped, scratched and even chemically stained. But the results of all this work is a beautifully rendered work of art that still amazes and delights 50 years after it was shot.
The standard 50th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray comes with two discs, Disc One holding the special features and Disc Two, the movie. It should be the other way around of course as there is no way of identifying what is on each disc, they are named exactly the same. The extras are plentiful and worth watching, many of them are in high definition. There are some interesting and revealing facts to be discovered about the making of Lawrence of Arabia.
Without a doubt, this is one of the finest restorations I have seen so far, the film is a true epic and you will marvel at the picture and sound quality, very highly recommended.
Sleeping Beauty (2011)
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I watched this to the end with as open a mind as I could muster but it disappoints on virtually every level. I caught myself checking how long was left to go several times. The acting is unusual at best, not bad, just unusual, and thats being polite. There is very little dialogue from which to piece the story together, and from what little story there is, you are obviously left to unravel for yourself, however when you do, its a very disappointing anti-climax.
I admit that Emily Browning who plays Lucy commits to her role and does the best she can with it, but the material is a challenge. Most of the film is strung together with symbolism, which some directors have used to great effect, but it is done very badly here. Lucys character is strange in the extreme, she burns the money she owes for rent and appears to have feelings for someone called the Birdman who is drinking himself to death. I should point out that it is only in the presence of death that Lucy shows any emotion at all.
Lucy sees an advertisement in a paper that turns into what appears to be high class prostitution, the only catch being that she will not be awake when the encounters take place. We of course see each one in detail, however no intercourse takes place. All her clients are ageing men who struggle to perform any act at all and one has to wonder why they bother. I have read one or two reviews where this movie is highly praised but as far as I am concerned, its the kings new clothes. One star is generous.
My Best Friends Wedding
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First of all, this is a chick flick, a romantic comedy and one of the best performances Julia Roberts has ever given. Julia plays Julianne Potter, a food critic with a history of failed relationships, mostly due to her inability to commit. Julianne has a best friend, Michael, played by Dermot Mulroney with whom she shared one romantic month nine years ago. They made a pact that when they each reached 28, if neither married, they would marry each other.
A few of weeks before her 28th birthday, Michael telephones to say he has something important to ask her and of course she thinks she knows what it is. Alas, Michael has met someone and is about to marry her in four days and he is asking Julianne to come and help him through it.
This news makes Julianne realise she has been in denial of her love for Michael for nine years and so she goes to him with the idea of wining him back. Trouble is that his bride to be is lovely prim and proper Kimberly Wallace, played by a young Cameron Diaz in the prime of her youth and just as perfect as can be.
Julianne stoops to some very low tactics in her efforts to ruin their relationship and win Michael, most of them backfiring on her. The results make for a sweet romantic comedy that keeps you guessing up until the last minute as to whether Julianne will actually succeed.
Julia Roberts gives a marvellous performance as the love sick friend, you cringe at the stunts she pulls but sympathise with her situation and can actually see her painfully dying inside as she watches the man she loves slip away. Cameron Diaz, Rupert Everett and Dermot Mulroney also gives a good performance as do the rest of the supporting cast, but Roberts steels the show hands down.
On Blu-ray, the picture is much better than DVD and OK by Blu-ray standards but nothing special. It was shot in 1997 on Panavision widescreen which is not really necessary for this type of film but it is fine.
This is a timeless romantic comedy and enjoyable to watch again and again, I highly recommend it.
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Without a doubt, this is my favourite scots film. Liam Neeson is superbly cast as the highlander Robert Roy McGregor and the big Irishman gives one of the best performances of his career. We also get a great performance from Jessica Lange who plays Mary, his wife. John Hurt is crafty as Montrose and Tim Roth is as evil as they come as Archibald Cunningham. Other good performances by Brian Cox and Eric Stoltz support this excellent film shot in the raw beauty of the Scottish highlands. I have been waiting for the Blu-ray release of this film for a long time, the DVD which was not anamorphic just didnt do it justice. Here we see it the way it was meant to be seen.
Unfortunately my first copy was slightly flawed but it was quickly replaced by Play.Com and there is nothing wrong with this one.
The clarity of the picture is excellent, colours are deep and natural and the sound is great. If there is anything wrong with the picture of this seventeen year old film, I didnt spot it. Great value for money and I highly recommend it.
James Bond: (Dr. No / For Your Eyes Only / From Russia With Love / Die Another Day / Live And Let Die / Thunderball)
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This is a six film set, with three classics in the shape of Dr. No, From Russia with Love and Thunderball all starring Sean Connery. Then there is Live and Let Die and For Your Eyes Only staring Roger Moore and finally Die Another Day with Pierce Brosnan.
I have to confess that it has taken me a while to watch all of them, in fact I bought this set back in Dec 2010 for 24.99 and I see that it is currently priced at 42.97 Aug 2012.
The restoration on the three Connery films is very good and I couldnt find anything to grumble about, if there were any blemishes, I didnt notice them. Picture was sharp and clean with good colour depth and clear crisp sound. I must also add that as far as restoration is concerned, Goldfinger 1964 which is not included in this set and possibly Cleopatra 1963 are the finest examples of film restoration on Blu-ray I have seen so far. While the picture and sound quality on the three Connery films is very good, none of them would equal Goldfinger. The later films with Moore are in very good condition and once again, I couldnt find any fault with either the sound or picture. Die Another Day was shot in 2002 and has the best picture and sound of the set, but that is only to be expected being so young.
Of all the actors who have played 007 in this set, I prefer Connerys version of Bond. Personally, Moore just did not do it for me and in my opinion, the films in which he played 007 were weaker when compared to Connerys and all the other portrayals of the British agent. I think it was because he looked older and there was too much humour in the personality of what was after all a cold and ruthless killer like the character created by Ian Fleming. In my opinion, for Your Eyes Only is the weakest film in this set closely followed by Live and Let die. There others are all reasonably good stories if a little fantastic, but isnt that part of their appeal and why we go to see them.
So, should you buy this set, unfortunately I am going to have to say no, sorry Play.Com. Certainly not at the price it is being asked for here but there is another reason. All 22 Bond films will be released together in a boxed set on Blu-ray this September 2012 for around 90 pounds. At 4 pounds a film, and especially if you are a Bond fan, I would recommend waiting until September.
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Le Mans is the oldest and possibly most famous motor race in the world. It is also the toughest as it spans 24 hours and obviously the fatigue and stress placed on the drivers takes its toll. British drivers have won it more than any other nation with 29 wins, France would be second at 28 followed by Germany 17, and then the US with 12. It was because of these facts and figures that I fancied this would be a nice addition to my Blu ray collection, but I was unfortunately mistaken.
The film opens with Steve McQueen in his Porsche driving along a French country road. He is going to the Le Mans racing circuit to compete, even though he suffered a major accident the previous year. He stops briefly around the back of Notre Dame and spies an attractive blonde woman across the road. The woman is the widow of his late friend who was killed in the same accident as McQueen the previous year, and there you have the plot.
There is no dialogue between actors for the first 25 minutes of the film and it does feel that you are watching a poor documentary without narration. Character development is almost non existent, you dont really get to see much of the drivers lives, this show is all about the race. Le Mans was made in 1971 and the restoration is nothing to write home about. The picture is quite sharp on Blu ray but there are many older films restored to a far greater degree than this, the colour does seem a little washed out in places and it is not blemish free. Grain is very evident from start to finish and it is hard to tell if that is due to film stock or the restoration itself. But all this is nothing compared to Steve McQueens I speak your weight style of acting. He looks broody throughout and his dialogue is weird to say the least, for example, This isnt just a thousand to one shot. This is a professional blood sport. Or even better, When your racing its life, everything else is just waiting around.
There was no CGI in 1971 so the racing and the accidents had to be filmed for real and a lot of this footage is quite good but I found myself checking how long was left to go more than once.
I can only give it two stars, as racing films go, this is not a great one, particularly when you consider the recent Senna, I could not recommend this to anyone.