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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Drama > WWII > Adventure > Fantasy > Action > TV > The Final Countdown (1980/Blue Underground Blu-ray) + Stargate SG-U (Universe) – The Complete First Season (2009/MGM Blu-ray)

The Final Countdown (1980/Blue Underground Blu-ray) + Stargate SG-U (Universe) – The Complete First Season (2009/MGM Blu-ray)


Picture: B-/C+     Sound: B-/C+     Extras: C+/D     Film/Episodes: C+/D



One of the more interesting propositions in the Science Fiction genre has had to do with portals that take us to another time, space and/or place.  In the earlier years of the genre, it has produced some of the best books, feature films, TV shows (Time Tunnel) and even best episodes of great TV shows (City On The Edge Of Forever from the original Star Trek) and the concepts of wormholes, black holes and other portals has its storytelling possibilities.  Two recent Blu-ray releases gives us two mixed versions of such storytelling in the genre worth comparing.


Don Taylor’s The Final Countdown (1980) is a Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Adventure film in which the carrier U.S.S. Nimitz goes through a mysterious break in the ocean and lands up in the middle of WWII the day before Pearl Harbor.  Should the crew (including Kirk Douglas, Martin Sheen, James Farentino, Charles Durning and Ron O’Neal) change the course of history by using their advanced technology to stop the Japanese Militarist/Kamikaze attack on Pearl Harbor.  The film (down to its sometimes U.S. patriotic score by the underrated John Scott) at least implies this is a good idea, but of course, this could also change history (no matter how good the intent) and allow the Axis Powers to take over the world.  In addition, it never begins to address the controversy that more than a few people high up knew this was going to happen, too commercial an endeavor it is.


Still, Taylor (Damien: Omen II, Escape From The Planet Of The Apes) knows his way around a genre in ways that makes anything he directs move and therefore, watchable enough, but it has a problem (outside of what I already noted) of not knowing for certain if it is a feel-good film or action film, which never mesh and show their age long after the 1980s and its style and influence have died.  The cast is a plus, the project itself ambitious and with some interesting moments, the film is certainly worth a look.  It also has a following that makes sense, though it will not impress everyone.  Katharine Ross also stars.


Then there is the tired latest version of the carbon copy/Xerox franchise Stargate as yet another TV series, this time sadly dubbed Universe that is now out as a Complete First Season Blu-ray set.  We covered two halves in the format at these links:









At least the original feature film (reviewed on Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) had some of the fun and a little of the wonder of the likes of Final Countdown, but both films go into that Spielberg/Lucas fantasy direction that throws the harder side of Science Fiction out the window and is now long clichéd by now.  This latest series is a total bore.



The 1080p digital High Definition image in each case has its issues, but Countdown (at 2.35 X 1 shot in real anamorphic Panavision very well by Director of  Photography Victor L. Kemper of Dog Day Afternoon, Reincarnation Of Peter Proud, Coma, Eyes Of Laura Mars, …and justice for all) looks better than Universe (shot badly at 1.78 X 1 in HD with all kinds of dated-on-arrival visual digital effects and motion blur) despite some softness in the transfer, dated optically printed visual effects and the age of the print that shows some flaws.  It has better color, often better contrast and depth, is not a bad transfer overall despite the limits, plus is shot large and therefore is far more impressive.  It is visually engaging, while Universe is dark and stupid like most of the genre on TV today.


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless mixes on both also give us a tale of two sound mixes.  The DTS-MA 7.1 mix and Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mixes on Countdown both offer D-BOX bass motion option, a further upgrade from the regular DTS and Dolby 5.1 sound mixes on the Blue Underground DVD (unreviewed) cleaning up the harshness that sometimes crept into that upgrade, all from the original Dolby A-type theatrical analog optical mix from the original 35mm film release.  The new DTS and Dolby versions are smoother and Scott’s music tracks seem to be added from the music soundmasters.  However, the lossless nature of both new 7.1 mixes show the age of more of the audio than expected.  Universe has a poorer mix throughout its episodes, not taking advantage of 30 years of audio advancements and being too much to the front and center channels in its DTS-MA lossless 5.1 mixes.


Extras on Countdown include TV Spots, Theatrical Trailers, documentary Lloyd Kaufman Goes Hollywood on how the founder of Troma (usually having his name connected to exploitation fare) co-produced this film, a feature length audio commentary track from cinematographer/DP Kemper and Starring The Jolly Rogers – Interviews with The Jolly Rogers F-14 Fighter Squadron.  Universe carries over its extras from the previous Blu-ray editions.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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