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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Drama > Fantasy > Space > Crisis > Virus > Comedy > British TV > Another Earth (2011/Fox Blu-ray w/DVD)/Apollo 18 (2011/Anchor Bay Blu-ray w/DVD)/Contagion (2011/Warner Blu-ray w/DVD)/Going Postal (2010/Acorn Blu-ray)

Another Earth (2011/Fox Blu-ray w/DVD)/Apollo 18 (2011/Anchor Bay Blu-ray w/DVD)/Contagion (2011/Warner Blu-ray w/DVD)/Going Postal (2010/Acorn Blu-ray)


Picture: C+ & C/B- & C/B- & C/B-     Sound: B- & C+/B- & C+/B- & C+/B-     Extras: C/C-/B-/C+     Films/Episodes: C/C/B-/C+



Even Science Fiction is suffering a glut of its own recently and the following recent releases show the ups and downs of this, including the first two being a sad new part of the tired “found footage” trend that has helped to kill independent cinema.



First up is Mike Cahill’s Another Earth (2011) which is also yet another tired end-of-the-world piece plus another tired alternate world in which a second planet earth suddenly appears next to the one we live on now and the consequences of that.  Each of the characters have to deal with the possibilities and all are too optimistic as none of them expect anything strange (too naïve to believe).  Then we have a young lady (Brit Marling) taping events which we are subjected to and with her fate, it is suggested this might be all that is left of her as a kind of doppelganger effect sets in.  Cahill also shot and edited this and this had some potential, but he cannot think of anything new, overuses digital effects and to fill out his thin script, uses too much music (including vocal music) to pad the shortcomings of this 92 minutes exercise.


I had hoped this might be more interesting, but Duncan Jones’ Moon and Terrence Mallick’s Tree Of Life among others have nothing to worry about.  The speculative side is limited and this is more of a gimmick than a narrative project, though I think the makers meant to make it into more that a cynical exercise, but it is also too predictable and never lives up to any of the advanced hype.  Extras include Digital Copy for PC and PC portable devices, a Music Video, two featurettes, Deleted Scenes and a Fox Movie Channel piece promoting it.



Gonzalo Lopez Galleco’s Apollo 18 (2011) imagines a moon shot that was censored and we were never supposed to know about.  The imitation of 16mm footage works at times (i.e., the time lapse photography the space ships were using at the time) but it is a one-note exercise, has too many flaws to be believable throughout and is far from an intriguing thriller (Peter Hyams’ Capricorn One (1978) is still the champ in dark thrillers based off of the U.S. space program) and the final result is like a student film with some limited ambition and a curio at best.  Extras include Digital Copy for PC and PC portable devices, Alternate Endings, Alternate & Deleted Scenes and feature length audio commentary track by Galleco and Editor Patrick Lussier.



Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion (2011) may not be totally original or the best film about a viral outbreak, but it is better than Outbreak and is smartly done.  With a look and cross-cutting worthy of his hit Traffic, we are given a mystery on how a worldwide viral disaster happens and the kind of reaction that results.  Gwyneth Paltrow is a mom on a trip overseas when she becomes one of the first to be infected with a unknown virus that kills in days, putting her in a situation that reminded me of her mother Blythe Danner’s turn in Futureworld (1976, reviewed elsewhere on this site) and is married to a good father and husband (Matt Damon in an interesting turn) who both have two children.  Lawrence Fishburne is the official who is trying to coordinate a quick solution, Jude Law (his best work in a while) as the Internet/web star journalist who is deeply suspicious and cynical about how this is all being handled, Marion Cotillard is one investigator trying to find where the virus started and Kate Winslet (in a great turn of her own here) as the investigator racing against time in the field to prevent worldwide disaster.


This is as much about the reaction to a crisis as the virus, its progress or the mystery of its origin, but Soderbergh and writer Scott Z. Burns also make it a character study of the early 21st Century and despite the limited cinematography and seeing more than a little bit of this before, I thought it was effective and interesting enough to see and recommend.  At least the makers here know what they are doing.


Extras include UltraViolet Digital Copy and three making-of featurettes all exclusive to the Blu-ray.



Finally we have the latest Terry Pratchett adaptation, Going Postal (2010), which we recently covered on DVD at this link:



That was our third Pratchett DVD and I wondered if being on Blu-ray would make one of these releases more enjoyable.  I admit I have not enjoyed his work that much, but it is as much Fantasy and nostalgia for older analog technologies (think Terry Gilliam, et al) as it is Science Fiction and though it is not for everyone, it is smart and just works better in High Definition.  Richard Coyle stars and the cast includes turns by David Suchet and the great Charles Dance, so those interested should catch it on Blu-ray over DVD.




The 1080p AVC @ 30 MBPS 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image on Earth is on the soft side and so much so that you would think it could not look worse on DVD, but the anamorphically enhanced DVD included is actually softer, so see it on Blu-ray or forget it.  The low def footage, low def digital (sometimes intentional) is only so realistic and more repetitive than anything and the best shots are the untampered with outdoor footage.  The 1080p 1.33 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Apollo is supposed to look older, but actually looks better than Earth, but still has its own issued and its anamorphically enhanced DVD is weaker and harder to watch.


The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Contagion might have been the best-looking of all the entries on this list, but its semi-monochromatic approach can be trying, especially on the softer, anamorphically enhanced DVD also included.  All three DVDs are substandard viewing.  I wish a more interesting or complex visual approach was employed, but that is your post-modern digital cinematography for you so only expect so much.  Again, stick with the Blu-ray in this case.


That brings us to the 1080i 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on Postal which has the best style and approach of the four entries here with good color and depth throughout, making it as watchable and more watchable than its DVD counterpart (which I would not have rated as high as my colleague) and may be the most ambitious of the Pratchett productions to date.  Again, stick with the Blu-ray over the DVD.


All the Blu-rays have DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes save Postal with decent PCM 2.0 Stereo that is shockingly on par with the other discs (Pro Logic surrounds work nicely here) whose mixes are towards the front speakers, but all by design.  Earth is a mix of sound off of supposed video sources and dialogue-based acting scenes, Apollo is supposed to be from mono sounders off of the supposed film footage and Contagion uses its surrounds in limited, choice ways, while all three sound lighter in their lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 DVD versions.


The genre can do better overall, but at least these are not action or space opera pieces, which is why they have received the unusual attention so far bestowed upon them.  Now you can see for yourself.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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