(2011/DreamWorks/Disney Blu-ray w/DVD)/Resurrect
Dead (2011/Focus World/E1 DVD)/Star
Trek: The Next Generation – The Next Level (Paramount/CBS Blu-ray)
B & C/C/B Sound: B & B-/C+/B- Extras: C/B/C Main Programs: C-/C+/B-
or not, three new Science Fiction releases revisit some classic territory and
the results are more interesting than expected.
was not credited as such much in its theatrical release, Shawn Levy’s Real Steel (2011) is a remake of the
great Richard Matheson’s short story Steel that originally was filmed as
a dark half-hour Twilight Zone
episode with Lee Marvin as the man desperate to boxing in a world where humans
cannot box anymore no matter what the cost to him. It was first shown in the Fifth and last Season of the show in 1963 and is actually now on Blu-ray! You can read more about it at this link:
has retooled it as a children’s tale that has Producer Steven Spielberg
revisiting Twilight Zone – The Movie
(reviewed elsewhere on this site) territory and essentially throws in
everything but the kitchen sink. Hugh
Jackman takes over for Marvin, but this is more about his son and then wants to
be a feel-good Rocky-style film with
robots designs that make this more like “Transformers
Jr.” than anything else. The
original episode was a man vs. machine tale that was not great, but was serious
and ambitious. The focus here becomes
more about his son (Dakota Goyo), how fun technology is (no matter how dark the
world gets!?!) and is as formulaic as a package of WD40. It also imitates the mixed futuristic look of
Spielberg’s overrated Minority Report
and ultimately is a silly mess. Jackman
is likable and young children’s and maybe early teens might like this, but I
was very bored and unimpressed.
include a Blu-ray exclusive featurette on how Sugar Ray Leonard helped
choreograph the film’s fighting sequences (one of the only reasons it did any
business), Countdown To The Fight
featurette, Second Screen function and Deleted & Extended Scenes with
optional Levy commentary, while both have feature length Levy audio commentary,
Building The Bots featurette, Making Of Metal Valley featurette and
Resurrect Dead (2011) is a
documentary that gives us yet another bizarre incident connected to another
Stanley Kubrick film, namely the all-time classic 2001: A Space Odyssey. You
can see more about that at this link:
three men try to find out who is permanently graphing the same strange message
in concrete all over the U.S.
eventually concerning The Soviet Union, Anti-Semitism, writer Arnold Toynbee’s
idea of dead molecules coming back to life and a connection to the film 2001.
These strange plaques are turning up all over and they seem to mostly
stay permanently imbedded into the ground.
What are they about? Who is
behind this? What does it mean? Is there reason for concern?
eventually settle for just finding out the author, but by their own admission,
audience after audience has been disappointed they stopped there, though they
spent so many years trying to find out what is going on (we will not reveal too
much more) and do a pretty good job.
Unfortunately, the obsession gets boring and when they stop short
leaving side questions unanswered, it does not help the final result. Also, they should have considered studying
the actual Kubrick film more. The
plaques say the molecules will come alive again on Jupiter like in the film as
if it has some deep meaning. For
instance, that is not what happens in the film and even more key, Saturn was
the original choice of planet for the final act of the film, but it was
abandoned because the Visual Effects people were not sure they could do the
rings surrounding the planet, so Jupiter was a substitute. Yes, there is more to say and it does not get
said here, but this is interest8ing and sometimes creepy as expected.
include a half-hour of deleted scenes of interest, gallery with commentary and
feature length audio commentary by Foy.
not least is Star Trek: The Next
Generation – The Next Level, part of the increasingly and highly welcome
arrival of hit TV shows shot on 35mm film making it to Blu-ray, but it is the
first of its kind in one way. Unlike the
previous original Trek series (see
links below) which was 35mm from beginning to end (and you can add Space: 1999, also on Blu-ray on this
site to that list) down to the visual effects, Next Generation may have been shot in 35mm film and even used
complex models, but some visual effects, editing and credits were finished on
old professional NTSC analog video which is why DVD copies look so soft,
especially as compared to the classic 1960s series.
In what I
hope with be the beginning of a new trend, CBS/Paramount decided to go back to
the original 35mm camera materials and faithfully retransferred those material
in HD with other vault footage and produced HD versions of the show no one
making them could have ever imagined.
Though fans and purists might have some issues with this, as a non-fan,
I was pleasantly surprised what a huge improvement the three key episodes (Encounter At Farpoint, Sins Of The Father, The Inner Light) offer versus all previous analog transfers. You can see how much better the performances
and chemistry is of the cast, you can see the money and effort the production
designers pulled off that was only previously visible in promotional stills,
you can see what great model work is here and how superior it is after all
these years to usually lesser digital equivalents and you can see how Gene
Roddenberry as trying to pick up where the 1979 Motion Picture left off on some level much more clearly.
of live action and animated series produced on film were finished this way (and
this does not in any way include shows (usually from U.K. TV) that shot their
interiors on tape and exteriors on film) to their detriment and it eventually
pulled down the whole quality look of television for years. For more memorable shows like this one, you
can see how 35mm film made a huge difference and as the Original Series sets sold so well, the company has made an
excellent choice in going back and fixing this show up. All the seasons are due to follow and it is
cases like this one that will stun everyone and show what low-def TV made them
miss all these decades. This will be a
fun demo until the Season One
Blu-ray set arrives later in 2012 and likely beyond that, so get it for the fun
of it. Extras include Season One Blu-ray trailer, featurette
on upgrading the shows and promo on a related iPad application.
2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Steel is often stylized downward to be a little darker than average
and that gets in the way of overall playback fidelity and this approach by Director
of Photography Mauro Fiore (Avatar) is
not as memorable as some of his other work.
This is an HD shoot whose results are generic with a flat consistence
that works against the whole affair. The
anamorphically enhanced DVD also included is much softer and makes this much
harder to watch. The anamorphically
enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on the Dead
DVD is as soft, but it is a low budget digitally shot documentary and has that
as an excuse.
1.33 X 1 digital High Definition image on the Trek Blu-ray is an extraordinary improvement over the DVD versions
we have suffered through all these years with the improved elements noted
above. On the downside is grain, a
softness we see in many 1980s and 1990s filmed TV shows that may have been able
to shoot in 35mm film, but also used faster film stocks as a way to play it
safe, be in line with a generic sense of TV cinematography and save money by
not using more challenging stocks. In
this case as seen on all three episodes here, that means more light grain than
one migh6t have liked, but I give the restoration crew credit for not trying to
erase it as that would have been much worse.
comparison, the Robin Of Sherwood
series Blu-rays reviewed elsewhere on this site exhibit the same thing, but
again that is not necessarily a bad thing.
It just makes for a lighter-looking show and for TV in general, that was
a look that started to kick in around 1979.
We expect the shocked approval of these shows and the whole series that
follows on Blu-ray will not only lead to more shows finished on analog video
but shot on 35mm film to be resurrected, but that all the other Trek spin-offs
will get the same treatment. Maybe the
classic TV on Blu-ray boom will finally happen as I have been anticipating and
hoping for will finally happen this year as to be honest, this Trek disc, Robin Of Sherwood, The
Prisoner, Space: 1999, the
original Twilight Zone, U.K. import
ITC action hit compilations and import (so far) The Persuaders! TV on Blu-ray sets have all been critical and
commercial hits so this disc can only bring on more of the same.
Blu-rays offer DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1 lossless mixes with Steel being consistent and rich, but
nothing extraordinary or overly impressive.
It is well recorded and professionally mixed, but the overall result is
too safe for its own good, though some will like the use of bass, we have heard
the character of this mix before and it is still somehow limited even apparent
in the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on the included DVD. Trek
is really pushing it for a show that was originally Dolby Surround Stereo at
best, but the expansion to 7.1 on the episodes here are not as choppy or
soundfield limited as the same on the Original
Series Blu-ray sets of Trek including Season
Three which we never got for review, but have since caught up with and
still had the sonic limits of the first two sets despite the DTS-MA offering
the best those shows will ever sound.
Ditto here. Dead has a lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix that includes
location audio issues and is practically monophonic at times.
For more Star Trek TV on Blu-ray, try these
links for the first two seasons of the Original
- Nicholas Sheffo