(2014/Warner Blu-ray w/DVD)/Under
The Skin (2013/Lionsgate
Blu-ray + DVD)
B- & C/B- & C Sound: B & B-/B & C+ Extras:
C/C+ Films: B-/B
all the bad space operas and bad action films in bad sci-fi clothing,
it is nice to see two films that actually know what hard Science
Fiction is. Ambitious, interesting and worth your time, I was
pleasantly surprised by both.
start with Wally Pfister's Transcendence
(2014), the directorial debut of the Director of Photography in a
thriller that involves Johnny Depp (in his best work in a while) as a
doctor with an advanced understanding of computers, the brain,
intelligence and mind that may have a big breakthrough to offer the
world, but some think this might be a disaster and he is the target
of an assassination that has a man shot him down. He should be dead
outright, but he barely survives, hooked up to an advanced system by
his wife (Rebecca Hall) and computer friend & confidante (Paul
Bettany) to complete as experiment he has worked on all his life.
follows is an ambitious film with interesting ideas that often work,
but the film has lulls where it becomes too much like a few films we
have seen before. At best, you'll think 2001
and Demon Seed,
but it also comes across as generic at times like lesser films than
it like Simone,
and the cyberspace cycle of the 1990s that produced so many duds.
The supporting cast helps stop the genericness with Cillian Murphy,
Morgan Freeman, Kate Mara, Cole Hauser, Clifton Collins Jr., Josh
Stewart, Lucas Haas and Xander Berkley bringing life to this as well
as some clever parts in the script many viewers might miss. It may
not be a home run, but Transcendence
really tries to work and if you have more than a short attention
span, see it and enjoy all that does work.
in both formats include Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC
portable and iTunes capable devices, while the discs add Original
Theatrical Trailers and promo featurette clips used to promote the
Glazer's Under The Skin
(2013) is the remarkable short film and Music Video director's third
feature film following Sexy
Beast (reviewed on
Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) and Birth.
This time, we get a creepy tale set in Scotland and England with
Scarlett Johansson going around in a stolen van seducing all kinds of
unsuspecting men. The twist is that she is an alien from outer space
out to steal them outright for reasons we are not initially clear on.
The film has a very challenging narrative we rarely see in any
filmmaking anymore and is sometimes as creepy as a horror film.
says she wants to have sex, but it is a black widow-like trap and she
also is working with another mysterious man on a motorcycle (also
likely an alien stealing a human body and/or taking on human form)
but like David Bowie in Man
Who Fell To Earth (also
reviewed elsewhere on this site), her human form starts to affect her
mission and hen we get surreal moments that actually add up, make
sense and further the narrative. There are also masterful scenes and
developments that truly surprise.
is the work of a master filmmaker with great material and even though
a little of this is we have seen in previous sci-fi masterworks, so
much here is so well done that it is a personal breakthrough for the
already amazing Glazer. Definitely set time aside to watch this one
all the way through in one sitting, preferably in the dark!
in both separate formats include Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC,
PC portable and iTunes capable devices, while we get a Making Of
featurette in both packages.
1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on the
Transcendence Blu-ray has some nice moments and fine shots,
but also have some softness despite being shot on 35mm film, showing
this transfer has had some minor detail issues. Otherwise, shot in
real anamorphic Panavision by Director of Photography Jess Hall,
B.S.C., it has a very consistent look with the creepy coolness that
reminded me of Memento. The
1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on the Skin
Blu-ray was shot on a combination of several HD cameras including the
Arri Alexa by Director of Photography Daniel Landin, B.S.C., and has
a soft look on purpose that is supposed to be a little but alien, but
it works. That gives both Blu-ray limits, but they look much better
than their much softer, anamorphically enhanced, DVD counterparts.
Blu-rays fare better in the sound department, sporting DTS-HD MA
(Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes that are as smart and
narrative-connected, as they are clever, unique and creative with
solid music scores to match. Transcendence
was issued at its best theatrically in a
Dolby Atmos 11.1 mix, so this mixown is rich, while the same on Skin
is very sonically impressive as Glazer's works always are. Both DVD
versions have lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 that are not bad, but no
matches for the lossless DTS versions.