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Blu-ray Reviews
Blu-ray Disc reviews by Bill Hunt and Jeff Kleist of The Digital Bits

Air Force One (Blu-ray Disc)

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Air Force One
1997 (2009) - Columbia/TriStar (Sony)
Released on Blu-ray Disc on June 2nd, 2009
Also available on DVD

Dolby TrueHD

Film Rating: B+
Video (1-20): 17.5
Audio (1-20): 17.5
Extras: D

Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman square off at 30,000 feet in this terrific actioner about the hijacking of the First Plane. While on a visit to Moscow, the President (Ford) has placed the bad guys of the world on alert - the U.S. will no longer tolerate, or negotiate with, terrorists.

But wouldn't you know it, a group of Russian radicals posing as a TV news crew (and led with zeal by Oldman), has managed to hitch a ride on the President's return trip. Shortly into the flight, they manage to wrest control of the 747, taking the First Family and forty other passengers hostage in the process. But the President, now a stowaway on his own plane, engages in a high-stakes game of cat-and-mouse to prove that he can back up his tough talk, and save the lives of those closest to him.

As with all action films, Air Force One requires some suspension of disbelief by the audience. Could terrorists really get aboard the President's plane, even with inside help? Unlikely. Thankfully, Ford is entirely believable as the President. Back in Washington, Glenn Close is equally good as his Vee-P. And the leads are backed by a solid supporting cast (including William H. Macy of Fargo fame), the deft direction of Wolfgang Peterson (In the Line of Fire, Das Boot, Outbreak) and nail-biting aerial effects sequences that keep the action fast and furious until the very end. My only complaint about Air Force One, is that Harrison Ford never returned to his Jack Ryan role in the Tom Clancy films after this. Ah well. How do you go back to playing CIA after President of the United States?

I was really hoping this disc would deliver on the picture and sound front. Thankfully, Sony hasn't disappointed. The HD transfer is wonderfully film-like, with very satisfying color and contrast, light to moderate grain and very good overall image detail. This is matched with a new Dolby TrueHD audio mix that features a wide and enveloping soundstage, with excellent bass and highly active surrounds - not just for music and gunfire, but general ambience as well. Overall, it's a very nice presentation.

Sadly, the extras have been down rather than upgraded. Not that this film has EVER had much in the way of bonus material - a Peterson commentary and the theatrical trailer was as good as it got on the previous DVD. But while the commentary has made the jump to Blu-ray, Sony (as seems to be their practice these days) has once again dropped the trailer for this film, replacing it with preview trailers for lots of other titles instead. I sure wish they'd stop doing that - it's annoying as hell. And no, making the trailer available via BD-Live doesn't count. Blu-ray fans want it on the DISC thank you very much.

Air Force One is rock solid entertainment from start to finish - a film I can't help stopping to watch whenever I notice it on the cable schedule as I'm flipping channels. This new Blu-ray version delivers great A/V quality, though I just wish Sony would upgrade the extras one of these days too. Still, if you're a fan and you can find a good sale price, I'd say the disc is worth the upgrade.

The Uninvited (Blu-ray Disc)

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The Uninvited
2009 (2009) - DreamWorks (Paramount)
Released on Blu-ray Disc on April 28th, 2009
Also available on DVD

Dolby TrueHD

Film Rating: C-
Video (1-20): 18
Audio (1-20): 17
Extras: C-

Yet another in a long line of Hollywood remakes of Asian horror films, The Uninvited is effectively unsettling in its way, but one can't help thinking that the original South Korean tale was more interesting.

The film finds a pair of troubled sisters, Anna and Alex (Emily Browning and Arielle Kebbel), struggling to deal with the death of their mother - a task made more difficult when their father (David Strathairn) becomes engaged to their mother's young caretaker (Zack and Miri's Elizabeth Banks, who seems to be everywhere these days). Complicating matters further, Anna begins to see her mother's ghost... and you can pretty well expect that things start going south from there.

The HD video presentation on Blu-ray is very good looking, with outstanding detail and contrast. Color is somewhat muted as you'd expect from this genre, but it's accurate, and there's very light but visible grain in the image. The TrueHD audio mix is a little more front-biased than you'd like for this type of film, but the dialogue is clear and there's good ambience and surround play when necessary to jangle all the proper "fright" nerves.

In terms of bonus material, included are a set of 4 deleted scenes, an alternate ending and a 19-minute featurette, Unlocking the Uninvited, all in HD. In short, it's not much, but then the film really doesn't demand more.

The Uninvited is a well-paced and moody little thriller, though it's probably not one you're likely to want to revisit after the first viewing. The Blu-ray version certainly delivers nice quality, but unless you really love the film, it's probably a better as a Saturday night rental.

Bill Hunt, Editor
[email protected]

Enemy at the Gates (Blu-ray Disc)

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Enemy at the Gates
2001 (2009) - Paramount
Released on Blu-ray Disc on May 19th, 2009
Also available on DVD

Dolby TrueHD

Film Rating: B
Video (1-20): 17
Audio (1-20): 18
Extras: C

Enemy at the Gates is a bit of a rarity - an American war movie that focuses on a decidedly non-American event in World War II, namely the siege of Stalingrad. Based ever so loosely on real events, the film tells of story of Vassili Zaitsev (Jude Law), a farm boy turned soldier who shoots several German officers and saves the life of a political officer in the process.

This particular officer (Joseph Fiennes) sees in Zaitsev an opportunity to advance his own career, and so he pushes Zaitsev to the forefront of the Russian Army's propaganda campaign... and also to the front of the sniper division. Zaitsev is so effective that Germany's own ace sniper, Major Konig (Ed Harris), is dispatched to remove the threat. Thus begins the battle within the battle... one of wits, of skills, and of passions.

Dreary, grimy and dirty, Enemy at the Gates paints its palette in drab grays and browns, highlighted by the occasional splash of red. As such, there's not much in the way of color, but what's here looks good. The movie is generally dark, lit by smoke-filtered sunlight and fires, and the HD transfer presents it well. This is an accurate transfer, but not a pretty one to be sure. The lossless TrueHD audio tightens up everything from the bass to the reports of the rifles. Surprisingly for a war movie, Gates was never much of a floor pounder outside of a few choice sequences. Accordingly, the surround mix works more to reinforce the quiet serenity this sniper must achieve to do his work, rather than knocking your socks off.

No additional bonus materials are present here on Blu-ray Disc, but everything from the original DVD release is present, including a few deleted scenes, an EPK-style featurette and the film's trailer (now upgraded to HD).

Enemy at the Gates is a flawed picture, and the love triangle (centered around Rachel Weisz) feels somewhat tacked on. Law, Harris and Bob Hoskins each turn in some great performances, though Weisz and Fiennes fall a bit flat. When it comes to the sniper action, however, this film is top notch. Vassili's innocence and the cold viciousness of Konig - as well as the lengths to which the latter will go to bag the Russian hero - are what really make this picture memorable. Enemy at the Gates is not the best war movies ever made, but it's among the more human.

Jeff Kleist
[email protected]

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