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

Defiance (Blu-ray Disc)

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Defiance
2008 (2009) - Paramount
Released on Blu-ray Disc on June 2nd, 2009
Also available on DVD

Dolby TrueHD

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


Edward Zwick has made a career showcasing people rising up to triumph over adversity, either by action or personal example, and this film is no exception. Defiance tells the story of a resistance cell of Polish Jews in the early days of World War II. Cold, hungry and short of everything but determination, they managed to become a thorn in the Nazis' side for the majority of the war.


Defiance is another solid outing for Paramount on Blu-ray, with the video presentation maintaining a film-like appearance throughout. While many scenes are a little high contrast for my taste, detail is never sacrificed by these purely stylistic choices. Most of the film is spent with the characters hiding out in the woods, Robin Hood-style, and the light diffusion and colors (yellows, greens and blues) filtering through the trees are very pleasing to the eye. As a war film, Defiance doesn't disappoint sonically, delivering the appropriate lossless roar and boom when the scene calls for it. Most of the audio is centered in the the front channels, while surrounds are used to create ambiance, establishing the physical space of each scene quite effectively.

Aside from the standard audio commentary and "making of" featurette, the standouts of the supplementary package are historical. Children of the Otriad: The Families Speak brings the modern descendants of the protagonists to the forefront, introducing us to the real men through anecdotes, home movies and photographs. While dramatic presentations of historical figures can certainly be interesting, these real, first-hand accounts (unfiltered by historians and filmmakers) bring them to life in a way no movie ever could. Also worth noting is Bielski Partisan Survivors, a montage of Edward Zwick's photographs of the surviving members of the resistance army. A featurette on the score and a pair of trailers round out the package.

Defiance shines new light on one of the many local resistance efforts of World War II. In France, the Netherlands, Poland, Belgium, Spain and other occupied territories, cells such as this passed important intelligence information, disrupted enemy supply lines, and helped to distract the German Army from confronting Allied troops. As the last of those people who can give first-hand accounts of these events pass into history, it's more important than ever to make sure that their stories are preserved. Defiance accomplishes that goal nicely. While it's no Glory or Last Samurai, fans of Zwick's previous work will not be disappointed.



Fanboys (Blu-ray Disc)

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Fanboys
2008 (2009) - The Weinstein Company (Alliance)
Released on Blu-ray Disc in Canada on June 2nd, 2009
Only available on DVD in the U.S. (Genius Products/Weinstein)

DTS HD MA

Film Rating: B
Video (1-20): 17
Audio (1-20): 15
Extras: N/A


Ahhhh... the innocent days of early 1999. The sky was blue, the sun was shining and every nerd on Earth was counting down the days until May 19th, when the first new Star Wars movie in 15 years would at long last caress their eyeballs.


Such is the lot of our heroes in Fanboys... except that it seems one of them (Linus, played by Christopher Marquette) won't make it until May. He's been stricken with a terminal illness, so his bestest buds decide to break into George Lucas' fabled Skywalker Ranch to steal Episode I for Linus to see before he dies. And so begins the cross-country journey of a lifetime, full of Star Wars references and fandom icons, as these valiant friends battle the cops, family obligations and even radical Trekkies in their quest to reach Marin County and steal Lucas' pot of gold.

Fanboys perfectly captures the feeling of that golden time when I'd stand eagerly in theatre lines for days, fight my roommates to be the first to update our big countdown board each midnight, and willingly suffer through the likes of Meet Joe Black and Wing Commander just to see the latest trailers for Episode I. We even shot our own trailer about breaking into the theatre to see it early.

Sadly, despite having been saved from the Harvey Scissorhands (a.k.a. Darth Weinstein)'s clutches (after his intense desire to remove the "downer" cancer subplot was foiled by test screenings that came down against him), Fanboys languished for close to three years before Weinstein finally released it into a handful of theaters with virtually no promotion. Now, it's been dumped onto home video with just as little fanfare. Here in the States, it's only available on DVD (due to The Weinstein Company's continuing financial troubles). Thankfully, Alliance has released the film on Blu-ray in Canada, and it's fully compatible with U.S. players.

Despite its extremely low budget, Fanboys looks surprisingly good on Blu-ray, with solid blacks and a medium (but consistent) amount of detail - enough to identify most of the Star Wars cards mounted on the wall of the van by name. No unnecessary post processing is evident (beyond what was intended) and the film is nicely clean looking. It's certainly a big improvement over the Weinstein DVD. Conversely, as this is an extremely low budget production, the DTS-HD MA audio is only okay. There isn't a lot of ADR here - it's mostly location audio. The mix is clean and does the job, but that's about the end of it. Still, it's fun to hear all the classic Star Wars sound effects in lossless - hopefully, a taste of future Star Wars Blu-ray sound. It should be noted that the back of the case says this is only DTS-HD, but it IS full HD Master Audio.

So how about the extras? There are none. Zip, nada, nunka. This disc practically advertises the notion that it was put together in a hurry after Weinstein cancelled the U.S. Blu-ray release at the last minute. So while there are chapter stops, the movie has no main menu and all the pop-up menu gives you is an audio selection. Alliance often partners with the U.S. distributor to create their discs, so it's likely they had to come up with this on their own in a hurry. If you really care about extras for this film, my recommendation is to pick up the domestic DVD as well, which includes deleted scenes, audio commentary, multiple featurettes and more. You can just tuck the DVD into a paper sleeve in your BD case, or repurpose a BD+Digital Copy (2-disc) Blu-ray case to keep them both together.

Kyle Newman's Fanboys is a fun little film with a lot of heart - one that deserves far better than Weinstein has given it. Casual viewers certainly won't get all the jokes, but the film is accessible enough that almost anyone should have a good time. It's got a sweet story, great nostalgia value, good laughs and a cast that really gives their all. Even though it's movie-only and you can't find it in stores here in the States, the Blu-ray is far better looking and sounding than the DVD, so it's well worth the import. Whichever format you choose, Fanboys is definitely recommended.

Jeff Kleist
jeffkleist@thedigitalbits.com


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