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

Lost: The Complete Fifth Season

Buy this Blu-ray now at Amazon!


Lost: The Complete Fifth Season
2009 (2009) - Walt Disney Home Entertainment
Released on Blu-ray Disc on December 8th, 2009
Also available on DVD

DTS-HD MA

Program Rating: A
Video (1-20): 18
Audio (1-20): 18
Extras: B+


Before the turn of the century, serialization was the home of a select few syndicated shows. No network would dare risk giving entire seasons over to a continuing story, insisting on at least a 50/50 split with standalone episodes that will play well in syndication and cable down the road. Taking the baton from his previous creation, Alias, Lost was the first continuing series to grab the attention of the public at large.


Still a phenomenon going into its sixth and final season, Lost's motley crew stranded on the mysterious magical island have gone up hill and down dale discovering the truths of the Island, and themselves.

When Season Three was released on Blu-ray a few years ago, minds were blown. Not only was a top-tier television series finally available in our favorite high-def format, but it was a mind-blowing showcase of how good HD can be. The colors and fine detail of the lush jungle remain impressive three seasons down the line, at times delivering that "picture window" effect enthusiasts crave. Thanks to improved film stocks, great experience with HD, and a better DI process, the penultimate season delivers a noticeably finer grained presentation than previous collections, retaining fine detail while keeping the noise level down. I did find the first two or three episodes below par compared to the rest of the set for some reason. This may have been an artistic choice, or some other production change, but something just seemed different from my memory of the 720p broadcast versions. Maybe it's just me, but if you notice it too, don't worry - all will be well by the time you get off the first disc.

Sound fans have gotten spoiled with Lost since before the first commercial break, as the show features a more consistently active and engaging sound field than many feature films. Here, it's presented in all of its master quality glory. Airplanes whir, things explode, gunfire goes off... and then bleeds away to the ambient sounds of the jungle. If you've been on the ride this long, you know what to expect.

Since everyone's likely already watched this show on TV, it's the extras that probably help drive a purchase here. And while it's not quite as extensive (in terms of 'on-disc' features) as previous seasons, the new BD-Live Lost University online experience makes up for it a bit. After creating a login on the web, you go in and choose your classes in a variety of topics like foreign languages (Korean to start with), jungle survival (complete with high school quality 16mm projector problems) and the physics of time travel. Now, this isn't just an excuse to feed you short promotional clips: you actually get "homework", including suggested books and articles you should read if you want to know more about a certain topic. Once you're all through, you take a quiz, and you can move onto other semesters of learning, which presumably will contain more in-depth and rewarding clips. One gets the impression that this is going to be updated often with new material, and that there may eventually be "classes" and other topics of study related to the sixth season episodes.

As far as traditional extras go, there's some different stuff here. Mysteries of the Universe is a faux half-hour television documentary about the Dharma Initiative, while Lost 100 celebrates 100 episodes with memories and, most importantly, a custom Charm City Cake. (No Ace of Cakes episode is attached - darn!) Yin and Yang extras come next - A Day with Richard Alpert follows Nestor "Batmanuel" Carbonall on his last day of shooting for the fifth season, and it's fairly entertaining to watch. Building 23 and Beyond is the yang, featuring Michael "Ben Linus" Emerson running around the Burbank production offices for Lost. Now, TV show production offices are typically pretty boring places unless you're looking for spoilers... or being run around by a guy who can turn the most innocent of stories into a creepshow. Following these notables are some commentaries, on-set footage from select episodes, a gag reel, and deleted scenes.

If you're an ultra-hardcore Lost fan, your experience can be further enhanced by picking up the Dharma Orientation Kit edition of this BD release. Housed in a cardboard box the size of a small board game, the Dharma set includes a VHS tape with all of the orientation videos featured in the series, along with maps, guides, rules, regulations and even a copy of the truce with the Others. (Warning: Some of this contains possible Season Six spoilers!) There's also a complete set of the Island Dharma patches you see on the uniforms on the show (if you get lucky, you might find a limited "submarine" patch as well), and a CD single as featured in the show. The discs themselves are housed inside of 5.25 floppy sleeves, and while it certainly sticks to the period, I would have liked to have seen the standard case inside, or at least the option to order one by mail.

Admittedly, Season Three for Lost was incredibly rocky. Having to produce too many episodes to keep the storytelling tight, combined with a huge break after only a few episodes, turned a lot of the audience off of the show. So the producers cut a deal with ABC, agreeing on exactly how many episodes were left so they could plot their story tightly, and know where they were going from year to year, and episode to episode. By the end of that season, Lost had regained its former strength and sense of purpose, thereby infusing the subsequent seasons with greater purpose and more vigorous storytelling.

Now available on Blu-ray, Lost: The Complete Fifth Season continues to be a showcase of how to do a TV series right on disc. From its stellar video and audio, to convenience features like Season Play (which saves your place automatically and even reduces disc swapping time), the new Lost University and the more accessible price point, Lost remains one of the best ambassadors for the Blu-ray format.

Jeff Kleist
jeffkleist@thedigitalbits.com



The Other Man

Buy this Blu-ray now at Amazon!

The Other Man
2008 (2009) - Ealing Studios (Image in U.S./E1 in Canada)
Released on Blu-ray disc on December 15th, 2009
Also available on DVD

DTS-HD MA

Film Rating: D
Video (1-20): 14
Audio (1-20): 14
Extras: C


The script for The Other Man proves to be a good example of the old maxim of going with your first impression. Both Liam Neeson's and Antonio Banderas's first reaction was that the script was not for them, but Neeson allowed himself to be persuaded by director Robert Eyre and then Banderas yielded to Neeson's imprecations. I'm not sure what encouraged Laura Linney's participation, though a close professional relationship with Neeson may have been the deciding factor.


Based on a short story by Bernhard Schlink, The Other Man is a slight tale about a London-based married couple whose apparently happy life together seems to be shattered by Neeson's discovery than his wife Lisa (Linney) had conducted an affair with a Latin lover (Banderas). An intercepted email message enables Neeson to track down Banderas to his home in Milan. Once there, rather than confront his adversary, Neeson manages to meet Banderas without revealing who he really is and engages him in a series of chess matches during which he cultivates Banderos to the point where Banderos begins to share confidences with him about his relationship with Lisa.

If this sounds rather ludicrous, that's merely the best of it. The film has aspirations of being part thriller as well as melodrama, but since it can't rely on the script to provide any help in that regard (when knocking chess pieces off a table is your action highpoint, you know you're in trouble), it compensates with a series of poorly executed and edited flashbacks that confuse rather than create tension or an air of mystery. What's actually happening becomes clear about half-way through the film, but once that realization arrives, the film has little else to maintain our interest. We're left to wince at some of the dreadful dialogue that Neeson's saddled with and roll our eyes at a plot twist concerning Banderas's character. Though clearly conceived as a cathartic experience for Neeson's character, the film's climactic sequence is mainly ludicrous and thereafter the film fizzles to an end.

Sometimes with a bad film, one can report that at least it looks superb on Blu-ray. Unfortunately that's not the case here either. There's nothing particularly wrong with the 2.40:1 image; it looks sharp and nicely detailed, but there's little sense of dimensionality and the film's rather muted colour palette which seems faithfully reproduced doesn't assist much. The presentation overall gives little sense of much more than a very well upconverted DVD.

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is strongly rooted in the fronts with some modest directionality apparent. Dialogue is clear and well balanced. Surround activity is very limited and then to modest ambient noises such as in the streets of Milan.

Supplements include an earnest audio commentary by director Richard Eyre who makes the film's production process sound much more interesting than the completed product turned out to be, and some cast and crew congratulatory interviews.

An excellent opportunity to save money!

Barrie Maxwell
barriemaxwell@thedigitalbits.com
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