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

Eagle Eye (Blu-ray Disc)

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Eagle Eye
2008 (2008) - DreamWorks (Paramount)
Released on Blu-ray Disc on December 27th, 2008

Dolby TrueHD

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

Every ten years or so, a movie seems to come along that addresses the use of technology in over-policing and over-monitoring the populace, as well as the on-going automation of important parts of society. In the 1980s, it was WarGames. In the 1990s, it was Enemy of the State. Now, a decade later, we have Eagle Eye.

Shia LeBeouf stars as Jerry Shaw, the underachieving twin of an overachiever, who's working at Kinko's instead of going to Stanford like his father wants him to. When Jerry comes home from work one day to find his entire apartment packed full of terrorist equipment, and a mysterious woman on the phone suddenly tells him to get out before the police come, he's suddenly launched into a mysterious cross-country chase and into the midst of a deadly conspiracy that unfolds from the highest levels of our Government.

Since the end of the high-def format war, Paramount has worked diligently to mend their ways after the total crap shoot that characterized many of their Blu-ray titles pre HD-DVD exclusivity. For most of 2008, they've delivered very good picture and sound quality on Blu-ray, not to mention above average extras, and Eagle Eye is no exception. In terms of video, the color palette here tends to have a metallic flair with a definite push toward the blues and the grays, so it doesn't have the kind of pop that a brighter, more colorful film would on the format. But, very occasional bouts of black crush aside, Eagle Eye on BD is certainly a fine representation of the film, with more than enough dimension and texture to keep you interested. Audio-wise, the now standard Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless track is also rock solid, with moments of good crash and bang when it counts. The dialog is occasionally too low, but otherwise it's a more than satisfying mix.

Presented in full HD, the supplemental package carried by Eagle Eye is a bit lightweight, but what you do get is also good. First up is Asymmetrical Warfare: The Making of Eagle Eye, a half hour featurette on the film's production. Eagle Eye on Location covers the Washington D.C. shoot, while Is My Cell Phone Spying on Me? looks at real-life, Government-style surveillance. The feature that really stood out to me however was Shall We Play a Game?, which is a conversation between director D.J. Caruso and John Badham, who headed up War Games - obviously an inspiration for this film. Finishing things up are a few deleted scenes, a 7-minute gag reel and the film's theatrical trailer.

Eagle Eye is light, entertaining... and gone as soon as you hit the stop button. While the way all the pieces fall into place is somewhat original, I have to admit that LaBeouf's one-note acting is really starting to wear thin for me, and perhaps that colors my perceptions. Here's hoping that, somehow, he finds the great thespian abilities that Steven Spielberg seems to believe he possesses. In any case, Eagle Eye is definitely suitable for a Saturday night spin - a solid purchase if you loved the film in theatres or decent rental fodder otherwise.

Dexter: The First Season (Blu-ray Disc)

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Dexter: The First Season
2006 (2008) - Showtime (Paramount)
Released on Blu-ray Disc on January 6th, 2009

Dolby TrueHD

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

For the last year, I've been hearing from all kinds of people that the one show I really needed to check out was Dexter. A born serial killer, the show's title character was instead pushed in a more positive direction by a loving stepfather, so he only offs the guilty - the evil types who exist above the law. You can think of Dexter as a sort of Freddy Krueger meets Knight Rider hybrid. Critically acclaimed and now in its third season, Dexter is Showtime's first big push into the Blu-ray arena.

Like a lot of television shows, Dexter exhibits a wide spectrum of quality when it comes to picture fidelity. While it runs about 80-85% with solid HD clarity, there are seemingly random shots and sequences here and there that exhibit lower detail and unfortunate CCD noise (Dexter is shot on HDCAM). When it's good, however, Dexter is really something. Rich colors, especially when it comes to blood, combine with excellent contrast and blacks to result in one of the best examples of television on Blu-ray so far. The BD audio gets a slight bump over cablecast with the upgrade to lossless, but on a dialog driven show like this, your mileage will vary depending on how golden your ears are.

On-disc bonus material here is limited to a few audio commentaries recycled from the previous DVD sets. For some reason, however, all the other video based extras have been placed online via BD-Live, and so they cannot be reviewed at this time until those features are enabled.

I have to confess that Dexter is not a show that really appeals to me personally, but I can definitely see what so many others appreciate about it. It's very well written and acted, and certainly it's a great title for Showtime to get their feet wet with in the television sector of Blu-ray. For serious fans, this should be an excellent upgrade that's totally worth the money, For those of you new to Dexter, be prepared for pitch black humor and bright red blood (and lots of each). The pre-order prices are good, so if the show sounds appealing to you, give it a shot and you'll probably be glad you did.

Jeff Kleist
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