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page added: 11/11/08



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

The Police: Certifiable - Live in Buenos Aires (Blu-ray Disc)


The Police: Certifiable - Live in
Buenos Aires

2008 (2008) - A&M/Polydor (Universal Music)
Released on Blu-ray Disc exclusively at Best Buy on November 11th, 2008

Dolby TrueHD

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


Not so very long ago, the hope of a Police reunion was something most fans had long given up on. So in early 2007, when the band announced a surprise two-year world tour (that would become one of the highest grossing ever), it was a shock to say the least... and a dream come true.


Serious fans of the band, myself included, took full advantage. Having waited twenty years for this, I managed to see Sting, Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers perform live no less than five times as they worked their way around the world over the last couple years, and I counted myself fortunate to have the opportunity. So I thought perhaps I was pushing my luck when I wondered: Say... wouldn't it be REALLY cool if the band released a live concert Blu-ray Disc of the tour?

Well... wouldn't you know it, thanks to the exclusive support of Best Buy, that's exactly what's happened! The Police: Certifiable (so named because Sting was once quoted as saying that agreeing to a Police reunion would be reason to have him certified insane) features a state-of-the-art recording of the band's massive Buenos Aires stadium shows from December of 2007. The concert featured here was shot over two nights (12/1 and 12/2) so that any mistakes or performance gaffs could be covered. The show is presented in gorgeous 1080p high-definition video, with 96kHz/24-bit audio in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and 2.0. There's tremendous detail visible in the image and the colors are lustrous. The cameras used vary in quality a little - some deliver a slightly better HD picture than others - and you'll occasionally notice a bit of compression artifacting on Copeland's drum kit (as there's just so much detail and chaotic motion). But fans will not be disappointed in the picture quality. Audio-wise, the presentation is very straightforward - the music is spread across the front of the soundstage as you'd expect, with audience noise filling in from the rear channels. The mix sounds fantastic - clean, clear and crisp, with abundant bass and wonderful ambience.

The performance itself is terrific - very close to perfect, in fact. Sting is in fine voice. He hits every note and never misses a lyric. Stewart is a rhythmic marvel, as ever, filling in backbeats with manic vengeance. And Andy ties it all together, bending his open-ended guitar chords throughout each verse. To tighten up the performance, some of the back-and-forth with the audience has been edited out, along with the breaks between encores. And the backing tracks used during the tour have been reduced in the mix, so they're there but are never distracting. I have say, I was pleasantly surprised at how much more I was able to really appreciate the subtle aspects of the performance here. The sound mix on this disc is SO much better than what you often experience live in a stadium or arena setting, so you'll pick up on a lot more nuance. There are also several moments when the band is riffing off each other playfully on stage, that you can really tell how much fun they're having together. Best of all, every song from the performance is here, including Message in a Bottle, Synchronicity II, Walking on the Moon, Voices Inside My Head, When the World Is Running Down, Don't Stand So Close to Me, Driven to Tears, Hole in My Life, Truth Hits Everybody, Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic, Wrapped Around Your Finger, De Do Do Do De Da Da Da, Invisible Sun, Walking in Your Footsteps, Can't Stand Losing You, Roxanne, King of Pain, So Lonely, Every Breath You Take and Next to You. And be sure you stay through the end credits: The band tells a great story about Andy's infamous brush with the law from the first time they played in Argentina back in 1980. It'll leave you with a smile.

In terms of extras, in addition to the concert, you get a 51-minute behind-the-scenes documentary, directed by Copeland's son Jordan. It's called Better Than Therapy and it too is presented in full HD (though it's a little more compressed looking, and some SD footage is mixed in). It features numerous interviews with the band members talking about how the reunion came to be, and you get to see many candid moments during the tour, including early jam sessions, the band working in Sting's rehearsal studio in Italy, preparations for the Live Earth gig and more. Particularly funny is a moment when the band sits down for dinner at Sting's villa... and they all notice the steak knives on the table at the same moment. The Police were infamous for in-fighting and tension back in the day, and there's a good laugh as they wonder aloud if the knives were a good idea. I wish the documentary had shown the band's brief reunion with former guitarist and original band member Henry Padovani (it's sadly not here), but that's a minor nitpick. Fans are going to love every minute of this.

Also present on the disc are a pair of brief image galleries featuring photos taken while in Argentina by Summers and photographer Danny Clinch. And the concert itself includes multi-angle enhancement on two songs: King of Pain and Wrapped Around Your Finger. The alternate angle focuses exclusively on Copeland while at play in the large "rhythm rig" behind his standard drum kit. This is, of course, very cool. Copeland's an amazing drummer, and you'll appreciate just how hard he's working here by watching in close-up. You can access the alternate angle via your remote, or just bring up the disc's pop-up menu during the songs - there's an
"alternate angle" selection up at the top right corner of the menu.

This box set also includes the exact same concert in audio-only format on two CDs, and you get a booklet too. My only real complaint with this release is the packaging. It looks nice, and it's made of recycled materials (a nice touch), but it doesn't hold the discs very securely, so yours are likely to be loose in the package when you open it. For those who have yet to upgrade to Blu-ray, The Police: Certifiable is also available in DVD and LP formats, all exclusively at Best Buy in the U.S. but at other retailers worldwide. Though if you REALLY love the band, why you'd want anything other than this Blu-ray is beyond me. It's the bomb.

It's been an amazing couple of years for Police fans, no doubt about it, and owning a keepsake of their reunion on Blu-ray is just the icing on the cake. Having seen this tour from the second row, I can say with authority that the Blu-ray captures perfectly the experience of the reunited band, at the height of its form, from what are essentially the best seats in the house. And these discs are a helluva lot cheaper than the tickets were, that's for damn sure. For fans of The Police, or just great live music in general, this set is a no-brainer. Buy and be glad.



Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Blu-ray Disc)

Buy this Blu-ray now at Amazon!

Star Wars: The Clone Wars
2008 (2008) - Lucasfilm (Warner Bros.)
Released on Blu-ray Disc on November 11th, 2008

Dolby TrueHD

Film Rating: C+
Video (1-20): 19.5
Audio (1-20): 18.5
Extras: C+


All right... what can I say about this one? Star Wars: The Clone Wars is set between Episodes II and III, and takes place after Cartoon Network's more traditionally animated series of the same name.


The plot sets up thusly: Count Dooku and his droid forces have kidnapped Jabba the Hutt's son... or pupa or whatever... and the Jedi need the Hutts' help in the war against the Separatists. So Anakin Skywalker and his new apprentice set out on a mission to rescue the... the little slug or what have you... with the help of Obi-Wan Kenobi and the Republic's clone armies. Yeah, my brain hurts from all this too.

It's not that Clone Wars is bad. It's not. In fact, story wise, it's actually an improvement on the recent live-action films. It's also visually stunning, if stylishly a bit odd - rather like a Star Wars version of the old Davy and Goliath show, rendered entirely in CG. Unfortunately, Clone Wars has all the dramatic sophistication of the prequel films, which is to say not much. It suffers from the same paper thin but overly complicated plot, hammy dialogue and melodramatic action. It also doesn't help that anyone who has seen the films knows that the fates of virtually all of these characters are sealed. But whatever. I don't dislike Clone Wars, but I didn't really love it either.

Visually at least, Warner's Blu-ray Disc release is a marvel. The video looks as good as any CG animation you'll see in high-def. Contrast and detail are excellent, and the colors are wonderfully vibrant. This is Blu-ray eye candy to be sure. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround audio is also excellent, with a lively mix that features active use of directional effects and panning. Kevin Kiner's adaptation of the classic Williams score is quite enjoyable, and it sounds terrific here.

There are a number of interesting extras on the disc, most (but not all) in full HD, including 6 webisodes, 3 trailers, 4 deleted scenes and featurettes on the score and voice work. It should be noted that Clone Wars is actually the jumping off point for a new CG-animated series in the same style on Cartoon Network, and there's a 25-minute piece here that looks ahead at some of the episodes - my favorite bonus on the whole disc. There's also an interactive memory game that allows you to unlock 3 more clips, and there's a Digital Copy version of the film on a second disc. Finally, you get a "video commentary" with some of the artists and filmmakers, including director Dave Filoni. This was disappointing though, as it's not done PiP style with BonusView enhancement, but rather as a second, low-resolution encode of the entire film. From time to time, the film frame gets smaller and moves aside so you can see the person talking, or a piece of artwork or whatever. I wish it was BonusView instead, so the visual quality was greater. I suspect it was done this way to avoid complaints from those with original, profile 1.0 BD players, but it's disappointing nonetheless.

I've heard from a couple people that the TV continuation of Clone Wars is pretty good. The almost complete lack of buzz about it doesn't give me confidence that it'll last very long, but I'll certainly check it out on Blu-ray eventually. In the meantime, if you're young enough that your first experience of Star Wars was the thrilling adventures of Anakin Skywalker, you'll probably really dig this. For you older fans, however, I'm guessing your mileage will vary.

Bill Hunt, Editor
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com
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