Review Round-up: Warner Home Video (Blu-ray)

Warner_Bros

Review round-up of some of the latest blu-ray releases and re-releases from Warner Home Video:

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Dances With Wolves

Warner Home Video / Kevin Costner / 1990 / United States

Running Time: 181 minutes

Region Code: Region B

Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Letter Box

Video: 1080p High Definition (AVC encoded)

Audio: Dolby TrueHD: English 5.1; Dolby Digital: English 5.1, Castilian Spanish 5.1, Czech 5.1, Italian 2.0

Language: English

Subtitles: Optional English SDH, Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Brazilian Portugese, European Portugese, Romanian, Slovenian, Castilian Spanish, Latin Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish

“Assigned to a remote outpost in the 1860s West, Lt. John Dunbar fears the nearby Sioux Indians and expects to fight them. Instead, he befriends them and becomes the man in the middle of a brushfire of tension: the conflict between U.S. expansion and Native Americans. Kevin Costner plays Dunbar and makes one of Hollywood’s most impressive directorial debuts with this winner of seven Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director. Battles rage, fates collide, bison thunder across the prairie – the adventure is epic, heroic and stunning.”

Picture Quality:

Presented in an AVC encoded 1080p High Definition transfer, Warner’s blu-ray upgrade of this superb, Civil War epic delivers a full, immersive and highly significant upgrade from previous standard DVD editions of the film, which could never do full justice to the epic scope of the piece. The film ultimately looks beautiful in High Definition, offering warm and beautifully saturated colours and hues, and strong contrast levels, with overall, deep blacks, although there is some crushing to be seen in the shadows of some of the darker scenes. There is some mild compression to be seen, due to the size of the film, and the image can appear slightly soft at times,  however, overall, sharpness and definition are crisp and very impressive, offering great depth, texture and fine detail. Thankfully, the print looks beautifully clean, with no signs of any digital manipulation, tampering or edge enhancement.

Audio Quality:

The lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio mix is overall very impressive, though I feel the piece would benefit greater from an advanced DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, to truly emphasise the sweeping scale and depth of the piece. Dialogue is crisp, clear and strong; ambience and effects are powerful (when needed), natural sounding and well-rendered, depth is sufficient, and John Barry’s sublime score is given a superb presentation. However, the surround channels are never really tested to their capability; in particular, low-end frequencies never quite do justice to the low-frequency effects channel, and overall the audio presentation sounds quite reserved and doesn’t quite match the expansive, epic tone of the film.

Special Features:

None

Available Now (Click image to Buy):

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Doctor Zhivago

Warner Home Video / David Lean / 1965 / United States

Running Time: 200 minutes

Region Code: Region B

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Video: 1080p High Definition (AVC encoded)

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1; Dolby Digital: Castilian Spanish 5.1, French 5.1, German 5.1, Italian 5.1; Dolby Stereo: Latin Spanish 2.0, Portugese 2.0

Language: English

Subtitles: Optional English SDH, Brazilian Portugese, Castilian Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Latin Spanish, Norwegian, Swedish

“A peerless filmmaker of substance and scale, David Lean directs Boris Pasternak’s tumultuous tale of Russia divided by war and hearts torn by love. Epic images abound: revolution in the streets, an infantry charge into No Man’s Land, the train ride to the Urals, an icebound dacha. Omar Sharif plays the title role, Julie Christie is his haunting, longtime love Lara and both are caught up in the tidal wave of history. Hauntingly scored by Maurice Jarre (who earned one of the film’s five Academy Awards) and full of indelible performances, Doctor Zhivago is a moviemaking wonder.”

Picture Quality:

Undoubtedly the finest presentation of the film currently available, this highly recommended blu-ray upgrade from Warner further highlights the stunning direction, cinematography and overall visuals of the film, effectively breathing new life into Lean’s sweeping epic. The presentation feels very authentic and the restoration team have done a superb job in faithfully preserving the original tone and colour palette of the film, with the 1080p High Definition presentation offering excellent levels of rich, vivid colour; definition (though never quite as razor-sharp as seen in some other Warner releases); contrast (although black levels are not as strong or deep as they maybe could be, with some crushing and softness to be seen in the darker scenes). Overall however, the results prove very strong, and thankfully there are only very minimal signs of any scratching, dirt and age-related damage, with the print appearing generally very clean.

Audio Quality:

Maurice Jarre’s superb, sweeping Academy Award-winning score (arguably the film’s most famous component) is brilliantly showcased courtesy of the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, which offers a wonderfully authentic and immersive audio presentation, with fine levels of clarity, tone, fidelity, low-end and impressive dynamic range across the full array of surround channels.

Special Features:

Disc 1 – The Movie (Hi-Def Blu-ray):

Commentary by Omar Sharif, Rod Steiger and Sandra Lean

New Commemorative Two-Part 45th-Anniversary Retrospective – Doctor Zhivago: A Celebration

Disc 2 – Special Features (DVD):

Hour-Long Documentary – Doctor Zhivago: The Making of a Russian Epic

Gallery of Vintage Featurettes – Including Press Interviews and a Geraldine Chaplin Screen Test

Theatrical Trailer

Available Now (Click image to Buy):

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Gone With The Wind

Warner Home Video / Victor Fleming / 1939 / United States

Running Time: 233 minutes

Region Code: Region B

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1

Video: 1080p High Definition (AVC encoded)

Audio: Dolby TrueHD: English 5.1; Dolby Digital: English 5.1, Castilian Spanish 5.1, French 5.1, German 5.1, Italian 5.1; Dolby Digital: English 1.0, Brazilian Portuguese 1.0, Latin Spanish 1.0

Language: English

Subtitles: Optional English SDH, Brazilian Portugese, Castilian Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Latin Spanish, Norwegian, Swedish

“A sweeping epic romantic drama based on Margaret Mitchell’s Pulitzer-winning novel set during the American Civil War. Southern belle Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) often uses men to get what she wants, but is unable to get the one man she truly desires, Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard). She soon meets her match in the roguish Captain Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) and in the war itself which destroys the genteel way of life she has always known. With determination she rebuilds her life from the shattered remains the Union Army leaves behind. Despite its sometimes troubled production (director George Cukor was replaced by Victor Fleming, with Sam Wood brought in when Fleming’s health failed), the film won ten Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress.”

Picture Quality:

This is another superb blu-ray upgrade from Warner Home Video, offering a rich, absorbing and beautifully textured presentation, with an overall slightly golden tone to the image. Colours and hues are gorgeous, vibrant and perfectly saturated; contrast and black levels are strong and deep; definition and sharpness are very strong indeed, offering highly impressive levels of fine detail, and depth of field is superb, again offering great immersive depth and multi-layered detail.

Audio Quality:

The English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio mix offers superb levels of crisp, clear dialogue, powerful sound effects and a fine presentation of Max Steiner’s outstanding score, and though the majority of the dialogue is offered through the front, centre channels, overall the audio mix offers very good dynamic range, effectively servicing the various surround channels. However, though the English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio mix is in my opinion the strongest choice, purists may choose to opt for the original Dolby digital 1.0 mono mix for a more authentic audio presentation, although there is some slight hiss to be found.

Special Features:

Disc 1:

The Movie: Restored in 1080p High Definition with Commentary by Historian Rudy Behlmer

Disc 2:

The Making of a Legend: Gone With the Wind – Narrated by Christopher Plummer

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment presents 1939: Hollywood’s Greatest Year – Narrated by Kenneth Branagh

Gone With the Wind: The Legend Lives On – Explore the legacy of the most beloved film through illuminating interviews, footage and visits to historical sites, events and museums

Restoring a Legend – Chronicles the Film/Video restoration Process

1939 Premiere Newsreel

1940 MGM Historical Short “The Old South”

1961 Premier Newsreel & more

Moviola: The Scarlett O’Hara Wars – 1980 WBTV Special

About The Cast:

Melanie Remembers: Reflections by Olivia de Havilland

Two Insightful Profiles: Gable: The King Remembered and Vivien Leigh: Scarlett and Beyond

The Supporting Players: Cameo Portraits of an Unforgettable Ensemble

Available Now (Click image to Buy):

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Goodfellas

Warner Home Video / Martin Scorsese / 1990 / United States

Running Time: 145 minutes

Region Code: Region B

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Video: 1080p High Definition (AVC encoded)

Audio: Dolby Digital: English 5.1, French 2.0, German 2.0, Italian 2.0, Spanish 2.0

Language: English

Subtitles: Optional English SDH, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish

“Nominated for six Academy Awards, Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas” tells the mesmerizing true tale of mobster and FBI informant Henry Hill, his rise to the upper crust of Brooklyn‘s notorious mafia, and long fall to the bottom of addiction, infidelity, and incarceration. Based on Nicolas Pileggi’s best-selling true crime book “Wiseguy,” this ’90s classic features electrifying performances from a superb ensemble cast, including Ray Liotta, Robert DeNiro, Paul Sorvino, and Joe Pesci, who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.”

Picture Quality:

A serious and much-needed upgrade from previous, sub-standard DVD editions of the film, Warner’s new blu-ray release offers significantly improved visual results, and though it is never a perfect blu-ray transfer, it delivers by far the strongest edition of the film currently available. Levels of sharpness, definition and fine detail are superb, and effectively accentuate the outstanding immersive depth of field, detail and texture of the piece. Colours are strong, natural and very well rendered, contrast and black levels are very strong and deep (though the image does appear just slightly too dark at some points), and there is a welcome level of fine grain to the print.

Audio Quality:

The English 5.1 Dolby Digital audio mix however does not quite match the level of quality offered by the visual presentation, and though overall the mix offers crisp, clear dialogue, strong, realistic sound effects and ambience, and a fine presentation of the eclectic and perfectly suited soundtrack, the audio track never quite hits the ‘outstanding’ mark and proves ever so slightly hit and miss, with some effects appearing weak, and the surround channels proving underused.

Special Features:

Commentaries:

Cast and Crew with Martin Scorsese, Ray Liotta, Lorraine Bracco, Paul Sorvino, Frank Vincent, Co-Screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi, Producers Irwin Winkler and Barbara De Fina, Cinematographer Michael Ballhaus and Editor Thelma Schoonmaker

Cop and Crook with Henry Hill and Former FBI Agent Edward McDonald

Documentaries with the Cast and Crew:

Getting Made

Made Men: The Goodfellas Legacy

The Workaday Gangster

Paper Is Cheaper than Film: Storyboard-to-Screen Comparisons

Available Now (Click image to Buy):

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One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

Warner Home Video / Milos Forman / 1975 / United States

Running Time: 133 minutes

Region Code: Region B

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Video: 1080p High Definition (AVC encoded)

Audio: Dolby Digital: English 5.1, French 1.0, Spanish 1.0 (both Castilian and Spanish), German 1.0, Italian 1.0

Language: English

Subtitles: Optional English SDH, Brazilian Portugese, Castilian Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Korean, Norwegian, Portugese, Spanish, Swedish

“When free spirited petty crook Randle P. McMurphy (Jack Nicholson), arrives at the state mental hospital, his contagious sense of disorder jolts the routine. He’s on one side of a brewing war, soft-spoken, coolly monstrous Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) on the other. At stake is the fate of every patient on the ward. This electrifying adaptation of Ken Kesey’s bestseller swept all five major 1975 Academy Awards: Best Picture (produced by Saul Zaentz and Michael Douglas), Actor (Nicholson), Actress (Fletcher), Director (Milos Forman) and Adapted Screenplay (Lawrence Hauben and Bo Goldman). Raucous, searing and with a superb cast that includes Brad Dourif, Danny DeVito and Christopher Lloyd in his film debut, it soars.”

Picture Quality:

Another significant upgrade from previous DVD editions of the film, this 1080p High Definition transfer offers a much more vivid, dynamic and powerful presentation. Again, it is not a perfect blu-ray release, but it the currently the finest edition there is available. Contrast levels are superb, with strong, deep inky blacks and crisp, clean, clinical whites; sharpness and definition are wonderful, both effectively enhancing the engrossing depth of the piece and presenting superb levels of fine detail, tone and texture; the colour palette is beautifully saturated, effectively contrasting the eerie, clinical interiors with the rich hues of the external scenes; and there is some nice, natural grain structure present, though there has been some unfortunate manipulation and digital noise reduction afforded to the restored print which slightly diminishes the authentic feel of the piece.

Audio Quality:

Again the English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix proves slightly weak and does not match the superb results of the visual presentation. Though the track nevertheless delivers crisp, clear, natural sounding dialogue, I can’t help but feel that the audio presentation would benefit from either a strong, reference quality 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix, to fully enhance the eerie ambience and the immersive, claustrophobic atmosphere of the piece across the full range of surround channel (which are present are sadly neglected), or an original mono mix for a more faithful or authentic audio experience.

Special Features:

Commentary by Director Milos Forman and Producers Michael Douglas and saul Zaentz

The Making of ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’

Additional Scenes

Theatrical Trailer

Available Now (Click image to Buy):

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Singin’ In The Rain

Warner Home Video / Gene Kelly & Stanley Donen / 1952 / United States

Running Time: 103 minutes

Region Code: Region B

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1

Video: 1080p High Definition (AVC encoded)

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1 NF, German 1.0; Dolby Digital: Brazilian Portugese 1.0, Castilian Spanish 1.0, Czech 1.0, French 1.0, Italian 1.0, Polish 1.0

Language: English

Subtitles: Optional English SDH, Brazilian Portugese, Castilian Spanish, Czech, Danish, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Latin Spanish, Norwegian, Polish, Russian, Swedish

“Comedy, romance, great musical numbers, stars at their best and a fond recreation of a by gone moviemaking era: ‘Singin’ In The Rain’ has so much that it ranked a lofty 10th on the American Film Institute’s ‘100 Best American Films’ list. “Gotta dance!”, sings star and co-director Gene Kelly. But the imperative of the film’s storyline is gotta talk! Silents are giving way to Talkies – and a hoofer-turned-matinee-idol (Kelly) is caught in that bumpy transition, as well as his buddy (Donald O’Connor), prospective lady-love (Debbie Reynolds) and shrewish co star (Jean Hagen) in a hilarious Oscar-nominated performance. ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ is pure singin’, dancin’, laughin’, lovin’, moviewatchin’ joy. ”

Picture Quality:

One of a series of classic musicals that have recently been beautifully restored and upgraded to blu-ray, Warner’s new blu-ray release of arguably the finest of all American musical movies, ‘Singin’ in the Rain’, is no less as impressive, and though there are a few issues that need to be addressed, this is another highly timed and much-needed upgrade from the previous DVD editions. The rich tones and hues of the warm colour palette are strong and beautifully saturated (although some may find the saturation slightly too strong); contrast levels are excellent, with good, strong black levels; there is some light, filmic grain structure present; definition is overall very pleasing, and wonderfully, there are no signs of any age related damage or unfortunate wear and tear, with a beautifully clean and blemish free print. However, some of the shots do appear slightly soft, and the combination of some digital noise reduction (DNR) with artificial sharpening do begin to slightly diminish the overall fidelity and authenticity of the presentation, leaving some images appearing artificial and over-manipulated.

Audio Quality:

The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is truly outstanding, and more than makes up for any negativities in the visual presentation. The glorious score sounds stronger and more dynamic than ever, retaining superb levels of fidelity and authenticity (in regards to the original sound design), whilst simultaneously delivering faultless audio across the entire range of surround channels. Dialogue and vocals are crisp, clear and perfectly rendered; orchestrations are superb, resonant and beautifully balanced; tap dancing ‘taps’ sound sharp, clipped and snappy. All in all, a pretty faultless audio presentation.

Special Features:

Feature-length audio commentary by Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, Cyd Charisse, Kathleen Freeman, Co-director Stanley Donen, Screenwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Filmmaker Baz Luhrmann and Author/Film Historian Rudy Behlmer

Singing Inspirations

Reel Sound

Available Now (Click image to Buy):