By Philip Saglimbeni
HBO has usually treated their shows with great care when transferring to Blu-ray. However, the studio has taken it to the next level with the release of Deadwood: The Complete Series. This thirteen-disc collection is an all-encompassing, borderline perfect set and is the definitive HBO Blu-ray release.
The series has always been regarded as one of HBO's best ever, which is quite a compliment when you consider the company it keeps (The Sopranos and The Wire to name just a few). Deadwood is one of my personal favorites and is, in my opinion, the definitive Western experience of the last few decades and possibly of all time. The blending of real characters (Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, the Earp brothers), authentic historical plot-lines and unmatched production values make the show one of the best. The actors are ALL perfectly cast with standouts like Ian McShane as the constantly scheming Al Swearengen, Powers Boothe as the conniving Cy Tolliver and Gerald McRaney as the brutal George Hearst. The myriad of supporting characters that inhabit the treacherous old western town help to make the world as fully realized as it possibly could be. However, what truly makes Deadwood stand out is the writing by David Milch. Never before, or after Deadwood for that matter, have I heard such fascinating dialogue being delivered with such precision. Sometimes the prose is so complex that it requires a second listen just to decipher what is exactly being said. This is definitely a show that you have to pay attention to, one should expect no less from an HBO/Milch collaboration. The series, throughout it's three methodically paced twelve-episode seasons, just gets better and better. Each season features more complex dramatic plots and subplots and each seems to hit a climax at the seemingly perfect point. The only downside is that there is no real satisfying conclusion. After the third season wrapped in 2006 to much critical and commercial success, and hot off the heels of The Sopranos conclusion, it seemed Deadwood was poised to finally receive the spotlight it deserved. And then HBO just pulled the plug, rather unexpectedly. They claimed set costs were too high, Milch wanted to branch out with another series and the huge cast eventually split up to do other things. The circumstances are unfortunate and it is perhaps the greatest show to never have been completed. But, what there is of it represents the pinnacle of not just television but story-telling in general.
The transfer is excellent in every regard. The video quality especially is so pristine that I often missed crucial plot elements just because I was marveling at the insane amount of detail present in every shot. The black levels are spot-on and the colors are accurate and vibrant when allowed to shine despite being purposefully muted by design at almost every turn. There were a few instances of flickering that occurred on things like Al Swearengen's fancy jacket and the like but nothing too severe. In all I would say that the very minor video discrepancies amount to only about one minute of show time in a total of well over two thousand minutes! It is as close to perfection as anyone could hope for.
The audio is handled equally well and I noticed no problems whatsoever in any regard. Dialogue is very crisp which is a huge deal because Deadwood revolves around the intricate conversations of it's characters. Sound effects like gunshots and bar brawls are all represented accurately. The ambient background noise in every episode is at times so life-like that you feel like you are walking down the muddy streets of the old town. This is definitely HBO's best Blu-ray transfer to date and easily one of the best on the Blu-ray format in general.
The extras are very comprehensive and HBO provides more for Deadwood than they usually do with their other releases and it is well warranted. The documentaries are great and informative and the commentaries that are provided for some for the episodes are entertaining and worth listening to. The best part about most of the extras is that HBO has converted them to HD and they look better than they ever have. This set boasts over 20 hours of extra content!
All in all, this is an excellent Blu-ray release. When you consider the amount of content you get for the price it truly is a must-own for HBO fans, Western fans and just fans of great TV. Of course, it's much more than TV, it's HBO and it's Deadwood!
Apollo 18: Film review
By Scott Annese
Hello Movie Fans:
History: I have been a space buff since I was a little kid. I have watched all the launches from Apollo thru the Space Shuttle program. I am one of the few that can sit and watch the NASA TV Channel even when there is no mission in progress. So, I consider myself not only a fan, but somewhat educated with the space program. When I heard that "Apollo 18" was being released and this was supposedly a mission that happened that our government was holding from us...The thought raced through my head: "Could it be...Could this actually have happened? Stranger things are known to have happened, and we all know our government does not tell us everything."
Review: "Apollo 18" supposedly is the mission to the moon that nobody was to ever know about. We all know that Apollo 17, was the last mission of the Apollo space program to make room for the upcoming Space Shuttle program. "Apollo 18" is to be taken as one of those "FOUND FOOTAGE" movies and we are supposed to believe that what we are seeing has really happened.
This movie was believable up until the moment where insects were found on the surface of the moon. I guess you can call them insects, or an alien life form...whatever you want. The movie is filmed through the perspective of handheld camera, and shaky ground cameras. If you have motion sickness, this movie could piss you off. Remember, this movie is made to make you feel 2 things:
- Filmed during the late 1970's with the state of the art cameras from that time period.
- Filmed this way to make it as believable as possible it was the astronauts who filmed it.
The movie did what it was supposed to do...pass the time on the clock. I would not suggest this to others, only if there is nothing else to watch, and if the person was a space buff like myself. It is a damn shame, because I had high hopes for this movie and really wanted it to succeed. If you really want to see some amazing NASA stuff, here are a few suggestions other than this movie.....Clickable links below.....
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THE TREE OF LIFE REVIEW (BLU-RAY)
By Philip Saglimbeni
The Tree of Life is the latest epic film from director Terence Malick. It is just the seventh film from the director in a career that spans over four decades, but it is arguably the most important! Malick's films have been known to have particularly long gestation periods and The Tree of Life is certainly no different. In production for over three decades in various forms and under different names, it is a small miracle that the movie has even been completed and made available for all to see and experience, and EXPERIENCE IT YOU MUST!
Going in to a Terence Malick film, it must first be stated that most viewers are either going to love it or hate it, there is very little middle ground when it comes to the director's work. All of Malick's films have a very strong polarizing effect that makes the anticipation for the films all the more palpable. You should know what to expect and what not to expect. Similar to The Thin Red Line and The New World (his previous two efforts) The Tree of Life is a meandering, poetic work of art. It's as if the director has so much to say in so small a space and short a time that it all overflows onto the screen in a very beautiful and unrestrained way, which leads to a narrative structure that is sporadic and non-linear. The film is comprised of beautiful imagery, haunting music and constantly eloquent narrative. All these elements are used by Malick to present the biggest question there is: who are we and why are we here? And in one of the my favorite scenes ever put on film, Malick actually answers the question in his own way! More on that later . . .
The main narrative focus of the movie is a 1950's mid-American family: a husband, wife and three boys. The film starts with the family experiencing the very tragic loss of one of their children and spends significant time showing their grief and regret. It then jumps back and forth between the family in the 1950's and the later life of one of the surviving children, whose character is played by a purposefully distant Sean Penn.
The basic premise is Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain's characters are married and have three children. Pitt's character works at an industrial plant and is a loving but strict and sometimes even cold father. His character believes that to get ahead in the world one must be tough and hard-working and not "too nice." Chastain is the opposite, a loving, free spirited woman who is presented as almost angelic. Her character believes that grace is the right way of the world and that to do good is all a person should strive for and that they will be rewarded in turn. This contrast between husband and wife, between NATURE and GRACE, is the focal point of the movie and is the director's view of man's possible divergent paths. The three children that are brought up in the household are of course presented with the two very conflicting beliefs of their parents. The boys struggle with who and what they will become. This essential human struggle is what The Tree of Life is all about and the director goes to great lengths to explain it. To say anymore about what goes on amongst the family would be unfair to those who have not yet seen it . . .
And now, to my favorite scene of the movie and one of my favorite scenes of all time! It occurs about twenty minutes into the movie. It is a wonderful depiction of the origin of life on earth as the director sees it. After showing what appears to be the big bang theory and the formation of the stars and galaxy, earth is presented and populated by sea creatures and dinosaurs. The scene then slows to a single dinosaur resting on a riverbed. It is approached by another, more menacing dinosaur predator which places it's clawed foot on the resting dinosaur's neck and appears to be close to killing it. However, it does not. It looks at it, appears to take mercy on it and simply walks away! Presented at the beginning of the movie with little context and before all of the above character exposition has taken place, the scene might seem out of place and hard to understand initially. However, after careful consideration, it is clear that Malick is showing nature being graceful or, at the very least that nature is capable of grace. Malick seems to be suggesting that the world is not predatory by nature or that it does not have to be, that it is every person's choice to act on nature or grace. This idea is later reinforced in the actions of the three children and how they choose to treat each other and others around them after being shown both the natural ways of their father and the graceful ways of their mother.
All in all, The Tree of Life is a wonderful movie and a personal favorite of mine. Then again, The Thin Red Line is also a favorite of mine and I am a huge fan of Terence Malick and his seemingly aimless adventures. This movie is definitely not for everyone but I do think it is a movie that should be seen, heard and experienced as it truly is unlike any other movie ever put out there. I think it most definitely will be nominated for Best Picture and it should win! Nods should also go to Brad Pitt and especially Hunter McCracken for his work as the young Jack.
Video - 10/10
The Blu-ray presentation of The Tree of Life is almost perfect. The video is excellent with no issues of any kind, except for a few white specks that appear throughout the two-hour plus runtime. The colors and contrast are spot on and the black levels are deep and rich. There is no digital noise reduction or edge enhancement of any kind. The film grain that is present is natural and unobtrusive. A special mention must be made to the creation sequence as some of these scenes were filmed with Imax cameras and look exceptionally great. These are without a doubt DEMO WORTHY scenes that rival those found in Avatar. I will go so far as to say these particular scenes are the best material that I've ever seen on the Blu-ray format so far.
Audio - 10/10
The audio is equally great. Before the film begins it is recommended by the filmmakers to listen to the movie at very loud levels, you have to love that! The same was said on the recent Thin Red Line Blu-ray release and it was awesome advice! The music is very loud and is almost always being played in the background and as a result can make dialogue (what little there is) a little difficult to discern. However, it is not a very big problem and the crystal clear sound effects more than make up for it.
Extras - 7/10
The only real downside to this Blu-ray release is the lack of many supplemental materials. There is a thirty-minute explorative documentary feature that is quite good and informative and a nice theatrical trailer for the movie but that is all that is included. There is also a digital copy and a DVD version included as well.
Overall - 10/10
Supposedly there is a six to eight hour cut of the film that the director has announced will be available at a later date. This would be truly incredible if ever released. However, I won't hold my breath as I have been waiting on an extended cut of The Thin Red Line for over ten years now! But The Tree of Life more than makes up for that . . . ENJOY!!!