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Anton van Beek  |  Jan 17, 2013  |  0 comments

Sex and violence (often at the same time) remain the driving forces behind this highly-stylised TV series. Having left the gladiatorial arena behind, this latest series follows Spartacus (Liam McIntyre, replacing the late Andy Whitfield) and his band of rebels as they begin their war with the Romans. The AVC 1.78:1 1080p encodes are every bit as remarkable as those of the previous seasons, while the lossless 5.1 audio makes full use of the soundstage. The set also includes plenty of extras.

Anton van Beek  |  Jan 16, 2013  |  0 comments

Ignoring the forgettable made-for-DVD sequels, this latest slice of …Pie picks up the story of the original characters as they return to their home town for a high school reunion. Cue a contrived and lacklustre comedy that fails in its goal of recapturing the charm and wit of the original film. This generous hi-def package serves up two cuts of the movie with richly coloured AVC 1.85:1 1080p imagery and front-heavy DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio. Extras include an audio commentary from the writers and directors, an on-screen cast commentary and much, much more.

Anton van Beek  |  Jan 15, 2013  |  0 comments

Even the marvellous Elizabeth Olsen can't save this abominable remake of the Spanish-language thriller of the same name (reviewed in HCC issue 198). While it pulls off the same 'entirely shot in one take' style as the original version, it makes a total mess of everything else (particularly the climax). And while this Blu-ray's DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix proves satisfying, the clarity of the AVC 1.85:1 1080p only highlights the ugly digital photography which is plagued by extreme banding in areas of bright light.

Anton van Beek  |  Jan 14, 2013  |  0 comments

Written and produced by Oren 'Paranormal Activity' Peli, this Hills Have Eyes rip-off follows a group of tourists who visit an abandoned town devastated by the Chernobyl meltdown, only to discover that they're not alone. While the film struggles to live up to its fascinating setting, this Blu-ray's AVC 1.85:1 1080p transfer and DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack at least make sure that it looks and sounds extremely atmospheric throughout. Meagre extras take the form of a deleted scene, an alternate ending, a short 'Chernobyl Conspiracy' video, a fake ad for 'Uri's Extreme Tours' and the trailer

Anton van Beek  |  Jan 09, 2013  |  0 comments

Hammer's first colour horror film might not be the most accurate screen adaptation of Frankenstein, but it certainly gets plenty of milage out of the story's gorier elements (even more so here with the restoration of the 'eyeball scene' trimmed by UK censors). Meanwhile Peter Cushing makes for the most splendidly rakish and driven Frankenstein, while Christopher Lee delivers an affecting performance as his brain-damaged, patchwork creation.

Mark Craven  |  Jan 07, 2013  |  0 comments

While advertised as a riotous chick flick (which helped it trouser over $100m from a $7m budget), Magic Mike is more a low-fi drama – admittedly about male strippers – with Channing Tatum excelling in the title role and Matthew McConaughey providing beefy support. The Blu-ray's 2.35:1 1080p transfer is sharp, but director Steven Soderbergh's habit of given everything – be it the sky, the sea, someone's face – a yellow tint is distracting, while the TrueHD 5.1 audio pumps out the soundtrack but has little else to do. Extras include a behind-the-scenes doc and extended dance scenes.

Anton van Beek  |  Jan 02, 2013  |  0 comments

It's a good time to be a home cinema fan with a fondness for the films of Steven Spielberg. First came the long-awaited hi-def debut of Jaws back in September, swiftly followed by the first three Indiana Jones films. And now his heartwarming masterpiece E.T. has also made debut on Blu-ray.

Anton van Beek  |  Dec 31, 2012  |  0 comments

Calling anything 'Essential' is just asking for trouble. But in this case, Universal has got it spot-on. In fact, given the quality films on offer - Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932), The Invisible Man (1933), The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), The Wolf Man (1941), Phantom of the Opera (1943) and Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) – and the impact they had on cinema, you could argue that Universal is actually underselling this remarkable collection of movies.

Anton van Beek  |  Dec 30, 2012  |  0 comments

There is undoubtedly a great film to be made about the story of the Tuskagee Airmen, but this George Lucas-produced effort isn't it. While the lavish visual effects allow the aerial dogfights to soar to exciting heights, the hackneyed plotting and inane dialogue ensure that the rest of the movie remains grounded. There are a few positives to note about this Blu-ray, such as the pin-sharp AVC 2.40:1 1080p encode and bombastic DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio. The real highlight though is a 67min documentary telling the true story of the Tuskagee Airmen, which is far more effective than the film itself.

Anton van Beek  |  Dec 28, 2012  |  0 comments

What's not to love about a musical based on '80s hair metal and power ballads? Quite a lot as it turns out – especially when so many of the songs are given over to a pair of charisma-free leads who would look more at home on the Mickey Mouse Club. Only Tom Cruise's electrifying turn as rock star Stacee Jaxx makes this remotely worth bothering with. As you'd expect, it looks wonderfully gaudy in hi-def and the DTS-HD MA 5.1 rocks. A selection of additional featurettes about the bands behind the songs prove far more interesting than the movie itself.

Mark Craven  |  Dec 27, 2012  |  0 comments

An original score from Danny Elfman? Check. Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter in the cast? Check. Kooky Gothic subject matter? Check. That sounds like another Tim Burton movie to us...

Anton van Beek  |  Dec 26, 2012  |  0 comments

This high-concept action-horror posits a world in which 'Honest Abe' spends his spare time battling the undead. Sounds a bit daft? Of course it is. But thanks to the gusto and creativity director Timur (Wanted) Bekmambetov brings to the film (particularly in its 3D guide) it's also more enjoyable than it has any right to be. The two 2.40:1 1080p Blu-ray presentations are immaculate and aided by thrillingly expansive DTS-HD MA 7.1 sonics. Extras consist of a 75-min Making of…, commentary by the writer, music video and an 8-min animated short.

Anton van Beek  |  Dec 26, 2012  |  0 comments

It had to happen eventually. Pixar has finally made a film that left me cold. While I didn’t find the first Cars even half as bad as I’d been led to believe, this sequel’s mix of spy action and fish-out-of-water antics seems to have been created to appeal solely to kids and sell them more merchandise along the way (“Now with missile-firing action!”). Still, I’m sure the target audience will absolutely lap it up.

Mark Craven & Richard Stevenson  |  Dec 25, 2012  |  0 comments

While it's surprising that the generic plot of this star-studded sequel is apparently the best they could come up with, The Expendables 2 is never less than ridiculously entertaining. Adding genre icons Chuck Norris and Jean Claude van Damme to the mix, giving bigger roles to Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzengger and ramping up the number of one-liners is a smart move by writer/producer Sylvester Stallone – as is drafting in director Simon West (Con Air, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider), who shoot's the film's action sequences with real panache.

Anton van Beek  |  Dec 24, 2012  |  0 comments

Take six Marvel superheroes. Add fan-favourite writer/director Joss Whedon. And what do you get? Only the best Summer blockbuster in years.