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DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
Under Fire Blu-ray Review
Oct 21 2014 02:05 PM
There is a tangible “you are there” quality to Roger Spottiswoode’s brilliant Under Fire: whether one is lounging in a hotel by the pool or standing in the m... Read More
Pee-Wee's Playhouse: The Complete Series Blu-ray Review
Oct 21 2014 11:50 AM
Named one of the top 25 cult TV shows of all time and winner of 22 Emmy Awards, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse remains one of the most imaginative and creative series e... Read More
The Believers Blu-ray Review
Oct 20 2014 01:36 PM
Oscar-winning director John Schlesinger made a spine-tingling thriller with Marathon Man, but luck wasn’t in his corner for a later film The Believers. Despi... Read More
The Vanishing (1993) Blu-ray Review
Oct 19 2014 01:40 PM
Though it’s not completely unheard of, film directors rarely get to remake their own works (why would most of them want to unless their initial experience wa... Read More
Gravity 3D Blu-rayBlu-ray 3D Blu-ray Warner
Feb 23 2014 09:54 AM | Timothy E in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
- Studio: Warner Brothers
- Distributed By: N/A
- Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
- Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
- Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD
- Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
- Rating: PG-13
- Run Time: 1 Hr. 31 Min.
- Package Includes: Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray, DVD, UltraViolet
- Case Type: Amaray
- Disc Type: BD25 (single layer)
- Region: ABC
- Release Date: 02/25/2014
- MSRP: $44.95
The Production Rating: 4.5/5Dr. Ryan Stone(Sandra Bullock) is a medical engineer on her first space flight on board the space shuttle Explorer. As the film opens, Stone is on a spacewalk during the shuttle’s rendezvous with the Hubble Telescope while commander Matt Kowalski(George Clooney) is using his thruster pack to travel in circles around the shuttle while regaling Mission Control with anecdotes of his misadventures. Tragedy strikes with the arrival of a newly created cloud of space debris from a Russian missile destroying an orbiting satellite. With the loss of their ride back to Earth, Stone and Kowalski struggle for survival as one opportunity after another disappears from their grasp. Ed Harris appropriately plays the voice of Mission Control, following up on his roles in The Right Stuff and Apollo 13.
Alfonso Cuaron(Children of Men) directed the film from an original screenplay by Cuaron and Jonas Cuaron(son of Alfonso). Gravity is a fast-paced film, even for its running time of 91 minutes, with its players almost always in movement as one event or catastrophe leads directly into the next one, and the astronauts are forced constantly to react and regroup their plans to survive. This element of action and suspense is elevated by Cuaron’s usage of extended shots with very few cuts, granting the film an almost documentary feel, since multiple cuts can draw the viewer out of the experience. Some extended point of view shots (Brian DePalma could not have done better) also make the film immersive by granting viewers the impression that we really are there living this experience along with Dr. Stone.
Sandra Bullock’s Dr. Stone talks to herself a lot when she is alone, and this dramatic device is justified well with Kowalski’s exposition that Mission Control may be able to hear them even if they cannot hear Mission Control. A logical explanation for Dr. Stone to be saying everything she is thinking out loud makes the film more engaging during the stretches of time when Bullock’s character would have no reason otherwise to speak at all.
Cuaron is definitely a strong contender to win an Academy Award as best director for Gravity, even if the film does not win the best picture category. The technological challenges of filming the actors and matching the footage with CGI rendering must have been daunting, and Cuaron has succeeded in blending the footage seamlessly and maintaining an element of suspense during a film that feels like it happens in real time like the television series 24, regardless of whether that is actually the case in the film. The cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki(The Tree of Life) is also deserving of an Academy Award.
Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: 4.5/5
Gravity appears on 3D Blu-ray in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Colors are vibrant and lifelike with great contrast. Blacks are always solid and shadow detail is excellent. The video delivers the spectacle of space exploration and the beauty of our planet from orbit in a way that we could only imagine, were it not for its actual display in this film courtesy of CGI special effects. The continuous and extended opening shot with Stone and Kowalski on their spacewalk gives us a grand view of planet Earth and our galaxy that might make some viewers dizzy from the camera movements.
The 3D imagery in Gravity is excellent, especially given that most of the footage was post-conversion rather than natively filmed in 3D. Recent films like Gravity and Pacific Rim demonstrate that post-converted 3D films can rival anything native. Although objects are often moving towards the viewer or visibly suspended in zero G, there is not as much "pop-out" in this film than one would expect. The dimensionality of the stereo window is evident within the picture rather than without, reminiscent of the usage of 3D in films from the 50s, with multiple levels of depth visible to create that subconscious impression of actually being there, not just watching a film. Ghosting was minimal to non-existent when viewed on a Panasonic plasma display.
Audio Rating: 5/5The DTS 5.1 Master Audio is reference quality. Directional audio is excellent, and sound effects and music have been blended so seamlessly with the video that to compare the video without the audio, and vice versa, does disservice to both. Dynamic range is incomparable and dialogue is always audible over the music score. The immersive quality of Gravity is due in no small part to the sublime combination of video and audio. The opening scene in the film begins in silence and then radio chatter by the astronauts very gradually increases into audibility to illustrate the expanse of the void of outer space. The increase in audio volume is so gradual that a viewer can be forgiven for believing mistakenly that something is amiss in the audio at the beginning of the film, when in fact this seems to be a deliberate artistic choice.
The studio has received criticism for failing to release this film with the original 7.1 audio. I never saw Gravity in 7.1 so I have no point of reference for that, except to judge the DTS 5.1 Master Audio for what it is, rather than for what it is not. Given studios’ propensity for issuing multiple releases repetitively of the same film, I have confidence that Gravity will be released in a new edition with 7.1 audio within the next 18 months, perhaps in an "Academy Award winning" or "2nd Anniversary" Special Edition. (I say that tongue-in-cheek but there is some truth there as well.)