Blu-ray Review HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Funny Farm/Spies Like Us (Double Feature)

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Michael Osadciw, Feb 4, 2010.

  1. Michael Osadciw

    Michael Osadciw Screenwriter

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    COMEDY
    DOUBLE FEATURE
    FUNNY FARM

    SPIES LIKE US
    [​IMG]
    Studio: Warner Bros
    Film Years: 1988, 1985
    Film Length: 104mins, 102mins
    Genre: Comedy

    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
    Colour/B&W: Colour

    BD Specifications: 1080/24p

    Audio:
    • English DTS HD-Master Audio 2.0 Surround
    • English Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround
    • Espanol Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround

    Subtitles:
    • English SDH, Francais

    Warner Bros. “Double Feature” sets are back on Blu-ray! On February 23, 2010, the release of four Blu-ray comedy double features hit the funny bone – twice! Combos include first-ever Blu-ray releases of Analyze This/Analyze That, Miss Congeniality/Miss Congeniality 2, Grumpy Old Men/Grumpier Old Men, and reviewed here is Funny Farm/Spies Like Us.

    This combo is unique because both Funny Farm and Spies Like Us have never been available in widescreen (Grumpy movies have not either). It’s nice to make the better leap directly to Blu-ray!

    In Funny Farm (1988), Chevy Chase is Andy Farmer, a writer who moves to the country with his beautiful wife Elizabeth (Madolyn Smith) in search for some novel ideas. He’s a writer with a bit of writer’s block and some quiet time in the country is just what he needs to start fresh.

    But the air isn’t entirely clean in the country as the local country folks make a big stink about their new neighbors. After many mishaps and secrets, it’s difficult for this couple to make friends in the country when even the animals want to run away!

    Spies Like Us was a classic CITY-TV ‘late great movie’ during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s as I remember it. A friend of mine was obsessed with it, and while I was too busy googling my young eyeballs at Chase’s first two Vacation films, it was easy to dismiss such an inferior film like Spies Like Us. Now, twenty five years later, I know what my buddy was laughing at all of the time. Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd are Emmett Fitzhume and Austin Millbarg - two useless men chosen from CIA recruitment to be ‘promoted’ to a mission as decoys (although they think they are the real deal). They are trained and dropped into Pakistan where they soon find that allies aren’t really their allies. The pee from Russians as an escape, pretend they are doctors for cover, and eventually find their way into Afghanistan only to thin out Soviet defenses to allow the real spies get in. There are some really silly parts in this film that one just can’t help laughing at: the military training and the doctor scenes are worth the price of admission. Directed by John Landis (An American Werewolf In London), only Chase and Aykroyd could pull this movie off!


    PICTURE QUALITY: FUNNY FARM 3/5
    PICTURE QUALITY: SPIES LIKE US 2.5/5

    This is the first time either of these titles have been available in a widescreen format. Previously released on DVD in 4:3 only, these titles look remarkably better filling up all two million+ pixels on a widescreen television. Depth perception is dramatically improved, fine details are seen, and the only artefacts noticed are source-related. Funny Farm has the most noticeable improvements as it transfers well to high definition. The image has good contrast, colour that’s a bit dated, but fine details that come through well in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. There was some faint-brownish colour shifting happening towards the right of the screen, mostly noticed during the beginning of the film. It was mild and I soon forgot about it. I didn’t notice it throughout. It could’ve been there and I also could’ve forgotten about it.

    Spies Like Us doesn’t get all of the same complements. While most of the film is fairly consistent with similar qualities as the above, still there are scenes/shots that just don’t look so good. Black levels can be completely crushed wiping out any shadow detail, but in the same shot it can also look washed out. This look plugs up fidelity and luminance of colour. Instead of clearly defined, it is drowned out in a thick, pasty smudge. A scene that comes to mind would be that of when Emmett and Austin have been caught after the hilarious test-cheating incident (Chase is priceless with his facial expressions). When the boys are told of their “promotion” you can notice the oddities in the source. This is not to say all scenes are like this - far from it, in fact. Image depth can be admired considering what we've seen in the past. For example, when the boys are dropped from the airplane into a group of samurais at night, shadow detail can be quite solid and the image appears three dimensional. Overall it’s a bit hit and miss with this title and deserves a half-point less than Funny Farm. It's not like the newest releases, but it's pretty darn good for an upgrade.


    SOUND QUALITY: FUNNY FARM 3/5
    SOUND QUALITY: SPIES LIKE US 2.5/5

    It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed an older title. I’m so used to highlighting newer ones that the older ones get shelved for a while. But let me make myself clear: I am emphatic about Warner Bros. decision to FINALLY start offering LOSSLESS AUDIO on all titles, regardless of speaker set up. Dolby TrueHD is showing up with mono releases (The Green Berets) and 2.0 surround titles as in the case of these titles. Long have I thought that all sorts of soundtracks, regardless of number of channels, should have lossless audio. The audio production of these titles is fairly simple. They aren’t groundbreaking since it's mostly dialogue driven and subtle effects to help the story along. Spies Like Us has a bit better score which sounds much better with lossless. In comparison, lossy audio sounds thin and strident compared directly to lossless. It is especially noticed on my Dunlavy SC-IV/A full-range speaker system. So I’ll extend my thanks to Warner Bros. for delivering the best audio treatment for these films’ audio recording.

    Using Pro-Logic IIx to surround decode, the soundstage is heavily up front and is monaural in the surrounds. Dynamic range is much more limited than our soundtracks today, but at least these soundtracks aren’t crazy-loud like so many new productions (I’m surprised if any of these sound designers still have their hearing…oh, wait…maybe that’s why those soundtracks are louder!) Spies Like Us also has more background noise. Hiss is prominent throughout and can be a bit distracting. At least it’s lossess hiss J


    SPECIAL FEATURES 0/5

    Not a single special feature on this disc, unless you consider the “double feature” status of this disc a special.


    IN THE END…

    I don't think anyone has seen these films look as good since they were released in theaters. No laserdisc or pan & scan DVD ever surpassed the look of these discs. It’s also quite possible that this newest release exceeds the way these titles looked in the theaters up to 25 years ago. Couple this thought with Warner Bros. support of lossless audio for 2.0 and I’d say there’s an upgrade very soon for every fan of these films. Recommended!

    Michael Osadciw
    10.02.04
     
  2. Neil Middlemiss

    Neil Middlemiss Producer
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    Thanks for the review, Michael - This one is a must own for me - Spies Like Us is a real favourite of mine, probably as much for its winners as its losers. I have the old DVD and will happily retire it now!
     
  3. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?
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    This is a very good pair, had no idea it was even coming I'll take one.
     
  4. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?
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    amazon doesn't seem to have this up yet.
     
  5. CraigF

    CraigF Cinematographer

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    So these are on a single BD-50? Do you know if Grumpy/Grumpier will be the same? Thanks.

    I've never seen Funny Farm, but Spies Like Us was also a favourite...time to retire my CITY taped version.
     
  6. Adam Gregorich

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    Tony- I can only find it listed on Amazon.ca The press release we received had all the other combo titles listed but this one, so I wonder if it is only going to be released in Canada?
     
  7. Michael Osadciw

    Michael Osadciw Screenwriter

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    Guys, the comedies are on single BD-50s (Clint Eastwood are on two BD-25s). The main menu comes up (no animated menus, very simple) - select the title of the film you want to watch then it takes you to the film's main menu.

    Strangely, Funny Farm has Warner Bros. newer moving opening logo that is seen on new releases, whereas Spies Like Us has the old 'static' one.

    The video quality of both films is good and I'm very glad Warner Bros. released these for us, like almost every other review, the ratings are just compared to that of "the best" HD discs in terms of eye candy. The shortcoming is it doesn't tell the appreciation!

    Mike
     
  8. cafink

    cafink Producer

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    Wow, I didn't know there were coming, either. I'd given up hope on ever seeing a widescreen release of either years ago. And now to have them in HD is great!

    The only issue I have with this release is that it's a double feature. I actually really like double features when the movies are sequels, remakes, etc., but because I organize my discs alphabetically, having on a single disc two unrelated movies that otherwise wouldn't be anywhere near each other on the shelf bothers me. But not as much as having only 10-year-old fullscreen transfers on DVD, so I'm definitely getting this Blu-ray.

    Thanks for the review!
     
  9. Neil Middlemiss

    Neil Middlemiss Producer
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  10. Michael Osadciw

    Michael Osadciw Screenwriter

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    no cover art yet...I'll just take a picture of it a post it until then.
     
  11. cineMANIAC

    cineMANIAC Cinematographer
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    Thanks for the review - looking forward to this. Carl regarding your comment about how you store your discs, I have the same problem with several titles including the Alfred Hitchcock Masterpiece Collection... I have no idea how to categorize this one: under A for Alfred or H for Hitchcock, with more than 10 movies in the set I tried picking my favorite (The Birds) and put the box in the B section for a while. Currently it sits on top of the bookcase along with other bix boxes and that's where it'll stay. For the upcoming Presumed Innocent/Frantic release I'll put it in the F section since I never liked the other movie. Glad to finally get Frantic in widescreen also.
     
  12. Michael Osadciw

    Michael Osadciw Screenwriter

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    it's great that these previously FULL SCREEN versions are finally coming to widescreen - in HD! Now that's a nice jump. I'm gonna try to watch Frantic/Presumed Innocent this weekend.

    Craig - I think every betamax tape I have is filled with CITY-TV movies. It was the only way to get unedited movies on TV for the longest time...except the F-words were sometimes muted, but the delay was so bad it came out as either "Fuh--[mute]" or "[mute]--uck" lol...

    Mike
     
  13. Michael Osadciw

    Michael Osadciw Screenwriter

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    For my American friends, here's my response from Warner Bros. on this release:


    [​IMG]
     
  14. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    Michael, I added the cover art link to the product database, so that your tagged entries no longer show up with a blank image.

    Also, I don't know whether or not this was intentional, but your review isn't "featured" on the home page.
     
  15. Adam Gregorich

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    Thanks for the additional info and cover art Michael. I don't even see this on Best Buy's site. I guess the good news is I am going up to Canada in March for a long weekend. I'll pick it up then.
     
  16. gomezfan69

    gomezfan69 Stunt Coordinator

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    I was gonna order this at Amazon.ca, but I'm not paying over $9 for shipping. Even Amazon.co.uk is cheaper. I guess I'll just have to wait for it to show up in the states.
     
  17. CraigF

    CraigF Cinematographer

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    ^ Wow, that's even more they they charge us to ship one BD from the U.S to here ($8). Yes, shipping from the UK is much cheaper...hard to figure, eh? amazon.ca is usually very epensive for BDs, no doubt the BDs will cost less in stores, which doesn't help you any... Except amazon.ca does price-match (on their site, you don't have to do anything) sales in the larger stores here, so if that happens in the meantime before U.S. general release; and still a few weeks until they'll be in stores anyway.
     
  18. Adam Gregorich

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    According to Michael's info its supposed to be a Best Buy exclusive, so I'd wait to see if it shows there on street date before ordering from amazon.ca.
     
  19. Christian Preischl

    Christian Preischl Screenwriter

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    As much as I love Warner, their continuing "Best Buy exclusive" bull is getting on my nerves. If it weren't for this forum I wouldn't even know the disc existed!
     
  20. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?
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    But, that IS why I and maybe you come into HTF, to see if there is any info such as provided for this double feature.
     

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