Blu-ray Disc Review DIE HARD COLLECTION DIE HARD DIE HARD 2: DIE HARDER DIE HARD: WITH A VENGEANCE LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD Studio: 20th Century Fox Original Release: 1988, 1990, 1995, 2007 Length: 131/124/131/130min Genre: Action Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 widescreen enhanced Colour/B&W: Colour Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio English Dolby Digital 2.0 SurroundSpanish Dolby Digital 5.1 SurroundFrench Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Subtitles: English, Spanish, Cantonese, Korean Film Rating: R Release Date: November 20, 2007. Collection Rating: / Starring: Bruce Willis (John McClane), Reginald Veljohnson (Sgt. Al Powell), Bonnie Bedelia (Holly Gennero McClane), Alan Rickman (Hans Gruber), William Sadler (Col. Stuart), Samuel L. Jackson (Zeus Carver), Jeremy Irons (Simon Gruber), Timothy Olyphant (Thomas Gabriel), Justin Long (Matthew Farrell) Directed by: John McTiernan (Die Hard, Die Hard: With A Vengeance) & Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2), Len Wiseman (Live Free or Die Hard) The Die Hard Collection was released back in June as a four-disc DVD set to promote the newest film Live Free or Die Hard. Many fans of the film anticipated the collection to have updated video transfers above the quality of the very old THX-approved discs. To much disappointment, nothing had been done to rectify this; instead the same dated THX-approved transfer found its way to DVD again. When word came about of a Blu-ray collection, I admit I wasn’t very optimistic about anything different. The image quality of the masters used for catalogue Fox Blu-ray titles had been so hit and miss I wasn’t expected to be surprised if I saw the same here. I was wrong. In fact, I think most fans will be pleased with what this collection offers. Die Hard became an immediate hit in 1988, threw Bruce Willis into stardom, and became the unofficial Christmas movie on cable TV. It spun two successful sequels that were equally as exciting and colourful. The stories are simple but there is a lot going on in them. Most of you are familiar with these films so I’ll be brief with the synopsis to get to the disc details faster. All John McClane wanted was some family time over the holidays. Die Hard has this New York cop visiting his wife in L.A. finding himself in over his head outsmarting terrorists who have taken over a 40-story building on Christmas Eve. In the second film, he again finds himself in the middle of terrorists taking over a Washington airport and he takes them out with his own style. In the third film John is the target of a terrorist and is sent on a comedic wild goose chase in New York City and struggling to keep up with the deadly game before citizens die. The final film has John targeting modern terrorists – a group whose intent is to create mass chaos and shutting down all power/infrastructure in the United States. We don’t rely on modern technology, do we? These are great action films in the sense of their believability even though they are full of silly moments. Nothing is too far fetched yet we are willing to believe the unbelievable, probably because John McClane is no hero – he’s just an ordinary guy who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and had enough wit to do something about it. Now we can see it in high-def glory. The four discs are packaged in a rather narrow BD case. They fit perfectly fine but were amazed to find all four in there. At first, I almost missed seeing the fourth film hiding at the back of the case. Live Free or Die Hard is also available on its own as a separate release, and I believe, if I’m not mistaken, that eventually the other three films will follow in time. Strangely enough, the menus of the first three discs do not have the title of the film anywhere to be found. They all have the same generic menu and without actually going into a submenu, you’d have no idea what film you have in the player! VIDEO QUALITY: DIE HARD: 3.5/5 VIDEO QUALITY: DIE HARD 2: 3.5/5 VIDEO QUALITY: DIE HARD: WITH A VENGEANCE: 4/5 VIDEO QUALITY: LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD: 4.5/5 This is where things get interesting. Ditched out the window are those awful THX-approved transfers. In Die Hard’s opening sequence when the plane descends to the landing pad and the scene transitions to John talking with the airplane passenger, immediately one can tell a clean up was involved for this release. Gone is the grittiness and haloing apparent on the DVD. Gone are the specs of dirt that randomly appeared on the film frame. Gone is much of the grain that was ever more apparent on the DVD. This disc delivers a boost in resolution as well as a cleaner master. Whether this transfer is from a different print or if a digital clean up had been done on the same one, I’m not sure. Regardless, the results are much more satisfying while offering the image depth and detail expected from high definition (Strangely, the 20th Century Fox logo is stretched like a 4:3 image on a 16:9 screen. What happened here?) On the downside, skin tones can appear a bit pink or warm at times. Other colours are somewhat dull for what I expect on a film of this age and magnitude. There can also be a lack of deep blacks and the whites are never quite that bright; image contrast is relatively low and you are best to view this film in a darkened room. Despite the criticisms, this is a much better image and worth the upgrade from DVD. The above can be mentioned for Die Hard 2 as well. While the DVD release fared better in image quality to its predecessor, the differences between the two films on BD isn’t as great, most likely because the first film appeared to get some special treatment as it did need to be worked on. Most interesting to watch was the third film, Die Hard: With a Vengeance. I and many fans have rambled on and on about this title being the biggest atrocity on DVD mostly due to excessive edge enhancement. It looks like Fox got this Blu-ray right for the most part. While watching the scene when Zeus’s nephews were trying to sell a ghetto blaster to him, edge outlining is still visible around the boys’ collars and body. In wide shots of the city, faint edge halos can still be seen around buildings. These halos don’t appear to be added for this BD release; instead it appears to be a product of the master used. Like the DVD, colours are much more vivid on this release. Most colours appear natural but sometimes it had the occasional unclean pasty look. Image contrast is also excellent as the boys run all over New York on Simon’s wild goose hunt. Live Free or Die Hard is the best of the lot with no artificial edge outlining, ghosting, noise, compression artefacts, etc. But like many films today, the filmmakers have decided that a natural colour palette isn’t the best for their film. Instead we see somewhat of a golden airbrushed image tinting many colours to, uh…gold. In second place comes the night scenes where many colours included flesh tones are somewhat silver in appearance. I’m sure if you looked hard enough you could also interpret many changes to bronze too. All kidding aside, even though the image is on track with most other slick action films, the appearance is a more tweaked, refined, and fake Hollywood glam rather than the thrilling realism the first Die Hard film gave us. AUDIO QUALITY: DIE HARD: 3.5/5 AUDIO QUALITY: DIE HARD 2: 3.5/5 AUDIO QUALITY: DIE HARD: WITH A VENGEANCE: 4/5 AUDIO QUALITY: LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD: 5/5 All films are encoded with DTS-HD Master Audio offering lossless audio compressed in a smaller space (according to some forum users, it may be true that Die Hard 2 erroneously includes only a DTS-HD HR encoding. Anyone with further information is encouraged to post here). All four soundtracks have a lively presence in the sound. The soundtrack is designed to have good ambience most of the time. Music and effects all bleed into the surrounds for the first two films, but because they are technically mono-surround films encoded in 5.1, they don’t benefit from any directional effects. The mono surround information has been encoded in two discrete channels with the information slightly out of phase so it’s given a sense of space to the sides rather than pinpoint phantom positioned between the two surrounds. On this BD, the surround level on Die Hard 2 is at the same volume as the DTS soundtrack on the DVD rather than the -3dB level on the DVD’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack option. The LFE channel is used sparingly for the first film; I could count with my fingers the number of times it was used, and when it was used, it was at a low volume. There is much more bass information in the front channels so if your speakers are set to LARGE then they’ll get a good workout, or alternatively you could route the bass to the LFE. The second film’s LFE is more frequent and powerful and the third and fourth were originally mixed with a dedicated .1 LFE channel so its use is even more effective. The LFE is used quite frequently throughout Live Free or Die Hard; most notable is the moment when the F-18 chases after John while driving the tractor trailer. The engines roar and the guns firing pulsates the LFE channel. Even all five main channels are driven to high levels of bass. Those with full range channels all around will love this soundtrack. What’s great about all four films is the music score. It’s awesome and it’s well recorded in the mix with good depth that extends deep into the front soundstage. I thought the sound effects were layered with it quite effectively and were rarely out of place with the rest of the mix. Background hiss can be a problem in the first three films - especially around dialogue in the centre channel - but even appearing in the main channels in some scenes. Dialogue is a bit forward but improves progressively with each film, the best being the last. The older films sound dated to the new films. In my opinion, Live Free or Die Hard is an excellent example of a well-made film soundtrack that delivers well on a home theatre system. TACTILE FUN!! / TACTILE TRANSDUCER ON/OFF?: ON The LFE has limited use in the first two films and is more prevalent on the third and fourth films enhancing the film’s most engaging action moments. You’ll love it on the last film! Hold on to you seats! SPECIAL FEATURES: 3/5 The special features on each of the discs are somewhat of a combination of features from previous releases, with the addition of and the elimination of others. All four BDs come with a Personal Scene Selection that allows you to select certain scenes and view them in your order. As for the remainder, I feel to get into detail about each and every one of them would be frivolous at this point so I’ll simply list them off and you can reference them to your current collection, whichever one you may own. Those with The Ultimate Collection and the Five Star Collection will be happy to know that most features have been carried over. The first film seemed to have gotten the shaft on features as they are fairly slim here; even the extended power sequence branching option isn’t available. I figure since the footage was “raw” in nature, it was good enough for low resolution DVD and not good enough for high resolution HDTV. Most features listed below are 4:3. DISC 1 DIE HARD Personal Scene Selection (HD) 2 Audio Commentaries The Newscasts Interactive Still Gallery Trailers and TV Spots (10 of them) Fox on Blu-ray D-Box Enhancement DISC 2 DIE HARD 2 Personal Scene Selections (HD) Audio Commentary Deleted Scenes Featurette: HBO First Look Featurette: The Bad Guys Featurette: Breaking the Ice Featurette: Chaos on the Conveyor Belt Featurette: Interview with Renny Harlin Featurette: Visual Effects Breakdowns Featurette: Side-by-Side Comparisons Trailers and TV Spots (6 of them) DISC 3 DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE Personal Scene Selections Audio Commentary Alternate Ending (SD/4:3lbx) Featurette: HBO First Look Featurette: CBS: A Night to Die For Featurette: Bruce Willis Interview Featurette: Villains with a Vengeance Featurette: Storyboard Sequence Visual Effects Breakdown Side-by-Side Comparisons Trailers and TV Spots (12 of them) Fox on Blu-ray D-Box Enhancement DISC 4 LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD Audio Commentary Documentary: Analog Hero in a Digital World Featurette: Fox Movie Channel Presents Fox Legacy Featurette: Yippie Ki-Yay, Motherf***** Music Video: Die Hard by Guyz Nite Featurette: Behind the Scenes with Guyz Nite Interactive Game: Black Hat Intercept! Theatrical Trailer (HD) IN THE END... While I told everyone to stay away from the Die Hard Collection released back in June, 2007, I’m not so hesitant to recommend this Blu-ray set. The image quality is a significant improvement over the DVDs in terms of clean-up and high definition resolution. The audio is also available in a lossless form if you are able to decode DTS-HD Master Audio making this set the best that’s available on the market. So go ahead, live free and enjoy this BD collection. Michael Osadciw December 01, 2007.