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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: "Die Another Day" Special Edition (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) (with screenshots)



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#1 of 188 Ronald Epstein

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Posted May 06 2003 - 04:34 AM

Posted Image

Die Another Day
Special Edition







Studio: MGM
Year: 2002
Rated: PG-13
Film Length: 132 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.40:1)
Subtitles: English, French & Spanish




Although Ian Fleming's James Bond novels first
appeared in the 1950's, it was not until the Bond
films hit the big screen in 1962's Dr. No
that the figure of James Bond 007 became famous.
Since then, James Bond has become one of the most
enduring and beloved fictional characters of all
time.

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Ever since I was a teen, I have been a huge fan
of James Bond. My very first Bond film was The
Spy Who Loved Me
, and for quite some time, it
was actor Roger Moore that I most closely identified
as the 007 agent, long before I discovered Sean
Connery. Over the past four decades the faces of
James Bond have changed (Connery, Moore, Lazenby,
Dalton, Brosnan) and we have watched the series
adapt to changing times without abandoning its
original ideas and formulas.

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Let me give you my capsuled review: In Die Another
Day
we find James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) in North
Korea, where he must stop a planned advance. Upon
returning back to England and moving on to Havana
he meets the beautiful Jinx (Halle Berry), who helps him
to track down billionaire bad guy Gustav Graves (Toby
Stephens) and crazed sidekick Zao (Rick Yune) who are
intent on taking over the world with their weather
changing device.

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There is no argument that Pierce Brosnan is the
absolute perfect Bond for this generation. The actor
is handsome, suave, intelligent and charming. The
problem is, this terrific actor has been placed in
an endless run of uninspiring films supplied by
what seems to be cookie cutter machinery. Though
director Lee Tamahori has implanted some of the
greatest CGI and rear projection action sequences
ever to be seen in a Bond film, the entire premise
no longer seems very fresh nor interesting. The plot
is rather disjointed and actor Toby Stephens provides
a one-dimensional performance to his character that
never rises above the typical stock villain. For me,
these films have become sort of tiring to watch.
Still, their success continues based solely on the
fact that it's labeled as a James Bond film.

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To celebrate the 20th James Bond film, MGM has
opted to give this DVD a 2-Disc Special Edition
treatment. Boasting over 7 hours of Special Features,
this is the most elaborate Bond release ever. It
arrives in a velcro-enclosed slipcover case that
opens up to reveal many gorgeous photographs from
the film. Inside the plastic amaray case that the
DVD is housed, you'll find a 4-page color booklet
that brings us up to speed on 40 years of Bond,
while giving us some essential background on this
film's characters and exciting locales. You also
get a complete list of chapter stops.


How is the transfer?


By far, this is the best James Bond has ever looked
on DVD. This jaw-dropping transfer is amongst the
best MGM has ever brought to the format. Though the
film relies heavily on various color filters, all of
it is stunningly reproduced here -- especially the
film's striking blue tones. Flesh tones and color
accuracy are perfect. Detail is razor sharp and
black levels are perfectly solid, giving the image
excellent visual depth . This is just a drop-dead
gorgeous transfer.

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The DVD features a DTS 5.1 ES and Dolby Digital
5.1 EX surround (as well as French & Spanish
stereo surround) tracks. I opted to listen to the
DTS track, and was just blown away by what turned
out to be a high-testosterone sonic experience.
This is truly an enveloping mix with excellent
sound directionality, wide dynamic range, and a ton
of surround sound action. You won't have to wait
long to witness the power of this soundtrack -- within
he first 10 minutes of the film you'll experience
helicopter flyovers, ominous low-end booming
explosions that will rattle you in your seat, and
bullet fire that whizzes past your head. This is
one of the best DTS mixes I have had the opportunity
to experience in quite some time.


Special Features

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The entire feature rests on Disc One along
with added bonus features that become available
after you initially "activate" your DVD (a cool feature
that has become common with all the Bond releases).

This DVD features two full length commentaries.
The first is with director Lee Tamahori and producer
Michale G. Wilson. The second with actors Pierce
Brosnan and Rosamund Pike (Miranda Frost). I opted
to listen to segments of the Brosnan/Pike commentary,
and it turned out to be a rather pleasing experience.
It begins with the British actor talking about the
film's North Korea locale, which was actually filmed
on the north shore of Hawaii. The actor was a big fan
of director Lee Tamahori, and was quite eager to
work with him on this film. He also gives credit
the many artists and technicians that are able to
pull off the unbelievable visuals that become the
staple of every James Bond film. It is his hope
that out of the many films he has done (and may
continue to do) one will be regarded as a "classic."
At about 50 minutes into this commentary, actress
Rosamund Pike finally chimes in. The actress talks
about (among other things) her elaborate screen test
at Pinewood studios as well as her very nerve-wracking
first-day scene against actress Judy Dench.

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MI6 Datastream is a most welcomed addition
to this Bond DVD. With this feature activated,
you'll be treated to "pop-up text" that provides
us with a wealth of trivia material, as well as
pointing out the many homages to classic Bond films.
As you watch this film in this mode, an INCOMING
VIDEO TRANSMISSION message alerts you to an upcoming
video vignette that is seamlessly integrated into
the film. There seem to be about 7 or more of these
short pieces that run under 2-minutes in length.
Very cool feature!

A Bond promo trailer does its best to sell
the gift set collections that are probably owned by
everyone reading this review.


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Let's move on to Disc Two....

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The disc begins with a Inside Die Another Day
a documentary broken down into eight parts: Intro
& Surfing, Hovercraft Chase, Cuba, Quartermaster, Ice
palace, Car Battle
and Post Production & Finale.
Most all of this material was shot during the making
of the film, bringing us on the set where we see
plenty of behind-the-scenes action and lots of short
comments from most of the primary cast and filmmakers
who often talk about the various rain storms that
plagued the production of this film. There's a nice
little tribute given to Desmond Llewelyn ("Q") by
cast members that include John Cleese. We are taken
on a tour of the huge sets at Pinewood studios, which
actress Rosamund Pike refers to as "working in a large
theme park." Most interesting here is the staging
of the film's climatic car chase on ice. The
filmmakers were unsure as to whether the Iceland
lake would freeze 24 inches thick, and up until the
very last moment, it was thought the filming would
be impossible. It's just fascinating to watch how
this chase was staged, with careful attention given
to the safety of the entire crew. A really top-rate
featurette produced by our friend and HTF member,
Charles de Lauzirika.
(length: approx. 90 minutes)

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Mission Deconstruction is broken down into
four chapters: Scene Evolutions, Interaction
Sequences, Title Design
and Digital Grading.
Here you'll see storyboard to film comparisons of
the hovercraft chase and car battle; multiple angle/
camera shots of 4 the film's major action sequences;
a look at putting together the film's title sequence
that shows how live action and computer generated
effects were composed brought together; How the
film was digitally "tweaked" to make sure there was
a consistency in sky shots as well as various
lighting effects. You'll see a few examples here
of how the film looked "before" and "after" digital
grading.

Equipment Briefing is broken down into
four chapters: Surfboard, Watch, Jet Glider,
Sonic Agitator
and Aston Martin. Click
on each to view small animated shorts that give
us detailed background on that piece of equipment.
The shorts are seconds in length, and narrated by
someone who is supposed to sound like John Cleese,
but obviously isn't. This is easily skippable.

Posted Image

The Image Database contains what seems to
be over 200 still images broken down into various
categories: Cast, Special Shoot, Sets & Locations,
Stunts & Special Effects
and Vehicles and
Gadgets
.

Ministry of Propaganda contains all the
promotional material associated with this film.
Included in this line-up....

* Two teaser trailers, the original theatrical
trailer, various TV Spots.

* Madonna's music video, Die Another Day
which includes a separate 4-minute "making of"
featurette.

* A trailer for the 007 Nightfire video
game and an unequally unnecessary separate "making
of" featurette.

* Trailers for other MGM releases that include
Evelyn, Wintalkers, Agent Cody Banks and
Bulletproof Monk.

DVD-ROM content takes you to the film's
official website where added material is promised
by street date.


Final Thoughts

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Yes, Die Another Day is yet another half-
baked action flick saved only by the appeal of its
familiarity. I mean, when was the last time you
saw a really good James Bond film? Even
more worrisome is the fact that I don't think these
films are ever going to get better.

My advice? Enjoy this film for what it is and
don't be a complainer like me. Hey, this is James
Bond we are talkin' about and like it or not, this
film is going to be another essential purchase.

Fortunately, this is a wonderfully produced
Special Edition that sports an eye-popping visual
and sonic transfer and supplements that are
generally good. Wrap it all up in an elaborate
2-disc edition that sells for $20 on-line and you
have yourself a DVD that is a sure purchase!


Release Date: June 3, 2003


All screen captures have been further compressed.
They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
represent actual picture quality

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#2 of 188 Chris James

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Posted May 06 2003 - 04:44 AM

"Even more worrisome is the fact that I don't these films
are ever going to get better."

You left out "think." Just thought I'd help out a bit. Posted Image

Great review! I always liked ol' diamond face!

#3 of 188 Lyle_JP

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Posted May 06 2003 - 04:50 AM

Quote:
For those that have written me to inquire about the location subtitles -- they are all properly burned in here.

That's good news. Now if we could only get MGM to go back and fix Octopussy, The Living Daylights, and (especially) Tomorrow Never Dies!

-Lyle J.P.

#4 of 188 Chuck Mayer

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Posted May 06 2003 - 05:04 AM

Thanks for the review. Like a lot of recent films (maybe I have gotten picky), DaD had some great scenes and moments, but the overall effect was less than the sum of the parts. I just didn't love the movie.

Slavish collector and completist, I will buy the DVD the day of release. At least it looks like a great set of a great looking (minus some of the poorer effects) film.

So there is that,
Chuck
Hey buddy...did you just see a real bright light?

#5 of 188 Matt Naglieri

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Posted May 06 2003 - 05:17 AM

Great review as always Ron.

Thanks for the info on the subtitles. I will definitely be picking this one up soon.

#6 of 188 Jeff Whitford

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Posted May 06 2003 - 05:56 AM

Thanks for the good review Ron but.....
"Though director Lee Tamahori has implanted some of
the greatest CGI and rear projection action sequences
ever to be seen in a Bond film"
I thought that this was the worst looking CGI I have ever seen. Especially the airplane at the end. Bond films dont need CGI.
Jeff Whitford
Hometheater Guru ?

#7 of 188 Justin Bauer

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Posted May 06 2003 - 05:57 AM

Nice review. I thought the movie was a huge let down after all the hype. But I must have it to complete my Bond Collection and it is a plus that the DVD is stacked.
We're Texas.

#8 of 188 Matthew_Millheiser

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Posted May 06 2003 - 06:22 AM

I will gladly spin this disc many times.

Funny thing about Bond films and Bond fans: everyone at some point is a first-timer, and to them these movies seem new and fresh.

My first Bond film (in theaters) was also The Spy Who Loved Me (I was six), and I absolutely went crazy bugfuck over the movie. I thought James Bond was the coolest, the Roger Moore was the absolute badass, and that this sudden new world of superspies, exotic locales, and beautiful women opened up to me.

My Dad hated it. Thought the "real" Bond movies came out a decade before and that Spy was same-old, same-old.

Twenty years later, some new child watching Goldeneye probably had the same reaction I did. And at the same time, my jaded soul felt the same as my Dad did two decades past.

So there's probably a gaggle of Bond neophytes who think DAD is the pinnacle of Superspy Movie Achievement. I enjoyed a lot about Die Another Day, and will be getting it as soon as it's released.

But it ain't no The Spy Who Loved Me! Posted Image

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#9 of 188 Ronald Epstein

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Posted May 06 2003 - 06:27 AM

Matthew,

Excellent point!

First impression is a lasting one, and Roger Moore
will always be my favorite Bond.

The Spy Who Loved Me and The Man With
The Golden Gun
are my favorite Bond films (I
know that purists will hate my second choice).

I wonder about this new generation, however....

With movies like XXX, does Bond still hold up
as grand escapism?

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#10 of 188 Yousaf

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Posted May 06 2003 - 06:52 AM

Well I'm pretty young and even though I saw a Bond movie when I was three or so I don't even remember which one it was, so I consider Goldeneye to be my first real Bond film. And I liked it. I've seen the other three Brosnan Bonds as well and liked them too, and intrigued, decided to watch some of the older Bonds. To be honest, they didn't seem all that special and given the choice I would probably watch the newer ones instead. What I guess I'm saying is that it works both ways...you old fogies think your Bonds are better, and us whippersnappers may prefer the newer films. Since most of them are more or less the same, it's all what you grow up with Posted Image

And to Ron:
Vin Diesel (as whatever character he played in XXX) lacks the refinement of James Bond, and so while XXX and sequels (if they are made) will make for a great escape, the ultimate superspy films they are not Posted Image

#11 of 188 Woo Jae

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Posted May 06 2003 - 06:54 AM

All the OO7 films are repetitive to some degree. But I still love them all. Posted Image Sean Connery still remains my favorite.

Thanks for the review Ron. Great job as always... TMWTGG (aka The Man with the Golden Gun is a FUN bond film that can't be overlooked. I mean it features Christopher Lee as Scaramanga who was everyone's favorite arch-enemy Sauron.
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Anime: 628 DVDs Total: 1168 DVDs
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#12 of 188 Andy_MT

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Posted May 06 2003 - 07:37 AM

disappointed to hear the video isn't up to scratch though. from dvdfile ...

Quote:
Unfortunately, this transfer is done in by our old friend, Mr. Edge Enhancement. (Sounds like a villain in a Bond film, eh?) I noticed some sharp and obvious edge halos in just about every scene, and it is quite distracting. The already-overpumped contrast only makes it worse, and the presentation comes off as too digital and unreal. It is a shame, because in all other respects this is a real winner. To be fair, the edginess here isn't as bad as some of the earlier Bond DVDs (Dr. No, Thunderball), but that it is here at all is a real disappointment.

why, why, WHY do they do it ???????

#13 of 188 Damin J Toell

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Posted May 06 2003 - 07:46 AM

Quote:
disappointed to hear the video isn't up to scratch though.


Ron's review seems to be in disagreement with DVDFile's, as Ron praises the video highly.

DJ

#14 of 188 Kwang Suh

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Posted May 06 2003 - 08:09 AM

Ron lives in the land of bliss, for he is one who does not notice the EE.

Let him live in his perfect world, for the rest of us fallen shall forever be tarnished with the mark of the halo. Posted Image

#15 of 188 Dmitry

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Posted May 06 2003 - 08:27 AM

Quote:
First impression is a lasting one, and Roger Moore
will always be my favorite Bond.
I totally agree. I must be a really hopeless Bond fanatic — my first Bond movie was Moonraker and I wasn't turned off Posted Image, but to me Roger Moore *IS* James Bond.
My DVDs

#16 of 188 Ryan_TD

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Posted May 06 2003 - 08:46 AM

I'm going to have to say that although I grew up on Roger Moore as Bond as well, I've much more enjoyed Sean Connery after going back and watching the earlier Bond films, but I think the last four Bond films are the most fun to watch, being the newest, they are the tits and ass of reference quality-demo material, plus Pierce Brosnan is a pretty good combination of all the other Bonds, and I hope he does at least one more(i know he has expressed ending his role as 007) btw this is one helluva long run on sentence, huh?. sorry.
Quote:
Ron's review seems to be in disagreement with DVDFile's, as Ron praises the video highly

Quote:
Ron lives in the land of bliss, for he is one who does not notice the EE.

who cares what other reviewers on other websites have to say, ron's (although he probably won't agree to it) reviews have always been the most honest and accurate as far as i'm concerned. he tells it like it is, and by not being a "professional" reviewer/critic who does it for a living, ron hits the mark at a sometimes different angle which i find is unique, when i read his reviews it's almost like i'm reading a review that i or a friend of mine would write.
so there.Posted Image
"One thing about livin' in Santa Carla I never could stomach...all the damn vampires..."

#17 of 188 Paul Arnette

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Posted May 06 2003 - 08:47 AM

Quote:
First impression is a lasting one, and Roger Moore will always be my favorite Bond.

I gotta disagree here. Even though For Your Eyes Only is the first Bond movie I remember seeing in the theater, Roger Moore is probably my least favorite Bond.

Connery, Brosnan, Lazenby, Dalton, and Moore, for me.

Best Bond movie: On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

Worst Bond movie: A View To A Kill, with Die Another Day and Diamonds Are Forever running a close second.
Universal Blu-ray Discs I will not be buying while they're offered only as Blu-ray + DVD 'flipper' discs:

The Jackal
, Out of Africa, and Traffic.

#18 of 188 Colin Jacobson

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Posted May 06 2003 - 09:05 AM

Quote:
I wonder about this new generation, however....

With movies like XXX, does Bond still hold up
as grand escapism?



xXx grossed $141 million US

Die Another Day grossed $160 million US.

So much for the new generation preferring Vin Diesel to Bond!

And chalk me up as someone who first knew Moore as Bond but who now doesn't care for his work. At 12, I LOVED Moonraker (my first Bond). Today I think it stinks. Back then, Moore WAS Bond - now he's second from the bottom of the list IMO. Things change!

Quote:
a "professional" reviewer/critic who does it for a living


Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image If I could live off of free DVDs, then I'd earn a living at this "job". Hate to break it to you, but with a couple of possible exceptions, ain't none of us making a living at this. Really, virtually all of us are just like Ron - dedicated fans who've watched a lot of DVDs. If someone wanted to pay my $60,000 or more to do this, I'd lose the day job right away, but until then, it's just a very time-filling hobby, and I think it's that way for 99% of the other reviewers out there...
Colin Jacobson
http://www.dvdmg.com

#19 of 188 Ronald Epstein

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Posted May 06 2003 - 09:34 AM

Let me tell you something.....

Not one review I have ever written -- and I have
done 400 of them so far -- mentions anything about
edge enhancement or halos.

I'm sure I'll get blasted by everyone for saying
this, but I don't even know what halos or edge
enhancement looks like.

Does this mean I'm the biggest idiot on earth?
Yes, perhaps it does.

But I have quite a few friends -- some who reside
on this forum -- that have no idea what edge
enhancement or halos look like. I read the DVDFILE
review after I posted mine. I went back and looked
at the transfer again. I never saw any sort of
"halo" effect in the picture. You would think
if something was wrong, it would be staring me
in the face. The reality is, if you don't know
what to look for, you ain't gonna notice it. So,
yes, my world is very perfect, and so is the
world of many of us that don't look excessively
deep into a transfer for any impurities that don't
stand out to begin with.

I am not knocking DVDFILE or any of the more
"professional" reviewers out there that like to
talk about these defects. It's their job to dig
deep and talk about these things. Perhaps if I
saw the same problems they do, my reviews would
garner a little more respect within this community.

I look at a picture purely for how good or bad
it looks at face value. If nothing blatantly stands
out as being defective, I don't look for it and
neither do the highest percentage of consumers who
buy DVD product.

I stand behind my comments about the quality of
this transfer.



Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#20 of 188 RobertR

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Posted May 06 2003 - 10:03 AM

Quote:
I don't even know what halos or edge enhancement looks like....I have quite a few friends -- some who reside on this forum -- that have no idea what edge enhancement or halos look like.

This is surprising, given the number of times the EE issue has been discussed and the following link has been posted in this forum:

http://www.videophil..._EE/Page_01.htm

Reading it, and viewing the examples in it, makes quite clear what EE is and what it looks like.

This image (from T2 UE) shows it quite clearly:

Posted Image