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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" (Highly Recommended!)

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#1 of 171 OFFLINE   Adam_Reiter


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Posted March 12 2004 - 05:54 AM

Master and Commander:
The Far Side Of The World
(2 Disk Collectors Edition)

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Year: 2003

Rated: PG-13

Directed by: Peter Weir

Film Length: 138 Minutes

Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1

Audio: English 5.1 DTS, English Dolby 5.1, French Dolby 5.1, Spanish Dolby Surround

Subtitled in English and Spanish

Bonus features:
- 2-DVD Set
- "The Hundred Days" 70-minute Documentary
- "In The Wake Of O'Brian" Documentary
- Cinematic Phasmids 30-minute Documentary
- Sound Design 20-minute Featurette
- Interactive Sound Recording Demo
- 6 Deleted Scenes
- HBO First Look
- 4 Multi-Angle Studies
- Split Screen Vignette
- 4 Art Galleries
- Theatrical Teaser and Trailer
- International Trailer

Release Date: April 20th, 2004



OH MY GOD!!! Start salivating folks, this is one of the best DVD releases this year so far! This DVD package is crazy. One of the best DTS tracks ever, some of the best video quality there is, and more extras than you can shake a stick at! This, my friends, is how you release a special edition DVD! Bravo Fox!

I didn’t get a chance to see this in the theaters, so I have been looking forward to its DVD release. I am glad that I wasn’t disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, I have seen better movies, but this film has a lot going for it. For one, this is one of the few movies where you believe every special effect. The movie is filmed on a grand scale, and they used two ships during the filming. One was dry docked and one was out at sea. This helps us believe the story because they were really filming out in the ocean. Almost like someone smuggled in a few cameras back in the 1800’s. The movie looks real, and therefore it feels real. You can hardly make out any special effects, as they were rendered with perfection.

As much as I have sort of started to dislike Crowe, due to reading about what an ego-maniac he is, I really enjoyed him in this movie. He made me forget that I didn’t like him. Crowe (Captain Jack) and Dr. Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany) had a great chemistry throughout the film.

I found out through the extras that this movie is based off of the 10th book in a series written by Patrick O’Brian. This definitely explains the beginning and the ending. Both or sort of abrupt! The beginning kind of just throws you into the action, and you have to try and pay attention to know what is actually going on. There really isn’t a building up of the beginning to develop who this character and who that character is, and what their purpose is, and why are they out to sea. It’s trial by fire, baby! The ending also leaves a little to be desired, but obviously it would go into the next book, or subsequently, the next movie, which I hear depending on how Master and Commander did at the box office, there would be more movies coming. Perhaps this is one of the reasons for the beefed up DVD release?

The camera angles and cinematography is this movie where some of the best I have seen. We get to see every inch of the ship and really get involved. I think there is good character development in the film, which gets us to care about what happens to them throughout the course of the movie. Master and Commander is just a great package overall as a film. Great acting, superb cinematography, a great story in a great setting!

Here is the synopsis from the back cover:
The fate of an empire rests on the shoulders of one man. Academy Award winner Russell Crowe commands the screen in this spectacular, high-seas adventure directed by Peter Weir.

After a sneak attack by a French warship inflicts severe damage upon his vessel, Captain “Lucky” Jack Aubrey (Crowe) is torn between duty and friendship as he embarks on a thrilling, high stakes chase across two oceans to capture or destroy the enemy at any cost.



Picture quality on this DVD is ……. uhhhhh…… WOW!

Picture quality for Master and Commander is top notch! I love the beginning, because it has this darkish blue tint to the picture. It really adds to the “spook” factor, and gives and eerie feel. The blacks in this film are rock solid. There are DVD’s that throw such a deep black, that you can’t tell where the letterboxing begins. Master and Commander is not one of those DVD’s, but it certainly is next to that. Black levels are very good.

The detail is extremely good. Images jump out at you from the screen and are crystal clear. I did notice however that some scenes are slightly out of focus and not razor sharp, but this is not due to the transfer. Skin tones are perfect in the right light, such as sunlight when the scene is not “colored” or “filtered”. Contrast is perfect, and video noise is kept to an absolute minimum. Only a few specs of film dirt were notices throughout the movie. There is definitely some edge enhancement, but honestly, I didn’t even notice until I started taking the screenshots. It did not bother me while watching the film.

Overall, the picture is just excellent. Five stars for sure!

SEE FOR YOURSELF!: (click on the picture for a bigger version of the screen-shot)

More screen shots here

Picture Quality Rating:
Picture: 5 / 5



The DVD is encoded in Dolby Digital 5.1. / DTS-ES.

Hold on to your socks, because they may just blow off! Holy moly! This is by far one of the best audio presentations I have ever had the pleasure to enjoy! First the dialog was extremely good. Bold, clear, rock solid. You could always hear what was being said, and never had to strain your ears to pickup words. Soundtrack was equally beautiful. Very nice stereo separation. The music was clear, and defined. The DTS track lent a little more air and definition to the music, but the DD track was very good indeed. The Dolby track was definitely no slouch.

The surrounds… oh man the surround sound! Simply awesome! I do love an aggressive surround track. Right off the bat, you are immersed in sound. Doors and voices from the back left, clanking and footstep on the back right. A couple of times I looked behind me because I thought that a door in the movie had opened behind me. I also had a few instanced where the voices behind me had me looking back as well, expecting to see my girlfriend, or kids standing there. That is a sign of a great surround sound. Also, all of the open ocean scenes sounded full, and active. All around you were waves crashing and birds flying. Don’t even get me started on the explosions!! The battle scenes were just nothing buy loud and aggressive surround sound. Cannonballs flying across the screen and slamming into the back wall of your house!! If any of you have tower speakers in the back for your 6th and 7th surround channels like I do, you are going to pee your pants. It is so cool! Turn of that THX Ultra 2, and crank this baby up!!

Now, I’d like to talk about a little subject called, Low Frequency Effects! This DVD has them………..in SPADES!! I promise you this is one of the best DVD’s for LFE on the market! There were times that I only had the volume at -20dbs and my entire house was still shaking. The bass in the battle scenes are just mind blowing! The cannon fire, and subsequent exploding of wood when the cannonball hits, just bring the biggest grin to your face. It’s kinda weird too, the LFE is so deep and loud, but I didn’t find it to be harsh! The LFE is low, and clean, and clear. Sometimes intense LFE scenes are a bit harsh because you have very loud high frequency sounds accompanying it, i.e.: gunshots, loud screeching tires, etc. I didn’t feel that with Master and Commander. Just clean, powerful explosions that you cant help but sit back and be in awe of it all!!

I have decided to stop doing an in depth DTS vs. DD tracks for these big releases. Everyone has such different opinions of the issue. I’d rather not have debating of DTS vs. DD in my review. Me personally, I will always use the DTS track when available because I always think it sounds better. Rest assured however, that if a DVD comes with a kick ass DTS track, it will have a kick ass DD track too.

Master and Commander, goes right next to my DTS Lord of the Rings collection and Terminator 3 for demo material!!

Sound Quality Rating:
Sound: 5 / 5


This DVD has extras comming out of its ears!. [/b]


Inside Look

This is a few previews of upcoming projects from FOX. I tell you what, I can’t wait for each one of those movies to come out. They all look outstanding. The first preview, “The Day After Tomorrow” comes out in theaters May 28th. The next movie currently in production is “I, Robot”. Will Smith will star in this one. It looks like it will be awesome. Then there is a new Denzel Washington movie called, “Man on Fire”, which also stars Dakota Fanning, and Christopher Walken. This movie is due out in April.

Total Running Time: 06:32 / Aspect Ratio: 4:3


The Hundred Days

This is like the end all be all of the “behind the scenes” type of featurette. It’s a documentary, sort of speak, of the production of Master and Commander. Peter Weir starts off on how he was pitched the idea to due the movie. He talks about how he wanted to make book 10 “Far Side of the World”, of the 20 book series by Patrick O’Brian. They talk about how they ended up buying the ship “The Rose”, the only recreated boat of its kind in the world.

We hear from the Producer, Duncan Henderson on how they purchased the boat and made changes to it. Next up is Todd Arnow, Co-Producer / Unit Production Manager, talks about how they had to film out at sea for believability, but that you can’t shoot entirely out at sea. So they actually built another mirror image boat, and they filmed on one boat 45 minutes out to sea, and the other boat in a holding tank.

This is just a taste! This featurette is over hour long, so obviously, you hear from just about every major player involved with making this movie. This is a very cool extra that gives you just about everything you could want to know about the production of this movie.

Total Running Time: 01:08:38 / Aspect Ratio: 16:9

In The Wake Of O’Brian

This extra is more of Peter Weir explaining about how he got prepared in writing and adapting the script for Master and Commander. He talks about needing to have multiple things around him from the time period so that he could constantly look at them and touch them to be inspired. He had things such as swords and flags and models of ships. He got most of them from a naval antique store in London. He would also listen to a lot of music from that time period, looking for music that Jack and the Dr. would play on their violins.

Total Running Time: 19:24 / Aspect Ratio: 16:9


Cinematic Phasmids

This section starts off with a blurb “Cinematic Phasemids in which the art and craft of visual deception is explored in connection with Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World”. They start off in showing the two methods by which the visual effects team recreated historic ships of the line. They used a humongous scale model of the ship in a blue screen room. Most of this was for the purpose of the big wave and water scenes. The also built a CGI boat, and used both the CGI and the scale model depending on what the scene called for. Very cool!

Total Running Time: 30:02 / Aspect Ratio: 16:9

Sound Design

On Sound Design Featurette
This is basically an account of how they did the audio for the cannons. They found cannons from enthusiasts, were allowed to mic up a military base where they fired off all of cannons with different ammo for different sounds. They also had to find ways to come up with the black powder musket sounds. We also hear of the challenges of recording the dialog with all of the extra noise going one in the scene. A lot of the dialog is looped.

Total Running Time: 17:47 / Aspect Ratio: 16:9

Interactive Cannon Demonstration

Possibly one of the coolest things I have ever scene on a DVD. This lets you hear the cannon noise from each microphone that they had recording. You can also hear just the front microphones, or the rear microphones, or all of them at one to hear the final layered effect. It’s so cool, I had to include a screen shot. Check it out!

HBO First Look

This is a 25 minute featurette show on HBO, which gives you some info about the movie. Kinda like a big ol’ trailer for the film. You know what it is, we have all seen these.

Total Running Time: 25:02 / Aspect Ratio: 4:3

Deleted Scenes

Altogether the 6 deleted scenes add up to 24:20 minutes.

Weighing Anchor
Total Running Time: 04:17 / Aspect Ratio: 4:3 Letterboxed

Shipboard Life
Total Running Time: 09:50 / Aspect Ratio: 4:3 Letterboxed

Total Running Time: 03:20 / Aspect Ratio: 4:3 Letterboxed

Total Running Time: 01:09 / Aspect Ratio: 4:3 Letterboxed

Articles Of War
Total Running Time: 01:44 / Aspect Ratio: 4:3 Letterboxed

Total Running Time: 03:01 / Aspect Ratio: 4:3 Letterboxed

Multi-Camera Shooting

This is a blurb from the menu: “Much of Master and Commander was whit multiple cameras. Despite the numerous pitfalls inherent to using more than one camera, it was decided the benefits outweighed the drawbacks. These supplements are designed to give you a sense of what multi-camera shooting is like.

Surprising The Surprise

This is the multi-camera shooting of the first battle scene where the French make their sneak attack from the fog bank. You get your choice of viewing cameras A-D, the B-Roll, and then the composite which is a 6-way split screen of every camera all at once. This extra is so cool. It would be nice to have this on more and more DVD’s coming out.

The Final Battle

This is basically the same thing, only for the final battle scene. But on this one, you have the choice of either a four camera setup, a three camera setup, or a two camera setup.

Split-Screen Vignette

This shows us a split screen in which they use a 60mm, a 37mm, and a 200mm camera on the left, and a b-roll on the right. They also show how Peter Weir used sound playback to set the tone for the current scene being filmed.

Total Running Time: 4:32 / Aspect Ratio: Split Screen and 4:3

Still Galleries

Conceptual Art by George Jensen

These are art still of the various scenes in the film.

Conceptual Art by Daren Dochterman
These are illustration stills of various ship damage from the cannon balls, and the repair of the damage. There is also some stills how the crew would setup camp on the Galapagos Islands.

Naval Art

These are illustrations of British naval art that Peter Weir and crew relied heavily on for reference and inspiration.

Technical Drawings

These are technical drawing of how the ships were built and modified. Almost like blue prints.


Theatrical Teaser

Total Running Time: 01:21 / Aspect Ratio: 4:3

Theatrical Trailer

Total Running Time: 02:43 / Aspect Ratio: 4:3

International Trailer

Total Running Time: 01:03 / Aspect Ratio: 4:3

Extras / Bonus Features Rating:
Extras: 5 / 5




More menu shots here!


What can I say? Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World is a super kick ass DVD offering. It’s got reference quality sound, near reference quality video, and hours of extras. If you were even slightly a fan of the movie, got buy this DVD on May 20th!!

I can HIGHLY RECOMMEND buying this DVD!

This has been,

#2 of 171 OFFLINE   MarcusUdeh


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Posted March 12 2004 - 05:56 AM

Good for David P. Posted Image

#3 of 171 OFFLINE   PaulEB


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Posted March 12 2004 - 06:22 AM

WOW! Great review Adam, can't wait to get this. I was trying to decide if I should get the 2-disc collector's edition, now there is no doubt I will!

#4 of 171 OFFLINE   Ryan_TD


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Posted March 12 2004 - 06:33 AM

Unfortunately, there will be two versions - a single disc & a double disc....which means on street date all the major sales will be for the single disc version onlyPosted Image
my guess is the single disc version will be like $15.99-$17.99 and the 2 disc set will be $26.99-$29.99Posted Image

Excellent movie thoughPosted Image
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#5 of 171 OFFLINE   Shane Martin

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Posted March 12 2004 - 06:41 AM

This only reassures I will pick it up. When the disc's producer says it is a kick ass DTS track, I will take his word on it. Any shots of the packaging Adam?

#6 of 171 OFFLINE   Edward Brand

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Posted March 12 2004 - 06:42 AM

Nice to hear the dvd has such good picture and sound. I can only imagine what the D-Theater version is going to look and sound like with its 1080i picture and 1.5 Mbps DTS track. Cant wait. --Edward

#7 of 171 OFFLINE   Adam_Reiter


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Posted March 12 2004 - 07:12 AM

Actually the disk I got is the super secret versions that I have to send back in 5 days. Mine came with the packaging of the Single disk release, and the Disk 2 is just plain jane with the plain words: Master and Commander Disk 2 in black. Sorta like how my X-Men 2 disks were.

I did not get final packaging sent to me. Posted Image Plus I now have to drop it in the mail and send it back.

#8 of 171 OFFLINE   Nate Anderson

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Posted March 12 2004 - 07:14 AM

I loved this movie and saw it twice in the theater. Am picking up the two disk set for sure!

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#9 of 171 OFFLINE   Ray H

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Posted March 12 2004 - 07:20 AM

Sounds very good. I may have to make this rather expensive blind buy.
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#10 of 171 OFFLINE   Michael Harris

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Posted March 12 2004 - 07:46 AM

Can't wait for this one. I read my first O'Brian book, the horribly titled "Nutmeg of Consolation", while on a Med Cruise on board USS PONCE which I found in the ship's library.

Guess I may have to retire my copy of "Gettysburg" if I want to use cannon fire for a speaker demo.Posted Image

#11 of 171 OFFLINE   Andrea W

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Posted March 12 2004 - 08:00 AM

What about those red dots (whatever that copy protection is called) that people complained about in the theater (seeing them in the ocean)? I hope that didn't transfer to the DVD!

#12 of 171 OFFLINE   david*mt


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Posted March 12 2004 - 08:36 AM

Adam, are the DD and DTS tracks flagged with EX and ES encoding? I hate having to switch the EX and ES on manually.

#13 of 171 OFFLINE   GarySchrock


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Posted March 12 2004 - 08:37 AM

I'd really hope those aren't there. They're not supposed to be on dvd's. And I for one will be royally pissed if they show up, because it destroyed the presentation of the movie in the theater. All those wonderful storm scenes just lose a lot of their magic if you're watching dots pop up all the time.

#14 of 171 OFFLINE   Adam_Reiter


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Posted March 12 2004 - 08:59 AM

I did not notice any of the red dots, so that shouldn't be an issue.

And unfortunately it is not DTS-ES. I used mine manually. Posted Image

#15 of 171 OFFLINE   Nick Sievers

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Posted March 12 2004 - 09:05 AM

The CAP codes (red dots) are for theatres only. Solid review, Adam. I'm glad the presenation is A+, this was in my Top 5 films of last year and I can't wait to experience it again.
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#16 of 171 OFFLINE   Greg S

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Posted March 12 2004 - 09:06 AM

Excellent Review! I was gonna get this on release day anyway but now its 100% confirmed! Thanks Greg

#17 of 171 OFFLINE   Todd Schnell

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Posted March 12 2004 - 09:53 AM

Wow! This looks impressive! I never got around to seeing this in the theater, but will definitely pick up the DVD. Nice review. Thanks! Todd

#18 of 171 OFFLINE   Ron-P



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Posted March 12 2004 - 09:58 AM

This sucks, 6 weeks + before street date. After reading your review Adam I just dying to see this. I passed in the theater (as I usually do) so this will make for one awesome blind buy.

Very happy to hear FOX did a first rate job with the 2-disk set.

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#19 of 171 OFFLINE   Garrett Adams

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Posted March 12 2004 - 01:09 PM

Adam, were the first five screen caps night scenes? They are very dark on my calibrated monitor.

#20 of 171 OFFLINE   Joe Fisher

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Posted March 12 2004 - 01:20 PM

Adam, I think you made a mistake on the release date. You list it as coming May 20th, when it is actually April 20th. Anyway, will be picking this up on release date. Thanks for a great review. Joe

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