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HTF REVIEW: Sin City - RECOMMENDED



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#1 of 144 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

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Posted August 15 2005 - 12:52 PM

Posted Image

SINCITY

Studio:DIMENSION Home Video
Year:2005
RunTime:126 minutes
Aspect Ratio:16 x 9 encoded 1.85:1 (OAR)
Audio:5.1 DTS English, 5.1 DD English, French
Subtitles:English, Spanish
SpecialFeatures:Behind-the-scenes feature
ReleaseDate:August 16, 2005







Feature...



Dark and daunting. Director Robert Rodriguez does an outstanding and faithful job of bringing Frank Miller's comics to the big screen. Those who've already formed an attachment to those stories and their accompanying artwork will have an easier time grappling with Rodriguez's vision. The uninitiated will likely find this film uncomfortable, jarring, and problematic, though I don't mean that to discourage anyone from taking on the challenge--I only intend to help set realistic expectations.

Sin City is really a series of loosely connected stories that deal with a hyper-grotesque world defined by violence, corruption, and erotic aggression. You'll easily make associations with films like Kill Bill and Pulp Fiction--films that make their mark, in part, by capitalizing on a kind of exacerbated violence that creates a strange push-pull with the emotions of the viewer...moving back and forth between disgust and macabre fascination. However, unlike those films which could be relished by an audience not having any prior relationship to the subject matter, Sin City requires the viewer to come to the experience prepared. My strongest criticism of Sin City as a "movie" is that on its own, it was not able to create characterizations that engaged me fully, nor did it weave together a story that took me to a destination I was able to clearly discern. The effect of a novice viewer is that most of the 126 minute ride seems to be some strange acting-out of a naughty 14-year-old-boy's sexual fantasies...an imagination that both erotically charges him and then causes him to punish his own lusts by instantiating villains who are ritualistically disemboweled for their sexual crimes. However, like all art, the experience is a collaboration between artist, medium, and audience, and it's not hard to imagine how radically different someone else's experience might be--or even how a repeated viewing might result in an entirely different perspective.

Sin City is visually a masterpiece. Breathtakingly filmed and edited, with a seamless blend of live and CGI imagery woven together in flawless accord. Black and White photography is highlighted with color accents reminiscent of early 19th Century hand-painted film cells. Black and white is black and white...there is no hint of sepia tones. Grotesque urban city-scapes, 1950's automobile chase sequences, and leather-clad street walkers assimilate into surreal blend that creates its own context...both in time and in place.

Those who don't know anything about Sin City but have been curiously taking notice from the side-lines, if you were able to accept and enjoy the violent visual language of Kill Bill and Pulp Fiction then Sin City may offer you a worthwhile adventure. Those who's loyalty to the comic is already in place are likely to appreciate Robert Rodriguez's efforts to a greater degree. This is a film sure to spark an abundant diversity of opinions. Please share your own and discuss respectfully.



Picture...



Spectacular. Breathtaking. Stunningly pure.

Dimension Home Video often bests Miramax-branded DVDs in overall picture quality and this is no exception. While perhaps lacking the finest level of resolution of "reference perfect" DVDs like Warner Brother's last Matrix-series efforts, Sin City is a DVD that will impress...even on a wide-angle system like a 100" screen. Fine-object detail is excellent for a Disney DVD, and I was amazed at how well the image looked projected on a 106" screen. Both fore and mid-ground details are well preserved and never when viewing my 106" image (the first film viewed in my HT since my move into my new house) from my approximately 1.6 screen-widths distance did I feel like I was missing something. Often at this scale, "average" DVDs cause you to try to "focus" to see detail that's been removed during mastering. In the case of Sin City, the image is smooth, crisp, and loaded with natural detail that produced a genuinely oustanding image that had that "near-HD" sensation you get from the best DVDs.

The image also seemed free from the digital haze that sometimes obscures otherwise stellar film-to-tape transfers. The overall visual quality was one that was not over-processed, and the film-like results were graceful, natural, and relaxingly "analog-like" in feel. My use of "film-like" and "analog" is a bit paradoxical, because it appears to my eyes that this DVD has been entirely sourced from native digital image files...there is no hint of film-grain or any other "film" artifact to be seen. However, what I mean to communicate by the "analog" feel is the natural smoothness to the image, the sense of depth, and absent fog of subsequent digital processing often mistakenly carried out in the name of "improvement" with images that would have fared better simply left alone. This is one of the key signatures of a good DVD mastering job...allowing the natural "film-like grace" and ease to come through without the image taking on a harsh or processed look. Sin city succeeds! The image is smooth smooth smooth. As good as it looked on my DLP projector in 720P, I'm sure it would look even more spectacular on my friend's JVC properly scaled to 1080 progressive.

But perhaps the most praiseworthy aspect of the video is the black level and grayscale tracking, both of which are utterly perfect. The image intentionally has "pumped" black and white extremes...this is not the fault of mastering...it's part of the "film noir" look that the director is trying to convey. Amazingly, the digital mastering has been able to accomplish this without the black and white extremes feeling crushed...the shadow detail is still there. This is VERY impressive folks, and the smooth gradations of gray-tones in between give the image a strong sense of dynamic range. Black level is just rock-solid and whites are bold and cut like a knife without getting overblown. If I could make an audio analogy...imagine starting off with a "flat" frequency response and then pressing the "loudness" button on your stereo to boost the bass and the treble. That's the effect you're seeing in the image, and this DVD does it completely distortion-free. Bravo.

You haven't heard me comment on edge-ringing and that's because I didn’t' see any to comment about from my 1.6 screen-widths distance. It's possible that closer inspection might reveal the slightest occasional edge-halo, but DVD has no right to be judged closer than 1.5 screen-widths away and I can assure you that my picky eyes found nothing at all to take issue with from what is a VERY generously wide viewing angle with my 106" screen.

The only problem with the video that I did see was in a few all-black with all-white silhouette sequences...where there seemed to be a pixelly/grainy appearance to the contoured edge of the white shadow-images (HTF member Jeff Swearingen screened this disc with me and we both noticed this single anomoly). However, given the specific context of this artifact, I'm convinced that it's in the source material and not a fault of DVD mastering (as it would have appeared elsewhere as well rather than limiting itself to this one and only situation). This is truly a reference-worthy image and I'm sure the fans of the film will be thrilled.

HTF Member John Williamson writes:

Quote:
I saw this film twice in the theater and was hypnotized both times, drawn in and convinced that I was in that dank, dirty and violent world being presented to me, and I was very concerned that the eventual dvd would not be able to capture that.

Well, here it is some months later and I picked it up today and my father and I just finished watching it on my 96" screen utilizing the DTS track...the experience survived the transition to the home intact! I was every bit as drawn in and hypnotized tonight as I was in the theater.

As David points out, the transfer is gorgeous, low rez shmo rez, this dvd is an awesome representation of the film and I would urge any fan of the film to pick it up, if not for the meantime until the SE. I don't get hung up on double dipping, when the SE comes out i'll getit and then dump this one on ebay and make almost all of my money back, so I lose nothing, really.

Fantastic film, and i'm relieved that my fears weren't realized, they easily could have gotten this dvd wrong, thankfully they didn't and Sin City rocks as hard and kicks as much ass in my HT as it did at the cinema!


Picture Quality: 5 / 5

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Rating Rationale...

In the past I think I've been too ambiguous with my scoring or at least haven't applied it consistently from title to title, so I've endeavored to define my rating system more clearly to help make the scoring more meaningful (for all titles reviewed December 2004 and later):

Rating Key:

SCORE Description
1-2 An absolute abomination. Hurts to watch. Think "Outland" (scan-line aliasing, chroma noise, dotcrawl)-- truly horrid.
2-3 Has some serious problems, but one can at least watch it without getting a headache despite all the problems though you might try to talk your guests into picking a different movie to watch if you have a large projection screen. Think Cold Mountain.
3-4 Good or at least "acceptable" on a big-screen, but not winning any awards and definitely room for improvement if you view the image wide-angle (though smaller-screen viewers may be quite content). Think the first extended cut of Fellowship of the Ring...decent picture but still some HF filtering and some edge-halos.
4-5 A reference picture that really makes the most of the DVD medium and shows extraordinary transparency to the film-source elements. Non-videophile observers can't help but remark "WOW". Think The Empire Strikes Back or the Fifth Element Superbit (full “5” would be sans EE).






Sound...



Someone saw fit to provide the audiophile DVD collector with both 5.1 DD and 5.1 DTS audio options. The two tracks are very similar in level and overall presentation, and the viewer can conveniently toggle back/forth between them by simply pressing the audio button on the DVD remote. I definitely heard differences between the two tracks, and I'll share my impression with you while at the same time stating that I can understand why the "which one is better" debate in this case is a bit subjective. The DTS track clearly excelled to my ears in terms of low-level detail and that sense of "acoustic space" that painted a palpable 3-dimensional soundscape with unrestricted left/right/front/back imaging and sonic decay. This was most clear on the low-level background instrumentation during much of the dialog...the tone and presence of the musical instruments just felt more "real" with more musical nuance and detail. However, the vocals on the DTS track tended to sound a bit more "nasally" on my system...which to some might come across as "tinny" or too sharp sounding. While voices were smoother on the DTS track, this nasal quality sometimes gave sharp s-sounds an almost sibilant character that could be grating if your system is very forward-sounding or emphasizes the treble.

The 5.1 DD track was exemplary...and only a few paces behind the DTS in terms of musical nuance (which is usually what I hear in cases like this). However, though the DTS vocals sounded "rounder", the vocals on the DD track were easier to listen to...they sounded less grating and more laid-back. Whether this has something to do with dialog normalization, mixing practices, or just differences between the codecs I have no clue. Just reporting what I hear. If you find the vocals irritating in any way with the DTS track I encourage you to switch to the Dolby Digital and see what you hear.

Both audio tracks kicked major-bass-but and the DD track may have also edged the DTS slightly in this regard. The audio has an extreme sense of impact, the "thuds!" and "bangs!" of punches and gunshots will leave you pale with fear...this is not a film to play loudly if you have neighbors downstairs (being the first disc screened in the basement HT room of my new home, I took particular delight revelling in unrestricted volume levels Posted Image ).

The surround channels are also satisfyingly active without drawing attention to themselves or becoming a "surround sound" salesman-demo event. What this means is that you're enveloped into a 360 degree sound field without finding yourself distracted by gimmicky noises hitting you like popcorn from behind. The DTS may have blended the full 5.1 configuration into a slightly more seamless soundfield, but both the DTS and DD tracks do an astonishing job of "losing you" into a sea of sound that is used to dramatic affect to compliment the on-screen action. Sin City is just as much about the sound mix and presentation as it is about the stunning visuals and imagery. If you can't watch this film on a proper 5.1 set up, then just like if you tried to watch it P/S on a 19" TV, you're not really watching the movie the director wanted you to see. At the very least, you're not getting the experience that he wanted you to get. If you've been toying with the idea of upgrading to a 5.1 system or getting that new timbre-matched center channel or sub and you love this movie, friend, your rationale has just been offered.


[b] Sound Quality: 4.5 / 5

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[b]Special Features...



Sadly, this bare-bones DVD presentation, while being no slouch in the A/V quality department, is pretty shy on bonus material. This is especially sad given that most folks who will want to own and watch this feature will be fans of the film who would most-want coveted bonus material content. I don't mean to dampen your spirits when I tell you that you've got one whopping bonus feature...the typical making-of featurette where cast and crew talk about the movie and how "amazing" it was to be part of it and how much they "loved" working on it etc. etc. etc. Nothing to toss out, and every fan will want to watch it, but it's not going satisfy the hard-core fan base and it would have been so nice to have at least had a director's commentary track and a few deleted scenes. Nevertheless, let us not forget the absolutely STELLAR picture and sound quality...and I'll just try to tell myself that the decision to forego the extras was in an effort to deliver a no-compromised AV experience. I'll just keep telling myself that. Still not believing it but I'll keep trying... Posted Image



[b]All Together...



You'll love it or you'll hate it. And it's easy to understand why folks could feel so strongly at either extreme. Those of you who haven't seen it and are trying to decide on a purchase or rental, let your affinity for Kill Bill and Pulp Fiction be your guide. Sin City is a fascinating film, and any fan of the comic or this film will be delighted with the fantastic picture and audio quality brought to you on this DVD. Picture is among the best I've ever seen from a Disney DVD which is particularly fitting for this film given it's strong visual language which relies on both powerful and subtle use of the canvas. Audio is equally impressive, and the option of both a 5.1 Dolby Digital and DTS mix is an unexpected and welcome feature. In fact, the only room for criticism of this DVD presentation is in the lack of any real special feature content. And while I sympathize with the fan base that will be disappointed by the lack of bonus material, I encourage every fan to look beyond that omission given the tremendous AV mastering.

As always, your comments and discussion are welcome and encouraged.

Enjoy.



[b]RECOMMENDED









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#2 of 144 OFFLINE   Damin J Toell

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Posted August 15 2005 - 01:06 PM

Quote:
The image also seemed free from the digital haze that sometimes obscures otherwise stellar film-to-tape transfers. The overall visual quality was one that was not over-process, and the film-like results were graceful, natural, and relaxingly "analog-like" in feel.


Er, not to be glib, but are we sure that the disc wasn't actually sourced directly from the digital master? Did they actually output it to film and then source it from that? If it just comes directly from the digital master, it's really no surprise that it avoids pitfalls of film-to-tape transfers.

DJ

#3 of 144 OFFLINE   Dave Mack

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Posted August 15 2005 - 01:08 PM

Cool, Dave!

Been waiting for your review! Sounds killer! Congrats on the new house as well! Me and my fiancee are actually moving this sat. to our new apt. and I will finally get to see my new optoma DLP FP on an actual screen, (optoma greywolf) as oppossed to just the wall.
Now that we have jumped to FP, many of the comments you and others have made in the past re: transfer issues are much more noticeable at big screen widths.

Excellent review as always!


Posted Image d

#4 of 144 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

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Posted August 15 2005 - 01:15 PM

Quote:
Er, not to be glib, but are we sure that the disc wasn't actually sourced directly from the digital master? Did they actually output it to film and then source it from that? If it just comes directly from the digital master, it's really no surprise that it avoids pitfalls of film-to-tape transfers.

Excellent points DJ. In fact, yes, the DVD was sourced from digital files and it looks that way. However, don't be fooled into thinking that this avoids the "digital haze" issues...that post-production "let's make the DVD look better by turning this dial up to eleven..." mentality can much up anything. But in any case you make a good point and I'll modify the review accordingly. Thanks!

Posted Image
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#5 of 144 OFFLINE   Kain_C

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Posted August 15 2005 - 02:24 PM

God, I want to wait for the SE coming out on down the line, but the temptation is overwhelming me! I hate double-dipping but this may be worth it. Ergh!!!

#6 of 144 OFFLINE   Max Leung

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Posted August 15 2005 - 02:25 PM

Great review - I'll be picking it up tomorrow for $20 CDN. It should look stellar on my Benq 8700 projector and HTPC. Dave, have you upgraded your DVD player yet? Posted Image
Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him...a super-callused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

Gamesh....

#7 of 144 OFFLINE   Tim Glover

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Posted August 15 2005 - 03:50 PM

Nice review David, again. And I appreciate your objectivity and honesty when giving your audio conclusions. From reading your reviews, not always, but it seems that usually you prefer the dts mix so sometimes it's easy to think that you or others are biased. Not the case with you at all. You really do call it as you see and hear it and I appreciate that and trust your reviews.

Good job. Keep up the good work.

I meant to see this film many times last spring, but things kept happening from me seeing it. Looking forward to the dvd. I've been warned by many to have realistic expectations.

#8 of 144 OFFLINE   Dave Mack

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Posted August 15 2005 - 04:33 PM

Dave, have you upgraded your DVD player yet?


If you mean me Dave, yes, I just got an oppo upscaling player and through DVI, the pic. is phenomenal.

Posted Image

#9 of 144 OFFLINE   Lou Sytsma

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Posted August 15 2005 - 10:27 PM

I will definitely rent it - my wife has not seen it yet. I enjoyed the film. The repetitive theme diminishes my need to purchase for repeat viewings.
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#10 of 144 ONLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted August 15 2005 - 10:33 PM

My personal story on this film....

I was actually very concerned about watching
Sin City. I know it had gotten quite
a bit of positive press upon its release, but
I also knew that it was supposed to be a very
dark comic book film, something that I knew
would not be appealing to me.

I bought the DVD blindly simply because that's
what I do. Sometimes it pays off -- sometimes
it doesn't.

So here I am watching the first few minutes of
Sin City last night and already I wanted
to eject the DVD from the player. Not sure if it
was because I was tired or that I wasn't getting
into it -- but I was struggling to stay with it
just a little longer.

Thank goodness I did for within the first 20
minutes things just clicked! I found myself riveted
to this story about Marv (Mickey Rourke), out
for vengeance against the group who killed
a prostitute named Goldie (Jaime King), whom he was
madly in love with. As I found myself comfortably
enjoying this story, I became very appreciative of
the film's look and feel which is technically beyond
anything that his been done in film to date.

Though the film's first story was by far my favorite,
I also immensely enjoyed enjoyed the story of Dwight
(Clive Owen), who gets drawn into Old Town to dispose
the body of a murdered cop before a truce is broken.

...then there's the film's first and final sequence
which stars Bruce as John Hartigan, a cop who captures
a child rapist and vows to protect the girl he saved
(Jessica Alba).

All three stories take place in seedy black-and-white
surroundings known as Sin City, a highly perverse city
whose heroes are highly psychotic, but at the same time
strangely likable.

As David Boulet points out, the DVD is gorgeous.
It's not often that you see black levels this rich,
and I swear the band-aids that Mickey Rourke wear
give so much added dimension that they seem to leap
off the screen.

I was very surprised as to how stunning a film this
was. It's vastly beautiful and entertaining on a
level far exceeding anything I have seen in recent memory.

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#11 of 144 OFFLINE   JonZ

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Posted August 16 2005 - 12:27 AM

I think Im gonna hold out for the SE as Im tired of double dipping.

#12 of 144 OFFLINE   Chuck Mayer

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Posted August 16 2005 - 12:49 AM

Good to hear about the quality, but I refuse to double dip. Much like del Toro and PJ before him, I thank RR for ensuring the fans are aware of the SE before this release. I appreciate being told the release plan. Picking up the SE for sure.

I loved the movie, but I was familiar with the source material. Yes, Sin City is essentially a well read teenage boys' naughty (but strangely moral) fantasies given form, but it works.

Thanks for the review,
Chuck
Hey buddy...did you just see a real bright light?

#13 of 144 OFFLINE   DustinPizarro

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Posted August 16 2005 - 01:24 AM

Excellent review Dave!! I'll be picking it up today. This will tide me over until the SE. Although I don't like double dipping as well, this is one of those exceptions where I'll be happy to make.

#14 of 144 OFFLINE   Reagan

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Posted August 16 2005 - 01:59 AM

Thanks for the review, Dave. But tell us more about your new basement home theater.

-Reagan
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#15 of 144 OFFLINE   Scott_lb

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Posted August 16 2005 - 02:53 AM

Sin City is being released today on PSP UMD as well for those interested.
"My name is El Nino which in spanish means.... The Nino!" - Chris Farley

#16 of 144 OFFLINE   Max Leung

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Posted August 16 2005 - 03:56 AM

Dave, I meant the other Dave, but it seems you have the better player than the Momitsu V880 that Dave (the other one) uses. Posted Image Posted Image

I find the Momitsu V880 upconverting player adds a bit too much noise to the picture. It doesn't add EE at least, but things look a little bit artificial when compared to my HTPC.
Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him...a super-callused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

Gamesh....

#17 of 144 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

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Posted August 16 2005 - 04:02 AM

So what's the best *affordable* DVI-out scaling DVD player? I'd be willing to upgrade if the image improvment was worth it. I could be tempted to go HTPC if it didn't cost too much and could be simple enough for me to intruct my roomates on how to use it as well...but a stand-alone "plug and play" DVD player would be my first choice.

My buddy with the 1080P JVC HD2K has the pioneer...and it produces in his system possibly the best DVD image I've ever seen regardless of price. I've been tempted to bring it over and check it out in my own system...it has HDMI out (though that might be problmetic with the BenQ 8700 which only does DVI?) but it costs a pretty penny...

Throw your suggestions my way!

I'll comment more on my basement HD later when it get it properly set up. Suffice to say for now that one of the driving impulses to buy a home, in addition to the usual list of things...was to finally have a place where I could review/enjoy movies without worry about anyone else being disturbed. It's perfect...I have 3 roomates in my 2nd floor bedrooms and with the HT in the basement I can crank it at night at any hour and no one hears a thing upstairs...bliss...
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#18 of 144 OFFLINE   Carlo Medina

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Posted August 16 2005 - 04:09 AM

Has there been any word on the SE release date? I found articles of RR talking about what would probably be on there (sounds very cool) but nothing with a release date, firm or tentative.

Thanks!

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#19 of 144 OFFLINE   Haggai

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Posted August 16 2005 - 04:18 AM

Nope, no official word yet. It still isn't clear whether the theatrical cut will be included on the eventual SE. Some of RR's recent comments seem to suggest that it will, but nothing definite has been announced.

#20 of 144 OFFLINE   Mark Lucas

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Posted August 16 2005 - 04:40 AM

How anyone could have missed the theatrical release of this movie and wait for the downrezed dvd is beyond me. Maybe it's because I live in LA where we have more than one theater in town to choose from. The movie looked gorgeous and solid in DLP. While I'm sure the dvd looks great it can't hold a candle to even 1.3k digital projection.

I've read the dvd has the same dialogue quality problems as the theatrical release. There's some noise present, especially in the first half of the movie. Sounded kind of like digital upsampling artifacts to me.