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HTF HD-DVD Review: Aeon Flux (Highly Recommended for A/V presentation)


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#1 of 20 OFFLINE   PatWahlquist

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Posted August 04 2006 - 03:32 PM


Aeon Flux (HD-DVD)

Studio: Paramount Home Video
Rated: PG13 (violence and sexual content)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
HD Encoding: 1080p
HD Video Codec: VC-1
Audio: English, French and Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 5.1; English DTS 5.1
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish; English SDH
Time: 92 minutes
Disc Format: 1 SS/DL HD-DVD
Case Style: Keep case
Theatrical Release Date: 2005
DVD Release Date: August 08, 2006

Movie Review Note: As I move into more HD-DVD reviews, I am cutting back on the length of my comments on the movie itself to deal more with the technical aspects of this new format. This will be done specifically on the catalog titles provided by Paramount. When they begin releasing titles day and date, I will spend more of the review on the merits (or lack thereof) of the title.

Since I recently reviewed the SD version of this movie, I am going to bring over that review. The changes will mainly be in the video and audio portions of this review, but the editorial content and the comments on the bonus materials are the same from the original review.

In 2011, a virus kills 99% of the world’s population. A scientist, Trevor Goodchild (Marton Csokas), develops a cure allowing the five million survivors to live in Bregna, the last city on earth. Goodchild begins a dynasty that rules for 400 years, which of course means at some point rebels will emerge to challenge such a regime. These rebels are called Monicans, who are apparently infused with enhanced physical capabilities coupled with the extensive use of biotechnology. The Monicans are fighting for what they see as the oppressive Goodchild regime, as it keeps everything peaceful as long as the citizens remain the same (this will make sense as you watch it). Aeon Flux (Charlize Theron) is given a mission by The Handler (Frances McDormand) to sabotage Goodchild’s central surveillance facility as a means to blind them against the Monicans activities. Before she heads off on the mission, Aeon spends some time with her sister, Una (Amelia Warner), who cautions Aeon on her mission.

Aeon returns home from her mission to find her sister has been killed. This of course sends Aeon off on a revenge mission in which she feels, ultimately, Goodchild is responsible. When The Handler sends Aeon on another mission, this time to assassinate Goodchild, she is confronted with memories of a hazy past kept just outside of her mind’s eye. Once she confronts Goodchild, she finds out more about her past and that Goodchild and his work is not actually what it seems. She learns her life and that of all of Bregna’s citizens are part of a 400 year process developed to keep the species alive. As this has been going on, the scientific types have determined the process has a nasty side effect (this side effect is important to the rest of the picture, so I won’t spoil it for you here). Goodchild’s ambitious brother, Oren (Johnny Lee Miller), no longer agrees with his brother’s philosophy so he stages a coup and takes over the government. This action pushes Goodchild and Aeon together on a common mission for the greater good of species all the while uncovering secrets of both of their pasts.

“Aeon Flux” does not have too deep a plot, because we don’t want such a thing to get in the way of the action and the stunts. It does, however, have one of the best looking production designs I’ve seen in some time. You are instantly transported into Aeon’s world of artistic architecture and high and stylistic fashion. In much the same way Luc Besson and Gauthier collaborated on “The Fifth Element”, I can see the same type of collaboration between “Aeon Flux”’s director Karyn Kusama and her production designer, Andrew McAlpine. This, coupled with the excellent work of the costumers and set designers gives us a truly unique vision of the future.

I have seen only a few of the animated shows, and those I did see were during the original run on MTV. I remember being fairly impressed with the look of the show and the animation, but it never clicked for me. The movie, while it needs about twenty more minutes of plot and characterization, does a good job of bringing you into Aeon’s world and entertaining you for 93 minutes. None of the actor’s stand out, and I still find it to be a very interesting and bold choice for an Academy Award winner to take. Theron makes the role her own and her commitment to it (as well as the physical aspects of the job) continues to show me what a versatile performer she is.

Video:
Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 12-S4 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 720p. Thus, the HD-DVD discs are being displayed in 1080i for evaluation purposes. I am using a Toshiba HD-A1 for a player and utilizing the HDMI capabilities of both units.

In my original review of this disc, I asked that Paramount hurry up and get this title out on HD since it had such vibrant and sharp picture on the SD DVD. Thankfully, they listened and this disc is everything an HD-DVD should be. The 2.35:1 image features one of the best color presentations of almost any picture I’ve seen! Remember all those HD demo reels you would see that show colorful people in colorful surroundings, such as Japanese flower gardens? This is what “Aeon Flux” reminds me of. The picture’s extensive use of color throughout the entire feature literally pops off the screen. There is a scene in the beginning of the picture where Aeon and Una are walking through the outdoor marketplace that really shows this off. Flowers, plants and fruit show incredible detail and range of colors, so much so you want to reach out and grab them. In comparing the HD version to the SD version, the HD version lacks the video noise that now seems obtrusive in the SD version. The costumes and sets are just as well represented with wide ranging colors that go from the drab and cold concrete buildings of Goodkind’s complex (a business park chic, if you will) to the warm, organic settings of the citizens of Bregna. We are constantly presented with contrasting and conflicting cool and warm hues to further emphasize the disparity of the government and the citizens. Flesh tones are, as expected, well represented and they show nice differences between the actors.

Foreground detail is very sharp and well defined, but where background detail tended to smudge and blur in the SD version, it comes alive in the HD version. You can see this in most of the outdoor scenes: as you look closely at the foliage and trees, you can now see all the detail that was missing from the SD version. Edge enhancement that was unfortunately very noticeable on the SD release is now gone. I did not notice any film dirt or video compression artifacts. Black levels are deep but still retain detail in the darker scenes. I am not going out on a limb to say this video is of reference quality and this is, so far, the best way to show off your hi-def display.


Audio:
The Dolby Digital Plus soundtrack is attained by a 5.1 analog connection

I watched the disc with the 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus (DD+) track engaged. I was expecting a big and noisy audio spectacle, but I was instead presented with a very subtle soundtrack. While there are moments of explosive noise, overall, it is a very relaxed mix that emphasizes the characters actions without blasting you out of your seat. The surrounds get a very good workout for ambient and musical effects and it keeps you planted in the middle of the sound field. I loved the homage to the animated version at the beginning of the picture where the fly is buzzing about and is captured in Aeon’s eyelashes. I had forgotten about this sequence from the opening of the animated show and I found myself looking around the room to find that pesky fly. LFE effects are very natural sounding without being boomy. The front channels provide an excellent soundstage on their own and panning effects blend seamlessly from one to another. The DD+ track only further emphasizes what was a very good soundtrack to begin with. In comparing the DD track to the DD+ track, the DD+ track is a bit louder and it has more presence. Sounds are more natural and warm.

The new DTS track is somewhat of an improvement over the standard DD track (bass is tighter and the sound stage is more encompassing in DTS), but it doesn’t compare to the DD+ track.



Bonus Material:
With the advent of HD-DVD, we are faced with several different audio and video codecs being used on each disc. Due to this, I have begun adding the encoding details as part of the explanation of bonus features when applicable and relevant.

The bonus material is the same as what’s on the SD-DVD. The only exception is the trailer is in HD.

Feature Length Commentary with Producer Gale Anne Hurd and Charlize Theron: Hurd and Theron give us some insight into the production of the picture, including the specific sets and locations. Theron goes into her injury that delayed production. These two do not go into anything too detailed about the technical aspects of the film, which with this being such an effects and action oriented picture, I would have liked more of this. You do, however, get a ton of info about the weather conditions of the shoot. The commentary could have been a knockout if the director had been involved. She is, however, interviewed extensively in the following documentaries.

Feature Length Commentary with Co-Screenwriters Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi: The screenwriters go into depth about the politics of writing a high profile picture for a major studio, and its not always a good thing. They also comment on specifics of the scripts and the over-riding themes. Of the two commentaries, this one is better.

Creating A World: Aeon Flux (MPEG2, 4x3, DD+) (20:46):The production team talks about how “Aeon Flux” was translated from an animated show to a movie. Peter Cheung is also interviewed and there several examples of similar shots between the animated show and the movie.

The Locations of Aeon Flux (MPEG2, 4x3, DD+) (14:42): The production team explains how they chose Berlin as the shooting location. They show us a lot of behind the scenes shots in and around Berlin.

The Stunts of Aeon Flux (MPEG2, 4x3, DD+) (9:00): Some great behind the scenes shots of Theron stretching and rolling around on mats while wearing spandex. Oh, yeah, and they talk about the stunt work.

The Costume Design Workshop of Aeon Flux (MPEG2, 4x3, DD+) (13:30): The costume designers explain how they wanted to use more elegant costumes as opposed to the flat out sexuality of the animated show. The costuming was one of my favorite aspects of this picture and this is a great doc.

The Craft of the Set Photographer on Aeon Flux (MPEG2, 4x3, DD+) (2:35): This is an odd choice for a doc, but we are shown what a set photographer does: he sits next to the film camera and snaps still shots of the action.

Theatrical Trailer (VC-1, 16x9, DD+): As usual, the trailer has been reformatted to 1.85:1, but it is in HD.

Other notes on this HD-DVD edition:
- The A and B buttons that can be utilized on some HD-DVD titles do not appear to have any function on this title.
- I use the on-screen display function extensively when doing reviews for time markers and audio and video formatting. This disc would disable several remote functions until I turned off the on-screen display. I have not noticed this issue on the HD discs from Warner’s or Universal.


Conclusions:
While “Aeon Flux” has its share of weaknesses plot-wise, it is an exceptional HD-DVD presentation. I would not hesitate to throw in this disc to show off my system, much the same way I traditionally used “The Fifth Element”. As far as I’m concerned, this is the new reference disc in my system. The production team shows an artistic eye in all aspects of the production and this comes through on the screen.

Highly Recommended for video and audio presentation!
ISO "Lost" ARG prints from Kevin Tong, Olly Moss, Eric Tan and Methane Studios.  PM me if you want to sell!

All reviews done on a Marantz VP11S1 1080p DLP projector.

Displays professionally calibrated by Gregg Loewen of Lion AV.

#2 of 20 OFFLINE   Tim Glover

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Posted August 04 2006 - 05:40 PM

Nice review Pat Posted Image

#3 of 20 OFFLINE   Eric F

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Posted August 04 2006 - 06:28 PM

I really hope we get past the "well, it might have been a crappy movie, but it looked and sounded great, so it's worth a view" stage very quickly.

Personally I'd rather not help more bad movies like this to be made like this by buying them. HD or not, a bad movie is a bad movie.

#4 of 20 OFFLINE   Dave Vaughn

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Posted August 05 2006 - 03:30 AM

Pat...do a sound comparison in the "ball" scene when Aeon is broken out of jail. The .LFE presence was "much" deeper in my setup on the DTS mix. This is the first title that I have watched where the legacy audio sounded as good and in some cases better than the DD+ track.
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#5 of 20 OFFLINE   PatWahlquist

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Posted August 05 2006 - 04:37 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Vaughn
Pat...do a sound comparison in the "ball" scene when Aeon is broken out of jail. The .LFE presence was "much" deeper in my setup on the DTS mix. This is the first title that I have watched where the legacy audio sounded as good and in some cases better than the DD+ track.

I checked, and I don't think I'd go so far as to say "much deeper". There is a slight difference, but it is barely noticeable. Which legacy audio do you mean, the SD DD track or the DTS track? The DTS track is new since it wasn't on the original SD release.
ISO "Lost" ARG prints from Kevin Tong, Olly Moss, Eric Tan and Methane Studios.  PM me if you want to sell!

All reviews done on a Marantz VP11S1 1080p DLP projector.

Displays professionally calibrated by Gregg Loewen of Lion AV.

#6 of 20 OFFLINE   Hayes Preston

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Posted August 05 2006 - 12:04 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Vaughn
Pat...do a sound comparison in the "ball" scene when Aeon is broken out of jail. The .LFE presence was "much" deeper in my setup on the DTS mix. This is the first title that I have watched where the legacy audio sounded as good and in some cases better than the DD+ track.

I found the same thing with my setup on Sky Captain, I listened to both soundtracks (DD+ and DTS) using both digital output and the Toshiba's analog outputs. I found the DTS soundtrack to much more base than the DD+, very surprising to say the least.

#7 of 20 OFFLINE   Steven Simon

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Posted August 06 2006 - 05:07 AM

Pat,

Good to hear, and by the way, you are doing excellent work on your reviews!! Keep them comming brother!.....
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#8 of 20 OFFLINE   mark alan

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Posted August 06 2006 - 05:20 AM

Unless Charlize Theron was sitting in my lap while I was watching this, there is no way in hell I would have this movie in my house again, no matter how good the picture quality is.

#9 of 20 OFFLINE   Jeff Whitford

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Posted August 06 2006 - 05:28 AM

I think the movie is alot better than most of the reviews say. I rented it and liked it enough to buy it and will sell off my SD version to get the HD version. Thanks for the HDDVD review Pat.
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#10 of 20 OFFLINE   PatWahlquist

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Posted August 06 2006 - 07:15 AM

Steve, thanks for the complement!

Mark, thanks for the laugh!
ISO "Lost" ARG prints from Kevin Tong, Olly Moss, Eric Tan and Methane Studios.  PM me if you want to sell!

All reviews done on a Marantz VP11S1 1080p DLP projector.

Displays professionally calibrated by Gregg Loewen of Lion AV.

#11 of 20 OFFLINE   Ed St. Clair

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Posted August 06 2006 - 07:24 AM

Thanks Pat.
I had NO interest in this title after seeing the trailers.
However... ;-)
EYECANDY!!!
Quote:
The new DTS track is somewhat of an improvement over the standard DD track (bass is tighter and the sound stage is more encompassing in DTS), but it doesn’t compare to the DD+ track.
Unable to follow this clearly, unless your ranking;
3. DD
2. DTS
1. DD+
If so, DTS needs to get there next gen sound app out FAST!!! ;-)
Thanks again!
Movies are: "The Greatest Artform".
HD should be for EVERYONE!

#12 of 20 OFFLINE   David Scott

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Posted August 06 2006 - 08:09 AM

I know for me I have to adjust my speaker channel settings for my 5.1 analog connection. I get lower sound levels, especially bass. I still haven't got it to sound exactly right, but on most discs the dd+ track sounds better to me.

#13 of 20 OFFLINE   Tim Glover

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Posted August 06 2006 - 09:37 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by mark alan
Unless Charlize Theron was sitting in my lap while I was watching this, there is no way in hell I would have this movie in my house again, no matter how good the picture quality is.

Posted Image it would bring on some kind of "flux" for sure. Posted Image

#14 of 20 OFFLINE   PatWahlquist

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Posted August 06 2006 - 12:29 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ed St. Clair
Unable to follow this clearly, unless your ranking;
3. DD
2. DTS
1. DD+
If so, DTS needs to get there next gen sound app out FAST!!! ;-)

Exactly, in that order, Ed. And I agree with your DTS demand!
ISO "Lost" ARG prints from Kevin Tong, Olly Moss, Eric Tan and Methane Studios.  PM me if you want to sell!

All reviews done on a Marantz VP11S1 1080p DLP projector.

Displays professionally calibrated by Gregg Loewen of Lion AV.

#15 of 20 OFFLINE   Xavier Roy-Bois

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Posted August 06 2006 - 05:48 PM

I would like to see Mr Harris comments on this title regarding picture quality...

I think he could have an heart attack..lol !


For my it's those sort of movies that JOE SIX PACK will want to see and be amazed


Bring me Aeon Flux, Riddick and Sky Captain anytime in HD DEMO in stores and I will sell you tons of HD DVD PLAYERS !!!!
Can"t wait to hear DD+ and DTHD at their full resolution !

Bring us HDMI 1.3 equipped receivers fast !!!

#16 of 20 OFFLINE   Dan M

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Posted August 07 2006 - 01:37 PM

Amazon.com still doesnt have this title listed as in stock....interesting

#17 of 20 OFFLINE   Paul_Scott

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Posted August 07 2006 - 02:09 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan M
Amazon.com still doesnt have this title listed as in stock....interesting

I think I heard there was some supply problem with a few titles, this being one of them. I don't know if its accurate, but it is odd that they don't even have it listed for pre-order.

If they did, I'd order it. I had every intention of passing on it, and have never seen it theatrically or on dvd, but I like 'fantasy vixen kicks ass' movies, and much to my surprise I really enjoyed Van Helsing after all the negative comments, so I figured I might as well give this one a shot.
Worst thing about it I heard so far was the deus ex machina storytelling. That sounds like a deal killer right there, unless the film doesn't take itself very seriously (that's why I think VH clicked for me, it seemed like it had its tounge firmly in its cheek). If its pretentious, and otherwise deadly serious, then having the heroine pulling out a convienent and perfect solution to every problem that arises would be insufferable.

#18 of 20 OFFLINE   LarryH

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Posted August 08 2006 - 02:20 AM

Not only does Amazon list Aeon Flux and The Italian Job as NOT YET RELEASED, they are showing the same for Sky Captain and Tomb Raider, for which they previously took orders and shipped discs. Apparently Amazon and Paramount are having some disconnect.

#19 of 20 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted August 08 2006 - 02:27 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by LarryH
Not only does Amazon list Aeon Flux and The Italian Job as NOT YET RELEASED, they are showing the same for Sky Captain and Tomb Raider, for which they previously took orders and shipped discs. Apparently Amazon and Paramount are having some disconnect.
Yesterday, Amazon shipped my copy of The Italian Job. Last week, I received both Sky Captain and Tomb Raider from them so this is strange. I think it might have something to do with how Amazon's site reflects HD DVD titles that suddenly become out of stock.





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#20 of 20 OFFLINE   Dan M

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Posted August 08 2006 - 06:14 PM

yes and I was hoping to order those from Amazon (Aeon and Skycaptain) to take advantage of the discount program that I'm enrolled in...guess they will have them soon enuff no big rush on those....


"but I like 'fantasy vixen kicks ass' movies, and much to my surprise I really enjoyed Van Helsing after all the negative comments, so I figured I might as well give this one a shot." (quote)

hehe glad I'm not the only one with guilty pleasures. Although I have to say that Aeon Flux comes across as taking itself much more serious than the over-the-top, tongue in cheek campiness of Van Helsing.


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