Blu-ray Disc REVIEW
Release Date: August 15, 2006.
Film Rating: /
Starring: Robin Williams (Bob Munro), Cheryl Hines (Jamie Munro), Joanna ‘JoJo’ Levesque (Cassie Munro), Josh Hutcherson (Carl Munro), (Jeff Daniels (Travis Gornicke), Kristen Chenoweth (Marie Jo Gornicke)
Screenplay by: Geoff Rodkey
Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld
On a family vacation, no one can hear you scream.
Robin Williams stars as Bob Munro, a man who appears to have it all: a great job at a respectable company, lives well off in society, has a wonderful wife and loving children. As his children grow up, their attitude towards family changes and they become more distant in their independence. This is a change Bob wishes to do away with and the family is scheduled for a Hawaii summer vacation.
But the plans for the vacation are off without the family knowing it. A mishap at Bob’s boss’s party almost costs Bob his job. His boss puts him in an uncomfortable situation – if he goes to Hawaii he’s fired. Bob changes the vacation to an RV trip across the country; it’s a front to save his butt from being fired and the trick is to make his family believe it’s time meant for bonding – something that can’t be done on the beach. The family is in for a wild and crazy adventure as they trek across the American desert land.
VIDEO QUALITY 6.5/10
I’ve decided to rank the video quality of these discs on a 1-10 scale. A Blu-Ray score of 5 will mean that it is similar to the best-looking DVD I can think of and the remaining 5-10 will be based on the extended resolution of Blu-Ray disc. I think this is the best way to rank these titles for now so I hope this will help you to determine what a reference HD disc is. As more BDs become available and authoring improves (as was in the early DVD days) the earliest titles I’ve ranked as “10” may not appear as “reference quality” anymore. Please note that I’m currently viewing this on a 1280x720 projector and I’m not even able to see half of the 1920x1080 information on this disc. In the simplest terms, instead of seeing 6x the resolution of DVD I’m only seeing 2.6x the improvement. Our display devices have a long way to go before we can see all of the picture information contained on these discs. This disc was reviewed on the Samsung BD-P1000 on a 35-foot Monster M1000HDMI to a calibrated PT-AE700 (D6500/D5400B&W). The screen is a D110" (8-foot wide) Da-Lite Cinema Contour (w.Pro-Trim finish) and Da-Mat fabric.
RV is a new title from Columbia TriStar so I was looking forward to seeing how this new transfer would look on Blu-ray. The older transfers of other films released on BD have not fared well on this high resolution format. So how does RV look? In a word: disappointing. I’m displeased as I find transfers of Columbia/TriStar titles unacceptable for this new format and it’s ridiculous that their titles are looking this way. The added depth perception and clearer details from Blu-ray’s higher resolution are clearly there over standard definition DVD. This title suffers from murky, pasty colours as seen on The Benchwarmers, another new film that should have looked better than it did. But maybe this sort of pasty colour is the nature of the type of film used to make this film explaining why there seems to be films that look like this and other that do not.
Regardless of that conclusion, this film has a lot of grain. If you look high into the desert sky or the sands reveal grain levels that are surprisingly high. It’s also possible that the MPEG-2 used to encode this film can’t translate film grain as nicely like we’ve seen with DVD, but that is just my speculation.
Contrast is very good delivering deep and solid blacks but white levels can seem slightly clipped at times giving the impression of grouping the up most shades of white into one. Skin tones appear to look mostly natural, but that pasty colour I mentioned slightly takes it away from the most natural rendition.
The aspect ratio is 2.40:1. I find the use of this scope to be odd for this film. I think it takes away from the sheer size of these RVs; they would have looked much larger if filmed with an intended ratio of 1.85:1.
PCM AUDIO EXPERIENCE: 6/10
DOLBY DIGITAL AUDIO EXPERIENCE: 5.5/10
For the sake of consistency with the video, I’m going to rate uncompressed PCM (and eventually the lossless audio compression formats when available), as well as lossy Dolby Digital and DTS on a scale from 1-10. This rating is based on “satisfaction” – the highest score delivering the greatest amount of satisfaction and the lowest delivering the least. When defining satisfaction, I mean both the resolution of the audio as well as the sound design for the film. I’m listening for the best experience possible.
This isn’t a very exciting soundtrack as it’s very front-heavy. Music and sound effects are recorded nicely and help this movie with the laughs it delivers. There are a few instances of surround effects reserved mainly for the overly aggressive moments on screen but beyond that they are recorded at a volume low enough to provide the most subtle ambience cues.
The music is what makes this soundtrack fun to listen to and of course sounds much better when listening to the uncompressed PCM 5.1 option over lossy Dolby Digital. When listening to the dialogue, the volume levels of the two soundtracks appear to be at the same level. Dialogue is much more transparent in PCM and the width of the front soundstage extends beyond the speakers. It is the preferred soundtrack option.
(Note: you must have the 6-channel output of your Blu-Ray player connected to an EXT-IN on your receiver/preamp to take advantage of uncompressed PCM or with the use of HDMI and supporting devices).
TACTILE FUN!! /
TRANSDUCER ON/OFF?: ON
Tactile ratings are based on the information in the dedicated LFE channel only. Bass from any other channel has not been rerouted to the LFE. For “shaking” purposes, I’m interested only in the bass the LFE provides to enhance the bass in all other channels. It also gives me a good indication of how much of that “.1 LFE” channel is used on each film. A Clark Synthesis TST-429 is used on an AudioSource AMP5.3, an AudioQuest Diamondback interconnect and Crankin’ Cable 12-awg speaker wire.
Since there is only momentary LFE in this recording you shouldn’t expect too much kick in your sofa. It does add to the ride on the RV as well as several family vacation misfortunes – so in short, it doesn’t hurt to use the transducer for this film.
SPECIAL FEATURES /
The special features on the Blu-ray disc are presented in 16:9 high definition.
Stepping beyond an audio commentary, the Blu-ray disc includes a telestrator commentary with director Barry Sonnenfeld. He uses the pen to draw on the screen while he’s talking, making white circles, lines and arrows to point things out just like what we see during football games on TV when the players’ positions are analyzed. It’s interesting although he makes modest use of it. Most of the discussion is of course based on “the making of…”
There are also 5 featurettes:
[More details to come.]
IN THE END...
My conclusion? Funny movie but below my BD expectations…falls below the average that has been released so far and most of those other titles still have much to prove.
August 14, 2006.