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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: Superman Returns - Two-Disc Special Edition (RECOMMENDED).



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#1 of 99 OFFLINE   Herb Kane

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Posted November 15 2006 - 10:48 AM

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Superman Returns
Two-Disc Special Edition





Studio: Warner Brothers
Year: 2006
Rated: PG-13
Film Length: 154 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Enhanced Widescreen
Audio: DD 5.1
Color/B&W: Color
Languages: English & Spanich
Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
MSRP: $34.99
Package: Two discs/Double Keepcase





The Feature:
Following the box office success of this summer’s blockbuster hit, Superman Returns, Warner Home Video is set release their newest Superman installment as a Two-Disc Special Edition DVD. The film was directed by Bryan Singer (famous for his work with the X-Men franchise), and stars Brandon Routh as the Man of Steel, Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane and also features, Kevin Spacey, James Marsden and Eva Marie Saint.

After a mysterious absence, our introduction to Superman (played by Brandon Routh) takes place as he returns to earth after a several year hiatus. However, things aren’t quite the same as he makes the heartbreaking realization that the woman he loves, Lois Lane (played by Kate Bosworth) has moved on with her life and has chosen to share it with Richard White (played by James Mardsen) and their five year old child.

Long time arch enemy Lex Luthor (played by Kevin Spacey), is recently released from prison due to a technicality, and embarks on a plan of cataclysmic destruction. Lex Luthor and his loyal followers get their hands on Superman’s crystals and make a quick discovery as to their ability to make new land. The new discovery sets up Lex Luthor to be the most powerful man in the world. The question is, will Superman be able to foil Luthor’s plan before he takes over the world?

Superman Returns is a rather benign attempt to connect itself to previous Superman films. While there are plenty of new twists and turns, one can’t help but feel a lack of true invigoration. Unlike last years heralded re-tread of the Dark Knight in Batman Begins, Superman Returns, lacks that same sense of reinvention. While Batman Begins, earns points for fresh story (re)telling, Superman Returns, lacks that creative spirit and comes across as just another action blockbuster. Not a bad film by any means, however, Richard Donner’s 1978 version is still the definitive Man of Steel. The CGI special effects are especially noteworthy (something this film does excel in, besting its ’78 counterpart), as the flying sequences are most realistic and impressive.

Aside from the Two-Disc Special Edition, WHV will also be offering a single-disc version of the film for $28.98 (in widescreen and fullscreen) and will also be made available in high definition under both formats. The Blu-ray version will list for $34.99, while the HD-DVD version (a HD/SD Combo disc), will list for $39.99.

The Feature: 3/5
Video:
As we might expect, one of the year’s biggest blockbusters should be afforded a no holds barred transfer and that’s exactly what has been created. Presented in its original AR of 2.35:1, this enhanced for widescreen transfer looks fantastic – one of the best of the year. The HD version comparison will no doubt be interesting as this is almost perfect.

First up, colors. Gorgeous, lush and vivid. Skin tones looked real and accurate. Shadow detail and contrast levels also looked perfect – although, the film has a slightly dark look to it. Image detail was excellent as sharp images emerged not only on close-ups but on wider and longer shots. The film also exhibited an impressive amount of depth and texture with virtually no film grain evident.

As we would expect, the print was absolutely immaculate and free of any marks or blemishes. Perfection was also performed in the authoring of the disc as compression errors were non existent – same with edge enhancement; none.

Another example of how well standard definition can look when done right. Full marks - fantastic.

Video: 5/5
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Audio:
My feelings for audio are almost identical to the video counterpart. A fantastic effort here with the DD 5.1 encoded soundtrack. A soundtrack can make or break one’s enjoyment of a film, particularly one of this nature. In this case, the track keeps the viewer immersed in the story from start to finish – rarely letting up at all. The soundfield is vast and the soundstage is appreciably wide as is evidenced by the scoring. There is plenty of heft and punch to the track which is demonstrated on a frequent basis by the plethora of action sequences which take place throughout.

The track was absolutely immaculate and free of any noisy distractions or hiss and most importantly, dialogue was always bold and intelligible – never in competition with the action sequences or the scoring..

The surrounds are deployed on frequent basis and do an admirable job at delivering various effects throughout – never sounding fake or gimmicky. LFE appears frequently and effectively and your subs will appreciate the healthy workout.

Like the video presentation, the audio soundtrack is fantastic.

Audio: 4.5/5
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Special Features:
Warner has done an outstanding job here, trimming this set with a healthy number of entertaining and informative special features. Due to the length of the film, the entire collection of supplements appear on disc two and look like this:

  • First up is, Requiem for Krypton: Making Superman Returns. This is a making-of documentary which contains several individual segments and runs almost as long as the feature-film itself. The feature contains five subsections consisting of: Secret Origins and First Issues; Crystallizing Superman, The Crystal Method; Designing Superman, An Affinity for Beachfront Property; Shooting Superman, The Joy of Lex; Menacing Superman and finally, He’s Always Around; Wrapping Superman. There should be no complaints from those interested in such features as this one covers the full gambit – and then some. Virtually every single member of the film’s cast and crew appear here including its director, Bryan Singer. The offering contains a plethora of information such as interviews, movie clips, behind-the-scene footage, conceptual development, set decoration, costuming, make-up, special effects, photography, location shooting…. among other things. Special effects supervisor Rob Heggie also makes an appearance as his trade is discussed at length. There is virtually nothing that goes unmentioned here as almost all facets of the production are touched upon. This should be considered one of the best features of its kind.

  • The next featurette is entitled, Resurrecting Jor-El, a rather brief short which explores the technique of integrating the older Brando footage in the new film.

  • If you are a fan of Deleted Scenes, you’ll have almost a dozen of them to sift through here. As per usual, it’s clear why many of these are excised, however, some of the earlier footage is interesting.

  • To close things off, a Theatrical Trailer Gallery has been added to include a number of trailers and teasers for various Man of Steel products as well as the upcoming Christopher Reeve Collection.

    Special Features: 5/5
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    **Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**



    Final Thoughts:
    Given the sudden resurgence of super-hero action films, it should come as no surprise, that the next installment of Superman was inevitable – particularly on the heels of the hugely successful Caped Crusader film in last year’s Batman Begins. However, that’s where the similarities really end. While the updated Superman draws from it’s predecessors (not all that well, I may add), Batman Begins trowelled new ground, telling its story – and its history – from a totally fresh perspective. In short, Superman Returns seems more like a tired remake with a host of other problems rather than a fresh retelling of a worthy story. Perhaps a film that does its best to pay homage to the earlier Reeve films, but one that clearly falls short of succeeding.

    Despite my feelings for the film (and I rarely recommend anything I don’t care for), Superman Returns as a DVD is guaranteed to please fans of the film. Aside from a fantastic presentation, the set is loaded with a myriad of highly entertaining and informative special features. Easily recommended.

    Overall Rating: 4/5 (not an average)
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    Recommended…!!





    Release Date: November 28th, 2006
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    #2 of 99 OFFLINE   Ron Reda

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    Posted November 15 2006 - 11:40 AM

    Glad to see that WB put a great deal of care into this DVD...I was sure they would. I'm going to pick this one up as I missed it in the theaters. Well, I shouldn't say missed...I kind of let it pass me by. I can't help but feel that the audio/video in my house is a lot better place to view a film than a "hasn't been calibrated in forever" theater. Plus, I know the people at my house. Posted Image
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    #3 of 99 OFFLINE   Dave H

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    Posted November 15 2006 - 12:02 PM

    I always meant to see this in the theaters, but missed it. I'll definitely give it a rental. I'm a very big fan of the first two original movies, but I don't expect "Returns" by any means to top them given everything I've read about it.

    #4 of 99 OFFLINE   Matthew Clayton

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    Posted November 15 2006 - 03:04 PM

    Excellent film and I will be getting the 2-disc SE. BTW, how high is the video bitrate of SR and are the DD 5.1 tracks encoded at 384 kps or 448 kps?

    #5 of 99 OFFLINE   Lord Dalek

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    Posted November 15 2006 - 03:17 PM

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Matthew Clayton
    Excellent film and I will be getting the 2-disc SE. BTW, how high is the video bitrate of SR and are the DD 5.1 tracks encoded at 384 kps or 448 kps?
    WB abandoned 384 a good 4 years ago so expect 448 Kbps.

    #6 of 99 OFFLINE   Grant H

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    Posted November 15 2006 - 04:06 PM

    Interesting; the Bits review is nowhere near as favorable on the video side. It was given a B and mentioned compression artifacting. Bill suggested enthusiasts would want the HD version, that a smaller screen would be more forgiving to the DVD's transfer.

    As for film grain and print dirt etc., there shouldn't be any as this was shot in HD. Unless they did the transfer from a film print instead of the digital master, which is doubtful. I suppose it's possible the transfer is so good it shows the imperfections of the video source material and that's what the Bits review is seeing. The movie isn't THAT long that it should cause compression challenges as the Bits review suggests.
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    #7 of 99 OFFLINE   TheBat

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    Posted November 15 2006 - 07:39 PM

    I think alot of the farm scenes that are in the deleted scenes should have been in the movie.. it was some character moments to help care about the new cast. I think it was mistake to cut so much out.

    Jacob

    #8 of 99 OFFLINE   WarrenL

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    Posted November 16 2006 - 04:33 AM

    I saw this at the theater and I'll have to pass on this one...I'm glad the video and audio was done well though.

    #9 of 99 OFFLINE   Matthew Clayton

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    Posted November 16 2006 - 04:51 AM

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Joel Henderson
    WB abandoned 384 a good 4 years ago so expect 448 Kbps.

    I don't think so. From what I've read, the DD 5.1 bitrates of Batman Begins and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire were both 384 kps. (The latter I'm certain is 384 kps.)

    Then again, since the guy who supervised the making of the SR DVD says that the bitrate for the movie-only disc was so high they couldn't fit any extras alongside it. So I'm guessing that both the English and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks were 448 kps as well.

    #10 of 99 OFFLINE   Lord Dalek

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    Posted November 16 2006 - 07:18 AM

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Matthew Clayton
    I don't think so. From what I've read, the DD 5.1 bitrates of Batman Begins and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire were both 384 kps. (The latter I'm certain is 384 kps.)
    According to WinDVD, Batman Begins is 448. I don't have GoF to check though.

    #11 of 99 OFFLINE   Kramer Lowry

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    Posted November 16 2006 - 08:50 AM

    Posted Image

    #12 of 99 OFFLINE   Matthew Clayton

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    Posted November 16 2006 - 10:56 AM

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Joel Henderson
    According to WinDVD, Batman Begins is 448. I don't have GoF to check though.

    Whoops. My mistake... I was reading the DVD Beaver comparison between the R1 and R2 edition, and the reviewer mentioned that the BB DVD had a 384 kps Dolby Digital 5.1 track (but now I know it meant the R2 edition).

    #13 of 99 OFFLINE   Matthew Clayton

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    Posted November 16 2006 - 10:56 AM

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Joel Henderson
    According to WinDVD, Batman Begins is 448. I don't have GoF to check though.

    Whoops. My mistake... I was reading the DVD Beaver comparison between the R1 and R2 edition, and the reviewer mentioned that the BB DVD had a 384 kps Dolby Digital 5.1 track (but now I know it meant the R2 edition).

    I'll guess I take my copy of GOF and check it to see if the DD 5.1 track is 384 kps or 448 kps.

    #14 of 99 OFFLINE   Ryan Wong

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    Posted November 16 2006 - 01:05 PM

    I also find the picture quality of Superman Returns in Region 3 to be... a bit noisy. And the Region 1's and Region 3's transfer from WB is always indentical. The noise I am certain is not film gain, but looked like the noise when you enhance the color too much.

    But then I believe the problem should be lesser on a properly calibrated display.
    Ryan Wong

    #15 of 99 OFFLINE   Kevin. W

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    Posted November 16 2006 - 03:15 PM

    Getting mine on HD-DVD. If the transfer is anything like Batman Returns, this will be a must have.

    #16 of 99 OFFLINE   Nelson Au

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    Posted November 17 2006 - 05:10 AM

    I take it this will be the same set that's included in the Superman Ultimate Edition Tin/box set due later this month?

    #17 of 99 OFFLINE   Grant H

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    Posted November 17 2006 - 05:23 AM

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Ryan Wong
    I also find the picture quality of Superman Returns in Region 3 to be... a bit noisy. And the Region 1's and Region 3's transfer from WB is always indentical. The noise I am certain is not film gain, but looked like the noise when you enhance the color too much.

    But then I believe the problem should be lesser on a properly calibrated display.
    Possibly the same kind of noise that occasionally reared its head on the transfer of the digital Attack of the Clones (like Palpy's red chamber walls). That was still considered reference at the time, but the ROTS transfer managed to eliminate that flaw. I wonder if this kind of (chroma?) noise is just something compressionists really have to work hard to avoid on transfers from digital sources vs. film, as the picture (and color) is in some ways more "solid" as it is not broken up by (even miniscule) film grain as in transfers from film.
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    #18 of 99 OFFLINE   Robert Anthony

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    Posted November 17 2006 - 05:48 AM

    I figured the doc would be good, but better than "The Beginning" good? That was unexpected to hear. I'm almost looking forward to the Doc more than the flick itself now.

    #19 of 99 OFFLINE   Adam Lenhardt

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    Posted November 17 2006 - 06:21 AM

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Robert Anthony
    I figured the doc would be good, but better than "The Beginning" good? That was unexpected to hear. I'm almost looking forward to the Doc more than the flick itself now.
    Damn! I was really planning on getting the HD-DVD hybrid disc. That way I could watch the movie as much as I want on the regular DVD side, and I wouldn't have to rebuy once I upgrade to HD.

    On one hand, the comments about lack of detail and chroma noise seem to bear this strategy out. On the other hand, if this documentary is as wonderful as everyone says it is, it'll be torture having it in my hand but locked away on a side I don't have the technology to play yet.

    #20 of 99 OFFLINE   Colin Jacobson

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    Posted November 18 2006 - 03:51 AM

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Robert Anthony
    I figured the doc would be good, but better than "The Beginning" good? That was unexpected to hear. I'm almost looking forward to the Doc more than the flick itself now.

    I wouldn't agree with that. "The Beginning" was great, while the SR doc is only pretty good. Really long, but just not as in-depth as I'd like. Lots of great footage from the set - I just don't feel like it gave us a full view of the production...
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