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HTF HD-DVD Review: Shooter


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#1 of 1 OFFLINE   PatWahlquist

PatWahlquist

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Posted July 14 2007 - 07:44 AM


Shooter (HD-DVD)

Studio: Paramount Home Video
Rated: R (strong graphic violence and some language)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
HD Encoding: 1080p
HD Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio: English, French, Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish; English SDH+
Time: 125 minutes
Disc Format: 1 SS/DL HD-DVD
Case Style: Keep case
Theatrical Release Date: 2007
HD-DVD Release Date: July 31, 2007


Marine Gunnery Sergeant Bob Lee Swagger (Mark Wahlberg) is on a mountain in Africa with his sight man, looking to stop a band of hostiles and allow our military boys to make it through. When the mission turns bad, Swagger is left to fend for himself, and if he’s killed in the process, that’s even better. Swagger survives and goes into exile in the mountains. Three years later he is sought out by Colonel Isaac Johnson (Danny Glover) to assist the government to stop an assassination attempt on the President. After some soul searching, Swagger agrees to help his country. He does his initial recon and he reports back. As the time arrives for the president’s speech, Swagger stands by with Johnson and his team, only to have a bishop killed instead. During the confusion of the shooting, Swagger finds out Johnson is the bad guy and he’s double crossing Swagger. Swagger barely survives being shot by a police imposter and he’s on the run, being framed for the assassination attempt. A chase ensues and Swagger steals the car of new FBI Special Agent Nick Memphis (Michael Pena) and Swagger flees the area. He winds up in Kentucky at the home of his deceased sight man from Africa and where his girlfriend resides. Sarah (Kate Mara) is hesitant at first, but she takes in Swagger. Memphis takes some ribbing about being overpowered by Swagger, and he realizes Swagger may be innocent. Johnson too realizes Memphis is getting close to the truth, so Memphis is kidnapped and tortured. As the conspiracies grow deeper and the stakes get higher, Swagger will have to use all of his skills if he’s going to make it out alive and bring the truth to light.

Shooter is directed by Antoine Fuqua, a former music video director who has made the transition to features. With each picture, Fuqua seems to shed more and more of the slick editing and slo-mo shots that were in those videos and he’s become a better storyteller. I was always hesitant to watch his pictures, but when he’s given a good story, unlike King Arthur, but like Training Day and this picture, he delivers the goods along with some great action scenes. Even though he’s maturing as a director, he still drops in a couple “hero shots” of Wahlberg walking away either in front of the American flag or a huge explosion. In a picture such as this it works just fine, and it made me think of how, say, Michael Bay has yet to get away from such things. Overall, this picture kept me interested for the whole viewing time, and it was fun to see Glover in a villain role. While not a treatise on corruption in the American government, it at least reinforces the paranoia that is present in our post 9/11 society today. And it’s cool to watch helicopters blow up.

Video:
Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 12-S4 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 720p. I am using a Toshiba HD-A1 for a player and utilizing the HDMI capabilities of both units.

Shooter is encoded in the MPEG-4 AVC codec at 1080p with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The video presentation is very well done, but it seems to be a little over saturated. Colors are rich and deep, but black levels seem too low, so much so I had to adjust the brightness on my projector up a few notches. Theatrically, this may have played fine, but in a home theater the image becomes too dark, hiding any detail in the blacks and causing it to be a bit muddy. Beyond that, this is a sharp, detail filled picture: fine detail is exceptional, showing clear separation in the smaller background objects and in close ups of the actors faces. This is a very recent picture, so I was not surprised to have an image that is perfectly clean and clear of any debris or dirt, edge enhancement is not noticed, nor were there any compression artifacts.


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

The Dolby Digital Plus (DD+) soundtrack is very well balanced between all the channels. Fidelity is excellent producing again, a clean and clear presentation that is free from any distortion. Bass effects come rumbling out to encompass you, but they are not too boomy to stand out. There is a scene at the farm about half way in that is loaded with shooting and explosions and it could be one of my demo pieces. Surrounds are very active and you’ll duck and cover when the shooting starts. The surrounds add a great sense of spaciousness to the soundstage, especially when there are helicopters flying around. Voices are natural sounding but ADR is noticed in a couple places. When Swagger shows up at Sarah’s house and they have an exchange at the door, there seems to be some really poor editing between the over the shoulder shots. This is a mild complaint in an overall excellent soundtrack.


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. For this release, the extras are in MPEG4-AVC encoding unless otherwise noted.

The following material is brought over from the SD-DVD release:

Feature length commentary by director Antoine Fuqua: Fuqua’s commentary is riddled with pauses throughout and he really doesn’t go into too much detail about the individual scenes. He explains the characters motivations, but what is seen on screen is clearly conveyed in the story.

Survival of the Fittest: The Making of Shooter (21:48): Stephen Hunter kicks off the doc with some background on the story, which was taken from his book Point of Impact. Fuqua, the screenwriter and the cast talk about the shoot. The most interesting part of it is the discussion about how Wahlberg was trained in the art of sniper by the military technical advisor Patrick Garrity. Garrity talks about the weapons, the training and the psychology behind becoming a sniper. Garrity and this aspect of the picture deserved its own segment, but what we get here is quite interesting.

Independence Hall (7:48): For us U.S. history fans is a short doc on the Philadelphia location scenes and a tour of some historical places in Philly.

7 Deleted Scenes (11:20): These seven scenes seemed to only enhance Memphis’ naïveté and greenness, which seems to detract from his character in the long run. Also, Swagger is seen as a little more…patriotic in his beliefs.

Theatrical trailer.


Conclusions:
A fairly interesting story that looks good and sounds great, while a little light on the extras makes for a decent afternoon of movie watching.
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.