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HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Rock

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#1 of 68 ONLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted January 04 2008 - 09:44 AM


The Rock (Blu-ray)
Directed by Michael Bay

Studio: Hollywood
Year: 1996
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p (AVC codec)
Running Time: 136 minutes
Rating: R
Audio: PCM 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Spanish, French
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, French
MSRP: $ 29.99

Release Date: January 8, 2008
Review Date: January 4, 2008


The Film

3.5/5

The Rock is a solid, hyper-suspenseful action picture. There is wall-to-wall action and amazing stunts that take the breath away. If it’s thrills you want, The Rock has them. Sadly, what it doesn’t have is depth, that extra measure of heart and soul that transforms a good action picture like this into a great one like the original Die Hard.

Not that screenwriters David Weisberg, Douglas S. Cook, and Mark Rosner didn’t try for a little more substantial character interaction, but their efforts are superficial. Both of the story’s protagonists have loved ones who are under threat of extinction when a misguided band of mercenary Marines led by General Francis X. Hummel (Ed Harris) capture Alcatraz Island and threaten to launch rockets loaded with deadly VX poison gas at San Francisco if their demand for one hundred million dollars isn’t met. Government officials have no choice but to enlist the aid of former British agent and Alcatraz escapee John Patrick Mason (Sean Connery) to help them infiltrate the former prison island to try to subdue the deadly band of patriotic perpetrators.

Nicholas Cage enters the picture as FBI expert on chemical warfare Dr. Stanley Goodspeed, and he has good reason to be there. The VX gas which Harris and his men are planning to bombard the Bay area with is one of the most lethal substances known to man, causing almost instant paralysis and death within seconds of human exposure. Only an injection of antidote plunged into the heart can save a person exposed to this deathly matter.

Bad Boys director Michael Bay is at the helm here, and he has an undoubtedly firm grasp of the action genre as he has gone on to prove in many recent “go-boom” action films and thrillers. There is no lack of thrilling sequences even before the actual mission begins (it takes an hour for it to get underway), and he even manages in one scene to make a slaughter into a sort of balletic execution (similar to Brian De Palma’s handling of the steps sequence in The Untouchables without borrowing from Potemkin.) He also stages an exhilarating if exhausting chase through San Francisco that bears the hallmark of producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer - mass destruction. (This was producer Don Simpson’s last film. The movie is dedicated to him in an end title card.)

Sean Connery brings his amazing presence and physical bearing into the role of John Mason, and he’s wonderful, never overplaying but allowing his experience and vocal resonance to speak volumes for him. Ed Harris likewise projects an inner strength and power than doesn’t require overplaying, and he, too, as usual, seizes the screen every time he appears. Nicholas Cage as the intellectual scientist with limited experience in combat situations brings a quirky presence to the picture that’s entertaining but dubiously effective. One realizes that in real life, a person in these supercharged circumstances would not have the physical nor strategic resources to survive as he does. Michael Biehn has only a limited amount of time to project his no nonsense attitude to the operation while John Spencer and William Forsythe make for despicable FBI executives whose word is stereotypically not their bond.

A large number of marine types have a moment or two to shine, but none is given time to establish more than a superficial character. The two women in the lives of Connery and Cage, Claire Forlani and Vanessa Marcil, are likewise stymied by the lack of anything interesting developed for their characters. Forlani disappears from the film while Marcil must basically stand on the sidelines and look worried. Their presence, of course, is more important to give the two men a reason to continue with the dangerous mission once things begin to go wrong.


Video Quality

4/5

The film’s 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio is delivered in an excellent 1080p encoding (AVC codec) that displays impressive sharpness and texture. Skin tones look very realistic on all but Connery and Marcil, both of whom wear rather heavy brownish make-up. Blacks run the gamut from deep and inky to milky black, but shadow detail is very good. The picture occasionally goes flat in scenes with smoke or fog but otherwise appears the best it ever has on home video. The film has been divided into 32 chapters.

Audio Quality

5/5

The PCM 5.1 audio track (48 kHz/16-bit, 4.6 Mbps) has a wide and impressive front soundstage (the music is spread across the front channels) with the rears used effectively for a continuous array of ambient sounds that almost never ceases. The LFE channel gets a good workout, and bass overall is effectively deep during the intense action and later firepower moments.

Special Features

4.5/5

All of the bonus features on the disc (apart from the showcase and previews) have been ported from Criterion’s laserdisc of The Rock. All of the video extras are obviously in 480i.

The audio commentary has been pieced together from separate interviews with director Michael Bay, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, stars Nicholas Cage and Ed Harris, and technical adviser Harry Humphries. It’s a good track with interesting information, sometimes differing opinions (e.g. Cage’s nude guitar playing early in the film), and no dead space. It’s definitely worth a listen.

The Rock World Premiere is exactly that, 2 minutes of footage from the world premiere of the film.

“Navy SEALS on the Range” is a 6-minute featurette showing the firing range for Navy SEALS and some information about recruitment and requirements for acceptance into the program.

“Hollywood: Humphries & Teague” is an entertaining 8-minute look at how a poorly done action movie might portray men with weapons. Technical advisor Harry Humphries and actor Marshall Teague illustrate the right and wrong ways to handle weaponry.

“Special Effects for Dive” was an eye-opening 7 ¾-minute featurette on fashioning the underwater approach to the island sequence in the movie. I’ve seen The Rock at least half a dozen times over the years, and I never knew this sequence used puppets for the underwater work.

“Action Effects: Movie Magic is an 8-minute segment from the program Movie Magic dealing with how the cable car explosion was handled in the movie.

There are 9 minutes of outtakes mainly zeroing in on gaffes made by Nicholas Cage, Sean Connery, and particularly Ed Harris (whose fuse seems very short with his repeated errors).

“Secrets of Alcatraz” is an interesting 14½-minute summary of the history of Alcatraz Island from its years as an Army fort to its use as a federal prison and afterwards.

Producer Jerry Bruckheimer grants a 16-minute interview talking about his beginnings in the business and his first big movie successes with American Gigolo and Flashdance, among others.

There are about 7 total minutes of theatrical trailers, teaser trailers, and TV spots for The Rock.

Disney’s usual movie showcase selects three reference quality scenes to use for demonstration material. One is, of course, the chase through San Francisco but be advised that the program cuts the chase off midway through the sequence. You’d be better picking it on your own since the fiery end to the chase isn’t in the part selected.

Upcoming Buena Vista releases are previewed in 1080p including Gone, Baby Gone and Wall-E.

In Conclusion

4/5 (not an average)

The Rock makes for solid action entertainment. The Blu-ray disc represents by far its finest-ever appearance on home video with outstanding video and superb uncompressed audio. Just check your brain at the door.


Matt Hough
Charlotte, NC

#2 of 68 OFFLINE   Paul Arnette

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Posted January 04 2008 - 11:41 AM

I've actually never seen this movie before, so I am looking forward to doing so soon since I have this pre-ordered. That being said, no discussion of The Rock seems complete without this quote:

Quote:
Your "best"! Losers always whine about their best. Winners go home and fuck the prom queen.

I figured I'd just get it out of the way. Posted Image
Universal Blu-ray Discs I will not be buying while they're offered only as Blu-ray + DVD 'flipper' discs:

The Jackal
, Out of Africa, and Traffic.

#3 of 68 OFFLINE   ManW_TheUncool

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Posted January 04 2008 - 03:10 PM

Sounds like I'll have to do the triple-dip on this one, if I count the 2 SD DVDs, but at least it has all the extras so I shouldn't need to dip again later. Posted Image

Thanks for the fine review, Matt.

_Man_
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#4 of 68 OFFLINE   Chris S

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Posted January 04 2008 - 05:08 PM

One thing to be aware of, if you do have an SD version of this title, you can send off to Disney for a $10 rebate when you upgrade.

Link
DVD & Blu-ray - It's all about the movies!

#5 of 68 OFFLINE   ManW_TheUncool

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Posted January 04 2008 - 05:14 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris S
One thing to be aware of, if you do have an SD version of this title, you can send off to Disney for a $10 rebate when you upgrade.

Link

OOOOOH! I did not know this. Cool! I actually have *both* SD versions of both The Rock and Crimson Tide, so I guess I can return the non-anamorphic version of each for the $10 rebate (x2). Certainly makes the BD dip (on both) a no-brainer then. Thanks a bunch!

_Man_
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#6 of 68 OFFLINE   Gary Murrell

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Posted January 04 2008 - 05:36 PM

can't wait to get my copy of this, one of my favorite flicks

Matt do you know or have a guess if this used the master from the criterion DVD release? it was splendid, grain intact and sharp as a razor

thanks for the review

-Gary

#7 of 68 ONLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted January 05 2008 - 01:32 AM

Gary, there is nothing in the press materials to suggest the Criterion transfer was used for the Blu-ray version, but as most of the rest of the disc's contents came from Criterion's work, it's certainly possible. I never had the Criterion laser or DVD so I can't do a comparison.

#8 of 68 OFFLINE   Joseph J.D

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Posted January 05 2008 - 03:30 PM

I absolutely love this film! Definitely picking this one up....knowing that it's got the Criterion bonus features makes this one a no-brainer for me.
Recently watched- A Nightmare On Elm St Pt 2, A Nightmare On Elm Street(1984), Halloween III: Season Of The Witch, Pacific Rim, Halloween II(1981), Halloween(1978), The Blob(1988), Simon & Simon: Season 3, Lost: Season 5, I Am Legend, Krull, The Beast Within, Subspecies, Lost: Season 4, District 9, Lost: Season 3, The Warrior's Way

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#9 of 68 OFFLINE   onecent

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Posted January 07 2008 - 01:28 PM

Great review, Matt. Makes me wish I had a Blu-Ray player!

#10 of 68 OFFLINE   Carlo Medina

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Posted January 07 2008 - 02:02 PM

Thanks for the thorough review (for this and Con Air - you're saving me money on Con Air Posted Image ).

With the rebate coupon for double dippers, I'll be purchasing The Rock, which is one of my guilty pleasures, based partly on your solid review.

XBox Live: TheL1brarian (let's play Destiny on XB1)


#11 of 68 OFFLINE   ManW_TheUncool

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Posted January 07 2008 - 02:11 PM

Anyone know yet exactly what you have to do for the upgrade rebate? I'm curious.

FWIW, PotC: At World's End also got a $10 coupon upgrade deal included inside the SE SD DVD version -- not sure if it was also in the regular version. However, that deal was no good for me since it seemed to only work for B&M purchase -- and I couldn't find any at a good price before jumping on some $10-off Amazon deal. I think I saw that Toys-R-Us might finally have it cheap enough to use the coupon, but it's too late for me now. Posted Image

_Man_
Just another amateur learning to paint w/ "the light of the world".

"Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things..." (St. Paul)

#12 of 68 OFFLINE   Bleddyn Williams

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Posted January 08 2008 - 01:34 AM

This one cries out for a DVD Beaver DVD/BD comparison, as Criterion's DVD was already a great transfer.

#13 of 68 OFFLINE   Dave_P.

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Posted January 08 2008 - 01:50 AM

Been waiting to get my hands on this for a while!

#14 of 68 OFFLINE   Paul.S

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Posted January 08 2008 - 08:13 AM

The porting over of Criterion supps is not 100% if this review details every supp that's on the BD. (Matt, you wouldn't know this since you did not have the Criterion. Nothing personal against you, but I've seen this before and think it's something of a problem: when there's obviously so much interest in whether supps are getting ported over to HDM on a big catalog title like this, I think the review should be written by someone familiar with or with ready access to the previous discs on the market).

There's no mention in the review of the Criterion's "Stills Gallery." It contained storyboards for the "Alcatraz Incursion" and the "Morgue Sequence," "Production Design Drawings" and "Production Stills." Is all of this missing from the BD?

#15 of 68 OFFLINE   Paul.S

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Posted January 08 2008 - 08:57 AM

Incidentally, it sure is refreshing to put in that Criterion disc and have it go straight to the menu almost immediately. No FBI warning. No skipping of trailers. No Java loading.

#16 of 68 ONLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted January 08 2008 - 09:01 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul.S
The porting over of Criterion supps is not 100% if this review details every supp that's on the BD. (Matt, you wouldn't know this since you did not have the Criterion. Nothing personal against you, but I've seen this before and think it's something of a problem: when there's obviously so much interest in whether supps are getting ported over to HDM on a big catalog title like this, I think the review should be written by someone familiar with or with ready access to the previous discs on the market).

There's no mention in the review of the Criterion's "Stills Gallery." It contained storyboards for the "Alcatraz Incursion" and the "Morgue Sequence," "Production Design Drawings" and "Production Stills." Is all of this missing from the BD?

No offense taken, Paul, but after all, my job actually is to review what's ON the disc, not what isn't. Of course, if I had access to either the Criterion laserdisc or DVD, I most certainly would have done a comparison and commented on those findings, but by my describing what I did see on the disc, I'm informing readers what they will be seeing on the disc if they decide to purchase it as best I can. In an ideal world, I would also like to know how big a step up from a previous sDVD release a new BD release is, but that's not always possible, and the logistics of getting discs to reviewers prior to street date is complicated enough as it is.

(I will go back and check tonight to see if I overlooked the stills section.)

#17 of 68 OFFLINE   Paul.S

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Posted January 08 2008 - 09:15 AM

Quote:
but after all, my job actually is to review what's ON the disc, not what isn't.
I don't want to start an argument but you're kind of splitting hairs here. I think reviews of HDM catalog titles have a little different/greater need to thoroughly address supps. Especially on a huge catalog title for which--as this thread shows--there's significant interest in whether supps got ported over or not, I think many would agree that part of a reviewer's "job" is to compare and contrast what's missing/what's new vis-a-vis previous editions in the interest of addressing the upgrade question. Especially when a previous edition was an outstanding Criterion title that many paid ~$30 for.

I acknowledge your mention of logistics and timing, however I don't think it unreasonable--when a previous edition was a 2-disc, "Director Approved" Criterion SE--that maybe an e-mail go around the staff to find out who has the Crit and therefore might be the best person to review the new BD.

Quote:
(I will go back and check tonight to see if I overlooked the stills section.)

Thanks. Posted Image

#18 of 68 OFFLINE   Aaron Silverman

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Posted January 08 2008 - 10:05 AM

Paul,

Bear in mind that the studio PR departments don't always take kindly to having to send screeners to different people. If Disney normally sends screeners to Matt, then asking them to make a special exception will burn goodwill and could delay (or even cancel) the review.

Also, remember that to properly review a disc like this is a lengthy undertaking -- just to watch this film and its extras, let alone think about it and write the review, you're looking at 5+ hours. The only remuneration is the disc itself. Adding extra work (like discussion of who should do a particular disc) is more of a hassle than it may seem.

And it can get a little touchy -- on one occasion when I was reviewing DVDs for this site, someone actually complained that I wrote about the image quality of a disc without first consulting the director (IIRC, it was Ron Howard) as to his intent! Posted Image

It's far more efficient for a helpful member such as yourself to post the extras list from the existing disc when the reviewer doesn't have a copy handy. Posted Image

Incidentally, I find that the DVDTown.com site is usually pretty accurate as far as listing disc extras. That's the first place I look when I want to compare releases.
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#19 of 68 OFFLINE   Lyle_JP

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Posted January 08 2008 - 10:14 AM

Anyone besides me hate the "Swish" cover? I can't really stand any packaging where the format is more integral to the cover than the movie art. these pre-designed covers with only a small space reserved for actual movie art reminds me too much of THIS. And we don't need to go back to that.

#20 of 68 OFFLINE   Paul.S

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Posted January 08 2008 - 10:36 AM

Oh I wasn't contemplating/suggesting any changes at the studio level regarding who they send the disc to. Rather, I was thinking the guy who gets it simply forwards it to the already-identified different reviewer. We're all on our computers for hours daily so, indeed, I don't understand how identifying who that person might best be is a big deal/hassle/lotta extra work/long discussion. I may be understating/missing something but it seems like a few e-mails and the same padded mailer envelope the studio probably sent the disc in are all that's required. Posted Image

Thanks for DVDTown referral.


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