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HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Unbreakable

Blu-ray Reviews

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#1 of 35 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted March 22 2008 - 12:57 AM


Unbreakable (Blu-ray)
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan

Studio: Touchstone
Year: 2000
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 102 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Audio: PCM 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 English, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese
MSRP: $ 29.99

Release Date: April 1, 2008
Review Date: March 22, 2008


The Film

4/5

Of all director M. Night Shyamalan’s cinematic concoctions, Unbreakable is unquestionably my favorite to date. A somber, reflective piece of magic realism that works its quiet effects without bombast, Unbreakable is not for all tastes, but it seems an agreeable flipside to many of the heroic tent pole films that are such a part of every summer season. The director’s very real people connections (here between father and son and also between two diametrically opposed adults) are unexpectedly poignant further intensifying the film’s effect on a receptive audience.

The film seems at first to present us with two men who are polar opposites of one another: David Dunn (Bruce Willis) and Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), and we assume the film will be about each man finding something in the other that is lacking in his own life. Both certainly are enduring unusual existences. Elijah was born with a brittle bone abnormality which makes him uniquely susceptible to injury. David, on the other hand, has just escaped a massive train derailment that killed 131 people and left him without a scratch. But as the movie winds its glacially slow way through each man’s life, we begin to understand that the story of these two opposites is about something very different. It’s about one’s destiny and the human need to embrace it rather than fleeing from it. True to Shyamalan’s other films, there are surprises to be found in Unbreakable, but they’re not the jaw-dropping kind one might expect. It’s perhaps best to simply allow the film to work its leisurely legerdemain on you without expectations.

Shyamalan has written a rather unusual script, a hero film without heaps of action or a hero who bowls us over with charisma and effortless charm. No, we have a reluctant hero, as unsure of his own ability as he is of his crumbling marriage and spotty relationship with his beloved son. But such admirable directorial touches are on display here: an opening “meet cute gone bad” on the train photographed through the space between seats (almost as if we were spying on something illicit), a bone-crunching fall down a flight of subway steps, a weight-lifting session which turns into something more than that, and, most electrifying of all, a kitchen encounter between a boy, his parents, and a gun which grips and jangles the nerves even on repeated viewings. The slow, methodical camera tracks and reverse direction shots both convey the measured storytelling and the quirky way of looking at the world which will turn one character’s life topsy-turvy before the end of the movie.

Bruce Willis is an actor who needs a firm directorial hand, and he gets it here delivering a poignant performance of great restraint, his slow, disbelieving understanding of his situation a key to the film’s ultimate success. As his adoring son Joseph, Spencer Treat Clark is quite wonderful, often the most effective when he merely reacts to those around him. Robin Wright Penn has some solid moments as David’s wife Audrey, though the problems with their marriage and some additional scenes with her might have given her a chance to get more out of her character. Samuel L. Jackson’s angry, assertive Elijah is similar to other roles he’s played in the past, but he’s perfectly in sync with the character as written and makes an ironic foil for Willis. Charlayne Woodard plays Jackson’s mother wryly and proficiently.

Unbreakable is a difficult movie to discuss without giving away secrets or surprises for the uninitiated. Whether you’ve seen other M. Night Shyamalan movies or not, leave your expectations at the door and simply enjoy a world that seems so ordinary at first and turns so extraordinary later on.


Video Quality

4/5

The film’s Panavision 2.35 aspect ratio is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. It’s a sharp, smooth transfer that’s consistently good but only occasionally great. Blacks are a bit of a letdown though shadow detail is very fine. Colors are strong without over saturation while contrast varies but is usually above average. The film is divided into 28 chapters.

Audio Quality

4.5/5

The PCM 5.1 (4.6 Mbps) audio track is marvelous, filled with discreet effects (rain, passing voices) when needed and good use of both fronts and rears with the music and especially in that bone-crunching subway fall that intensifies every crack and break with full bodied force.

Special Features

3/5

All of the bonuses have been ported over from the Vista DVD release of several years ago. Apart from the preview, these are presented in 480p. If you haven’t seen Unbreakable before, do not watch these first unless you want surprises in the film spoiled.

“Behind the Scenes” is a 14¼-minute featurette in which Shyamalan, Willis, Jackson, and others connected with the movie talk about its themes and their work from the original concept to the final execution. Also interviewed for this feature are the film’s production designer, costumer, and sound man.

“Comic Books and Superheroes” is a mini-history lesson on the golden age of comic book superheroes and how they have morphed today into something darker and more cynical. Quite a few famous names in the field of comic and graphic novels are on hand for this 19¼-minute feature which is admittedly only marginally about Unbreakable.

“The Train Station Sequence” offers a 4-minute clip from the film allowing the viewer to switch back and forth between the Shyamalan storyboards and the actual footage shot to see how closely they correspond to each other.

The disc offers 7 deleted scenes each introduced by M. Night Shyamalan who explains why they were deleted. I found two of them especially poignant (my favorite was one where Audrey tries to offer vending machine food to her son at the hospital who sits stupefied over the close call his father has just survived.) The viewer can watch individual scenes or watch them all in one 28½-minute bunch.

“Night’s First Fight Sequence” is a throwaway 2½-minute home movie shot by Shyamalan with two childhood friends all playing good guy/bad guy roles.

The disc offers in 1080p a preview for National Treasure: Book of Secrets. The trailer for Unbreakable is not included.


In Conclusion

4/5 (not an average)

Unbreakable has continued to haunt me since my first viewing almost eight years ago. It’s a special film, possibly not for all audiences and a film one must be in the mood for. With those caveats in mind, however, the Blu-ray disc does present it in the best form it’s ever looked or sounded on home video. Definitely recommended.


Matt Hough
Charlotte, NC

[PG]110296706[/PG]

#2 of 35 OFFLINE   Patrick Sun

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Posted March 22 2008 - 01:35 AM

Glad to hear the A/V quality is up to snuff. Thanks for the review, the film's a personal fave of mine.
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#3 of 35 OFFLINE   PaulDA

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Posted March 22 2008 - 02:36 AM

Unlike many, I'm a fan of all his films (though not equally, of course). This is my second favourite of them (after The Sixth Sense). I completely agree with the assessment that Willis needs a strong director--he's capable of excellent performances, but left to his own devices, he's far too uneven.

I'm not "blu" yet (Christmas 08, most likely), so it's bit early for me to think about "upgrading" but this is a title I would seriously consider for an "upgrade". Nice to read that the transfer looks good.
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#4 of 35 OFFLINE   Adam Gregorich

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Posted March 22 2008 - 03:55 AM

For those thinking about "upgrading" the title from DVD there is a $10 rebate. Great review, I look forward to seeing this movie again soon.

#5 of 35 OFFLINE   Brandon Conway

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Posted March 22 2008 - 05:12 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam Gregorich
For those thinking about "upgrading" the title from DVD there is a $10 rebate. Great review, I look forward to seeing this movie again soon.
Nice. I was gonna get it anyway, as it's a personal favorite film of mine, so the extra $10 rebate is just gravy. Posted Image

"And now the reprimand, from an American critic. He reproaches me for using film as a sacred & lasting medium, like a painting or a book. He does not believe that filmmaking is an inferior art, but he believes, and quite rightly, that a reel goes quickly, that the public are looking above all for relaxation, that film is fragile and that it is pretentious to express the power of one's soul by such ephemeral and delicate means, that Charlie Chaplin's or Buster Keaton's first films can only be seen on very rare and badly spoiled prints. I add that the cinema is making daily progress and that eventually films that we consider marvelous today will soon be forgotten because of new dimensions & colour. This is true. But for 4 weeks this film [The Blood of a Poet] has been shown to audiences that have been so attentive, so eager & so warm, that I wonder after all there is not an anonymous public who are looking for more than relaxation in the cinema." - Jean Cocteau, 1932


#6 of 35 OFFLINE   PaulDA

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Posted March 22 2008 - 05:35 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam Gregorich
For those thinking about "upgrading" the title from DVD there is a $10 rebate. Great review, I look forward to seeing this movie again soon.
How does that work?
Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes time, and it annoys the pig.

#7 of 35 OFFLINE   Adam Gregorich

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Posted March 22 2008 - 06:43 AM

Quote:
How does that work?
Haven't done it myself, so I'm not sure of the specifics. It looks like there were some growing pains when they first rolled it out:

http://www.hometheat....-problems.html

#8 of 35 OFFLINE   DavidJ

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Posted March 22 2008 - 08:38 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam Gregorich
For those thinking about "upgrading" the title from DVD there is a $10 rebate. Great review, I look forward to seeing this movie again soon.

Cool. This will make it easier to "rationalize" the purchase.

#9 of 35 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted March 22 2008 - 08:58 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam Gregorich
For those thinking about "upgrading" the title from DVD there is a $10 rebate. Great review, I look forward to seeing this movie again soon.

Thanks for mentioning this, Adam.

There is a coupon for the rebate enclosed in the Blu-ray case. The rebates are also good for use with HIDALGO and COYOTE UGLY, and I understand they're going to be included in the upcoming Blu-ray releases of THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA and NATIONAL TREASURE, too.

#10 of 35 OFFLINE   Reagan

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Posted March 22 2008 - 01:09 PM

Quote:
There is a coupon for the rebate enclosed in the Blu-ray case. The rebates are also good for use with HIDALGO and COYOTE UGLY, and I understand they're going to be included in the upcoming Blu-ray releases of THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA and NATIONAL TREASURE, too.

Thanks for mentioning this. I was going to sell my old DVD this week. That would have cost me. Nice review. Looking forward to this.

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#11 of 35 OFFLINE   ManW_TheUncool

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Posted March 22 2008 - 02:20 PM

Great to hear Disney keeping up w/ them $10 upgrade rebates. Definitely upgrading this one now. Thanks.

_Man_
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#12 of 35 OFFLINE   Ron Reda

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Posted March 24 2008 - 04:32 AM

While it did achieve a 4/5 for PQ, it's somewhat disappointing that the blacks aren't top notch as much of the film takes place in dark or low lit scenes.
"Music is a magic carpet loaded with oils and other soothing potions, it's just what you need when you don't know what you need, when you've got more questions than answers." - Bob Lefsetz

#13 of 35 OFFLINE   Reagan

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Posted April 02 2008 - 02:35 AM

This is one my favorite movies (I'm talking top five all time), so I'm going to be tough on it...

I picked this up yesterday and was very disappointed in the picture quality. Although it was a world better than the DVD (which was a poster boy for soft image coupled with edge enhancement), it's not what it should be. There is a fundamental lack of detail here. This is the first Disney (BVHE) BD that's disappointed me in terms of picture quality. I hope it's not sign of what's to come with catalog releases.

It appears to me that Disney re-used the same high def master that they've had since the first DVD was created in 2001. Mastering has come a long way since then, and a lot of important picture detail has been left behind. I've seen Unbreakable a couple of times in 720p on ABC and this doesn't look much better.

As a point of comparison, The Prestige is another Disney (BVHE) BD that is has a dark, moody feel to the photography. The Prestige, however, looks incredible with tons of picture detail - the benefits of a recent transfer.

I'm glad to be rid of one of the worst looking DVDs in my collection, but I'm disappionted with its replacement. It's not what it should be.

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#14 of 35 OFFLINE   Paul Arnette

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Posted April 02 2008 - 02:44 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Reagan
I picked this up yesterday and was very disappointed in the picture quality. Although it was a world better than the DVD (which was a poster boy for soft image coupled with edge enhancement), it's not what it should be. There is a fundamental lack of detail here. This is the first Disney (BVHE) BD that's disappointed me in terms of picture quality. I hope it's not sign of what's to come with catalog releases.

I received and watched this Monday night, and I have to agree with you. I was not impressed with the video quality at all. Aside from the blacks, which have already been mentioned, I did notice an overall lack of detail, and what I thought could be some posterization (particularly on the edge of the seats on the train in the opening scene). Although I admit, I am no expert when it comes to critiquing video, so it could've been something else or the way it was shot. As a whole, however, I was disappointed in the video department.

If you couple that with all the reports of 'popping' noises in the PCM track, which I heard myself in two instances, you have a major letdown overall, which is disappointing as I really enjoy this movie. I hope BVHE corrects the audio at least.
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#15 of 35 OFFLINE   ManW_TheUncool

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Posted April 02 2008 - 05:45 AM

Hmmm... Is it just the darker scenes that lacked detail or is it also the brighter -- outdoor daylight -- scenes too? Maybe they applied some DNR to those darker scenes to remove some grain (as grain can become an issue in low lit scenes though one would've hoped that whatever's done would be in accordance w/ the filmmakers' wishes in this regard) and ended up softening the whole thing. Posted Image

Judging from the High-Def Digest review, I'd be inclined to wonder if that's not the issue (though that review only suggested that it's likely an issue w/ the source and didn't go as far as to wonder if DNR was applied).

Still, it sounds like a worthwhile upgrade anyhow, especially w/ that $10 rebate.

_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)

#16 of 35 OFFLINE   Reagan

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Posted April 02 2008 - 07:45 AM

Man,

The brighter scenes suffered too.

-Reagan
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#17 of 35 OFFLINE   Ron Reda

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Posted April 02 2008 - 03:01 PM

So, what's the verdict? I have this BR in my hot little hands, ready to rip it open and check it out, but I'm torn. I believe I have the old DVD (though admittedly, I don't remember how it looked), so in that sense, it will be an upgrade. For those you that bought it and have already watched it and own the DVD, if you could do it over again, would you leave this title well enough alone until BV possibly addresses/fixes the audio?
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#18 of 35 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted April 02 2008 - 05:15 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron Reda
So, what's the verdict? I have this BR in my hot little hands, ready to rip it open and check it out, but I'm torn. I believe I have the old DVD (though admittedly, I don't remember how it looked), so in that sense, it will be an upgrade. For those you that bought it and have already watched it and own the DVD, if you could do it over again, would you leave this title well enough alone until BV possibly addresses/fixes the audio?
I don't share the opinion that there isn't a big difference between this release and the prior SD DVD. I'm glad I bought this latest release especially with the $10 coupon.




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#19 of 35 OFFLINE   Ron Reda

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Posted April 03 2008 - 03:00 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert Crawford
I don't share the opinion that there isn't a big difference between this release and the prior SD DVD. I'm glad I bought this latest release especially with the $10 coupon.

Crawdaddy

Yeah, I wouldn't go that far either. I went ahead and opened it last night and skimmed through. Some scenes look great, others not so great. I don't have super duper eyes, but I agree that there is some noise in some scenes where it does seem like this is an older remaster and not a newly stuck high-def print. It's still way better than the SD-DVD IMO though.
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#20 of 35 OFFLINE   JonZ

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Posted April 03 2008 - 03:51 AM

Took forever to load, but other than that, Im pretty happy with this release.

Maybe Im viewing on a smaller screen than most ofther here.

The dark scenes definitely lack detail - like the scene where David pulls Audrey out of the wreck for example, but I thought bright scenes looks really nice.

Looks substantially better than the SD IMHO


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