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HTF Blu Ray Review: Miami Vice - Unrated Director's Edition


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#1 of 40 Sam Posten

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Posted August 14 2008 - 12:13 AM

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Blu Ray Title: Miami Vice – Unrated Director’s Edition
Disk Release Date: August 26, 2008
Rated: Unrated
Screen format: 1080P, 2.40:1 High Definition
Studio: Universal
First theatrical release: July 28, 2006
Previous releases on disk: DVD and HD DVD on December 5, 2006
Director: Michael Mann
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Colin Farrell, Gong Li, Naomie Harris, Ciaran Hinds, Justin Theroux, Barry Shabaka Henry, Luis Tosar
Sound Formats: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French DTS 5.1
Length: 2 Hours 20 Minutes
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French



Note: Some content from this review is repurposed from my review of the previous HD DVD.

Plot: 3/5

Updating a TV show as a major motion picture is never easy, but fans of both the Miami Vice series and of Michael Mann’s gritty movies (particularly Heat) were hopeful that the two would be combined into something even more extraordinary than the sum of its parts. In this 2006 version, main characters Crockett and Tubbs (Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx) have morphed from slick wisecracking vice detectives into serious, hardcore undercover operatives with James Bond-like skill sets. The glitz of Miami remains, as do the fast cars, boats and women, but the look and feel has gone considerably darker, more urban, and less vibrant. It’s an interesting combination, obviously one that was hard to get the balance right on, but the sacrifice of the fun, cheeky and overly bright and saturated vibe is notable.

By parlaying their abilities as ‘Go fast boat’ pilots into being hired as drug smugglers, Crocket and Tubbs attract the attention of major distributor Montoya (Luis Tosar) and his henchmen Yero (John Ortiz) and Isabella (Gong Li) who is also Montoya’s love interest. Diving deep undercover to help the FBI bring justice for the murder of two agents, they must gain the confidence of the syndicate to help bring it down.

Crockett and Isabella charm each other, initiating an affair that is dangerous to both sides. Both groups test each others limits and loyalties through a complex series of cat and mouse set ups, double crosses, and confrontations. In the end the covers must be blown and the truth will come out.

While Mann deftly intertwined the grit of his movies with the excess of Miami, it’s what he has left out that leaves me with a feeling that Miami Vice never meets the greatness of either alone, let alone making a killer combination of the two. The film just never feels as fun as the series or as complex and dangerous as his other films. This isn’t to say that it’s a bad or a disappointment, it’s just that it is different from both, and that it might be helpful to judge it without so much comparison to the past.

Sound Quality: 5/5

Moving from HD DVD to BluRay nets a significantly improved audio track, swapping to uncompressed DTS Master Audio from Dolby Digital Plus. In the brief time I have had to A/B the two I note that the difference is dramatic, especially in the low end frequencies, the bass has a much more solid punch. There is a bit of a switch in the dialogue positioning, resulting in some conversations that require concentration to follow, but this is not a major issue.

The sound stage is wide and enveloping both on the musical and effects fronts. In an early scene in a Miami disco the music surrounds the listener nicely but is then dialed down to bring the viewer into the sharp focus Crockett is in. The final gun battle confrontation in particular rages across all channels, with satisfying bursts and ricochets surrounding the listener. Bass is consistently great throughout now, and the opening scene where listeners creep up on the go fast boats from below the ocean is a memorable LFE event that stands out, as does the trailer explosion about ¾ through the film, the rumble in that scene is among the best I’ve ever experienced in my theater. Mann is known for his epic gun battles and the final battle scene here does not disappoint. Gun fire rages with directional content whizzing in and out of all corners. There are also a few stretches between when interesting surround effects occur, however the strong soundtrack helps keep the viewer from being too bored.

The TV show Miami Vice is remembered as having great music and the movie continues that tradition, albeit on a darker more electronica inspired angle. The Phil Collins penned song ‘In The Air Tonight’ is remade by nu-metal band nonpoint, and Moby contributes a number of tracks. Perhaps the find of the album is ‘Auto Rock’ by Mogwai. Strangely the iconic Jan Hammer ‘Miami Vice theme’ is nowhere to be found. All sound fantastic and help the movie rise above its complex but somewhat uninspired plot. One disappointment those who buy the soundtrack to the film note is that there are two awesome Audioslave tracks from the album, "Revelations" that do not make the cut on that disk. “The Shape of Things to Come" and "Wide Awake" sound amazing on the BluRay and are standouts within the film.

Visual Quality: 4/5

Miami Vice overall is not a pretty movie, but I found this BD transfer more pleasing than I remember the theatrical release being and a few A/B looks with the HD DVD show it to be identical, tho for some reason it looks better this time around than I gave it credit for in my previous review.

The film has many nighttime and dark interior sequences, the theatrical prints showed much grain, and even the outdoor segments such as the opening boat race aren’t overly colorful or saturated. Viewers who have seen Heat or Collateral will be familiar with the style Mann is known for, and this HD DVD transfer captures much of the feel of this look, based on how I remember viewing it theatrically. Sharpness, grain and color are all consistent with and often better than the theatrical experience. As noted above this style is in sharp contrast to the vibrant look of the TV series. Surely this will disappoint some fans but it is central to the feel that Mann was going for.

Detail level on this transfer is fantastic, however the dark nature of the film itself makes this hard to pick up on. Edge Enhancement was never notable in my viewing, tho I did see some ringing on faces in a few scenes (check out Tubbs in his apartment around track 5-6) that I believe is a lighting carryover and not a digital issue, and this is identical to what is seen on the HD DVD.

Extra Features: 3.5/5

MV was one of the first movies to really exploit the U-Control concept on HD DVD and few disks ever used it as well. That experience is lifted wholesale and incorporated nearly identically on this BD. U-Control allows viewers to view behind the scenes making of sequences overlaid on top of a scaled down version of the film which is running in the background. The effect is really slick, but it is a pain that these sequences still are not available from any menu choices and viewers have to watch the film multiple times to get through all of the content. Additional U-Control choices allow for static displays to come up showing info about the cast and crew, the locations of the action taking place on a GPS display, as well as tech specs about the boats, cars and planes. As just about each chapter has every U-Control feature available, using that method to get to that content is not really viable, and one has no idea what the individual sequences within each chapter will deal with from the menu. Those wanting the ‘full’ experience are thus required to watch the movie multiple times to soak it all in. If that’s your bag, go nuts, but it really doesn’t hit the mark for me, no matter how slick the interface is.

On the HD DVD’s DVD flip side were two decent making of segments, and these have been included on this BD along with even more content than that disk had. ‘Miami Vice Undercover’ features interviews with the consultants who worked on the film helping the cast learn about real undercover techniques, although their lame ‘punking’ of Colin Farrell takes up too much of it. ‘Miami and Beyond’ looks at the location shooting, and in particular features how director Mann tries to integrate the locals into his shooting, even going so far as to film in live traffic unrelated to the movie itself. New features include looks at the gun training, the ‘Mojo’ racing sequence, and a look at how the Haitian set was blocked out.

There is also a full commentary track available, tho it seems I failed to mention that on my HDDVD review.

Overall: 3.5/5 (not an average)
In the end, for me Miami Vice just didn’t hit the high mark it was going for. Those longing for the vibe of the original series will not get it here and those looking for the intensity that Heat and Collateral brought will likewise feel that they didn’t completely get that either. On its own merits, Miami Vice is an average film that focuses too much on one half of what is supposed to be a team partnership, never really gripped me emotionally, and had a surprisingly flat ending. Where it did go right was in the exploring the dynamics of being deep undercover, having an impressive soundtrack featuring a genre of music I don’t have much exposure to (although the Audioslave choices are excellent), and absolutely nailing the gritty feel that Mann has made his signature. The soundtrack gets a huge upgrade in the move to Blu and video quality is identical to the well done HD DVD. The pack of extras gets a full carryover, including the U-Control content and a few new tidbits as well. Overall it’s right there in the just above average range, but for fans of the film this is a worthy double dip upgrade.

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#2 of 40 MattFini

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Posted August 14 2008 - 01:18 AM

Thanks for the review, Sam!!

Miami Vice is one of my absolute favorites from recent years but I don't think I'll be snatching up this Blu-Ray anytime in the near future.

I've still got the HD DVD so until I can get this Blu for cheap, I'll wait.

It's probably a pipedream at this point, but I was really hoping that the theatrical cut would get a high def release as I DO like that version a bit better.
Universal, please release Streets of Fire on Blu-ray.

#3 of 40 Paul Arnette

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Posted August 14 2008 - 02:04 AM

I was really quite worried this disc was going be given a more 'polished' look than its HD DVD counterpart given its grainy nature. I'm happy to see that is not the case based on the couple of reviews I have read.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MattFini
It's probably a pipedream at this point, but I was really hoping that the theatrical cut would get a high def release as I DO like that version a bit better.

I would have like to see the theatrical cut presented in HD as well. However, I prefer the director's cut myself.
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.

#4 of 40 Brent M

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Posted August 14 2008 - 05:41 AM

I'm on the fence about this one because I already have the HD-DVD, but I'd really like that updated DTS-MA track.
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#5 of 40 Adam Gregorich

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Posted August 14 2008 - 08:03 AM

From what I understand it got a new VC-1 encode with a higher bit rate for this release.

#6 of 40 Brent M

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Posted August 14 2008 - 08:46 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam Gregorich
From what I under stand it got a new VC-1 encode with a higher bit rate for this release.


Interesting as Sam's review said A/B comparisons with the HD-DVD release looked identical.
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#7 of 40 Sam Posten

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Posted August 14 2008 - 08:51 AM

It's definitely possible. If there is a difference it was not noticeable to me in the least, but it took me actually A/Bing to convince me that they seem to be identical on my system when watched back to back. As I noted it 'felt' like this was a cleaner more vibrant look than I remembered the HD DVD so there could be something to the new transfer. Note that I'm using a 720P projector with smoothscreen enabled and I've noted in the past that this particular pj is very forgiving with EE in particular.

Either way I'm sure the pixel peeping still shotters will let us all know how crazy we are to like a movie when it clearly sucks based upon 400% blowups on or before Aug 27th =p

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#8 of 40 Robert George

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Posted August 14 2008 - 10:26 AM

If Sam wants to send me his BD copy, I'll be happy to compare it to the HD DVD on a 1080p projector on the same player (LG BH200) and let you know what I find.

PM me for mailing address.

#9 of 40 Adam Gregorich

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Posted August 14 2008 - 11:29 AM

Quote:
Either way I'm sure the pixel peeping still shotters will let us all know how crazy we are to like a movie when it clearly sucks based upon 400% blowups on or before Aug 27th =p

I love it!

#10 of 40 Sam Posten

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Posted August 14 2008 - 01:32 PM

Obi YGPM

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#11 of 40 Adam Gregorich

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Posted August 14 2008 - 01:56 PM

Quote:
Interesting as Sam's review said A/B comparisons with the HD-DVD release looked identical.


There is a lot of grain in this film and that is murder do get right on the HD codecs. I know the original VC-1 encode was really monitored and massaged to get and keep the look of the film. Hypothetically, if the new higher bit rate encode didn't have the same TLC during the process it may not look as good even though its a higher bit rate. VC-1 was designed to be very efficent, so there is probably quite a bit of diminishing returns as you use higher bitrates.


#12 of 40 Sam Posten

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Posted August 15 2008 - 01:42 AM

Link appears broken Adam.

Note that in my A/Bs I did not pause on specific frames, I was watching full scenes at a time and had to move HDMI cables to swap sources. This was not a scientific experiment! It would not surprise me to find that this was in fact a different encode, but it appeared identical to me -in motion-, and that's all I really care about. There are, of course, many HTFers with more discriminating tastes, and demands =)

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#13 of 40 Chuck Mayer

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Posted August 15 2008 - 01:50 AM

My HD-A1 hates combo discs, so I'll definitely be picking this up. I'd like the theatrical version as well, but I'll take what I can get. MV is also one of my favorite films from the past few years. What it lacks in narrative, it makes up for in sheer talent behind (and in front of) the camera. Brilliant stuff.
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Posted August 18 2008 - 06:26 PM

Hello everyone,

I just got a loaner of the BD version of Miami Vice. Coming from the world of HD DVD, I was intimately familiar with Miami Vice on HD DVD.

A couple quick observations:
1) Menu: The BD version is dramatically different than the original version of the MV menu. The original HD DVD version was the "quad" menu system, which some people loved and others hated. The BD version is the more familiar side sliding menu of the regular Universal HD DVD style
2) UControl: The graphics on the UControl features are much simpler than they were on the HD DVD. The actors bio, mojito drink and airplane specs are significantly different. Also, MV did resizing of the main video whenever a UControl feature was enabled. This was a nice feature in that UControl feature did not block the main video. The BD version doesn't have this, mainly because the BD specification does not allow for resizing. All the latest HD DVD UControl features from Universal are in this title (go to UControl feature from chapters and clips), but that were not in the HD DVD version of MV as Universal was still improving UControl when MV came out on HD DVD.
3) PIP: While the content is the same as the HD DVD, there is something very funny with the edges of the PIP. There is black noise that is around the edges of the PIP
4) Player capabilities. Like many BD movies, the only player to really watch special features is the PS3. Starting this movie on anything but the PS3 or Panasonic BD 30/50 was a painful experience. I tried it on the Panasonic BDP-10, Samsung 1400 and the Sony S100. All were horendous experiences. If anyone thought the 1st generation HD DVD players were bad on startup time of loading the disc, take that experience times five for this title in those players.
5) Player capabilities. All BD profiles would do bookmarks and clips. I did wonder what would happen when the 64kb of memory on v1.0 BD players would do when it was fully used on a BD v1.0 player. BD 1.0 players did accurately state that PIP could not be played and that a v1.1 profile player or higher was necessary to see PIP
6) Video. It's obvious that this title was re-encoded with VC-1 from what was on the HD DVD version. This was observed by two methods. The first was using the PS3 info button, the peak bit rate for VC-1 was in the 33Mbps range, something that was not possible in the HD DVD specification, which has a peak video bit rate of 29Mbps. The second area was looking for I-Frame strobbing that was evident in the HD DVD version. MV was a particularly hard title to encode due to the heavy, artificial grain/noise that was added to the HD video camera that were used by Michael Mann. If you go to 1:36:30 and watch for till about 1:36:48 you will see one artifact that occurred from what appears to be interference of the mike going to the Viper camera. When Tubbs/Fox is looking to Crocket/Farrell you will notice distortion (like little waves) in both the HD DVD and BD copy. If you move to the 1:37:00 mark you will notice strobbing in the helicopter scene. You do see this once in the BD version, but not nearly as many times as you do on the HD DVD version.

So, the one area that BD had a better spec (peak bit rate) is shown here on this title. However, the interactivity is not as refined in the BD title, but does have some areas with more features than the HD DVD version (chapters going to specific UControl features, and my favorite, clips) but also doesn't do main video resizing due to HD DVD having a better interactivity specification. The other issue is that this title only plays like the HD DVD did on a PS3 is also a concern for anyone that doesn't have a BD player that is a PS3. The interactive features and performance played identical on all HD DVD players, even going back to the first Toshiba player.

If you are into video, then there are parts that I identified as being better (i.e. no strobbing in the night scenes around 1:37:00) on the BD version. I couldn't discern any difference on my system regarding the DD+ audio vs the DTS HD MA audio. I would love to have someone provide me a time code range to listen to where they feel there is an audio difference. Am I throwing my HD DVD version away? Nope, I still like the interactivity better -- though I do wish HD DVD MV had the ability to define clips like the later Universal HD DVD titles did. Will I buy the BD MV version, yes because I am a video nut and I want to demonstrate the differences on what a PEAK bit rate can do on specific torture material.

- kevin

#15 of 40 Adam Gregorich

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Posted August 18 2008 - 07:29 PM

Kevin-
Thanks for the analysis of the differences. Someday when you have time you should compare Transformers across both formats and wade into the DD+ vs True HD debate...Posted Image

#16 of 40 Thivanka R. Perera

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Posted August 19 2008 - 12:30 AM

Quote:
There is a lot of grain in this film and that is murder do get right on the HD codecs
I watched the DVD couple of days ago, and it seemed like video noise to me. Specially in the darker scenes it gets very noisy, but the daylight shots looked fine.
Anyway I'm buying this.

#17 of 40 Jari K

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Posted August 19 2008 - 12:51 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thivanka R. Perera
I watched the DVD couple of days ago, and it seemed like video noise to me.

I would say, that it´s more like (intentional) "noise", than "grain". I guess the film was mostly shot in vdeo (HDTV), with some scenes in 35mm.

I probably keep my HD DVD for "Theatrical version", but I´ll be getting BD at some point. Really like this film.

#18 of 40 Dennis Maricic

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Posted August 19 2008 - 03:18 AM

Hey Kevin,

It's good to see you posting here again.

Thanks, for the in depth analysis. You touched upon the very points I had questions about. Will the Interactive menu, which i loved, be ported to BD? And was there any improvement in video with the higher bitrate?

I am very disappointed to here that the menu has been altered. For this reason I will be hold onto my HD DVD copy. But I will be picking up the BD for the improvement in Video, and implied upgrade in the audio. Won't know about the audio until I play it in my setup.

Dennis

#19 of 40 Sam Posten

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Posted August 19 2008 - 03:47 AM

Awesome comments Kevin, thanks for your input. Personnally I hated the quad menu so this is a welcome change! I'm also not surprised that the interactive features are not as refined, as the HD had absolutely the most work of any Universal HD DVD on the interactivity and the BD is a first generation 'port'. I didnt notice the black fringing on the PiP, but you already know how much I loathe the UControl so I'm not shocked at having missed this.

Here's the million dollar question:
OK, so there is a higher bit rate on the video encode, to your eyes does it look ANY better in motion? To me, regardless of bitrate they look very similar, perhaps not identical but you would be VERY hard to call one over the other without rigorous A/Bing.

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#20 of 40 Adam Gregorich

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Posted August 19 2008 - 06:00 AM

Quote:
to your eyes does it look ANY better in motion?

Kevin gave an example of where the video was better on the BD while actually watching it (he didn't use infamous screen captures). If you start watching at 1:37:00 there is only one example of stobing on the BD, but multiple examples on HD DVD.





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