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HTF Blu-Ray Review: Hot Rod

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#1 of 3 PatWahlquist

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Posted December 07 2008 - 10:10 AM


Hot Rod (Blu-ray)

Studio: Paramount Home Video
Rated: PG-13 (For crude humor, language, some comic drug related and violent content)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
HD Encoding: 1080p
HD Video Codec: VC-1
Audio: Dolby TrueHD: English 5.1; Dolby Digital French 5.1, Spanish 5.1
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese; English SDH+
Time: 87 minutes
Disc Format: 1 SS/DL Blu-ray
Case Style: Keep case
Theatrical Release Date: 2007
Blu-ray Release Date: December 16, 2008

We seem to be in a swing of good comedies again. This happens about every ten years or so when a funny (go figure), creative comedy breaks out and then everyone else tries to copy it in some way. Ten years ago, the Farelly Brothers were setting the tone, and today, Judd Apatow is the “go to guy” for yuks, which I believe started with The 40 Year Old Virgin and continuing through Superbad and Knocked Up this past summer. In this mix is various comedies that spawn from Saturday Night Live skits, but for every Wayne’s World there’s five Night at the Roxbury’s. Coming into Hot Rod cold, only having seen the trailer, as soon as I saw Lorne Michaels name as a producer I started to get nervous.

Hot Rod is the story of wannabe stunt man Rod Kimble (Andy Samburg). He is trying to live up to the legacy left by his deceased father while at the same time gaining the approval of his step dad, Frank (Ian McShane, the first of a couple odd casting choices, another being Sissy Spacek as Rod’s mom). Rod does such amazing stunt work as jumping curbs, riding through four orange cones and trying to jump the local pool only to drop into it half way over. These “stunts” are done on an old moped that barely has more power than a standard bicycle. At home, Rod and Frank have massive brawls as Rod tries to best Frank just once. When it’s determined Rod needs heart surgery to save his life, Rod concocts a scheme with his crew (including Jorma Taccone, Bill Hader and Danny McBride) and new babe interest Denise (Isla Fisher) to raise the money by doing a jump over 15 (yes, 15!) buses. While Rod’s crush on Denise grows, she introduces her boyfriend Jonathan (the great Will Arnett) to taunt Rod and his dreams. As jump day arrives, will Rod be able to make the jump and save the day?

The plot of the picture has become a pretty standard one, complete with the loser guy getting the hot chick and besting the abusive boyfriend. Hot Rod follows this format to the letter, but it infuses the story with enough individual bits to make it quite funny. As I said earlier, I got nervous when I saw Lorne Michaels name on the credits, but since this isn’t a product of SNL we’re better off, and the picture also owes a bit of thanks to Jackass. The formula of the group of losers rising up is now seen in most comedies, like I said earlier, but Samburg and the rest of the cast take the routine characters and use their performances to almost make us believe they are in on the joke too. There are also some non-sequitors that pop up (I cite the “cool beans” scene and the fall down the mountain) that make us laugh simply due to its absurdity, and Rod’s discipleship of eastern and native America philosophy provides some freshness. While Hot Rod lacks the creativity of the recent Apatow pictures, it at least seems to be paying enough attention to get some good laughs.


Video:
Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 11-S1 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 1080p. I am using a Sony Playstation 3 Blu-Ray player while a Denon 3808CI does the switching and pass through of the video signal. I am utilizing the HDMI capabilities of each piece of equipment.

Hot Rod is encoded in the VC-1 codec at 1080p with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The original HD-DVD release was in MPEG4-AVC, but I noticed no differences between the two versions. The colors in the picture are nicely rendered, appearing accurate and well balanced. They remain almost muted in some scenes, but that contributes to the “middle class” tale being told. When Arnett pulls up in his red Corvette, the impact of the color plays into his character as it blazes across the screen. Detail and sharpness are good. Black levels are somewhat pasty in the darker scenes and they tend to crush, not leaving much shadow detail. I did not notice any edge enhancement or obtrusive grain or filtering.


Audio:
The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack was attained by the HDMI connection of the PS3 to the Denon 3808CI.

I watched the picture with the Dolby TrueHD track engaged. The movie relies on a mid-‘80’s glam metal and synthesizer soundtrack (Europe, anyone?) and these tunes are well presented here. The main problem I noticed was the entire soundtrack seems to be very light on the bass. LFE effects are only noticeable in a couple of the explosion scenes and the music is underwhelming missing the bass. One of the songs is a techno track whose lyrics cite its pushing bass. However, that bass just isn’t that impressive. Other audio elements in the high’s and mids are very well represented: voices and other foley effects are accurate and natural sounding. Surround effects are frequently used contribute to a good soundstage. I noticed no differences between the BD and the HD-DVD, although the BD loses the Dolby Digital Plus encoding in the other language tracks.


Bonus Material:
All of the bonus material is in standard definition (SD) unless otherwise noted. All of the bonus material from the HD-DVD is on this BD.

Feature Length Commentary by Akiva Schaffer, Andy Samberg and Jorma Taccone: as you would expect, there is not much substance to the commentary, but it is quite funny.

Ancestors Protect Me: Behind the Scenes of Hot Rod (7:56): So it turns out Dane Cook passed on this as Schaffer tells us, and Will Farrell passed. This behind the scenes turns out to be just as funny as the movie and far dirtier. I’m not quite sure how the picture got made based upon what went on behind the scenes. The cast and crew really don’t talk about how the picture was made, its underlying themes or any of that usual behind the scenes nonsense. Instead, they just goof around. Evan, by all means, lose the shirt!

Deleted and Extended Scenes (14:34): fifteen scenes with optional commentary by Schaffer, Samberg and Taccone.

Outtakes Reel (3:32): features some gags that didn’t make it in to the final picture.

Kevin’s Videos (4:23): eight different videos that were seen only partially in the finished picture.

Punch-Dance (1:58): a brief piece on punch-dancing, its origins and specific uses of the applied artistry in this picture.

Home video footage of orchestra recording session (1:28): never let any free disk space go unfilled.

Theatrical Trailer in HD.

Conclusions:
I laughed like a maniac at a good part of this flick and I think you’ll do the same. The disc gives us an average presentation with some fun bonus features.
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.

#2 of 3 Brandon Conway

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Posted December 07 2008 - 02:47 PM

For whatever reason, this film makes me laugh silly. I know it's stupid, but it works for me.

"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


#3 of 3 Aaron Silverman

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Posted December 08 2008 - 03:51 AM

I only made it through about 20 minutes of this flick before I couldn't take any more. Maybe I'll give it another shot sometime. . .
"How wonderful it will be to have a leader unburdened by the twin horrors of knowledge and experience." -- Mr. Wick





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