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HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: 12 Monkeys



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#1 of 6 Kevin EK

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Posted August 08 2009 - 04:09 PM




12 MONKEYS
 
Studio: Universal
Film Year: 1995
Film Length: 2 hours 10 mins
Genre: Science Fiction/Drama
 
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
 
BD Resolution: 1080p
BD Video Codec: VC-1 @ over 25 mpbs
Color/B&W: Color
 
Audio:
English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 @ an average 3.5 mbps
French (Canada) DTS 5.1
Castillian Spanish DTS 5.1
L.A. Spanish DTS 5.1
Italian DTS 5.1
 
 
Subtitles: English SDH, French Canadian, Italian, Castillian Spanish, L.A. Spanish, Korean, Swedish, Danish, Finnish, Dutch, Norwegian, Portuguese, Greek, Traditional Mandarin, English Commentary
Film Rating: R (Violence, Language)
 
Release Date: July 28, 2009
 
Starring: Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, Brad Pitt and Christopher Plummer, with David Morse
 
Based on the film La Jetee by Chris Marker
Written by: David and Janet Peoples
Directed by: Terry Gilliam
 
Film Rating:    3 ½/5
 
12 Monkeys works well, even when seen as a now-dated 90’s sci-fi drama. A good part of this has to do with the inevitability of its premise. In simple terms, Bruce Willis plays James Cole, a prison inmate in the year 2035, a time in which the human population has been devastated by an apocalyptic plague and the survivors are living underground. Cole is sent back in time to the 1990s to get a sample of the virus and help humanity recover from the disaster. In lesser hands than David and Janet Peoples’ script, we might be told that Cole’s mission could change history. But in this film, we’re told that he CAN’T change history – all he can do is bring a sample back to the future. So the then-present-day 1990s world has a shadow hanging over it that the audience already knows must inevitably fall.  This looming shadow, coupled with appropriately moody performances by Willis and Madeleine Stowe, gives the film a weight and a depth one wouldn’t have otherwise expected. At the same time, this story is seen through the eyes of director Terry Gilliam, who is known for the wilder visual images seen in his films Brazil and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Here, he mostly keeps that instinct in check for the 1990s scenes, but he really goes for broke with the 2035 world. I’ve always been struck by how much use Gilliam can get out of a really wide-angle lens, and he doesn’t disappoint here. (In truth, I have to wonder if he actually sees the world in extreme wide angle…) Visual theatrics aside, the heart of the story is told in the relationship between Willis and Stowe, and Gilliam keeps things relatively quiet for their development and inevitable fate.
 
This Blu-ray release is but the latest in a series of video releases for 12 Monkeys. Previously available on VHS, laserdisc, standard definition DVD and HD-DVD, it has just made its debut on Blu-ray. From what I can tell, this release carries over the extras from the standard definition DVD, coupling them with HD transfers for the picture and sound. This is a really interesting film, and the Blu-ray is a good way to see it.
 
 
VIDEO QUALITY   3 ½/5
12 Monkeys is presented in a 1080p VC-1 1.85:1 transfer that looks like an accurate reproduction of the look of the film as seen in theaters. It’s a bit grainy, but that’s part of the look of the film as photographed. The color palette tends to stay fairly muted, with the deliberate exception of the bright red used for the graffiti used in the film by the group that the film is named after. (One great example of this contrast comes when Madeleine Stowe’s character spray-paints a message on a newsprint-covered wall. The red fairly jumps off the screen in comparison with the other elements.) And the film’s recurring airport dream throws in a wide range of bright colors – again, in deliberate contrast to the murkier look of the rest of the film. Flesh tones look accurate throughout, and the HD picture shows more detail in Gilliam’s packed compositions than viewers will have seen before in earlier home-video releases. I should note that I have watched the film on a 40” Sony XBR2 HDTV. If anyone is watching the film on a larger monitor (60” or more) and is seeing problems, please respond within this thread.
 
 
AUDIO QUALITY   3 ½/5
12 Monkeys is presented in a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix in English, as well as standard DTS mixes in French Canadian, Castillian Spanish, L.A. Spanish and Italian. The mix provides the usual spread of dialogue from the front channels, and music and atmospheric sound from the surrounds. The subwoofer chimes in at various points in the film for musical emphasis and gunfire, and the surrounds get a bit more work than the typical drama, particularly in the wilder sequences. (One WWI battle sequence fills the home theater in the same way that you’d expect from something like Saving Private Ryan.)
 
SPECIAL FEATURES      3/5
The Blu-Ray presentation of 12 Monkeys just ports over the SD extras from the SD DVD, but they’re pretty thorough extras, so it’s hard to think what else could have been added here. (Perhaps a copy of the original film La Jetee…) The extras are presented in standard definition.
 
Feature Commentary with Director Terry Gilliam and Producer Charles Roven – The commentary from the earlier DVD and laserdisc editions is preserved here, for good reason. Gilliam is a great talker, and he covers a lot of ground, as is usual for him. And he doesn’t pull his punches when talking about his frustration with the studio, the budget, and everything else that got in his way.  A subtitle track is available for this commentary, which you can access through the subtitle button on your remote.
 
The Hamster Factor & Other Tales of 12 Monkeys (1:27:35, 480p, Non-Anamorphic) – The thorough documentary about the film’s production is carried over from the earlier DVD and laserdisc editions. Presented in non-anamorphic standard definition, this documentary pretty much covers everything about the making of the film to the point that making a new featurette would be almost pointless. This is not a typical EPK fluff fest. The strained conditions of making the film on a limited budget for its scope are graphically shown here. The viewer is shown various setbacks suffered by Gilliam during the production, including the need to recast the little boy for the dream sequence, his clashes with Charles Roven throughout, and, more comically, the injuries he sustained in a horseback riding accident on his day off.
 
Theatrical Trailer (2:25, 480p, Non-Anamorphic) – The theatrical trailer is included here in standard definition. This is not listed on the packaging, but you can easily find it on the disc.
 
12 Monkeys Archives – The extensive gallery of designs, logos, and photos is carried over from the earlier releases. I believe there to be a total of 357 separate images for your perusal, but that’s based on each image showing as one second on my PS3’s counter, with a total “time” for this feature being 3:57. The one drawback here is that there is no way to separate out the galleries or really use the Blu-ray’s capabilities to make this an easier thing to handle. It’s presented as a single, giant, gallery that you simply click through from end to end.
 
BD-Live - This Blu-ray includes access to Universal’s BD-Live online site, allowing for the viewing of trailers online.
 
 
Subtitles are available for the film and the special features. A full chapter menu is available for the film.  The Blu-ray menus also include the “My Scenes” bookmarking feature and a BD-Live User Guide. I note that when starting the film, there is a language selection screen I have not encountered very often. You have the option to select English or any of 13 other languages right off the bat – presumably then putting you into that mode for the menus and the viewing/hearing of the movie.
 
IN THE END...
12 Monkeys continues to hold up as both a futuristic science fiction film and a drama about the relationship between two characters developing in the shadow of a looming apocalypse. Its presentation here on Blu-ray provides the best picture and sound I have seen for this film on home video, and is a great way to appreciate its qualities.
 
Kevin Koster
August 8, 2009.



#2 of 6 Brian Borst

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Posted August 09 2009 - 08:57 AM

I still love this film. The first time I saw it it was just amazing, and it became a bit duller on consecutive viewings. Then I found out the movie works as
the hallucinations of a mentally ill man, who thinks he's from the future.

 
And that's actually what makes the movie good, in my eyes.

Never go out with anyone who thinks Fellini is a type of cheese

My Blu-Ray/DVD Collection

#3 of 6 Ray_R

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Posted August 10 2009 - 08:19 AM

How does this compare with the HDDVD? I thought it was great with how intentional the film looks. Nice amount of grain and haziness works for 12 Monkeys.
Just wait for probable Holographic Versatile Disc for this title./img/vbsmilies/htf/tongue.gif
Speaking of Gilliam, I should also purchase The Adventures of Baron Munchausen on Blu-ray.


#4 of 6 Kevin EK

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Posted August 10 2009 - 08:42 AM

I can't speak to the HD-DVD as I have not seen it.  If anyone else here has seen both, I welcome their input.

#5 of 6 Michael Reuben

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Posted August 10 2009 - 08:58 AM

Robert Harris has compared the Blu-ray and the HD DVD. A link to his "A few words" thread appears in the "Related Forum Threads" box to the right. The key posts are here and here.
COMPLETE list of my disc reviews.       HTF Rules / 200920102011 Film Lists

#6 of 6 Ray_R

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Posted August 10 2009 - 09:24 AM



Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Reuben 

Robert Harris has compared the Blu-ray and the HD DVD. A link to his "A few words" thread appears in the "Related Forum Threads" box to the right. The key posts are here and here.
Thanks Michael.
I AM THE THIRTEENTH MONKEY!/img/vbsmilies/htf/eek.gif  (I am Spartacus! homage.)