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Blu-ray Reviews

HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Cliffhanger



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#1 of 11 OFFLINE   Richard Gallagher

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Posted January 11 2010 - 06:32 PM

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Cliffhanger

 

Studio: Sony/TriStar

Year: 1993

Rated: R

Program Length: 113 minutes

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 1080p

Languages: English, French, 5.1 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH, English, French

 

The Program

 

Kill a few people, they call you a murderer. Kill a million, and you’re a conqueror. Go figure. – Qualen, international thief

 

Renny Harlin’s Cliffhanger is the perfect Blu-ray disc to show off the capabilities of a high-definition home theater. The film mostly takes place in spectacular mountain locales which are gorgeously photographed by cinematographer Alex Thomson. It is a feast of fast-paced action, sweat-inducing suspense, amazing stunts and room-rattling explosions. The story also has a fair share of implausibility, but Cliffhanger is so well made that the occasional leap of logic is easily forgiven.

 

Gabe Walker (Sylvester Stallone) is a mountain climber for Rocky Mountain Rescue who spends his days locating and rescuing lost hikers and climbers in Colorado. He works closely with his girlfriend Jessie (Janine Turner), who pilots a rescue helicopter, and his best friend Hal Tucker (Michael Rooker). After a rescue attempt which ends badly, Gabe takes a sabbatical but is goaded back into action by Jessie after she receives a report of lost climbers who have been stranded in a snowstorm.

 

The rescue mission has a promising start but takes a disturbing turn when Gabe and Hal discover that the climbing party is actually a group of international thieves. Led by the notorious Qualen (John Lithgow), the criminals’ plan goes awry when their plane crashes in the mountains during the storm. As the aircraft  begins to spiral out of control, the criminals lose three suitcases containing millions of dollars in cash. They then force Gabe and Hal to help them locate and recover the money.

 

What follows is a non-stop, dizzying and deadly game of hide-and-seek, as Gabe manages to get away from Qualen’s gang and tries to beat them to the loot. Along the way he encounters almost every kind of obstacle one can imagine. Avalanches, perilous precipices, explosions, and bat-inhabited caves conspire with the criminals to thwart Gabe’s efforts. In the meantime, the members of the gang begin to turn on each other as their situation becomes increasingly desperate.

 

Stallone is ruggedly effective as Gabe, and Cliffhanger gives him plenty of opportunities to show off his well-developed biceps. John Lithgow is appropriately cold-blooded as Qualen. Michael Rooker is athletic and believable as Tucker, and Janine Turner is slight of build but spunky as Jessie. Director Harlin keeps the action moving at a breathtaking pace and the plot has enough twists and turns to keep the viewer guessing about what will happen next.

 

Anyone who appreciates high-octane action films will be happy to sit back with a bowl of popcorn and enjoy two hours of breathtaking adventure in the Rocky Mountains (well, actually the Italian Alps).

 

The Video

 

Cliffhanger is properly framed at 2.40:1, and the 1080p Blu-ray transfer is a sight to behold. The image is razor-sharp and the mountain scenery is captured in all of its natural glory. Colors and flesh tones are accurately rendered. Film grain is minimal and the overall effect is satisfyingly film-like. A number of scenes take place at night or in caves, and shadow detail is superb. The scenes which were filmed on soundstages are very realistic and are seamlessly integrated with the location photography. This is a reference-quality Blu-ray disc which is sure to be used by many viewers to show their friends how great a film can look in a good home theater environment.

 

The Audio

 

The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is a worthy companion to the outstanding video. Whether the sounds are from helicopters, airplanes, explosions, rock slides, or avalanches, the subwoofer and surround channels all get a workout. Every word of dialogue is clear and understandable. The film also has a stirring and evocative music soundtrack by Trevor Jones which is given an expansive soundstage.

 

The Supplements

 

All of the supplements on this Blu-ray disc, except the original theatrical trailer, are presented in standard definition and English stereo. Most of them appear to have been ported over from the Special Edition DVD which was released in 2000.

 

The extras include two commentaries. The first is a running commentary by both director Renny Harlin and star Sylvester Stallone. Both have interesting insights into the making of the film, but it is something of an oddity because it is apparent that their comments were recorded separately and later edited together. The second commentary track includes comments from members of the technical crew.

 

A five-minute introduction to the film by the director appears to have been made as shooting of the film was wrapping up.

 

A few deleted scenes are introduced by the director, who explains why they were cut from the finished product. One wise cut was a scene of Stallone making a leap across a chasm which would have killed any mere mortal.

 

Also included is a “making of” featurette called “Stallone on the Edge” which runs for twenty minutes and would have been terrific to watch in high-definition. Alas, it is letterboxed in standard definition.

 

Two special effects featurettes explain how two of the more spectacular stunts in the movie were made.

 

Finally, there are storyboard comparisons and the film’s original theatrical trailer. The trailer can be played with an introduction by Renny Harlin. Happily, the highly original trailer is in high-definition. What makes it unique is that it contains no dialogue or sound effects from the film. Instead, a series of scenes from the film is shown, accompanied only by unidentified operatic music and chorus (if anyone recognizes the piece, please let us know). The music is in stereo and is quite effective.

 

BD-live features will be enabled on the release date.

 

The Packaging

 

The BD disc comes in a standard Blu-ray keep case.

 

The Final Analysis

 

Cliffhanger is one of the rare contemporary action films to have been given the full Criterion treatment during the heyday of laserdiscs. However, viewing that laserdisc is a tame experience compared to watching it in spectacular high definition and with uncompressed 5.1 audio. Allow yourself a degree of suspension of disbelief and enjoy the thrill ride.

 

Equipment used for this review:

 

Panasonic DMP-BD50 Blu-ray player

Panasonic Viera TC-P46G15 Plasma display, calibrated to THX specification by Gregg Loewen

Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver

BIC Acoustech speakers

Interconnects: Monster Cable

 

Release Date:

Rich Gallagher

#2 of 11 OFFLINE   Erik Johansson

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Posted January 12 2010 - 07:46 AM

The trailer music is Mozart's Requiem "Dies Irae", identified and discussed here.


#3 of 11 OFFLINE   Adam Gregorich

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Posted January 12 2010 - 09:39 AM

This was one of my demo LDs back in the day.  The opening scene where the helicopter came up from below you was spectacular.

#4 of 11 OFFLINE   Chris S

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Posted January 12 2010 - 09:59 AM

One of my favorite guilty pleasure movies.  Thanks for the review!

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

#5 of 11 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted January 12 2010 - 10:04 AM

Cliffhanger has some really hysterical moments in it.  My personal favorite is one bit where Stallone is sliding super fast down a slope, while holding the face of one of the poor defenseless bad guys in the ice.  When they get to the cliff's edge, Stallone somehow pulls out an icehook and lodges it without pulling his arm out of its socket (and going from 60 mph to 0 mph in a single second).  The bad guy of course does not have the time or opportunity to use an ice hook, so he goes over the cliff backwards, and there's a great moment as he flies off the cliff of him starting the "ah-ah-ah-ah-AH..." before they cut to him plummeting in slow motion and yelling the traditional Goofy "Wah-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo..."   I know I should pay more respect to his character, but I remember being really tickled by this...

#6 of 11 OFFLINE   Richard Gallagher

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Posted January 12 2010 - 11:39 AM



Originally Posted by Erik Johansson 

The trailer music is Mozart's Requiem "Dies Irae", identified and discussed here.
Thanks. Harlin talks about the music during his introduction to the trailer, but for some reason he does not identify it.

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#7 of 11 OFFLINE   Joseph J.D

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Posted January 12 2010 - 02:42 PM

This is perhaps my absolute favourite Stallone film....it's just so damned entertaining!  I will definitely have to replace my DVD at some point.

Recently watched- Alexander Revisited, The Sentinel(2006), The Lovely Bones, Band Of Brothers, Scream Blacula Scream, Blacula, Maleficent 3D, Lake Placid, Running Scared(1986), Heroes: Season 2, Lock,Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, True Blood: Season 2, WKRP In Cincinnati: Season 1, Star Trek Into Darkness, Star Trek(2009)

Currently watching- Planet Earth, True Blood: Season 3, Gatchaman: The Complete Series, The Equalizer: Season 3, Tales From The Crypt: Season 2, WKRP In Cincinnati: Season 2, Star Trek: Season 2, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season 1, Game Of Thrones: Season 2, Heroes: Season 2, The Pacific
 
"Since my customary farewell would appear oddly self-serving, I shall simply say...Good luck."

 


#8 of 11 OFFLINE   cineMANIAC

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Posted January 13 2010 - 02:17 AM

As much as people like to make fun of Renny Harlin and his movies, he has made a handful of decent flicks and this one is his best IMO. Action movies are typically "check-your-brain-at-the-door" type of stuff so I try not to overanalyze them. They certainly don't make them like this anymore.
RIP Roberto Gomez Bolanos.

#9 of 11 OFFLINE   David Coleman

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Posted January 13 2010 - 03:02 PM

 I watched this and I was laughing and loving it. It's been a few years but there are some moments of the film that just crack me up. The way that Qualen keeps messing with Travers, When Kynett tries to kill Stallone's character and does all that talking before hand. When the English guy is describing being a striker on the soccer team. I was just busting a gut!

On the other hand, I really enjoyed the film. It's still a top flight action film and certainly Stallone's best outside the Rocky/Rambo films. 

I can't go there as far as the reviewer on the video. I felt there were some soft moments and lack of fine detail in the picture. Some moments colors were bolder, some not. Overall, it's pretty decent for an early 90's film. 

Now the audio was surprisingly robust. While dialogue wasn't that great, effects really came to like and were fairly articulate. It's a definite upgrade over the DVD. 


#10 of 11 OFFLINE   KMR

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Posted January 20 2010 - 11:44 AM

When I saw this movie years ago, it took me a little while to get into it, because the whole plot is set into motion by an event at the very beginning that should never have happened in the first place.  What was Stallone's character doing up there in the mountains using cheap non-professional equipment that I wouldn't trust 30 feet up in a tree in the back yard?  But once you accept all the silliness, the movie's a pretty fun ride.


#11 of 11 OFFLINE   Scott Merryfield

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Posted January 21 2010 - 04:50 AM

We watched our copy last night. It had been several years since I last saw this film, and agree that it is a fun, yet completely implausible movie. We noticed several continuity and plot hole issues, but it's still very entertaining.

I expected the video quality to be excellent, but was especially impressed with the audio. It's a terrific DTS HD Master soundtrack -- demo worthy, IMO. 






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