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Blu-ray Reviews

HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Three Kings



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#1 of 3 Cameron Yee

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Posted October 09 2010 - 06:24 AM

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Three Kings
Release Date: October 12, 2010
Studio: Warner Home Video
Packaging/Materials: Single-disc Blu-ray "ECO-BOX"
Year: 1999
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1:55:00
MSRP: $24.98

  THE FEATURE SPECIAL FEATURES
Video 1080p high definition 16x9 2.40:1 Standard definition
Audio DTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: French 5.1, German 5.1, Italian 5.1, Spanish 5.1, Castellano 5.1, Portuguese 2.0, Russian 5.1, Stereo
Subtitles English SDH, French, German SDH, Italian SDH, Castellano, Dutch, Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese (Brazil), Russian, Croatian, Danish, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Norwegian, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovenian, Swedish Variable

The Feature: 4.5/5
Operation Desert Storm has ended, but there's still plenty of work to do. Four U.S. soldiers have a different idea of what that means when they catch wind of where Saddam Hussein may have hidden all the Kuwaiti gold he stole. The information specifically comes in the form of a map - hidden where the Mideast sun rarely shines - which Barlow (Mark Wahlberg), Vig (Spike Jonze) and Elgin (Ice Cube) manage to correlate with aerial intelligence maps of the area. But it's the connections and field experience of special forces Major Gates (George Clooney) that gets them on their way. Though their goal is to take the gold without ever firing a shot, the post-war chaos in which Iraqi citizens are being victimized by their military, will make that a challenge. Put face-to-face with the enormity of the problems, the four men face a crisis of conscience that will instantly change their get-rich plans if they choose to act on it, but that will ultimately preserve those things significantly less material.

Director David O. Russell's "Three Kings" doesn't say anything revolutionary - we all know war is good for absolutely nothing. But illuminating - often in a darkly humorous manner - the absurdities and surreality amid the undeniable horrors of war gives the film an edgy freshness and, ultimately, an accessibility that more outright war films rarely have. The situational and experiential contrasts also reveal that within a black-and-white scenario there exist innumerable complexities and a dearth of simple answers. The core cast's strong performances, which find the right balance between the ridiculous and the sobering, further strengthen that message. And though the film's happy ending might seem inconsistent with its themes, upon further reflection its inherent absurdity makes it one of the most perfect endings possible.

Video Quality: 4.5/5


On the 2000 DVD release, viewers were informed of the following:

"The makers of 'Three Kings' used visual distortion and unusual colors in some scenes of this film. They intentionally used the unconventional techniques to enhance the emotional intensity of the story line."

In addition to the stylized color palette, the DVD image also frequently exhibited white level compression. Given the filmmakers' heavy but effective manipulation of the image, it seemed this was intentional as well, but the new Blu-ray presentation now shows otherwise. Scenes with blown out skies and highlights show an amount of detail that was nearly absent on the DVD. Thanks to high definition's more expansive contrast and color gamut, the film as a whole now looks more grounded or stable than it ever did in standard definition, despite the sometimes wild swings in color cast. The Blu-ray format's extra resolution is also a boon, particularly for the film's intentional, ever-present veneer of grain, which now comes across beautifully instead of being lost in a mush of compression artifacts (or lost altogether). The transfer maintains the intentional black level compression, but deep and stable blacks give the images a powerful starkness wholly suited to the film's environment and subject matter.

Though it usually goes without saying that a movie on Blu-ray looks better than on DVD, the differences can be quite dramatic when it comes to challenging material like "Three Kings." Blu-ray has essentially breathed new life into the film, restoring it to a level that most probably haven't seen since it was in theaters.
  Audio Quality: 4/5
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is front-oriented through the majority of the film and features light support for the film score throughout. The full array engages for the film's various action scenes, particularly the final set piece, but is still fairly subdued. This is certainly intentional as the film is not the typical war film; going big and loud with the firefights and explosions would have undermined the film's primary message. As it is, the mix features satisfying dynamic range, vocal detail and seamless surround channel effects when implemented.

Special Features: 4/5
All the extras from the 2000 DVD release are on the Blu-ray, with the exception of the DVD-ROM material that was mostly promotional in nature. Overall there's a nice breadth of content, giving viewers a good sense of various aspects of the production.

Commentary by Director David O. Russell: Russell offers a dense stream of information that covers everything from technical components of the shoot to candid, personal comments about working with a major studio.

Commentary by Producers Charles Roven and Edward L. McDonnell: Roven and McDonnell provide a more global perspective on the production and comment more on the film's political themes and issues.

Under the Bunker: On the Set of Three Kings (21:32, SD): Leisurely paced documentary features interviews with the cast and crew about various production challenges and behind the scenes footage from the location shoots. Not surprisingly, the documented interpersonal conflicts between the director and Clooney are never mentioned.

On the Set of Three Kings: A Guided Tour with Production Designer Catherine Hardwicke (10:15, SD): A thorough look at the Iraqi village and bunker sets, which were built from the ground up in the Arizona desert.

The Cinematography of Three Kings: An Interview with Director of Photography Newton Thomas Sigel (7:06, SD): Sigel describes the various filming and film processing techniques used to set the movie apart from the usual desert and war films.

Director David O. Russell's Video Journal (13:37, SD): Documents the pre-production phase, including casting, budget meetings, script development, rehearsals and auditions. Of course the piece doesn't include the interpersonal conflicts that occurred during production, instead jumping forward a year to the Hollywood premiere.

Deleted Scenes (6:37, SD): Four scenes with optional commentary by the director.

An Intimate Look Inside the Acting Process with Ice Cube (2:21, SD): Tongue-in-cheek look at Cube's process, directed by Spike Jonze.

Theatrical Trailer (2:10, SD)

Recap
The Feature: 4.5/5
Video Quality: 4.5/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 4/5
Overall Score (not an average): 4/5

Warner Home Video turns in an excellent audio and video presentation for Director David O. Russell's accessible, but still thought provoking, look at the first Gulf War. The video quality in particular shows a significant improvement, thanks to the expanded features and capabilities of the high definition format. With the special features carrying over the most significant extras from the 2000 DVD release, the Blu-ray release becomes a worthwhile upgrade for current owners of the DVD and an obvious choice for first time purchasers.


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#2 of 3 Adam Gregorich

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Posted October 09 2010 - 03:29 PM


 Though it usually goes without saying that a movie on Blu-ray looks better than on DVD, the differences can be quite dramatic when it comes to challenging material like "Three Kings." Blu-ray has essentially breathed new life into the film, restoring it to a level that most probably haven't seen since it was in theaters.

 Thanks for the review Cameron.  I was wondering how the "unconventional techniques" would come through on the Blu-ray.  I really enjoyed this film so it will be a definite upgrade to BD for me!



#3 of 3 Ralphie_B

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Posted October 11 2010 - 07:55 AM

Haven't seen this in years, though I did catch a little bit of it on HDNET Movies a while back.  It looked pretty stunning there, so if the Blu-Ray is even better, that's great news!