Blu-ray Disc REVIEW ULTRAVIOLET Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Film Year: 2006 Film Length: 88 minutes Genre: Action/Sci-Fi Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Theatrical Ratio Colour/B&W: Colour Audio: English Uncompressed Linear PCM 5.1 Surround English 5.1 Surround French 5.1 Surround Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese, Thai Film Rating: Release Date: AVAILABLE NOW Film Rating: / Starring: Milla Jovovich (Violet Song jat Shariff), Nick Chinlund (Vicecardinum Ferdinand Daxus), Cameron Bright (Six) Written by: Kurt Wimmer Directed by: Kurt Wimmer The Blood War is On. HTF DVD Reviewer Mike Osadciw writes: Ultraviolet was one of the first Blu-ray titles to be offered by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. What makes this title unique is that it’s also one of the first HiDef titles released day and date along with the DVD giving consumers an immediate choice of the format they wish to purchase the title on rather than waiting for a future date. This is something we will be looking forward to when all studios start releasing a steady amount of high definition titles. For the Ultraviolet release, this choice comes at a small cost; fans of the film who wish to purchase Blu-ray do not get the choice of the 88-minute theatrical cut and the 94-minute unrated cut as they do on DVD. Given the hype over unrated cuts these days, if one version had to be offered, I think it would have been better to provide the unrated cut of the film on Blu-ray. Another question to be asked is if Blu-ray is even ready to offer both versions of the film via seamless branching? If yes, why wasn’t it offered? Watching Ultraviolet was the fourth title I viewed on Blu-ray. Was I impressed? Not with the film. How about the audio/visual experience of the film? …it was different. Below you will find HTF reviewer Aaron Silverman’s excellent write up of the film Ultraviolet when he reviewed the DVD. My feelings for this film cannot be better explained than in Aaron’s words so I’ll leave his review virtually untouched. Following his review will be my opinions of the audio and video experience of this Blu-ray title. Many Blu-ray reviews in the future will be written in this format as we make our transition to high definition. Other than adding a few updated notes, I don’t find it too productive to rewrite our efforts of the past when there so much more to produce in the future… HTF DVD Reviewer Aaron Silverman writes: Going into a film with low expectations is always an interesting experience. Will the lowered bar compromise objectivity? If I enjoy the movie, can I be sure that I’m not just subconsciously giving it the benefit of the doubt? Ultraviolet, the latest episode in the Hot Vampire (sorta) Chick Kicking Ass genre, raises these questions with a thrilling opening, but then puts them to rest by eventually sinking in a sea of foolishness. The film begins on just the right note, with a fantastic credit sequence involving various styles of comic book art. This is a good sign that it’s not going to take itself too seriously, a promise that it doesn’t always live up to. This is followed by a brief but cool action sequence that’s tangentially related to the story and about 15 minutes of expository voiceover to set the scene. Once that’s out of the way, things kick into high gear. Our heroine, Violet (Milla Jovovich), lives in a futuristic world of concrete and gleaming skyscrapers. She suffers from a strange virus that grants folks superhuman strength and speed while rendering them highly sensitive to light and eventually killing them. Those who suffer from this disease, dubbed “Vampires” by the press due to the bizarre (and, dare I say, contrived) side effects of enlarged canine teeth and a requirement for frequent blood transfusions, are outcast from society to the point of actually being rounded up and spirited off to camps from which they never return (if the images used to illustrate this point bore any more resemblance to certain events that took place about 70 years ago, they’d be stretching the bounds of good taste.) The remaining “Vampires” have formed a resistance to fight back against the (wait for it) Evil Medical Establishment, which is ruled by the nefarious Vice-Cardinal (!) Daxus (Nick Chinlund) from his enormous crucifix-shaped (!!) headquarters. Are those black-clad, machine gun-toting troopers the evolutionary descendants of HMO actuaries? Take two aspirin and a wooden stake, and call me in the morning! Speaking of cheesy one-liners, Ultraviolet isn’t going to set any records, but it has its fair share of them. Between this picture and the Resident Evil series, they appear to have become Ms. Jovovich’s forte (now that she’s found her niche in entertainingly crazy sci-fi action, I can almost forgive her for The Messenger.) When Daxus informs her that he has 700 adjusters – whoops, I mean soldiers – waiting for her and asks what she thinks she’s going to do, she responds, “I can kill them.” When she actually shows up and faces the vast ranks of masked gunmen, Daxus asks simply, “Are you mental?” The extended action sequence that runs through the first half of the film is full of highly stylized stunts and effects that perfectly fit the comic book atmosphere set up by the opening credits. Violet sneaks into an incredibly secure (or so they think!) facility to steal a powerful weapon that could wipe out the “Vampires” (sorry, I really have to keep using quotes with that term) and has to fight her way out. Don’t trouble yourself with the question of how she manages to fool all of the high-tech identification and scanning equipment; just try to enjoy the visuals. Granted, some of the effects are less than convincing, but they work all right within the context of the stylized comic book atmosphere. For a while, the spectacular shooting and smashing is enough to carry the story, which contains a number of elements that don’t quite hold up to close logical scrutiny. However, as Ultraviolet progresses, it lets up on the action and loads up on the clichéd and not terribly interesting plot devices. In addition, none of the action towards the end of the film can compare to the set pieces that came earlier. Violet dispatches preposterous numbers of enemies throughout; however, she appears to exert less and less effort with each battle, and it eventually becomes rather tiresome, not to mention less exciting visually. In fact, the big gimmick in the climactic showdown between Violet and Daxus, which probably looked great in storyboards (and would have been perfect for a comic book), just doesn’t work on the screen. It’s more confusing than intense. The steadily decreasing quality of the set pieces in this film is a flaw that simply can’t be overcome by the throwaway plot, which is a shame. Had that slope pointed in the opposite direction, building up from good to great action instead of sinking from great to lame (and sparse) action, then Ultraviolet might have worked. VIDEO QUALITY 8.5/10 I’ve decided to rank the video quality of these discs on a 1-10 scale. A Blu-Ray score of 5 will mean that it is similar to the best-looking DVD I can think of and the remaining 5-10 will be based on the extended resolution of Blu-Ray disc. I think this is the best way to rank these titles for now so I hope this will help you to determine what a reference HD disc is. As more BDs become available and authoring improves (as was in the early DVD days) the earliest titles I’ve ranked as “10” may not appear as “reference quality” anymore. Please note that I’m currently viewing this on a 1280x720 projector and I’m not even able to see half of the 1920x1080 information on this disc. In the simplest terms, instead of seeing 6x the resolution of DVD I’m only seeing 2.6x the improvement. Our display devices have a long way to go before we can see all of the picture information contained on these discs. This disc was reviewed on the Samsung BD-P1000 on a 35-foot Monster M1000HDMI to a calibrated PT-AE700 (D6500/D5400B&W). The screen is a D110" (8-foot wide) Da-Lite Cinema Contour (w.Pro-Trim finish) and Da-Mat fabric. Eeek - does this movie look awful… Don’t blame the Blu-ray format because it’s not the fault of the disc, the transfer, or the player; this is how the movie is supposed to look. Blame it on those people behind the scenes; the ones who tinkered with every shot to give it a look they thought would deliver this story best. Shot entirely in HD using Sony’s HDW-F900 cameras, the image has gone under a significant amount of post processing to give it a comic book look. The introduction of the film features flipping comic book pages that look amazingly colourful on screen and was a super start to what I thought was going to be an awesome looking film. As soon as the live action kicks we are introduced to hyper-saturated colours of the primary and secondary kind. A colour palette that uses a wide range of colours seems absent as all shades of greens and blues, purples, etc. seem to be clumped as one green, one blue, one purple, etc. I may be exaggerating a bit but you get the idea. Another bad sight for my now sore eyes is the intentional blurring of the image. Extreme close ups to Milla Jovovich’s face show a softening of all details of her skin. Her face looks as airbrushed as the models in Maxim magazine. While I understand it’s made to look like some comic book animation it really jogs the mind in terms of focus. Many people have blamed the Blu-ray technology for this look and I will disagree. It you look at the same ECU and look at her hair to the left and right of the screen you will notice it looks virtually untouched. Every strand can be seen and its resolution is high – a direct contrast to her face. The rest of the CGI visuals in this film look artificial. I was watching a video game here not a movie, although it seemed the controller was taken away from me at some point in the film because I couldn’t control what was happening on screen. I think if I had a controller I would made a much better film. Aaron Silverman seemed to have pointed out the same characteristics in image quality in his Ultraviolet DVD Review. While edge enhancement and other digital effects seem to affect the DVD they are absent on this Blu-ray disc. My other quibble about the picture quality is the deep levels of black that make shadow detail undetectable in some scenes. For a quick reference I made sure the black level on my projector hadn’t shifted with the BD player: it was fine (FYI, the Samsung player does pass PLUGE.) I’m rating this title a 8.5/10 not because I think it’s a great looking movie but because there is nothing wrong with the transfer that I can see. I have to strike a balance between personal preference and the technological aspects of the film (“films” shot in HD always seem to look softer than 35mm even on DVD). Where it looses the extra point is the extreme softening and artificialness of the image. I understand that this is a creative decision by someone at the studio, but the result makes the BD fall far from being a recommended title to dazzle your friends in a home theatre demo. The aspect ratio is 1.85:1. I am unaware if this BD has its transfer from a film element or is direct from its all-digital production. PCM AUDIO EXPERIENCE: 8/10 DOLBY DIGITAL AUDIO EXPERIENCE: 7/10 For the sake of consistency with the video, I’m going to rate uncompressed PCM (and eventually the lossless audio compression formats when available), as well as lossy Dolby Digital and DTS on a scale from 1-10. This rating is based on “satisfaction” – the highest score delivering the greatest amount of satisfaction and the lowest delivering the least. When defining satisfaction, I mean both the resolution of the audio as well as the sound design for the film. I’m listening for the best experience possible. The audio mix, as much as I’d hate to say it, is not as impressive as I’d like to believe. Have no doubt about the full use of the 5.1 channel format – it is used extensively but lacks two things: integration of sounds in the environment and dynamic range. The audio is very manufactured-like just like the video. In a sense, the two complement each other. Like many movies, many sounds are fake and constructed one way or another by talented individuals. Awesome. But how this soundtrack fails, in my opinion, is how these sounds are delivered. There seems to be very little attempt to create “space” around these sounds to match the visual environment. Instead they are delivered almost flat sounding except for the few obvious circumstances. This affects both the front and rear soundstage. It could be a lot better especially when you consider the fantastic work done for Underworld: Evolution The audio also lacks dynamic range. Taking those flat, unprocessed sounds and making them all loud at once is what this soundtrack sounds like. It’s very linear in this manner and is disappointing that it sounds compressed that much. I say it’s a missed opportunity for the film. When comparing uncompressed PCM 5.1 to the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack option, the PCM exhibits a wider soundstage all around the listener, greater bass delineation, and more fluency between all sounds. The Dolby Digital soundtrack clearly tells what is missing after compression. (Note: you must have the 6-channel output of your Blu-Ray player connected to an EXT-IN on your receiver/preamp to take advantage of uncompressed PCM or with the use of HDMI and supporting devices). TACTILE FUN!! / TRANSDUCER ON/OFF?: ON Tactile ratings are based on the information in the dedicated LFE channel only. Bass from any other channel has not been rerouted to the LFE. For “shaking” purposes, I’m interested only in the bass the LFE provides to enhance the bass in all other channels. It also gives me a good indication of how much of that “.1 LFE” channel is used on each film. A Clark Synthesis TST-429 is used on an AudioSource AMP5.3, an AudioQuest Diamondback interconnect and Crankin’ Cable 12-awg speaker wire. Heavy amounts of LFE information is recorded on this soundtrack giving the tactile transducers a good shaking! From punches to bullets, crashes and smashes, any shaker will enhance this movie experience! SPECIAL FEATURES / The features on the BD are almost exactly the same as the DVD (minus a few trailers). HTF DVD Reviewer Aaron Silverman writes: Commentary With Milla Jovovich and her two dogs Milla is her usual entertaining self here, with one major exception – about 75 minutes' worth of dead air. I kept forgetting that I was actually listening to a commentary. She oughta be ashamed of herself. And her little dogs, too! UV Protection: The Making Of Ultraviolet (30:51) This featurette is divided into four parts, although their names aren’t listed on the menu – there are just “Part I” through “Part IV” and a “Play All” button. Some of the interviews are hokey, and there are perhaps a few too many film clips, but there’s also a good amount of neat behind-the-scenes footage. Overall, it’s worth watching. [presented in standard definition - Mike] IN THE END... I expected more from this movie. It started out neat but just went downhill from there. I’ve read that both director Kurt Wimmer and Milla Jovovich were locked out of the editing room by studio executives and had zero input as to the final cut and look of the film (as a director I’d ask for my name to be removed if that’s the case). The BD is cool to own regardless and I know some of you will like the overall experience. I could take it or leave it so the decision is yours. Michael Osadciw August 07, 2006.