Blu-ray Disc REVIEW X-MEN: THE LAST STAND Studio: 20th Century Fox Film Year: 2006 Film Length: 104 minutes Genre: Action Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 Theatrical Ratio Resolution: 1080p Video Codec: AVC @ 18MBPS Disc Size: 25GB Colour/B&W: Colour Audio: English DTS-HD MASTER LOSSLESS AUDIO 5.1 Surround French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Subtitles: English, Spanish Film Rating: PG-13 Release Date: AVAILABLE NOW Film Rating: / Starring: Hugh Jackman (Logan/Wolverine), Halle Berry (Ororo Munroe/Storm), Ian McKellen (Eric Lensherr/Magneto), Famke Janssen (Jean Grey/Phoenix), Anna Paquin (Marie/Rogue), Kelsey Grammer (Dr. Hank McCoy/Beast), Patrick Stewart Professor Charles Xavier) Written by: Simon Kinberg & Zak Penn Directed by: Brett Ratner Take a Stand. Over the course of the following months, 20th Century Fox is running forward full force with an awesome slate of Blu-ray titles. What’s even better is that most of them are action films - the films that early adopters would love to watch on and show off their home theatre systems. In my opinion, Fox is leading the pack with this strategy…if it is indeed their strategy. Fantastic 4, Ice Age 2, X-Men 3 - you must admit these are targeted to the PS3 buyers and action movie buffs. Continuing this strategy may help push the Blu-ray format forward into the mainstream so we can enjoy more high definition content faster because of rapid consumer adoption. Judging by the upcoming releases, this seems to be true. Whatever your take is on these movies, it’ll be hard not to want to see these with high definition picture and sound. I couldn’t wait to revisit these films just to view them in the new dimension Blu-ray disc has to offer. Visually and sonically appealing, almost all of these films have this trait. I viewed X-Men 3’s DVD release months ago but couldn’t provide a review for the forum because the disc’s image did not represent the quality of final product. I’m glad I gave this title a second look, this time in HD with much better results. Mutants join together! In X-Men: The Last Stand, the mutants learn about a “cure” that humans have created to get rid of mutant powers and make them part of the “normal” population. Maybe it’s the humans who aren’t normal: they are weak and powerless in comparison. Magneto (Ian McKellen) believes in the uprising against the mistreatment by humans while Xavier (Patrick Stewart) believes in a more peaceful solution. It is humans and mutants against mutants in this final battle on film! …or is it? VIDEO QUALITY 4/5 X-Men: The Final Stand is one of the newest transfers for Fox’s first batch of Blu-ray discs so I expected it to look awesome. I wasn’t disappointed with the video but at the same time, for a few reasons, I wasn’t blown away either. I will say that this is no fault to the Blu-ray format at all (the transfer is pristine). I think my quibbles are just a matter of personal preference and getting used to watching films in HD. We’ve been watching standard definition video all of our lives. We’ve also been anticipating the launch of pre-recorded movies in HD and I think it’s safe to say that we’ve set false expectations of what we wish to experience for every title. The truth is that these expectations, for whatever glorious podium we put HD on, may not always be fulfilled. The HD medium clearly shows differences between the intended look of films. Some films are intended to look natural and life-like while others have the video tweaked up in a way to give the colours and mood a less natural look, but one in line of the filmmaker’s desire. I really think this tweaking, combined with the chosen film stock can take away that wonderful vision of HD consumers have despite still having most of the properties of HD video. Blu-ray does what it’s supposed to do: to show as much information from the film that the technology allows. Now that I’ve gone on my rant, let me put this in perspective with X-Men 3. On Blu-ray, X-Men 3: The Last Stand excels beyond the resolution of standard definition video - there is no doubt about it! Resolution of fine details is clearly noticed; text and details afar are much more resolute than the thick and undefined SD-DVD. Close-up shots of mutants, their details, their hairs, even the CGI is much more resolved and benefits from HD. My gripe lies in the look of colour in the image. The film sports a wide range of colour but appears a bit thick looking. I’ve seen this with many films and the same effect is apparent on SD-DVD. I’m not sure if this has to do with the film stock used or how the image is rendered in post-production, but it seems like colours lack lifelike definition. Skin tones look a bit pasty and warm. The colour detail on clothing and the environment doesn’t quite have the naturalness either. In a sense it looks a bit animated and if that’s the case it’s completely appropriate for this film since we’re watching a film about comic book heroes. My conclusion for this image is one that looks much better than standard definition. It’s smooth but lacks the ultimate HD 3-D we all dream of seeing. But it is consistent with the theatrical presentation - that I know for sure. Edge enhancement is absent (thankfully!!) and there seems to be some grain/video noise in shots of the sky and in fog. The video codec is AVC and the aspect ratio is 2.40:1. AUDIO QUALITY: 4.5/5 Our mutant heroes really know how to kick mutant butt and this soundtrack lets us hear every sound imaginable. The 6.1 channel sound design for this film is awesome! Let me start talking about the music: both original and non-original music has fantastic soundstage width and depth. It is mixed at an appropriate level with the sound effects to pull you into the action. The energizing score is both subtle and dynamic and those listeners looking for a closer to hi-fi experience will appreciate this music soundtrack. On the other hand, sound effects can be a bit too aggressive all around, including the dialogue which is a bit too forward and not always spatially integrated. They are mixed very loud in the action scenes (rightly so) but can be a bit fatiguing after a bit because there is no break if you know what I mean. I think that a good soundtrack has a mixture of loud and soft sounds even in the most engaging action moments in the film. This keeps the dynamics of reality intact while still delivering on the fun and effectiveness of the movie soundtrack/home theatre experience. Treble is a bit bright. At first I thought that the X-curve was still intact but then I remembered that this was one title that was remixed and remastered by Mi Casa Multimedia so I was left a bit surprised because I believe they do very fine work in turning making sound mixes appropriate for home theatre environments. Unique to this title is the sixth speaker – the center surround channel and it’s used aggressively during the action sequences. Those who invested in a center surround speaker will be glad to hear some discrete information directed here. Bass POUNDS in all channels – those with full-range speakers all around will truly appreciate the delivery of low frequency information in every corner of your room. The LFE channel is even stronger at some points giving the room a heavy pulse of bass and the viewer a good jolt in their seat if using a tactile/shaker device. The 6.1 audio is encoded in DTS-HD Master Lossless Audio future-proofing your current Blu-ray software investment when the appropriate hardware becomes available in the near future. The DTS core extracted from this bitstream is 1.5MBPS and sounds much better than the 448kbps Dolby Digital soundtrack on the DVD. TACTILE FUN!! / TRANSDUCER ON/OFF?: ON SPECIAL FEATURES / The features included here are from the DVD. Two audio commentaries are included. The most entertaining is the director and writer commentary from Brett Ratner, Zak Penn, and Simon Kinberg. They are fairly informal in their discussion but don’t provide much insight. The more professional/formal producer commentary from Avi Arad, Lauren Shuler Donner and Ralph Winter isn’t much better. It’s sort of a let down, really… The 10 deleted scenes/alternate endings are included in HD and still have the optional director/writer commentary. The scenes are finished and could have been easily inserted into the film. Some of them aren’t bad – they could have been left in. Another suggests a bit of a broader sequence still unseen. You’ll also get to check out a trivia track theatrical trailers for other Fox Blu-ray discs in HD. Included are X-Men III: The Last Stand, Fantastic Four, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and the 2001 version of Planet of the Apes. What are missing from this Blu-ray disc are the dual menus found of the DVD, but this Blu-ray disc does include the Smart Menu Technology (a.k.a. pop-up menu). IN THE END... In sum, this is a flawless transfer of a good action flick. As mentioned before, the Blu-ray disc format will help you appreciate the different looks of films. I’m glad we can see these distinctions more clearly. For audio nuts, you’ll love this soundtrack. For these reasons I have to recommend this title. Enjoy! Michael Osadciw November 23, 2006.