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Blu-ray Review Scarface Blu-ray Review (1 Viewer)

Kevin EK

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 Brian De Palma’s gloriously outrageous Scarface arrives on Blu-ray in a new package that has mixed benefits.  On the plus side, there’s a muscular 7.1 sound mix and some good new extras.  On the minus side is the wildly uneven picture quality – full of noise, edge enhancement and muddy black levels.  A lot of effort has gone into the packaging – particularly the expensive Humidor option, but one wishes that time could have been spent on the transfer.

 

LIMITED STEELBOOK EDITION


Studio: Universal

Year:  1983

Length:  2 hrs 50 mins

Genre:  Drama/Gangster Epic


Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

BD Resolution and Codec: 1080p, VC-1 (@ an average 20 mbps)

Audio:  English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (@ an average 5.4 mbps, up to 7.1 mbps), English DTS 2.0 Stereo (@ 768 kbps), French DTS 2.0 Stereo, Spanish DTS 2.0 Mono,

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French


Film Rating: R (Oh boy, let’s see, Bloody Violence, Drug Use, and a near-record number of F-bombs)


Release Date: September 6, 2011


Starring:  Al Pacino, Steven Bauer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Robert Loggia


Screenplay by:  Oliver Stone

Based on the book by Armitage Trail and the 1932 script by Ben Hecht and Howard Hawks

Directed by:  Brian De Palma


Film Rating:    3 ½/5


There is nothing subtle about Scarface.   As Michelle Pfeiffer’s Elvira notes halfway through, “Nothing exceeds like excess.”  From the opening scene of Tony Montana (Al Pacino) trying to bluff his way through an immigration hearing, the movie is an exercise in extremes – as embodied both by Pacino’s wild performance and by Brian De Palma’s almost giddy delight in the onscreen mayhem.  I’ll get a bit more into detail in the next paragraph, for those who already know the movie.  But for those who don’t, I can tell you it’s quite an entertaining ride for at least the first half of its near 3 hour length.  Things bog down around that point, particularly as the story tries to stay a little too close to that of the 1932 movie on which it’s based, but pick up in time for the movie to end on an appropriately explosive note.  Fans of Al Pacino really do need to see this performance, as it marks the moment where he went from loud yet motivated intensity (Dog Day Afternoon, And Justice For All) to the point of going all the way over the top (this film, Dick Tracy, Heat, Any Given Sunday, even his Oscar-winning turn for Scent of a  Woman).  The film is also a significant career marker for both Brian De Palma and Oliver Stone, both of whom would play on the film’s notoriety in the years afterward.


SPOILERS HERE IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE FILM:   All things considered, Scarface is more of a fun roller coaster ride than a serious character study – but it really was never intended to be more than the ride.  The bare bones of the plot are lifted from the 1932 movie with Paul Muni, tracking a low level thug who rises to the top of a criminal empire and then quickly has the inevitable fall.  After multiple filmmakers entertained the idea of updating the earlier movie, Martin Bregman and Al Pacino made it a priority for Pacino’s next film.  After getting a new setting from Sidney Lumet (who recommended Miami, given the massive Cuban immigration wave in 1980 and the cocaine epidemic that followed), Bregman and Pacino got Oliver Stone to write an updated screenplay.  With that in hand, they hired Brian De Palma, who had been involved in an earlier attempt.  It should be noted that both Stone and De Palma were coming off films that had not done well at the box office, while Pacino was still at his career peak.  During production, there was no doubt on set as to who was actually in charge.  (For reference, I point readers to the relevant chapter in Jerry Ziesmer’s fine book Ready When You Are, Mr. Coppola, Mr. Spielberg, Mr. Crowe


MORE SPOILERS:  The movie isn’t so much an epic character study of gangsters in the cocaine business as it is a simple look at the rise and fall of Tony, who starts as a punk petty criminal, scrambles his way to the top of a coke empire, self-destructs in front of us, and winds up dead in the wreckage of his own empire.  The story is told almost entirely from Tony’s point of view, literally starting and ending with him, and sharing very little about any of the other characters.   This is fairly normal for a De Palma film, in that he usually goes from a central character’s point of view, whether that be the sound man in Blow Out, the soldier in Casualties of War, Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible or Tony Montana here.   And some of the supporting characters still shine through – particularly Robert Loggia and Paul Shenar as two notably different crime bosses.  But when you get down to it, the movie is really a vicarious ride to the top of Tony’s empire and then a quick fall down the other side of the mountain.  Tony’s basic nature never really changes – if anything, wealth and cocaine simply magnify the worst parts of his personality.  But it’s the one decent part of that basic nature – his empathy for children, proves to be his undoing in the end.   Tony repeatedly talks of wanting to be a father, even though he clearly has no idea what that would entail, and his most honest proposal to Elvira is when he tells her he wants her to have his children.  When he nosedives into paranoia later on and publicly humiliates her for their lack of children, he ends that relationship.  (Typically of Tony, he is surprised when she leaves him…)  And when he does the one good thing in this whole story, when he refuses to kill the wife and children of an outspoken critic of drug lord Sosa (Shenar), he brings the full wrath of Sosa down onto himself, thus ending his story.  There’s a side story here, ripped fully from the 1932 film, about Tony’s unhealthy relationship with his sister and its dire consequences for her, for him and for his best friend – but that story really feels tacked-on in this environment.   Other elements of the 1932 film fare better, particularly Tony’s uncompromising nature and his relationship with crime boss Lopez (Loggia).   The scene where Tony usurps Lopez is built almost brick for brick from the earlier film, and loses nothing from the updating.  The 1983 film even adds a double coda onto the original scene, wherein Tony dispatches a crooked cop and then hires Lopez’ shaken bodyguard as a grace note.  It’s interesting to see the film from a 2011 perspective – it’s actually not that violent by today’s standards:  the notorious chainsaw attack is never really shown on camera, and there are only a few isolated scenes of violence or gunfire studded throughout the film.   I should also note that De Palma’s direction is actually more elegant than you might expect – the movie is full of artful crane moves that swoop the camera in and out of scenes with a grace that defies the content of what is happening in those scenes.  The big crane shot outside the motel with the chainsaw attack is but one example of something that is actually found throughout the movie.


STILL MORE SPOILERS:  In the end, Tony literally nosedives into a pile of cocaine before going out in the biggest hail of bullets since Sonny Corleone got ambushed on the Causeway.   It’s an amazing sequence of gunfire, capped with the reminder of Tony’s motto, “The World Is Yours” – another lift from the 1932 film.  And it’s at the end that the movie reveals itself to be profoundly confused.  On the one hand, the movie takes a strong moral position that Tony is a bad guy, that he does terrible things, and that his relationship with his sister is particularly bad.  There’s a palpable sense that all this excessive materialism and money has bought him nothing – no happiness, no fulfillment, not even respect.  But at the same time, the movie has reveled in that excess all the way through – all the flash has been more than appealing along the way.  This is one of the common problems that gangster stories regularly face – the viewer enjoys the ride along with the hero bad guy, but then must turn on the hero at the end.  In a movie like The Godfather, this is done by having the hero become less and less sympathetic.  In a movie like Scarface, it’s a harder break since the hero has not really changed from the moment we met him.  Given this, it’s not hard to understand why so many people have taken cues from this movie that may not have been intended – why so many people enjoy all the flash of Tony’s wealth and think that the point of the ending is that he goes out on his feet, guns blazing.  I believe that neither Oliver Stone nor Brian De Palma intended people to find much admirable or exemplary in Tony Montana.  But when you have Al Pacino tearing up the scenery like this, I admit that it’s easy to get caught up in the moment.  And make no mistake, this is an eminently watchable and entertaining movie, even today.


The Blu-ray release of Scarface is actually the 4th DVD edition of the movie, not counting a compilation package of Pacino films released by Universal around 10 years ago.  And all of these releases pull much of their bonus material from the Signature Laserdisc released in 1996.   The laserdisc held a non-anamorphic copy of the movie with 2.0 sound, along with a making-of documentary from Laurent Bouzereau, outtakes, trailers, a photo gallery and a trailer for Carlito’s Way.  In the early stages of DVD, a Collector’s Edition DVD was released, essentially porting over the laserdisc contents and adding the usual DVD text material.   In 2003, a 20th Anniversary Edition DVD was released, this time including an anamorphic transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital and DTS mixes.  The documentary from the laserdisc was recut into three smaller pieces, but adding new interview material with Al Pacino to buttress things.  There was also a featurette about the movie’s impact on hip-hop.  At the same time, a “Deluxe Gift Set” was made available, holding the DVD in a rich, plush box that also held a DVD of the 1932 movie, some lobby cards and a gold money clip.  In 2006, a Platinum Edition was released, this time adding a newly created sound mix, an onscreen counter for all the F-bombs and bullets, and two new featurettes – one about the then-current video game, and the other making a more thorough examination of the film’s impact on hip hop, gangster culture and the real drug trade. 


The new Blu-ray comes in two flavors.  The one reviewed here is a steelbook package that carries over all of the extras from the Platinum Edition and adds in a new HD retrospective and a PIP function, both prepared by Laurent Bouzereau.  The movie is presented in both a DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix that updates the mix on the Platinum Edition into HD, and a DTS 2.0 mix that sounds like it’s the one originally heard on the laserdisc.  As I mentioned before, the movie is presented in a 1080p VC-1 transfer that has serious issues I’ll discuss below.  Within the steelbook is the 2007 Universal Cinema Classics DVD of the 1932 film.  The packaging also includes instructions for downloading a digital copy of the movie and 10 cards showing the finalists in a national fan art contest about the movie.  The Blu-ray includes the usual BD-Live and pocket BLU functionality, as well as D-Box functionality.  Now, for the really affluent Scarface fan, there is also a Limited Edition Gift Set that includes a handcrafted cigar humidor made by Daniel Marshall, which will set you back $1000 if you buy it at full price.  As with the 2003 Deluxe Gift Set Edition, this is the kind of thing that makes me wonder if the effort is going into the packaging and not what is actually in the package.




VIDEO QUALITY   2/5

Scarface is presented in a 1080p VC-1 2.35:1 transfer that is wildly uneven, at its best moments.  Noise is rampant throughout the movie, particularly during any scene that displays a large expansive of sky or wall.  Edge enhancement is also apparent, particularly in moments when the DVD producers are trying to clean up the close-ups or the foreground elements.  Black levels are also a problem, where dark suits don’t do well against dark backdrops in various scenes.  I’ll be specific with some examples here – the opening immigration scene with Al Pacino has solid white walls that pulse with noise, while his head and hair appear to pop out from the background in an unnatural manner.  The reveal of Freedom Town shows a lot of noise in the sky and the background of the scene, while Manny Ray’s red pants have some kind of artificial sharpening around their outline that makes them jump out.  The chainsaw hotel room walls are just loaded with noise, as is the sky and background in the famous crane shot.   The beachside pool scene with Pacino and Pfeiffer is again loaded with noise, both in the sky and in the pool.  This does not look like grain to me, and I’ll wait to see Robert Harris’ views on this to confirm.  But grain in the picture doesn’t look hard and pulsing in the manner I am seeing here – I am used to seeing grain flow in a much more organic manner.  This is even more distracting than the problems I saw on the Fast Times At Ridgemont High Blu-ray.  Adding to this is an issue where scenes in Frank Lopez’ auto dealership, we have both a bunch of noise in the bright tree wallpaper and a problem with the black levels on the other side, where Frank and Ernie’s suits almost melt into the wall.  Now, at the same time, there are various shots throughout where there is a pleasing amount of detail, both in people’s faces and skin textures (particularly for Pacino, Loggia and F. Murray Abraham) and in the fabric of their clothing.  It’s interesting to watch Tony’s wardrobe evolution as he goes from really cheap shirts to mid-level suits to the really expensive materials by the movie’s conclusion – and you can discern the difference in the material throughout.  Colors also pop in a pleasing way for many scenes in the movie.  So I’m not going to completely pan this transfer, but I have to say that this is not the ultimate picture quality for this movie by any stretch of the imagination.  I believe we’re looking at an older transfer that has had a little attention given to it, but not the spectacular picture quality that has been advertised.


AUDIO QUALITY    4 ½/5

Scarface is presented in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, along with English and French DTS 2.0 stereo mixes, and a Spanish DTS 2.0 mono mix.  The 7.1 mix is literally a blast to hear, with the basslines of the Georgio Moroder score and the early 80s songs pulsing through the subwoofer and some piercing gunfire playing through the speakers at the appropriate moments.  As an added bonus, the Blu-ray includes a DTS 2.0 mix that I believe is a conversion of the earlier DVD/laserdisc mix.  I didn’t listen to it that much as I was quite pleased with the 7.1 mix.


SPECIAL FEATURES      4/5

The Blu-ray presentation of Scarface comes with multiple special features, much of which is carried over from the earlier DVD incarnations.  But the new material is quite good, particularly a PIP function that does far more than I normally see on these items.  The Blu-ray also carries the usual BD-Live and pocket BLU functionality, as well as D-Box functionality.  The packaging also includes the 2007 DVD of the 1932 film and instructions for downloading a digital copy.


The Scarface Phenomenon (1080p, DTS-HD MA  Audio, 38:34 Total) –  (NEWLY CREATED FOR THE BLU-RAY)  This is a new series of interviews conducted by Laurent Bouzereau with various people involved in the movie, including Brian DePalma, Martin Bregman, Steven Bauer, Angel Salazar, as well as Billy Corben (director of Cocaine Cowboys), Eli Roth, and authors of two books related to the film, as well as rappers and others.  Some of this stuff is the usual material, but there are some real nuggets here – particularly De Palma’s admission about Blow Out at the beginning, and a funny bit from Angel Salazar, who recounts that he can’t walk down the street without someone yelling “Chi Chi, get the Yayo!”  There’s also a quick look at some alternate takes of Pacino warming into the famous line “Say Hello to My Little Friend!”   The new featurette is in 3 parts, which can be viewed individually or via a “Play All” function.


Deleted Scenes – (22:29, 480p, Non-Anamorphic) – (FROM THE LASERDISC)  Over 20 minutes of deleted scenes are included here, ported over from the earlier releases.  For some reason, this seemed to run longer than I remember from the earlier DVDs, but there’s nothing here that’s truly essential.  We see a few more scenes in Freedom Town, establishing more of Tony’s relationship with Manny and Pepe Serna’s character, and showing him trying to call his sister once.  We see the introduction of Nick the Pig and his closet of drugs.  We see Tony hiring the lawyer we will see later in the film.  There’s also some footage of Tony and Gina in the dressmaker’s store – footage that is only seen under music in a montage, but here has some dialogue that sounds improvised.  The scenes cannot be accessed individually – you’ll need to watch the whole reel through, or press fast forward.


The World of Tony Montana – (11:38, 1080p, Anamorphic) (FROM THE 2006 DVD) – This featurette covers the real world of drug enforcement, including interviews with real DEA agents and fritzed footage of real drug dealers.


The Rebirth – (10:08 480p, Full Frame) (FROM THE 2003 DVD    AND FROM THE LASERDISC) – This featurette builds on a section of the original Laurent Bouzereau documentary to cover the story of how the script was developed into what we see in the finished film.  Brian De Palma recounts how he and David Rabe worked on a version of it before Bregman and Pacino got into it.  Bregman discusses how Lumet gave them the Cuban angle before leaving the project.  Oliver Stone mentions how he came into the project after the failure of The Hand, and discusses some of the wilder and scarier moments of his research while writing the script.


The Acting – (15:05, 480p, Full Frame) (FROM THE 2003 DVD AND FROM THE LASERDISC) – This featurette covers the performances, particularly that of Al Pacino, who acknowledges that he was going for 2 dimensions here rather than 3.  Bregman discusses the audition of Michelle Pfeiffer and how she not only pulled ahead of all the other candidates, but paid for her own travel to get to the audition in the first place


The Creating – (29:35, 480p, Full Frame) (FROM THE 2003 DVD AND FROM THE LASERDISC) – This featurette is the most interesting of the three pulled together from the 1996 materials, as it covers some of the more controversial areas.  This piece acknowledges that the production initially filmed in Miami but had to come back to Los Angeles after having genuine safety concerns due to threats being made about the subject matter and the focus.  A fair amount of time is spent discussing the chainsaw scene, which is acknowledged to not really show anything of a chainsaw touching a human body part, but which was still so outrageous that, along with other problems, it caused the movie to get an X rating.  De Palma recounts that he repeatedly recut the footage there and elsewhere but kept getting the same X rating.  His breaking point was when he got the note that in a Babylon Club scene where gunfire breaks out, there were too many bullet hits on the clown in the crossfire.  One can understand his frustration at that point.  De Palma discloses here (now 15 years ago) that when all was said and done and his last cut was finally given a hard R rating after appeal, he went ahead and used his original cut, since all the cuts had received the same X before the appeal. There’s also a fun note about Steven Spielberg visiting the set during the climactic gun battle, including a photo of him on the set in protective gear with everyone else.  Now, this featurette does not include any of the other things that were going on during what was a troubled shoot, including the firing of the 1st Assistant Director midway through the movie, and various other shenanigans.  But it still covers as much as one would expect from an official piece.  Laurent Bouzereau delivers his usual good work here.


The Making of Scarface: The Video Game – (12:05, 480p, Full Frame) (FROM THE 2006 DVD) – This featurette covers the making of the console game from a few years back.  It’s really just a puff piece that includes interviews with the various actors who participated, and an interview with a breathless David McKenna about the script.


Scarface: The TV Version – (1:28, 480p, Full Frame) (FROM THE LASERDISC) – This is a pretty funny item, initially found as part of the documentary on the laserdisc.  It starts with Martin Bregman recounting how a network exec told Bregman he could do a bunch of dialogue replacements to lose all the profanity violence, and thus make it possible to air the film on network television.  A series of examples are then displayed, which range from the passable to the ridiculous in the choice of new dialogue inserted into Pacino and other actors’ mouths to clean them out.


U-Control:


Two U-Control functions are included here:


Scarface Scorecard – (FROM THE 2006 DVD) – This is actually a port of the F-bomb and bullet counter originally done for the Platinum Edition DVD.  It’s a pretty silly idea, but it’s what you’ve already seen on The Big Lebowski and on Red Dawn.


PIP – (NEWLY CREATED FOR THE BLU-RAY) – This is probably the best thing about the Blu-ray, right here.  Laurent Bouzereau has assembled a series of interview clips from the various featurettes, including the new one, and then coupled that with two other ideas.  First, he presents various of the TV-safe clips (from the above featurette) as counterpoints to the onscreen profanity.  Second, he presents full scenes from the 1932 film in direct contrast to their counterparts in the 1983 film, showing just how much of the earlier structure, plot and dialogue Oliver Stone lifted.    I should note at the moment of the big climactic gun battle, Bouzereau includes even more footage of Pacino doing takes of his big line.  But the real treasure here (other than the juxtaposition of the 1932 footage) is several long interview segments not included on the new featurette.  Billy Corben goes on at length about the reality of what happened in Miami when the wave of Cuban immigrants (and criminals) hit the city in 1980, at times getting into some surprising details that clarify why this became such a problem.  Angel Salazar relates that one of his better lines in the movie was a complete ad-lib that De Palma left in.  (“Hey Ernie, you got a job!”)  But the biggest impact comes when Steven Bauer gets into a discussion about how much negative press the movie received in 1983 and the years afterward.  (If you’re looking, this happens over the money laundering scene with Seidlebaum.)  After an initial calm about this, Bauer becomes so emotional that the interview gets to a raw, naked level that is almost uncomfortable to see.  After initially being taken aback by this, I have to take my hat off to Laurent Bouzereau for including it.  Too often, we only see the sunny side of these things.  The Bauer interview takes this disc to a place that I would not have expected, and for that alone, it’s worth your time to rent.


BD-Live – The usual BD-Live functionality is present.


Pocket BLU – The usual pocket BLU functionality is present.


D-Box – This functionality is available for those viewers who have this as part of their home theater.


The movie and special features are subtitled in English, Spanish and French. The usual chapter and pop-up menus are present.  When you first put the Blu-ray into the player, you’ll see a few BD-Live trailers for upcoming Blu-ray releases.


Digital Copy – Instructions for downloading a digital copy of the movie are available on an insert in the packaging.  The copy may not be available after 9/30/2012.


1932 Scarface DVD – (1:33, Full Frame, Black and White, English Mono Sound) – As a bonus, the steelbook also contains the 2007 Universal Cinema Classics DVD of the 1932 film of Scarface starring Paul Muni in the title role, produced by Howard Hughes, written by Howard Hawks and Ben Hecht, and directed by Howard Hawks and Richard Rosson.  The disc contains an introduction by Robert Osbourne of Turner Classic Movies (2:24), and an alternate ending (1:21) that doesn’t really change the outcome other than the setting in which Tony finds it.  The movie is subtitled in English and French, and is chaptered, but alas, there is no chapter menu.  (The lack of that menu has always been a complaint for me, ever since I reviewed my first one 4 ½ years ago.)


With all of those extras in the Steelbook Edition, you may wonder why I still only allow 4 stars with all the elements I have clearly appreciated.  The answer is the humidor!  Or lack thereof.  Since I did not receive said humidor, I must take back one kadam to honor the god whose humidor this is...


IN THE END...

Scarface continues to be an entertaining three hours of cinema, particularly for its unapologetically over-the top nature.  It’s a definite career marker for Al Pacino, Oliver Stone and Brian De Palma, even if it isn’t the best work by any of the three.  The new Blu-ray offers some great new extras, a great sound mix, and an unfortunately unsatisfying picture quality.  If only they had been able to manage a better transfer rather than the packaging, this could have been a wonderful release.  As it is, I’m happy to recommend a rental for fans of the movie and the filmmaker, so that they may at least see the extras and hear the new sound mix. 


Kevin Koster

September 4, 2011.


Equipment now in use in this Home Theater:


Panasonic 65” VT30 Plasma 3D HDTV – set at “THX” picture mode

Denon AVR-3311Cl Receiver

Oppo BDP-93 Blu-ray Player

PS3 Player (used for calculation of bitrates for picture and sound)

5 Mirage Speakers (Front Left/Center/Right, Surround Back Left/Right)

2 Sony Speakers (Surround Left/Right – middle of room)

Martin Logan Dynamo 700 Subwoofer 

 

42nd Street Freak

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Okay. Blu Ray reviews piss me off. How the hell can one review of a blu ray transfer give it 5/5 then another 2/5. Transfer quality is not as much a matter of opinion, as a view on a movie itself obviously is, so as such how can two reviews of the exact same blu ray vary from 5/5 to 2/5? Someone thinks it's more than twice as good a transfer, or twice as bad a transfer, as someone else. This is insane. I'm not saying who is right as I have not seen the blu ray, bur such wildly differing reviews on transfer quality make the reviews pointless for a potential buyer. How can anyone make a judgement with reviews like this: YOUR review Transfer - 2/5 http://www.blu-raydefinition.com/reviews/scarface-limited-edition-steelbook-blu-ray-review.html Transfer - 4.5/5 http://bluray.highdefdigest.com/4925/scarface_le_sb.html Transfer - 3.5/5 http://www.highdefdiscnews.com/?p=66372 Transfer -5/5 Seems the only thing for sure is that shadow detail is minimal as blacks are very black (a common problem with a few blu ray transfers - like "Dirty Harry"). Should I upgrade or not? I go to the reviews (reviews where the DVD companies haves spent money on freebie copies of their film to send for review) and I am none the wiser! Seems much time, energy and money could be saved by all concerned if no one bothers to review blu-ray transfers any more. As this is a classic example of their utter worthlessness to the undecided customer.
 

TravisR

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I understand what Dave is saying above but it illustrates why I think numerical ratings should be banned from all reviews of everything. There's just too much variance in what one person thinks is a 4 and what somewhat else thinks is 4. And worse yet, number ratings make it too easy for a person to read the 'headline' rather than read the whole critique.
 

Adam Gregorich

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Originally Posted by TravisR

I understand what Dave is saying above but it illustrates why I think numerical ratings should be banned from all reviews of everything. There's just too much variance in what one person thinks is a 4 and what somewhat else thinks is 4. And worse yet, number ratings make it too easy for a person to read the 'headline' rather than read the whole critique.

We had a big discussion about this a few years ago amongst the reviewers. For better or worse most people want to see them. Regardless if you do or not, I still encourage you to read the reasoning behind the rating.

Originally Posted by 42nd Street Freak [url=/t/314487/scarface-blu-ray-review#post_3847406]

Okay. Blu Ray reviews piss me off.

How the hell can one review of a blu ray transfer give it 5/5 then another 2/5.

Transfer quality is not as much a matter of opinion, as a view on a movie itself obviously is, so as such how can two reviews of the exact same blu ray vary from 5/5 to 2/5?
Someone thinks it's more than twice as good a transfer, or twice as bad a transfer, as someone else. This is insane.

I'm not saying who is right as I have not seen the blu ray, bur such wildly differing reviews on transfer quality make the reviews pointless for a potential buyer.
In a lot of ways the transfer quality is a matter of opinion, especially when something isn't perfect--exactly how "not perfect" is it and what is the individual reviewer comparing it to? The best transfer they have seen of another title, a prior home video release or ?? Regardless of if a review uses a rating or not, they are done by people so there will always be variation. What screen size are they using to review, what type of display, etc. I haven't read the other reviews, but Kevin gives specific examples of some of the things that caused him to give it a 2.5 rating. Even so, I would pay more attention to the description and conclusion than the number ranking. At the end of the day the sound was great there were some good new extras and when it comes to picture quality Kevin said, "So I’m not going to completely pan this transfer, but I have to say that this is not the ultimate picture quality for this movie by any stretch of the imagination." If you can live with some of the picture faults, want the upgraded sound and extras I would say go for it. If you are fine with your current DVD, don't care for the upraded sound and want to see the extras rent it.
 

Kevin EK

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Dave, all I can tell you is that on my screen, which is 65", the noise was enough to throw me completely out of the picture on several occasions, and that's not even getting into the other issues.


Since I wanted to be sure, I had another pair of eyes, also using a 65" screen, confirm what I was seeing.


I'll keep an eye out for Robert Harris' A Few Words on this one. Maybe he'll say that this is a great transfer and I'll need to rethink my position. But I can only tell you what I saw on the screen, and it didn't lie.


That said, there are other things about this Blu-ray I discussed that could be worth your time. Why don't you rent it and see what you think?
 

Joe Karlosi

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Well, I must say this review has scared me off and stopped me dead in my tracks from bothering to "upgrade" with the Blu-ray. Truth be told, I just saw the movie in the theater with my teenage nephew (his first time seeing it) and it looked EXCELLENT. I was kind of "Scarface'd Out" anyway after just seeing this on the really Big Screen, so I have no problem waiting this out for a while to hear others' opinions on this transfer too.
 

vnisanian2001

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I never got why the voices of the two immigraton officers were actually dubbed by Charles Durning and Dennis Franz. Did Brian De Palma outright hate the officers' real voices or something?
 

Kevin EK

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I've always wondered why he looped in Durning and Franz as well. I'm not sure what happened with the initial filming, but I do know that De Palma liked to work with Durning and Franz. This may have been a way of correcting voices he wasn't happy with, while bringing in two actors he did like. Either way, the only time it's obvious is when the camera is squarely on the officer being looped by Durning.
 

Jim_K

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It would be very helpful with these online reviews of catalog titles to compare them to previous video versions.
 

Cinescott

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This is one of Universal's highest profile titles. Why (ala 'Out of Africa') can't they put in more of an effort for Scarface? This is a monster cult-hit movie and will likely sell very well; I don't get it.
 

Kevin EK

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Jim, do you mean in terms of the picture quality?


I've tried to itemize the multiple prior versions here, but I didn't get into depth about the transfers. I will say that the transfer on the 2003 DVD, which was also used for the 2006 Platinum Edition is a major step above the laserdisc/Collector's Edition DVD, since it's both anamorphic and generally looks better all around. I haven't tried really poring through the 2003 DVD to look for EE or anything else, but my recollection of it is that it's a good transfer for regular DVD. Will this Blu-ray look better than that? In some scenes, yes. In other areas, the issues I've discussed become very distracting. Depends on the size of your monitor. I suspect that if you watch the Blu-ray on a smaller monitor, these issues will not be as evident or distracting.
 

42nd Street Freak

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Kevin EK said:
Dave, all I can tell you is that on my screen, which is 65", the noise was enough to throw me completely out of the picture on several occasions, and that's not even getting into the other issues.


Since I wanted to be sure, I had another pair of eyes, also using a 65" screen, confirm what I was seeing.


I'll keep an eye out for Robert Harris' A Few Words on this one. Maybe he'll say that this is a great transfer and I'll need to rethink my position. But I can only tell you what I saw on the screen, and it didn't lie.


That said, there are other things about this Blu-ray I discussed that could be worth your time. Why don't you rent it and see what you think?
Oh yeah, I'm sure it was what you saw. It was not a personal comment or a negative one about YOUR review I assure you. :cool: Just that the differences in transfer opinion is so varied the main point of most blu ray reviews (how the transfer is, seeing as most people will already own/have seen the film) is lost. It seems personal tech and set-up is so crucial to blu ray that most of the time a collective view of a transfer is almost impossible. *sigh* Renting it is an option. But to rent this in the UK would be a rather long process as it would not really be available except as online rental (like Netflix in the U.S.) so they can often take a while to arrive if new releases. I only have a 40" Sony Bravia LCD so perhaps the faults won't be quite as obvious. I may just get it, as I love the film and a BD of it has been a wish for while. :confused: We shall see. And thanks for the input/reply.
 

Cinescott

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Titles like this one where PQ is all over the map confuse me. If techs are making adjustments on a scene-by-scene basis, how do they miss the really awful parts? Conversely, if it's run through on one setting, why is it not more consistent?


Why would anyone blow big bucks on a humidor edition if the movie's PQ is bad? Generally, people that will spend that kind of money will be pretty tech-savvy and realize they've been ripped off. For me, $20 for even a slight bump in quality for Scarface is worth it, but not $100s.


I'd have to be more coked-up than Tony Montana to spend money like that:) Not a screenshot:)


 

David Wilkins

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Unfortunately the internet era has brought us a world where everyone is a reviewer; problem is, very few people (comparatively) know what the hell they're looking at. Add the characteristics of wildly varying hardware with wildly varying degrees of adjustment....and it brings us to where we are: enough spewing and opinionizing to nearly ruin the promise of the high-def era. 42nd Street Freak: I'm sure you've been around a while, and might already know this....but, the only peace I've found is to develop over time, familiarity with various reviewers and their take on things; where they stand with fellow reviewers, and their consistency when compared with sources that are known to be knowledgable professionals, such as Robert Harris. Combine this amalgamation with rental viewing, and most of the problem is solved. :D The biggest hole in the bucket, is the inconsistency of any particular title getting reviewed by your chosen sources; that's where rental, or the dart board system of purchase come into play. It's all very frustrating.
 

Jim_K

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Originally Posted by Kevin EK

Jim, do you mean in terms of the picture quality?


I've tried to itemize the multiple prior versions here, but I didn't get into depth about the transfers. I will say that the transfer on the 2003 DVD, which was also used for the 2006 Platinum Edition is a major step above the laserdisc/Collector's Edition DVD, since it's both anamorphic and generally looks better all around. I haven't tried really poring through the 2003 DVD to look for EE or anything else, but my recollection of it is that it's a good transfer for regular DVD. Will this Blu-ray look better than that? In some scenes, yes. In other areas, the issues I've discussed become very distracting. Depends on the size of your monitor. I suspect that if you watch the Blu-ray on a smaller monitor, these issues will not be as evident or distracting.



Picture & audio quality.


Personally, if there's a BD catalog release of a title I'm interested in, chances are I own a previous video version (DVD) so I would want to know the reviewers opinion on how much of an upgrade (or downgrade) in each area (PQ & AQ), and the reason why. This would require giving the previous version a spin for an accurate A/B comparison.


If a review were overwhelmingly positive I guess a comparison would be a moot point but given the issues you noted it helps to put things into context. Bottom line I look for in a review like this is (warts aside) which is the best home video presentation of that particular film.

Now my monitor is slightly larger so I'm concerned I'll see some of the same issues though I don't usually spot EE unless it's horrendous.
 

Kevin EK

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I see your point Jim, and I appreciate it. I'll try to take a little more time to go through the prior editions looking for those areas.

I have done this in the past with catalogue double and triple dips (like The Mummy, The Wolfman, etc.) I think I've tended with the Blus to spend more time trying to unravel the source of where everything came from (extras that actually were prepared for laserdiscs in the 1990s, etc) than with comparisons of the PQ and AQ. And you're right that we need to keep in mind whether the upgrade to HD is worth the coin, regardless of what the extras are on the discs.


I can say that the audio on the Scarface Blu-ray is easily head and shoulders ahead of the sound mix heard on the 2003 DVD, and of course farther ahead of the mix heard on the laserdisc and the initial DVD. The inclusion of the 2.0 DTS mix tells me they were trying to give you a good quality copy of that early mix for comparison purposes. I listened to some of it, but was much more impressed with the 7.1 mix, for obvious reasons.


As for PQ, I can only say that the 2003 is less distracting than the Blu in terms of what is happening to the picture onscreen for me. On the other hand, it's at a much lower level of resolution. The EE here isn't horrendous - or at least not all the time. You'll have to tell me if the opening interview scene pops with EE for you the way it does for me. The noise was a bigger problem for me, to be honest.
 

Cinescott

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It's probably happened, but I have yet to run across a case (after 190 titles) where a Blu-ray is not "better" than the DVD in almost every way, especially PQ and AQ. The extras are often different and it's good to know what content is new and what has been left behind so I know if I can safely off-load my DVD.


I rarely regret an upgrade to Blu-ray if the movie is important enough to me. Scarface will probably be no exception.
 

Bob Cashill

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"The extras are often different..." I usually find them to be exactly the same, with few worthwhile ones added.
 

Joe Karlosi

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Despite my reservations based on the review, I went ahead and bought the Blu-ray anyway and watched a lot of it. The first thing I noticed was that the whole picture felt a little 'dark' to me, and while I didn't witness a lot of of 'noise', I did find that the black levels were a bit much and things tended to melt into them and get lost (dark hair, suits). I just saw the film properly lit and sensational-looking at a theater last week, so the image there was still fresh in my mind. The dark scenes in Frank's office were especially messy, particularly the one where Tony comes back after making the deal in Bolivia ("yeah, sure - you're the boss."). Really dark in there and the faces struck me as too orange. Overall, I can deal with it fine. I'm watching on a 46" HDTV, and in the afternoon (so I didn't have the full impact of a really blackened living room at night). If there's significant noise, I'd more likely spot it when the room as at its absolute darkest.
 

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