Wednesday, April 25, 2012

High-Powered Action Pack: "No Code of Conduct" (1998)

Movie: 3/5
Video: 2.5/5
Audio: 3/5
Extras: 0/5
Overall: 2/5

No Code of Conduct, you know, if you told me that Bret Michaels directed a movie I would laugh. But apparently in the 90's he made two films and then we now see him as a wreck trying to find love or something. Not to say that Charlie "Charles" Sheen is doing any better with his "winning"! However, with this film, it is an interesting mix. I feel Bret did a good job with the film but at the end of the day this is still an average police drama.

After an undercover cop, played by Bret Michaels who looks like he stumbled across a drug deal gone wrong in a back alley, get killed. His superior, played by Charlie's father Martin Sheen, is asked to come along to track a drug trafficking ring as back up. His son Jake, played by Charlie Sheen, stumbles across the drug trafficking while hanging out with his ex-partner (Mark Dacascos) who is out busting men looking for prostitutes. His ex-partner's partner gets killed and the vehicle the drug runners are using gets shot out. Once they get it in their possession, they learn what's so important about the van.

I am sure in the 90's when this was released, it was probably considered junk or something made for a quick buck. I honestly do not remember this film at all and seeing it came out in the late 90's, I should have knew about this but didn't. I had only learned about it last year while Charlie was going on his whole; "Tiger Blood-Winning-Mumbo-Jumbo"! And also learned that Bret Michaels had directed and co-wrote the film with Sheen and several others. Considering the twelve years that have passed since it's release, I will say that it is bit above average. Mark Dacascos always gives a great performance; especially going from the European great Le Pacte Des Loups to the Asylum's mockbuster cash-in I Am Omega. Seeing this film makes me miss Sheen's serious acting roles from Platoon and The Arrival to seeing him do a sitcom like Two and a Half Men and appearing in crappy comedies like Scary Movie 3. I'll give the film a 3/5.

The transfer is overall conflicting; the compression is horrifying on this transfer. If I still had my BD-Rom drive, I could see how much space this film took up, but I am going to guess it was probably around 12GB. The transfer is comparable to the Echo Bridge release of The Prophecy. The pro of this release is that it is in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. There is detail, but it has to settle a bit due to the compression. I do not feel that this is a straight up SD upscale, but I can see some arguments on it, especially in the opening of the film. The video transfer is on par with an earlier Echo Bridge/Miramax release, it scores a 2.5/5.

The audio present on this portion of the disc is DTS-HD MA 2.0; it sounds great but I felt that it could be better. The techno music cues sound pretty pleasant while listening. I give the audio a 3/5. There are no extras at all; 0/5. Overall, the disc's portion of No Code of Conduct scores a 2/5. It enjoyable, but the video transfer could have been better. I would say it is worth the watch though.

High-Powered Action Pack: "Equilibrium" (2002)

Movie: 4/5
Video: 4/5
Audio: 5/5
Extras: 0/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Equilibrium, a tasteful futuristic sci-fi action flick. This is a pretty solid feature in which in the future we take drugs to hold in our emotions; to show your emotions is punishable upon death. It's a pretty straight forward film and very entertaining. Preston (Christian Bale) is a top soldier in the future; discovers his assigned patrol partner, played by Sean Bean, is not taking the drug. Preston kills him and then with a stroke of chance, he drops his vile containing the drug and is quickly seeing the world in a whole new way.

After arresting a woman who is been founding hoarding "illegal" items is awaiting death row, she slowly gets to him to help him see the path. Upon going out of the borders of their utopia, they found a group of dogs which are set to be slaughtered when a puppy runs to Preston and soon he cannot see it die and takes it off to "tested for disease". Preston soon joins the resistance to bring down the utopia so that mankind can possibly learn how to feel again.

Kurt Wimmer wrote and directed a very good film and all of the actors involved gave great performances. One of the problems I have is that there should have been more focus on the psychological aspect of Preston's struggle once he decides to quit taking the drug. If they gave another five to ten minutes to focus on that, it would have been a better movie. The action is pretty sweet too with Bale's character kicking butt left and right. Emily Watson gave a great sensual performance in her role. And Sean Bean, well, he's in his usual Sean Bean role and we know what happens to him most of the time. The film gets a 4/5.

Equilibrium is, without a doubt, the main reason to buy the High-Powered Action Pack. Echo Bridge has finally gotten an HD master for the film that is finally in it's original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The initial individual release of the film was presented in an open matted, yet cropped VFX scenes, presentation. Normally, if it was open matted, I wouldn't mind because what the director intended is still there, but the cropped VFX scenes of the "gun-kata" and other scenes kills it for me. And the original release was very tempting for me, but I kept passing on it.

The video presentation for Equilibrium is not the best, but, for a ten year old film it does the job. The film shares the disc on a BD50 with two other films, being The Lookout and Supercop. The colors are pretty vibrant; there's clear and sharp definition. If you look closely at the film; there is a lot of dirt and specs and print damage on the film. Compression is noticeable in a few scenes and there's a bit of pulsing towards the end of the film. I know that might scare potential buyers away, but overall, it's still a solid transfer and the only alternate is a very expensive Japanese release. I think this master was probably made back in 2002 whenever the film was made. I doubt we'll get a remaster, but, Equilibrium scores a 4/5.

The DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio presentation is pretty good on this release. There's good range in hearing harp noises in the music and helps get the tone across and then you jump to the next scene where the action is booming. Echo Bridge did a great job on this portion of the disc. The audio gets 5/5.

Without any extras; the film on this portion of the disc scores a 3.5/5. We have a very nice master provided to us by Filmyard and Echo Bridge. This should have been how it was when it was originally released in May 2011. If you buy this six film set, this title's new master in OAR makes it worth it alone. Recommended.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

High-Powered Action Pack: "The Yards" (2000)

Movie: 3.5/5
Video: 1/5
Audio: 2.5/5
Extras: 0/0
Overall: 1.5/5

The Yards, a great crime drama from director and co-writer James Gray (We Own the Night and Two Lovers) and co-writer Matt Reeves (Director of Cloverfield and Let Me In) about a family and it's downward spiral. Leo, played by Mark Wahlberg, returns home from his prison sentence and is met with celebration by his mother and aunt and her family. His buddy Willie and new uncle Frank give him a job offer and soon Leo is off with Willie to pay off a night guard and destroy the train parts. When the guard declines and police are called; Leo's world comes crashing down and is on the run.

I felt that this was a pretty good crime drama. It seemed that everyone put in a good performance and I feel it helps the overall emotional tone of the film. Wahlberg's quiet presence he has mostly throughout the film is different from most of the films he does now. James Caan is always great and as Leo's uncle, you see him in a tough spot and his acting is great as it shows his conflict in trying to handle the situation. Charlize's character confused me a bit in terms of how old she is supposed to be; maybe the early twenties. Also, the plot twist was easily predictable in the opening film and a bit later on before it's spilled out. The film scores a 3.5/5.

Before I go on about the video presentation, whenever a film is cropped from it's original aspect ratio, I cut the score in half and go on lower from 2.5/5. I am not sure if this is the same encode from the individual release but the video presentation is a complete nightmare as it is cropped from 2.35:1 to 1.78:1. The framing is ok, but it would help if this film was presented in it's intended scope. The grain is overblown to the max. It is frustrating as hell whenever the grain is as white as snow and it's a scene that takes place at night. And the film has a jitter and it does not stop; it goes on throughout the whole entire film. Also, I am not sure if this is really 1080p as there is some interlacing in some scenes; especially in the opening when Leo is on the train. Video scores a horrifying 1/5.

The audio presentation is DTS-HD MA 2.0 despite being listed as 5.1 DTS on the back cover. I feel that this audio is adequate. It's not a "high-powered action film" and the audio gives an overall calm when it needs to be, but it is average. The audio scores a 2.5/5. Overall, this movie is a miss on the disc; we still have Hidden Assassin and No Code of Conduct on this disc of the set to go through as well as the three films on the other disc. With no extras included for this film; this portion of the disc's content for The Yards, I give it 1.5/5.