Demo Disc Writeup

 
Welcome to the Xtremeplace!

A demo disc is a show case of the wow factor, and this awe inspiring bit is what makes our jaws drop or make us stop in our steps when we walk past a demo going on in the shops. This disc aims to compile the best scenes to showcase the best of various aspects of High Definition.

A note first:

This is NOT a financial venture, everyone does this for fun and this disc should NEVER be sold. I cannot emphasise this more.


Introduction:

The world of Home Theatre (HT) is an exciting and immersive world, which can draw you in, help you share the emotions, the action, the tension and the humor, and the picture as well as the sound helps to put you right in the middle of it.

So before you even begin to watch this, take some time to read ALL the stickies, and vital threads and information in our forums on:

-       speaker placement
-       bass management
-       subwoofer calibration
-       room treatment
-       room equalization
-       types of decoding
-       picture calibration
-       viewing distance
-       how to buy and demo threads
-       etc etc

it is possible to replicate or surpass what we get in the cinema, if you spend some money, and plenty of effort. As  Ikea tells us: “you don’t have to be rich to be smart”.

After you get that dream sound system, you need to spend time putting the pieces together. The use of those automated room equalization features, plus some elbow grease, and muscle work, a tape measure, an SPL meter and time spent reading the manual will help give you the perfect setup that can put the Rex theatre to shame.

The components of a good soundtrack:

BASS -

Cinema and HT is not just about a big bad subwoofer with a head splitting bass track. Too often when you step into a store, the salesman simply cranks up the subwoofer to a level that makes you want to walk out or you lose a bit of your hearing in the process.

So even though a good bass sequenced is vital, bass is actually a lot more than explosions and gunfire. Bass can be used to accentuate a thrilling or suspenseful scene. It is often used to good effect in ghost horror scenes or even in drama to inject tension.

SPEECH –

Bass aids but is only a part of the sonic picture. Good dialogue, which is clear and well located is also important. A poorly recorded voice makes it hard to discern what the actor is saying (unless its Marlon Brando, then you are stuffed!). excessively low levels of dialogue also force you to turn up the volume only to suffer the issue of bass and surround effects which are too loud.

SURROUND EFFECTS

To me, this trumps bass for the whole cinematic effect and is even more vital to complete the whole sonic landscape.

The effective use of the surrounds, be it 5.1, 6.1 or 7.1 (note there is NO soundtrack encoded in 9.1 or 11.1, that’s all post-processing by a suitably equipped amp) will allow you to be truly immersed in the movie. Have you felt those bullets whizzing just past your ears?

How about the voice which buzzes all around you? That airplane that goes from the back to the front seamlessly? Or the sensation that you are actually in the same helmet as the actor?

Now that you have the basic components, then onto the Demo Disc!


I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.

The Pacific - review

The Pacific - BR review DTS-MA 5.1

Saving Private Ryan (SPR) was one of the definite movies of the 90s and one of the best war movies of all time, and in 2001 the Band of Brothers followed the success of Saving Private Ryan with a wonderful mini-series about the brave men of East Company as their fought their way through Europe. Tom Hanks did not rest on his laurels, and in 2007, made The Pacific. By then, there were quite a few more war movies, not only in English, but also in other languages. Terms like "gritty", "raw realism" and "faded colors" were often used to describe these shows. So how can this one do when thrown in amongst the rest?

First let me tell you what impressed me first. The action was breath-taking and exhilarating, and you felt like you were in with the First Marines as they did battle in unpronounceable islands in the Pacific. The depiction of the dangers, the agony and perils mixed in with the fear felt genuine, and intense. Knowing that everyone will benchmark this show against his other two creations meant a pressure to excel. The Pacific succeeds in the depiction of battle and the sound effects are massive, impressive and devastating. 

What it falls on is that it tries too hard. This mini-series tries to offer drama, romance, sort of like We Were Once Soldiers, where the show alternates between battles and the home front. Here you can a couple of episodes of raw battle to begin with, then two episodes which could have come out of a soap opera, with plenty of skin, sex scenes and love making thrown in. You get more "Face time",closeups, and dramatic moments which seemed to have been forced in to space out the action and add humanity where it is not really needed or helpful to the plot. Somehow, I feel it detracts from the movie and these attempts at humanising the soldiers did not do well and seem contrived and artificial. The show is most entertaining when it sticks to the what it is about - war. Those battle scenes are some of the best filmed and acted.

No one will fault the action, and thank goodness the director stayed away from the faded colours popularized by SPR. It also eschewed the jerky hand cam style used to great annoyance in the Bourne series and many others subsequently. Instead the show is resplendent in color, detail and showcases the best of modern film cinematography, with details like the leather belts on the soldiers, the grime looking almost 3D and the dried blood all realistically and carefully portrayed. 

The show differs from SPR in following three individual soldiers from the First Marines, as they battle in the South Pacific, and how their lives, their attitudes and morals are altered in the course of this arena of war. 

Plot: 3/5
Chick Factor: well there was a lot of sex and skin, which in my opinion was unnecessary (you could edit out 2 hours from the show with no loss) 3/5
Action: 5/5 the surround effects, bass and soundstage were all reference and finally beats SPR and BOB

Should you own it / rent / forget it - well I have two sets, and the poignant emotions it brings out is reason enough, the demo quality action scenes will keep you coming back to re-watch those battle scenes for many more times.

PS: Eugene Sledge was played by the annoying little twerp from Jurassic Park 1.
Just a little bit of trivia....

This show is no BOB which is still the best IMO of the war shows, followed by SPR, but it is still well worth a watch.

Footnote:

I did not mind most of the little artistic licenses taken, but they did poorly in showing the heroics of John Basilone the Congressional Medal of Honor winner, who fought so heroically and single-handed in Iwo Jima. I quote Wiki:


Iwo Jima


John Basilone's headstone in Arlington National Cemetery
After his request to return to the fleet was approved, he was assigned to Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 27th Marine Regiment, 5th Marine Division during the invasion of Iwo Jima. On February 19, 1945, he was serving as a machine gun section leader in action against Japanese forces on Red Beach II. During the battle, the Japanese concentrated their fire at the incoming Americans from heavily fortified blockhouses staged throughout the island. With his unit pinned down, Basilone made his way around the side of the Japanese positions until he was directly on top of the blockhouse. He then attacked with grenades and demolitions, single-handedly destroying the entire strongpoint and its defending garrison. He then fought his way toward Airfield Number 1 and aided an American tank that was trapped in an enemy mine field under intense mortar and artillery barrages. He guided the heavy vehicle over the hazardous terrain to safety, despite heavy weapons fire from the Japanese. As he moved along the edge of the airfield, he was killed by Japanese mortar shrapnel. His actions helped Marines penetrate the Japanese defense and get off the landing beach during the critical early stages of the invasion. For his valor during the battle of Iwo Jima, he was posthumously approved for the Marine Corps' second-highest decoration for bravery, the Navy Cross.[10]

Tron Legacy in 3D - movie review

When Tron was first released in the early 80s, it was not really a financial success, but the CGI and the concept proved to be cutting edge and ever since, it has had a cult following and since I had not had a chance to see it, why not begin afresh with the new iteration of it, and for a CGI filled show, why not go all the way and see it in 3D? The show was indeed a 3D fest: D = demolitions, delicious babes and of course Daft Punk!

Tron L will not be an Oscar winner, even for creative CGI use or for its 3D reproduction, and it certainly won't win for acting, but you get a nice experience of a sci-fi action movie, with some babes in tight spandex thrown in and its all accompanied by some nice punk-techno music with a nice beat. If all this sounds too low brow or if Gone With the Wind is your cup of tea, then skip this. Much has also been said of the excessive use of 3D and milking the audience for the extra dollars when it adds little to the experience. Well the 3D does work here, simply because it is a CGI show primarily, and the show actually starts with a caveat that "certain segments were filmed in 2D". This is clever as the real world is in 2D and appears flat was compare to the world of Tron in 3D.

The show borrows from real classics like Blade Runner in its outlook and of course it's predecessor, Tron. There is a low of low light which will test your display's ability to show contrast and dark areas. The story isn't too unfamiliar. The original Flynn is trapped inside the Tron world and his son comes to get him. Throw in a little love interest in the form of a shapely Cora, who bears a little resemble in look and concept to Trinity from Matrix, add spunk to her and give the movie lots of action scenes with plenty of explosions and make sure the music is loud and bombastic.

This won't threaten big hits like Star Trek, Star Wars or other definitive sci-fi movies who have deftly combined action, science fiction and even comedy plus a little romance to a wonderful mix, but it will entertain and with the action and cool soundtrack, you will consider taking home the Blu Ray disc when it comes out.

Plot: 3/5
Action: not bad, although the bass isn't the lowest, the surround field isn't too bad.
3D - The speakers in J8 were not the best, with rattling heard in the right side of the speaker array, but the 3D effect was well done enough although a notch lower than Up or Avatar.
Chick Factor: like Matrix, the director has found that shapely women in tight Spandex works...

I enjoyed it enough and will consider it as a rental at least and even consider owning this and the original Tron as a boxset when it is released.

The Return of Chen Zhen ...movie review

Donnie Yen is a great action stuntman, with moves which are breathtaking, and gravity defying, but he is no great actor and or director. His latest movie reeks of the typical Hong Kong mentality of milking a genre to its death, and speaks volume of the dearth of orginal material, a disease which has been plaguing HKG cinema for more than a decade.



Here is another - (third?) remake of this story, and apart from a change in attire, the fight scenes are similar to the previous productions, and in fact, there is a lack of really cool fight scenes in this show. Perhaps Donnie wants to showcase more of his acting chops, but he should stick to his forte, as the movie moves along rather slowly when there isn't any fighting.



The plot is even more tedious, adding a Eupopean dimension, a spy element, and a less than interesting love story element - Donnie is no Tony Leung I am afriad.



Plot: 2/5

Action: what good is an action kung fu flick without kungfu ? 2/5

Chick factor: some eye candy, but little real hotness 2.5/5



I reckon it is only worth a rental on a rather slow day...




I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.

Stool Pigeon - movie review

Stool Pigeon – review




If you are a fan of the intense scenes, emotions conveyed in movies like Election, Beast Stalker, then this is the kind of movie for you.



There is a certain level of despair and inevitability, a dark side of emotions which is showcased in this show, which attracts a certain audience, but will alienate those looking for processed happy ending sort of shows. It is not a real actioner, nor a cop story, but a show which is almost documentary or matter of fact in the way it follows the lives of a depressed and stressed cop, a desperate wheelman, a robber and his woman, and how it all ends for them.



Not your usual plot: 4/5

Chick Factor: Kwai Lun-Mei is a new Taiwanese star and she looks good and acts well 3.5/5

Action: it comes in spurts and is rather violent, and there is none of the romantic gangster type roles popular in the 90s with Chow Yun Fatt or Ekin Cheng. 3/5



It is worth a watch, but like durians, there are sharp edges which will prick your emotions, and will polarise you into liking or hating it.


I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.

Sand Pebbles - BR review

Sand Pebbles - BR review DTS-MA 5.1 Tier 1

For a movie made more than 30 years ago, I did not really have too many expectations, and it was on the merit of the fact that this was Steve McQueen's sole Oscar effort that made me give this a try.

Most who are above 30 will know him and perhaps this movie, it is set in the 1920s, during a rather tumultuous time in China. You get romance, action, and a geopolitical historical theme, all put together by a wonderful director in Robert Wise, and sterling performances by Steve and Candice, as well as the other members. A young David Attenborough (the man who in his later years is better known for his narrations of many wonderful BBC series such as Life or Earth) plus a whole host of actors make this a good movie even so many years after its production.

But it is the picture quality and even more surprisingly the audio quality which makes this a keeper. The sound engineers worked overtime on this Blu Ray version to make a disc which can almost compete with modern movies and certainly puts many other movies of its era to shame. Jerry Goldsmith's soundtrack is well spaced out, and the surround channels are kept active and certainly the LFE also gets a decent workout.

Recommended.

PQ: 3.5/5
AQ 4/5
Plot: 4/5
Chick Factor: 3.5/5

http://bluray.highdefdigest.com/1342/sandpebbles.html

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