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page added: 5/27/11
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Blu-ray Reviews
Blu-ray Disc reviews by Tim Salmons of The Digital Bits

Beverly Hills Cop (Blu-ray Disc)

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Beverly Hills Cop
1984 (2011) - Paramount Pictures
Released on Blu-ray on May 17th, 2011
Also available on DVD


Film Rating: A
Video (1-20): 16
Audio (1-20): 16
Extras: B+

One of the all-time comedy classics, Beverly Hills Cop was also the biggest money-maker at the box office in 1984. A rising Hollywood star, a fun comedic story, a great supporting cast, and a hit soundtrack all came together in this prototypical 80's blockbuster.

The journey to get Beverly Hills Cop made in the first place is just as interesting as the movie itself. The script languished in development for nearly six years before Martin Brest finally attached himself to the project as director. At one point, Mickey Rourke was up for the part of Axel, as was Sylvester Stallone. Before pre-production could begin, Rourke dropped out and Sylvester Stallone signed on with the intention of making the movie a much more hard-edged piece (eventually using the unused material in Cobra three years later). Due to creative differences, Stallone left the project, and in an inspired bit of casting, up-and-comer Eddie Murphy was handpicked for the role by the film's producers. Once he was hired, the film's tone changed from a gritty revenge tale into a more comedic/dramatic romp. The film may be severely dated, but I still love watching it. It was a big part of my childhood and it's just as laugh-out-loud funny today as it was in 1984.

Paramount's Blu-ray debut of Beverly Hills Cop is a pleasant one without exactly being perfect. The video quality on display is only marginally better than its DVD counterpart. Taken from what looks like an extremely clean print of the movie, the anamorphic presentation carries a heavy amount of grain that lays on as a thick film-like texture. There also seems to be some edge enhancement at play, as well as possible DNR. I'm not positive on that last one, but some of the scenes in the police station had my digital tinkering alarms going off. Fortunately the colors are very vibrant and pleasing, and flesh tones look very natural. It seems that the brightest scenes benefit most from the higher quality, but the darker the scene, the more noise you're going to see. During the scene when Axel first notices that his apartment door is open, the darkest areas in the frame look almost snowy. So it isn't the absolute sharpest of transfers, but that's not to say it's a total waste of time either. It's still a good-looking picture, but don't expect an extremely fine level of detail in every single frame. The audio portion is not quite as good as it could be either. The music and score really leap out of the speakers and have a lot of dynamic range, but the dialogue and sound effects are a bit weak. Quiet at times and sounding on the thin side, it's not the overall good mix that I was hoping it would be. Everything works ok, but you may have to adjust the volume controls a bit in order to get the right effect. Your options are English 5.1 DTS-HD, French 2.0, Spanish 5.1, and Portuguese 5.1 (the latter 3 all being Dolby Digital tracks). The subtitle options include English, English SDH, French, Spanish, and Portuguese.

The extras that have been included are the same as the DVD release, so no new content or loss of old content (a double-edged sword). You get the audio commentary with Martin Brest and three featurettes including: Beverly Hills Cop: The Phenomenon Begins, A Glimpse Inside the Casting Process, and The Music of Beverly Hills Cop. Also carried over is the interactive Location Map, which allows you to select areas seen in the film and hear about the shooting locations from Production Designer Angelo P. Graham. Ending the extras is the film's theatrical trailer. Of course, these hardly seem like satisfactory extras for an upgrade, but they do feature nearly all of the main cast and several of the filmmakers involved in the making of the movie (even Eddie, himself). Being that this was a relatively problem-free shoot where everybody got along well, I suppose there aren't that many stories that can be told. However, some music videos, TV spots, trailers for the other movies in the series, and other little tidbits could have been included to freshen things up a bit.

I guess you can tell by now that I'm less than satisfied with the BD release of Beverly Hills Cop. On the one hand, it's nice to see the film get an upgrade to high definition. It's also nice to see the previous extras retained as it could have easily been a bare bones release, but for owners of the previous DVD release, you're going to have to think long and hard about picking this one up. Even with the relatively cheap price tag, you're essentially getting an only marginally better-looking presentation. However, if you don't have a copy of this movie in your collection at all, it's definitely worth your money. The bottom line is that Beverly Hills Cop is a classic, and everyone should have a copy in their movie library regardless.

Tim Salmons

Black Dynamite (Blu-ray Disc)

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Black Dynamite
2009 (2010) - Sony Pictures
Released on Blu-ray on February 16th, 2010
Also available on DVD

DTS-HD Master Audio

Film Rating: A-
Video (1-20): 18
Audio (1-20): 18
Extras: C+

"First Lady, I'm sorry I pimp-slapped you into that china cabinet. I used excessive force. Oftentimes, I cross the line, but I try to do so in the name of what's right. Most of the time, the ends justifies the means. But in this case, I feel like I betrayed my own code of ethics. And for that, sugar, I apologize."

Black Dynamite is not only one of the best exploitation movies in recent years, it's also one of the funniest movies of ANY decade. It plays more as an homage rather than a send-up, but you don't have to be a fan of the genre it's tackling to enjoy it. Most parodies tend to rely solely on the elements of a genre just for outrageous lampooning purposes. Black Dynamite, on the other hand, uses them for inspiration and storytelling, without ever setting foot outside the confines of the world the story takes place in. Coming out from that solid base, it not only makes the comedy stronger, but the story, as well. The film uses style, plot, look, and sound to evoke a retro 70's feel: frame jumps, out-of-sync dialogue, cheesy dialogue... even the actors looking off camera. It all comes together to sell the idea, and manages to do so with flying colors and a ton of laughs.

The video presentation is what you would expect a grindhouse-type movie to look like, even in high definition. It looks anything but perfect, but for good reason. The transfer is absolutely solid and the overt style sells it beautifully. Grain is almost non-existent and the muted color scheme gives it an earthy, lived-in feel, which is perfect for this kind of movie. I do think that at times, especially during the latter half of the movie, it tends to look a bit too perfect. Of course, this is when the real meat of the picture is being served and I suppose too much style could be a distraction from what's going on. Then again, this is a comedy, so you be the judge. The sound work has also had some nice work put into it, however only one option has been made available: English 5.1 DTS-HD. I personally would have loved to see this get a mono track to complement this release and replicate that grindhouse-type feel, but there's not much to complain about with what's been presented. Dialogue is clear and audible (even when it's out-of-sync), gunshots and explosions are as loud and powerful as you'd expect, and the music is straight-up period cheese. It's a very pleasing soundtrack with much more depth than I expected. I'm just curious how it would all work mixed into one channel. You also get three subtitle options: English, English SDH, and French.

In the extras department, you get a very brief dose. It all starts off with an audio commentary with director Scott Sanders, actor & co-writer Michael Jai White, and another actor & co-writer Byron Minns. Next is a set of deleted and alternate scenes, which add up to almost 30 minutes (it's also worth noting that the movie closes with deleted scenes and outtakes, as well). Next up are a couple of featurettes. The first, Lighting the Fuse, is a little over 20 minutes long and covers some of the making of the movie, albeit briskly. The 70s: Back in Action (a Blu-ray exclusive) talks mostly about the costumes and production design. The Comic-Con Experience is an extended run-down of the filmmakers' promotion and Q&A at the 2009 Comic-Con. Along with Movie IQ and BD-Live options, the special features close out with a plethora of trailers for other Sony Pictures releases. What I found to be the most disappointing about the extras was the exclusion of not only the film's trailer or any of the excellent posters and artwork used to promote the movie, but the extremely funny PSA's that were floating around on YouTube during the film's theatrical run. I found them thoroughly enjoyable and was gutted that they weren't included with this release. Perhaps they can be included in a future double-dip (one can always hope).

In the grander scheme of things, this is a good release for those wanting a good-looking copy of the movie. Black Dynamite turned out to be a modest financial success and seems to have a growing fan base as the years pass. I'm sure we'll see more appearances of it on the format in the future. My hope for a another release is that the fans will be treated to an overabundance of extra content in addition to a healthy transfer. Even with its shortcomings, Black Dynamite is still a very funny movie and this release should keep casual viewers happy.

Tim Salmons

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