Sunday, January 23, 2022

DUNE (2021) (WBHE 4K UHD Review)

DUNE (2021)
Label: WBHE                
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: PG-13
Duration: 155 Minutes 
Audio: English Dolby Atmos, DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: DolbyVision HDR10 2160p UHD Widescreen (2.39:1), 1080p HD Widescreen (2.39:1) 
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Zendaya, Chang Chen, David Dastmalchian, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa , Javier Bardem

Synopsis: “Dune” tells the story of Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet, Lady Bird), a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, who must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people. As malevolent forces explode into conflict over the planet’s exclusive supply of the most precious resource in existence—a commodity capable of unlocking humanity’s greatest potential—only those who can conquer their fear will survive.

This is my third watch of Villeneuve's adaptation of Frank Herbert's Dune and it's gets better with each watch, I saw it in theaters first with my son, and will admit that while I loved it from the get-go the seemingly abrupt ending did feel a bit awkward, most likely due to the fact that I've spent forty years watching Lynch's version and I am accustomed  to seeing the "whole" story in one sitting. That said, this film has an epic feel and the extended duration that allows the story to breathe nicely. I am not sure how clear it would be someone who is unfamiliar with the story and coming in cold, but having seen Lynch's version many times, and hearing for years what's missing from it, I thought it was  handled very well; though I sort of missed the voiceover narration from Lynch's version, but I might me in the minority on that one. 

I also think the cast is well chosen, with Chalamet (Don't Look Up) inhabiting the role of the would-be heir to Arakis, Paul Atreides, quite well, and Rebecca Ferguson (Doctor Sleep) as Lady Jessica, Paul's Bene Gesserit witch mother, and Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina) as his duty-bound father Duke Leto Atreides both killing it. On the other side we have the House of Harkonen lead by Stellan Skarsgård (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, and his nephew Glossu Rabban (Dave Bautista, Guardians of the Galaxy).  Skarsgård's Baron is a grotesque slug of a man, think Jabba the Hutt by way of Kurtz from Apocalypse Now, the latter of whom  Skarsgård is clearly giving a nod to with his perfromance. Heck, I even like Jasom Momoa as  Duncan Idaho even though he's playing himself as he seems to do more often than not these days, and we have Josh Brolin (No Country For Old Men) as  Gurney Halleck, and while he's no Patrick Stewart (who played Gurney in Lynch's version) he won me over. 

The worldbuilding is quite sumptuous as well, House Atreides at the start of the film is the ruling House of the lush ocean planet Caladan, until they are tasked by the Padishah Emperor Shaddam Corrino IV to replace House Harkonnen as fief rulers of Arrakis, the contrast of the moisture rich Caladan to the arid landscape of Arakis is startling, with rigid architecture to match, and a wealth of cool tech like the Ornathopter and the spice-mining rids. The drama is also nicely rich with plenty of palace intrigue and betrayal. 

So far it's a stunning, richly detailed adaptation and I am not so patiently waiting for the sequel that has already been announced. I'm a fan, I still prefer the Lynch version at this point but after the sequel or maybe even a third film that could change, I believe this sci-fi epic is in good hands with Villeneuve, if you have not see it yet I say jump on it, you're missing out. 

Audio/Video: Dune (2021) arrives on 4K UHD from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment in 2160p UHD widescreen (2.39:1), a gorgeous film with a stunning UHD presentation that has painterly textures throughout, the DolbyVision HDR10 color-grading affording the golden and sand-blasted highlights quite a bit nuance with terrific fine detail in the close-ups of the lavish costuming. The blacks are also quite deep with excellent shadow detail, which is great as long swaths of the film are taking place in darkened corridors. 

Audio comes by wat of English Dolby Atmos and DTS-HD MA 5.1 with optional English subtitles. Like the video the audio elements sounds superb, with crisp cleanly delivered dialogue, the affected sound of the "voice", and the soundstage feels epic and the desert sounds of sand-blasting wind cut through the room with ferocity, as do the action sequences and urgency and impact of the hand-to-hand combat. 

Extras come by way of an assortment of EPK style featurettes averaging about 5-6 minutes each exploring the adaptation and production with behind-the-scenes footage and interview with the cast and crew. These total about 84-minutes in all. The 2-disc release arrives in a black keepcase with a slipcover featuring the same dull floating heads artwork, inside there's a redemption code for a digital copy of the film. 

Special Features:
- The Royal Houses (8 min) 
- Filmbooks: House Atreides, House Harkonnen, The Fremen, The Spice Melange (10 min) 
- Inside Dune: The Training Room, The Spice Harvester, The Sardaukar Battle (12 min) 
- Building the Ancient Future (7 min) 
- My Desert, My Dune (5 min) 
- Constructing the Ornithopters (6 min) 
- Designing the Sandworm (6 min) 
- Beware the Baron (5 min) 
- Wardrobe from Another World (3 min) 
- A New Soundscape (11 min) 

STIR OF ECHOES (1999) (Imprint Films Blu-ray Review)

STIR OF ECHOES (1999)

Label: Imprint Films
Region Code: Region-Free 
Rating:
Duration: 99 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround and LCPM 2.0 Stereo with Option English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: David Koepp
Cast: Kevin Bacon, Kathryn Erbe, Illeana Douglas, Kevin Dunn

In the still underrated in-my-opinion chiller Stir of Echoes (1999) Kevin Bacon (Hollow Man) plays a working class Chicago guy named Tom Wiztky whose life is turned upside down when he is hypnotized by his wife's sister Lisa (Illeana Douglas, Ghost World) at a neighborhood party. In doing so she plants a post-hypnotic suggestions during the session for him to be more open-minded about things, not realizing that it would unleash supernatural-sense that puts him in touch with a restless spirit inhabiting his own home, which has something to do with a 17-year-old girl named Samantha Kozac (Urban Legends: Final Cut), who disappeared from the neighborhood six months prior. 

As Tom's mind is opened he starts see things he cannot explain, the spirit cryptically urging him look further into her disappearance, which pushes him to the brink of sanity, as it does his put-upon wife Maggie (Kathryn Erbe, TVs Law & Order: Criminal Intent) who is at her wits ends with his new obsession, which drives him to dig up their yard, rip up his kitchen floor, and eventually start to excavate his rental-property home basement with a jackhammer looking for clues and an end to his haunting.  

Adapted from a Richard Matheson (Duel, Twilight Zone) novel and directed by David Koepp (Secret Window), this is a flick that had the unfortune timing of coming a few months after The Sixth Sense,  which it does share a fair bit, including a spirit-sensitive precocious kid by way of Tom's son Jake (Zachary David Cope) who is revealed to be aware of his dad's newfound ghost-whispering abilities and had his own two way conversations with the restless spit himself, an element I felt was not actually explored enough in this film. 

Stir of Echoes is a solid chiller with a stellar cast that does a lot with a simple premise, the set-up is well established early on with a good amount of suspense and working class skepticism. The ghostly chills are established with a very lo-tech old school charm that does not rely on CGI and holds up quite nicely upon re-watch, with the images of the spirit shot at a different frame rate giving her an unearthly movement that also holds up quite nicely. The film also does good work building the small community of friends, some who have hidden away dark secrets that are coming to light as Tom gets closer to the truth, to no one's delight. 

The movie has a look and style that scream late-90's so it's dated in that respect but the supernatural chills and mystery is still water tight and well-executed. This is a still a bit of a hidden gem that doesn't get spoken of enough for my tastes, a solid chiller from start to finish and quite an entertaining watch. 

Audio/Video: Stir of Echoes (1999) arrives on region-free Blu-ray from Via Vision Entertainment's premium sub-label Imprint Films in 1080p HD framed in 1.78:1 widescreen. This is not advertised as a new scan so it could be the same HD master used by Lionsgate for their U.S., but as I never upgraded my DVD I am uncertain about that. Regardless, it's a solid looking transfer with pleasing black levels, good shadow detail and color saturation throughout. The color-scheme of this one is very autumnal-earth tone and doesn't have many color highlights to it, but that's by design. That said, it's quite pleasing in-motion and showcases a fine layer of film grain and plentiful fine detail and texture in the close-ups, and the colors look natural throughout. Audio comes by way of English DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround and LPCM 2.0 stereo with optional English subtitles.  The surrounds have plenty of atmospheric touches to enjoy, and the score from James Newton Howard (King Kong) is creepy and wonderful, and sounds terrific in the mix. 

Imprint don't skimp on extras and Stir of Echoes is no different, they carry-over the over two-hours worth of extras from past releases with an audio commentary, featurettes, deleted scenes and more; and add their own stamp with  about 44 minutes of new interviews with director David Koepp, Kathryn Erbe and production designer Nelson Coates. These get into the nitty gritty of the film from different angles not explored in the archival extras, and with the benefit of a few years more behind them to reflect on the film with a fresh perspective. 

The single-disc release arrives in an oversized clear keepcase with a two-sided sleeve of artwork, plus a handsome limited edition slipcover. Both the wrap and the slipcover have a numbered spine (this being #91), and the Blu-ray disc features the same key art as the slipcover. 

Special Features:
- Audio Commentary with writer/director David Koepp
- NEW! Flipping the Switch: Directing Stir of Echoes – Interview with director David Koepp (2021) (17 min) 
- NEW! Maggie’s Memories: Inside Stir of Echoes – Interview with actress Kathryn Erbe (2021) (11 min) 
- NEW! Opening the Door: Designing Stir of Echoes – Interview with production designer Nelson Coates (2021) (16 min) 
- Sights of Spirits: Channeling the Paranormal (11 min)
- Behind the Echoes (21 min)
- The Mind’s Eye: Beneath the Trance (10 min)
- Special Effects (4 min)
- Production Design (4 min) 
- Interviews with Cast and Crew: David Koeppe, Kevin Bacon, Illeana Douglass,  Kathryn Erbe, Gavin Palin, Michele Weisler(8 min) 
- Behind the Scenes (5 min) 
- Scene Comparisons (12 min) 
- Screen Tests (7 min) 
- Deleted scenes (5 min) 
- Theatrical Trailer (2 min)
- TV Spots (2 min) 
- Original Promo (5 min) 
- Original Short Promo (2 min) 
- Breathe – music video (4 min) 
- Photo Gallery (20 min) 
- Limited Edition slipcase on the first 2000 copies with unique artwork.

Screenshots from the Imprint Films Blu-ray: