Featured In Issue 109, June 2006

WSR Score3
Basic Information on new release titles is posted as soon as titles are announced. Once reviewed, additional data is added to the database.
Universal Studios Home Entertainment
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Sequences of intense violence and action, and some sexual references
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Single Side, Dual Layer (HD-30)
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Joss Whedon
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Dolby Digital+ 5.1
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Joss Whedon resurrects his critically acclaimed, short-lived TV series "Firefly" as a feature film about a small band of galactic outcasts 500 years in the future. The film centers around Captain Malcolm Reynolds (Fillion), who flies below the radar pulling off small crimes and transport-for-hire aboard his ship, Serenity. When Mal takes on two new passengers—doctor Simon Tam (Maher) and his unstable, telepathic sister, River (Glau)—he gets much more than he bargained for. The pair are fugitives from the coalition dominating the universe, who will stop at nothing to reclaim the girl. The crew that was once used to skimming the outskirts of the galaxy unnoticed find themselves caught between the unstoppable military force of the Universal Alliance. Hunted by vastly different enemies, they begin to discover that the greatest danger to them may be on board Serenity herself. (Suzanne Hodges)

Special features include nine deleted scenes with optional commentary by writer/director Joss Whedon, six minutes of outtakes, about four-and-a-half minutes with Whedon about the concept of Serenity, over six minutes about some of the special effects, an almost five-minute introduction with Whedon, a nine-and-a-half minutes featurette Re-Lighting The Firefly, and feature commentary with Whedon.

One of the most notable aspects of this new HD DVD picture is the intense deep blacks. The picture is inherently dark to begin with, but delineation is limited between darkness and total picture black. Sharpness and details are much finer on this HD DVD than can be touched by the standard-definition DVD, but there are scenes that are a bit soft or look somewhat smeared. Colors can be nicely saturated with rich hues, although others are washed-out or crushed. Some scenes have a surreal blown-out and hazy appearance that evoke a dreamy mood. The source element is revealing of film grain that creates a gritty texture to the picture, but the visual effects are effectively incorporated with the live action. VC-1 ompression is nicely done, although pixelization is noticed if you are looking for it. (Suzanne Hodges)

Treble in the Dolby® Digital•Plus soundtrack seems to be toned down when compared to the DVD's Dolby Digital track, removing the brightness that downgraded the original DVD's score. A high-pitched ringing can be heard throughout the presentation, which can become a distraction. Some distortion can be heard in the louder dialogue at times, which also can become distracting. A hard edge in the dialogue also takes away from the naturalness of the soundtrack. The LFE channel is incorporated well, helping infuse the soundfield with deep, tight bass. The sonic landscape can be fully enveloping at times, but for much of the presentation, the surround channels are all but ignored. When they are used, they are generally at lower levels than the front three screen channels, as if they were not equal partners in the presentation. Foley generally sounds good (and a special recognition goes out to the sound designers who, against Hollywood's "better" judgment, followed the rules of physics and maintained silence in the outer space scenes) and is well recorded, although some blasts and explosions can sound distorted. (Danny Richelieu)