As part of the Warner Bros. Blu-ray Elite program, Fat Guy Kevin Carr was sent a batch of free science fiction Blu-rays to enjoy. Thanks to Warner Home Video for giving him a chance to watch and review The Matrix, Inception and Contagion again.
What it’s about: Keanu Reeves plays the hacker Neo who is pursued by mysterious men in black. When fellow hackers Morpheus and Trinity connect with him, he is woken up from a computer-generated virtual world in which humans are enslaved by machines. By hacking into this Matrix, Neo can bend reality to fight the machines and see if his destiny unfolds to be the savior of the human race.
The movie: Rocks! – Even thirteen years after it was made, The Matrix is a fantastic science fiction and action film. It was a real game-changer in its day, with stunning visuals, groundbreaking special effects and intense action sequences. Now, The Matrix has worked its way into our collective cultural consciousness, and the surprise is gone. However, it’s still a thrill to watch. Considering the proliferation of the internet, expanded social networks and increased connectivity throughout the world, The Matrix is even more relevant today than it was in 1999. It continues to be the Wachowskis’ crowning achievement in filmmaking and worth a spot in anyone’s Blu-ray library.
The bonus material: Rocks! – When it was released on DVD more than a decade ago, The Matrix was loaded with awesome special features. All of these features are preserved for the Blu-ray release, plus several new ones. These include a written introduction from the Wachowskis, four commentary tracks, a new feature-length documentary “The matrix Revealed,” seven behind-the-scenes featurettes, a two-part “Take the Red Pill” documentary,” a look at the music, a four-part “Follow the White Rabbit” documentary, a music video, theatrical trailers, TV spots and the Blu-ray exclusives “In-Movie Experience” which includes picture-in-picture and other making-of bits courtesy of Blu-ray branching technology.
Notes on the Blu-ray experience: As awesome as Blu-ray is, it’s a tricky thing to perfect for movies that haven’t been made in the past decade. The Matrix performs extremely well, especially for as dark as the film can be. The contrast looks good, allowing the viewer to resolve dark objects against darker backgrounds, and there’s very little grain achieved without a plastic DNR look. Finally, as much as The Matrix is a visual experience, it’s an auditory one as well. The uncompressed sound is great off the Blu-ray.
What it’s about: Christopher Nolan directs Leonardo DiCaprio in this mind-bending thriller about intellectual espionage. DiCaprio plays Dom Cobb, a security expert who extracts information from people’s minds by entering their dreams. He and his team is offered a high-stakes opportunity to take down a businessman’s rival in exchange for Cobb’s return to his family in the United States. However, when they enter the dream, they soon discover a greater challenge, including being hunted by a projection of Cobb’s dead wife.
The movie: Rocks! – I’m not one of those people who thinks that Christopher Nolan can do no wrong. While I’ve liked all of his films, not all of them are slam dunks. There are some problems with Inception, the greatest of which is that it at it’s core it’s nothing more than a rehashed Twilight Zone episode. The “it was all a dream, or was it” element has been done to death in EC Comics and bad sci-fi writing for years. Yes, Nolan navigates his way through this cliche well, but it’s still a cliche. With that said, Inception is a fantastic piece of movie-making. The action is solid. It’s intense. There’s serious character development. It’s incredibly well acted. Even with the cliche backbone, Inception is a thought-provoking film that moves by much faster than its 2 1/2 hour running time suggests it would.
The bonus material: Rocks! – Were this just the single-disc option available from Warner, the bonus material would be rather thin. There’s about 45 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage branched from the movie on the feature disc, which is also available to play off the menu. The real nice elements come on the second disc, which has a nice selection of bonus material. Joseph Gordon-Levitt interviews experts about dreams in “Dream: Cinema of the Subconscious.” There’s a prequel motion comic called “Inception: The Cobol Job.” Additional features include 5.1 soundtrack selections, concept art, promo art, trailers, TV spots and BD-Live access to “Project Somnacin: Confidential Files,” which are viral files about the science in the film.
Notes on the Blu-ray experience: Christopher Nolan’s movies are big-screen movies. And if you can’t see them on the big screen, see them on a big screen in your living room on Blu-ray. The image in Inception is fantastic, and the IMAX-sized soundtrack is extremely powerful in this hi-def format.
What it’s about: Steven Soderbergh directs this chilling docudrama about a deadly outbreak of a new virus in the human population. Highly contagious and with a mortality rate of 25%, the virus MEV-1 wipes out millions and causes widespread panic. While average people try to survive the virus and the chaos, the CDC works to isolate the bug and find a cure.
The movie: Kinda rocks! – The highest praise I can give Contagion is that it is easily the most realistic presentation of what might happen were such a dangerous virus released in the human population. There are no easy answers in this film, and Soderbergh does his best to avoid unnecessary plot coincidences that cobbled movies like Outbreak. I thoroughly enjoyed the scientific side of the film, which fascinates me because of my science background. The political entanglements are a little messier here. Not all of the characters and storylines are fully necessary (I’m looking at you, Marion Cotillard), but in general it works. Especially for someone like me who has young children, the realism behind Contagion makes it one of the scariest films I’ve ever seen.
The bonus material: Kinda rocks! – The amount of bonus material kinda sucks, though. It’s the quality of these scant elements that make it worth watching, at least. Two featurettes examine the reality of these viruses: “The Reality of Contagion” and “The Contagion Detectives.” It’s neat to see how this would all play out in the real world. The more whimsical “Contagion: How a Virus Changes the World” provides a clever tutorial as to how viruses impact the world.
Notes on the Blu-ray experience: As with most of Soderbergh’s films, this movie originated on digital video and not film. This provides a clean and smooth transfer to Blu-ray. Without worries of film grain and DNR overkill, the picture looks fantastic and crisp. The audio is less important as it is subtle and soft, though very clear.