Reviews

Full Metal Jacket

Netflix Full Metal Jacket

Received wisdom thinks dark, gritty movies are a recent phenomena, but they really began working their way into the mainstream right around the time the studio system began to unravel, beginning with Aldrich’s 1955 Kiss Me Deadly. They hit their peak—along with a lot of other styles and genres—in 1968, the year of Night of the Living Dead, and have had an insidious influence on just above every kind of film ever since.

 

Lynch, seeing the culture take the reactionary turn he wanted but sensing it couldn’t hold, took them someplace new in 1986 with Blue Velvet. But the film that’s probably had the biggest influence on contemporary grim is Kubrick’s 1987 Full Metal Jacket.

 

It’s a troubling film in more than one way—partly because you can sense the master starting to lose his grip. But it’s also fearless—something you can’t say about practically any of the noisy and abusive but heavily risk-averse stuff that’s come in its wake.

 

Don’t expect to see a pristine image when you watch Jacket on Netflix—but this isn’t a pristine movie, so that’s not the end of the world. Kubrick wanted it to have a washed-out, documentary feel, and I suspect even a print as distressed as the Vietnam combat footage he was aping would be really compelling to watch. But streamed, the darker the film gets, the more the various artifacts come to the fore until by the infamous sniper scene there are whole mosaics of tiling to distract you.

 

But even Kubrick on the wane is a better investment than just about any film made by anyone ever, so this is worth watching under just about any circumstances. And Netflix’ streamed version isn’t awful—it’s just not as good as it should be.

Michael Gaughn

Michael Gaughn—The Absolute Sound, The Perfect Vision, Wideband, Stereo Review,
Sound & Vision, marketing, product design, a couple TV shows, some commercials, and
now this.

REVIEWS

Cafe Society

Woody Allen Cafe Society

I’ve never understood—and never will—what anybody saw in Midnight in Paris, except maybe a vision of Allen as a dealer in contrivance and platitudes instead of the serious filmmaker he can sometimes be. It was a not very convincing concatenation of gestures he’d delivered with far more depth and flair in earlier films—The Purple Rose of Cairo in particular.

 

Meanwhile, Café Society was greeted with a general ho-hum—which is scandalous, given that it’s a far, far better film. No, it’s not perfect—but why would anybody want a Woody Allen film to be perfect? What it is—and what it has in common with Blue Jasmine—is that it’s both astute and felt. And when was the last time you saw a film like that?

 

It’s a literary film—a dirty word in Hollywood, worthy of death—which is to say it has the pacing and careful observations of a novella. I can understand why that wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste, but it ought to be worthy of everyone’s consideration.

 

The digital cinematography is jarring at first, and never quite feels true, feeling too sharp and sterile. But the material and performances are better than the way they’re captured, and add up to something superior, by leagues, to the too contrived, relentlessly smartass confections that currently pass for serious film.

 

Anybody who passes on Café Society is missing the chance to experience a film that, for all its flaws, gets far more right than it ever gets wrong—which makes it something of a miracle in a contemporary cinema that, lost in its own sound and fury, almost always comes up short.

Michael Gaughn

Michael Gaughn—The Absolute Sound, The Perfect Vision, Wideband, Stereo Review,
Sound & Vision, marketing, product design, a couple TV shows, some commercials, and
now this.

REVIEWS

“Warrior” and “Southpaw”

Kaleidescape Warrior

If you watched or visited a sports or news website in August 2017, you undoubtedly heard about the Floyd Mayweather Jr./Conor McGregor super fight in Las Vegas. While the fight seemed to go mostly accordingly to everyone’s plan, it went a solid ten rounds, and seems to have lived up to the hype and given the fans a good show.

 

Inspired by that massive spectacle, I came up with a couple of boxing-themed recommendations: Warrior and Southpaw.

 

Released in 2011, Warrior features a terrific cast that includes Joel Edgerton, Tom Hardy, and Nick Nolte, and follows estranged brothers Brendan (Edgerton) and Tommy Conlon (Hardy) as they train for a massive, winner-take-all MMA tournament. The fights in the octagon are hard, fast, and real, yet the action is all PG-13, so they aren’t too bloody and brutal. The acting and pacing keep you involved and invested over the film’s 2 hours and 20 minute run time, and the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1-channel track puts you right in the ring with crowd noise and solid connection of blows, as the movie builds to the inevitable brother-on-brother climax.

 

Southpaw (2015) follows practically every cliché formula in the book yet manages to be incredibly entertaining, dramatic, and enjoyable nonetheless. Directed by Antoine Fuqua, an avid boxer himself, the movie is filled with heart and has a terrific script with believable dialogue that keeps it from seeming like another retread. The supporting cast of Forest Whitaker, who throws himself into the role of trainer, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, who ably handles the role of sleazy agent/promoter, and Rachel McAdams as the concerned wife, helps to create a fully rounded story. But it’s Jake Gyllenhaal in the leading role of Billy Hope that truly shines. Gyllenhaal got his body ripped and shredded for this role, put in a ton of training to move and fight like a fighter, and terrifically conveys Hope’s troubled I’ll-do-anything-to-get-back quest for redemption. And while “only” 1080p, the film has some terrific video detail. Check out the pool scene where Jordan Mains (Jackson) is talking to Mo’ (McAdams), and look at the fine pattern detail and texture in Mains’ jacket and hat. Stunning!

 

Both films are available in Blu-ray-quality download from the Kaleidescape Movie Store, and will be sure to entertain both boxing/fighting fans and non- alike!

—John Sciacca

Probably the most experienced writer on custom installation in the industry, John Sciacca is
co-owner of Custom Theater & Audio in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, & is known for his writing
for such publications as
 Residential Systems and Sound & Vision. Follow him on Twitter at

@SciaccaTweets and at johnsciacca.com.

The Guns of Navarone

Kaleidescape Guns of Navarone

I logged in at the Kaleidescape Store last night to look for a movie I might not already have in my collection. I wasn’t looking for a new title but for a catalog title that had been upgraded to 4K. Two movies attracted my attention: The Bridge on the River Kwai and The Guns of Navarone.

 

I had seen Kwai on regular HD recently, so I settled for Navarone, which had a special emotional appeal for me. Along with a few other American productions of the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s (like The Boy on a Dolphin, The Island of Love, It Happened in Athens, and Forty Carats), it had been shot entirely in Greece.

 

Regardless of my biases for liking this movie, The Guns of Navarone is still a very engrossing war epic. It tells the story of a team of British commandos sent to Greece during the German occupation to destroy a huge German canon that commanded a key sea channel. The movie is a solid adventure that focuses on action but not at the expense of characters. It’s as rousing today as it was when I first saw it as a kid at the Orpheum Theater in Athens.

 

I remember the movie always being grainy and dark on video. The Blu-ray release was a substantial improvement, especially in sharpness. But you can’t improve a movie much unless you go back to the original negative, and it seems that Navarone’s negative has been lost either out of neglect or overprinting.

 

The Kaleidescape 4K edition further improves the picture’s sharpness and the contrast ratio, but the grain from duping is still there. Nothing can be done about itI’m afraid this is as good as The Guns of Navarone will ever look.

—Theo Kalomirakis

Theo Kalomirakis is widely considered the father of home theater, with scores of luxury theater
designs to his credit. He is an avid movie fan, with a collection of over 15,ooo discs. Theo is the
Executive Director of Rayva.

REVIEWS

Wonder Woman review
Blade Runner: The Final Cut review
Lawrence of Arabia review

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

Kaleidescape Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

Since the dawn of cinema, the established film frame rate has been 24 frames per second (fps). However, Thomas Edison said the visual cortex needed at least 46 fps to avoid eye strain. To achieve this, and eliminate any eye strain or strobing, many modern 35 mm film projectors use two- and even three-bladed shutters—flashing each frame on the screen two or three times—to achieve 48 and 72 images per second to satisfy Mr. Edison’s recommendation.

 

Yet, despite all the technological advances over the past century, all those movies you’re watching in your fancy home theater—whether via DVD, Blu-ray, and even Ultra HD Blu-ray player—are being shown at that same 24 fps.

 

Except one.

 

My latest pick for Movie of the Week is Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, not because it’s a great film—in fact, it’s kind of a mess of a story—but because it looks so frickin’ amazing that it’s the brain and eye candy your visual cortex has been craving!

 

Billy Lynn is so impressive because director Ang Lee used an extraordinary shooting style, filming at 4K resolution in stereoscopic 3-D at 120 fps—five times the traditional rate. This is the highest frame rate ever used on a film, eclipsing the 48 fps Peter Jackson employed for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. This approach resulted in more than 540 terabytes of dailies with a final delivery file that was 84 TB.

 

But since only six theaters in the world—including just two in the US—could actually show the film in its full glory, you probably never saw it. And since 4K/120 exceeds the Ultra HD and HDMI 2.0 spec, Billy Lynn has been released to the home market in 4K at 60 fps, the highest resolution the format can support. This high frame rate requires the full 18 Gbps bandwidth, and will lay bare any shortcomings in your system’s signal chain. But for those lucky enough to experience it in its full 4K/60 glory, Billy Lynn looks absolutely stunning and unlike any movie you’ve seen before.

 

There’s hyper clarity and focus in every shot. Tight shots on actors’ faces reveal every thought, detail, and expression down to the thinnest individual strand of hair. Fabric in actors’ uniforms reveals texture and micro stitching detail, letting you see every nuance of the patches and medals, and even analyze the diamond pattern on rifle grips. Wide shots capture every actor, building, and set piece in razor-sharp focus. One of my favorite shots happens at 6 minutes 34 seconds, where you can read details on the gravestones many rows back in the cemetery, and when the camera pans over to the service, the image remains solid and focused. 

 

From an audio standpoint, Billy Lynn includes an immersive Dolby Atmos mix that helps establish the ambience in different scenes. While the first half of the film is a bit restrained, the second half starting with the actual halftime show kicks into high gear, with the big battle scene in Chapter 11 being reference quality all the way.

 

Kaleidescape Strato owners need to be sure to download the HDR version of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, since that’s the 60 fps version. While you might not love the movie, it’s sure to become your go-to video demo material when you want to impress your guests and demonstrate what the fuss about 4K HDR is all about!

—John Sciacca

 

—> Check out John’s post on “How Kaleidescape Delivers Real HD”

Probably the most experienced writer on custom installation in the industry, John Sciacca is
co-owner of Custom Theater & Audio in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, & is known for his writing
for such publications as
 Residential Systems and Sound & Vision. Follow him on Twitter at

@SciaccaTweets and at johnsciacca.com.

The Lego Batman Movie

Kaleidescape Lego Batman Movie

One of the greatest things about a home theater is its ability to bring family members and friends of all ages together for an activity everyone can enjoy. While the state of computer animation has improved by leaps and bounds, studios have realized that films need to go beyond pretty graphics and kiddy jokes. For a modern animated title to create a generation-spanning mega-hit, studios have started focusing on story as well, with themes and jokes crafted to appeal to a broad range of viewers.

 

One of the more entertaining non-Pixar/Disney offerings in recent years was 2014’s The Lego Movie, where Warner Bros. assembled a terrific cast and delivered a visually stunning story that appealed to even non-plastic-brick fans, garnering a whopping 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. One of the film’s unexpected stars was Batman, played by Will Arnett with perfect dark, brooding angst, 110% self-confidence, and a sense of self-aware humor missing from the recent live-action films.

 

My pick for movie of the week is the 2017 followup, The Lego Batman Movie. If the title didn’t give it away, this film focuses entirely on the Dark Knight’s life in Gotham and his eternal struggle against a horde of villains. But unlike the recent spate of “How dark can we make it?” superhero movies, this is a Batman film the entire family can enjoy, including a Joker voiced by Zach Galifianakis, and Ralph Fiennes tackling the stately-yet-parentally-challenged Alfred.

 

The 4K HDR image is absolutely stunning, revealing amazing detail in every frame and glistening with an array of colors that pushes the boundaries of the Rec. 2020 standard. Equally impressive is the reference-quality Dolby Atmos soundtrack, which takes full advantage of the ceiling speakers to immerse you in a full 360° soundfield.

 

While fans of the Batman franchise will especially find plenty to lovewith some great tongue-in-cheek references to previous entries in the seriesthe Batman writers have crafted a humorous story that works on multiple levels and appeals to non-Bat-fans as well. Subtle jokes like a SWAT team ordered to use stun weapons shouting, “Yay! Non-lethal!” as well as a glimpse into Batman struggling with his home theater system can’t help but bring a smile to your face.

 

Available for immediate download from the Kaleidescape Store, The Lego Batman Movie is a film you can use to show off your theater to any audience.

John Sciacca

Probably the most experienced writer on custom installation in the industry, John Sciacca is
co-owner of Custom Theater & Audio in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, & is known for his writing
for such publications as
 Residential Systems and Sound & Vision. Follow him on Twitter at

@SciaccaTweets and at johnsciacca.com.

Failure to Launch: The MST3K Reboot That Wasn’t

mystery science theater netflix

There have only been a tiny handful of TV shows worth watching over the past 30 years, and MST3K was the only one that gave a meaningful f*** you to the TV establishment. So I had a huge emotional investment in its Kickstarter-driven Netflix reboot—which turned out to be such a massive piece of crap that I wish they’d never even bothered.

 

I don’t think they could have gotten it any more wrong if they’d set out to screw it up on purpose. The host segments are too short and play it way too safe, Jonah Ray has no discernible personality, bot-voicers Baron Vaughn and Hampton Yount have proven adept at playing Tom and Crow in interviews and online videos but don’t get the chance to develop their personas at all in the series, (let’s not even talk about the new Gypsy), the delivery of every single line by every single cast member is so mechanical and forced it feels soulless, it should be a capital crime to make Patton Oswalt play second banana to somebody so obviously limited as Felicia Day, the movies don’t cover any new ground (don’t expect to see anything of the caliber of Manos here), the elaborate effort to cover up mid-segment screwups couldn’t be more lame, and trying to impose the original series’ commercial-break structure couldn’t be more forced. But forget all thatthis whole obviously rushed effort just isn’t funny.

 

This is a series that deserves to be shot at dawn.

 

But that doesn’t mean it didn’t yield anything good. In a subsequent post, I’ll talk about how stuff Hodgson probably wasn’t even aware of gave bright examples of entertainment’s future, how the seemingly animated but lifeless carcass of this misguided MST3K gave shelter to some things that are actually pretty darn good.

Michael Gaughn

Michael Gaughn—The Absolute Sound, The Perfect Vision, Wideband, Stereo Review, Sound &
Vision, marketing, product design, a couple TV shows, some commercials, and now this.

REVIEWS

Blade Runner: The Final Cut review
Lawrence of Arabia review

Lawrence of Arabia

Kaleidescape Lawrence of Arabia

It was 1989. I had just finished building my first theater, the Roxy, and my career as a home theater designer was still in its infancy. The Roxy featured gigantic JBL speakers behind a perforated screen. They were way too big for that small space, but so what—all I cared was that they were the exact same speakers used in my favorite New York theater, the Ziegfeld.  With (more than) a little stretch of the imagination, being at the Roxy felt the same to me as sitting inside the Ziegfeld, getting lost in one of those 70mm spectacles of the ‘60s like My Fair Lady, West Side Story, The Sound of Music, and, yes, Lawrence of Arabia

 

When Lawrence made it to video in HD a few years ago, I felt a circle had been completed. I was finally able to own one of the most spectacular and intelligent epics ever made and see it in a presentation that captured most of the sonic grandeur and the visual splendor of the original. I thought this was it—we finally had a version of the film that was as perfect as we would ever see in a home theater. Boy, was I wrong . . . .

 

Fast forward five years later to the 4K restoration of Lawrence of Arabia. I knew about it, but only recently was I able to experience it with my own eyes. Seeing it at the Barco demo facilities in Lower Manhattan through a Barco Loki projector using a Kaleidescape Strato Movie Player as a source, I was dazzled—and spoiled forever. Maybe I’m wrong, but the picture looked better than what I remember seeing at the Ziegfeld. It felt like watching Lawrence for the first time. Every little detail jumped out of the frame with crispness and clarity, and every color nuance was there to be savored with relish. This version of Lawrence of Arabia, available at the Kaleidescape store, is one for the ages. Home theater doesn’t get better than this.

Theo Kalomirakis

Theo Kalomirakis is widely considered the father of home theater, with scores of luxury theater
designs to his credit. He is an avid movie fan, with a collection of over 15,ooo discs. Theo is the
Executive Director of Rayva.

Kaleidescape Movie of the Week: Frantz

Frantz Movie 2016

A new film from the reliably good—and prolific—French director François Ozon is always welcome. Frantz tells the story of the tragic triangle between two soldiers in World War I and the fiancée of one of them. It’s a surprisingly old-fashioned movie that unfolds with the deliberate pace of a ‘40s Hollywood melodrama but without the stylistic trappings.

 

Frantz is also worth watching for its glorious cinematography. The black & white image shimmers with subtle—almost unnoticeable—color highlights in the background, making it a delight to watch. No regular streaming service can capture Frantz’s visual nuances—you need to see it on Kaleidescape to experience it in true HD.

Theo Kalomirakis

Theo Kalomirakis is widely considered the father of home theater, with scores of luxury theater
designs to his credit. He is an avid movie fan, with a collection of over 15,ooo discs. Theo is the
Executive Director of Rayva.