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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

 

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Zodiac (Director's Cut) vs.  Zodiac (2-disc Director's Cut) [Blu-ray]

 

(David Fincher, 2007)

 

International Version: Hanbaimo / Warner  (Japan)

North American 2-disc Version: Paramount

Review by Gary W. Tooze

International Version: 2.35:1 1080p - VC-1 encode

North American 2-disc Version: 2.35:1 1080p - MPEG-4 AVC encode


Feature length:

International Version: 2:42:36.955

North American 2-disc Version: 2:42:35.495


Audio International Version:

Dolby Digital Audio English 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio French 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio German 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Italian 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Commentary - Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / Dolby Surround
Commentary - Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / Dolby Surround

 

Audio North American 2-disc Version:

Dolby TrueHD Audio English 3023 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3023 kbps / 24-bit (AC3 Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps)
Commentary - Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps / Dolby Surround
Commentary -Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps / Dolby Surround


Subtitles International Version: English (SDH), English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Swedish, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Portuguese and none

Subtitles North American 2-disc Version: English (SDH), English, Spanish, French and none

 

International Disc Size: 46,725,721,488 bytes

North American 1st Disc Size: 46,927,104,663 bytes, 2nd (single-layered) 24,817,212,412 bytes

 

International Feature Size: 24,161,562,624 bytes

North American Feature Size: 46,473,953,280 bytes

 

Extras (same):

• Audio commentary by David Fincher
• Audio commentary by Gyllenhaal, Downey Jr., Brad Fischer, James Vanderbilt, and James Ellroy
• Zodiac Deciphered in HD (on Disc 2 of the North American edition)
• The Visual Effects of Zodiac in HD (on Disc 2 of the North American edition)
• Previsualization (on Disc 2 of the North American edition)
• This Is the Zodiac Speaking in HD (1:42:16) (on Disc 2 of the North American edition)
• Prime Suspect: His Name Was Arthur Leigh Allen in HD (on Disc 2 of the North American edition)

 

International Released: July 9th, 2008

North American 2-disc: January 27th, 2009


Standard Blu-ray cases
27 chapters

 

Bitrate International Version (19.81 Mbps):

 

 

 

Bitrate North American 2-disc (38.11 Mbps) :

 

 

 

Product Description: Based on the actual case files of one of the most intriguing unsolved crimes in the nations history Zodiac is a thriller from David Fincher director of Se7en and Panic Room. As a serial killer terrifies the San Francisco Bay Area and taunts police with his ciphers and letters investigators in four jurisdictions search for the murderer. The case will become an obsession for four men as their lives and careers are built and destroyed by the endless trail of clues.

 

The Film:

 

 

Because Zodiac takes as its subject one of the most notorious serial killers in American history, and because its director, David Fincher, remains best known for Se7en, a movie about one of the most diabolical serial killers in film history, most people will naturally assume that what we have here is a picture about a serial killer. This assumption will sell tickets, no doubt, luring the unsuspecting viewer into one of the most radically ambitious and conceptually bizarre projects ever released by a major studio. If you're even slightly familiar with the case, it will dawn on you at the end of Zodiac's first hour that no additional murders are forthcoming—the Zodiac killed only five people that we know about for sure, all of them between December 1968 and October 1969—and that even the taunting letters and ciphers that made him infamous are about to cease without explanation. You also know that the Zodiac was never caught, and that you've signed on for a film that runs closer to three hours than two. Where can they possibly take this story? you will wonder. Only when you realize that the movie's pace is speeding up in inverse proportion to the killer's activity, however, will you understand that you're actually watching the most exhaustive portrait of obsessive-compulsive disorder ever seen onscreen.

 

 


 

Excerpt from Mike D'Angelo's review at the Las Vegas Weekly located HERE

 


 

Video: NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

What we have is two editions, with almost the exact same cover. The Warner (Japanese - region-free Blu-ray) was released last year throughout Europe and Asia and the Paramount 2-disc Blu-ray is releasing January 2009 in North America. As with my comparison of Terminator 2 (LionsGate vs. Japanese Premium Edition Blu-rays) I suppose it is possible that my computer equipment is not capable of visually discerning huge differences between these two releases - beyond the technical aspects (through bitrate and associated program). I'm not sure. What I usually do in a comparison is watch both (or more) on my system, make notes and go about seeing if what I saw is supported using the computer generated screen captures. Well... here it is so very slight in the captures we have utilized. It may be a matter of the moving image representing itself differently than stills, or it could possibly be the stills I have chosen are not the most indicative of improvement. I've been quite careful to obtain the correct captures from the specified edition - although, admittedly, not all are exact frame matches. Once again I'm going to have to rely more on the technical results and my own visual observations than the screen captures for this Blu-ray vs. Blu-ray comparison.

 

These are 2 very different releases. Where in the Japanese (international) Blu-ray the film starts with an old Warner logo opening - then a Paramount one follows - NOW in the North American Blu-ray edition (2-disc) the Paramount logo starts the film followed by the Warner (both the older logos.) Inconsequential to the package but nonetheless interesting. David Fincher in the commentary remarks on the usage of the 'period' logos to represent the era portrayed in the film.

 

Despite the screen captures parity - I found some minor differences in the image while watching. The Paramount is marginally smoother in motion, a bit brighter and tighter with less in the way of artefacts (or perceived artefacts.) On my system the differences we quite slight - almost imperceptible if not for my standing quite close but I suspect the larger your equipment amplification of the image - the greater one may notice the subtle superiority of the Paramount Blu-ray. The Paramount has the entire film with both commentaries on one dual-layered Blu-ray - relegating the extras to a second Blu-ray disc (single-layered). The Japanese Warner has the feature and all HD extras on one Blu-ray.

Throwing everything else out the window the Paramount has almost double the bitrate of the Warner. Technically this can represent a healthy disparity. I have not cropped some of the Paramount images below as I found it easier to discern between the two.

Bottom line is that both editions are strong but the Paramount's MPEG4 encode is the winner in image. As we will reiterate in closing this is more to validate the Paramount purchase as it is much more reasonably priced than the Japanese (or European) Warner.

 

 

ON THE JAPANESE WARNER: NOTE: At the time of its release this is not yet available in North America in 1080P BUT this Japanese disc will play on 'Region A' Blu-ray equipment which includes Americas (North, Central and South except French Guiana), Korea, Japan, South East Asia (including Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan). I actually think the disc is region-free (look at all the subtitle and DUB options) but when I can confirm we will publish that here. Amusingly, I don't see Japanese in the subtitle or DUB options. (??!??!?)

 

Strangely, this actually has English language menus (not Japanese) making navigation that much easier. Also, like a typical 'Warner' Blu-ray - the film starts up as soon as you put the disc in (no painfully long trailers or Blu-ray adverts). The film starts with an old Warner logo opening - then a Paramount one follows. 

 

 

 

NOTE: The 'Director’s Cut' is only approx. four minutes longer than the theatrical version. It seems to have allowed some, Fincher-approved, alterations in certain scene extensions with minor dialogue deleted - many will not even notice this adjustment. Others may be aware of the minute-long black screen (with various music cuts) that indicates the passage of four years. Other than that it is the same enjoyable and occasionally intense film experience.      

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Screen Captures

 

Warner International Blu-ray Version TOP vs. Paramount - North American 2-disc Blu-ray Edition BOTTOM

 

 

Warner International Blu-ray Version TOP vs. Paramount - North American 2-disc Blu-ray Edition BOTTOM

 

 

Warner International Blu-ray Version TOP vs. Paramount - North American 2-disc Blu-ray Edition BOTTOM

 

 

Warner International Blu-ray Version TOP vs. Paramount - North American 2-disc Blu-ray Edition BOTTOM

 

 

Warner International Blu-ray Version TOP vs. Paramount - North American 2-disc Blu-ray Edition BOTTOM

 

 

Warner International Blu-ray Version TOP vs. Paramount - North American 2-disc Blu-ray Edition BOTTOM

 

 

Warner International Blu-ray Version TOP vs. Paramount - North American 2-disc Blu-ray Edition BOTTOM

 

 

Warner International Blu-ray Version TOP vs. Paramount - North American 2-disc Blu-ray Edition BOTTOM

 

 

Warner International Blu-ray Version TOP vs. Paramount - North American 2-disc Blu-ray Edition BOTTOM

 

 

Warner International Blu-ray Version TOP vs. Paramount - North American 2-disc Blu-ray Edition BOTTOM

 

 

Warner International Blu-ray Version TOP vs. Paramount - North American 2-disc Blu-ray Edition BOTTOM

 

 

Warner International Blu-ray Version TOP vs. Paramount - North American 2-disc Blu-ray Edition BOTTOM

 

 

More Paramount Blu-ray

 

 

Audio: The Japanese Blu-ray has only a DD 5.1 English track (and DUBs) where even the older HD-DVD offered Dolby Digital PLUS. The Paramount has a superior TrueHD track with no DUBs. There are a few parts where I did notice the difference. What I said about the HD still holds true enough; "Depending on what you might be expecting in this Fincher offering - the film is essentially very sedate with the few 'killings' lowered to a less dynamic expression (audio-wise.)". This is generally a dialogue-driven film. Bottom line is the Paramount track is superior. 

 

 


Extras (are duplicated from the SD Director's Cut reviewed HERE but featurettes and documentaries are in HD on both
Blu-rays). The Japanese has those HD featurettes available on the same lone Blu-ray disc where the Paramount includes them on a second Blu-ray. I didn't compare the quality.

 

There are two optional audio commentaries. The first is by director Fincher (whose voice sounds a bit like Gyllenhaal) and I found it very enjoyable and informative. He discusses some of the history of the case as well as the usual production details. The second commentary offers more history with a collaboration of crew and novelist James Ellroy, (author of many crime novels including The Black Dahlia on his extensive list of credits). Obviously Ellroy is the perfect person to give extraneous crime-drama details and he makes for an excellent commentarist.
 

Digging deeper we also have a featurette; “Zodiac Deciphered”. Kind of akin to a 'making of..." -this is about an hour-long and focuses mainly on production details (locations, costumes, props, sets, director input etc.) as well as the real-life Robert Highsmith and David Toschi. “The Visual Effects of Zodiac” is about 15 minutes long and focuses on the special effects used to create the 'blood splatterings' as well as making San Fran look like it did 30+ years ago. “Previsualization” gives us split-screen with some of the CGI content of the film (about 6 minutes). “The Facts” section includes “This is the Zodiac Speaking” which runs 1 hour 42 minutes and goes into great detail about the history of the Zodiac killings with video interviews of investigators and survivors. This is a very thorough and extremely interesting and informative piece for those keen on the case. “Prime Suspect: His Name Was Arthur Leigh Allen” runs almost 45 minutes and deals with the ongoing suspicion of that gentleman as the prime perpetrator. It brings up questions as well as information. Quite good viewing in my opinion. Extras are extensive and all relevant." 

 

Extras

 

BOTTOM LINE: Zodiac gets better each time I see it and I enjoy the Fincher commentary more and more. There is a lot of information to take in as it tends to express itself in a documentary style at times - in this manner, and its length and detail, it reminds me of Oliver Stone's JFK.

While both Blu-rays are brilliant with the inclusion of extensive extras (in hi-def) - the Paramount is the overall winner in terms of technical value and price. If, per-chance you desire the subtitle and DUB options, or even want the extras all on one disc, then it is your option to spring for the Japanese (international) Warner.

Overall though this is a fabulous film, brilliant transfer and is overflowing with competent extras. If this Paramount had come out in 2008 I would have had it on my Top 10 of the Year list. This Blu-ray is very strongly recommended!  

 
 

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Cheaper Version out on March 25th, 2014:

 

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About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction. So be it, but film will always be my first love and I list my favorites on the old YMdb site now accessible HERE.  

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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