H D - S E N S E I

A view on Hi-def DVDs by Gary W. Tooze


Introduction: 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 7500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3000 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:

Samsung HPR4272 42" Plasma HDTV
Toshiba HD-A2 HD-DVD player (firmware upgraded)

Sony BDP-S300 1080p Blu-ray Disc Player (firmware upgraded)
Sony DVP NS5ODH SD-DVD player (region-free and HDMI)

Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

Gary W. Tooze







Futurama: Bender's Game [Blu-ray]


(Dwayne Carey-Hill, 2008)



Review by Gary Tooze



Video: 20th Century Fox



Region: 'A'

Feature Runtime: 1:27:27

Chapters: 24

Feature film disc size: 23.2 Gig

One dual-layered Blu-ray

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: November 4th, 2008



Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p

Codec: MPEG4-AVC (35 mb/s)


English: 5.1 DTS HD Master (lossless)

Feature: English, French, Spanish, Chinese and none


• Audio Commentary with creator Matt Groening, executive producer David X. Cohen, voice actors Billy West, John DiMaggio and Tress MacNeille, director Dwayne Carey-Hill, co-writer Mike Rowe and producer Claudia Katz

• Video commentary with picture-in-picture
• Story Animatic for "Part One" (21:47)

• Futurama Genetics Lab (fuse two characters)
• "D&D&F - AKA "Dungeons & Dragons & Futurama" - (7:03 in HD!)
• "How to Draw Futurama in 83 Easy Steps" (7:52 in HD!)
• 3-D Model Gallery Discussion (5:03)
• Deleted Scene; "Cup or Nozzle?" (1:02)
• "Blooperama 2" (1:49)
• Bender's Anti-Piracy Warning (1:11)
• Preview for Into The Wild Green Yonder (1:12)

• Four postcards


Product Description: With fuel prices skyrocketing, the Planet Express crew sets off on a dangerous mission: to infiltrate the world's only dark-matter mine, source of all spaceship fuel. But deep beneath the surface lies a far stranger place... a medieval land of dragons and sorcery and intoxicated knights who look suspiciously like Bender. So park your hover-car and saddle up your unicorn for Futurama's grandest adventure yet: BENDER'S GAME! 




The Film:

At once a merciless skewering of all things fanboy and an extremely satisfying addition to the Futurama franchise, Bender's Game is among the best of the animated series' feature length adventures. The game in question is Dungeons and Dragons, and Bender wants in--only robots aren't programmed with the necessary imagination. Naturally, Bender's plans to develop one go completely awry and land him in an android asylum. The role-playing plotline later re-emerges--in typically convoluted Futurama fashion--via a subplot involving Professor Farnsworth's conversion of dark matter into spaceship fuel, which created a key to a very D&D-influenced universe where our hapless heroes eventually find themselves.



The alternate world storyline allows for much lampooning of fantasy tropes, with Lord of the Rings receiving the lion's share of the tweaks. Seeing as how the writers have already devoted much of the movie's running time to parodying Star Wars and Star Trek (and their Lego offshoots), one might think that Bender's Game might suffer from pop-culture overload, but surprisingly, it all feels fresh and frequently funny, and the writers are wise to ground the story in their eccentric characters rather than pinballing them through an endless string of gags. The result is probably the strongest of the direct-to-DVD Futurama releases to date, and one that newcomers to the show's cracked universe can appreciate as much as longtime fans!

Excerpt from Amazon located HERE


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

As I stated in the review of the single-layered SD-DVD screener I was sent (HERE) being fairly basic digital animation I can't find too many reasons to upgrade to the Blu-ray. I know, I know... this is after I suggested Fox offering Blu after The Beast With A Billion Backs. But seriously, on my system I could only barely tell the difference from the single-layered screener that I was sent (note: the eventual commercially available SD-DVD will be dual-layered!).  Colors are marginally better as is contrast and black levels, but it doesn't make the sight-gags any funnier (and they are funny!). Really there is not much to say about the image as it is perfect and the SD only a slim notch behind. The Blu-ray image gives us no reason whatsoever to complain. Hopefully, the screen captures below will give you an idea of what it will look like on your system. It's expectantly impressive, bright and spotless - no one should be disappointed in the appearance.





20th Century Fox - Blu-ray - TOP  vs. 20th Century Fox (screener) - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM (not exact frame!)



20th Century Fox - Blu-ray - TOP  vs. 20th Century Fox (screener) - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM (not exact frame!)


More Blu-ray











Audio & Music:  
From the SD, this gets a bump to
5.1 DTS HD Master (lossless) and the films has some moments to support it. In the end though, it's nothing to write home about - I like the subtle effect noises filtering to the rear speakers but I see a comedy like this is not really worth demanding a lot from the surround capabilities. Most would be happy with the standard 5.1. There are optional subtitles offered in
English, French, Spanish or Chinese.


Supplements include yet another fun, gang-commentary with creator Matt Groening, and some of the cast and crew. On the
Blu-ray this is accessible as a picture-in-picture, if desired, running co0ncurrent to Bender's Game itself. There are many other supplements - albeit mostly short ones but a couple in HD (1080) - both "D&D&F - AKA "Dungeons & Dragons & Futurama" - (7:03) and "How to Draw Futurama in 83 Easy Steps" (7:52). There were 20 minutes of fairly boring Storyboard Animatic - a fun Futurama Genetics Lab where you can fuse two characters of your choice together. Among other extras - Deleted Scenes, Blooperamas, a funny Bender Anti-Piracy Warning and a preview for Into The Wild Green Yonder - the next (last?) Futurama full-length feature. You also get four, postcard-sized, Futurama cards which I'll assume are the same in all editions (not as a set for trading).



Bottom line:
My final summation remains to get the SD-DVD HERE
. An upgrade to Blu-ray should be cost-prohibitive on the value and you do get a slightly better transfer (picture and audio) and a couple of extras features (that you may never visit again) in 1080. I though this was as good as the others we have covered (Bender's Big Score and Beast with a Billion Backs) and on par with the past show itself - lots of one-liners, visits from past characters (no Zapp Brannigan though) and a wild storyline with bizarre adventures. Even die-hard fans may wish to stick with the standard in this case - which is about $9 less.

Gary Tooze

November 1st, 2008





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