H D - S E N S E I

A view on Hi-def discs 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







The Kingdom [Blu-ray]


(Peter Berg, 2007)



Review by Gary Tooze



Video: Universal



Region: FREE

Feature Runtime: 1:50:20

Chapters: 24

Feature film disc size: 30.9 Gig

One dual-layered Blu-ray

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: November 25th, 2008



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p


English: 5.1 DTS HD Master, DUBs: Spanish + French DTS 5.1

Feature: English (SDH), French, Spanish and none


Commentary With Director Peter Berg
Deleted Scenes in HD / 3:34 / 3:52 / 3:22 / 2:33
Character By Character: The Apartment Shootout
History of The Kingdom: An Interactive Timeline
Constructing The Freeway Sequence (18:18)
Creating The Kingdom
U Control - Picture in Picture


Product Description: "A High-Octane Action Movie." -A. O. Scott, The New York Times Oscar winners Jamie Foxx (Collateral) and Chris Cooper (Breach) and Golden Globe winners Jennifer Garner (Daredevil) and Jason Bateman (Smokin' Aces) ignite the screen in this high-intensity thriller about a team of elite FBI agents sent to Saudi Arabia to solve a brutal mass murder and find a killer before he strikes again. Out of their element and under heavy fire, the team must join forces with their Saudi counterparts. As these unlikely allies begin to unlock the secrets of the crime scene, the team is led into a heart-stopping, do-or-die confrontation. 




The Film:

The Kingdom is a police procedural with a unique - and interesting - twist. While the movie employs all of the investigative techniques we have become familiar with as a result of countless TV shows, there's a little more to this movie than CSI: Saudi Arabia. Politics of many different sorts play a role here, from the international need to keep relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia cordial to the difficulties faced by a female investigator working in a country where women do not hold equal positions to men. Actor-turned-director Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights) handles the tricky material of Matthew Michael Carnahan's dense script effectively and turns out a movie that is both intelligent and, at least in its latter stages, pulse-pounding.




Berg gives us a rousing, jarring opening that pulls us into the story. Then he dials things down for a while. The political and investigative aspects of the movie are fascinating to observe, but they aren't the sort of things to get the heart racing. Nevertheless, there's a sense of urgency. We see tensions between the Saudi police and the army, the Americans have only five days and are being kept on a tight leash, and there are indications that the terrorists may be planning a follow-up attack, possibly targeting the new arrivals. As the FBI unearths clues about how the first bombing was orchestrated and interviews witnesses, men are shown assembling more explosives. The last 30 minutes of The Kingdom is balls-to-the-wall action.

Excerpt from James Berardinelli at ReelViews located HERE


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

The cinematography of The Kingdom often utilizes the 'hand-held appearance' with jittery, and frequent out-of-focus, shots but when it does settle down the Blu-ray exhibits very strong detail and contrast. These shots are few and far between though. Initially I wasn't expecting much with the realistic, docu-feel that the camera exported - taking over with fast-cuts and hardly any focus on characters - even in dialogue. But the film tends to occasionally settle down, more so, in the less action-infused sequences. It is here that the glory of the 1080P resolution shows true benefit through your system. Although The Kingdom has a dark, muted appearance (obviously intentional) colors become noticeable when entering the frame much later in the film. The dusty, grey (and a little green) look is more a 'style intent' giving much of the Middle East a weathered dry, and often unfriendly, appearance. The image doesn't show a lot of depth and background noise exists but it seems limited. The image is not glossy and is, expectantly, blemish-free. I expect that this faithfully shows the theatrical look. Technically it is dual-layered with the feature size being a healthy 31 Gig. I don't see evidence of DNR or edge enhancements. In fact I'd have to say the encoded image is fairly flawless - with my only reservations on the manner in which it was shot, but that is the filmmakers prerogative. Hopefully, the Blu-ray screen captures below will give you an idea of what it will look like on your system. It's pretty healthy - close to impressive at times.

















Audio & Music:  
5.1 DTS HD Master gives your speakers and immense amount of work with loud explosions and gunfire dominating much of the action sequences. Bullets careen around with echoes and backfire effects sounding as aggressive as I have heard in a long while. Although, there is not much in the way of subtleties to this mix it still seems quite competent. If you are a fan of this level of dynamic sound attention then this track will impress you. There is original music by Danny Elfman but to be honest I didn't find particularly notable. There are optional subtitles offered in
English (SDH), French, or Spanish. I've been led to believe that this release is region-free and will assume so unless otherwise noted.


A commentary with director Peter Berg, whose recent Hancock on
Blu-ray I was less-enthused about. I think this is a much better film. His discussions in the commentary are pretty PC and he seems like a decent chap with a reasonable degree of intelligence relating production details and a bit about the performances/characterizations. We get a mitt-full of deleted scenes in HD - each running about 3.5 minutes each. There are some other SD featurettes - mostly on production, which I'll assume are duplicated from the original DVD release. Blu-ray specific we get the U Control - Picture in Picture with running info as the film plays. I'm starting to appreciate this function more now.



Bottom line:
Excellent film with impressive performances. Chris Cooper remains very high on my list. I had initially thought that this wasn't my type of film but
encouraged me to watch - and I'm very glad. I'm also enthusiastic about Berg's next film Virtuality - despite being made for TV. Although a totally different movie - I did get some deja-vu for In the Valley of Elah which I loved. This Blu-ray shouldn't deter anyone from The Kingdom - it looks and sounds as good as this new medium will allow. Political, thought-provoking and intense. 

Gary Tooze

November 19th, 2008





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