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







Tropic Thunder (Unrated Director's Cut) [Blu-ray]


(Ben Stiller, 2008)



Review by Gary Tooze


Studio: Dreamworks Video



Region FREE

Time: 2:01:08 (includes faux trailers and Energy Drink advert)

Chapters: 24

Feature film disc size: 28.93 Gig

One dual-layered Blu-ray

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: November 18th, 2008



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p


English: Dolby TrueHD 5.1, French: Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1

Feature: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese and none


Two audio commentaries:
• First with Ben Stiller, Justin Theroux, producer Stuart Cornfeld, production designer Jeff Mann, cinematographer John Toll and editor Greg Hayden

2nd with Ben Stiller, Jack Black and Robert Downey, Jr.

Before the Thunder (five-minute in HD!)

The Hot LZ - (about 6 minutes HD!)
Blowing S#!t Up (in HD!)

Designing the Thunder (7:31 - in HD!)
The Cast of Tropic Thunder (22:12 in total - 7 cast - in HD!)
Rain of Madness (30:00 - HD!)

Make-up test with Tom Cruise (1:34 - SD) with introduction by Stiller and editor Greg Hayden

Deleted Scenes (Water Buffalo Wrestling and Speedman Unpacking His Backpack w/optional commentary) / Extended Scenes - (Snorkels w/optional commentary and Eight Minutes in Hell w/optional commentary) / Alternate Ending w/optional commentary (8:03/11:14/3:29 in HD) with introduction by Stiller and editor Greg Hayden

Full Mags with introduction by Stiller and editor Greg Hayden / Choose a Dude (33 minutes)

MTV Movie Awards


Product Description: Pampered action superstar Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller) is cast in the biggest, most expensive war movie ever produced. He sets out to Southeast Asia with a "Who's Who" of celebrity co- stars. They include Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.), an intense, three-time Oscar-winning actor; Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black), star of the popular gross-out comedy franchise "The Fatties"; multi-platinum hip-hop-star-turned-entrepreneur-turned-actor Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson); and first-timer Kevin Sandusky (Jay Baruchel). Soon after the production begins the actors are thrown into a real-life situation and are forced to become the fighting unit they're portraying, in order to find a way out of the jungle in one piece.




The Film:

The documentary “Hearts of Darkness” is about the struggles of filming the great Vietnam war movie “Apocalypse Now.” Ben Stiller’s “Tropic Thunder” plays like that doc’s nightmare. A troupe of actors, under the impression they’re making a Vietnam war movie, wanders dangerously in the jungle and is captured by a gang of druglords who think the actors are narcs.



The movie is a send-up of Hollywood, actors, acting, agents, directors, writers, rappers, trailers and egos, much enhanced by several cameo roles, the best of which I will not even mention. You’ll know the one, although you may have to wait for the credits to figure it out.

All but stealing the show, Robert Downey Jr. is not merely funny but also very good and sometimes even subtle as Kirk Lazarus, an Australian actor who has won five Oscars and has surgically dyed his skin to transform himself into a black man. So committed is he to this role that he remains in character at all times, seemingly convinced that he is actually black.

Excerpt from Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times located HERE


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

The image is gorgeous at times... the Hawaiian flora and fauna, representing Vietnam, looked breathtaking - but I think it was the black levels that impressed me the most. Contrast is rich and deep - almost achieving new heights. Although there is some herky-jerky camera motion, when settled, some of the close-ups show brilliant detail (see the last two large captures). Although I haven't seen the SD-DVD - I am positive that this Blu-ray image quality must appear dramatically superior. Colors leave a subtle impression never overtaking the power of the layered contrast. Really, this is one of the better Blu-ray images that I've seen in a while. Although it doesn't appear glossy it seems to withdraw from a more dynamic film-like presentation - this would be my only real complaint - if you can call it that. Perhaps because it tends to look almost too true - as some regard the appearance of DV. Anyway, some of the opening scenes (after the faux trailers) could easily be used for demonstration. The feature takes up about almost 30 Gig on this dual-layered Blu-ray disc. I saw no evidence of manipulation techniques - as none were, obviously necessary. You may click on the screen grabs to see the full 1080 resolution. This disc is a winner!



















Audio & Music:  
TrueHD 5.1 track is almost equivalent to the visuals. Effects are gratuitous and noises are pushed around the room including Theodore Shapiro's original score and the classical rifts played to mimic so many other past war films. The mix gives your system speakers a healthy workout and then some. It has a nice precision to it, as well, that compliments the jaw-dropping video. There are two foreign language DUBs offered and subtitles in English, English SDH, French, Spanish or Portuguese... and we understand that the disc is region free.


This is Stiller's baby and he takes the lead - especially in the first 'gang' commentary. It seemed a bit stayed and I was more looking forward to the second with
him again, Jack Black and Robert Downey, Jr. . This one had some expected humor, with Downey remaining in character, but still wasn't as amusing as the film itself. The trio seemed a shade tight but I liked it a bit more then the first, dry-er, commentary. There are the expected production featurettes, most in HD, and the anti-climatic Make-up test with Tom Cruise. I was getting kind of bored with the deleted/extended/alt-ending stuff but it was nice to include an introduction and optional commentaries for some of them. There was some decent parodies but probably more amusing than anything in the supplement extras were the faux energy drink and three faux trailers preceding Tropic Thunder 'the film'. I don't know whether these were part of the theatrical experience (perhaps why this is a 'Director's Cut'?) but, regardless, they were fun and some real effort appears to have gone into there production. There is a BD-LIVE option that I wasn't able to access yet (prior to release date) and I'd have to give an 'A' for effort saluting the extensive extras available.  


Tropic Thunder starts with a Faux Energy Drink advertisement and three Faux film trailers






Bottom line:
Even though I really like Stiller's movies I was already to reject Tropic Thunder, sight unseen. I was, of course, proven wrong and although tasteless at times this is am impressive work with action and comedy while liberally poking fun at Hollywood norms. As far as this
Blu-ray goes - it far exceeded my expectations in both audio and video. Although the film may not be to all tastes - it's certainly worth a spin to find out. The
Blu-ray is impressive enough to give a 'arrow up' in our rating system. Great work by Stiller, the cast and crew and Dreamworks.


Gary Tooze

November 11th, 2008





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