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 Contract [Blu-ray]


(Bruce Beresford, 2006)



Review by Gary Tooze


Studio: Millennium Films (Sony)

Video: First Look Pictures



Region: 'A'

Feature Runtime:  1:36:2

Chapters: 34

Feature film disc size: 20,967,770,112 bytes

Disc Size: 22,679,396,168 bytes

Average bitrate  29.01 Mbps

One single-layered Blu-ray

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: December 2nd, 2008



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: VC-1


Dolby TrueHD Audio English 3971 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3971 kbps / 24-bit (AC3 Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps)
Dolby Digital Audio English 256 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 256 kbps / Dolby Surround

Feature: English (SDH), Spanish, and none


• Inside The Contract (21:28)


Bitrate Graph:



Product Description: The only thing standing between an assassin and his target is a father who must protect his son. While on a hiking trip to reconnect with his son after the death of his wife, Ray Keene (John Cusack) stumbles into a nightmare scenario of paid assassins and ex-military guns-for-hire. Frank Cardin (Morgan Freeman) is attempting to fulfill a contract to assassinate a high profile businessman when things go awry and he ends up in the custody of the U.S. Marshalls. After an ill-fated attempt by his compatriots to free him Frank finds himself in the custody of ex-lawman Ray and his son (Jamie Anderson). As the trio tries to make their way back to civilization they are relentlessly pursued by Frank's friends who are intent on freeing their leader in order to collect on the contract. But one pursuer may be more foe than friend....




The Film:

Just as water always seeks its own level, some pics originally intended as multiplex fare wind up going directly to DVD. "The Contract," a formulaic thriller that never taxes the talents of toplined Morgan Freeman and John Cusack, actually managed a smattering of playdates in offshore theaters. But this underwhelming opus appears to be in its natural habitat on a TV screen, fully justifying the decision to fast-forward to vidstore shelves in the U.S. The allure of recognizable stars toiling in a popular genre may be enough to wrest modest coin from buyers and renters. After that, latenight cable beckons.



Freeman picks up an easy paycheck as Frank Carden, a government-trained assassin-turned-freelance "exterminator" who's arrested by small-town Washington state cops after an inconvenient auto mishap. Federal agents arrive to transport the trigger man to a nearby metropolis....

Excerpt from Variety located HERE


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

This came out in, the now defunct, HD format back in 2007 without much fanfare for the transfer. I suspect this is the same VC-1 encode and it still looks competent but remains unremarkable. A darn sight better than SD but this doesn't rival most other highly-lauded Blu-ray discs. The image is clean without manipulations that I could determine. Black levels aand contrast is decent with the majority of the film being shot outdoors. The single-layered disc (feature taking up 20.9 Gig) probably replicates the theatrical reasonably well. It can look fairly crisp at times. The Blu-ray image transfer shouldn't deter anyone from indulging if they are interested in the film.













Audio & Music:  
The True HD track is pretty good. There are some thrilling moments and some gunfire/helicopter noises that permeate to the rear speakers. Normand Corbeil original score is befitting the film intent and has some good rifts although it doesn't appear to be a big part of the film narrative. A 2.0 channel is also available. There are optional subtitles offered in
English (SDH), or Spanish.


Inside The Contract documentary runs 20 minutes and is pretty standard fare with the expected input from many of the principles. There also claims to be a 'First Look Inside Look PiP' feature that I couldn't test.



Bottom line:
I watched this film about a year ago and I actually liked it better this second time.
It may have a run-in-the-mill feel for the thriller aspects but this still can be entertaining with the appeal of Freeman and Cusack. I expect with some more adept direction it may have evolved a bit more distinctly. Still - no high accolades nor any qualms with the video/audio on this Blu-ray. There are certainly worse ways to spend and evening - although I certainly realize that this is not much of an endorsement.

Gary Tooze

November 29th, 2008





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