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H D - S E N S E I

A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

 

 

Taken "Extended Cut" [Blu-rays]  vs. Single Disc NTSC

 

(Pierre Morel, 2008)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Eurocorp / M6 Films

Video: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

 

NOTE: SD-DVD coverage is in RED where different US Blu-ray in light green!

 

Disc:

Region 'A' locked vs. Region: 'B"  vs. Region 1 - NTSC

(Region codes verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:33:24.640  SD-DVD - 1:33:18 (Theatrical 1:30:48)

Disc Size: 41,191,393,447 bytes vs. 33,372,222,396 bytes vs. 5.79 Gig

Feature Size: 27,977,299,968 bytes vs. 29,920,886,784 bytes

Average Bitrate: 39.93 Mbps vs. 42.71 Mbps vs. 8.1 Mbps

Chapters: 24

Case: Standard 'thicker' UK Blu-ray case vs. Standard Keep case

Release date: February 9th, 2009 vs. May 12th, 2009

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p vs. 480p

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video vs. MPEG-2

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 3861 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3861 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio French 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio French 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps
DTS Express English 96 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 96 kbps / 24-bit

DTS-HD Master Audio English 3905 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3905 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)

Dolby Digital Audio English 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps
DTS Express English 96 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 96 kbps / 24-bit

DUBs:

DTS Audio German 768 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit
DTS Audio Italian 768 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit
DTS Audio Russian 768 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit
DTS Audio Spanish 768 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit

DVD has Dolby 5.1 and Spanish and French 2.0 channel DUBs.

 

Subtitles:

English, French, Spanish, none

English, German, Italian, Russian, Spanish, none

DVD has English and Spanish.

 

Extras:

Seamlessly branched is a choice of either the 1:30:55 theatrical cut of the 1:33:25 unrated-extended cut.
Two commentary tracks (both only on unrated extended versions) First with director Pierre Morel, cinematographer Michel Abramowicz, and stuntman Michel Julienne (in French with English subtitles). Second Commentary is with Writer Robert Mark Kamen (in English)
Black Ops Field Manual (PiP for Unrated-Extended cut only)
Avant Premiere (4:47 in HD)
Inside Action: 6 Side By Side Comparisons (total = 11:05 in HD!)

The US package Blu-ray has a second disc 'Digital Copy".

Real Time Mission Intelligence (PiP)
Making Of... (18:22)
Avant Premiere (4:47)
Inside Action: 6 Side By Side Comparisons scenes

DVD has the 2:30 shorter, theatrical version seamlessly branched with the extended cut and no supplements.

 

Bitrate:

US Blu-ray

 

 

UK Blu-ray

 

 

DVD

 

 

Description: What could be a skillful but ordinary action flick gets a surprising emotional heft from the presence of Liam Neeson as the hero. Bryan Mills (Neeson) has given up his career as a spy to form a relationship with his estranged teenage daughter--but when, on a trip to Paris, she's kidnapped by slavers, Mills uses all his connections and skills to turn the city of lights upside down and rescue her. Like most of the movies that writer/producer Luc Besson has a hand in (such as La Femme Nikita, The Transporter, Unleashed, and many other French action movies), Taken drips with lurid violence (a bit toned-down to get a PG-13 rating, but there's still plenty of it), deranged sentimentality, and stereotypes of all kinds. But this doesn't stop his movies from being effective thrill-rides, and Taken is no exception. Taken pays just enough attention to the illusion of procedure--making it seem like Mills knows all the right steps to track down his daughter--that the movie cheerfully seduces your suspension of disbelief, despite many plot holes and scenes where Mills doesn't get scratched despite bullets flying in all directions or pretends to be a French policeman despite not speaking French or even adopting a French accent. What holds it all together is Neeson; his gravitas and emotional availability make his character--the usual action fantasy of impossible competence and righteous fury--somehow seem real and relatable.

- Bret Fetzer - Amazon.com located HERE

 

 

The Film:

With certain crimes against humankind the 'standard' justice system can seem wholly inadequate. Some may have felt this frustration regarding the lack of more serious retribution to the evil-doers in Trade. While this is only a film, one can garner some very satisfying vengeance without succumbing to our civilities and procedures of law. From that standpoint - Taken - is absolutely wonderful. The individuals involved in the procurement of kidnapped slaves for the 'Sex Trade' frankly are not even worthy of being called 'human beings'. They have forgone that right and they're inconsequential destruction is almost euphoric. So how about we take some swift, indiscriminant revenge on these lowlifes? Huh? - enter Liam Neeson as Bryan Mills.

He's a good man - divorced from his wife but he deeply loves his daughter who is at the 'coming of age' stage - the precise time balancing physical female attractiveness and sheltered naiveté about the horrors of the world. Ripe fodder for the opportunistic pond-scum of this film. Her father, Bryan, is an overly protective sort and concerned about her trip to Europe. Thankfully his unspecified security/spy experience has given him the necessary tools to protect/save his daughter from the clutches of evil foreigners in the form of corrupt French police, unshaven Albanian miscreants and the horny whims of fat, pock-mark faced Middle Eastern Sheiks. Each knowingly involved in a segment of the heinous illegalities of the 'sex trade'. We are given enough information to know this - before they can be blow away 'Dirty Harry' style.

Hooray for the good guys (actually just one guy in this case). Details are left out in typical Luc Besson-ian revelry. This can only really make sense because it is, at times, stretching points of accuracy and logic - bordering on accepting some less specific details of the story. It's okay. Heaven forbid that we ever find ourselves in Bryan's position - but if we do it becomes the perfect fantasy to follow his super-efficient example. That's what film, in general, is - 'fantasy' folks - and it makes Taken as, baser, satisfying as anything I've seen in a long while.  

Gary Tooze

 


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

I can't see any appreciable difference in the Blu-ray transfers despite the slight variance in file sizes and bitrates. I don't know if my mind was playing tricks on me but sometimes faces seemed fatter (or thinner) on the two releases. I've done my best to match captures although I may be off a frame or two on a few. Both Blu-rays look very strong visually.

Taken seems pretty competent on Blu-ray. Like the seedy back-street locales Bryan is venturing the quality can have a rougher edge at times.  This is dual-layered and seems to cover all areas appropriately. Colors seem bright and true while fine grain exists - more so in the darker scenes. Skin tones don't appear overly warm - contrast exhibits healthy, rich black levels. As usual, daylight scenes are impressive and detail in close-ups is strong. This Blu-ray has a nice realistic feel and is probably very accurate to theatrical. Fox has been doing a great job with hi-def transfer - and this is no exception.

NOTE: Unlike some of the recent region 'B' 1080 transfers we have been covering - this IS progressive and in full theatrical frame-rate running time.

The single-disc DVD looks okay but no where near the high-def in terms of skin tones (warmer and less yellowy), detail and depth. There is a shade more information in the frame on the Blu-ray. It's certainly watchable but definitely inferior. I look forwards to the Region 'A' Blu-ray although I suspect the transfer will duplicate the UK 1080P.

 

 

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

 

(U.S. Region 'A' Blu-ray TOP vs. - Region 'B' - Blu-ray MIDDLE vs. 20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC DVD BOTTOM)

 

 

(U.S. Region 'A' Blu-ray TOP vs. - Region 'B' - Blu-ray MIDDLE vs. 20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC DVD BOTTOM)

 

 

(U.S. Region 'A' Blu-ray TOP vs. - Region 'B' - Blu-ray MIDDLE vs. 20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC DVD BOTTOM)

 

 

(U.S. Region 'A' Blu-ray TOP vs. - Region 'B' - Blu-ray MIDDLE vs. 20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC DVD BOTTOM)

 

 

(U.S. Region 'A' Blu-ray TOP vs. - Region 'B' - Blu-ray MIDDLE vs. 20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC DVD BOTTOM)

 

 

(U.S. Region 'A' Blu-ray TOP vs. - Region 'B' - Blu-ray MIDDLE vs. 20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC DVD BOTTOM)

 

 

(U.S. Region 'A' Blu-ray TOP vs. - Region 'B' - Blu-ray MIDDLE vs. 20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC DVD BOTTOM)

 

 

(U.S. Region 'A' Blu-ray TOP vs. - Region 'B' - Blu-ray MIDDLE vs. 20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC DVD BOTTOM)

 

 

(U.S. Region 'A' Blu-ray TOP vs. - Region 'B' - Blu-ray MIDDLE vs. 20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC DVD BOTTOM)

 

 

(U.S. Region 'A' Blu-ray TOP vs. - Region 'B' - Blu-ray MIDDLE vs. 20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC DVD BOTTOM)

 

 

 

Audio :

Again - no difference that my ears could ascertain although technically the UK edition may be minutely stronger but you might have to have Superman's hearing ability to notice. The US edition, is also region-locked (to 'A") and has optional English, French or Spanish subtitles.

A whooping-ly fine DTS-HD Master 5.1 track at 3905 kbps. The gratuitous violence is cut and dried and the audio rendering of these effects is as precise and punctuating. This is a healthy mix with enough surround action 'umph' to jump you outta your seat on occasion. Subtitles are available in English, German, Italian, Russian, Spanish (not French - they have their own edition HERE). Audiophiles shouldn't be disappointed this is a solid track. My Momitsu tells me this is region locked to 'B'.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 on the DVD is notably inferior. It has lesser range it doesn't have the decisive punch exhibited by the HD track. The DVD offers Spanish and French 2.0 channel DUBs and English and French subtitles.

 

 

 

Extras :

This is where the US Blu-ray distinguishes itself. It offers, seamlessly branched, a choice of either the 1:30:55 theatrical cut of the 1:33:25 unrated-extended cut in 1080P. There are two decent commentary tracks (both only incorporated with the 'unrated extended' version). The first, probably from the French disc, has director Pierre Morel, cinematographer Michel Abramowicz, and stuntman Michel Julienne (in French with English subtitles). The second Commentary is with Writer Robert Mark Kamen (in English language.) We also get the picture-in-picture Black Ops Field Manual (on the Unrated-Extended cut only), the Avant Premiere (4:47 in HD) and the 6 Inside Action Comparisons for just over 10-minutes. It loses the French 'Making of...' but contains a second disc 'Digital Copy".

There are some viable supplements from Fox. We get a Mission Intelligence picture-in-picture timeline that runs along with the film at the top. It seems an interesting Blu-ray feature although I don't know how valuable it will be for most viewers who aren't interested in tallying the violence. We get a 20-minute French-made "Making Of..." with sound bytes from Neeson, Morel and others plus some behind the scenes activity. The Avant Premiere is less than 5 minutes and doesn't seem like it was a grandiose event. I believe that is the recently deceased Natasha Richardson with her husband Liam Neeson entering the theater. It saddened me to see her - reminding one of her untimely passing. Lastly six Inside Action: Side By Side Comparisons of some of the most prominent scenes of the film are accessible. No commentary but decent extras I thought.

The single-disc DVD has the 2:30 shorter, theatrical version seamlessly branched with the extended cut and no supplements. There is a 2-disc DVD available but I'm unsure of the extras at this time.

 

UK Blu-ray "Making Of..."

 

 

DVD

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Being unable to determine viable differences in the Blu-ray transfers (audio or visual) we look toward the supplements and the US edition
leaps boldly ahead. This is the package we recommend!

Too much violence? - yea - probably but I never felt it was inappropriate considering the storyline. The car chase was a bit overboard though.  Neeson is just perfect in this one. I really enjoyed his controlled performance. It's fairly easy to guess how this less convincing film runs - and if you are at all in the mood - it should sate you to comfortably high standard. Just don't expect too much - it has many run-in-the-mill 'vengeance' conventions which is not always such a bad thing. I'll be getting the US Region 'A' Blu-ray and may compare the two although I don't expect a lot of difference in the transfer. If you are at all keen - accepting the violence and incongruities of the story - it can be a very memorable night in the home theater. I was really in the mood and, smiling throughout, I had a ball!

The Blu-ray is the way to go whether it be the Region 'B' or "A'. The latter we hope to cover soon. 

Gary Tooze

April 24th, 2009

May 2nd, 2009

May 14th, 2009

 

 

 


 

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 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

 

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