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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

 

Harsh Times [Blu-ray]

 

(David Ayer, 2005)

 

Alliance (Canada) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray LEFT vs. Weinstein - Region FREE - Blu-ray RIGHT

 

A German Blu-ray of the film is also available:

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

Video: Alliance Canada vs. Weinstein (stats and comments in green)

 

Disc:

Alliance is Region: 'A'-locked - Weinstein is region FREE (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:56:14.759 / 1:56:01.496

Disc Size: 18,501,650,868 bytes / 44,691,530,053 bytes

Feature Size: 18,413,438,976 bytes / 35,579,910,144 bytes

Video Bitrate: 15.00 Mbps / 34.16 Mbps

Chapters: 16 / 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: September 1st, 2009 / December 14th, 2010

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1 1:78:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 4018 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 4018 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
DUB: Dolby Digital Audio French 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps

 

DTS-HD Master Audio English 4213 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 4213 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB / Dolby Surround

 

Subtitles:

None / English, none

 

Extras:

None

 

Extras:

• Commentary by director/writer/producer David Ayer

• 7 Deleted Scenes (12:55)

The Making of Harsh Times (24:27)

 

Bitrate:

Alliance (Canada) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Weinstein - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

 

Description: An unstable Gulf War veteran with a savior complex receives a shocking wake-up call upon returning stateside and accepting a position with the Department of Homeland Security in the directorial debut of Training Day screenwriter David Ayer. Jim (Christian Bale) is a Gulf War veteran who believes his sworn duty to protect his fellow Americans extends to the streets of Los Angeles, and he longs to fulfill his destiny by joining the LAPD. Rejected by the force and left to ponder his future with his impoverished Mexican paramour -- whom he had intended on bringing to the city after joining the police -- the dejected and unemployed veteran is offered a second shot at helping his country when he is subsequently approached by the Department of Homeland Security. As Jim and his unemployed best friend, Mike (Freddy Rodriguez), carve a swath of chaos through the streets of Los Angeles, the weight of their American dream soon comes crashing down in a devastating blow that threatens to dash their high hopes for a bright future.

 

 

The Film:

As Jim, Christian Bale is, well, he's just amazing. After American Psycho, The Machinist, and Batman Begins, I'm fully convinced that Christian Bale can do just about anything, and in Harsh Times he creates a character who's as resoundingly hate-worthy as he is entirely fascinating. One of the finest actors working today, Bale creates a character who's both hateful and despicable -- but you won't be able to take your eyes off the guy.

As his (frequently reluctant) partner in crime, Freddy Rodriguez does a brilliant job with a difficult role. Bale gets to do all the flashy and shocking stuff, which leaves Rodriguez the option only to react, respond, and recoil as Bale burns down the screen. At the same time you're wondering why Rodriguez's character continues to hang with Bale, the actor makes it pretty clear what's going on; he does it because they're old pals. And sometimes, unfortunately, misplaced loyalty leads to some seriously bad decisions..

Excerpt from Scott Weinberg's review at eCritic located HERE

 


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

Harsh Times was predominantly shot on Super 16, with some 35mm sequences, and this hasn't translated well to Blu-ray - there is extensive noise in monochromatic backgrounds. Compounding this is an intentional unsteady camera that follows plenty of erratic motion - so we get no pristine detail and some haziness. We should point out that this arrived in 1080P on the old, and now defunct, HD-DVD format HERE. Grain and noise are very apparent - and can make the canvas look quite textured. This Canadian Alliance bare-bones Blu-ray package is transferred via MPEG-4 in 1080P and is rendered in the correct 1.85 aspect ratio. Both the single-layered file size and video bitrate are only about double that of a DVD.  So it's hard to know where the weakness lies - in the pragmatic transfer or the limitations of the production source. It's probably a little of both although I can't be sure that a more robust digital rendering would dramatically improve the appearance of the Super 16 video. I understand there is a German Blu-ray available HERE but I don't own it to compare. Hopefully the captures below will give you a decent idea of the appearance.

 

There may not be much difference in the smaller captures but when expanded to full 1920 X 1080 - it is readily apparent that the Weinstein transfer is far superior. Technically it is double that of the Alliance (feature file size is almost double and bitrate is more than twice that of its Canadian counterpart). The Alliance is, unnecessarily, brighter and shows more noise - where the US edition is darker, has more consistent grain, is in 1.78 as opposed to 1.85 but actually shows more information in the frame. The US shows better texture and more apparent depth. It's really no contest.

 

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

 

Alliance (Canada) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Weinstein - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Alliance (Canada) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Weinstein - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Alliance (Canada) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Weinstein - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Alliance (Canada) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Weinstein - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Alliance (Canada) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Weinstein - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Alliance (Canada) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Weinstein - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Alliance (Canada) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Weinstein - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Alliance (Canada) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Weinstein - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Alliance (Canada) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Weinstein - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Alliance (Canada) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Weinstein - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Alliance (Canada) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Weinstein - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Alliance (Canada) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Weinstein - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Audio :

It's a hell of a DTS-HD Master 5.1 track at over 4000 kbps. Punchy bass and extensive surround features support the occasionally aggressive score with beaucoup dynamic range. There is a lot of driving around Los Angeles and some gunplay and even military action that starts the film. What makes the track so noticeable is the natural comparison to the less-than-pristine video.  There are only optional French subtitles (and an included French DUB) and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.

 

Audio is also very strong on the Weinstein - I noted similar separations and bass punch. It offers an optional Spanish DUB (as opposed to the Canadian French one). It is technically superior by a slight edge but the two lossless tracks are very comparable. The Weinstein offers optional English subtitles - where the Alliance only has it for the Spanish language parts. My Momitsu has identified the Weinstein as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.

 

 

Extras :

Typical of Alliance Canada - there are no supplements - not even a trailer - and barely a menu as the presentation starts almost immediately upon putting the disc in the player.

 

Also included in the past DVD editions are an informative commentary by director/writer/producer David Ayer. There isn't a lot of emotion expressed but it is detailed. There are 7 Deleted Scenes totaling about 13-minutes. What wasn't on DVDs but was on the HD-DVD is a 25-minute Making of Harsh Times with behind-the-scenes and interview snippets.

 

Alliance (Canada) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray LEFT vs. Weinstein - Region FREE - Blu-ray RIGHT

 

 
 
 
 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
This is an excellent film that I enjoyed even more in high-definition despite the limitations of the production source. Bale's characterization is intensely strong and Freddy Rodriguez supports him very well.
In the background is a subtle indictment of the effect of combat on one individual. The Blu-ray is better than most we've seen from Alliance in that is has no unforgiving flaws - the audio is even surprisingly very impressive.

 

I'll repeat my accolades for the film and performances - and now we are offered a superior Blu-ray transfer with extras and strong audio. Bonus in that it is offered at a great price. Strongly recommended! 

Gary Tooze

October 19th, 2009

December 9th, 2010

 

A German Blu-ray of the film is also available:

 

 

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 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 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:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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