King Kong (HD DVD) (2005)

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Released 6-Feb-2007

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Adventure Main Menu Audio & Animation
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2005
Running Time 188:23
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Peter Jackson
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Naomi Watts
Jack Black
Adrien Brody
Thomas Kretschmann
Colin Hanks
Andy Serkis
Case Amaray Variant
RPI $49.95 Music James Newton Howard


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
Italian Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
German Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
Catalan Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
Japanese Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
French
Italian
German
Catalan
Japanese
Korean
Swedish
Danish
Finnish
Dutch
Norwegian
Portuguese
Mandarin
Greek
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

Peter Jackson's treatment of this epic tale, first realised on film in 1933 by Merian C. Cooper, is a vast, entertaining spectacle that makes for fantastic big-screen viewing. Although it runs at nearly three hours, the film is so well paced that it seems to pass in half the time.

Stage actress Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) is finding times tough, like most honest people in the depression era struggling to find food to eat let alone earn a wage. Life takes a turn for the worse when the theatre where she performs as a comedienne closes it's doors. Enter Carl Denham (Jack Black), a filmmaker with a different kind of struggle on his hands. After consuming vast amounts of investor dollars in an unfinished film project, Carl finds the rug pulled from under him and no finance with which to finish his film. His cause isn't helped in the slightest by his producing a bizarre map that details the position of Skull Island, an allegedly undiscovered land filled with unique wildlife. "An ideal location for my film" thinks Carl; problem is, he has no leading lady. He bumps into Ann on the street and she fits the credentials, as well as the former star's wardrobe, but she is not seduced by Carl's promises of fame and fortune, nor by his assurance that the shooting will take place in Singapore. It is when she discovers the film is to be scripted by her favorite playwright, Driscoll (Adrien Brody), that she changes her mind and commits to the part. The cast and crew then sneak illegally out of New York on a hired ship, bound for Skull Island and the many unknown dangers that await them.

Romance develops between Driscoll and Darrow during the tense voyage, but it all grinds to a halt as they arrive on the island. The crew encounter some unfriendly natives, who intend to offer Ann as a sacrifice to Kong, the giant gorilla they worship. It appears Ann's comedic talents will come in very handy during her adventure, as she comes between Kong and a Tyrannosaurus Rex, encounters giant bugs and other unbelievable creatures that inhabit the island. Will the crew be able to rescue her from Kong, who has become absolutely smitten by her?

The relationship between Darrow and Kong is exquisitely handled, a testament I believe to the superb characterisation by Andy Serkis, who completed the Kong performance via motion capture. The facial expressions and emotions that are conveyed in the Kong character are really something special, all of which add to the film's believability. Despite my already being familiar with previous cinematic versions of this story, I was genuinely taken by Jackson's storytelling and vision here. It goes against most of my instincts to favour a remake. However, this latest rendition is my preferred by far.

I must mention that this film is a very long sitting for younger viewers, who are only likely to enjoy the action scenes anyway. For adult audiences, this is a perfect blend of humour, action and romance that will certainly reward repeat viewings.

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Transfer Quality

Video

Disclaimer: Please note that this disc has a video resolution of 1080p. It has been reviewed on a display device with a maximum native resolution of 720p. More information can be found here.

This transfer (24 frames per second, 1080p) is presented in the film's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, in a native 16x9 frame. The VC-1 video codec has been applied. In my review of last year's release, I thought this film made for fantastic big screen viewing in standard definition, and the same is especially true for HD DVD.

The level of sharpness in this transfer is fantastic. Foreground objects are sharp and clear, as are the highly detailed backgrounds, from the New York architecture and dated advertising signs through to Skull Island's jungle foliage, the depth of the image is striking. Skin textures and clothing are particularly realistic, in fact this may the best HD DVD video transfer I've seen thus far. Shadow detail is excellent in the many dark, dimly lit scenes, so the action on screen is never obscured by an image of black emptiness (my recent review of Doom springs to mind). Black levels are deep and inky when need be.

There are small details I noted in the image this time that I had not noticed in the standard definition transfer, such as the tiny insects in the air around Kong at 94:30, and the fine detail in Kong's fur at 120:35. The superiority of HD over SD is plain to see.

The film has been colour graded in post production to achieve a slightly dated appearance, which brings a nice, visual consistency between scenes. Examples of bold colouring, such as the neon lights of New York, are spectacularly vivid. Also, the jungles of Skull Island are a beautiful, lush green. Skin tones appear to be accurate and well textured, as I noted above.

Compression artefacting is completely absent throughout the film, even during the presence of fog, such as the steamy, misty docks at 47:50. There are absolutely no film artefacts to be seen either, not even a single spec, nor has there been any edge enhancement applied as far as I can see. I noted some 3:2 pulldown effects on my equipment during fast camera pans, but this is not the fault of the transfer.

Optional English subtitles are available, along with several other languages. I viewed part of the feature with subtitles enabled and found the titles to be well paced and accurate.

This is a dual-layered HD DVD disc (HD-30). There was no pause or noticeable interruption to the feature on my equipment.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

There is only one English soundtrack, presented in Dolby Digital Plus 5.1. A number of other languages are included. This soundtrack is a considerable improvement over the SD release, which was limited to 384Kb/s Dolby Digital audio.

The English dialogue is always distinct and never obscured by sound effects or score. The ADR is absolutely seamless and I didn't notice any issues regarding audio sync.

The depth and channel separation that were hinted at in the standard definition version are given much more life in this Dolby+ rendition. The surround channels are used to deliver sneaky bursts of the soundtrack score, as well as the usual atmospherics such as oceanic noise, wind, rain and the ship's creaking. Effective gunshot echoes can be heard in the rear channels at 18:35. Busy street scenes are similarly well handled, with plenty of enveloping audio effects. Voices are generally confined to the front centre channel and rarely stray to the rears.

Considering the short time frame in which it was composed and recorded, the film's orchestral score by James Newton Howard is an outstanding piece of work. The Kong theme is highly memorable and the overall score has a distinctly epic, adventurous feel akin to other classic adventures, such as the Indiana Jones Trilogy. The soundtrack is also peppered with popular pieces of music from the period, Peggy Lee's Bye Bye Blackbird to name one, rooting the film firmly in the thirties.

The LFE channel is utilised for all manner of subwoofer effects, most notably in the ship's engine room. Loud clunks and assorted mechanical movements are translated with fantastic depth, while drums and percussive passages in the soundtrack score are also augmented nicely. I noted some other great subwoofer moments courtesy of the large, booming footsteps of walking creatures and many falling rocks and debris. This is an altogether great soundtrack experience, however I look forward to hearing a lossless equivalent if the film's extended cut ever surfaces on HD DVD.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Nothing special here.

Menu Animation & Audio

The menu pages are comprised of a generic HD DVD menu, similar to other Universal titles. A language select menu loads first, which determines your default options. A clip from the film loops in the background, with audio. Main menu options are Play Film, Setup and Chapters.

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

I should also note that this disc is to be bundled with Microsoft's X-Box 360 HD DVD add-on drive. Although it's very light on the extras and hardly pushes the format to its boundaries, this disc should give new users a good idea of the improved picture quality HD offers. It's strange that Universal chose to only release the theatrical cut on HD DVD. What's stopping them from bundling the second disc from the Collector's Edition in this package? This disc is void of any extras, but if it's just the film you're after, HD DVD leaves the SD transfer way behind.

There are no region coding restrictions on HD DVD discs at the time of writing. The North American release includes two U-Control features. The first interrupts the feature with interviews and behind the scenes footage, culled from Jackson's Production Diaries. A second U-Control feature includes stills and production art only. Additional languages are French and Spanish only.

Summary

King Kong is a fantastic adventure, beautifully directed and imaginatively cast. The theatrical cut is presented well here. I'm certain the extended edition will appear on HD DVD eventually, so let's hope they can manage a second disc of extras next time.

The video transfer is very nice, indeed.

The audio transfer is great.

There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Rob Giles (readen de bio, bork, bork, bork.)
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba HD-D1, using HDMI output
DisplaySanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector, Screen Technics Cinemasnap 96" (16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR3806
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora lll Mains (bi-wired), Rears, Centre Rear. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Centre. Mirage 10 inch sub.

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Lack of Extras - Khadro REPLY POSTED
The Look & Sound Of Perfect! - Cylon Logic Bomb REPLY POSTED
Extras? - Anonymous
Spot on Rob G - DarkLord (read my bio) REPLY POSTED
This disc is truly reference - Paul Cordingley REPLY POSTED