Smokin' Aces (HD DVD/DVD Combo) (2007)

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Released 5-Jun-2007

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Menu Animation & Audio
On-Screen Information Track-U Control: PIP Featurettes & Assassin Tracker (HD)
Alternative Version-Standard Definition DVD9 on Side B, with extras.
Audio Commentary-Joe Carnahan (Director) & Rob Frazen (Editor)
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Shoot 'em Up: Stunts & Effects
Featurette-The Big Gun
Featurette-The Line Up
Alternate Ending-Cowboy Ending
Outtakes
Deleted Scenes-(4)
Programmable Track Selection-Program your Favourite Scenes
Screen Saver
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 2007
Running Time 108:38
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Sided
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Joe Carnahan
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Ben Affleck
Jason Bateman
Common
Joseph Ruskin
Andy Garcia
Alex Rocco
Alicia Keys
Wayne Newton
Ray Liotta
Jeremy Piven
Peter Berg
Ryan Reynolds
Martin Henderson
Case Amaray Variant
RPI ? Music Clint Mansell
Motorhead
Trivium


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
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0
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 for the Hearing Impaired
French
Italian
German
Catalan
Japanese
Korean
Swedish
Danish
Finnish
Dutch
Norwegian
Portuguese
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Writer/Director Joe Carnahan achieved some level of acclaim with his drug-laced murder mystery, Narc (2002). In Smokin' Aces he ups the ante somewhat, with an outstanding ensemble cast, involving action and some clever script-writing. This is one director I'm keen to see more from in the future.

    The Las Vegas criminal underworld is reeling over their betrayal by one of their young stars, an accomplished entertainer by the name of Buddy 'Aces' Israel (Jeremy Piven). With the FBI surveilling the bosses' houses and Israel in complete lockdown, protective custody, the stage is set for a landmark court case that could see the end of most organised crime, bringing down the mob from the very top.

    From his isolation in the penthouse suite of a hotel in Lake Tahoe, Israel lives the high life, inhaling cocaine by the kilo and having his way with a rotating roster of semi-naked hookers. Meanwhile, out in the field, FBI agents Messner (Ryan Reynolds) and Caruthers (Ray Liotta) tap a phone call that reveals the ailing, near-to-death mob boss Sparazza has placed a One Million Dollar price on Israel's head. Word soon hits the grapevine and the cream of the underworld's hitmen - and women - converge on Lake Tahoe for a piece of the potential million bucks. A colourful and contrasting array of miscreants, the greedy bounty hunters break up as follows:

    The film doesn't quite pan out as you might think it would, and as all of the attention rapidly converges on Israel's hotel, a few surprising twists are revealed that change the situation considerably. Beneath the fantastic action and superbly tense, confrontational scenes, Joe Carnahan has layered the film with some genuinely emotional situations that are faced by these characters. The ensemble cast is buoyed by fantastic performances across the board, particularly Jeremy Piven, Ryan Reynolds and Andy Garcia as the FBI Chief, Locke. Those seeking nail-gnawing action are kept extremely happy here, while those who expect some depth to the screenplay and resulting performances should be equally satisfied.

    The casting of some of our local talent is probably worth noting here. Joel Edgerton features prominently as Hugo, the dull-minded Russian bodyguard of Buddy Israel. Martin Henderson (another native New Zealander we've claimed as 'our own') also occupies a considerable role as former cop Hollis Elmore, one of Ben Affleck's goons.

    Whether you're hungry for some Tarantino-style wit, laced with gun-toting, high body-count action, or an involving, well-acted heist film (of a sort), Smokin' Aces is certain to please.

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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 HD transfer is amongst the finest I've seen on this format.

    The image is presented in the film's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, in a native 16x9 frame. The video stream has been compressed using the VC-1 codec, at a resolution of 1080p.

    The film has been heavily processed in post production to achieve a pulpy, comic-like appearance, reducing film grain and enhancing colour depth. The image is sharp and crystal clear, free of any conceivable imperfections that I could make out. Shadow detail is exceptional throughout and black levels are bold and deep. There is absolutely no low level noise to be seen.

    Colours are very heavily saturated and processed to the point of exaggeration. Skies are of the deepest azure blue. Blood reds are almost luminous in their vibrancy. Skin textures are stunning. There are no rendering inconsistencies or bleeding to be concerned about in the slightest.

    There are no video compression or film artefacts present.

    An English subtitle stream is forced, containing location titles and character introductions in the first few minutes. The forced stream also translates a brief passage of Spanish mid-film. It's not particularly attractive font-wise, but it does the job. The standard English subs can be selected from the setup menu and translate the spoken word faithfully. An English stream is also provided for the audio commentary.

    This is a dual-sided, combo format disc that supports both HD and SD DVD video content. The HD side of the disc is dual layered (HD-30), as is the SD side (DVD9). There isn't any noticeable interruption to the feature resembling a layer break.

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

Audio

    There are seven soundtracks accompanying this film, five of which are foreign language dubs. The default soundtrack is determined by the viewer's selection from an initial language select menu. I listened to the English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 soundtrack and the Audio Commentary (stereo).

    The English dialogue was well represented in the mix most of the time, although I found I had to strain to understand what was being said on a few occasions. The ADR is completely seamless and audio sync is perfect.

    The surround channels are utilised for all manner of effects, from subtle echoes and passing traffic to very solid gunfire. The musical score often rings in the rear channels. Character voices are generally confined to the front centre channel.

    Besides the hip, groovy score by Clint Mansell, the pumping soundtrack also features artists such as Motorhead, The Stooges, Trivium and The Prodigy.

    The subwoofer augments the drums and bass of the soundtrack score beautifully. Explosions and gunfire are also very well punctuated by the LFE channel. As a whole, the surround mix is very well constructed, with some great sound design to be heard.

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

Extras

    This is a great collection of extras, particularly the U-Control feature. All of the content is 16x9 widescreen, with the exception of the Deleted Scenes and Outtakes.

Menu

    The menu page is nicely animated in a style keeping with the vibe of the film, with 5.1 audio. The disc navigation is generic, along the lines of other Universal HD titles. The disc is also coded with pop-up information, including a progress bar, which appears whenever the feature film is paused or skipped via remote.

Screen Saver

    If the menu is left to rotate, or if the feature is paused for a length of time, a screen saver occupies the screen with a large Universal logo. It's easy to return to the feature by pressing play.

HD Interactive Feature: U-Control

    This is the only HD-exclusive feature. U-Control is basically a feature that plays alongside the film ("U" is for Universal, of course. Warner has their own equivalent, dubbed the "In-Movie Experience"). When activated in the extras menu, a small watermark appears in the bottom right of the screen during playback. When a 'picture in picture' or 'assassin tracker' logo appears on the watermark, the viewer presses enter to have the bonus content play in a smaller window while the feature is running (without interruption). I counted more than a dozen bonus 'picture in picture' featurettes, each running about 2 or 3 minutes. The content is similar to the making-of, with revealing cast and crew interviews and behind the scenes footage. None of the PIP segments appear to be duplicated from the other extras.

    In an attempt to speed up the review process, I tried to watch the film with both U-Control and the audio commentary activated, but I found that after each PIP segment the feature audio would default back to standard English audio, which became a bit frustrating.

    The Assassin Tracker is essentially a factoid popup feature, with detailed graphics and info that helps you keep track of each assassin's whereabouts, their status (alive, dead or injured) and their number of kills so far. It's a silly, but fun interactive feature all the same.

Alternate Version (Standard Definition DVD)

    Side B of this dual-sided combo disc contains a standard definition DVD transfer of the film. This is a handy feature for those who are yet to make the leap into HD DVD, but want to own a relatively future-proof disc. The specs of the SD DVD side are below. I haven't viewed the ordinary SD retail release, so I'm unsure how these compare, but they seem to be pretty close. After viewing the HD side, the SD transfer appears quite grainy to my eyes. Otherwise, the transfer is generally smooth and attractive, with well saturated colours.

    The extras on the SD side of the disc only omit the U-Control feature, and add a trailer for Hot Fuzz. Contrary to the cover slick, the SD extras are only presented with English 2.0 audio, but they are subtitled in various languages.

Video Aspect 2.35:1 (16x9 enhanced)
SD Format PAL
Region Coding 2, 4 & 5
MPEG Bitrate (Average) 7.1 Mb/s
SD DVD Disc Format DVD9 (RSDL 64:38)
Soundtrack Options

English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s); German Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s); Russian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s); Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)

Subtitle Options

English; German; Turkish; Ukrainian; English Commentary; German Commentary; Turkish Commentary; Russian Commentary; English Forced Titles; German Forced Titles; Russian Forced Titles

Menu/Startup

Language Select >Anti-piracy ads>Hot Fuzz Trailer>Animated Main Menu

Feature Runtime 104:20

Audio Commentary- Joe Carnahan (Writer/Director) & Robert Frazen (Editor)

    This is a fairly straightforward commentary, and the two men seem to get along very well, which keeps the conversation light. When they're not cracking jokes about what's on screen, they discuss the process of editing in post production, challenges in casting, conflicts with the studio (who wanted certain cuts made) and Joe's inspiration for some scenes. They're also more than content to point out continuity goofs, many of which had gone by completely unnoticed by me. Joe is a self-confessed cinephile and the pair's banter is great to listen to.

Deleted Scenes (9:35)

    Four deleted or extended scenes, mostly comprised of unnecessary padding. The footage is non-16x9 widescreen, raw camera footage with minimal location audio.

  1. Longer Bar Sequence
  2. You Ain't No Chinese
  3. Elmore Crawls Out of Lake
  4. Alternate Rooftop Parking Lot

Outtakes (9:28)

    A reel of botched lines, actor goofs and cameras appearing in mirrors.

Alternate Ending- Cowboy Ending (1:05)

    An interesting, albeit punctual, alternate ending to the film.

Featurettes- The Lineup (13:26)

    There are five short featurettes, with cast interviews, outlining the film's main protagonists. The Tremor Brothers' is done entirely in character, which is hilarious. These are 16x9 enhanced and playable individually or via a play all function

Making-of Featurette- The Big Gun (11:53)

    This is a fairly average making-of EPK, with cast and crew interviews and footage captured on set during filming. Carnahan seemed to run a tight production schedule, with a surprisingly jovial vibe on set.

Featurette- Shoot 'em Up: Stunts & Effects (4:52)

    This short piece covers the special weapons training the cast endured prior to filming, as well as some of the special effects gadgets that were utilised.

Bookmark

    The viewer is able to bookmark their favourite scenes into the player's memory using the B and C buttons of their remote, for easy access later via the My Scenes menu.

R4 vs R1

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

    HD DVD discs do not contain any region coding yet.

    Our HD disc is identical to the European release. In a very strange decision by Universal, the North American release omits our dubbed language soundtracks in favor of an additional Audio Commentary; with the Director, Joe Carnahan, and actors Christopher Holley, Zach Cumer and Common.

    The Region 1 SD release also includes the additional audio commentary.

Summary

    Smokin' Aces is a highly enjoyable, thrilling action ride. The film is full of highlights, but the shoot-out scene staged inside a tiny, cramped elevator is one of the most surprising action scenes I have witnessed.

    The video transfer is first class.

    The audio transfer is great.

    The extras are extensive and worthwhile.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Rob Giles (readen de bio, bork, bork, bork.)
Friday, June 15, 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 AVR-3806 (7.1 Channels)
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora III floor-standing Mains and Surrounds. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Center. Mirage 10 inch powered sub.

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