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Dead Man Blu-ray Cover

Dead Man

Jim Jarmusch’s postmodern “Acid Western” is the tale of William Blake (Johnny Depp), an accountant heading to the town of Machine to look for new work. He ends up on the run after killing a man in self-defence. On his journey, he encounters a mysterious Indian named Nobody (Gary Farmer) who mistakes him for the dead English poet of the same name and teaches him how to survive in the living world as a "dead man".

Filmed in black and white, Dead Man looks the best it ever has in this 1080p release from Echo Bridge, but that isn’t necessarily saying a whole lot. This is a meagre, single-layered BD-25. While the higher resolution leads to a noticeable boost in detail, I couldn't help but feel that this could potentially look much crisper. Contrast levels are slightly lower than the Miramax DVD. According to the IMDb, the original film negative was 35 mm, but this Blu-ray image looks closer to something I’d expect from a 16 mm film. I found myself yearning for a layer of fine grain over the picture, but instead there is a soft foggy look to all of it. Detail on close-ups of faces are stronger, but still soft overall (see the fourth screen cap). There are also some minor cases of image flicker and telecine wobble. The box simply advertises an “English 2.0 Stereo” track, but I was delighted to find that it’s a DTS-HD Master Audio option on the disc. I’m not sure why they decided to go with a stereo mix instead of the 5.1 surround sound on the DVD, but the Blu-ray sounds just fine. Voices are reasonably clear. Dead Man, like many of Jarmusch’s films, is relatively modest in the technical department. The incredible soundtrack from Neil Young is the real highlight of the film’s audio, and it sounds great in stereo on this Blu-ray. Extra features match the DVD with 15 minutes of Deleted Scenes in standard definition, and a music video set to scenes from the film. I've added screen captures from the Miramax DVD so you can compare the two. At $7.99 USD, this release is a decent upgrade from the DVD, but some fans may want to hold out hope for a more robust release with new special features.

Top: Miramax DVD
Bottom: Echo Bridge Blu-ray

 Johnny Depp in Dead Man (DVD)
 Johnny Depp in Dead Man (Blu-ray)
 Crispin Glover in Dead Man (DVD)
 Crispin Glover in Dead Man (Blu-ray)
 Robert Mitchum in Dead Man (DVD)
 Robert Mitchum in Dead Man (Blu-ray)
 Mili Avital in Dead Man (DVD)
 Mili Avital in Dead Man (Blu-ray)
 Johnny Depp in Dead Man (DVD)
 Johnny Depp in Dead Man (Blu-ray)
The Lookout Blu-ray Cover

The Lookout

This is the story of Chris Pratt (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a once-promising young athlete who has suffered heavy brain damage in a car accident. Unable to keep his thoughts and memory in order, he works as a night janitor at a bank, hoping to one day become a teller. Some crooks take interest in Chris and try to gain his help to rob the bank that he works at.

This overlooked directorial debut from Minority Report screenwriter Scott Frank would have a very solid 1080p transfer if it weren't for the fact that the aspect ratio is wrong. In 2007, Miramax released a Blu-ray of the film in the appropriate 2.40:1 aspect ratio, but Echo Bridge has given this release 1.78:1 ratio to fill up more of a widescreen television. I added images from the DVD so you can see the upgrade in detail, but also the jarring difference in image composition that results from the change in aspect ratio. It's a shame because the image quality is a big upgrade from my old DVD, especially when it comes to black levels. Truer black levels make a large difference, since most of the film is in dimly lit interior scenes. Detail is sharp and there is a fine layer of grain in the darker scenes. Frank made the odd choice to switch to digital for certain scenes, but aside from a change in motion the overall picture quality looks largely the same, with even grain intact. Once again the box advertises “English 2.0 Stereo” and “5.1 Dolby Digital”, but the disc has a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English track, and a good one at that. The Lookout is a mostly character-driven film, and dialogue is loud and clear when it needs to be. The film’s somewhat generic score isn’t anything to write home about, but the audio track does well by it. Special features include Behind the Mind of Chris Pratt: a brief HD segment where Joseph Gordon-Levitt talks about the character he played and the methods he used for his performance. There is a lot of brilliant nuance to his performance and this feature helped me to appreciate it more. He also covers some of his experiences with people that have afflictions similar to the character of Chris Pratt. Clocking in at approximately twenty minutes, Sequencing The Lookout is an HD behind-the-scenes feature with interview footage from the actors and filmmakers. There is also an audio commentary track with Scott Frank and cinematographer Alar Kivilo. Fans of the film that aren’t particular about aspect ratios and having new special features should be thrilled to have this cheap upgrade available to them, but purists may want to seek out the 2007 release.

Top: Miramax DVD
Bottom: Echo Bridge Blu-ray

 Jeff Daniels in The Lookout (DVD)
 Jeff Daniels in The Lookout (Blu-ray)
 Isla Fisher in The Lookout (DVD)
 Isla Fisher in The Lookout (Blu-ray)
 Matthew Goode in The Lookout (DVD)
 Matthew Goode in The Lookout (Blu-ray)
 Joseph Gordon-Levitt in The Lookout (DVD)
 Joseph Gordon-Levitt in The Lookout (Blu-ray)
 The Lookout (DVD)
 The Lookout (Blu-ray)
From Dusk Till Dawn Blu-ray Cover

From Dusk Till Dawn

This cult classic from Robert Rodriguez stars George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino as the Gecko brothers-two outlaws on the run after a robbery in Texas. After taking hostages, they seek refuge in a desert bar where the inhabitants turn out to be something other than human.

This release has been out for a couple months, but I thought I'd give a quick weigh in on my thoughts, and share some HD screen caps for those interested. Having never seen From Dusk Till Dawn in theatres, I won't claim to be the ultimate authority on how the movie is supposed to look. What I can tell you is that this cheap release form Echo Bridge is a massive step up from the non-anamorphic Dimension DVD. Over all detail is much sharper and there is a nice layer of fine grain visible throughout the 1080p transfer. Colours are far richer as well. The major complaint people seem to have about this Blu-ray release is that the picture is darker and has an unnatural amount of golden/orange colour added to it. Skin tones are definitely darker and more sun-drenched than is natural, but the uninitiated could be forgiven for thinking it is a stylistic choice. Personally, I thought the look worked well for the film, but long time fans may remember it being different and opt for a more natural appearance. If you find yourself among the latter, you may want to look into the Alliance Canadian Blu-ray. Once again the box underscores the audio track by reading "English 5.1 DTS Surround", but on the disc rests another DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English track. I guess whoever was in charge of putting the specs on the packaging didn't know the difference. This audio track doesn't have much gravitas or dynamic use of the extra speakers, but it gets the job done. The music felt somewhat flat, without any really dimension or depth to it. There is plenty of ambient noise in the bar to fill up the sound channels though. There are no special features on this disc, whatsoever. Fans hanging on to their old Dimension DVDs may find this cheap Blu-ray worthwhile, but again diehard purists will be disappointed and may want to wait for something more.

 John Hawkes and Michael Parks in From Dusk Till Dawn (US Blu-ray)
 John Hawkes and Michael Parks in From Dusk Till Dawn (Canadian Blu-ray)
 Harvey Keitel in From Dusk Till Dawn (US Blu-ray)
 Harvey Keitel in From Dusk Till Dawn (Canadian Blu-ray)
 Cheech Marin in From Dusk Till Dawn (US Blu-ray)
 Cheech Marin in From Dusk Till Dawn (Canadian Blu-ray)
 Salma Hayek in From Dusk Till Dawn (US Blu-ray)
 Salma Hayek in From Dusk Till Dawn (Canadian Blu-ray)
 Harvey Keitel, Fred Williamson, George Clooney, and Tom Savini in From Dusk Till Dawn (US Blu-ray)
 Harvey Keitel, Fred Williamson, George Clooney, and Tom Savini in From Dusk Till Dawn (Canadian Blu-ray)

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.