PictureConsidering that the image we get here is supposed to have been culled from lost videotapes, you can't really expect the picture to be scintillating. And it most certainly is not. Coming in with an anamorphic 1.78:1 aspect, the transfer actually does a mighty fine job of looking like some grainy, well-worn footage that has been lost in the desert for awhile. Having said that, however, the image is still remarkably clear with a lot of close-up detail being especially well rendered. Faces all seem to reveal lots of clarity. It is once we peer further back that the problems of the source material manifest themselves, as the image tends to blur and lose much of its definition and integrity. Buildings lose shape and distinction, landscapes become a blurred mess.
but, colours are handled pretty well, coming through with a pleasing amount of strength and fidelity. Blacks are reasonable, too - though much of the night-time scenes are filmed using green-filtered night-lenses. Occasional moments appear a lot grainier than others, but these are patently stylistic choices used to vary the look of the film as different tapes are being used. The fire-fights and the plentiful fast action combat scenes maintain a surprisingly crisp look, with the disc keeping up with the frantic pace quite reassuringly.
So, not great by any stretch of the imagination, but then nor is it meant to be. I watched this on both a 44 and 32 inch screen and had no problem with artifacting, blocking or motion-drag, though edge enhancement is in evidence throughout.
SoundWell, here comes the surprise. Furnished with a Dolby Digital Stereo mix, September Tapes actually rocks in the acoustic department. Across the front we get very good and accurate separation along with some terrific steerage of the punchy and loud effects - helicopters zipping around, vehicles rumbling left and right and, of course, some fantastic-bombastic placement of bullets and rockets. That sudden shootout I mentioned - well, trust me, it is awesomely dished out with a shocking rattle of gunfire bursting from the right speaker. The later ambush features RPG's that roar and explode tremendously, belying the fact that this is only a stereo track with some throaty bass booms that possess heaps of impact.
Subtle things like ambience - the hubbub in the crowded streets, for example - sound convincing. And dialogue, too, although sometimes deliberately muffled or obscured, is clear and well-rendered for the most part. Make no mistake, this is no substitute for a full-on 5.1 surround mix, but I have to admit that I was pretty impressed with its range and dynamics.
ExtrasNothing except the Theatrical Trailer, lasting 1.25 mins. Some kind of background on this project would have been nice. Perhaps a R1 or R2 release will rectify that.
VerdictEmotive, though-provoking and powerful, but packed with too much silliness to ultimately make much of a difference. The point here is not the level of disbelief suspension, but rather the necessity of pure and total conviction and belief, and September Tapes loses credibility and focus by having the camera record literally everything - far beyond what a cameraman would really be able to get away with under the circumstances. A strange, yet noble project. But one that is perhaps too ambitious for its own good. Yet, still, I must confess that I actually quite enjoyed it, nevertheless.
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