From the opening scene I was presented with an image, that given it's vintage (1982), was a joy to observe. There is the odd nick and mark present and whilst not the last word in blistering sharpness, this 2.35:1 anamorphically enhanced image is wonderfully cinematic. Colours have good saturation and whilst not uber-vibrant, have a neutral and natural appearance that is very much to my taste. Levels of detail are generally good throughout although there are scenes that exhibit relative softness. Black depth is a little restrained which in turn mars absolute contrast. Edge enhancements are present, but by no means the worst I have observed and did not, in any way spoil my viewing. Grain and noise are at a minimum as indeed are compression related artefacts.I was impressed, nothing less. The quality of this transfer made watching an older film that I had not seen for a while that much more enjoyable.
Rambo:First Blood Pt II
Again, with respect to the quality of the image, my initial impression was that of one who was pleasantly surprised. The transfer is certainly not flawless, there are marks and dinks present and on occasion I was aware of a processed feel to it. Fine detail definition generally is very good indeed and on occasion superb. Whilst blackheads and glistening beads of sweat are all present, the evil that is edge enhancement is present, and visually quite extreme in places. I felt that the over zealous application of these “enhancements” were in part to blame for the processed feel to the image. The colour palette is bright, vivid and punchy, colours having deep saturation and black level is much improved upon (in comparison to the first film) having real depth and presence.In general the image is very good, particularly so if you are watching on something like a 36inch CRT T.V or smaller. There is a real sense of detail, colour and 3D depth to the image, which is particularly commendable given the films age. On shifting up to larger displays with higher resolutions etc those edge enhancements may be more than some can stand.
Rambo IIIAgain nothing to complain about here, this transfer is similarly very nice to look at. Print damage is evident but not distracting. Colours are saturated, flesh tones appear very natural, and overall the palette appears slightly muted in favour of the rustic browns of the dessert vistas. Whether this is filtering or not is unknown but the image does not have the vibrancy of Rambo 2 but is all the more natural looking for it. Fine detail rendition is generally very good to include shadow and darker scenes. Artefacts related to compression are all but absent. Unfortunately Edge Enhancements are present, and obviously so in places.In general then a very smooth and cinematic feel to the image, bolstered by some fine photography, only let down by excessive (in places) use of picture sharpening techniques.
As a Japanese region 2 (NTSC) release we have a choice of 3 tracks: A Japanese dubbed, 2 channel stereo Dolby Digital stream at a very low 256kbs. An English 5.1 Dolby Digital stream at 384kbs and finally an English 5.1 DTS stream at 1536kbs. No doubt the inclusion of what is commonly referred to as a full bit-rate DTS track, will be quite a plus point for the DTS enthusiasts.Sticking with the English options, the soundtrack is limited to say the least. No amount of “bit's” or encoding technologies can disguise the source's inherent age related limitations. The frequency bandwidth is hugely restricted and dynamic range compressed. Dialogue remains intelligible and centred to the middle of the front soundstage. Steering across the front three is crude and obvious, the majority of the soundtrack and effects living around the centre channel. Rear effects are almost entirely mono-aural based ambience, directional cues at an absolute minimum. Overall I felt the audio presentation (as a separate entity) was thin and uninvolving, and not a match for the wonderful image. As a brief note however, let us not forget the wonderful Jerry goldsmith scoring, which is still memorable to me 20 years on.Honesty being the best policy, I did not take more than about 20 minutes to come to the conclusion that any advantages a full bit-rate DTS track may have to offer was lost to the limitations of the source. In comparing the two (DD/DTS) the differences were minute at best, possibly even imagined! Heed my words - do not buy this film on the basis of its high bit-rate DTS track. I feel obliged to add that if ever there were an example of more bit's not being a guarantee of superiority, rather that source and mastering are key then this is as good as any.
First Blood Pt II
As with the First Blood we have a choice of 3 tracks: A low bit-rate 256kbs Japanese dubbed, 2 channel stereo Dolby Digital stream. An English 5.1 Dolby Digital stream at 384kbs and finally an English 5.1 DTS stream at 1536kbs. In keeping with the first film's soundtrack, it is heavily biased toward the front speakers. Whilst dynamics and separation across the front 3 is improved, discrete surround effects are at a minimum, the surround channels offering mostly presence and ambience. Whilst THX2, Logic7 and Pro-Logic2x make for a more enveloping listen, in it's native format this soundtrack is not showcase of effects placement etc. The frequency bandwidth whilst marginally improved, is still greatly limited by today's standards lending to a compressed and thin
sounding presentation. Dialogue intelligibility and the centre channel performance in general is the star player here, being nothing less than clean and stable within the front soundstage.Differences between the Dolby and DTS options were more evident on this occasion. The DTS option won through for me here, being the more open, or perhaps more accurately “cleaner” of the two, finite effects such as gunfire and bullet ricochets etc having marginally more space within the stage. Dynamics, limited as they were, were also slightly improved. These “differences” gave the DTS option just that bit more bite and openness.I would reiterate my sentiments regarding the soundtrack of the first film. Neither the Dolby or DTS options are showcases of their respective formats. Indeed in my opinion terrestrial broadcasts such as Stargate, Angel or even Eastenders with PL2x etc have a more exciting soundfield. The inclusion of a full bit-rate DTS soundtrack should only really be considered a bonus to completists, rather than the making or breaking of this release.
As with the previous 2 films there is the choice of (the same) 3 audio options. The self-same Japanese dubbed, 2 channel stereo Dolby Digital stream at a very low 256kbs. The English 5.1 Dolby Digital stream at 384kbs and finally an English 5.1 DTS stream at 1536kbs.Ah this is more like it! Whilst surround (left and right) channel movie effects information is not distinctly stereo, being largely mono-aural the scoring is clearly stereo? The soundtrack is behaving like a very good 4.1 presentation. Dynamic range is vastly improved, sounding much more akin to today's modern offerings. Separation and soundstage width and depth are very pleasing indeed compared to the earlier films, the fidelity and fullness of the orchestration being superb! The overall level of usage and presence of the rear channels is vastly improved and provides a homogenous and involving 360 soundfield.Here DTS is clearly the superior option. A wholly cleaner image is presented. Being more open, offering better musical fidelity, better rear soundstage presence and generally sounding less compressed - no bones about it here.
Whilst none of the available options can compete with a Star Wars soundtrack, and thus I am forced to mark it by comparison, I really enjoyed this very much indeed, more than the movie I have to say - well done!
On disc one alongside the feature we have a full-length commentary by David Morrell. This fellow is the author of the novel on which the film is based. This commentary gives us constant references to the differences, between book and movie script, and the reasons why these changes were made. An obvious undying love and pride for “his baby” aside, this was both entertaining and informative. Examples of changes for artistic, economic, technical and audience pleasing reasons are all in there and explained. I found this commentary required no effort whatsoever to listen to.Also present are two trailers which frankly are low rent in both presentation and content quality.On disc 2 we have 4 featurettes, the first of which is Drawing First Blood. This 23 minute documentary tells of the conception of the movie, from multiple scripts to casting, and is most enjoyable. Next a 27 minute piece entitled The Real Nam. Both American and South Vietnam veterans offer overviews, experiences and thoughts in hindsight on the conflict. Despite it's short running time it is both interesting and informative. The Forging of Heroes is a 10 minute puff piece on the Special Forces (Green Beret's). This gives a very brief detailing of the type of training, and the various types of implementation into warfare that a Special Forces operative might expect. Finally a 4 minute montage of scenes from the film set to an upbeat electro track makes up the extras roster.I enjoyed nearly all of the additional material on offer here. Interesting, informal and worthwhile, praise indeed.
First Blood PtII
On disc one in this two-disc release, alongside the main feature there is a full-length commentary by Director George Cosmatos. Within 15 minutes this commentary had me thinking about painting the hallway, changing the cat litter and several other loathsome tasks that constantly await my attention. I can only say don't waste your time as I did listening to this. I was not at any time sure who was more bored, Mr. Cosmatos or myself! The term “appearance money” springs immediately to mind.Also present is a single trailer which again, is uber-low rent in both presentation and content quality.On disc 2 we have (again) 4 featurettes, the first of which is We Get To Win This Time. This 20 minute documentary gives insight into the development of the movie, including writing, casting, locations etc and again, is most enjoyable. Next a 27-minute featurette entitled Gut's and Glory. This details the character of Rambo, his place, and the effect on society of the film's, for example there are many news clips showing Ronald Reagan (in his administration) quoting Rambo etc, which I found mildly diverting. Rambo-Nomics is a 3-minute short showing the worldwide economic value of the Rambo films. Finally Suiting Up is a 9 minute nonsense showing various weapons used throughout the trilogy a la' MTV style.Much like the additional features in First Blood, I enjoyed most of the additional material on offer here (with the explicit exception of the commentary) and do not feel short changed for the time that was spent watching.
On disc one we have a full-length commentary by Director Peter Macdonald.In keeping with the commentary to First Blood, I found this required no real effort whatsoever to listen to, it is not earth shattering but is mildly informative and Macdonald comes across as an intelligent and humble man Also present is a single Theatrical trailer which is of such hideous visual quality as too almost be an advocate for picture sharpening in itself!On disc 2 we have (yet again) 4 featurettes, the first of which being Afghanistan: Land in Crisis. A 30-minute feature, which tells of the reason for the choice of this location. Also detailed is a brief history of the country and the various wars that have afflicted it. Rather pretentiously there are comments to the relationship between the struggles of the Afghan people and John J Rambo - yeah whatever! Next a 25-minute documentary, An American Heroes Journey which is basically an overview of the trilogy with little new thoughts on offer. Selling a Hero is a 5-minute piece, with no voice over showing film-related merchandise - mostly Action Man type stuff, but reasonably amusing all the same! Finally a 6 minute montage of scenes from Rambo 3, set to an up-beat electro-track (as in First Blood extra's) makes up the additional material roster.What can I say? The extras here are more or less all worthwhile and relevant and I found myself pretty much at ease watching/listening to them all.
Given that this release forms part of a not inexpensive boxset, you would have to be a committed fan indeed to buy the boxset on the basis of this film alone. That said it is a good film with a great transfer, good commentary and perfectly acceptable extras. In fact it's weakest link is the film's audio, which is at least serviceable. I find myself however, quite happily recommending this two disc release of First Blood and will be sorry to return it to it's rightful owners.
First Blood PtII
Not as good as the first release would be my considered opinion here. Neither the film nor the extra's were quite as good, but nonetheless for fans of the film, this is the definitive release, and I still like the (musical) score.
Firstly in relation to Rambo 3, this release is perfectly credible with good audio, good visuals, and good extras. Shame about the movie!As a boxset it is expensive, but surely to those who enjoy the trilogy and all things John J it is pretty much essential I suppose. For me the only real downside was the commentary to First Blood 2 and that none of the films would appear in my personal top ten (although First blood as a singular entity to include extras is a very good release and the best of the bunch). Personal opinion aside this set has much to recommend it by, and were it a third of the price, even I might consider buying it.
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