At first glance, the picture quality seems to be perfectly acceptable for a High Definition transfer. But take a second look and the backgrounds during most of the indoor scenes are awash with video noise and macro blocking. Objects in the foreground are fine and stable though. During the outdoor scenes, things look fine until you look closer again. This time, it's edge enhancement that rears its head. Mostly visible in the desert scenes and not as pronounced as on the R2 SD DVD - but it's there all the same.
Some scenes are a joy to watch though. The fight outside the bar where Poe commits is crime is glorious. It's a night time scene and the rain is pouring down. The set is very cleverly lit and the rain drops look like tiny shards of silver coming from the sky.
Skin tones vary from scene to scene. At their best, they are spot on and every bristle can be seen in Nic Cage's stubble. At their worst, they seem to be washed out and people look anaemic.
Black levels are solid throughout though and the Vegas strip shines as the plane smashes it to pieces
Inconsistent is the bottom line when it comes to the picture quality on this Blu-ray disc - which is a real shame, because when it's good, it's exceptional.
Given the choice of an English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix or the lossless PCM 5.1 version, I went for the latter and sat back...
Before we go any further here, Con Air was nominated for an Academy Award for it's sound mix and was pipped at the post by Titanic. Using every trick in the book, the director and sound engineers make sure that no passengers on this particular airline will be napping.
The surround speakers are in constant use. Be it planes or helicopters flying overhead or gunshots ringing out, everything has an echo that comes from the rears. I would normally mark a soundtrack down a point or two for “over the top” use of the surround speakers - but in this case, it all seems so realistic.
Before you spin this disc, you might want to check that your house insurance covers you against miss-use of subwoofers as well. There's phenomenal use of the low frequency effects channel here. Earth shattering bass in abundance. And all of it totally realistic.
I carried out comparisons between the Dolby 5.1 track and the LPCM 5.1 version. As usual, the PCM mix won - but it was for subtle reasons. For example, in the fight scene outside the bar, check out the sound when the guy breaks the bottle. More detail involved and you can actually hear the shards of glass hitting the floor.
Con Air contains a stunning soundtrack well worthy of it's Oscar nomination. Use this to demo the sound quality of your system to your mates.
First on the (very short) list is View from Above. It's a featurette that lasts all of four and a half minutes and, to be honest, is not very good at all. It does have very short snippets of the stars and crew but brings nothing at all to the table.
Next up is The Destruction Of Las Vegas. Again, this is a very short piece (two and a half minutes) showing how the scene of bringing the C123 aircraft down on the Las Vegas strip was done. Again, we've seen it all before. But only done better.,
The extras are rounded off by the Theatrical trailer, presented in glorious SD - and in an aspect ration of 4.3 - as are the featurette.
I would actually ask why bother? There isn't one piece of material here worth the disc space it takes up. Could have gone over to improve the picture quality maybe,,,?
Coming from the same stable as The Rock before it and Armageddon after it, Con Air bears all the trademarks of a Jerry Bruckheimer movie. More cheese than a packet of Quavers and enough action to fill three films, Con Air is a Home Cinema enthusiast dream come true.
Tongue in cheek performances from leading men Nicolas Cage and John Malkovich set the tone from the outset. As a movie, this normally really wouldn't be my cup of tea. But take it the way it's meant to be, with plenty of popcorn, and you won't be disappointed.
As a Blu-ray set though, it has its flaws. Forget the extras for a start. Yes, the picture quality is better than the SD version. But is it worth shelling out the money for the upgrade in visual quality? I couldn't recommend it on those grounds. However, what we do have is a PCM soundtrack that is leaps and bounds above the Dolby Digital 5.1 track on offer. The differences are subtle. But they do make a difference. Those of you that own the R2 SD disc and can take advantage of the lossless PCM track should run out and buy it now.
Those that can't, keep your hand in you pocket as they say...
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