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Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman

There’s no question that DC has had serious issues competing in the superhero film genre against Disney-owned Marvel. While Marvel scores hit after hit with every attempt—Iron Man, Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor, Deadpool—DC films have struggled with both critics and fans, flopping across the board, with none of its recent offerings (following the glorious Christopher Nolan Dark Knight trilogy) scoring “fresh” on the Rotten Tomatoes meter.

 

DC looked to 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as a way of kickstarting a new franchise of hero films, introducing the characters that would make up the recent Justice League film. But while B v S was generally panned, we can thank it for at least one thing: it gave us Wonder Woman.

 

I’ll be honest, while I grew up reading DC comics, and was especially a fan of the Justice League series, my knowledge of Wonder Woman was pretty much limited to occasionally watching the Linda Carter TV series. I knew she was an Amazonian that wore bullet-blocking bracelets, had a magic truth-telling lasso, and used an invisible jet (not featured in the film, btw), but that’s basically it.

 

Thus, I went into Wonder Woman with fairly modest expectations. And boy, were they blown away!

 

Beyond being a good superhero movie, WW is just a good movie, period. First, the casting is terrific throughout, with every role handled perfectly. This, of course, starts at the top with Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince. Gadot is not only very easy on the eyes, but her background serving in the Israeli army gave her a leg up in handling the fight scenes with incredible believability.

 

Beyond that, she nails the wide-eyed, girl-exploring-a-new-world innocence required to portray her character venturing for the first time beyond the Amazon island of Themyscira. In fact, Gadot is so perfect as Wonder Woman it’s impossible to imagine anyone else tackling the role. (She is also one of the best parts of Justice League, proving her character is more than a one-hit wonder!) Further, the chemistry between Gadot and Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor is believable and far deeper than pretty-girl-swept-off-her-feet-by-handsome-stranger.

Wonder Woman

Instead of trying to cram multiple superheroes into a single film, which weighed down and confused B v S, director Patty Jenkins wisely focused solely on Wonder Woman (with a brief cameo from another hero that ties in perfectly with both B v S and JL), fleshing out her backstory and developing her character as she grows and discovers her powers.

 

Since the transfer was taken from a 2K Digital Intermediate, it doesn’t feature the incredible micro-detail and pristine quality of some modern transfers; nevertheless, Wonder Woman in 4K HDR still looks mostly terrific. The image suffers from occasional noise in some of the night scenes, but it still has plenty to get your 4K TV’s 8 million pixels excited about. You can see the metal texture in Diana’s bracelets and crown, the detail in her armor, and the nicks in her sword.

 

While the color palette is mostly muted throughout in a slightly-faded World War I-era style, early scenes on Themyscira look gorgeous, with the wide color gamut revealing beautiful blue-green waters. Also, as there are a lot of night scenes, the high dynamic range does a great job of keeping shadows black while maintaining the piercing brightness of fires, searchlights, and Diana’s glowing lasso.

 

The Dolby TrueHD Atmos soundtrack will give your speakers a workout as well, with the numerous fight scenes bringing mayhem from every corner of the room as well as overhead. You hear Diana’s lasso whip around the room, vehicles being hurled, and bullets ricocheting and whizzing past. And if your subwoofer(s) are up to the task, Diana clapping her bracelets together produces a sonic concussion that will punch you in the chest!

 

Wonder Woman scored a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes and has a 2 hour 21 minute runtime. It’s rated PG-13 for some violence and innuendo. Download it from the Kaleidescape Store today and enjoy in your theater tonight!

—John Sciacca

Probably the most experienced writer on custom installation in the industry, John Sciacca is
co-owner of Custom Theater & Audio in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, & is known for his writing
for such publications as
 Residential Systems and Sound & Vision. Follow him on Twitter at

@SciaccaTweets and at johnsciacca.com.

Blade Runner: The Final Cut

Kaleidescape Blade Runner

Blade Runner is one of those movies people seem to either love or hate. On the one hand, Ridley Scott created a richly detailed and developed world that feels dark, gritty, real, and fleshed out in nearly every sense. On the other, the movie is a bit slow and plodding, light on action, and weighted down with its own mythology.

 

Beyond incredible set design, what Blade Runner really has going is a terrific performance by Harrison Ford. Remember that BR was released in 1982 at the height of Ford’s stardom, when he was coming off two massive Star Wars films and the first Raiders movie. Here, his portrayal of rogue-replicant hunter Rick Deckard has none of the cocksure swagger or wry humor of Solo or Indy, but rather is a man living a dark, solitary existence, taking no joy in his job, and frequently finding solace in alcohol. He’s a much deeper, darker, more real hero than what is normally portrayed.

 

The film also has one of the most tortured pasts when it comes to versions, with alternate cuts, and approvedand non-approveddirector’s cuts. In fact, there’s a fair bit of debate over which version one should actually watch, or if the full Blade Runner immersion requires viewing all and taking bits and pieces from each. I myself have journeyed with BR for years, having watched the LaserDisc and owned the DVD and Blu-ray. And while you can read about all of the various versions here, I can tell you the definitive one is the new 4K HDR version available for download now at the Kaleidescape store.

 

While only Ridley Scott’s 2007 The Final Cut (or 25th Anniversary Edition) receives the full Ultra HD makeover, the download gives you access to the US Theatrical Cut, International Theatrical Cut, Director’s Cut, and Work Print, along with hours of supplemental material to complete your Blade Runner journey. And let me assure you, no matter how many times you’ve seen the movie, or how you felt about it on prior viewings, this is an entirely new Blade Runner experience. The film looks and sounds better than ever, and it’s especially timely given the recent release of the sequel, Blade Runner 2049.

 

The movie underwent an extensive restoration for the Ultra HD conversion, with much of the original footage scanned at 4K resolution and some of the 65mm effects footage scanned at 8K. There was also a frame-by-frame digital cleanup, the film has been re-color-timed to Scott’s specifications, and the remixed audio received the full Dolby Atmos treatment.

Kaleidescape Blade Runner

The result is a stunningly clean and magnificent-looking movie with virtually no grain or noise, with fine details apparent in nearly every shot. The HDR has been used to great effect, with solid, stable, and noise-free blacks and with neon lights and bright colors popping from the screen.

 

I’d forgotten how much of the movie was really a video torture test, with many scenes shot in darkly lit, often smoky interiors with bright lights piercing in from windows. This would normally reveal tons of banding and other video nasties, or have details totally lost in the dynamic-range contrast crush, but UHD’s higher bit rate keeps everything solid and pristine. Going back and comparing the look of this film to the original DVD version reveals the shocking level of care and restoration that has been taken, with the DVD marred by a sea of noise, grain, and age.

 

The Atmos audio mix is also used to greatly enhance the film, with many environmental sounds and Vangelis’ score mixed to the overhead speakers to great effect. I’d forgotten how it almost constantly rains in Los Angeles in 2019, but this plays right into Atmos’ overhead channel strengths. The bass mix is also quite dynamic, with deep, powerful explosions that will give your subs a workout.

 

While this transfer might not make Blade Runner your favorite film, it will definitely command your attention for its 117-minute run time. Download and enjoy it today!

—John Sciacca

 

Minor spoiler . . .

It has long been a “was he, wasn’t he?” argument regarding Deckard, with even Ridley Scott and Harrison Ford differing on their take. One thing I really noticed in the 4K version of the film was how Deckard’s eyes glowed in a specific scene when talking to Rachelsomething that happens to all replicants in the film and which would seem to clearly indicate Deckard is one. Was this an intentional color change by Scott, or perhaps a subtle detail just brought out by the better transfer?

Probably the most experienced writer on custom installation in the industry, John Sciacca is
co-owner of Custom Theater & Audio in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, & is known for his writing
for such publications as
 Residential Systems and Sound & Vision. Follow him on Twitter at

@SciaccaTweets and at johnsciacca.com.

“Warrior” and “Southpaw”

Kaleidescape Warrior

If you watched or visited a sports or news Web site recently, you undoubtedly heard about the Floyd Mayweather Jr./Conor McGregor super fight this past weekend in Las Vegas. While the fight seemed to go mostly accordingly to everyone’s plan, it went a solid ten rounds, and seems to have lived up to the hype and given the fans a good show.

 

Inspired by this massive spectacle, I’ve got a couple of recommendations this week that are sure to entertain: Warrior and Southpaw.

 

Released in 2011, Warrior features a terrific cast that includes Joel Edgerton, Tom Hardy, and Nick Nolte, and follows estranged brothers Brendan (Edgerton) and Tommy Conlon (Hardy) as they train for a massive, winner-take-all MMA tournament. The fights in the octagon are hard, fast, and real, yet the action is all PG-13, so they aren’t too bloody and brutal. The acting and pacing keep you involved and invested over the film’s 2 hours and 20 minute run time, and the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1-channel track puts you right in the ring with crowd noise and solid connection of blows, as the movie builds to the inevitable brother-on-brother climax.

 

Southpaw (2015) follows practically every cliché formula in the book yet manages to be incredibly entertaining, dramatic, and enjoyable nonetheless. Directed by Antoine Fuqua, an avid boxer himself, the movie is filled with heart and has a terrific script with believable dialogue that keeps it from seeming like another retread. The supporting cast of Forest Whitaker, who throws himself into the role of trainer, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, who ably handles the role of sleazy agent/promoter, and Rachel McAdams as the concerned wife, helps to create a fully rounded story. But it’s Jake Gyllenhaal in the leading role of Billy Hope that truly shines. Gyllenhaal got his body ripped and shredded for this role, put in a ton of training to move and fight like a fighter, and terrifically conveys Hope’s troubled I’ll-do-anything-to-get-back quest for redemption. And while “only” 1080p, the film has some terrific video detail. Check out the pool scene where Jordan Mains (Jackson) is talking to Mo’ (McAdams), and look at the fine pattern detail and texture in Mains’ jacket and hat. Stunning!

 

Both films are available in Blu-ray-quality download from the Kaleidescape Movie Store, and will be sure to entertain both boxing/fighting fans and non- alike!

—John Sciacca

Probably the most experienced writer on custom installation in the industry, John Sciacca is
co-owner of Custom Theater & Audio in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, & is known for his writing
for such publications as
 Residential Systems and Sound & Vision. Follow him on Twitter at

@SciaccaTweets and at johnsciacca.com.

The Guns of Navarone

Kaleidescape Guns of Navarone

I logged in at the Kaleidescape Store last night to look for a movie I might not already have in my collection. I wasn’t looking for a new title but for a catalog title that had been upgraded to 4K. Two movies attracted my attention: The Bridge on the River Kwai and The Guns of Navarone.

 

I had seen Kwai on regular HD recently, so I settled for Navarone, which had a special emotional appeal for me. Along with a few other American productions of the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s (like The Boy on a Dolphin, The Island of Love, It Happened in Athens, and Forty Carats), it had been shot entirely in Greece.

 

Regardless of my biases for liking this movie, The Guns of Navarone is still a very engrossing war epic. It tells the story of a team of British commandos sent to Greece during the German occupation to destroy a huge German canon that commanded a key sea channel. The movie is a solid adventure that focuses on action but not at the expense of characters. It’s as rousing today as it was when I first saw it as a kid at the Orpheum Theater in Athens.

 

I remember the movie always being grainy and dark on video. The Blu-ray release was a substantial improvement, especially in sharpness. But you can’t improve a movie much unless you go back to the original negative, and it seems that Navarone’s negative has been lost either out of neglect or overprinting.

 

The Kaleidescape 4K edition further improves the picture’s sharpness and the contrast ratio, but the grain from duping is still there. Nothing can be done about itI’m afraid this is as good as The Guns of Navarone will ever look.

—Theo Kalomirakis

Kaleidescape Guns of Navarone

Theo Kalomirakis is widely considered the father of home theater, with scores of luxury theater
designs to his credit. He is an avid movie fan, with a collection of over 15,ooo discs. Theo is the
Executive Director of Rayva.

La La Land

Kaleidescape La La Land

The buzz about La La Land before it opened was deafening. Here was a musical getting more attention than the competing superhero movies. As a big fan of the classic Hollywood musicals, I couldn’t wait to see it and judge for myself. That was last December, and I was traveling to India the same week the movie was opening in the US. I told myself I’d wait until I got back to the US in ten days to catch it.

 

I should have known better. We are living in the era of globalization, when it’s not uncommon for movies to open abroad before they open in America. As I was looking for a restaurant inside the Christmas-decorated Ambience Mall in Delhi to have dinner with my good friend Aashish Gupta, I realized that La La Land had just opened at the PVR Cinemas, a luxurious multiplex inside the mall. Needless to say, I decided we should skip dinner and catch the movie instead.

 

We didn’t regret the decision. The movie, besides reviving unabashedlyand knowinglythe tradition of song & dance musicals from the ‘40s and ‘50s, had intelligence and knowledge about the genre to spare. The bittersweet romance between a jazz musician and the aspiring actress he falls in love with had echoes of A Star is Born, The Band Wagon, An American in Paris, and The Belle of New York, among others.

 

But at the same time, it was its own moviea brilliant homage to a genre long thought gone, brought to life with loving care, conviction, and, yes, guts. The Indian audience seemed to be enjoying it with the kind of rapture reserved for their own unique genre, the Bollywood Musical. I loved it just as much except for one complaint: Although the colors were as bright and primary as in an old Technicolor musical, the print was grainy in certain shots and sometimes not as sharp as it should have been. Ah, well, I thoughtI will catch the movie in the US and figure out if it was the projection or something else.

 

When I later saw it at the BAM Cinematek, the same weak points with the print were still in evidence. I was disappointed, but I liked the movie so much that I decided to give it one last chance when it made it to disc.

 

Well, the wait was worth it. Seeing it in HD, the movie still sparkles with brilliant color but its clarity and dynamic range leave the theatrical print both in India and the US in the dust. 

 

Years ago we used to rave, “This movie is almost as good on DVD as when we saw in the theater.” How times have changed. Now, if we want to see a movie the way the director intended, we have to wait until it comes out on videoespecially on a great transfer like the one on Kaleidescape, where every bit of the picture quality is displayed on the screen just like it must have looked through the director’s viewfinder.

—Theo Kalomirakis

Kaleidescape La La Land

Theo Kalomirakis is widely considered the father of home theater, with scores of luxury theater
designs to his credit. He is an avid movie fan, with a collection of over 15,ooo discs. Theo is the
Executive Director of Rayva.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

Kaleidescape Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

Since the dawn of cinema, the established film frame rate has been 24 frames per second (fps). However, Thomas Edison said the visual cortex needed at least 46 fps to avoid eye strain. To achieve this, and eliminate any eye strain or strobing, many modern 35 mm film projectors use two- and even three-bladed shutters—flashing each frame on the screen two or three times—to achieve 48 and 72 images per second to satisfy Mr. Edison’s recommendation.

 

Yet, despite all the technological advances over the past century, all those movies you’re watching in your fancy home theater—whether via DVD, Blu-ray, and even Ultra HD Blu-ray player—are being shown at that same 24 fps.

 

Except one.

 

My latest pick for Movie of the Week is Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, not because it’s a great film—in fact, it’s kind of a mess of a story—but because it looks so frickin’ amazing that it’s the brain and eye candy your visual cortex has been craving!

 

Billy Lynn is so impressive because director Ang Lee used an extraordinary shooting style, filming at 4K resolution in stereoscopic 3-D at 120 fps—five times the traditional rate. This is the highest frame rate ever used on a film, eclipsing the 48 fps Peter Jackson employed for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. This approach resulted in more than 540 terabytes of dailies with a final delivery file that was 84 TB.

 

But since only six theaters in the world—including just two in the US—could actually show the film in its full glory, you probably never saw it. And since 4K/120 exceeds the Ultra HD and HDMI 2.0 spec, Billy Lynn has been released to the home market in 4K at 60 fps, the highest resolution the format can support. This high frame rate requires the full 18 Gbps bandwidth, and will lay bare any shortcomings in your system’s signal chain. But for those lucky enough to experience it in its full 4K/60 glory, Billy Lynn looks absolutely stunning and unlike any movie you’ve seen before.

 

There’s hyper clarity and focus in every shot. Tight shots on actors’ faces reveal every thought, detail, and expression down to the thinnest individual strand of hair. Fabric in actors’ uniforms reveals texture and micro stitching detail, letting you see every nuance of the patches and medals, and even analyze the diamond pattern on rifle grips. Wide shots capture every actor, building, and set piece in razor-sharp focus. One of my favorite shots happens at 6 minutes 34 seconds, where you can read details on the gravestones many rows back in the cemetery, and when the camera pans over to the service, the image remains solid and focused. 

 

From an audio standpoint, Billy Lynn includes an immersive Dolby Atmos mix that helps establish the ambience in different scenes. While the first half of the film is a bit restrained, the second half starting with the actual halftime show kicks into high gear, with the big battle scene in Chapter 11 being reference quality all the way.

 

Kaleidescape Strato owners need to be sure to download the HDR version of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, since that’s the 60 fps version. While you might not love the movie, it’s sure to become your go-to video demo material when you want to impress your guests and demonstrate what the fuss about 4K HDR is all about!

—John Sciacca

 

—> Check out John’s post on “How Kaleidescape Delivers Real HD”

Probably the most experienced writer on custom installation in the industry, John Sciacca is
co-owner of Custom Theater & Audio in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, & is known for his writing
for such publications as
 Residential Systems and Sound & Vision. Follow him on Twitter at

@SciaccaTweets and at johnsciacca.com.

The Lego Batman Movie

Kaleidescape Lego Batman Movie

One of the greatest things about a home theater is its ability to bring family members and friends of all ages together for an activity everyone can enjoy. While the state of computer animation has improved by leaps and bounds, studios have realized that films need to go beyond pretty graphics and kiddy jokes. For a modern animated title to create a generation-spanning mega-hit, studios have started focusing on story as well, with themes and jokes crafted to appeal to a broad range of viewers.

 

One of the more entertaining non-Pixar/Disney offerings in recent years was 2014’s The Lego Movie, where Warner Bros. assembled a terrific cast and delivered a visually stunning story that appealed to even non-plastic-brick fans, garnering a whopping 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. One of the film’s unexpected stars was Batman, played by Will Arnett with perfect dark, brooding angst, 110% self-confidence, and a sense of self-aware humor missing from the recent live-action films.

 

My pick for movie of the week is the 2017 followup, The Lego Batman Movie. If the title didn’t give it away, this film focuses entirely on the Dark Knight’s life in Gotham and his eternal struggle against a horde of villains. But unlike the recent spate of “How dark can we make it?” superhero movies, this is a Batman film the entire family can enjoy, including a Joker voiced by Zach Galifianakis, and Ralph Fiennes tackling the stately-yet-parentally-challenged Alfred.

 

The 4K HDR image is absolutely stunning, revealing amazing detail in every frame and glistening with an array of colors that pushes the boundaries of the Rec. 2020 standard. Equally impressive is the reference-quality Dolby Atmos soundtrack, which takes full advantage of the ceiling speakers to immerse you in a full 360° soundfield.

 

While fans of the Batman franchise will especially find plenty to lovewith some great tongue-in-cheek references to previous entries in the seriesthe Batman writers have crafted a humorous story that works on multiple levels and appeals to non-Bat-fans as well. Subtle jokes like a SWAT team ordered to use stun weapons shouting, “Yay! Non-lethal!” as well as a glimpse into Batman struggling with his home theater system can’t help but bring a smile to your face.

 

Available for immediate download from the Kaleidescape Store, The Lego Batman Movie is a film you can use to show off your theater to any audience.

John Sciacca

Probably the most experienced writer on custom installation in the industry, John Sciacca is
co-owner of Custom Theater & Audio in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, & is known for his writing
for such publications as
 Residential Systems and Sound & Vision. Follow him on Twitter at

@SciaccaTweets and at johnsciacca.com.

Lawrence of Arabia

Kaleidescape Lawrence of Arabia

It was 1989. I had just finished building my first theater, the Roxy, and my career as a home theater designer was still in its infancy. The Roxy featured gigantic JBL speakers behind a perforated screen. They were way too big for that small space, but so what—all I cared was that they were the exact same speakers used in my favorite New York theater, the Ziegfeld.  With (more than) a little stretch of the imagination, being at the Roxy felt the same to me as sitting inside the Ziegfeld, getting lost in one of those 70mm spectacles of the ‘60s like My Fair Lady, West Side Story, The Sound of Music, and, yes, Lawrence of Arabia

 

When Lawrence made it to video in HD a few years ago, I felt a circle had been completed. I was finally able to own one of the most spectacular and intelligent epics ever made and see it in a presentation that captured most of the sonic grandeur and the visual splendor of the original. I thought this was it—we finally had a version of the film that was as perfect as we would ever see in a home theater. Boy, was I wrong . . . .

 

Fast forward five years later to the 4K restoration of Lawrence of Arabia. I knew about it, but only recently was I able to experience it with my own eyes. Seeing it at the Barco demo facilities in Lower Manhattan through a Barco Loki projector using a Kaleidescape Strato Movie Player as a source, I was dazzled—and spoiled forever. Maybe I’m wrong, but the picture looked better than what I remember seeing at the Ziegfeld. It felt like watching Lawrence for the first time. Every little detail jumped out of the frame with crispness and clarity, and every color nuance was there to be savored with relish. This version of Lawrence of Arabia, available at the Kaleidescape store, is one for the ages. Home theater doesn’t get better than this.

Theo Kalomirakis

Theo Kalomirakis is widely considered the father of home theater, with scores of luxury theater
designs to his credit. He is an avid movie fan, with a collection of over 15,ooo discs. Theo is the
Executive Director of Rayva.

Kaleidescape Movie of the Week: Frantz

Frantz Movie 2016

A new film from the reliably good—and prolific—French director François Ozon is always welcome. Frantz tells the story of the tragic triangle between two soldiers in World War I and the fiancée of one of them. It’s a surprisingly old-fashioned movie that unfolds with the deliberate pace of a ‘40s Hollywood melodrama but without the stylistic trappings.

 

Frantz is also worth watching for its glorious cinematography. The black & white image shimmers with subtle—almost unnoticeable—color highlights in the background, making it a delight to watch. No regular streaming service can capture Frantz’s visual nuances—you need to see it on Kaleidescape to experience it in true HD.

Theo Kalomirakis

Theo Kalomirakis is widely considered the father of home theater, with scores of luxury theater
designs to his credit. He is an avid movie fan, with a collection of over 15,ooo discs. Theo is the
Executive Director of Rayva.