Gangs of New York
With 10 Oscar nominations in 2003, many thought Martin Scorsese would finally walk away with a best-director award, but he lost to Roman Polanski. That doesn't diminish a marvelous production with superb performances by Day-Lewis, DiCaprio, and even Cameron Diaz. My only knock on the movie itself is the intense violence, which didn't need to be so graphic.
Miramax didn't impress me with its DVD release, and I was hopeful that with Disney's takeover of the studio, this title would show a big improvement. Unfortunately, that isn't the case. In fact, this may be the worst HD presentation I have seen on either Blu-ray or HD DVD. Excessive edge enhancement riddles nearly the entire presentation, exacerbated by pumped-up contrast levels, resulting in a picture devoid of detail and depth. Natural film grain appears to have been filtered at the expense of fine detail, creating an overly soft image. Some may point to the VC-1 encode as the culprit, but the previously released DVD looked just as bad, which suggests a faulty master. Hopefully, the studio will go back to the drawing board, like Sony did with The Fifth Element, and replace this train wreck.
While the video is a big disappointment, the audio really shines. The PCM 5.1 soundtrack has excellent dynamic range and creates an encompassing soundfield. Dialog is crystal clear, and the musical score by Howard Shore compliments the story. The battle sequences are full of discrete effects and utilize the surround channels very well, placing you in the middle of the action.
The bonus features are ported over from the previously released DVD and include an audio commentary by Martin Scorsese, production featurettes, some historical information regarding the time period in New York, and a U2 music video.
It's rare that I can't find at least some value in the visual quality of a Blu-ray release, but with this video encode, I can't in good conscience recommend the disc. Disney is offering a $10 rebate if you already own the DVD, but I'm not sure you would see much of an improvement in picture quality. Yes, it's that bad!
Release Date: July 1, 2008
Film: 7 out of 10
Picture: 3 out of 10
Sound: 9 out of 10
JVC DLA-RS1 projector
Stewart FireHawk screen (76.5" wide, 16:9)
Onkyo PR-SC885 pre/pro
Anthem PVA-7 Amplifier
Belkin PF60 power conditioner
M&K S-150s (L, C, R)
M&K SS-150s (LS, RS, SBL, SBR)
SVS PC-Ultra subwoofer
Monoprice HDMI cables (source to pre/pro)
Best Deal analog-audio cables
PureLink HDC Fiber Optic HDMI Cable System (15 meters) from pre/pro to projector