Laser Disc Reviews


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James Van Der Beek of "Dawson's Creek" stars as the high school hero out to define himself in "Varsity Blues".  Unfortunately, the script defines him and most of the characters in cliche after cliche.  Only Jon Voight manages to raise the film above its mediocrity with his standard excellent firecracker delivery as a hardened coach.  Still, the film was a box office hit, and fans of the film will be pleased with the exceptional transfer given here.  Every hue has great definition and detail, there's a minimum of grain and the aspect ratio is intact.  While the dolby surround sound offers a lively directional mix, we prefer the dvd dolby digital 5.1 mix for even sharper delineation.

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The best film of 1998, "A Simple Plan" has arrived with a great transfer on laserdisc.  Director Sam Raimi's wondeful imagery is kep intact with the properly presented 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  The laserdisc really shines in terms of contrast.   Much like the dvd transfer, there's great contrast values, evidenced by distinguished grays and blacks in dark scenes.  The dolby surround sound is extremely active, but we still prefer the further clarity of dolby digital 5.1 sound found on the dvd presentation, but surprisingly absent here.

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We can't help but voice our major disappointment that PARAMOUNT/PIONEER is opting "not" to encoding many of their laserdisc releases in Dolby Digital 5.1, even as these titles are coming out on DVD "with" 5.1!!!  "Sliding Doors"has a great soundtrack and although the transfer looks wonderful with extremely bright colors, perfect fleshtones and fine contrast, the Dolby Surround isn't that active!   In comparison, the DVD boasts great directional effects, adding to the overall atmosphere of a magical film that relies largely on the environment(s) it depicts! 

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LV8773WS SRP $34.98 119 Min 2.35:1 PARAMOUNT PIONEER MONO

Alas, "North Dallas Forty" is finally here on laserdisc intact!!!  Those lucky enought to have caught this great film on cable probably noticed that the beginning scenes, intercut with credits, was letterboxed, quickly becoming pan&scan as the credits end.  This truly undercut much of the power to many well composed images that last throughout the film.  It also took away from yet another great performance of Nick Nolte.  Based on Peter Gent's autobiographical novel based on his life as a Dallas Cowboy, "North Dallas Forty" is certainly one of the most honest, funny, and thought-provoking films to deal with sports.  One doesn't have to like football to become swept up in the drama that unfolds at a carefully, deliberate pace.  The transfer has minimal grain and the picture is sharp. The sound is unremarkable in mono.  

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Director Mimi Leder's "Deep Impact" opened before, "Armageddon", and although they deal with the same threat, the pending anhilation of humanity due to a  huge comet heading towards earth, it's vastly superior!  The script from writers Bruce Joel Rubin and Michael Tolkin deal less with the action and more with the psychological impact of what's coming.  Both writers have dealt with the metaphysical aspects of  life and death before,(Tokin-"The Rapture" Rubin-"Ghost", "Brainstorm")but they've reached new limits here.  The special effects are at a minimum, but they're generally impressive.  The picture is excellent with great contrast and fleshtones in even the most difficult lighting sequences.  The Dolby Digital soundtrack offers numerous effects throughout the film, and brilliantly captures another moving score from composer James Horner.

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James Cameron personally supervised the transfer of  his blockbuster for its appearance on laserdisc.  Shot in Super-35mm, it can be argued that the full-frame version actually offers more visual information.   However, this letterboxed version, with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, is the accurate representation of the theatrical showing, and we prefer it.  The picture looks dynamic with excellent contrast, colors, and depth.  The Dolby Digital sound is demonstration quality!   The surround environment is places it amongst the most effects-laden environments ever!  The quality of its sound environment is apparant particularly within the fourth side of the title, wherein the ship begins to demonstrate its initial demise.

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The full frame version of "TITANIC" is surprising on many counts.  Because the film was shot in Super-35, Director James Cameron's compositions are actually still well-maintained.   In fact, the full-frame version actually opens up the picture in many ways.   The picture quality isn't even slightly diminished in comparison to the letterboxed version, sharing the same excellent quality of color, contrast and depth.  The Dolby Digital sound is undistinguishable from the Demonstration quality sound mix offered in the letterboxed version, and is flawless!

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35537 SRP $34.98 LVD DISCOUNT PRICE ONLY $27.98!!! 1.85:1 PARAMOUNT/PIONEER Dolby Surround



Director/Writer Tom DiCillo's latest film, "The Real Blonde" is also his most accessible.  While his "Living in Oblivion" was generally more witty with its perspective on filmmaking,  "The Real Blonde" is more of a commercial indictment on the entertainment industry in general.  The cast is terrific, and Elizabeth Berkley is actually quite good.  In fact, besides a fine acting job, she's never looked better than she does in her last scene in the film.   Matthew Modine is perfect as a struggling actor trying to overcome the enormous obstacles that  block most actors in a cold city like New York.  Kathleen Turner has a wonderful cameo as Modine's agent, and its in sequences like this that DiCillo's writing really shines.   The transfer looks wondeful with sharp colors and little to no grain.  The 1.85:1 aspect ratio is intact.  The Dolby Surround sound offers minimal effects.

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$39.98 LV332133-WS C/S/D UPC 013023552963 98 Min 2.35:1 PARAMOUNT DOLBY DIGITAL

While there's been plenty of valid criticism about the films all-too-routine "surprises", the mastering of this disc is excellent!  From the film's opening credit sequence, it's immediately obvious that this is a demonstration quality release!  The Dolby Digital sound offers great thunder on its LFE track, as well as numerous effects throughout.  This is a loud and active soundtrack.  The picture has great depth and contrast as well, allowing great clarity even in the rain-drenched opening.

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$39.98 LV1886-WSRM C/S/D UPC 013023550766 119 Min 2.35:1 PARAMOUNT DOLBY DIGITAL

The newly remastered edition of "THE UNTOUCHABLES" from PARAMOUNT, has the substantial benefit of  Dolby Digital encoding.  While the picture is also an improvement over the previously available laserdisc, its superior fleshtones don't do as much to enhance the viewing pleasure as the sensation of discrete sound effects during the film's many sweeping moments.  The musical score is also enhanced through the Dolby Digital process, heightening the impact to the film's theme with great bass.  One important criticism is necessary.  Why didn't PARAMOUNT opt to present this on one disc instead of two?  Because the 119 minute film could have been done on two sides, a third side without CAV encoding seems completely unnecessary.

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$39.98 LV5606-WS C/D/S UPC 013023551862 121 Min 1.75:1 PARAMOUNT MONO

While Burt Lancaster is possibly best remembered for his performance in "THE BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ", his two best performances are arguably in "ATLANTIC CITY"(long overdue for a letterbox remastering) and in "THE RAINMAKER".  As Starbuck, a conman selling drought-ridden farm communities his rainmaking powers, Lancaster exudes a magical hold on the viewing audience leaving them no less awestruck than the farmers he's selling to.     Let's not forget that Katherine Hepburn also stars and gives an equally inspiring performance.  While corny at times, the film has a magic more pallatable and truthful than in the more successful "Sleepless in Seattle" or "An Affair To Remember".

The transfer is excellent!  The 1.75:1 framing, while not possessing great width in composition, suffered in television airings and video all the same from the damage of  cropping.  The colors are perfect, and the digital mono sound is crisp and flawless.

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$34.98 LV32756-WS C/S/D UPC013023550261 1.85:1 103 Min PARAMOUNT DOLBY SURROUND

It's good refreshing to see that PARAMOUNT/PIONEER is electing to revisit its vaults and remaster some of their lesser known, but fine quality releases.  We're still eagerly awaiting for them to do a Dolby Digital letterboxed remastering of "TO LIVE AND DIE IN LA", but in the meanwhile, we're pleased with the job they've done on "WHISPERS IN THE DARK".  Annabella Sciorra, Deborah Unger and Jill Clayburgh star in this well-written, original, and typically surprising thriller.   The scene in which the villain is revealed should shock every viewer.  It's only the final moments of the film that seem anti-climatic. 

The newly remastered laserdisc incorporates a few unmarked graphic moments to select scenes, one involves a suicide.  The transfer has improved contrast, allowing for more definition in darker scenes.  The surround sound is on par with the previous version.

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$39.98   C/S/D   2.35:1   PARAMOUNT DOLBY DIGITAL

Paramount/Pioneer has released a glossy looking transfer for Francis Ford Copolla's "The Rainmaker" starring Matt Damon.  The film has a polished look to it that's been perfectly rendered on laser, with perfect color balance, contrast and depth.  The 2.35:1 aspect ratio has also been perfectly maintained, showboating Copolla's well chosen compositions.  The Dolby Digital surround offers more directional effects than the standard Dolby Surround and brings more depth to the musical score.  The plot, involving a wet-behind-the-ears lawyer taking on the tobacco industry has as many flaws as it has benefits.  Still, the acting is first-rate. Jon Voight gives what may be his best performance since "Coming Home."

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$39.98 LV011081-WS C/D/S UPC 013023551367 110 Min 2.35:1 PARAMOUNT DOLBY DIGITAL

The 20th Anniversary Widescreen Edition of "Grease" is now available, and even for those who didn't like the movie that much before, this reviewer is one of them, this laserdisc is worth getting!  The transfer is as sharp as any of the best laserdisc transfers ever done.  There's great contrast, fleshtones are perfect, and no color noise!  The soundtrack, enhanced with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound is terrific, adding a great deal of  energy to the musical numbers.

While the film still falters in idiocy at times, never achieving the brilliance of the stage production, it has a warmth to it, and captures a period of filmmaking.  The 18 minutes of supplementary material, consisting mostly of interviews, commentary over incorrectly letterboxed scenes, and premiere footage, manages to be worthwhile.  Although, we can't figure out what "Never Before Seen Film Clip" the back jacket of the disc is speaking of!


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$39.98 LV8674-WS C/D/S UPC013023550964 131 min 2.35:1 PARAMOUNT MONO

The new Paramount remaster of "CHINATOWN" is an improvement over the previously available high quality transfer, albeit a modest one.  The framing is a slight bit more astute.  The previous one has deep "windowboxing", placing a letterboxed look on sides as well as top&bottom of most monitors.  The colors also appear to have a little more sharpness to them, and the contrast allows for the texture of  Nicholson's well-tailored suit to be noticeably defined.  The digital Mono is on par with the previously available version.

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LV331883WS $39.98 C/S/D UPC 013023547162 117 Min 2.35:1 PARAMOUNT/PIONEER DOLBY DIGITAL

Gary Fleder's previous effort "Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead" didn't preview the skill so eminent throughout Kiss the Girls.  Even the opening credit sequence, one of the best in recent memory, demonstrates a real flair for storytelling and imagery.  The benefits of the Dolby Digital 5.1 sound are also apparent in the opening segment wherein music and the narration create a three-dimensional eerie effect. 

The laserdisc transfer is extremely sharp with excellent color and contrast.  The 2.35:1 framing is also perfect as well as essential in capturing all of  the well conceived compositions.

While the story is not all that original, a serial killer's latest abduction is the daughter of  the lead investigator on the case,  Fleder manages to create more than a few thrilling moments.

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One of the most "fun-filled" light-hearted comedies with a message to be released in years, "In and Out" is now available on laserdisc from PARAMOUNT/PIONEER.  This is a fine example of when actors rise above the material.   The script to "In and Out" is frequently flawed with its simplicity and tired stereotypes.  However, Kevin Kline, Joan Cusack, and even Tom Selleck are consistently wonderful, bringing depth to characters typically surrounded by one-dimensional characters. The transfer looks fine.  Director Frank Oz keeps most of his images simple, capturing the small town, lazy warm day atmosphere depicted in the film's opening shot.  The 1.85:1 framing is intact and perfect.  The dolby surround track perfectly captures the memorable score, and the directional effects are fairly active throughout the film.


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LV6524-WS $49.98 C/S/D UPC 013023529069 231 Min 1.75:1 PARAMOUNT/PIONEER DOLBY DIGITAL

Released in time to compete with the holiday television airings of this Cecil B. DeMille epic, "The Ten Commandments" demonstrates just how superior a medium laserdisc still is to most options.  This edition is competitively priced, and at $49.98, is less than previous versions.  The new release features its correct 1.75:1 aspect ratio.  The framing is perfect and the images look spectacular throughout the film.  While the acting and writing are almost camp, the set designs are wonderful to behold, and this transfer captures every subtle color perfectly.   The soundtrack is now presented for the first time in Dolby Digital, adding a great deal of "oomph" to the large musical score.  Other than the enhanced score, there is only negligible use of rear and side speakers for effects.  While this is disappointing, the overwhelming atmosphere created by the new soundtrack makes one forget this one imperfection.  A nostalgic introduction by DeMille himself, is featured before the film's prelude.


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LV6831-WS $39.98 C//D UPC 013023528260 134 Min 1.85:1 PARAMOUNT/PIONEER DIGITAL MONO

One of the great films of all time, happens to be a horror film, "Rosemary's Baby."  It has finally been released in the letterboxed format and it's a sight for sore eyes!  Director Roman Polanski skillfuly utilizes every composition to the frame with more caution than any of his films beside "Tess of the D'Urbervilles."  In fact, in the documentary, "Visions of   Light", a documentary about cinematography, much attention is given to the cinematography in "Rosemary's Baby.  The film is a classic for many reasons.   One of them, and a characteristic found in great horror films, is the fact that the scariest moments show very little.  What is not seen, merely suggested, has even greater impact.  This outcome couldn't work unless the film was otherwise masterfully directed, but that's certainly not the case here.  Also the supporting cast is unforgettable.  John Cassavetes has created one of  the screen's most evil villains of all time.  The transfer is first-rate, with nary a hint of grain.   The colors, while subdued at times, accurately reflects Polanski's intentions.   The 1.85:1 framing is also intact.  The digital monaural sound is fine.   


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LV8904-WS $29.98 C/D UPC 013023531161 100 Min 1.85:1 PARAMOUNT/PIONEER DOLBY MONO

This reviewer considers "The Shootist" to be his finest western.   This will obviously inflame the film-school graduates given a healthy dose of John Ford's "The Searchers," but  "The Shootist" represents a more reflective side of  Wayne than any of his previous roles.  In fact, even the film's opening montage pays homage to Wayne's earlier films.  Director Don Siegel is no hack either, and his skill in crafting an otherwise simple tale is crucial to the film's overall impact.  Wayne plays a gunfighter seeking to confront his last enemies, rather than die in bed of the horrible disease he's been diagnosed in having.   Lauren Bacall, Jimmy Stewart, Harry Morgan, and Ron Howard all bring craftsmanship to their roles.  It's surprising that Siegel chose to work in 1.85:1, but it works well here.  The colors are a little too subdued at times, but overall, the transfer looks fine.  The digital monaural soundtrack is terrific with excellent clarity.


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LV33475-3-WS $39.98 C/S/D UPC 013023528963 99 Min 2.35:1 PARAMOUNT/PIONEER DOLBY SURROUND

Lauren Holly and Greg Kinnear star in "A Smile Like Yours", a romantic-comedy, completely overlooked during its one-week theatrical release.    The plot, involving the ups and downs of a young couple trying to deal with   marriage, love and other problems brought on by problems with conceiving. Although the mentioned conflict will not appeal to everyone, the stellar cast makes their situations entertaining, if not heart-warming.  When the film is funny, it's quite good.  Unfortunately, the film suffers whenever it tries to become serious, which it does too frequently.  The transfer looks wonderful. The colors and contrast remain in great shape in even the darkest moments.  The film's correct aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is intact, although the laser jacket incorrectly identifies the film as having a 1.85:1 ratio.  Director Keith Samples uses his framing wisely throughout the film, and no space is even momentarily wasted.  The film's surround soundtrack  has a nice score, but the surround effects are purely atmospheric, as evidenced in a nightclub sequence. 



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PSE97103 $119.98 C/S/D UPC 013023524866 Feature=133 min  Supplement=92 min 1.85:1 PARAMOUNT PIONEER DOLBY SURROUND

This "Special Edition" lives up to its description, it's special in every way.  To begin with, this supplementary-stocked  release is contained in a coffee-table book, designed well enough to be an art object and the source of  much conversation.   It's extremely colorful and graphically illustrated.  Contained within it:  the shooting script along with Ken Kesey's actual script, and many other essays, notes and photos pertaining to the film.  The actual disc is also excellent.   The transfer actually has a slight advantage in color range over the DVD, although not having the same definition quality.  The aspect ratio is correct with 1.85:1 framing.  The audio commentary provided by Milos Forman is extremely educational for aspiring film makers, and entertaining for fans of  the film.  Although there are long lapses in conversation, Forman has a great deal to say about his techniques and how he obtains the performances he frequently gets from his cast.  Following the film, there's an outstanding documentary that goes into even more detail about the films evolution, complete with interviews and more. 


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LDVM6576WS $34.98 C/D/S UPC 013023524965 117 min 1.85:1 TRIMARK PIONEER DOLBY SURROUND

Audiences are getting another chance to discover Director/writer Tom DiCillo's "Box of Moonlight" in an excellent looking and sounding transfer. Due to its limited theatrical engagement and perceived appeal, laserdisc probably offers viewers a visual and sound experience superior to that of most theaters where it was shown.  DiCillo's tale of a businessman on an unwitting journey of discovery, calls for extensive location photography, and the depth of  the beautiful outdoor landscape is well represented with the color quality achieved here.  The standard Dolby surround track offers few directional effects,  but they're not essential to the film's success.


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LV332483WS $39.98 C/S/D UPC 013023522466 114 Min 1..85:1 PARAMOUNT PIONEER DOLBY SURROUND

Jeanne Tripplehorn is wonderful in this enchanting, albeit, deeply flawed film.  "Till There Was You" disappoints only because its appears to have such great potential so much of  the time!  Director Scott Winant and writer Winnie Holzman, the duo responsible for the excellent t.v. series, "My So-Called Life"  weave together a complex tale of two people perfect for eachother, continuously "just missing" one another throughout most of their life.  The film is extremely well designed in both a technical and creative level.   Unfortunately,  some of the sub-plot elements completely drag the film down to an excruciating halt.  The elaborate production design looks sensational in this sharp transfer.   There is some grain, but it's minimal.  The Dolby Surround track is active with well-conceived effects. 


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LV224823WS $39.99 C/S/D UPC 013023527164 97 Min 2.35:1 PARAMOUNT PIONEER DOLBY DIGITAL

Director Paul Anderson has a visual style that is fully original, and it's due to this that he's been given the honor to direct Kurt Russel's big budget sci-fi epic, "Soldier", with a great script by David Webb Poebles.  Unfortunately, the script to "Event Horizon"  does little to deserve the visual flair it receives.  The premise involving a spaceship that has found a missing research vessel, has great potential.  At times, the idea of a Bermuda Triangle in outer space is truly eerie.  However, the film's not quite half way over before things begin to get all to predictable, leading to an anti-climatic ending.

The transfer from PARAMOUNT PIONEER is outstanding.  The eye-capturing color scheme and production design is truly impressive. Also, the Dolby Digital soundtrack is first-rate with non-stop directional effects as well as an unusual techno-pop score.

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LV1285WS $39.99 C/S/D UPC 013023525160 135 Min 2.35:1 PARAMOUNT PIONEER DOLBY DIGITAL

At long last, one of  John Travolta's hit films from his earlier career, "Urban Cowboy" is now available in wide screen.  The story from Director James Bridges and Aaron Latham is about Bud Davis, a Texas oil refinery worker by day, country western bar clubber by night.  Unlike most of  Bridges' other films, "Urban Cowboy" doesn't feel as dated.  In fact, it's surprisingly still effective and has its own unique magic.  Debra Winger gives a performance that reminds us of why she was a popular star in the early 80s, and all of the cast is wonderful.

Bridges uses the "scope" dimensions with great skill, and the widescreen transfer captures his vision flawlessly. The transfer has excellent fleshtones and extremely sharp contrast, althought there is some intermittent grain, apparently due to the original film negative.  The Dolby Digital surround track is also a major improvement. There isn't an abundance of  rear speaker directional effects, but the frequent musical selections take on a life of their own and create the film's overall atmosphere.  It's during these moments that the separational effects are most noticeable.  PARAMOUNT has actually marked the various musical selections within the chapter index.

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LV1454WS $34.98 C/S/D UPC 013023519268 95 Min 1.85:1 PARAMOUNT PIONEER DOLBY DIGITAL

One of Joe Eszterhas' first scripts was to "Flashdance."   It should be no surprise then , that the film's weakest moments relate to the lack of character development.  However,  this was also one of the first productions from the producing team of  Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, and their films have always been about style over substance.  "Flashdance" is filled with style!   This new PARAMOUNT PIONEER remaster does the utmost to capture the films style with a slick looking transfer that's flawless from beginning-to-end.  Throw in a new Dolby Digital soundtrack that does justice to a memorable score as well as provides numerous directional effects, and you've got a real winner!   

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LV32530WS $39.99 C/S/D UP 013023516663 117 Min 2.35:1 PARAMOUNT



Now all three of  Tom Clancy's "Jack Ryan" films are available in Dolby Digital.  This reviewers personal favorite of the trilogy is also the best looking and sounding laserdisc.  Patriot Games looked wonderful before, but now its remastered pressing is even sharper.  In the previous version there was some grain in the film's climatic sequence.  Now, the transfer is flawless.  Director Philip Noyce uses the 2.35:1 aspect ratio with great skill and the new Dolby Digital encoding is certain to thrill.  A crucial scene demonstrating the coldness of  modern technology is even more chilling with the new directional sounds offered.  If  you don't already own a Dolby Digital receiver, this is the perfect reason you need one!

LV334546WS $39.99 C/S/D UPC 130235204 2.35:1 95 Min PARAMOUNT PIONEER DOLBY DIGITAL

The plot to "Breakdown" reveals gaping holes near the finale, but skillful direction and strong performances by Kurt Russel and the supporting cast make this film a real nail-biter. Russel stars as a man searching for his wife after she accepts help from a truckdriver following the "breakdown" of their car. When Russel finds the driver, he denies ever seeing her, and an unusual conspiracy appears to be taking place. The 2.35:1 aspect ratio is used for maximum effect with the wide desert landscape settings, and the transfer looks wonderful. The Dolby Digital(5.1) soundtrack makes extensive use of directional effects.