“Space Cowboys on HD DVD, X;Men: The Last Stand coming to Blu-ray soon. - Mania.com

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“Space Cowboys on HD DVD, X;Men: The Last Stand coming to Blu-ray soon.

By John Sinnott     November 05, 2006

Space Cowboys on HD DVD
© N/A

Column News: With the switch over to the new site design, I thought I’d make a couple of minor changes in High Def Revue.  The most notable one is that the Blu-ray discs will be listed first in the Upcoming Discs section from now on.  I originally had HD DVDs listed first since they were the first format released, but a couple of friends pointed out that alphabetical order would make more sense.  (Yes, I have a lot of anal-retentive friends with too much time on their hands.)  I’m only mentioning the change in order to preempt any e-mails and comments asking if I’m favoring one format over the other. 

“X-Men: The Last Stand” on Blu-ray this month:  According to Home Video Retailing magazine, Fox is hoping to cash in on both the holiday season and the new PS3’s Blu-ray capability by rushing the last X-men film to the HD format.  Scheduled for release on November 14th, the Blu-ray disc will boast two audio commentaries, 12 deleted and extended scenes and more.  According to the article, executives at Fox feel that the PS3 will win the format war for Sony.  “PlayStation is by far the dominant game platform, and this should put questions about format wars to rest” said Steve Feldstein, SVP of marketing communications for 20th Century Fox. 

Personally, I don’t think that the PS3 will win the war for Sony, especially with so few units available in the US before Christmas.  I think it will have a positive impact, but I don’t know many gamers who are excited about playing BD on a PS3, and my movie-buff fans aren’t into gaming.  Only time will tell what effect the PS3 has on this format war. 

Blu-ray Titles announced for 2007:  Next year is shaping up well for Blu-ray releases.  A slew of genre films have been announced for early next year.  Sony has announced that it will release the horror flick The Covenant on Blu-ray on January 2nd, while Fox has set the first quarter of 2007 for releases of the unrated version of Alien vs. Predator, the Arnold Schwarzenegger action film Commando, and the Tim Burton version of Planet of the Apes.  While some of those are big titles, there’s nothing there that would make me run out and buy a Blu-ray player.  Note to Fox:  If you want people to jump on the Blu-ray wagon, release the first two Alien films, not the inferior last A vs. P.  

Spotlight of the week: 

“Space Cowboys” on HD DVD: 

When Warner Brothers started releasing movies on Blu-ray and HD DVD a little while ago, they embraced the same philosophy that Sony and Lions Gate did when it came to picking releases:  chose average quality films that will appeal to men.  The result is that if you go down to your local retailer looking for a HD DVD disc you'll find a shelf of action movies and horror films, with the occasional comedy thrown in to please the wives.  The topic of this review won't do much to change that.  Space Cowboys is a good, if slightly flawed, film directed by Clint Eastwood that is solid entertainment even if it stretches a viewer's ability to suspend their disbelief.  While the movie is only mediocre, the VC-1 encoded HD DVD transfer is excellent and a pleasure to watch.  

Back in 1958, the US Air Force was getting ready to start up its space program when a new agency was created and charged with putting an American in space:  NASA.  The four Air Force officers who were training for the space flights, Frank Corvin (Clint Eastwood), Tank Sullivan (James Gardner), Hawk Hawkins (Tommy Lee Jones) and Jerry O'Neil (Donald Sutherland) were SOL.  Sold out by their boss, Bob Gerson (James Cromwell) and never did make it into space.  

Flash forward forty years.  An old communication satellite that handles most of the telephone traffic for the country is in a decaying orbit and about to crash back to Earth.  If that happens, according to a Russian delegate, a revolution could break out.  The satellite is using an old navigation program that was written for Skylab back in the pre-microprocessor days and the only person who can figure it out is the author of the program Frank Corvin.  

Frank is contacted and agrees to work under Bob Gerson one more time, but only if he and his old buddies can man the shuttle mission that is scheduled to go up to fix the satellite.  Over a barrel, Gerson agrees, but is he a man to be trusted?  With only a month to the launch Corvin and his crew have to train hard to get ready, but when they get up in space they find something that none of their training has prepared them for.  

The whole premise of this movie is a bit hard to swallow.  Let me get this straight: the US is going to spend $450 million on a shuttle launch to fix an outdated communications satellite that could be replaced for $80-$100 million?  No one thinks that's odd?  NASA must have money to burn.  And what about the fact that a US navigation program is on the Russian made satellite.  Whenever anyone asks about it Gerson just brushes aside the remarks with "that's not important right now" and is never pushed on the issue.  In order to do this, Gerson is going to put four unqualified and barely trained (does anyone really think someone can learn to fly the space shuttle in under a month??) senior citizens in charge of this apparently incredibly important mission.  

If you can swallow that (or just chose to ignore it like I did) you'll find that Space Cowboys is a pretty decent movie.  Not great by any stretch of the imagination, but decent.  The cast has a lot of chemistry together and watching them interact is some of the best parts of the film.  The banter between Frank and Hawk is amusing and there are a couple of running gags that worked pretty well.  The movie does slow down a bit in the middle when the astronauts are training and picking up women, and it would be a stronger film if a few scenes were cut from that section, but this isn't a fatal flaw.  

While the beginning is a bit implausible, and the middle did drag a bit, the end of the film makes the rest of it worth while.  Once they finally get into space the pace picks up and the movie is much more visually interesting too.  There's a bit of excitement and though the ultimate resolution is easy to figure out ahead of time, the ending works well.  

As far as the picture goes, the 2.40:1 1080p image was excellent.  The blacks were rock solid, something that was important during the outer space scenes, and the colors were very bright and vivid.  The contrast was also very good.  The level of detail was excellent and the picture had a lot of eye-pop.  The scene where Clint Eastwood and Tommy Lee Jones are floating in space and looking at the Earth was looked impressive and even the more sedate scenes of the astronauts training had a lot of dimensionality.  

Unfortunately there are only a few minor problems that keep the disc out of the reference category.  There are a very few print defects, a couple of spots total through the entire movie, that I was disappointed in seeing.  Aside from that minor problem, this is a great looking film. 

Upcoming High Definition Discs:  

November 07, 2006 


Little Man

Nacho Libre



Nacho Libre


November 14, 2006 



Behind Enemy Lines 

Black Hawk Down

Fantastic Four

Kingdom of Heaven: The Director's Cut

Kiss of the Dragon

The Last Samurai

Layer Cake 

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Million Dollar Baby 

The Omen


The Transporter

X-Men: The Last Stand 




Digital Video Essentials - HD DVD Edition

Forbidden Planet

Forbidden Planet: Ultimate Collector's Edition

King Kong (2005)

Mutiny on the Bounty


November 21, 2006 




Enemy of the State


Goal! The Dream Begins

Ice Age: The Meltdown

Sky High 

The Wild 


Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas

You, Me and Dupree 

November 28, 2006 


Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut 

Superman Returns

Superman: The Movie



An American Werewolf in London


Meet the Parents

The Mummy

Smallville: The Complete Fifth Season

Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut

Superman Returns

Superman: The Movie 

December 5, 2006 


Bulletproof Monk

Flight of the Phoenix

From Hell

Rising Sun



Miami Vice (2006)


Scary Movie 4

Wolf Creek


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bdd 11/5/2006 8:15:38 PM
So how long do you think this DVD format "war" will go on? I'm thinknig at least another year or two.
johnsinnott 11/6/2006 6:56:33 AM
Dark Jedi- If you are into the best quality video, and willing to pay for it, then I definetly think that it's worth getting one of the players. There is a significant differance in quality, but it isn't as great as the improvement from VHS to DVD was. HD DVD has always used two layers, and Blu-ray has just released its first dual layer disc ("Click"). There is a LOT of discussions on the 'net about various codecs, which format has better studio support etc. but the bottom line is that either HD format looks better than DVD. As far as how long the 'war' will last, I think it will last at least a couple of years at least. Remember the Beta/VHS war lasted nearly a decade. With many big name movies (like M:I:3) coming out in both formats the war could drag on for a while. If player that can play both format ever get released (it's more of a legal problem than a technical one) the war could be mute. I'm really interested in how this will play out.


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