I received a couple of review copies of upcoming high definition releases from Optimum on Friday: Wolf Creek on Blu-ray and Pan’s Labyrinth on HD DVD. Both titles are coming out on both formats (the Blu-ray versions were released on November 19th, whereas the HD DVD versions have been delayed a week, until November 26th), and I’m fairly sure HD DVD versions were requested for both, so I’m not sure why I got a Blu-ray Wolf Creek. In any event, I’m not able to review it, because it is coded for Region B only, and, as you may know, my Blu-ray hardware (Playstation 3) is Region A. As far as I’m concerned, Optimum is merely shooting themselves in the foot here, as they are simply denying themselves sales. It makes particularly little sense when you consider that region coding doesn’t exist for HD DVD, so anyone in the world can play their HD DVD titles, whereas only the privileged few who shelled out for overpriced European Blu-ray players will be able to play their Blu-ray titles.
Anyway, I may not have been able to look at Wolf Creek, but I have given Pan’s Labyrinth a cursory glance. The image quality is a bit uneven, with a strange “eroded” appearance that appears to be the result of attempting to suck out the film grain. As a result, textures tend to look a bit waxy and “cut-out”, particularly faces, while a lot of the fine detail has been removed from the foliage in the scenes taking place in the woodland. It’s a strange effect, as it means there is a superficial sense of crispness, but not the sort of detail you would expect from an image so sharp.
Extras, by the way, seem to mirror Optimum’s UK DVD release, with only the bonus trailers for The Devil’s Backbone and cover art of Cronos missing in action. Of course, the only audio option provided is a Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 track, so I suspect many people will prefer to wait until New Line release their own version in the US on December 26th, for its DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track and PiP visual commentary. More significantly, the picture on this release seems to be lagging slightly behind the audio at all times, resulting in some noticeable lip synchronisation errors (particularly apparent given the rapid-fire Spanish in which most of the characters converse).
Expect a full review at DVD Times in the not too distant future.