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UNDERWORLD: RISE OF THE LYCANS ($40) is another wonderfully fun, mindless popcorn movie that is certain to please the fans of the earlier installments in the series. Continuing its mixture of vampires, werewolves (lycans) and action movie esthetics, UNDERWORLD: RISE OF THE LYCANS is a prequel to the two earlier films, one that fills in the gaps of the backstory. The plot takes the story back to the dark ages, after the first vampires and lycans were created. UNDERWORLD: RISE OF THE LYCANS recounts the origins of Lucian (Michael Sheen), the first werewolf born from completely animalistic progenitors, who is able to transform back into human form. Vampire elder Viktor (Bill Nighy) sees Lucian as an opportunity to build a slave race of lycans and takes the infant werewolf under his wing. As Lucian grows to adulthood, a forbidden love affair forms between him and Viktorís daughter Sonja (Rhona Mitra). Lucianís love for Sonja eventually leads to his downfall, as well as setting in the motion the chain of events that leads to the long standing war between the vampires and lycans, as depicted in the first two installments in the UNDERWORLD franchise. The cast of UNDERWORLD: RISE OF THE LYCANS also features Steven Mackintosh, Kevin Grevioux, David Ashton, Geraldine Brophy, Leighton Cardno and Alex Carroll.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has made UNDERWORLD: RISE OF THE LYCANS available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. The 1080p presentation is generally quite impressive, and should please fans. Much of the film appears intentionally dark due to the nighttime setting, which can obscure some details. However, sequences with stronger light sources do produce sharp, finely detailed and highly dimensional images. Colors are purposely skewed toward cold, steely blues to enhance the dark world the characters inhabit. Saturation is difficult to quantify, as the blues tend to make other hues appear less saturated. The few daylight sequences demonstrate a proper balance and more natural colors. Blacks are inky and the whites appear crisp. Contrast is very good, but shadow detail has some intentional limitations. Shot with the Panavision Genesis cameras, UNDERWORLD: RISE OF THE LYCANS appears pristine. Modest digital grain/noise has been applied to the presentation, which helps simulate a film like quality.

UNDERWORLD: RISE OF THE LYCANS is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. The sound design certainly delivers the goods in terms of and action/horror movie in a medieval setting. There is plenty of atmospherics that make excellent use of all the discrete channel, but the track really shines during the booming, frenzied lycan attacks and all out battle sequences. Sound effects are well placed and move around the sound field in a very effective manner. Fidelity is pretty terrific and produces convincing sound effects, as well as a strong musical component. The bass channel is deep and provides more than sufficient rumble. Dialogue is crisp and usually easy to understand. A French 5.1 Dolby TrueHD is also encoded onto the disc, as are Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks. Subtitles are available in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the discís interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some supplements. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with director Patrick Tatopoulos, writer/producer Len Wiseman, executive producer James McQuaide, and producers Richard Wright and Gary Lucchesi. Next up is Behind The Castle Walls: Picture-In-Picture, which provides in context, pop-up supplements such as artwork and interview footage (requires a Profile 1.1 player). Featurettes include Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans- From Script To Screen (nine minutes), Origin Of The Feud (twenty minutes) and Recreating The Dark Ages- The Look Of Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans (thirteen minutes). A Music Video for William Controll's Deathclub is also provided, as is the Lycanthropes Around The World: Interactive Map and some Bonus Trailers. UNDERWORLD: RISE OF THE LYCANS is also BD-Live enabled (requires a Profile 2.0 player) and offers a Cinechat feature to send instant messages to others watching the movie. A Digital Copy of the film is also provided.

UNDERWORLD: RISE OF THE LYCANS is slick, albeit mindless, popcorn entertainment at its best. The Blu-ray is a fairly rocking experience that will please fans. Recommended to the faithful and other genre fans.



Underworld: Rise of the Lycans [Blu-ray] (2009)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2009 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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