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REAL STEEL ($40) is part Richard Matheson fantasy fiction, part ROCKY underdog story and part sentimental estranged father/son bonding movie. Fortunately, there is enough action and cool CGI effects to make REAL STEEL a fairly entertaining, and family friendly sci-fi flick. Sure, there isn’t twist or a turn in the plot that one won’t see coming well in advance, but REAL STEEL still manages to elicit all the right responses from the audience. Set in the not too distant future, where fighting robots have replaced human boxers in the ring, REAL STEEL tells the story of Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman), a self-absorbed former boxer, who vicariously clings to the sport he loved, through a string of robotic pugilists, all of which end up on the scrap heap. Just when Charlie’s "boxing career" comes close to hitting rock bottom, not to mention him being up to his eyeballs in debt, he learns that his former girlfriend has died, and that he must attend a custody hearing involving his estranged eleven-year-old son Max (Dakota Goyo).

Max's aunt Debra (Hope Davis) and her wealthy husband Marvin (James Rebhorn) want full custody of the boy, something Charlie is willing to grant in exchange for $100,000, which he intends to use to purchase a new robotic fighter. Marvin is willing pay Charlie’s price… under one condition, that Charlie take care of Max for the summer, so he and his wife can go to Italy for a previously planned vacation. Charlie uses his $50,000 down payment as seed money to purchase his new robot, with the intention of leaving Max with his good friend, and daughter of his former boxing manager, Bailey Tallet (Evangeline Lilly). In typical Hollywood fashion, Charlie’s plans go awry, first Charlie is forced to take Max on the road with him, then Charlie gets too cocky with his new robot, which winds up pulverized in its very first fight.

Seeking scrap to build himself a new fighter, Charlie breaks into a salvage yard. However, it is Max who strikes pay dirt, when he manages to literally unearth an obsolete sparring robot dubbed Atom. In Atom, Charlie sees a worthless pile of junk that can take a beating, but cant dish one out. Max, on the other hand, sees a whole lot more… especially when the boy is able to reactivate Atom and discovers some surprises in his outdated programming. In the ring, Atom proves to be exceedingly nimble, an ability that Max uses to garner the robot its first back-alley win. Cash in hand, Max is able to modestly upgrade the sparring robot, and he convinces Charlie to train Atom, allowing the robot to incorporate Charlie’s actual boxing routines and maneuvers from his days in the ring into his programming. A series of wins on the underground circuit, results in a promoter offering Atom his first sanctioned bout in the World Robot Boxing league. In his first sanctioned boxing match, Atom manages an unexpected win against a state-of-the-art robotic fighter, which leads to the film’s climatic David Vs Goliath bout against the WRB champion- an unstoppable robotic wrecking machine called Zeus. The cast of REAL STEEL also includes Anthony Mackie, Olga Fonda and Karl Yune.

Touchstone Home Entertainment has made REAL STEEL available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. Shot digitally with Sony CineAlta F35 cameras, REAL STEEL boasts a highly impressive 1080p presentation that maximizes the sharpness, clarity and fluidity of the image. Everything looks rich, dimensional and finely detailed and highly textured. CGI effects are beautifully rendered and texture mapped; in addition, the CGI appears perfectly integrated into the image. Colors are usually well saturated and appear completely stable, plus the flesh tones are highly appealing. Blacks appear true, while the whites are crisp and clean. Contrast and shadow detail are excellent. There are no flaws in the elements from which REAL STEEL was mastered. End to end digital, there is no actual grain in the image, but there is a bit of noise in some of the darker scenes.

REAL STEEL is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 7.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. No surprises here, REAL STEEL features a fairly aggressive action movie sound design that comes to life during the numerous robotic fight scenes. During said robo-clashes, sound effects envelop the listener and place them in the middle of the bouts. All of the outlying channels are well utilized for the smooth panning of sonic elements throughout the soundstage. However, when the robots aren’t pounding each other into scrap iron, the sound becomes more subdued with a talky front and center priority. Thanks to the lossless encode, fidelity is really outstanding; the musical component is full-bodied, plus all of the sound effects come across in a convincing manner. The bass channel is deep and percussive, allowing one to feel, in addition to hearing the blows being delivered by the robots. Voices are cleanly and distinctly reproduced, plus the dialogue is easy to understand. A French 5.1 DTS-HD High Resolution soundtrack, plus a Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 channel is also encoded onto the disc, as is an English Descriptive track. Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the disc’s interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplements. Starting things off is Ringside With Director Shawn Levy; this Picture-in-Picture track offers a running audio/video commentary with the director, which also offers viewer access to additional ancillary programs (requires a Profile 1.1 player). A Second Screen feature that integrates laptops or iPads for additional supplemental content is also included on this release and is part of the Ringside With Director Shawn Levy. Featurettes and other programs include the following: Countdown To The Fight: The Charlie Kenton Story (sixteen minutes), Making Metal Valley (fourteen minutes), Building The Bots (six minutes) and Sugar Ray Leonard: Cornerman’s Champ (six minutes). Deleted And Extended Scenes With Director Introductions are also included. A Blooper Reel closes out the standard supplements. Disc two offers a DVD copy of the movie for those who are on the fence about making the upgrade to Blu-ray.

REAL STEEL is an entertaining and decidedly family friendly sci-fi flick. The Blu-ray presentation looks superb and sounds terrific.


Real Steel (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo) (2011)


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright 2012 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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