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REGION FREE COMEDY DOUBLE BILL BLU RAY REVIEW.
on 23 December 2014
I just love these Warner double feature American import Blu rays. Almost always budget priced, region free and featuring two movies that wouldn't necessarily have recieved standalone HD upgrades. This particular two-fer release concerns comedy and in particular Chevy Chase. What you get are two mid tier Chase vehicles in the form of the 1988 fish out of water flick Funny Farm and John Landis' cold war comedy spoof Spies Like Us. Out of the two Funny Farm is the weaker production. Chase stars as Andy Farmer, a hot shot sports journalist from The Big Apple who quits his high flying job so that he can settle down in the country with his wife and concentrate on writing a novel. As to be expected situations abound from local wildlife and dead bodies in the garden through to city hating locals, a sheriff who can't drive and has to take a cab everywhere and a maniacal drunk mailman. Funny Farm isn't a bad film but is one that doesent exploit the material as it should. Chase is the main source of the gags and it does feel at times as if he is carrying the whole show which is to be expected with no other real comedic egos on display. That said Funny Farm is good simple fun that may not be laugh out loud hilarious but does have its heart in the right place.
John Landis' globetrotting Spies Like Us comes across as both bigger in scope and budget while containing more of an air of silliness with often juvenile but funny humour. Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd star as two low level government employees who manage to flunk an intelligence test only to recieve what they are led to believe is a promotion to become undercover spies. Because of their ineptitude little do they know the powers at be have labeled them as expendable and instead of spies they are actually decoys to throw the KGB of the scent of the real agents who have a secret mission deep in the mountains of Russia involving a large nuclear missile pointed at the good old US of A. With a little bit of road movie, a chunk of James Bond and a whole lot of Dr. Strangelove, Spies Like Us remains constantly entertaining thanks mainly to the chemistry between the two likeable leads as they fight their way through mishap after mishap. Also watch out for a blink and you'll miss him appearance from the late Bob Hope "just playing through!!"
Both films make their 1080p debuts with VC-1 encodes framed at 1.78:1. Neither are particular mind blowing but of the two Funny Farm is the better looking movie. As to be expected from a late 80s comedy this is pretty soft but there is no doubt that this is an HD transfer. Close ups reveal details that would have been lost on DVD and colours are actually quite nice especially of the pretty countryside around the town of Red Bud. Black levels and contrast are mostly fine and the print is clean and damage free.
Unfortunately for Spies Like Us the results aren't quite so good. Far softer than Funny Farm, some segments don't always look HD with a rather chunky, grainy and dupey appearance with horribly dark contrast. Colours can be a mixed bag too with some rather pink flesh tones but then this never had that much of an exciting palette especially if you consider large portions of this were shot in deserts and around snow, hardly the most flamboyantly colourful locations in the world. Its not all completely bad and despite the flaws inherent in this Blu ray the image is the best I have ever seen this movie look and it does handle the often scenic locations and grain field well enough.
Both films in this set come equipped with two channel interpretations of their original Dolby Stereo mixes presented here in lossless DTS-HD Master 2.0. Far more bombastic than Funny Farm in terms of sound design, Spies Like Us is the most active of the two with plenty of stereo width across the front of the soundstage. The rear channels chimed in reasonably well considering this was a stereo only mix and LFE was heard on a handful of occasions during the louder action oriented scenes. The music too got a healthy boost of uncompressed magic and dialogue was almost always clear and precise. Funny Farm is a far more sedate movie and this comes across in the sound design. The stereo track here is very front heavy with little to no rear channel involvement and only mild separations across the front of the soundstage. Apart from a handful of louder passages such as the arrival of the mailman or collapsing bridge the subwoofer may as well be out of use but to the tracks credit dialogue is handled well which is essential for this far more talky movie and when called upon the lossless handles the musical interludes well. For the record I played both of these back utilising a DTS NEO 6 decoder as I always do for stereo only mixes.
Unfortunately Warner didn't see it fit to include any additional material, not even a theatrical trailer. But this is fine considering how cheap these sets are and the fact that both movies come housed on one Blu ray disc.
Neither of these are movies that say jump out and buy me on Blu ray but if watched back to back together as a twosome make an extremely enjoyable evening in. Both are presented in full HD 1080p with mixed results outlined above and both contain solid lossless audio tracks. Well worth a look if your a Chevy Chase fan or just enjoy zany American 80s comedies. Please note that these are currently unavailable on Blu ray in the UK and are completely region free meaning they will play on all Blu ray machines worldwide.