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Much like it's predecessor, BLADE II ($30) is an action movie wrapped up in the trappings of the horror genre. Of course, this is not a bad thing since BLADE II kicks some serious booty and proves to be high-energy entertainment. The movie is non-stop action Rollercoaster that features beautifully choreographed martial arts; full throttle stunts and some very cool CGI work. In BLADE II, Wesley Snipes returns to the role of the half-vampire comic book character named Blade, who is called "The Daywalker" because of his ability to exist in sunlight. Although Blade remains on his crusade to exterminate all vampires, BLADE II opens with Blade's rescue of his mentor Abraham Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), who has been kept in stasis by the creatures he despises.

After curing Whistler of his vampiric infection, Blade is approached by representatives of the vampire hierarchy, who wish to enlist his help against a new common enemy that will exterminate both humans and vampires alike. As it turns out, a new strain mutant super-vampire called Reapers has suddenly arisen. The Reapers have begun feeding on their fellow vampires are increasing their own numbers exponentially. Unfortunately, the Reapers will eventually run out of other vampires to feed upon, turning to humans as their new source of sustenance. This forces Blade to form an uneasy alliance with a team of commando vampires, who were originally in training to exterminate The Daywalker himself. The cast of BLADE II also features Norman Reedus, Leonor Varela, Ron Perlman, Luke Goss, Daz Crawford, Matt Schulze, Donnie Yen, Karel Roden, Danny John-Jules and Thomas Kretschmann.

New Line Home Entertainment has made BLADE II available on DVD in 1.85:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. This being a brand new big budget movie and a New Line Platinum Series title, it should come as no surprise that BLADE II is an absolutely gorgeous looking DVD. Of course, considering that BLADE II features incredibly dark and stylized cinematography, getting the DVD to look this good had to require Herculean effort, so my hat is off to the folk's in New Line's DVD mastering department.

The image is impressive, appearing quite sharp and highly detailed. Additionally, shadow detail is exemplary, especially during the darkest sewer-bound sequences, in which the characters black costumes remain distinctive from dark backgrounds. Colors are strongly rendered, especially the reds, without a hint of noise or smearing. As I've indicated, black are dead on perfect, whites are pure and contrast bounces between smooth and stylistically harsh. The film element used for the transfer displays very few blemishes, although the darkness of the cinematography did introduce noticeable grain at various points during the course of the movie. First rate dual layer authoring keeps digital compression artifacts hidden in the shadows.

BLADE II features 5.1 channel soundtracks in both the Dolby Digital and DTS flavors. It should also be noted that both are EX and ES encoded for 6.1 channel playback, should one's audio equipment offer those options. Okay, let's not pull any punches about the sound mix- it's demonstration quality all the way. You want to show off your sound system, then pop BLADE II into your DVD player and crank up the volume until something explodes, or the neighbors call the police. The mix is highly aggressive and renders each sound with astonishing clarity and detail. Sound effects pan effortlessly between channels, yet almost seem to be doing back flips as the wiz around the highly cohesive sound field. There is almost always an enormous amount of activity in the sound mix, yet the film's dialogue is always cleanly rendered with excellent intelligibility. The bass channel is guaranteed to rock you world, or at the very least your entire house. Additionally, the film's score and source music are reproduced with maximum fidelity and genuine sonic distinctiveness. An English Dolby Surround soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD’s stylish interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental features, which have been spread across two DVDs. Disc one features two separate audio commentaries, the first features director Guillermo del Toro and producer Peter Frankfurt, while the second includes writer David Goyer and star Wesley Snipes. Both commentaries have their points and make interesting listening for fans. An isolated score is also presented on disc one in Dolby Digital 5.1.

Disc two contains the main body of the supplements and requires dual layer authoring to contain all the features. Starting in the Production Workshop we find The Blood Pack, an eighty-three minute documentary on the making of BLADE II. Certainly not the fluffy PR program one usually gets on a DVD, this detailed look at the making of the movie is presented interactive fashion, with access to even more material whenever a special vampire glyph appears on the screen. Sequence Breakdowns actually takes six sequences from the movie and allows the viewer to disassemble them, revealing the nuts and bolts of each. More than an hour's worth of material can be found in Visual Effects, which looks at both the practical special effects, as well as things that could only be achieved through CGI. Notebooks offers a look at the director's personal notes, the script supervisor's notes and unfilmed script pages. The Art Gallery provides five subsections of material broken down into Sequence Concepts, Props & Weapons, Costume Design, Set Design, Character Design, and Storyboards.

About twenty-five minutes of material comprises the sixteen Deleted And Alternate Scenes that are present on the DVD. This feature has the option of director's commentary, as well as a video introduction. Promotional Material includes trailer for the XBOX and PS2 video game, theatrical press kit, theatrical trailer, theatrical teaser and a music video for the song Child of the Wild West by Cypress Hill and Roni Size. BLADE II is also DVD-ROM enabled, offering the script-to-screen option of looking at the screenplay, as well as the theatrical web site and other web links.

BLADE II is an action/horror tour de force that is certain to entertain the pants off genre buffs. On top of that, New Line has made BLADE II another killer DVD that offers astonishing audio/video quality and a wealth of supplemental features that are actually worth experiencing. This is a must have DVD for action fans, horror aficionados or anyone that wants the latest demo quality DVD to show off what their home theater system can do.


Blade II - New Line Platinum Series (2002)


DVD reviews are Copyright 2002 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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