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Joe Johnston
Billy Campbell, Jennifer Connelly, Alan Arkin, Timothy Dalton, Paul Sorvino , Terry O'Quinn, Ed Lauter
Writing Credits:
Dave Stevens (graphic novel, "The Rocketeer"), Danny Bilson (and story), Paul De Meo (and story), William Dear (story)

Three years before the United States declares war, Cliff Secord leads America's first battle against the Nazis.

The discovery of a top-secret jetpack hurls test pilot Cliff Secord into a daring adventure of mystery, suspense and intrigue! Cliff encounters as assortment of ruthless villains, led by a Hollywood screen star who's a secret Nazi spy (Timothy Dalton). With the help of his actress girlfriend, the young pilot battles enormous odds to defeat his foes, who are anxious to use the device in an evil plan to rule the world! The dangerous misson transforms the ordinary young man into an extraordinary hero!

Box Office:
$40 million.
Opening Weekend
$9.600 million on 1616 screens.
Domestic Gross
$46.704 million.

Rated PG

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby Digital 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 109 min.
Price: $26.99
Release Date: 12/13/2011

• Trailer


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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The Rocketeer [Blu-Ray] (1991)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 6, 2011)

After Batman cleaned up at the box office in 1989, Hollywood rushed to knock out more films about superheroes. Some were good, some were bad, but none remotely approached the success seen by the Caped Crusader.

Disney's first attempt to get some of those Bat-dollars occurred in 1990 with the much-ballyhooed release of Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy. While not a complete rip-off of Batman, Beatty clearly had taken in quite a few screenings of that hit and the similarities were strong. Not so at the box office, though, as Tracy made a respectable amount of money but nothing special.

Disney took another approach the following year with 1991ís The Rocketeer. This film offered a lighter, breezier approach to the comic book genre and tried harder to recapture the spirit of comics from the medium's 1940s "Golden Age".

In that, it succeeded, but it didn't make a dent at the box office. $46 million for a big-time summer release was pretty weak even in 1991, and The Rocketeer died a quick theatrical death.

All that is too bad, for The Rocketeer really is a fun little movie. It provides a very nice balance of thrills, romance and laughs and wraps it up in a spiffy package that makes for an entertaining experience.

Director Joe Johnston originally made his name in Hollywood in the visual field, with films such as Star Wars to his credit. He retains that eye for visual flair and it works well in Rocketeer; he does a good job of creating a stylized version of 1930s-era California and he generally gives the film an effectively dashing look. As a director, he can be guilty of letting the story plod along at times, but for the most part The Rocketeer cruises at a snappy pace.

As our lead characters, Bill Campbell and Jennifer Connelly are decent but unspectacular. Both lack range and depth in their roles, but Campbell nicely conveys the "gee-whiz" heroism of his character, and Connelly always makes for a lovely presence. Both characters are pretty shallow - Connelly's Jenny seems especially poorly-developed - but the actors make them likable.

One big boost for The Rocketeer comes from its terrific supporting cast. After playing James Bond a couple of times, Timothy Dalton takes on an equally dashing but much more sinister character in Errol Flynn clone Neville Sinclair. Dalton is wonderful in the part, as he chews the scenery throughout the film; he makes Sinclair a suitably larger-than-life presence.

Also excellent is Alan Arkin, who plays Peevy, the brains behind Cliff "The Rocketeer" Secord's little operation. Arkin usually demonstrates a grounded quality that makes his characters work, and Peevy is no exception. He also gets some of the script's best lines, which he delivers with characteristic dryness.

The Rocketeer isn't a classic, but it doesn't aspire to be. All it purports to offer is a fun and escapist piece of entertainment, and it delivers on all counts.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus D-

The Rocketeer appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Across the board, the transfer looked consistently good.

Almost all shots exhibited nice definition. A few scenes seemed a smidgen soft, but those were minor inconveniences. The majority of the flick provided nice delineation and accuracy. I saw no signs of jaggies or shimmering, and edge haloes werenít a factor. Source flaws also failed to appear, as the movie remained clean and fresh.

Like many period flicks, this one opted for a fairly sepia feel. That reduced the potential pizzazz of its colors, but the hues still showed nice range and vivacity. Blacks were dark and tight, while shadows seemed fine; low-light shots could be a wee bit mushy, but not to a significant degree. In the end, this was a solid presentation.

I also felt pleased with the filmís DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. The forward soundstage was nicely broad and well-defined, with a lot of audio that emanated from the side channels and some excellent panning as well. The rears also seemed pretty active; they generally reinforced the music and effects, and a few split surround effects also popped up back there. The surrounds added a lot of life to the mix and gave us an involving, active setting.

Audio quality seemed good. Dialogue sounded reasonably natural and clear, with no intelligibility problems; lines could be a little stiff at times, but they were usually fine. Music appeared bright and vivid, with nice range and heft. Effects were also fairly lively; they showed their age on occasion but usually seemed distinctive and without substantial distortion. I had no real complaints about this track, as it held up quite well over the last 20 years.

How did the picture and sound of this Blu-Ray compare with those of the original DVD from 1999? Unfortunately, I no longer own that disc and I couldnít find a rental for comparison purposes. However, I believe that the Blu-ray offers a radical step-up in terms of picture. Back in 1999, I reviewed DVDs on a 27-inch 4X3 TV, and even on that rig, the Rocketeer DVD looked awful. I wish I couldíve found a rental because Iím curious to see how terrible that non-anamorphic image would look on a 50-inch widescreen set.

My guess? Really, really terrible, so I think thereís little chance the Blu-ray doesnít blow away the DVD in terms of quality. Audio is probably closer, though; my surround rig isnít much different now than it was then, with the main exception being the lossless audio I can access now. The Blu-rayís DTS-HD audio likely offers a smoother, richer experience, but I doubt itís a tremendous upgrade, as the old DVD already sounded pretty good. Itís the visuals that get the gigantic boost here.

Unfortunately, youíll find no new extras here. The DVD only included a trailer, and that continues to be the sole supplement on Blu-ray. That will be a big disappointment for fans; the studio had 12 years to create some bonus materials and couldnít do so?

I liked The Rocketeer. It's a fun movie that neatly captures the spirit of superheroes from the Golden Age of comic books. The Blu-ray delivers very good picture and audio but lacks substantial supplements. Thatís too bad, and it makes a recommendation more difficult; with a list price of about $27, the Blu-ray is rather expensive for a bare bones release. Nonetheless, the flick looks and sounds so nice that I suspect fans will want to bite the monetary bullet and buy this one.

Viewer Film Ratings: 5 Stars Number of Votes: 6
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