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November 26, 2007
Close Encounters of the Third Kind - Blu-Ray Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
16/3/197828/11/2007Sony PicturesSteven Spielberg
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4Dolby TrueHD 5.1
PGRichard Dreyfuss

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Look to the skies...
It's the movie that made people afraid to stop at train crossings. It proved to the world that Steven Spielberg wasn't a one-hit wonder with Jaws. It is the movie that re-defined what alien encounter movies were all about. It demonstrated that aliens encounters don't have to result in a body count larger then our foreign debt. No, this movie is something quite different. Close Encounters of the Third Kind is something special and is one of the most popular movies ever put to celluloid. Indeed it's rating of 7.8/10 on IMDB from over 40,000 votes is one indication of not only the pictures overall quality, but also its popularity.

Richard Dreyfuss stars as cable work Roy Neary, who along with several other stunned bystanders experience a close encounter of the first kind - witnessing UFO's soaring across the sky. After this life-changing event, the inexplicable vision of a strange mountain-life formation haunts him. He becomes obsessed with discovering what it represents, much to the dismay of his wife an family. Meanwhile bizarre occurrences are happening around the world. Government agents have close encounters of the second kind - discovering physical evidence of extraterrestrial visitors of a lost fighter aircraft from World War II and a stranded military ship that disappeared decades earlier only to suddenly reappear in unusual places. Roy continues to chase his vision to a remote area where he and the agents follow the clues that have drawn them to reach a site where they will have a close encounter of the third kind - contact.

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Tense, dramatic, scary - it all applies.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind is, without a doubt, one of the greatest movies ever made, and it still holds up remarkably well today. Thirty years after release the special effects, storyline, acting, cinematography and emotional peaks and troughs still hold up. Indeed anyone who has never experienced this movie is in for one of the greatest cinematic experiences of all time. Richard Dreyfuss is perfect as a man obsessed with what he has seen, and the visions he is having. Spielberg gets most of his frights from a build-up of tension and suspense rather then creatures leaping out at you from all angles. The scene with Roy in the car at the train crossing is one etched in the minds of millions of movie goers, while the aliens surrounding, and trying to get into, the house is about a terrifying as a movie can get. The way in which the movie builds the tension from the opening frames through to the climax at Devil's Tower is brilliant. Adding to the raw emotion in the movie is the brilliant music score composed by (now) long time collaborator to Steven Spielberg, John Williams. Music is kept to a haunting minimum throughout much of the movie and it works superbly. The visual effects are superb, and still hold up pretty well even today.

This Blu-Ray disc is impressive in that it also includes three versions of the movie - the Original Theatrical release from 1977 (1978 in Australia), the Special Edition (1980) and the Director's Cut (1998). Each is presented on the single 50GB disc using seamless branching, and seamless it is with not a hint of a pause or a judder.

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High fives all round, perhaps.
As we previously mentioned this disc contains three versions of the movie - Original Version (2:14:44), Special Edition (2:12:29), and the Director's Cut (2:17:14). When the original Colombia Pictures logo came up at the very start of the movie I was very concerned. It was grainy, dirty and wasn't as sharp as I would have expected. Fortunately this seems to be the only major blemish in an otherwise outstanding presentation. Now one must remember that this movie is over 30 years old now and given the amount of time one does expect this movie to have a slightly grainy 'film' look then the overly processed movies we see today. Colours aren't as vibrant as newer movies, but it gives the picture a more natural tone. When the movie kicks in though it doesn't take too long to realise just how spectacular this transfer is. Indeed we would be quite comfortable in saying that this movie has probably never looked as good at home, or in cinemas.

I tell you what, Sony Pictures weren't mucking around with the audio on the Close Encounters of the Third Kind disc. The disc containts two options; DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Dolby TrueHD 5.1, and it must be said that both are simply brilliant. Now it will depend on your setup as to which will allow the better output. On the Playstation 3 we could, over optical connection, get a 1.5Mbps DTS audio track and 448kbps Dolby Digital audio track, however the PS3 will, over HDMI output the Dolby TrueHD track as a PCM track which is certainly the best option if you have a HDMI capable receiver. As always we are still waiting for Sony to either pass the DTSHD-MA as a bitstream out from the PS3 or decode it internally to PC (let's hope this is in the upcoming Firmware 2.0 or soon after!).

In terms of subtitles this disc is loaded. As well as English and English SDH the disc contains subtitles in 19 other languages. It is certainly one of the most complete subtitle packages we have ever seen and the subtitles perfectly match the dialogue on screen.

The bulk of the extras in this Blu-Ray edition can be found on the second disc. While many of these features appeared on the DVD release some time ago there is also new material here with most (the big exception being the "Making of" documentary) being presented in high definition. Overall this is one of the most impressive compilations of extras ever.

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The transfer has no problems in dark scenes.
View From Above:

    So the first big extra is on the actual movie disc. This is called "View from Above". This rather unique feature actually signals during each of the three versions of the movie when new scenes have been added, or other ones removed from other versions of the movies. Admittedly there isn't a lot of difference between each film but it's nice to see what has been cut. Even the longest movie, the Directors Cut, has had some scenes removed from the Original Theatrical and Special Editions.

Steven Spielberg: 30 Years of Close Encounters (21:22/HD):

    A fantastic retrospective look at the making of the movie by Steven Spielberg which was recorded very recently. In this feature he discusses topics including financing, researching, filming, casting, getting the title approved, creating the different versions and even his thoughts on the movie today. Steven Spielberg is always fascinating to listen to or see in interviews and this is no exception.

The Making of Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1:41:48):

    Presented in Standard Definition (with a bitrate that often goes well above the 10Mbps DVD limit mind you) this is a lengthy and fascinating look at the creation of this movie with interviews with Steven Spielberg as well as the cast and crew. Owners of the DVD set would have seen this documentary in the previous release, but its inclusion here, in widescreen no less, is certainly appreciated. This is one of the most well produced and shot documentaries ever seen on a DVD or Blu-Ray release. Every detail is covered from casting to filming and post production.

Watch The Skies (5:54/HD):

    Another behind the scenes documentary, but this is from 1977. It's actually more of an overview of the movie then behind the scenes documentary, but is a great inclusion due to its age. Impressively the documentary is presented in high definition using MPEG-2 compression and 192kbps Stereo Sound.

Deleted Scenes (19:20):

    Nine Deleted Scenes with a total runtime of around 19 minutes. Some of these scenes are extended versions of what appeared in the final movies, some weren't completed in their filming and the quality is variable. Still their inclusion is most welcome as there is some great information which contribute to the story. Each clip is encoded in MPEG-2 with a bitrate often above DVD's 10Mbps with 192kbps Dolby Stereo sound.

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The Mothership has landed.
Explorations: Storyboard Comparison (HD)

    A split screen view of the final film and the storyboards used during the production. Five lengthy scenes are shown in total.

Explorations: Storyboard Galleries (HD)

    Two end sequences are shown in storyboard form in HD.

Explorations: Location Scouting Pictures, Mothership Drawings by Ralph McQuarrie, Behind the Scenes, Production Team, Portrait Gallery, Marketing: Original Theatrical Release, Special Edition (HD)

    Hundreds of production still taken during the filming of Close Encounters. The images range from concept art, publicity photos, on-set photos, to marketing images.

Original Trailers (HD)

    Trailers for the Original version, special edition and the Ultimate Edition. Each is presented in High Definition.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind is one of the greatest movies ever made. The inclusion of all three versions on this Blu-Ray disc is a massive bonus to movie fans and the video and audio presentation, while dated, is probably as good as this movie has ever looked. Sony know this was a big release for the Blu-Ray format and they have come up with the goods on all counts - and it has been released at a bargain price too! Fantastic, essential, definitive.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Sony Pictures. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.