Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Lethal Weapon 2 (1989)

Lethal Weapon 2Okay, let me start by saying you're not going to get any reviews on any of these three movies from me. Anyone who lived through the late 80's and early 90's already know the action greatness of these films that launched Mel Gibson from just being known as "Mad Max". No, my review is solely based on the new "Warner Bros. Triple Feature" packaging of the first three movies in the Lethal Weapon series.

On November 7th 2006, Warner Bros released 23 DVD titles from their library with three films in each case with varied subjects like trilogies, westerns, star's films, animals, and others. But probably the best bang for your buck is this Lethal Weapon set (maybe, maybe the second would be the camp-horror classic "It's Alive" trilogy, which I'll be getting as well). Yes it's true, SOME of these titles will bother most videophiles because quite a few titles offered in these triple features are FULL FRAME only when originally they may have been released in Widescreen when first appeared on DVD (see the Free Willy, Poison Ivy, and 15 Minutes triple features for those disapointments). But not, I repeat NOT, the Lethal Weapon one. This one has all three films presented in Widescreen with the original 5.1 AND DTS audio tracks. To put it simply, you get all three films as they were originally released separately on DVD back in 2000: the Director Cut editions, nothing has been changed whatsoever.

I've read videophiles say, "Well then, since it's THREE movies on only TWO discs, the compression has to be weaker". Wrong. Here's the disc set-up: Lethal Weapon's One and Two are on ONE disc, but it's a DVD-18, otherwise known as "double-sided/dual-layered". Both these movies were released in 2000 as DVD-9's (one-sided/dual-layered). Meaning, it's the EXACT compression as originally, but now you just have to "flip" the disc over to get to the other movie. And the second disc is exactly the same as before, with the Lethal Weapon 3 disc artwork on label & as a DVD-9. So you see, the only thing you really lose in buying this over the 2000 box set is two DVD cases and three discs instead of what you get now, two. I'm pretty sure that's the compression/set-up for all the Triple Feature titles, but Warner chose to instead press the Full Frame side on some of these titles instead of the Widescreen. Why, I have no idea.

Also a plus is the price. At Wal-Mart, I paid only $9.00 dollars for the Lethal Weapon triple feature. Even if I found all three titles separately in the "bargin-bin", I'd still pay at least $15.00 dollars for them. This version is cheaper, but just as good. And the normal suggested retail price is still cheaper than buying them apart, so this really is the way to go.

Finally, alot of fans of the Lethal Weapon series also have claimed "Why not include Lethal Weapon 4?". Well, One: all these releases are under the "Triple Feature" title, not a "Quadruple" one, Two: this one also features "The Unrated Director's Cuts" when 4 was released as "Theatrical Rated R", and Three: alot of people just didn't like 4 to begin with (not me, I thought bringing in Jet-Li really added to the franchise). So that should explain that!

So, if you're on the fence about buying this new "Lethal Weapon Triple Feature", I say do it...but only if you don't own the single Director Cut discs already...because you won't get anything new here. And look at each other Triple Feature title's back cover to see if it's Widescreen or not, and could you live with the Full Frame version of the other titles at such a low cost. So: 3 stars for the entire "Warner Bros. Triple Feature" line, 5 stars for the "Lethal Weapon" title from it.

After recently purchasing a PlayStation3 primarily for its functionality as a Blu-ray high-definition movie disc player, I was really looking forward to seeing some of my all-time favorite films on the new format. I mean, Blu-ray has 50gb of storage capacity on one side of a disc, enough room to pack a pristine 1080p video print and uncompressed 7.1 PCM audio, not to mention loads of extras... Having said that, Warner Home Video really let me down with their first issue of 1989's "Lethal Weapon 2" on Blu-ray disc. This is exactly what I feared they would do. Rather than do the job right the first time out, consumers are being setup for an obvious double-dip on several titles, including the first two "Lethal Weapon" films.

I grew up watching a VHS of "Lethal Weapon 2" with my older brother. He and I both loved this movie and used to watch it constantly, so naturally over the years we hope and pray for vastly improved ways to watch this 18-year old favorite. This Blu-ray disc is NOT that vast improvement we've been waiting for. From the opening frame, what we get is an image so jagged and grainy that it tempted me to insert my "Lethal Weapon 2: Director's Cut" DVD and see if the 480p image upconverted to 1080p was any better. So I did that, and while the DVD did make the Blu-ray presentation look good, that's not saying much. While there's a lot more detail and color depth in the Blu-ray version, there is also the huge distraction of seeing jagged edges around everything and everyone on screen. Just look at the opening frame of the film, where it says "A Time Warner Communications..." etc, and look at the text. Skip into the film a few chapters where we see a fax printing out of a fax machine, and look at the jagged edges around the printed page, everything on Murtaugh's desk... The list of flaws is endless, because it goes on throughout the entire film. Did anyone actually watch this master before sending it off to the Blu-ray duplication factory? The biggest reason why I would consider upgrading my DVD library to Blu-ray is for film-like images and detail, and this is one title where the studio needs to mint a brand new master from the ground-up if we're ever to see a better presentation. I have two words for Warner Bros: Lowry Digital. See what they did for James Bond? Enough said. Incidentally, after watching the film, I did some searching online to find out if other's have complained about this problem. I found out the technical reason for this is that Warner simply took an existing 1080i master and put it through a process of "vertical filtering" to convert it to 1080p. They did the same thing with the first "Lethal Weapon" film, along with at least five other Blu-ray transfers created from 1080i masters, so I'd be cautious of which early Warner titles you pick up on Blu-ray.

For this initial wave of Blu-ray titles, Warner also decided to do nothing with the format's audio capabilities. Instead, we just get the same Dolby Digital 5.1 track with slightly more detail, but not enough of an improvement to really notice. Where's the Dolby TrueHD or uncompressed 5.1 PCM audio tracks? On top of that, where are the audio commentaries? Come on, "Lethal Weapon 2" is a modern classic, surely deserving an audio commentary with Richard Donner, Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joe Pesci, etc. Instead, we get a French language track. Lame.

The extras are equally as unspectacular as the picture and sound. I just don't get how some films are treated to 2-3 re-releases over 10 years, yet the "Lethal Weapon" franchise goes by hugely overlooked in the Special Edition department.

Bottom-line: Don't buy it. I bought it, and I'm returning it. Hold out until Warner gets their act together, creates new 1080p masters from cleaner elements, and gives us a deluxe box set of all four films with new extras. They've proved they can do it with other films, so I'm guessing it's only a matter of time before Riggs & Murtaugh get their due respect on high-def disc.

Buy Lethal Weapon 2 (1989) Now

The previous reviewer is correct on all points, which prompted me to purchase this over the Director Cut Editions individually.

What makes it even better is the DTS audio tracks are full bitrate @1536Kb/s! Most, if not all, DTS DVD's are half-bit rate @768Kb/s (Saving Private Ryan, Jaws, Lord of the Rings Trilogy).

Getting three great films in one package, widescreen, and w/full bitrate DTS for $11 is a once in a life time deal.

Read Best Reviews of Lethal Weapon 2 (1989) Here

The tone is a bit lighter, but the "lethal" action continues unabated and non-stop as two of L.A.P.D.'s finest go after a South African consulate, dirty up to his neck in drugs and hiding behind diplomatic immunity in "Lethal Weapon 2," directed by Richard Donner and once again starring Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. Still crazy, but no longer suicidal, Riggs (Gibson) continues to hunt down the bad guys with partner Roger Murtaugh (Glover), and this time around they find their lives in danger when they get too close to the underhanded dealings of South African Arjen "Aryan" Rudd (Joss Ackland) and his band of thugs. Along the way, they're assigned to baby-sit an informant in a money laundering racket, Leo Getz (Joe Pesci); and Riggs at last finds someone, Rika Van Den Haas (Patsy Kensit), who helps ease the pain of his wife's death, while also discovering who was responsible for the automobile accident that took her life. As he did with the first "Lethal Weapon," Donner keeps it all moving along at a brisk pace, though he allows the intensity level to drop somewhat this time while infusing more humor. There's some "Stooges" on hand, and a bit that finds Murtaugh the target of some office gags after the debut of a television commercial, starring his daughter, Rianne (Traci Wolfe), for a product that takes him by surprise, but the real laughs come courtesy of Pesci, who's upbeat, manic characterization of Getz becomes a real scene stealer. Though serious at the core, this movie is more of a joy ride than the first, though there are moments of true menace and apprehension, as well as a sobering resolution involving one of the featured characters. Performance wise, Gibson is as charismatic as ever, by now settling comfortably into Riggs' skin while further exploring the more intricate details of the character's personality. Glover, too, manages to take Murtaugh to the next level, leaving no doubt as to who this guy is and what he's about, from his dedication to the job, to his even more stringent dedication to his family. And, most importantly, these two really click as a team, and Donner knows just how to bring out the best in them. What really raises the bar in this second installment, however, is the addition of Pesci, who makes Leo Getz a truly memorable character. Inserting him into the mix was a real stroke of genius, and Donner wisely uses him just enough to effectively lighten the mood and counteract the drama. The supporting cast includes Darlene Love (Trish), Derrick O'Connor (Adolph), Steve Kahan (Capt. Murphy), Mark Rolston (Hans) and Jenette Goldstein (Officer Meagan Shapiro). With snappy dialogue, plenty of action and some good guys to root for, "Lethal Weapon 2" is a thoroughly entertaining sequel that more than does justice to the original. Donner knows his territory, and his stars know their stuff and how to deliver it, and that's a "lethal" combination any way you look at it. And what's even more gratifying, is knowing that they didn't stop here; after all the action of the first two, you know there's another one waiting for you. At this point, do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars; "Lethal Weapon 3" is available, and it's yours for the asking.

Want Lethal Weapon 2 (1989) Discount?

The summer of 1989 was loaded with blockbusters, yet there was only one movie that I really wanted to see more than any other. In a season that saw such blockbusters as a new Indiana Jones movie, the latest Star Trek picture and Timothy Dalton's second outing as 007, the movie that held the most excitement for me was LETHAL WEAPON 2. Not because of Mel Gibson or Danny Glover or a particular love of the original, but because the love interest came in the very lovely shape of the lead singer of one of my favorite 1980s bands (Eighth Wonder) Patsy Kensit.

Truth be told though, there's not much to Kensit's role here, she is there simply as window dressing in the part of a secretary at the South African consulate. The movie as a whole though is a great, fun ride and is easily my favorite of the franchise.

The plot of the movie involves drug smuggling that is being conducted by officials at the South African consulate. Back in the 1980s South Africa was largely an international pariah because of its policy of apartheid. This made it easy to target them as the villains and their position as diplomats provides them with the protective vbeil of diplomatic immunity. As lead villain Arjen Rudd (played wonderfully by British actor Joss Ackland) comments when confronting the Los Angeles police officers "you could not even give me a parking ticket."

Starting with a chase through the night streets of Los Angeles, the movie races from one action sequence to another rarely pausing for breath in what is a classic cop buddy movie. Both Gibson and Glover make a great team and the interplay between them provides for some really subtle humor.

Which brings us to Joe Pesci, whose humor is about as subtle as a sledgehammer in the role of witness Leo Getz "Whatever you want Leo Getz get it!?" Pesci is at times annoying and at other times loveable, but he is always funny. Obviously he was also a hit with the audience too as he would return in the third and fourth movie of the series.

As a bonus for Kensit fans like myself in the scene where Leo is cleaning Riggs house you can hear Eighth Wonder's biggest hit "I'm not Scared" playing in the background. It's a shame they did not have Kensit's character survive until the end as they had originally planned, but I understand that her death leads Riggs to take the dramatic action that he does.

This is my favorite cop movie (alongside "Beverly Hills Cop" and an entertaining way to spend 114 minutes or 118 minutes if you go with the directors cut.

Scenes included in the directors cut includes Leo using numbers to remember a suspects address and Murtaugh getting some bad news from an auto-repair man after Riggs drives his new station wagon up against a guardrail. Pretty standard stuff that I felt did not add anything particularly.

The directors cut also comes with a making of featurette, cast and crew bios and a theatrical trailer. Here's hoping that one day soon Warner will put out an ultimate edition. Director Richard Donner has already done a great commentary track on the original Suoerman movie and a commentary track here would be welcome also.


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