Customer Reviews: Apollo 13 - Collector's Edition
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on February 5, 2000
Others have remarked well enough on the virtues of _Apollo 13_ as a film. What makes the Special Edition DVD worth its purchase price, however, are the tons of extras that you get. The story of the making of _Apollo 13_ is at least as interesting, if nowhere near as harrowing, as the actual moonshot itself, and this DVD gives you hours of material to walk you through that process.
Anyone who's interested in filmmaking will be riveted by both the Ron Howard running film commentary and the hour-long "Making of" documentary. Perhaps even more intriguing is the Marilyn and Jim Lovell audio track, in which you get to hear how Lovell feels about Howard and Hanks made his movie. This is made all the more interesting and informative for the filmmaking student in that _Apollo 13_ wasn't just the retelling of Lovell's real-life experience, it's also the film version of his book. Getting his perspective both as narrative object and storyteller is fascinating, as are Marilyn's observations on Kathleen Quinlan's Academy-nominated performance.
Combine all this with the superb technical brilliance of the encoding here, and you've got a DVD that's entirely worth the surprisingly modest price.
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on April 15, 2010
First off, this is easily a five-star film. It's handsome, taut, and thoroughly engaging.

For picture and audio quality, this Blu-ray is obviously superior to prior releases. There is moderate film grain to the transfer, giving it a natural feel. The special effects (i.e. the launch sequence) receive the greatest benefit and the clearest visuals, but on the whole the film is beautifully rendered and, for these benefits, the Blu-ray is worth picking up.

I do concur, however, that this disc has some slight issues. It takes too long to load -- I timed it at roughly two minutes on my slim PS3. This is mildly annoying but comparable to other Universal and Disney releases. I was more annoyed that after waiting for the BD-Java to load, selecting "English," waiting for more loading, waiting for the menu to animate, and selecting the film that I was treated to a "social BLU" splash page asking me if I wanted my Facebook status updated. What aggravated me was that this admittedly brief interruption occurred after I had already selected to play the film, and it would seem that it will occur every time I choose to do so; it was an unwanted and, in my opinion, rather lame attempt to add "interactivity," if having your Blu-ray player post that you're watching a film on your Facebook wall can be considered as such. I would rather that this option could be turned off BEFORE I select to watch the film, and that this setting could be saved. Additionally, advertisements for other Universal products pop-up in the background of the menus, presumably for "shopping convenience" but really an irritating marketing gimmick. These so-called bonuses serve to make the general experience of navigating this disc feel very clunky.

Overall, the content in this package (which carries over most of the content from the last two-disc DVD) is fantastic, but the design of the disc's menus and bonuses suffers from baffling and annoying gimmicks that are mildly aggravating but hardly ruin the experience; you'll forget about the hiccups once the film starts and you're engrossed. If you are a fan of the film and have the necessary equipment to benefit from the technical improvements in this release, it is highly recommended.

But, Universal? In the future, either streamline your gimmicks or leave them off the disc. We purchase these to watch the films, not to update our social networks.

EDIT 3/15/12: If possible, disable your player's internet connection when playing this disc. Without streaming trailers and that other crap, this disc loads right up. HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you do so. Makes the experience much less bile-inducing.
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on May 16, 2004
"Failure is not an option!". So says mission-control director Gene Kranz, played by Ed Harris, as mission control devises a way to get the astronauts safely home. Although initially viewed as a disaster (explosion in spacecraft which forces cancellation the the moon-landing mission), in reality it is a story of success due to resourcefulness. The astronauts must return to earth and splash down safely with only enough electrical power to run a coffee pot.
Probably the best of director Ron Howard's movies, it is well acted by stars Tom Hanks (as Jim Lovell), Kevin Bacon (Jack Swigert), and Bill Paxton (Fred Haise) as the three space-bound astronauts, Gary Sinise (mission-bumped astronaut Ken Mattingly), Ed Harris (mission control Gene Kranz), and Kathleen Quinlan (Marilyn Lovell). The movie was nominated for 9 Oscars including best picture, writing, supporting actor (Harris), supporting actress (Quinlan), music, and visual effects, and won for editing and for sound.
There are a lot of special effects thoughout the movie, including the entirely-recreated lift-off sequence from a bird's-eye viewpoint. The weightlessness scenes were achieved by filming in a KC-135 airplane that did a series of parabolic climbs and dives, allowing about 25 seconds of filming at a time.
An exciting 220 minute movie about one of the most-watched successful rescues in history, the DVD contains a good "making of" documentary, a commentary by director Ron Howard, and another by Jim and Marilyn Lovell. "Bill Paxton's home movies" were never located, and the "comparison with NASA footage" and the "extensive exploration of special effects" were brief parts of the "making of", not separate items. Text-based production notes and cast/crew blurbs, and a trailer. Undocumented feature is the isolated score which plays in its entirety at the main menu (can skip forward, but not backward, however). The 2.35:1 wide-screen movie has 56 (!) chapters. Highly recommend for fans of any of the actors listed above, the space program, or adventures in general.
"With all due respect, sir, I believe this will be our finest hour" - Gene Kranz
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on December 3, 2011
This disc is the most anti-consumer user-hostile Blu-Ray (or DVD, for that matter) I have ever encountered. People should not have to skip through not 1, not 2, not 3 but FOUR(!!) previews to watch the movie they paid for. Not only that, but by the time you get to the main menu you'll be treated to - you guessed it - MORE ADVERTISING!!! What makes a bad situation even worse is all the other crap that you have to wade through to get to the movie. Here's what happens after you load the disc into your player:

*Progress (loading) indicator (For BD Live?)
*Animated Universal Pictures logo
*Notification that your player is "Loading a fresh preview from the internet"
*Preview 1
*Preview 2
*Preview 3
*Preview 4
*Menu asking you to select your language
*FBI Anti-piracy warning
*Disclaimer: "The views and opinions expressed in the interviews and/or commentaries are solely of the individuals..."
*MPAA rating
*Disclaimer: "Availability of network-related features subject to change..."
*Animated BD logo
*Apollo 13 Main menu (displaying ads for other Universal BD movies, the "ticker")

This is the kind of consumer-hostile design which turns people to download movies from the internet. When I load a movie into my player, I want to be taken directly to the main menu with a minimum of fuss. I paid for convenience and I didn't get it. Had I known this disc was authored this way, I would not have purchased it. Help discourage this kind of behavior by NOT purchasing this disc.
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on October 30, 2006
As someone who has been fascinated with space flight since childhood, and who well remembers the real Apollo 13 from his teenage years, I found this movie a fascinating reminder of history. It even includes clips from old TV newscasts.

There are only minor omissions and inaccuracies in the film. The first critical burn of the lunar module's descent engine, done some six hours after the explosion and designed to change the hybrid trajectory back into a free-return trajectory, is not shown at all. The lunar landing is portrayed as doomed when the decision was made to (irreversibly) shut off the remaining fuel cells in the (incorrect) supposition that the oxygen leak was originating from the fuel cells. In actuality, the lunar landing itself was doomed the moment the main Bus-B under volt occurred, indicating that the first fuel cell had died. (Mission rules forbid a lunar landing if only one fuel cell becomes inoperable, even if nothing else is wrong).

The movie captures the drama of ground control trying to figure out what went wrong. Simulations had allowed for the failure of one oxygen tank or perhaps one or at most two fuel cells, but no one imagined the loss of both main oxygen tanks and all three fuel cells, leaving the Odyssey itself with only several hours of remaining oxygen, water, and electricity. The initial belief was that a meteoroid must have hit the ship. This one-in-a-million possibility was soon discounted, and the real culprit was later identified: A short circuit inside an oxygen tank leading to a fire, followed by an explosion that not only shattered the oxygen tank, but also ripped off the entire side off of the service module and which punctured the remaining main oxygen tank. With no oxygen to support them, all three fuel cells started dying.

The movie captures the decision not to attempt to fire the service module engine in order to reverse the flight direction in a deep-space abort. But this lengthened the return trip and led to the realization that the lunar module had insufficient electricity and other consumables to support the crew of three all the way back home. This led to the decision to power everything down--a strategy that worked, just barely.

The severe cold aboard the ship, a secondary consequence of the powering down of all nonessential equipment, is well illustrated. The astronauts had a frosty breath. Some got urinary infections. They had a hard time getting comfortable enough to sleep.

The astronauts were slowly being poisoned by their own carbon dioxide. This was solved by the jury-rigging of the lithium hydroxide "scrubbers" of the command module to get them to fit into the circulation system of the lunar module.

The astronauts were not out of the woods even when they were finally close enough to earth for re-entry. The movie shows the remaining danger points: Could the electronics of the command module be functionally revived in spite of the dormancy and the cold? Did the heat shield of the command module get cracked during the explosion? Could the cold have immobilized the thrusters, making it impossible to orient and steer the command module during re-entry? And, finally, is it possible that the parachutes had been frozen together by the cold? For those unfamiliar with the ending, I will not reveal it in order to maintain the suspense for the reader who wants it.
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VINE VOICEon April 14, 2010
Bought this yesterday and was looking forward to seeing it in hi-def. This is one of my all time favourite movies.
I've never had a problem with blu-ray movies before watching them or loading them on my Playstation 3 however Universal have come up with some new technlogy which is just so annoying that it's almost not worth the purchase.
After you insert the disc, you'd expect that it would load in a matter of seconds, like any other blu-ray. Not so with this one. It actually goes out onto the web and hooks up with the Universal website.
After it finally loads (roughly 3-4 minutes), when scrolling through the screens you get adverts for other Universal movies popping into the menus which is really annoying.
If you decide to pause the movie, after a few seconds, the Universal logo will appear. Pressing the pause button again or the play button on the Playstation remote does not restart the movie. I finally found that you have to press the "top menu" button to get the movie to resume.
The movie itself is extremely good and works very well in hi-def (some shots, especially of archived news footage does appear a bit grainy but that's not the movies fault) and there are some very good extras on the disc (the making of presentation is definately worth watching).
Overall an excellent movie totally ruined by Universal. I now have serious doubts as to whether I'll be purchasing any other Universal movie on Blu Ray again.
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on February 25, 1999
Everyone knows that Apollo 13 is a well written and directed movie (Ronny Howard). What everyone may not know is that the DTS audio track transfer from the Video master to the DVD is excellent. With nice speakers and a subwoofer, DTS makes this movie worth the price. AC-3, having to compress the audio more than DTS on the DVD disc, the Dolby Digital just doesn't sound as good. Period. The rumbles of the lift-off are clean and tight - they are not just a low "buzz" or vibration. The high's in the dialog are much crisper and give the audience the sense they are sitting right there next to Tom Hanks and Kevin Bacon. DTS does a much better job with the surround channels as well. What moves around the rear with AC-3 Dolby Digital, REALLY moves around the room with DTS. Transitions are smoother and the sound "flows" around you. The one problem? The cheapest DTS decoder (needed to watch DTS DVD's) is a Technics for 300 bucks. I say that the DTS decoder and the DTS movies by Amazon are well worth the money for even the small home theater guru.
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Based on the true story of the astronauts that flew a mission to the moon, "Apollo 13" documents the disaster that almost caused these three men to be forever lost. During their flight the part of the ship exploded in space threatening to maroon the crew 205,500 miles away from home in the hostile vacuum surrounding them. Commanded by space veteran (he had circled the moon on Apollo 8) Jim Lovell, the mission had a string of disasters occur during their flight. Originally slated for Apollo 14, the crew was moved up in the rotation when Alan Shepard developed a raging ear infection. Then the crew's original pilot Ken Mattingly (Gary Sinise) who had trained and worked with them from the beginning tested positive for exposure to the German measles and was replaced by back up pilot Jack Swigert (Kevin Bacon). Fred Haise (Bill Paxton) became ill during the flight becoming dehydrated and running a high fever. As the situation worsened in space, tensions ran high between Lovell, Haise and Swigert as Haise initially blamed Swigert for the accident, questioned his piloting skills and butted heads over their situation. Scrambling on the ground Mission Control lead by Gene Kranz (Ed Harris) kept running into obstacles to help the crew return safely at home. The flight was met by indifference from the fickle media as the drama of the moon landing had petered out after the launch and successful landing of Apollo 11 and 12. While NASA did try to jazz up the Apollo program with more fascinating scientific experiments for the crew, funds began to dwindle and interest waned as the public became fixated on problems at home. This apathy was reflected in the complete disinterest of the public until the crew's life was in peril. A dramatic, powerful docudrama with riveting direction by Ron Howard ("A Beautiful Mind"), great acting by Hanks, Paxton, Sinise, Bacon and Kathleen Quinlan, "Apollo 13" continues to resonate particularly in light of the disasters that have afflicted the Space Shuttle Program and subsequent loss of human life despite all the safety measures NASA has taken over the years. "Apollo 13" reminds us that despite the appearance of routine of these types of missions, they are far from routine and represent significant risk to the lives of those brave men and women who fly into space.

A sharp, vivid transfer with robust colors and deep, dark blacks are a highlight of this terrific transfer. Honestly, the previous edition looked just as sharp and just as good. With the exception of some minor digital blemishes, there's not a huge difference between the 10th anniversary edition and its older brother. This edition, like the previous one, sports an active surround mix that situates you in the Mission Control and pulls you into the vacuum of space. Unfortunately, packing the original extras on the first disc sacrifices some of the higher resolution image quality by taking up additional disc space. Essentially, disc one IS the same release as the first edition (with a couple of extras deleted) but with a digitally remastered picture (although it's my guess it's still from the same high resolution source as the first edition).

The resolution on "Apollo 13: The Image Experience" which occupies the second disc likewise looks terrific with slightly better definition perhaps because it was intended for a much larger screen originally. The sound for the Imax edition features an extremely active DTS mix that sounds slightly fuller and with improved depth than the 5.1 mix on the first disc. Again, packing the other extras on disc two is nice but sacrifices some of the available bit space which may have degraded the picture quality slightly.

Missing from this edition are Bill Paxton's behind-the-scenes home movies showing his time in space school. Also missing are the extra that focused on the visual effects, comparison of the movie's key sequences to real NASA footage. Still here are the original two commentary tracks by director Ron Howard and astronaut Jim Lovell with his wife Marilyn. There are the production notes from the previous edition as well as the original theatrical trailer. Luckily, the exceptional documentary "Lost Moon: The Triumph of Apollo 13" still appears on disc one. It's a great glimpse into the real events that inspired the movie but also focuses much more on the behind-the-scenes making of the movie. Ron Howard's comments (made to him by the commander of Apollo 15) that by the time we went back to the moon (the prediction is that we'll probably not go back for more than a century) everyone would have forgotten what really happened spurred him on to be as accurate as possible in making this terrific docudrama. Seeing the actors in zero g on the "vomit comet" is a blast. Many of the weightless sequences were shot in zero g on an airplane that helps astronauts train for missions.

"Conquering Space: The Moon and Beyond" provides a nice 45 minute summary of the space race and what prompted America to go to the moon in the first place. Opening with President John F. Kennedy's commitment to space exploration in vintage footage from 1961, the documentary touches on the highlights of the space race including footage of the first Soviet spaceships and the impact that the launch of Sputnik had on the world. When the United States jumped into the space race, the US failed initially to even get their rockets off the launch pad. These spectacular failures embarrassed the United States. Featuring interviews with astronauts Jim Lovell, Shannon Lucid, Roger Crouch and others the documentary does a nice job of summarizing both the successes and disasters that dogged both the United States and the Soviet Union during the competition to escape a foothold on the moon. It's a nice compliment to the film.

Since the acquisition of Universal by NBC, we've seen a lot more tie-in's between the Network and the studio. "Lucky 13: The Astronauts Story" is pulled from an episode of "Dateline" hosted by John Scott that came out around the same time as the release of the film. Again, there are interviews with Lovell and his wife. Featuring actual NASA footage from the Apollo 13 mission, it brings the reality of what occurred home. Interestingly, the movie tour of the space capsule actually has been seen by more people than saw the real broadcast.

The two commentary tracks provide a wealth of information and most of it is more than the trivial variety like "where this was shot" info we've become accustomed to hearing. We learn, for example, that the crawler seen when the spacecraft is being transported is the REAL deal with Ron Howard driving it. Kevin Bacon had one of the most daunting tasks as everyone else associated with Apollo 13 is alive but Swiggert passed away over a decade ago. So Bacon had to interview people who knew him and come up with a portrayal based on other people's information. Swiggert actually wrote many of the safety procedures prior to launch that ironically ended up being used to help save the Apollo 13 crew. Jim Lovell announced his retirement at the press conference after Apollo 13 because he knew he had little chance of commanding another mission with so many people behind him in the program.

The Lovell's commentary track is particularly revealing about what occurred in real life. For example, Howard came up with the subplot of Swigert coming onboard at the last minute and the unease of Lovell and Haise felt at having Swigert come onboard at the last minute. Evidently the nightmare that Marilyn Lovell had about the ship having an accident was probably caused because she watched the movie "Marooned" just prior to the flight. Marilyn Lovell points out the little mannerisms that Hanks did pick up from spending time with Jim Lovell. Lovell also points out that there were really two explosions. The first was the one they heard, the second they didn't hear but was detectable by NASA when the liquid oxygen began to bleed out into space.

A great docudrama gets another deluxe treatment on DVD. While I don't question that "Apollo 13" deserves it, it's too soon after the initial release to have this reissued again. Nevertheless, fans of the movie may want to upgrade this for the inclusion of the IMAX version of the film and the additional two documentaries included on disc two. Other than that, this is, essentially, the same release albeit with a nice, new digital master. Is the picture any better than the previous release? It's not noticeably different that I can tell.
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on November 2, 2006
Universal is consistently releasing top quality HD releases and Apollo 13 is no exception. The clarity is wonderful, the sound is full and powerful. You already know the merits of the film. So rest assured, this HD-DVD puts all home video releases of this film in the dust!
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on April 14, 2010
Apollo 13 is one of my favorite movies, probably due to having grown up during the space race with the Soviet Union. I own two other copies of Apollo 13, but wanted it on Blu-Ray. Unfortunately, they're apparently putting too much stuff on Blu-Ray discs these days (BD-Live, interviews, extras, every language spoken on Earth, etc.), which makes this movie almost impossible to start. I note that another reviewer just sent his back because he couldn't get it to work without an internet connection to his player -- while I DO have an internet connection, my guess is that if he had just waited for about ten minutes to get through all of the junk he'd probably have been able to watch the movie -- it just says that SOME features will not work without a connection. My guess? The thing is just massively overloaded with junk. I timed it, and if I just let it run through all the previews, I then get to the language screen in about five minutes. If I push enter for English, it goes back into load mode, and in another two to three minutes you get the screen where you can play the movie.

I caution you, however: If you push ANYTHING ELSE other than play, it may very well send you into a blank screen loading mode again. I tried it again today, wondering if it was just something I had done wrong, but before the movie started I had begun talking to myself (never a good sign) and just took the thing out of my player, probably never to be tried again. But who knows -- if I had just let it keep running it might have started the movie by NEXT YEAR'S anniversary of the launch of Apollo 13 (April 13, which I assume is why I got it on that day). Perhaps they should have sent it a week earlier, and I could have had a pizza, some popcorn, party hats and have been all set to watch it when it finally fired up on the 13th.

Once you DO get to the movie -- it's fine. The picture quality is clear and vivid. If getting a probably nicer copy of Apollo 13 offsets the frustration level of the extraneous stuff on the disc is really up to the individual. Consider yourselves forewarned so that you'll know what to expect when you fire up this disc.
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