Sparks (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Image Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Samuel Scott (26th March 2014).
The Film

***This is a technical review only. For reviews on the movie from various critics, we recommend visiting HERE.***

The city is under attack from a deadly killer. A master villain who goes by many names and has many faces... all of them deadly. But who is he... Kevin Sherwood, Ring Master Jesus, The Matanza Killer? There's one person who needs the answer so he can start saving lives and that is... Sparks.

When his parents are killed in a car crash fireball, Ian Sparks makes it his mission to fight crime. As a masked vigilante he burns with the desire for vengeance and soon discovers the dark side of heroism, where havoc is wreaked for profit and life is cheap. Sparks joins forces with a band of mysterious super heroes who operate in the shadows, but what they have in common is more than Sparks can imagine and the cost of finding the evil villain and uncovering the truth may be more than he can afford.

Starring two of Hollywood's rising stars Chase Williams (John Dies at the End) and Ashley Bell (The Last Exorcism), alongside a brilliant support cast of award winning actors Clancy Brown (The Shawshank Redemption), Clint Howard (How the Grinch Stole Christmas), Jake Busey (Starship Troopers) and William Katt (Carrie), Sparks delivers for high octane action fans.

Video

Image Entertainment have released "Sparks" onto Blu-ray in the United Kingdom, in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The transfer uses an AVC MPEG-4 encode and is 1080p. It does have a couple of minor flaws, but is generally a very solid effort.

"Sparks" is a film which uses similar styles to "Sin City" and "The Spirit", but on a much smaller budget. With this comes a lot of blacks being used, and for the most part, they are dark and inky, but there is some very mild crush here and there. Vivid colours really leap from the screen when they need to though, especially at 53:35 when a river of blood flows, and at 71:15, when we get a close-up of a hand covered in blood. Detail is generally strong, with scenes where harsh rain is prevalent showing great depth, and close-ups are good enough that you can even see some stretch marks on the arms of Ashley Bell at one point, even though she is a reasonable distance away. Unfortunately, I did spot some occasional aliasing, most notably at 38:40 at the bottom right of the screen, as well as some slight sharpening, but generally speaking, the transfer is free from major issues. There are no scratches or blemishes, and I didn't notice any compression problems.

The feature runs 98:21.

Audio

Image Entertainment have provided two audio options here:
- English DTS 5.1 (full bitrate)
- English LPCM 2.0 Stereo

Now, what a strange selection. We can view the film using lossless audio, but only in 2.0, or lossy audio in 5.1 using a full bit rate DTS track. What we should have got, is a lossless 5.1 option, especially when the DTS track is above average. As you can tell, I opted for the DTS option for my viewing, and although disappointed it wasn't HD Master Audio, it was still an immersive and impressive track. The sound field is well utilised, especially for the score by Jacob Shea, and environment effects make full use of the surrounds. From general chatter, to footsteps, all your usual effects are here showing good directionality and channel separation. The vast majority of the dialogue comes through the front channels, though, at times, the volume levels in contrast with the effects and score did feel a smidge high. Still, it was clear and concise at all times, and there are no problems such as drop outs, scratches or background hiss.

No subtitles are included.

*Note: The audio rating is based on how good the DTS track is, not on whether or not a lossless 5.1 track is included.

Extras

The extras start off with an audio commentary by producer/co-director Todd Burrows, executive producer/actor William Katt, writer/producer/co-director Christopher Folino. This is a solid track without any dead air, and the participants inform us of the origins of "Sparks", the problems they encountered whilst making the film (be it scheduling conflicts or budget concerns), and anecdotes from the set. Worth listening to, and as several of the commentators are also cast members we get a nice mix of technical and non-technical information. Would've been nice of Ashley Bell and Chase Williamson could have joined them though.

Next up, a "Behind the Scenes" featurette which is far too short at 3:40. It's actually surprising just how much green screen was used, and how good the special effects considering the budget. Several members of the cast and crew give sound bites, with William Katt the sole interviewee, but it's generally fluff PR material more than anything. A single watch piece.

The final extra of note is a Dave Hanson outtake which is only twenty two seconds long. Hanson plays Blasini, and the scene is not really an outtake. In fact, it's likely it was planned dialogue that was just trimmed down slightly for pacing.

On disc start-up, we do get some trailers for some other Image Entertainment releases:
- "Scavengers" (1:32)
- "Penthouse North" (1:30)
- "The Invoking" (1:11)

Overall

The Film: B- Video: B Audio: B Extras: C+ Overall: B-

 


DVD Compare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, and amazon.de.