HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Rocky Mountain Express
HTS Overall Score:85
Shout Factory has been ramping up their production of IMAX documentaries this year and has so far been cranking them out with some VERY nice looking 4K combo packs to enjoy. Considering the fact that these are IMAX shot documentaries, we’re sure to be in for a visual treat, but what about the stories? I had to review one of those “fishbowl” style documentary films many years ago and was left scratching my head on how to actually write anything about the 60 minute doc considering the fact that there really isn’t any STORY to tell. This time there’s a story, told by a single narrator for the whole 47 minutes, but just not a whole lot of one. We see the introduction of the Iron Horses (so to speak) back in the 1800’s and their inclusion into the Canadian transportation system. It works, it’s simple, and the cinematography is nothing short of breathtaking, however it feels a bit truncated due to the 45 minute runtime, and very simply like a retelling of some historical events rather than a fully engaging documentary.
Director Stephen Low tells the story of the Canadian Pacific Railway from its inception as just an idea around the turn of the 20th century. Using sweeping aerial photography combined with historical pictures as well as footage from a restored train, he creates a gorgeous looking picture that certainly keeps the audience engaged just from the visual stimulus alone. We get to see how the Canadian engineers struggled to find a viable pass through the rugged frontier, and even more rugged mountains along the eastern side of the continent. Then after that was FINALLY completed comes the arduous task of actually laying all of that track piece by piece, board by board.
Laying and building the railway was only part of the problem. With the heavy terrain and the nasty weather, the engineering feats and techniques used to get the railway built were nothing short of revolutionary. I’ve always loved trains, and grew up playing with them as a kid, but as I grow older I’m absolutely fascinated at all of the complexity that it took to actually get one of those iron behemoths movie and running 24/7. The track design used to get trains through some VERY nasty passes is incredibly brilliant, and the amount of labor and money that went into laying the tracks is nothing short of mind boggling, even in today’s economy.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=74769[/img]The problem with documentary is pretty singular. The problem is that it is just too short. There’s many a documentary that doesn’t need two plus hours of runtime and 45 minutes (ish) is more than enough time to get across the story. However this time I feel like we’re just reading the cliff notes and not actually getting enough meat if you know what I mean. There was probably a LOT more information that could have been fleshed out a bit and I, for one, would really have been interested to see Stephen Low go a little bit more in depth with a lot of the information he had. I’m not sure whether it was simply due to the fact that they were using a limited amount of footage (IMAX cameras are expensive to run) or what, but I sincerely feel a good 25 extra more minutes would have helped the film immensely.
For what it was, I was pleasantly surprised. There’s not a whole lot of meat on the bones so to speak, but the cinematography is absolutely stunning, and the use of photographs and live action simulation with one of the restored old trains is awe inspiring. It works both as a simple informative documentary as well as just a great demo material to pop on the screen as background noise at a get together or similar situation. Not to mention the awesome audio and video encode that Shout Factory pulled off.
Not Rated by the MPAA
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=74777[/img]Recorded using IMAX cameras and then adjusted to a 1.78:1 aspect ratio onto Blu-ray and 4K Blu-ray, Shout has brought us a simply stunningly looking image on both formats. The 1080p encode is nothing short of jaw dropping, but the use of IMAX cameras and the increased resolution of 4K UltraHD and HDR makes for an incredible looking image. Colors are razor sharp and the whole image just looks like you can reach through the screen and just touch it. Everything is almost photorealistic except for a little bit of juddering during wide angle pans across the screen, as well as a few flickers of banding that inexplicably showed up (I only noticed it when I focused in on some of the steam coming from a train’s smokestack). Everything just looks that much better on 4K, with colors being richer and blacks being even inkier than I could have imagined. Just a nearly flawless transfer (as it should be with only 47 minutes of runtime on the disc)
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=74785[/img]For being a simple documentary, Shout Factory has gone the extra mile with their inclusion of an Atmos track and it is not just a gimmick. The audio experience is simply fabulous with a very nuanced sounding track that allows the narration to take center stage while still having tons of ambient noises coming through with great accuracy and sharp clarity. The sounds of a train going clickety clack over the rails and the hum of the engine as it rumbles across the barren Canadian plains sound hauntingly beautiful and the little details are amazing. You can hear each individual rail being run over as it hits and then shifts around the sound stage depending on the location. It’s not a wiz bang action track, but still was able to really REALLY impress me with the use of surrounds and heights. LFE is tight and clean with a nice accompanying weight to the trains themselves, and even a little of “action’ when a simulated rock fall happens.
• The Romance of Transportation in Canada
• About the Director
“Rocky Mountain Express” is a fun little documentary that works as a great piece of audio/video demo gear as well as simplistic entertainment. It isn’t nearly as engaging as the sister film that Shout released on the same date (Flight of the Butterflies), but it is still a great piece of eye candy and worth a watch if you enjoy documentaries. The audio and video scores are absolutely FABULOUS, whether that be in the individual Blu-ray release or the fully decked out 4K UltraHD combo pack. Definitely recommended for a watch at least.
Directed by: Stephen Low
Written by: Stephen Low
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 HEVC
Audio: English: Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Core), French, Spanish DD 5.1
Studio: Shout Factory
Runtime: 47 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: July 12th, 2016
Buy Rocky Mountain Express On 4K UltraHD Blu-ray at Amazon
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