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Number 96 - March, 2003

Staff


Now Playing
Divider

Blue Legends of the Fall - Superbit
My Big Fat Greek Wedding Red
Rules of Attraction Seven Years in Tibet - Superbit
White

Divider

Miramax

1993, Color, Rated R

1 Hr 38 Min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (16:9 Enh)

French Dolby Digital Surround

English Subtitles

 

Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski

 

Starring Juliette Binoche, Benoît Régent, Florence Pernel, Charlotte Véry, and Hélène Vincent.

 

Release Date: 3/04/2003

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

MPEG Flags

"Blue"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

“Blue” starts the Three Colors series on a somber note, following the complicated mourning process of a widow who has lost her husband and child. “Blue” represents “Liberty” on the French flag, to which the films are a tribute. The themes that would come to mind while viewing it, however, are “Loyalty and “Sadness”.

While capable of being depressing, Blue artfully presents human character in a cold but not heartless manner. The full absorption of Kieslowski’s movies often requires much effort and easily defines a “deep” category of storytelling, so much so that you’d expect a certified label on the cover.

Commentary

Juliette Binoche plays Julie, who experiences tragedy immediately after the movie begins, in the form of an automobile accident. This leaves her alone and searching for ways to cope with her sorrow. Moving to a new apartment in Paris and isolating herself is a bitter solution to her problems, as new confrontations arise with neighbors and pests.

Adding to the pain are the constant reminders of her late husband’s work and personal secrets, which are the dirty topics that Europeans seem to enjoy in their movies much more than Americans. Aside from the infinite possibilities of derivative social commentary, “Blue” sets the standard for using a visual medium (color) for meaning. A lesser film would crumble under the limited simplicity of using one color repeatedly in its art.

However, with Kieslowski’s dedication to subtlety, the viewer is given the pleasure of personal interpretation of the blue water, light reflections, and even writing instruments – making a universal masterpiece which complements one’s influences. The liberation experienced here is not the usual theme of revolution or national freedom; instead it is one of closure, of personal bonds broken. A puzzle of emotion awaits the viewer after experiencing the film; the strange exhilaration surrounding that puzzle seems perfectly fitting.

This DVD, along with White and Red, is practically a requisite buy for any independent or foreign movie collector.

Extras

Also mirrored in the other discs are the extras. “Blue” includes notable interviews with the main actress Binoche, Columbia University’s film studies director Annette Innsdorf (who wrote a book on Kieslowski), the producer Marin Karmitz, and the editor Jacques Witta.

Technical

The visual quality is pleasing and brightly accurate compared to the VHS version. The film grain is occasionally apparent, and some scenes feel more blurry than others, but the quality is no longer close to being a distraction.

Audio is presented in a DD 2.0 format for all three movies, which is adequate for the material.

The MPEG flags are normal for a title from Buena Vista. The good news is that there are no drops to video caused by any chapter breaks.

Error Type

Comments

Chapter Break

Every chapter break had a drop to video.

Video (2-2)

There were 22 drops to video.

Film (3-3)

There were 25 changes to 3-3 pulldown.

Film (2-2 / 30p)

There were 39 changes to 2-2 pulldown.

To have a better understanding of what the flags above mean, please refer to our "A Beautiful Mind" review.

- Ya-Bing Chu -

Divider

Columbia Tristar

1994, Color, Rated R

2 Hr 14 Min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (16:9 Enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

English DTS 5.1

 

Directed by Edward Zwick

 

Starring Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins, and Aidan Quinn.

 

Release Date: 3/04/2003

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

MPEG Flags

"Legends of the Fall - Superbit"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

What do you get when you cross "Gettysburg", "Bonanza", and "The Untouchables"? This movie.

It would have made a good TV miniseries. An old Indian tells the saga, over an appropriately smoky campfire, of a family he lived with in the late 1800s and early 1900s. We hear about the Indian Wars, WW-I, the bootlegging years, and Brad Pitt's hair is only short for 10 minutes.

Commentary

It has a very satisfying ending, if you are into revenge and that sort of thing. Anthony Hopkins is absolutely incredible in this film. The spectacular scenery helps when it comes time for the Academy Awards, of which one was received for cinematography.

Extras

Being a Superbit, there are no extras on this disc.

- John E. Johnson, Jr. -

Technical

The original release of Legends of the Fall looked exemplary for the time it was released. The new Superbit version results in finer detail. The halos that were present in the original version have been reduced, and in some cases, are not present.

The cannon shot was a great test of matrix decoders back in the old days, and while DPL-II comes close, it is just not as accurate of the 5.1 version.

The soundtrack from the original disc was well made, not really much of an improvement, if any with this new release. A DTS track in included, and it is the default audio track. While I don't mind CTHV going against the DVD forum in regards to the layer break, I am disappointed they would make the DTS soundtrack the default audio soundtrack. Why? Because DTS is not a mandatory format, it is optional. If it were mandatory, then I would have no problem with the default decision.

While Superbit excels in absolute image quality, they really should update their authoring tools so that flag reading players won't drop to video and lose vertical resolution.

Error Type

Comments

Chapter Break

Every chapter break had a drop to video.

Video (2-2)

There were 47 drops to video.

Film (3-3)

There were 36 changes to 3-3 pulldown.

Film (2-2 / 30p)

There were 39 changes to 2-2 pulldown.

To have a better understanding of what the flags above mean, please refer to our "A Beautiful Mind" review.

- Stacey Spears -

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Gold Circle Films

2002, Color, Rated PG

1 Hr 35 Min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (16:9 Enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Joel Zwick

 

Starring Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, Lainie Kazan, Michael Constantine, Gia Carides, Loius Mandylore.

 

Release Date: 2/11/2003

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

MPEG Flags

"My Big Fat Greek Wedding"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

Toula is one of three children of Greek immigrants. Her parents are devoted to the Greek heritage and expect her to marry a nice Greek boy and have lots of Greek children, none of which really interests her. She convinces her father that it's a good idea for her to work at the Greek travel agency where she meets Ian, the farthest thing from the Greek boy Toula's parents want for her.

While at first the family, especial Toula's father, is dead set against them even dating, gradually the family accepts Ian into their fold, embarrassing Toula at every turn.

Commentary

My Big Fat Greek Wedding is an innocent picture, and that is why I think it was such a surprise hit. Typically in this sort of "slice of life" picture there is some unnecessary drama such as a woman seeing her man talking to a girl, and not knowing it's his sister, assumes he's cheating on her. That's not the case with My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Things actually work out for the couple without any huge disappointment or obstacle.  The portrayal of the Greek "zest for life" is intoxicating, and when the movie is over, you just feel good about things. With war looming, I guess we are all in the mood to feel good about something.

This film finished up as the 5th highest grossing film for 2002, bringing in a whopping $241,250,669. It took 22 weeks before it broke the $100,000,000 mark. It broke $200,000,000 in week 32 of its 46 week run.

It made over $5,000,000 13 weeks in a row. There is only one other film in history to make this much per week more weeks in a row, and that was "Titanic", which did it for 18 weeks. Number three in that race would be "The Sixth Sense", which did it for 11 weeks.

Technical

This disc contains both the widescreen and Pan & Scan version of the film. We only viewed the widescreen version. There is a first rate transfer from Warner Brothers, yes, you read that correctly, Warner Brothers. While the disc is from HBO, it was transferred by WB. There is a great deal of detail in the image without the obtrusive edge enhancement that often comes with it. WB has done a good job in this area, whereas Fox has fallen flat on their face.

While not containing any "demanding" sonic scenes, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack serves up a very natural sounding presentation. Dialogue is always clear, and the few instances of surround effect are just enough to know they are there, but not distract from the story.

Error Type

Comments

Chapter Break

No chapter break had a drop to video.

Video (2-2)

There were 15 drops to video.

Film (3-3)

There were 26 changes to 3-3 pulldown.

Film (2-2 / 30p)

There were 32 changes to 2-2 pulldown.

To have a better understanding of what the flags above mean, please refer to our "A Beautiful Mind" review.

- Brian Florian -

Divider

Miramax

1994, Color, Rated R

1 Hr 39 Min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (16:9 Enh)

French Dolby Digital Surround

English Subtitles

 

Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski

 

Starring Irène Jacob, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Frédérique Feder, and Jean-Pierre Lorit.

 

Release Date: 3/04/2003

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

MPEG Flags

"Red"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

I first heard of "Trois Couleurs: Rouge" almost a decade ago from a college friend whose quest seemed to be finding beautiful and intelligent, often foreign, movies. Watching his selections always stimulated my mind and stretched my understanding of culture.

Just as some friends have consistently excellent taste, there are certain musicians, artists, or thinkers with whom one can always trust their time and thoughts. In this case, watching a Krzysztof Kieslowski film is a far cry from the rental video gamble that too many in society must face.

 Kieslowski completes his Three Colors full house with Red, his tribute to the same color of the French flag, which represents “Fraternity”. The film expands the definition of “Love” effortlessly, painting a subtle, flexible expression of randomness and relationships with strong strokes of crimson. Nominated for an Academy Award in Cinematography, Piotr Sobocinski saturates the screen wonderfully with amusing amounts and shades of red – it’s obvious but never misplaced. Instead, fluid camerawork, clever transitions, and intricate interpretive openness define the final film of the trilogy and unfortunately for us, Krzysztof Kieslowski.

Commentary

Suitably-named Valentine, played by Irene Jacob, is a young woman whose somewhat routine life and activities are joined in-progress at the beginning of the film. Her only contact with her ‘boyfriend’ appears to be through the phone, which is used throughout as a communication and transition tool for the characters. The plot defies expectations as the focus never gravitates toward the boyfriend; instead, Valentine runs over a dog and collides with a grumpy old man while seeking its owner.

The old man, a crusty retired judge (represented masterfully by Jean-Louis Trintignant), shows no concern for the dog and displays such harmless quirks as spying on his neighbors’ personal lives with a frequency scanner. The expectations are tweaked yet again when the initial reaction of disgust and relationship of nemesis between the two main characters is transformed into a study of friendship and intimate kindness.

The study of life’s journey continues with the frustrating anticipation of a subplot which flirts with the interpretation of Valentine’s Geneva microcosm. The young judge’s story skillfully, and almost invisibly, sends a feeling of déjà vu and “what-ifs” into the film’s unseen past. This provides a uniquely vicarious flashback for the viewer, which is just one of many interpretive paths he or she is allowed to wander. Valentine’s main path of destiny experiences another coincidence, as her path crosses that of other Three Colors main characters in a scene which serves as the series’ and Kieslowski’s cinematic curtain call.

The film succeeds in offering its audience the delight of its own focus – I can only summarize it as the thrill of anticipation, of life unlived. Wonders and oddities may not cease, but they may never be as natural or subtly illustrated as in Trois Couleurs.

Extras

The attractive and enlightening DVD extras are welcome, as the film is discussed more than Kieslowski would have ever let on himself. Interviews and commentary from Irene Jacob and Annette Insdorf provide the meat of the extra perspectives, which should be insightful to anyone, considering their focus on such an intricate subject.

Technical

Red continues to thrill and reveal itself after repeated viewings, and I was particularly satisfied with the all-important colors on screen. The DVD has the accuracy, especially with prodigious amounts of high-bandwidth reds, that was never displayed successfully on the VHS version. This never really detracted from the viewing previously, as you just knew the beauty of the cinematography transcended the medium. It’s all the more pleasing now, however, even with the film’s graininess really coming through on the higher resolution transfer.

Error Type

Comments

Chapter Break

Every chapter break had a drop to video.

Video (2-2)

There were 22 drops to video.

Film (3-3)

There were 24 changes to 3-3 pulldown.

Film (2-2 / 30p)

There were 31 changes to 2-2 pulldown.

To have a better understanding of what the flags above mean, please refer to our "A Beautiful Mind" review.

- Ya-Bing Chu -

Divider

Lions Gate Films

2002, Color, Rated R

1 Hr 43 Min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (16:9 Enh)

English Dolby Surround

 

Directed by Roger Avery

 

Starring James Van Der Beek, Shannyn Sossamon, and Jessica Biel.

 

Release Date: 2/18/2003

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

MPEG Flags

"Rules of Attraction"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

Its college. Sean is a womanizing drug dealer whose antics bring him face to face with Lauren, a sensitive virgin looking for love but saving herself for Victor who, unbeknownst to Lauren is "doing" Europe. The requisite gay guy Paul wants to hook up with Sean and the requisite nymph roommate Lara wants to hook up with the entire football team.

Commentary

The movie opens with Lauren taking a guy upstairs so he can take her virginity. She passes out from all the booze and drugs. When she wakes up, she is being raped by some guy she's never seen. He vomits on her in the middle of it while the guy she was supposed to have sex with films it all. The really sick part is that the character is perfectly fine with all of it.

That right there sets the tone for the rest of the film. The story is not clever, and the characters are two dimensional cardboard cutouts. I felt like consequence-free drug use and sex were being shoved down my throat the entire time. I'm not conservative. I think "Pulp Fiction" was a brilliant picture. But I think with Rules of Attraction, the makers thought that if they put 23,876 instances of the F word in the script, load up on gratuitous breast shots, and put drugs in every scene, that they would have the same hip result.

Not!

Technical

Sound

The Dolby Digital Surround track scores par in the fidelity department.  It's clear but unremarkable. At times, dialogue is a little hard to understand, and it does not seem to have been an artistic choice, but rather compromised spectral balance.

This disc was encoded with an old C-Cube based encoder. The Inatra_DC_Precision on this disc is 9-bit where most current discs are 10-bit.

Error Type

Comments

Chapter Break

Every chapter break had a drop to video.

Video (2-2)

The progressive_frame flag alternates on / off during the entire film.

Film (3-3)

N/A 

Film (2-2 / 30p)

N/A.

To have a better understanding of what the flags above mean, please refer to our "A Beautiful Mind" review.

- Brian Florian -

Divider

Columbia Tristar

1994, Color, Rated R

1 Hr 31 Min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (16:9 Enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

English DTS 5.1

 

Directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud

 

Starring Brad Pitt, David Thewlis, and B.D. Wong.

 

Release Date: 3/04/2003

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

MPEG Flags

"Seven Years in Tibet - Subertbit"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

In 1939, Austrian mountain climber Heinrich Harrer (Pitt) sets off to conquer a mountain in Tibet. At the mountain base, the entire team is arrested by the British because of the declaration of war against Germany. They are sent to a prisoner of war camp in India, where he plots escape, finally being successful two years later, escaping with friend Peter Aufschnaiter (Thewlis). They both are able to gain entry to the Forbidden City where the young Dalai Lama is being educated. During the next several years, they befriend the future spiritual leader, and at the end of the war, when China decides to occupy Tibet, Heinrich helps the Dalai Lama escape.

Commentary

Although perhaps a half hour too long, the film is blessed with beautiful scenery, ancient culture, and a splendid film score by John Williams.

Extras

Being a Superbit, there are no extras on this disc.

- John E. Johnson, Jr. -

Technical

The original release of Seven Years in Tibet looked exemplary for the time it was released. The new Superbit version results in even finer detail. The halos that were present in the original version have been reduced, and in some cases, are not present.

While not HD quality in absolute terms, this is a reference disc that I feel exceeds "The Fifth Element".

The soundtrack from the original disc was well made, not really much of an improvement, if any with this new release. A DTS track in included, and it is the default audio track. While I don't mind CTHV going against the DVD forum in regards to the layer break, I am disappointed they would make the DTS soundtrack the default audio soundtrack. Why? Because DTS is not a mandatory format, it is optional. If it were mandatory, then I would have no problem with the default decision.

While Superbit excels in absolute image quality, they really should update their authoring tools so that flag reading players won't drop to video and lose vertical resolution.

Error Type

Comments

Chapter Break

Every chapter break had a drop to video.

Video (2-2)

There were 44 drops to video.

Film (3-3)

There were 38 changes to 3-3 pulldown.

Film (2-2 / 30p)

There were 52 changes to 2-2 pulldown..

To have a better understanding of what the flags above mean, please refer to our "A Beautiful Mind" review.

- Stacey Spears -

Divider

Miramax

1997, Color, Rated PG-13

2 Hr 16 Min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16:9 Enh)

French Dolby Digital Surround

English Subtitles

 

Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski

 

Starring Zbigniew Zamachowski, Julie Delpy, Janusz Gajos, and Jerzy Stuhr.

 

Release Date: 3/04/2003

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

MPEG Flags

"White"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

The second film of the Three Colors trilogy, “White”, wanders east to Kieslowski’s home of Poland. Regardless of its location, “White” is dedicated to the middle color of the French flag, which represents equality. Also slightly contrary to its namesake is the film’s darker flavor of comedy. Determining whether you will enjoy this brand of comedy can be relatively easy; if you are amused by the main character’s unceremonious return to his homeland, chances are good that you’ll appreciate the movie on many levels. And there are many levels to appreciate, as Kieslowski continues to fill his ambling, yet intriguing stories with raw human experience, emotion, and coincidence.

Summary

Karol Karol, played by Zbigniew Zamachowski, does his best to inspire country music by losing his money, car, and business to his wife in a bitter divorce. His wife Dominique, played by Julie Delpy, also makes sure that his former salon is no place of temporary refuge. Desperation being the father of ingenuity, Karol expresses his lost way by playing a Polish song on his laughable kazoo. His call for help is answered, and soon enough a large piece of luggage is his preferred method of travel back to Poland. After a small delay in baggage claims, Karol is back on his feet and in high demand at his brother’s salon. Better opportunities present themselves, and soon Karol has maneuvered himself into a position of decent wealth. As a self-respecting obsessive man, Karol does the natural, and again focuses his attention on Dominique. In what must be the ultimate and surefire attention getter, Karol fakes his own death to secretly observe Dominique’s attendance and reaction. Such extreme measures lend a bittersweet irony to the theme of equality, which is easily mistaken for emotional revenge.

Consistently beautiful camerawork sets this series apart from anything I can think of. Color is again used as the declared and primary theme, with the color white undoubtedly presenting a larger challenge than red or blue. The unforgettable image of Karol looking out onto a snowy homeland is certainly a “White” scene to remember. While probably the least favorite of all three movies, “White” still delivers an amazing performance and easily stands on its own as a Kieslowski masterpiece.

- Ya-Bing Chu -

Technical

The DVD is easily the cleanest version of the movie yet offered to consumers and has an acceptable transfer. The video and sound quality are consistent throughout the series, while the extras on “White” are slightly shorter than the other films. The requisite interview with the main actress, Julie Delpy, is present, as are short interviews with the producer Marin Karmitz and author/teacher Anne Insdorf. A few Kieslowski student films are notable additions as well.

The MPEG flags are pretty much the norm. There is a drop at every chapter break, which will trip up 99% of the flag reading progressive scan players out there.

Error Type

Comments

Chapter Break

Every chapter break had a drop to video.

Video (2-2)

There were 21 drops to video.

Film (3-3)

There were 22 changes to 3-3 pulldown.

Film (2-2 / 30p)

There were 45 changes to 2-2 pulldown..

To have a better understanding of what the flags above mean, please refer to our "A Beautiful Mind" review.

- Stacey Spears -

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