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Number 100 - July, 2003

Staff


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Daredevil Flight of the Intruder
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days Solaris

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Paramount

2002, Color, Rated PG

1 Hr 55 Min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 16x9 enh

English Dolby Digital 5.1

English Dolby Stereo

French Dolby Stereo

 

Starring Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey.

Directed by Donald Petrie

 

DVD Released 7/02/2003

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

MPEG Flags

N/A

Violence

No

Sex

Suggestive

Language

The S word

"How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

As a column writer for a woman's magazine, Andie's latest assignment is to get a guy and then get him to dump her in ten days.  She just happens to pick advertising man Benjamin Berry as the guy, who happens to have a bet with his rival workers that he can get a girl to fall in love with him . . . in 10 days.  Thus as one pushes away and the other pulls for all their being, neither can figure out why the other is acting so bizarre.

Commentary

Although the premise of a couple each hiding something from the other has been done to death in movies, this one is still funny and entertaining enough to be recommended.  Sure its predictable.  Of course we know that Andie will find out about the bet before Ben can tell her, sending their otherwise picture perfect relationship onto the rocks.  Of course Ben will run after her, and all is forgiven.  Who cares?  Just enjoy the show for what it is: Another romantic comedy.

Extras

There is Commentary Track by director Donald Petrie who starts it by pointing out that you must be an avid fan of the film or filmmaker to be bothered tuning in.  That said, if you fall into that mold, Petrie does fill the time with relevant information as to what transpires to make the current scene happen.  He never drops the ball but could have used another personality with him to break it up a bit.

There is a set of interviews called "Mapping out the Perfect Movie".  The DVD presents you with a list of the various actors, writers, producers, etc.  Selecting one will show you a set of interviews with any number of people talking about that person.  While this does give us a way to distill what we watch down to only the people we are interested in, it is not a substitute for a more traditional "making of" featurette which this DVD lacks.

There are five Deleted Scenes which can be viewed with or without commentary by the director.  As is always the case, deleted scenes are deleted for a reason.

There is a section called "Mapping out the Perfect Location".  Here we are given a map of the city with various locations from the film marked with dots.  Clicking on one takes you to a video segment about that location.  The problems is the map is not labeled, so you are basically poking around blind.

There is the music video "Somebody Like You" by Keith Urban and of course a copy of the movie's trailer.

Technical

The soundtrack is exemplary of what we expect these days from a 5.1 mix.  Dynamic, punchy music which is not "too loud" and bass content, while robust, did not overwhelm or bloat.  Surrounds were used to full advantage to support, not overtake, the sound spaces, and dialogue was articulate and clear.

The video quality and transfer are only par, which is to say less than good.  It is quite soft and feels robbed of detail.  There is the usual amount of edge enhancement and video noise, that is, just enough to distract you.  It is consistent though with blacks and grays that do not wash out and a color channel which is solid and does not bleed..

As for the MPEG PIC flags, this is one of the very rare discs our software is currently unable to extract the flag data from.

- Brian Florian -

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Paramount

1991, Color, Rated PG

1 Hr 54 Min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 16x9 enh

English Dolby Digital 5.1

English Dolby Stereo

French Dolby Stereo

 

Starring Danny Glover, Willem Dafoe, and Brad Johnson.

Directed by John Milius

 

DVD Released 7/2/2003

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

MPEG Flags

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

The S Word

"Flight of the Intruder"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

During the Viet Nam war, A-6 Intruder pilot Jake Grafton is ready to pack it in after the loss of his co-pilot on a mission with no real purpose.  But when 3rd tour A-6 bombardier Virgil Cole is paired up with Grafton, the two hatch a rogue mission which will finally make a difference, at least for themselves.

Commentary

One has to point out that Flight of the Intruder comes after the more pop culture-ish Top Gun and indeed has much more substance and staying power than the first "flight jockey" movie.  In fact, the only portion which drags this movie down is the ill conceived side bar of the gang on shore leave.  The visual effects shots and flight action were exquisite for their day, and Danny Glover as the "black third generation mafia" skipper of the carrier is absolutely class act.  Willem Dafoe is also a can't-miss in the role of the rogue pilot, but Brad Johnson falls short in his role as the lead.

Extras

There is nothing, not even a trailer.

Technical

The soundtrack is a mixed bag.  The movie was theatrically released with a Dolby Stereo soundtrack so what we are hearing now is some reinterpretation of the original.  While quite clear and intelligible, the sound space varies in character.  At times there are hard directional cues, while at others the surrounds are nicely ambient, but then suddenly, the soundstage collapses to center channel only, at rather inappropriate times.  There is a nice deep bass line which is not overdone or bloated, and the action sequences are all nice and dynamic with virtually no distortion.

The video quality and transfer are a little below par.  Not only is there the usual edge enhancement, but video noise and color banding are both noticeable and distracting.  Black levels are good and never wash out, while colors are consistent and film-like in nature.  On the whole it is extremely soft and lacking in detail.

As to the MPEG PIC flags, yet again we see that an old MPEG encoder was used. The progressive frame flag toggles on and off during the film. It's as if the dreaded C-Cube encoder is making a comeback, for no reason. At this point most MPEG decoders are aware of this and can deal with it, making it something of a non-issue, other than the fact that MPEG encoders have matured, and a newer MPEG encoder can encode at lower rates with higher quality. So, I believe this disc could have been better at the same bit rate if a newer MPEG encoder had been used. On a good note, there were no drops to video on any chapter breaks.

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

- Brian Florian -

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20th Century

2003, Color, Rated PG

1 Hr 43 Min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 16x9 enh

English Dolby Digital 5.1

English DTS 5.1

English Dolby Stereo

French Dolby Stereo

Spanish Dolby Stereo

 

Starring Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner.

Directed by Mark Steven

 

DVD Released 7/29/2003

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

MPEG Flags

Violence

Yes

Sex

Yes

Language

Mild

"Daredevil"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

Blinded as a child, Matt's other senses are heightened to the point where people have a hard time believing he can't see.  When his father is killed for not throwing a boxing fight, Matt vows to do battle on the streets of New York for the good side.  Pro Bono Lawyer by day, Daredevil crime fighter by night.

When the law closes in on King Pin, the bad dude looks for a fall guy and makes one of of Elektra's father, but she thinks Daredevil did it and goes after revenge . . . .

Commentary

I didn't really like this movie, and I can already see the smart aleck kid (who would not have even been born when the comic was in its hey day) trying to tell me I don't "understand" it.  I was a comic reader and still am a big fan of the proverbial graphic novel, so I'm going to put my foot down on this one and say enough is enough.  Batman had that surreal thing happening for it.  Spiderman was fresh and hip.  That does not mean that any comic book hero franchise spun into a movie is a good idea.

Truth be told, in terms of absolute below the line content, this could have been a good, serious movie.  Unfortunately it feels like it was thrown together with nothing but emulation and no originality. Sure there is some cool action, but it's nothing to jump up and down about (pun most definitely intended).  The pacing is way off, and there are scenes which serve no purpose, while others are absent and desperately called for.  On the whole, it feels like an extended preview for an 8 hour mini-series.

And don't even get me started on Kevin Smith.

Extras

This is perhaps an excellent example of how we as home entertainment consumers are manipulated into thinking a movie is better than it is.  It seems the films that don't make it as big in the theater as the bean counters expect get the royal treatment on DVD.  The DVD is then marketed almost purely on the extras.  For what its worth, Daredevil's discs are indeed loaded!

Starting with the movie itself, you can opt for the "Enhanced Viewing Mode" which at select intervals gives you the opportunity to jump out of the movie and see some behind the scenes material, with the focus on visual effects.

Of course there is the commentary track.  You have to be REALLY obsessed with this movie to be interested in the commentary.

Somewhat more useful, and what is slowly becoming the rage with DVD, is a text commentary track.  I like these a lot because you can still watch the film as normal, with full audio, while still getting some trivia. Good for that second or third time you pull a movie out of your collection.

Disc 2 starts out with the making of feature which has a nice dry feel to it, but is unfortunately heavy on the "patting one's self on the back", as most of them tend to do. After all, it would be a little depressing to admit you spent 100 million dollars making a garbage product.

There are segments from Jennifer Garner's screen test (yawn) and some multi-angle dailies, of interest only to the budding film maker.  There is a feature on the main villain which could have just as well been part of the making of feature and thus feels like index padding.  HBO's feature on the making of the film is also there.

Somewhat more interesting is the feature on the film's blind consultant, Tom Sullivan, who chronicles life as a blind person.

Trailers, still galleries, and of course music videos round out the set (though the audio for two out of three of the music videos is incorrectly encoded).

Disc 2 also has a section dedicated to the Daredevil comic focusing mostly on interviews of the various talents involved over the years.

Technical

The soundtrack is a wild ride.  With the concept of Daredevil having a heightened sense of hearing, the soundtrack drives that home at all times by enhancing and exaggerating audio cues.  While such a thing could have easily gotten out of hand, it is expertly executed here.  The track is at all times aggressive, but never are the surrounds asked to do something inappropriate to their diffuse nature.  Bass is deliciously robust without being bloated, and the whole thing has a nice dynamic quality without being aggravating or perceptibly too loud.  Half a mark off for dialogue which felt like it could have been a tad crisper.  The DTS track is perceptibly the exact same thing as the Dolby Digital track.

The video quality and transfer are generally quite good.  There is little to no video noise, and though edge enhancement is noted, it is not as bad as most.  Blacks are quite deep, and grays are nicely broken down, a good thing as the movie is unusually dark.  Unfortunately, it looks like they pushed the contrast a little and in bright scenes, whites feel crushed just a bit.  On the whole there is good detail ,and it has a nice crisp quality.

As to the MPEG PIC flags, not too bad . . .

Error Type

Comments

Chapter Break

The chapter breaks did not trigger drops to video.

Video (2-2)

There were no drops to video whatsoever

Film (3-3)

There were 44 changes to 3-3 pulldown. They lasted for 2 MPEG PICs (6 video fields)

Film (2-2 / 30p)

There were 39 changes to 2-2 pulldown. They lasted for 2 MPEG PICs (4 video fields)

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

- Brian Florian -

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20th Century

2002, Color, Rated PG

1 Hr 39 Min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 16x9 enh

English Dolby Digital 5.1

English Dolby Stereo

French Dolby Stereo

Spanish Dolby Stereo

 

Starring George Clooney and Natasha McElhone.

Directed by Steven Soderbergh

 

DVD Released 7/29/2003

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

MPEG Flags

Violence

Mild

Sex

Yes

Language

Mild

"Solaris"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

When a space ship sent to investigate the planet Solaris won't come home, and the messages from the crew make no sense, Chris Kelvin (Clooney), a psychologist and friend to one of the lead scientists is sent out to try and salvage the mission.  When he gets to the orbiting ship, two of the four crew members are dead, one has gone mad, and the other won't leave her cabin.  They ask Chris how long he can go without sleep.  It seems Solaris creates a person out of the dreams of those on the ship, and for Chris, that brings a copy of his wife, who had committed suicide.  Is she human, or something else?  Can they live together?  Where did she come from?

Commentary

While technically a remake of the 70s Solaris, this is most definitely not one of those lame shot by shot remakes.  Soderbergh is one of the few real directorial talents today, and his interpretation of the book is exquisite.  This is science fiction with no action, an abundance of long wide shots and extensive holds.  The imagery is breathtaking and almost overwhelmingly deliberate.

I suppose many will want to rush and make comparisons between Solaris and Kubrick's 2001:A Space Odyssey.  I disagree. The only similarities I see are that both take place on a space ship and both leave you with more questions than answers.

Definitely not for everyone but anyone who cares to enjoy a little entertainment for their gray matter will enjoy this trip.

Extras

There is a commentary track with Soderbergh and James Cameron (producer).  A tad dry in nature, it is nonetheless worth checking out if the movie perked your interest.

There are two making of features: an original for the DVD and the HBO one.  As usual, the HBO feature feels more like an extended preview than a behind the scenes piece.

Trailers and a copy of the screen play round out the extras.

Technical

The soundtrack is good but unremarkable.  While clear and sufficiently dynamic, it gets a mark off for lack of exploitation.  The surrounds feel neglected save for the white noise of the ships engines, and even then, that was unbalanced in favor of the front.  Also, while dialogue was always intelligible, a couple instances of mic preamp clipping were noted.

The video quality and transfer are generally quite good but again, not remarkably so.  There is enough edge enhancement to be noticed, as well as some video noise.  Blacks and shadows are well done, colors are nice and solid, but on the whole a feeling of softness prevails.  Shame, as we appreciate less of the 4K CG work that went into this film.

As to the MPEG PIC flags, not too bad . . . .

Error Type

Comments

Chapter Break

The chapter breaks did not trigger drops to video.

Video (2-2)

There were no drops to video whatsoever

Film (3-3)

There were 20 changes to 3-3 pulldown. They lasted for 2 MPEG PICs (6 video fields)

Film (2-2 / 30p)

There were 35 changes to 2-2 pulldown. They lasted for 2 MPEG PICs (4 video fields)

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

- Brian Florian -

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