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Number 115 - October, 2004

Staff

 


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Footloose; Collector's Edition Star Trek: The Complete First Season
Van Helsing (HD DVD)  

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Paramount Home Entertainment
1984, Color, Rated PG
1 Hr 57 Min

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (16:9 En.)
English Dolby Digital 5.1

English Dolby Stereo

French Stereo


Starring Kevin Bacon, Lori Singer, John Lithgow, and Dianne Wiest


Directed by Herbert Ross

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

*

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

No

"Footloose; Collector's Edition"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

Big town boy Ren McCormick moves with his mother to small town Bowmont to find a repressed community for whom the word "conservative" would be an understatement.  Dancing and rock and roll music are actually illegal, and the one most craving to break free of the preacher's gaze is his daughter Ariel.

Deja Vu?  Absolutely.  We reviewed this movie exactly two years ago.

We talked about how iconic the movie was, despite its having a pedestrian plot.  We noted that in retrospect, it's even worse, and better, than most of us remember.  Improbable and incomplete as it is, the simple undertone lessons of compromise, acceptance, and compassion are there, and I hope the next generation of teenagers will get as much out of it as we did.

I also made a bit of a stink about how the DVD had NOTHING for extras.  Were the execs at Paramount listening?  Assuredly not, but they must have listened to someone with a similar opinion because here we are with a "Collectors' Editon".

Watch what you wish for.

Extras

First out of the gate is a commentary track by none other than Kevin Bacon.  Unfortunately, he sounds (as he always seems to) like he's bored.  There are long pauses of silence and when he does talk, he wanders far away from what is happening on the screen.

The second commentary track features producer Craig Zadan and writer Dean Pitchford.  The pair work well together and while often speaking existentially to the movie, they do offer a lot of interest to the hard core fan.

Footloose: A Modern Musical - Part 1.  Not to be confused with a making-of type of piece, this is a retrospective look at the genesis of the movie as told by a wide variety of people involved with the film.  This is actually a valuable piece, as it explains, puts into perspective, why this movie is so beloved by my generation:  A musical set in a land where there is no music and dancing.  I admit, I never knew that it was inspired by a real town with a real law against dancing and a real prom which broke that rule.

Footloose: A Modern Musical - Part 2.  Similar in format to Part 1, this segment focuses on the dancing, choreography, and libretto style storytelling so fundamental to the movie's structure.

Footloose: Songs that tell a story concludes the documentaries by exploring the film's pioneering video-to-pop music integration (remember: MV was only in it infancy at this time), including Sammy Hagar's recollections of composing "This Girl Gets Around" specifically for the scene with Ariel playing chicken with a tractor trailer.

An original trailer rounds out the supplemental material.

While not quite the final word in extras as far as DVDs go, Footloose has earned all the money its going to, so it is commendable indeed that Paramount put forth this effort to dress up the DVD for those for whom this movie is important, making it something worth holding on to.

Technical

By all accounts, the video and soundtrack of the movie seem to be identical to the previously released DVD.

Theatrically released with a Dolby Stereo soundtrack, Footloose somewhere along the way has been transposed to Dolby Digital 5.1.  Subjectively sounding much like the original matrix track, the audio is virtually all up front with little or no ambiance in the surrounds.  Music is spacious, dynamic, and punchy, but is curiously lean in bass content.  Dialogue is clean and intelligible, with fidelity corresponding to the median of its day.

The overall video quality barely makes par.  The film shows signs of wear and tear, not to a distracting extent (for some it imparts nostalgia), but you do feel like you're watching a print that's been in the projector for a couple of months.  Colors are consistent but laid back, and select dark scenes are wanting for more detail.  There is some edge enhancement, but it is not as harsh as many of today's titles.

 - Brian Florian -

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Paramount

1966-67, Color

 

Aspect Ratio: 4:3

English Dolby Digital 5.1 


Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, and Nichelle Nichols

 

Directed by (Various)

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

very mild

Sex

No

Language

No

"Star Trek: The Complete First Season"

Commentary

Ok, I'm about a month late in getting this review to you.  Come on!  I'd like to see you try and squeeze 29  episodes plus hours of extras into the schedule of your life and see how long it takes you.

And therein lies the value of this title and the reason for telling you about it, tardy as I may be.

Unlike a single film which you'll watch now and then, there are literally dozens of hours of entertainment in this box (and yes, that funky yellow shell is exactly what the box looks like).

Over the eight DVDs in this collection, you'll explore each episode of the fist season.  In an interesting choice, they are sorted in the order which they were initially aired, NOT the order they were shot, which would have conformed to the order of the fiction.

Each episode comes with its original "trailer". That is, the "next week on Star Trek" preview which would have aired at the end of each show.

Four of the episodes have trivia text commentaries by Star Trek guru Michael Okuda in the style of a Pop-Up music video.

Shatner's chronic pauses, Nimoy's evolution in the character, Kelley's now legendary grumbling . . . it's all here, along with short skirts and plenty of disposable guys in red track suits.

Some of my favorites include The Enemy Within and The Menagerie, a brilliantly composed two part episode salvaging the footage from the "real" first pilot (abandoned because at the time the studio execs just didn't like it).  And of course who could forget Space Seed with Ricardo Mantalban (which provided the genesis, pardon the pun, for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan).

In terms of entertainment per dollar, this is a winner.  The original series was previously released on DVD in a pile of volumes per season.  If you've collected those, only the most avid fan would re-buy (you could of course sell your old ones), but if you haven't revisited the original series, this is an excellent way to do it.  Highly recommended.

Extras

There are a number of decent documentaries in addition to the select text commentaries already mentioned.

Star Trek: Birth of a Timeless Legacy consists mainly of interview soundbites, including some from Roddenberry himself, recalling the events and catalyst which brought Star Trek into being.  Some interesting trivia revealed:  Transporters were invented because they did not think they could afford the special effect shots involved with "landing" a starship every week.

Life Beyond Star Trek is of course a look at William Shatner's life, demonstrating there is more to it than Star Trek, focusing on his love of horses.

To Boldly Go...Season One carries on in the style of the first documentary, this time focusing on the more popular episodes of Season One.

Reflections on Spock.  Self explanatory.

Sci-Fi Visionaries looks at the way Star Trek writers thought outside the box in many instances.

Finally, there is a photo gallery to explore.

Technical

The video quality is as good as it gets for a TV show of this age.  The DVDs apparently are encoded from digital masters made for recent TV reruns.  Within context, they are quite good, almost too good as we are seeing details and flaws in the makeup (for example) which were never seen on low rez broadcast TV.

The soundtracks have all been repurposed to 5.1 and it is a decidedly good effort.  Music of course dominates the space while foley and effects are at time obviously "steered" but there is no question it is entirely more satisfying that the original mono.

 - Brian Florian -

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Universal Pictures

2004, Color, Rated PG-13

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (16:9 En.) 1080p
English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1
French Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1
 

Directed by Stephen Sommers


Starring Hugh Jackman, Kate Beckinsale, Richard Roxburgh, David Wenham, Shuler Hensley

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

No

"Van Helsing" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

Plot Overview

In the late 1800's, Gabriel Van Helsing (Jackman) is a monster killer. He goes all over the world after such creatures as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Frankenstein's Monster, and the Wolf Man.

Now, he heads off to Transylvania to help the local community rid itself of Count Vladislaus Dracula (Roxburgh). An ancient family, Valerious, with the only members left being Anna (Beckinsale) and her brother, is trying to lead the town in destroying Dracula and his offspring.

Van Helsing is bitten by a werewolf, and has only a few days before the symptoms start emerging.

He and Anna discover that there is an antidote for the werewolf curse, and they search for it while also fighting Dracula.

Commentary

This film has so many digital effects, that after a while, numbness sets in and it is difficult to connect with the story. It is one huge arcade game at that point, and the movie enjoyment is ruined.

Van Helsing is the original character in the Dracula movies (the scientist who finds Dracula's coffin and drives a stake through his heart), and like some of the movies of the 1940's, tries to blend monsters from other tales into one story.

HD DVD Version (9/06 - Kris Deering): I remember a few years back, Joe Kane showed a demo of his new DLP projector using different HD material, and one of his clips was a 720p trailer of Van Helsing, encoded with Window Media 9, and man did it look great. Needless to say, this wet my appetite for this one, and I wasnít disappointed. Van Helsing looks really good in HD despite its rather dark overall feel. The opening black and white sequence has contrast to spare, and detail and color fidelity are superb as the film progresses. There are some noisier scenes in the film, as the director intended, but I didnít see anything in the way of compression issues or filtering. This is a great looking HD presentation.

HD DVD Version

0

5

Video

*

Audio

*

Universal has been consistently using the Dolby Digital + codec for all its HD DVD releases, and I hope this is a sign of things to come. Never have I seen a studio release a format with so much consistently good looking and sounding material. This is a big summer movie, so production value was high. The sound design of this film is terrific, and it uses the full 5.1 compliment throughout the entire presentation. Dynamic range is solid with plenty of low end effects to keep the sub working. Dialogue is consistently clean and balanced with the other channels, and surrounds are used extensively.- Kris Deering

Extras

There are lots of extras here, including A 3600 Self Guided Tour of Dracula's Castle, Digital Composition of the Monsters, Miniature Cameras on the Set, The Legend of Van Helsing, Director and Cast Commentaries, The Van Helsing Game, and Outtakes.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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