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Number 117 - December, 2004

Staff

 


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Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy The Manchurian Candidate (2004)
Star Trek: The Complete Third Season The Bourne Supremacy (DVD HD)
Collateral

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Paramount

1968-69, Color

 

Aspect Ratio: 4:3

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by (Various)


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

 

DVD Release Date: Dec 14, 2004

 

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Mild

Sex

No

Language

No

"Star Trek: The Complete Third Season"

Commentary

Its remarkable really:  Out of only three seasons of a TV show has come so much.  Ten movies and four spin off series with literally dozens of seasons between them.  No other TV show can claim such responsibility.

And this is the season that almost didn't get made!

As is oft the case with such things, Star Trek was underappreciated in its time.  It just wasn't huge in its day.  History records a massive mail-in campaign by the show's fans, genuinely begging for more, although opinions differ on exactly how influential it was on the decision to go ahead with season three.

Over the seven DVDs, we explore each episode of this third season.  To reiterate from our review of season one, the episodes are sorted in the order in 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.

Two episodes, The Savage Curtain and Turnabout Intruder, have trivia text commentaries by Star Trek guru Michael Okuda in the style of a Pop-Up music video.

Ultimately, Season Three presents us a mature show, exploring themes more off the beaten track and taking bigger chances.  The episode Plato's Stepchildren is credited as having the first interracial kiss on television.  It's still the 60s, and the skirts are still remarkably short and the guy in the red outfit still gets bumped off every other episode.

Some of my favorites include Spock's Brain, The Tholian Web, and Specter of the Gun, all of which paved the way for some of the formulas used in Star Trek The Next Generation scripts.

Also included in this season's set are two versions of The Cage, the original pilot which was never used.  Its footage was eventually spliced with new footage to create the season one episode The Managerie.  Here it can be viewed in a new restored version, including - we are told - footage long lost.  The second presentation is a more "raw" original version, wrapped in comments by Roddenberry, including material from his B&W work print.

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, and special presentations of The Cage already mentioned.

To Boldly Go...Season Three consists mainly of interview sound bites, including some from Roddenberry himself, recalling the events and trials surrounding Season Three.

Life Beyond Star Trek: Walter Koenig is of course a look at his life, demonstrating there is more to it than Star Trek, focusing on his passion for collecting.

Memoir from Mr. Sulu as the title suggests is an interview with George Takei, reminiscing about the original series.

Chief Engineer's Log.  Similar to the above but for James Doohan.

Star Trek's Impact is a presentation by Gene Roddenberry, reflecting on the impact his father's vision has had.

A Star Trek Collector's Dream Come True is presented by John Long, a model and miniature designer, talking about his project to document and duplicate one of the only remaining phaser props from the original series.

Finally, there is a production art 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 times obviously "steered", but there is no question it is entirely more satisfying than the original mono.

 - Brian Florian -

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Paramount

2004, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 9 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Jonathan Demme


Starring Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Liev Schreiber

 

 

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Gruesome imagery

Sex

No

Language

The S word

"The Manchurian Candidate (2004)"

Synopsis

It's 10 years after Operation Desert Storm, and Captain Bob Marco has been living with a nagging dream that tells him what happened to his unit during a fire fight one night long ago in the desert is not what everyone is lead to believe.  One by one the survivors are mysteriously dying off, except for the the supposed hero of that night, Raymond Shaw, who is being propelled to no less than the vice presidency of the US.

Commentary

It is always with a measure of apprehension that I approach a remake, as, with little exception, they are just a rehash of something which did not need to be remade and fall short as such.  The original Manchurian Candidate staring Frank Sinatra is something of a vintage classic, an excellent film which I would not have imagined a candidate (pardon the pun) for redoing.  It's interesting that the producer is none other than Frank Sinatra's daughter.

Often times the "excuse" for redoing a movie is that its a good story and it needs to be updated to appeal to the current audience.  That in my mind is simply a statement about the sad intellectual state of today's movie audience who just can't appreciate a story, a performance, a work of art if its not in Technicolor with 5.1 surround (the original was black and white mono).

Despite the director, writers, and producers patting themselves extensively on the back for producing subtle differences from the original, the 2004 film tracks the old quite closely as far as remakes go.  The big obvious substitution is that it's not Communists who are trying to erode the white house, it's multinational corporate totalitarianism.  If the film maker's agenda was to make a political statement as such, good for them, but I still think that an original script could have done the same thing.  Cut and pasting into a classic just seems lazy to me.

All that said, the film is well shot with distinctive optical effects used at times, and Denzel . . . well, he's Denzel.  He always seems to play the same character in every movie, with only a different background to distinguish them.

Extras

There is a commentary track by director Jonathan Demme and screenplay writer Daniel Pyne.

Enemy Within: Inside the Manchurian Candidate is as the name suggests, the making-of piece.

There are deleted scenes and various outtakes, Schreiber's screen test, and a segment on political pundits.

Technical

The video quality is par for the course.  Reasonably sharp with the ubiquitous halos and ringing.  There is a noticeable amount of video noise, and the picture can at times take on a washed-out look.

The soundtrack is less than what we expect from a brand new contemporary mix.  In terms of fidelity, it is slightly muffled, with dialogue that sometimes is a strain to catch and has at select times mic preamp clipping.  Artistically, it is well integrated, with judicious use of the surrounds and a palpable distribution across the front.

 - Brian Florian -

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DreamWorks

2004, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 44 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

English Dolby Stereo

French Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Adam McKay


Starring Will Farrell, Christina Applegate.

 

DVD Release Date: Dec 28, 2004

 

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Not reviewed

Violence

No

Sex

Filthy Humor

Language

Mild

"Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy"

Synopsis

Ron Burgandy is a top-rated 1970s San Diego anchorman who believes women have a place in the newsroom - as long as they stick to covering fashion shows or late breaking cookie stories.  So when Ron is told he'll be working with a bright young newswoman who's beautiful, ambitious, and smart enough to be more than eye candy, it's not just a clash of two TV people with really great hair - it's war!

Commentary

This is in contention for the worst movie I've seen all year.   There is almost nothing to the story, and what little of it there is gets successfully circumnavigated by the director in favor of what I guess is supposed to be comedy.

Its just not funny . . . at all, on any level.  "Boring" is what best describes it.

The attempts to make us laugh range from poorly timed slapstick to just raw dirty talk which is so badly executed, it comes off as stupid, not funny.

It's really strange that within the space of just a month we see Will Farrell in what is unanimously being called an instant Christmas movie classic . . . and then this mindless drivel.

Extras

There is a commentary track by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, bloopers and deleted scenes, various spoof spots (MTV Awards, ESPN Auditions, etc.) and the proverbial making of featurette.

Technical

The video quality is very soft, almost to the point of appearing out of focus, with an abundance of video noise and ringing.  Artistically they did manage to capture rather well the look of 1970s TV with bold colors which combat the desaturatation of bad TV.

The soundtrack has a distracting amount of distortion, mostly in the form of mic preamp clipping during loud dialogue.  A little more time in the ADR suite would have gone a long way.

 - Brian Florian -

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Universal Pictures

2004, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 48 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Paul Greengrass


Starring Matt Damon, Joan Allen, Julia Stiles, Brian Cox, Franka Potente

 

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

*

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Mild

"The Bourne Supremacy" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

Jason Bourne (Damon) and his girlfriend Marie (Potente) are living in India, thinking that they are now free of his past as an assassin.

Oops. The CIA does not see it that way, and when a purchase of sensitive Russian documents results in Jason being framed for the murder of two CIA operatives, they come after him.

Jason has warned the CIA that if they don't leave him alone, there will be a heavy price to pay, and he shows them he means exactly what he said.

CIA Assistant Director Pamela Landy (Allen) runs the show in tracking him down, but Jason always seems to be one step ahead, having her in his telescopic gun sights all the time.

Commentary

Matt Damon was not convincing as a CIA assassin in the first installment, and he continues to be unconvincing in the second. There is no depth to his character. No emotion. It is not that he just does not fit the role, he simply is not a very good actor. He should stick to making 2-digit IQ Rat Pack movies like Ocean's 11 and 12, where depth is not necessary.

Joan Allen is the real star here. She is a wonderful actress, and she dominates the film, which throws everything off balance, since the focus of the story now appears to be about her.

It is amusing that Jason's skills seem to be because the CIA is portrayed as being so stupid. Registering in hotels under their real names, leaving the curtains in the office open during the chase, so that Jason can get a good view from the roof next door, CIA riflemen standing on top of buildings in plain sight. C'mon. Jason is supposed to be exceptional. The CIA is not supposed to be inept.

The chase scenes are spectacular, but are not enough to make this movie really enjoyable.

HD DVD Version (6/06 - Kris Deering): Universal has opted to use Microsoft’s VC-1 codec for their initial HD DVD releases, as has Warner Brothers, and the picture is fantastic. I didn’t see even a trace of compression artifacts at any time, and fine object detail is excellent. It is so refreshing that this new format has a complete lack of noise around fine edges. That is something that just drove me nuts with SD (Standard Definition) DVD. I was especially impressed with the amount of fine detail in long shots. Cityscapes have all of the detail of the buildings preserved, giving the image far more depth and believability. Contrast is also exceptional in this transfer with extremely deep blacks. The film does have some stylization, so you will see some intentional film grain, but overall this was a joy to watch!

The audio is encoded with the new Dolby Digital + format and is a sonic treat. The front soundstage is extremely wide with some excellent panning affects throughout the film. Bass is deep and clean, and lends a lot to some of the more exciting action sequences. Surrounds are well balanced throughout the film, adding just the right amount of atmosphere without calling too much attention to themselves. I did notice a few hiccups with the ADR during some of the dialogue of the film, but I am a bit sensitive to that.

Extras include a full feature length parallel commentary that goes in depth about the creation of the film using the new iHD feature of HD DVD. You’ll also find extensive production featurettes and deleted scenes.

Overall, this is an excellent presentation from Universal and a great sign of things to come. I am really excited that we are seeing this level of presentation out of the gate from the HD DVD format! - Kris Deering

Extras

These include Fight Training, Car Chase Stunts, Pyrotechnics, Casting, Photo Shoot, and other things.

Technical

The worst part of this film is that the director chose to shoot it as though the cameraman were making a documentary on the run. No tripod, and no SteadyCam. The image jumps around so much, you can't see what is going on. This is a disaster and Greengrass should have been fined half of his salary for doing it. This is not artistic. It is incompetence.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Universal Pictures

2004, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 59 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Michael Mann


Starring Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith, Mark Ruffalo

 

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

*

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Bad

"Collateral"

Synopsis

Max (Foxx) drives a taxi in L.A.

One evening, he picks up a fare whose name is Vincent (Cruise). Vincent seems to be in a hurry, and asks Max to wait for him while he takes care of business at a stop.

A body comes flying out the window onto Max's car, and Vincent tells him that he has to make some more stops. He wants Max to drive him to all his stops and offers him a handful of cash to stay with him.

It turns out that an L.A. drug kingpin has been indicted and is about to stand trial. Vincent has been hired by the mob to kill all the witnesses who are going to be testifying at the trial.

The L.A.P.D. and FBI soon realize what is going on and try to stop them before the last witness is killed.

Commentary

This may very well be Cruise's best film. Of course, it helps to have been directed by Michael Mann, one of the sharpest directors in Hollywood. The film is smart, fast, and filled with twists and turns.

The movie was shot in high definition video, probably as much for the effect it has on the night time image as for the cost savings.

Extras

These include City of Night: The Making Of, Deleted Scenes, Special Delivery, Shooting on Location, Cruise and Fox Rehearse, and other things.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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