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Movie Renter's Guide

Part 26 - DVD Edition 4 - August, 1997

By Pat Reynolds

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Ratings:
Extraordinary
Good
Acceptable
Mediocre
Poor

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Michael Collins"Michael Collins" Warner Brothers; 14205; $24.95; Dolby Digital 5.1 in English, Dolby Surround in French; Subtitles in English, French, and Spanish; Theatrical Trailer; Production Notes; Letterbox (Side A) and (Side B); Region ID 1; 2 Hours 13 Minutes; Double Sided, Single Layer; 39 Chapter Stops (Side A) 10 Chapter Stops (Side B).

Liam Neeson stars in this true story of Irish legend, Michael Collins, who was a founding member of the I.R.A. (Irish Republican Army) and it follows his struggles to free Northern Ireland from British rule. This epic story also stars Julia Roberts, Aidan Quinn, Stephen Rea and Alan Rickman. We see Michael Collins go from staunch guerilla fighter to staunch politician.

Being that this is DVD, the video transfer is quite good. Some scenes are a little dark, and that may be what Neil Jordan the director wanted, but it is a beautiful picture. Some scenes seemed to have a tint of blue, and there are some wonderfully vibrant visuals, including a car driven down a rain soaked street at night, with shimmering water. Virtually no artifact noise, and fleshtones are good. So is the nice red blood. The interactive menu is pretty standard, cast bios, theatrical trailers, but a nice documentary from a British television show called South Bank is included. An interview of Neil Jordan is the topic of this documentary along actual footage of the real Michael Collins. A very nice touch, it informs, educates and entertains.

The sound is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, and it sounds wonderful. Booming cannon shot with crisp and clear dialogue and loud cracks of gunfire all permeate this film. The musical score is pleasingly haunting and enveloping. An excellent soundtrack all the way around.

This story is very powerful, and Liam Neeson gives an excellent performance. Julia Roberts, on the other hand, is a good actress, but it seems when she does Irish accents (i.e., Mary Reilly), she seems to do them poorly, at least in my opinion. Of the cast, I consider her the weak link in a chain of good performances. But she does not detract from the scope of the film which is fantastic in its storytelling. You can learn and understand why Northern Ireland is still in the news today. A rich and powerful film that will hold your interest and provide some historical background.

Entertainment: *****
Video Quality: ****
Audio: ****
Photography: *****
Violence: yes, some very bloody scenes
Sex: no
Language: The "F" and "S" words

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Rocky"Rocky" MGM/UA; 906043; $24.95; Dolby Digital 5.1 in English, Mono in French and Spanish; Subtitles in English, French, and Spanish; Theatrical Trailer; Letterbox (Side B), Pan & Scan (Side A); Region ID 1; 1 Hour 59 Minutes; Double Sided, Single Layer; 25 Chapter Stops.

This is THE movie that made Sylvester Stallone a star and won an Academy Award for Best Picture in 1976. The story is also by Stallone. The first and the best of the Rocky series is finally on DVD. Sly plays Rocky Balboa, a bottom of the mill boxer who works on the side breaking legs for loan sharks. Talia Shire stars as his girlfriend Adrian, and Burt Young as Paulie, Adrian's lecherous brother. Carl Weathers is Apollo Creed. Rocky goes from street hood to possible heavyweight boxing champ of the world.

The film is letterboxed in 1:85, and it is great to see this movie finally in wide screen format. The transfer is pristine except for slight grain in some scenes. Other than that, the film is wonderful to look at. Rich fleshtones, including Rocky's swollen eyes in the final fight sequence! Deep blacks, especially the streets in night sequences. Overall, a well done transfer.

The sound has been remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1, but it is only noticeable in the dialogue and the music score. The dialogue is nice and clear, and the now famous Bill Conti music score also sounds pretty good! The frontal stage does sound a little more separated but not a lot. Being a pre-Dolby Stereo movie, the new soundtrack is not bad at all.

As I said earlier, this is the first and the best of the entire series. Carl Weathers, who is heavyweight champ Apollo Creed, does a great job of being the flamboyant and arrogant antagonist. The series died when Apollo was killed off in Rocky III (The worst of series). Burt Young is the best of the cast in my opinion, as Paulie, a troubled and bitter man. Now this is when Stallone was a good actor and not just screaming and blowing up stuff. Here is a very talented man who can act, write, and direct, but seems to be stuck in his action genre of films. Hopefully he will go back to his acting roots and show the ability that he truly has. Rocky is a stand up and cheer kind of movie. It seems to embody all that we wish for, namely to make something of ourselves and to overcome adversity. To borrow a boxing phrase, Rocky is a real knockout of a movie. Enjoy!

Entertainment: ****
Video Quality: ****
Audio: ***
Photography: ****
Violence: yes, if you think men pounding each other with their fists is violent
Sex: no
Language: the "F" and "S" words

Rumble in the Bronx"Rumble In The Bronx" New Line; N4410; $24.95; Dolby Digital 5.1 in English, Stereo in French; Subtitles in English, French, and Spanish; Theatrical Trailer; Cast Bios; Anamorphic/Letterbox (Side B), Pan & Scan (Side A); Region ID 1; 1 Hour 31 Minutes; Double Sided, Single Layer; 22 Chapter Stops.

This movie put Jackie Chan on the map in America. Chan of course already has legions of fans around the world due to his Hong Kong action features, but this is his first film shot in North America and specifically targeted for American audiences. If you don't know who Jackie Chan is, then you are in for a treat. He plays Keung, a modest man who comes to New York to help his uncle at the grocery store he owns. Keung is thrown into a turmoil when a street gang terrorizes himself and his father in the grocery store. A subplot includes a heist of diamonds. Of course the diamonds are stolen from the wrong people (more bad guys), and they want them back. Keung defends himself and the store from these street thugs in spectacular fashion.

The video transfer is very good, rich and bright in color. No artifact noise, also the picture is nice and sharp. The menu interface is simple, and it has cast bio, which oddly only includes Jackie Chan. A trailer is also there, and the thumbnails for jumping to a scene are quite sharp. You can see good detail in the thumbnails alone. Really nice.

The sound is very good except for the dubbing. The music soundtrack has excellent bass extension. Jackie's kicks and punches sound nice and loud and painful. The dubbing, although cheesy, seems to add to the film in a way. We have all seen the old martial arts films with bad dubbing and it is almost expected when you watch "Rumble In The Bronx". Jackie dubs his own voice, and it's not bad lip sync, but it doesn't sound natural.

The slogan for this movie is "No Fear. No Stuntman. No Equal", and it is right! The plot is lame, and the acting leaves a lot to be desired, but Jackie Chan is what makes this movie. He is amazing to watch. Here is an action movie star who does all his own stunts! Some pretty scary stunts too! An incredibly agile man, Jackie falls onto cars, does midair flips, and leaps from one building to another! The guy is simply amazing! If you have never seen Jackie Chan, then be prepared to be stunned, and if you are already a fan of Jackie, then you won't be disappointed. Enjoy having your breath taken away!

Entertainment: ****
Video Quality: ***** (Anamorphic)
Audio: ***
Photography: ****
Violence: Plenty of it, Jackie Chan style!
Sex: no
Language: very little, and it's dubbed anyway

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Shine"Shine" New Line Cinema; N4546; $24.95; Dolby Digital 5.1 in English, Stereo in French; Subtitles in English, French, and Spanish; Theatrical Trailer; Cast Bios; Anamorphic/Letterbox (Side A), Special Features (Side B); Region ID 1; 1 Hour 45 Minutes; Double Sided, Single Layer; 22 Chapter Stops.

This Academy Award winning film from 1996 follows David Helfgott (Geoffrey Rush) as he pursues his dream of becoming a great pianist. David is the son of immigrant parents to Australia from Germany. His father is a domineering and disciplined man who shares his son's dreams but only on his terms. David grows from child prodigy to troubled adult, but he never loses his gift for the piano. What a joyous and wonderful gift it is. The film is an excellent example of the triumph of the human spirit and to never give up your dreams.

The video transfer is excellent. Good fleshtones, even in the nude scenes! Artifact noise is nil, and the colors are good. Even the dark scenes are great, with no artifact noise that I could see. Included on side B is Geoffrey Rush's acceptance speech at the Golden Globe Awards for Best Actor, also an interview with the Director Scott Hicks and a trailer. When the menu interface is brought up, Flight of the Bumble Bee plays in the background, which is a very nice touch. I have one question though: the trailer is presented at 2.35:1 aspect ratio, but the film itself is at 1.85:1. Why is that New Line?

The sound is good when it wants to be, but in my opinion, it could have been better. Some of the whisper dialogue scenes were hard to understand. Also, the sound is very enveloping in some scenes, especially those involving large orchestras, but scenes with David at the piano alone are somewhat centered and less spatial.

This is a jewel of a movie. Geoffrey Rush is phenomenal to watch. A surprisingly uplifting and motivating film. Also a good performance by Sir John Gielgud. Sir John is pushing a hundred years old and he still is making movies! That in itself is great, but to still be able to give a wonderful performance shows a truly great actor who knows and loves his craft! Go get this movie!

Entertainment: *****
Video Quality: ***** (Anamorphic)
Audio: ***
Photography: ****
Violence: One scene
Sex: some nudity
Language: No, hardly any

The Wild Bunch"The Wild Bunch" Warner Brothers; 114034; $24.95; Dolby Digital 5.1 in English; Subtitles in English, French, and Spanish; Theatrical Trailer; Production Notes; Letterbox (Side A) and (Side B); Region ID 1; 2 Hours 25 Minutes; Double Sided, Single Layer; 28 Chapter Stops. Side B 18 Chapter Stops

The Sam Peckinpah classic has been fully restored to its original glory and is now presented on DVD. The film stars William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Warren Oates, Robert Ryan, Edmond O'Brien, and Ben Johnson. We follow four aging outlaws as they try and make their way through the early twentieth century. They are remainders of a bygone era . . . the old west, and are hired to steal some rifles for a Mexican general in the Mexican Revolution. They have no loyalty to anyone but themselves and they see this one last job as a way of getting enough money to retire. What ensues is a violent tale.

This restored Director's Cut is great. The picture is fantastic. It is presented in 2.35:1 letterboxed format and has restored material not seen since its 1969 theatrical release. The color rendition is very vibrant. Rich fleshtones, bright picture overall, and no artifact noise. A panoramic film with some great Hollywood legends, William Holden is Pike the grizzled leader of the bunch, a take charge, no nonsense kind of man. One of William Holden's best performances in my opinion. The overall layout of the interactive menu is nice, with some good thumbnail images for scene jumping. There is also a good cast bio, which is a wealth of information on the various actors. The short documentary on side b is a nice little insight into the making of the film. It has voice-over comments of various actors from the film. The documentary takes old home movie footage and shows some behind the scenes work on the film. It's only thirty-four minutes long, unfortunately. A wonderfully pristine video transfer other than the fact that it isn't DVD anamorphic. The sound on the other hand . . . .

The soundtrack has been remastered into Dolby Digital 5.1 and it does help the dated material. The music score is rich in sound, although a bit tinny here and there, tinny meaning a bit too much highs and not enough lows or midranges. The dialogue is very focused and sharp. The frontal stage is not drastically improved, and the .1 channel for bass response is hardly noticeable until the finale of the picture. Of course I may be a bit overly critical in this respect for the simple fact that this film was released in 1969. In any case, the soundtrack overall has been improved, especially over the videotape release.

This has to be Sam Peckinpah's masterpiece. John Woo is the rage right now as an action director, but go back and watch "The Wild Bunch" or any Sam Peckinpah film to see where the influence for a lot of action movie directors came from. A daring and controversial film for its day and a very innovative one, "The Wild Bunch" is a rare movie that can be called one of Hollywood's classics, with its rich character and visual style. If you haven't seen it since 1969 or only have watched on television or the videotape release or not seen it at all, rush out and purchase this DVD. It is something worth owning.

Entertainment: ****
Video Quality: ****
Audio: ***
Photography: *****
Violence: yes, plenty
Sex: brief nudity
Language: Not as bad as today's action films, but yes, some


Copyright 1997 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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