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Movie Renter's Guide

Part 28 - DVD Edition 5 - September, 1997

By Stacey Spears

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Ratings:
Extraordinary
Good
Acceptable
Mediocre
Poor

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Batman"Batman" Warner Brothers; 12000; $24.95; Dolby Digital 5.1 in English, Dolby Surround in French; Subtitles in English, French, and Spanish; Production Notes; Anamorphic/Letterbox (Side B); Pan & Scan (Side A); Region ID 1; 2 Hours 6 Minutes; Double Sided, Single Layer; 31 Chapter Stops.

 This is the movie that brought the "Dark Knight" to the big screen. The film stars Michael Keaton as Batman and Jack Nicholson as the Joker, and is one of those "how many stars can we put in one film" sagas. Jack’s performance really makes this movie worth seeing, and it is my favorite of the four Batman films. It is the only one that actually felt more like a real story and not just a slide show of special effects.

The transfer is slightly cleaner than its LD counterpart. The blacks are very dark; most of the film is dark, with very little noise. Fleshtones are natural; colors are sharp with no bleeding. The soundtrack is a little weak in the surrounds, but the frontal presentation is very good with nice separation that really expands across the soundstage. Quality is enhanced when you use the full mode on a 16:9 TV.

Entertainment: ***
Video Quality: **** (Anamorphic)
Audio: ***
Photography: ****
Violence: yes, the Dark Knight in action
Sex: no
Language: The "S" word

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Batman Returns"Batman Returns" Warner Brothers; 15000; $24.95; Dolby Digital 5.1 in English, French in Dolby Surround; Subtitles in English, French, Spanish; Cast; Production Notes; Film Flash; Anamorphic/Letterbox (Side B), Pan & Scan (Side A); Region ID 1; 2 Hours 6 Minutes; Double Sided, Single Layer; 39 Chapter Stops.

 The return of the "Dark Knight", and this time he must battle Catwoman and the Penguin. Joining Michael Keaton, are Michelle Pfeiffer and Danny Devito. Pfeiffer is the only thing in this film that makes it worth watching; her performance is very good.  Even so, I consider this to be the worst of the four Batfilms, though "Batman & Robin" is a close second.

The video quality is very good, blacks are deep and without noise. The colors are very rich and the fleshtones are accurate. This was the first theatrical film to use Dolby Digital; the soundtrack is more involving than the first Batman, but is not nearly as good as "Batman Forever". The presentation up front is very good; the surrounds could use a little improvement. The quality is enhanced when you use the full mode on a 16:9 TV.

Entertainment: **
Video Quality: **** (Anamorphic)
Audio: ***
Photography: ****
Violence: yes, the Dark Knight returns
Sex: no
Language: the "S" word

The Color Purple"The Color Purple" Warner Brothers; 11534; $24.95; Dolby Digital 5.1 in English, French in Dolby Surround; Subtitles in English, French, Spanish; Cast; Theatrical Trailers; Production Notes; Awards; Film Flash; Anamorphic/Letterbox; Region ID 1; 2 Hours 34 Minutes; Double Sided, Single Layer; 21 Chapter Stops Side A, 16 Chapter Stops Side B.

 What should have been Spielberg's first Oscar, is a very well made and acted film. This is a sad story of oppression, and from a different viewpoint, i.e., how black women were oppressed by their black men. Two young sisters are split-up, and hope that one day they will be reunited. The film has some big names in it, like Whoopie Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey, and Danny Glover. 

The picture quality on this disc is fantastic. The colors are very rich and noise free. Fleshtones look very natural, and the scenery is beautiful. The soundtrack is also very good with a nice musical score to accompany it. The film is spread across two sides. At the time of the pressing, Warner Brothers' plant was not equipped with dual layer capability. The quality is enhanced when you use the full mode on a 16:9 TV.

Entertainment: ****
Video Quality: ***** (Anamorphic)
Audio: ****
Photography: *****
Violence: yes, a lot of abuse towards black women
Sex: yes
Language: the "F" and "S" words

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Mortal Kombat"Mortal Kombat" New Line; N4310; $24.95; Dolby Digital 5.1 in English, Stereo in French; Subtitles in English, French, and Spanish; Theatrical Trailer; Kombatants Profile; Letterbox (Side B); Pan & Scan (Side A); Region ID 1; 1 Hour 41 Minutes; Double Sided, Single Layer; 27 Chapter Stops.

 Another arcade game hits the theaters, and I don't mean in the lobby. Unlike "Street Fighter II", this film is more entertaining, though it is far from a masterpiece. The acting is mediocre, but the fight scenes are well choreographed. It is a story of several fighters who come together to save the earth from super beings. Raiden, who is played by Christopher Lambert, of "Highlander" fame, guides Liu Kang (Robin Shou) and the rest of the good guys and girls.

This transfer is one of the noisier DVDs I have seen. It seems to be the source, not the medium that needs to be blamed. The same noise is also evident on the LD version. The colors are clean, blacks are deep, and the soundtrack is good. One of the neat things on this DVD is the Kombatants' profile. Instead of listing the actors bios, they list the characters' bios which make for some really good reading. This is one title that is not enhanced by a 16:9 TV, so you must use the zoom mode on a widescreen TV.

Entertainment: ***
Video Quality: ***
Audio: ****
Photography: ****
Violence: lots of fatalities, then again that is what it is famous in the arcade for.
Sex: no
Language: the "S" word

Short Cinema
Journal 1: Invention"Short Cinema Journal 1: Invention" PolyGram; $29.99; Dolby Digital 5.1 in English and Dolby Digital 2 Channel in English; Letterbox / Pan & Scan (Side A); Region ID 1; 2 Hours 17 Minutes; Single Sided 26 Chapter Stops.

 I do not know where to begin on this DVD, and I consider it to be the sleeper DVD of ’97! Short contains Animation, Narratives, Interviews, Monologues, Music, Documentaries, Criticism and Commercials. It is the first DVD to take advantage of the multi-angle feature; some of the material is letterboxed, while the rest is full screen. It also contains both 2 and 5.1 channel Dolby Digital. Most of the shorts are 2 channel, while title sections are 5.1 channel.

 This is the first issue in what is planned to be a monthly magazine. The first issue is entirely in English, but they plan on making it global, so future issues will be in multiple languages. The video quality varies, as most of the material originated on 16mm film. Overall the audio and video are excellent 2nd only to the original material.

Table of Contents: Very unique and breaks away from the norm. You have a little dialog going on between future filmmakers, and during the dialog the chapters are superimposed on top of them. The dialog between the two is very funny.

Animation:  Mr. Resistor - The first of many cool stories on the disc, and it shows a little person made of resistors and such. The entire story is stop motion animation and very entertaining to watch. (2 ch DD) The Big Story - This is the actual short that takes advantage of the multi-angle feature on the disc. While not exactly a different angle of what you are watching, it is the pencil test version of the short. This allows you to watch either the finished product, or a Work in Progress version. This is a little animation of a Kirk Douglas look-exact-alike! Actually there are multiple look alikes’ of Kirk portraying different characters in a news paper office. (2 Ch DD)

Narrative: Both, Sling Blade and Black Rider were blocked on the sample DVD I was sent.  however, I did see both of these at the local video store.   Since they did not have any more copies in stock, I had to order the disc.  Some Folks Call it a Sling Blade – This is the real jewel of the entire disc. What you have here is the original short version of the recent Academy Award nominated film "Sling Blade." you get to see Billy Bob doing a terrific job long before his nomination for the theatrical version. (2 Ch DD) Black Rider – This story takes place on a trolley and is about racism with sweet revenge. It is a black and white feature that is mildly letterboxed. The overall quality of this short is rather poor, due to the source, not the medium. (2 Ch DD) Trouble – The story of a little girl who loves to read sci-fi stuff. She puts up with her mother's constant embarrassments and has a little side business going to keep the books coming. ;-) (2 Ch DD)

Interview: Due to the preview version they sent me I was unable to watch the two interviews.  There is an interview with Michael Apted and some information about the film Baraka

Documentary: This Unfamiliar Place and Goreville U.S.A. - Goreville is a funny story of a town which introduced an ordinance that requires the head of household to own a gun. It funny to listen to what the townspeople have to say.

Monologue: Easter Sunday – Here we have a segment with Henry Rollins, the tattooed figure on the cover of the DVD. Audio one is in 5.1 Ch DD, while there are 3 other music tracks in 2 Ch DD.

Music: John Lee Hooker - This is a short interview with Hooker that is followed by a music video.

Criticism: Quisling & Tsai – Now comes a segment with onscreen animation and funny dialog with such things as the flo-be (not sure about the spelling, but it is the haircut thing that sucks your hair up then cuts it) mentioned.

Commercials: EV1 – The first is an electric car commercial with all the appliances going outside to greet the new electric on the block. Obsidian CD-ROM Trip – a commercial for a computer game, I believe, that I had not seen before. It is a role reversal that you must see. I will not spoil it here for you. Pioneer - A Pioneer car stereo commercial that makes use of old footage from a suspension bridge here in Washington State.

Credits: The end credits with the dynamic duo from the beginning of the disc. They are still working on their film project. I hope to see these guys in future issues, as they are very funny.

This is one magazine subscription I will be signing up for. I only hope future issues will include the "Got Milk", "Nissan", and the animated "Listerine" commercials, the latter being my favorite.

Entertainment: *****
Video Quality: ****  The quality varies throughout the disc, from title to title.
Audio: ****  The audio also varies throughout the disc
Photography: *****
Violence: not really
Sex: no
Language: no


Copyright 1997 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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