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Movie Renter's Guide

Number 87 - June, 2002

Staff


Now Playing
Divider

A Beautiful Mind Earth Vs. the Spider
Gosford Park Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Jimmy Neutron Orange County
Pearl Harbor: Directors Cut Shallow Hal
Shipping News Teenage Caveman

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Warner Brothers

2001, Color, Rated PG

2 Hr 32 Min


Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16:9 Enh.)
 

Dolby Digital 5.1
 

Directed by: Chris Columbus
 

Starring John Cleese, Robbie Coltrane, Daniel Radcliffe, Richard Harris, John Hurt, Alan Rickman, Fiona Shaw, Maggie Smith, Julie Walters.

 

DVD Release date: 5/28/02

 

 

    0

   5     

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Photography

*

MPEG Flags

Not Tested

Violence

Mild

Sex

No

Language

No

"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone"

Synopsis

The book phenomenon comes to the big screen in this cross between a Grimm's Fairy Tale and Charles Dickens. Little Harry Potter (Radcliffe), is raised by relatives after his parents pass away. While still a young boy, he discovers that his destiny is that of a wizard when he is whisked away to the Hogwarts wizard's school, under the instruction of Chief Wizard in Residence, Albus Dumbledor (Harris) and Professor McGonagall (Smith), but also under the watchful eye of Hagrid (Coltrane). There, he meets his fellow wizard students, along with an array of strange characters . . . the good, the bad, and the very ugly. He is assigned to the group of students at Gryffindor, who have more admirable goals in mind, while others are assigned to a group at Slytherin, who favor the dark side of wizardry. Through adventure and misadventure, Harry discovers the true nature of his parents' deaths. Since the Harry Potter series is based on simple fairy tales, the plot will not challenge your intelligence, but the acting is superb, and the special effects, along with astonishing set decorations, will leave you breathless.  - JEJ -

 

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Columbia Tristar

2001, Color, Rated R

1 Hr 30 M

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 (16:9 Enh.)

 

Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Scott Ziehl

 

Starring Dan Aykroyd, Amelia Heinle, Devon Gummersall, Christopher Cousins, John Cho.

 

DVD Release date: 5/07/02

 

     0

5      

Entertainment

Video

*

Audio

*

Photography

MPEG Flags

Not Tested

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

"F" & "S" words

"Earth vs. the Spider"

Synopsis

Quentin Kemmer (Gummersall) is a security guard at a chemical research company, and when burglars break in, he gets stabbed with a syringe full of spider venom, transforming him into the arachnid super hero he has always wanted to be. Police Detective Jack Grillo (Aykroyd) tries to find who is suddenly not only getting rid of bad guys, but also draining them of their blood. Quentin's neighbor Stephanie (Heinle) tries to help Quentin with the strange malady that is slowly overtaking him, but when he starts sprouting extra legs, that proves too much. Officer Grillo must now hunt down the man turned spider. Although not a comedy, this film is a spoof of giant bug movies that proliferated in the 1950s, and some of the Arkoff family, who pioneered these B flicks back then, produced this one.   - JEJ -

 

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Universal Pictures

2001, Color, Rated PG-13

2 Hr 16 Min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (16:9 Enh.)

English DD 5.1

French  DD 5.1

Directed by Ron Howard

Starring Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ed Harris, and Paul Bettany.

DVD Release date: 6/25/02

 

     0

5

Entertainment

Video

*

Audio

*

Photography

*

MPEG Flags

Violence

Mild

Sex

No

Language

Moderate

"A Beautiful Mind"

*** Spoiler Alert *** If you are not aware of the events that make up the life of John Nash, then we recommend you skip the synopsis and head straight to the video store and pick up this DVD when it becomes available. *** End Spoiler Alert ***

Synopsis

Russell Crowe plays John Forbes Nash Jr., whose work in game theory earned him the 1994 Nobel Prize in Economics Science. Regarded as one of the greatest mathematicians of our time, Nash is afflicted by schizophrenia shortly after producing his groundbreaking work. The movie tackles all aspects of Nash’s life in a fluid weaving of his academic struggles, romantic breakthrough, painful treatments, and eventual triumph over the presented obstacles.

The story manages to bring up social commentary effortlessly in straying from the central story. I found myself thinking about social acceptance and mental health awareness as Nash transitioned from brilliant intellectual to schizophrenic outcast. Nash’s wife, Alicia (Jennifer Connelly), does her best to support him but suffers enormously as the invisible disease changes her understanding of the ideal world, love, and identity. The details and depictions throughout the movie are refreshingly realistic and accurate. Ron Howard chose to depict schizophrenia through Nash visually; while this is one of the least common forms of delusion, it vividly illustrates the illness and captures the viewer simultaneously. Even the academic atmosphere was quite accurate, from the arrogant competition of rivals to the reluctance and inability to teach by many a renowned faculty member. Many will point to Nash’s recovery as the one area of the plot that was portrayed with inaccuracy. There is no doubt the recovery was more complicated and excruciating than what was shown; recoveries of such magnitude are quite the exception. Then again, this is an exceptional movie about an extraordinary man, and should be commended for its disciplined focus on John Forbes Nash Jr. At the end of the movie, I wanted to know more about Nash’s life, difficulties, and accomplishments. I appreciated the nod towards incompleteness, as I felt it acknowledges and resists the bite-sized tidbits that viewing audiences have become accustomed to in modern media.

The acting in the movie is nearly flawless – Russell Crowe establishes another milestone in versatility while Jennifer Connelly, Ed Harris, and Paul Bettany have equally convincing performances. - Ya-Bing Chu -

Technical Aspects

Overall the video quality is excellent. The image is detailed and free of noise. The only thing keeping the video quality from a perfect 5 is the small amount of edge enhancement found in the film. The movie is largely focused on dialogue, which was clear and high quality. Surround channels weren’t really used except for one or two sequences, in which it was effective but not memorable.

We are going to try something new starting with this DVD, which is to analyze the quality of the MPEG flag encoding on the disc. This part of the review will only be relevant if you are using a progressive scan DVD player. Since this is the first disc with such a review anywhere, it is hard to know how good or bad the disc is because we have not established a baseline. This will happen over time as we view more discs. The ultimate purpose of this section is to inform our readers working in the DVD production industry, so that they can correct problems we find, in future discs.

We found that, during the entire length of the film, the flags dropped from film to video mode 25 times. This means that the 3-2 pulldown flag cadence vanished for a moment at each drop. The majority of the drops only lasted for 10 video fields. Most of these appeared on an edit or scene change. Two of the drops were for approximately 60 fields of video. Neither of these happened during a scene change or edit, and as far as we could tell, there was a strong 3-2 pulldown cadence present. If you are using a progressive DVD player that reads the flags, you may see a comb or double image at each drop point. The image below is from one of the 60 field drops and you can see the double image from the player going into video mode deinterlacing. You can see the blur on her shoulders, pointed out by the white arrows. The DVD player dropped into video mode and applied a vertical filter to the entire image. This scene takes place at approximately 40 minutes and 4 seconds in chapter 9. If you are using a DVD player with a Sage or Silicon Image chip, you should see no problems at all.

There did not appear to be any problems around chapter breaks, which is a good sign. Since this is the first review that looks at the flags, we thought we would share with you 1 second of MPEG flags where such a glitch occurs.

E 01:29:00 | C 00:05:50
Pic: 08 P:F:P-B
Pic: 09 B:F:PRB
Pic: 10 B:F:P-T
Pic: 11 P:F:PRT
Pic: 00 B:F:P-B
Pic: 01 B:F:PRB
Pic: 02 I:F:P-T
Pic: 03 B:F:PRT
Pic: 04 B:F:P-B
Pic: 05 P:F:PRB
Pic: 06 B:F:P-T
Pic: 07 P:F:--T
Pic: 08 B:F:--T
Pic: 09 P:F:--T
Pic: 10 P:F:--T
Pic: 00 I:F:--T

Pic: 01 B:F:PRT
Pic: 02 P:F:P-B
Pic: 03 B:F:PRB
Pic: 04 B:F:P-T
Pic: 05 P:F:PRT
Pic: 06 B:F:P-B
Pic: 07 B:F:PRB
Pic: 08 P:F:P-T
Pic: 09 B:F:PRT
E 01:30:00 | C 00:06:50

Here is a quick guide on how to decode the flags:

Pic: 00 I:F:PRT

The first number, 00, is the relative picture number in that I-frame sequence. The next letter tells whether it’s an I, B, or P frame. The letter after that tells whether it’s frame or field structured (F = frame, T = top field, B = bottom field). The last three letters are progressive_frame, repeat_first_field, and top_field_first. The sequence --T is what the flags look like when it is encoded as video instead of film. One Pic line  represent either 3 or 2 fields. When looking at the last group of characters, a 'PR' represents 3 fields and a 'P-' or '--' represents 2 fields.

We marked the problem area above in red. There are usually 24 pictures in a second of time for film and 30 for a second of video. When you have a mixture of film and video, the number of pictures will be anywhere from 24 to 30. If you look at Pic 9 above, it is 3 fields, Pic 10 is 2 fields, Pic 11 is 3 fields. This is the 3-2 pattern that you often read about.

If you would like to know more about progressive scan and how these flags can effect the image quality, we refer you to Part 5 of the DVD Benchmark. - Stacey Spears -

Overall, the two disc DVD set (Awards Edition) is highly recommended – the extras are extensive and informative, but not groundbreaking.

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Paramount Pictures

2002, Color, Rated PG-13

1 Hr 22 Min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (16:9 Enh.)

English DD 5.1

English DD 2.0

French  DD 2.0

Directed by Jake Kasdan

Starring Colin Hanks, Jack Black, Catherine O’Hara, Schuyler Fisk, John Lithgow, and Lily Tomlin.

DVD Release date: 6/18/02

 

      0

5

Entertainment

Video

*

Audio

*

Photography

*

MPEG Flags

Violence

Mild

Sex

Suggestive

Language

Moderate

"Orange County"

Synopsis

Two Sentence Plot: Young man wants to get into Stanford, and everything (mostly chemically induced) conspires against him resulting in comic mayhem. Bottom line: whence comes happiness; it ain’t always the beaten path.

Let’s get one thing straight off the bat: I think Jack Black is one funny mofo. He could just stand still and I would laugh (it’s like some weird comic charisma). He’s kind of like Spicoli from "Fast Times" but with real heart (not just the cardboard cutout that Penn was).

Colin Hanks is his father’s son in the best sense of the word. He’s got the good natured everyman bankability that his dad has without being a total clone. He’s got the range to go far (must be genetic).

The movie starts out with the perpetually hung-over/recovering Jack vomiting on Colin’s painfully wrought novella. Sorry, but that is the finest art commentary I’ve seen all year. Brief…to the point…and understood at a visceral level. I can only hope to attain that level of impact (more metaphorically than literally, mind you) in my writing.

The supporting characters are flawless and probably echoed in everyone’s high school existence. Plus, this movie is jam packed with grade AAA talent. The mom who can’t let go with a wee drinking problem (Catherine O’Hara), the dad who’s got other more profitable plans for his son (John Lithgow), miscellaneous step moms and dads, the guidance counselor who should be kept miles away from dolling out guidance (Lily Tomlin), various high school stereotypes like cheerleaders and stoner types (except these teenagers have more collagen and silicon than my rural Appalachian school chums). It leaves me to wonder what the budget was for all the talent (or what dirt the casting agent had on everyone to get them to work for a reasonable fee).

The DVD features the cool ads (“interstitials”) that sold me on the film but don’t actually occur in the movie. I’ve never seen quite so many in a movie, but they make it worth trolling through the DVD’s special features to see them.

Yeah, this film was predictable, but it was predictable in a good way. The characters were all so great, I wanted the movie to be longer to play around with some additional weird parent/friend/teacher/guidance counselor/girlfriend situations. They built a Ferrari and just used it to go to the corner market for a quart of milk. It’s a good rental, but probably not a disc you’ll want in your permanent library. - Evan Upchurch -

Technical Aspects

Overall, I am impressed with the technical quality of the film. While the deleted scenes are pretty low quality, the film itself is first rate. All exterior shots look stunning with excellent contrast and only minor halos around objects. The interior shots are not as good, and appear a bit flat and soft. Low-lit shots tend to contain more grain, and applying a filter lessens this, making it easier to compress. The quality of the audio is equal to that of the video. Dialog is always intelligible throughout, with popular music sprinkled in like your typical teen comedy. The surround involvement was subtle, and was used mainly for ambience. They never pulled my attention away from the characters on-screen. I did not detect any audible distortions from any of the channels.

This is the second title where we have taken a close look at the MPEG flags, and it is much better than the previous disc. The disc starts out with 2-2 pulldown flags, but this only last for 8 fields and occurs at the very start of the movie. Perhaps it is the black just before the Paramount logo. There is only 1 drop to video during the entire film, and that takes place approximately 17 seconds from the time you start the movie, so this appears to be somewhere just after the Paramount logo and during the black prior to the MTV logo. I listed the 1 second sequence of flags below with the drop to video in red. I would rate the encoding on this disc as virtually perfect. The errors do not happen during the film, so this disc should look great on both flag and cadence-reading progressive scan players alike.

E 00:17:01 | C 00:17:01
Pic: 05 P:F:P-B
Pic: 06 P:F:PRB
Pic: 07 P:F:P-T
Pic: 08 P:F:PRT
Pic: 09 P:F:P-B
Pic: 00 I:F:PRB
Pic: 01 P:F:P-T
Pic: 02 P:F:PRT
Pic: 03 P:F:P-B
Pic: 04 P:F:PRB
Pic: 05 P:F:P-T
Pic: 06 P:F:PRT
Pic: 07 P:F:P-B
Pic: 08 P:F:PRB
Pic: 09 P:F:P-T
Pic: 10 P:F:PRT
Pic: 11 P:F:P-B
Pic: 00 I:F:PRB
Pic: 01 P:F:P-T
Pic: 02 P:F:PRT
Pic: 03 P:F:P-B
Pic: 04 P:F:PRB
Pic: 05 P:F:--T
Pic: 06 P:F:--T

E 00:18:00 | C 00:18:00

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

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Touchstone Pictures

2002, Color, Rated R

3 Hr 4 Min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16:9 Enh.)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

English DTS 5.1

French Dolby Surround

English Dolby Headphone

3 separate commentary tracks

 

Directed by Michael Bay

 

Starring Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, and Kate Beckinsale.

 

DVD Release date: 7/02/02

 

 

     0

5      

Entertainment

Video

*

Audio

Photography

MPEG Flags

Violence

Yes

Sex

Suggestive

Language

"S" Word

"Pearl Harbor: The Director's Cut"

Synopsis

JJ, our Editor-in-Chief, reviewed the original DVD release in issue 81 of our Movie Renter's Guide back in December of 2001. He found the film more entertaining than I did.

The set is split on 2 discs. Disc 2 goes straight to the menu instead of the film.

The movie follows the lives of two life time friends, from their entrance into the army air force, through the events of Pearl Harbor, and on into the first air raids into Japan. When one of the friends, Rafe, goes off to fly with the British in England, the other, Danny, is left with Rafe's girlfriend Kate, an army nurse stationed at Pearl Harbor. When tragic news comes from England, the two become emotionally involved, but they soon find out that Rafe did not die when he returns in time for the attack on Pearl Harbor. The two friends overcome their differences in combat and go on to fly in the first air raids against Japan.

This is one of the biggest disappointments to come out of Hollywood last year in that all the resources were at hand for a truly wonderful picture, but Pearl ultimately fails on many fundamental levels.

How can I even begin a commentary without discourse on the two films which Pearl so obviously tries to be: "Saving Private Ryan" and "Titanic" (1997). And it attempts to do so within the Bruckheimer formula, exemplified in his film "Armageddon".

Just as James Cameron proved to the world that a romance could be set against the backdrop of a real life tragedy, Spielberg successfully told a story of war through the personal lives of individuals. Pearl does the opposite and tries to tell the story of individuals through war. It just doesn't work and the attack on Pearl Harbor seems a consequential ancillary element to the whole thing as oppose in integral as the Titanic sinking was in the 1997 film. Its almost as if the historical value of the battle is just an excuse for some really wicked action.

The movie is presented with 3 almost distinct acts: The tale of the friends and lovers (which permeates the 2nd and 3rd acts), the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the first aerial assault against Japan. The pacing is disorienting and the whole thing wraps up much too quick with sticky-sweet patriotism (a-lŕ Armageddon). Any film must in and of itself urn the right to run for 3 hours and Pearl does not, lacking the Epic qualities such a running time requires. To his credit, the most emotionally charged line in the whole film is by the dramatically underused Cuba Gooding Jr. when he says "Everyone is where they need to be captain..."

The directors cut adds just a little over one minute of footage, which changes the rating of the film from PG-13 to R. Most of these new scenes take place during the attack and include such things as a severed head.

While the film is on the whole enjoyable, it simply does not get a "must see" status, displacing itself from potential instant classic to just being summer hit. Further, it seems unfair for the title to be "Pearl Harbor" (it's like calling Saving Private Ryan "D-Day").

The lads at ILM have really outdone themselves this time with their digital art. The camera is unfortunately too 'candid' at times with its wild shimmy, but when stable, the WW2 fighter shots are some of the best you have ever seen. Of particular interest are the shots from 'just behind' the fighters or bombs which deliver a spectacular ride. Composition is excellent, lighting is excellent, resulting in marvelous cinematography. - Brian Florian -

Extras

This new special edition Vista Series is a 4 disc set that is packed in one of the most interesting cases I have seen yet. I found a little trouble getting the discs out, but overall I liked the look and feel.

There are numerous documentaries in this DVD set. There are also two short video segments with some of the actors attending military training. My favorite was with the enlisted men. They went through a small boot camp type course with the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii. It brought back memories of the military and how much fun basic training wasn't. :) However, it appears that they had it easy, because it looks like the majority of the time was spent going through a confidence course. Of course, this was training for an enlisted man when they were all officers. It think they should have attended the same training course as Alec Baldwin.

If you are a film collector, this set belongs in your collection.

Technical Aspects

The Dolby Digital soundtrack is the one of the best I've heard this year with aggressive creation of all sound spaces. The discreet channels are exploited to full advantage as plains, bullets, and explosions permeate the sound space but never to a degree which distracts from the visual. LFE is judicious, not exigent, and while generally loud, the soundtrack is never piercing.

Also included is a special Dolby Headphone track. This is currently a one of a kind and you can read more about the process on the Dolby website. With most films, to actually experience Dolby Headphone, you need a Dolby Headphone processor. This is an external box that takes the 5.1 signal and converts it to a special 2-channel signal that provides the surround sensation through a pair of headphones. Pearl Harbor is unique in that they did this process on the authoring side and actually have that special 2-channel signal on the disc. This means you can use a normal pair of headphones and experience it. This is great if you use a laptop or portable DVD player.

Overall the image quality is very good and the only thing keeping it from a perfect 5 is the halos (Edge Enhancement) that often show up around objects, most notably the fighter planes.

E 129:44:01 | C 04:17:42
Pic: 05 P:F:PRT
Pic: 06 B:F:P-B
Pic: 07 B:F:PRB
Pic: 08 P:F:P-T
Pic: 09 B:F:PRT
Pic: 10 B:F:P-B
Pic: 11 P:F:PRB
Pic: 00 B:F:P-T
Pic: 01 B:F:PRT
Pic: 02 I:F:P-B
Pic: 03 B:F:PRB
Pic: 04 B:F:P-T
Pic: 05 P:F:P-T
Pic: 06 B:F:P-T
Pic: 07 P:F:P-T

Starting Chapter 32.
Pic: 00 I:F:P-T

The flags for the film were virtually perfect.  The last 5 MPEG pictures (10 fields) on each disc was stuck in 2-2 pulldown, the example above is at the end of the first disc, but the rest was perfect. I do wish that inserting the second disc would have gone straight to the film instead of the menu. - Stacey Spears -

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Universal Studios Home Video

2001, Color, Rated R

2 Hr 18 Min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16:9 Enh.)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Robert Altman

 

Starring Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Kristin Scott Thomas, Camilla Rutherford, Charles Dance, Geraldine Somerville, Tom Hollander, Natasha Wightman, Jeremy Northam, Bob Balaban, James Wilby, Claudie Blakley, Laurence Fox, Trent Ford, and Ryan Phillippe.

 

DVD Release date: 6/25/02

 

 

     0

5      

Entertainment

Video

Audio

Photography

*

MPEG Flags

Violence

One Murder

Sex

Not Graphic

Language

Minor

"Gosford Park"

Synopsis

The critical acclaim that the film has received, including the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, does little to hide its limited appeal to most viewers.

The film’s setting is England in the early 1930’s, at Sir William (Michael Gambon) and Lady Sylvia McCordle’s (Kristin Scott Thomas) magnificent country estate. The occasion is a weekend shooting party, where the well-to-do can gather and show off their finely trained servants. Oh, and they do shoot some birds too. The veritable train of supporting characters is so populous that it’s difficult to identify who’s who. The conformist attire of the privileged bunch doesn’t make things any easier. From start to finish, the movie screams of the period piece that one endures in the name of edification, much like some “classics” assigned in high school literature classes.

Unfortunately, much of the charm in a typical period piece is also missing in Gosford Park. The characters aren’t deeply developed, doing so with 20+ characters might have been impossible without changing the format to a BBC mini-series. The acting and interaction between characters is a bright spot, with Ryan Philippe’s performance being a notable exception. The dialogue is subtly amusing at times, although the underlying social commentary is predictable and unoriginal. The murder mystery concept materializes very late in the movie, and the characters don’t seem to care or change much after it happens. It’s a lot to ask of any viewer to create empathy and interest on their own.

The movie does offer quite a bit in terms of camera work, set design, and period atmosphere. The long, continuous shots of the talented cast are impressive, as is the contrast of the upstairs and downstairs of the mansion. The environment of the estate is completely convincing, attractive, and immersive – so much so that if you like the style of that era, it may be worth watching for the sets alone. - Ya-Bing Chu -

Technical Aspects

The overall video quality is a tad on the soft side. There are minor halos (Edge Enhancement) during the interior shots, mostly seen around the black jackets of the male servants. The hunting scene opens with a bird flying and it has pretty severe edge enhancement around it. The entire hunting scene is shown outdoors and is noisy.

Audio effects are at a minimum level, as the use of surround sound was definitely in its infancy in the 1930’s. Voices are located quite well, which helps the many scenes in which many people are talking at once. However, I was still unable to understand some snippets of dialog that I was curious about, no matter how many times I replayed certain scenes.

The were 25 times during the film that the flags dropped to video. 16 of these occurred during a chapter break. In fact every chapter break would drop to video for a few fields before and after the break. There were also six drops that only lasted for 2 fields, two drops that lasted for 10 fields, and one drop at the end that was 8 fields.

E 82:00:01 | C 10:14:31
Pic: 03 B:F:P-B
Pic: 04 B:F:PRB
Pic: 05 P:F:P-T
Pic: 06 B:F:--T
Pic: 07 P:F:--T

Starting Chapter 10.
Pic: 00 I:F:--T
Pic: 01 B:F:PRT
Pic: 02 P:F:P-B
Pic: 03 B:F:--B
Pic: 04 B:F:PRB
Pic: 05 P:F:P-T
Pic: 06 B:F:--T
Pic: 07 B:F:PRT
Pic: 08 P:F:P-B
Pic: 09 B:F:PRB
Pic: 10 B:F:P-T
Pic: 11 P:F:PRT
Pic: 00 B:F:P-B
Pic: 01 B:F:PRB
Pic: 02 I:F:P-T
Pic: 03 B:F:PRT
Pic: 04 B:F:P-B
Pic: 05 P:F:PRB
Pic: 06 B:F:P-T
Pic: 07 B:F:PRT
E 82:01:01 | C 00:00:49

Above is a one second sequence taken around chapter 10. You can see the 2 Pic (4 fields) prior to chapter 10 and the 1 Pic (2 fields) after chapter ten represented by --T. You can also see two random 1 Pic (2 fields) drops to video with Pic: 03 and Pic: 06 after chapter 10. - Stacey Spears -

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Fox Home Entertainment

2001, Color, PG-13

1 Hr 59 Min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 2.0

Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0

 

Directed by The Farrelly Brothers

 

Starring Jack Black, Jason Alexander, and Gwyneth Paltrow.

DVD Release date: 7/02/02

 

      0

5

Entertainment

Video

Audio

*

Photography

*

MPEG Flags

Violence

None

Sex

Suggestive

Language

None

"Shallow Hal"

Synopsis

Two Sentence Plot: Beauty is skin deep, and all it takes is major hypnosis to realize it. This movie reminded me of "Shrek" with the unpleasant addition human deformity and illness.

Frankly this movie starts out in a really, really depressing way. Hal’s dad, a minister (adding to the oddity of the situation), is dying on a morphine drip and gives his son some really strange, drug-addled advice in matters of the heart scarring him for life. It took ten minutes for me to recover from it before I could really concentrate on the rest of the film.

The movie gets its dramatic juice from a chance encounter with Tony Robbins when he and Hal (Jack Black) get trapped in an elevator together. Self improvement hypnotic suggestion changes Hal from a superficial prick to an “inner-beauty” focused guy. Incidentally, I felt myself wishing for someone to hypnotize me into thinking that Tony Robbins was doing a good job acting. Hal’s supposed to have changed to only see the inner beauty of people, but it’s really irritating in the opposite direction. His delusion makes the fact that they are unattractive on the surface somehow more insulting. Maybe it’s just me. Although, I have to admit that it was interesting that some of the attractive people (who didn’t have inner beauty) were seen by Jack as more ugly. I wish that they had done more of that.

The Farrelly brothers aren’t known for their restraint, but joking about spina bifida, vestigial tails, burn victims, and morbid obesity really is a bit much. Whenever I see movies like this it makes me wonder what the casting call was like. “OK...I want you to send over some 8x10’s of some really fat and unattractive people. Oh, and hey, what do you have in an actor with spina bifida. [Covering phone with hand] Hey Tony [the makeup artist]…we’re gonna have to get some crazy ugly makeup and prosthetics going, too.”

I know that I said that Jack is funny guy in a previous review, but man this was strained a bit with him acting as a somewhat serious guy. I guess that I’ll always see him as the Tenacious D, High Fidelity Jack. When he dials it back a notch, I’m not so enamored with him. Don’t get me wrong, I still think he’s great (there is a twisted sparkle to everything he does).

Just as an aside, Jason Alexander’s character’s first dialog sounds suspiciously Seinfeldian (c’mon breaking up with a girl because one toe is longer than the other?!). I suppose that is the funniest way for him to be. His other TV work (sitcom and KFC commercials) hasn’t really helped him realize his comic potential.

Bottom Line

I was uncomfortable through the majority of this film, and it just barely recovered for a weakly heartwarming ending. I reckon there’s a lesson in this film, but I really didn’t want to learn it this way. - Evan Upchurch -

Technical Aspects

The video quality rates just slightly better than the film's entertainment value. I found the entire film to be soft, very soft. On top of that, there was excessive halos (Edge Enhancement) around everything. All medium to long shots were fuzzy and lacked any type of detail.

The good news is the MPEG encoding on this disc is perfect. Not a single drop to video mode during the entire film. - Stacey Spears -

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Columbia Tristar Home Video

2001, Color, Rated R

1 Hr 35 Min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (16:9 Enh.)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Larry Clark

 

Starring Andrew Keegan, Tara Subkoff, Richard Hillman, Tiffany Limos, and Stephen Jasso.

 

DVD Release Date: 7/02/02

 

 

      0

5

Entertainment

Video

*

Audio

*

Photography

*

MPEG Flags

Violence

Yes

Sex

Involving Teens

Language

"F" & "S" Words

"Teenage Caveman"

Synopsis

In 1995 Larry Clark unleashed upon the world the disturbing tale of teenage life in New York known as Kids. Six years later Larry Clark is back once again showing us the wild side of teenagers in another one of the Arkoff Create Feature remakes. This one is loosely based on the 1958 Roger Corman tale, Teenage Cave Man. JJ previously reviewed one of the other recent Create Feature titles Earth Vs. the Spider.

Sometime in the not-so-distant future a group of teenagers, in a post apocalyptic society, are forced to run-away from their tribe after David (Andrew Keegan) kills the clan’s shaman (Paul Hipp), his father, for trying to bed his girlfriend Sarah (Tara Subkoff) in the name of god.

While with the tribe we learn that sex is a forbidden subject and so was reading. Only those privileged were aloud to read. David had learned to read from his father and set out to teach is his friends. Penthouse letters, yes the adult magazine, was the training material. This was a mildly amusing scene as they really had no understanding of what it was they were reading.

Upon discovering what appear to be the ruins of Seattle, the group is caught in a storm and seeks shelter under a rock. When they awake, they find themselves in new clothes sprawled out on comfy couches in a clean apartment. Moments later their gracious new hosts Neil (Richard Hillman) and Judith (Tiffany Limos) arrive and introduce them to a world of drugs, booze, sex, more drugs, more booze, and some deadly sex.

When one of the girls goes missing, Sarah gets suspicion of her new hosts and convinces David they should investigate and they soon uncover the secrets that Neil and Judith are hiding.

Looking at the cover you might think the film is filled with monsters, but this can’t be further from the truth. The party scene is pure Larry Clark as he explores teenage sexuality. This is a B-movie pure and simple and teeters on the boarder of guilty pleasure. It was originally shown on cable TV.

Technical Aspects

This disc contains both a widescreen and Pan & Scan version of the film on a dual layer (DVD-9) DVD. I am impressed the quality of the image for such a lower budget title. There is nary a hint of edge enhancement to be found. The exterior shots are all over exposed and look blown out contrast wise, but this appears to be the style chosen. This is similar to the exterior shots in the film Pitch Black. Though some of the exteriors do appear a bit noisy.

During the film I noticed a few deinterlacing artifacts. My progressive scan DVD player is using the Sage (Faroudja) chipset, which is one of the best. I was surprised at the combing, until I dumped the flags. Teenage Caveman was shot on film and transferred to video for editing and its eventual cable premier. Because of this, the encoding on this disc is 100% video. This film is pretty much not viewable on a flag based progressive scan player like an HTPC. If you want to watch this film in 480p, you need a DVD player equipped with Silicon Image or Sage deinterlacing. This is just like the More Tales of the City DVD we used in part 5 of the DVD Benchmark. - Stacey Spears -

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Miramax Films

2001, Color, Rated R

1 Hr 51 Min

 

Aspect Ratio 2.35:1

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 2.0

 

Directed by Lasse Hallstrom

 

Starring Kevin Spacey, Julianne Moore, Judi Dench, Scott Glenn, Rhys Ifans, Pete Postlethwaite, and Cate Blanchett.

 

DVD Release Date 6/18/02

 

 

     0

5

Entertainment

Video

Audio

*

Photography

MPEG Flags

Violence

Rape & Pillage

Sex

Yes

Language

"F" & "S" Words

"Shipping News"

Synopsis

This is the Story of Quoyle (Kevin Spacey) who, one days, runs into Petal (Kate Blanchett) a wild girl who just wants to have sex and eat snacks. We quickly fast-forward several years within minutes at the point where their daughter Bunny played by (Alyssa, Kaitlyn, and Lauren Gainer) is a young girl. Petal decides to take Bunny and sale her and escape with the money. Tragedy strikes twice for Quoyle, which quickly places Bunny back with him and he meets his aunt Agnis (Judi Dench) as she tries to still her brothers ashes.

The unlikely trio make their way to Newfoundland, which is where the Quoyle family came from. Quoyle manages to land a job at the local news paper where he learns self confidence. He also meets a new love Wavey (Julianne Moore) where he gets his first taste of seal flipper pie. Quoyle slowly learns of his ancestors and the pirates that they were.

Unlike Lasse’s previous two films, Chocolate and the Cider House Rules, the Shipping news was a bit slower and more depressing. The first part of the film was a real downer as we learned that Quoyle has had a pretty sad life.

The film is based on the novel by E. Annie Proulx.

Technical Aspects

There is a fair amount of edge enhancement and ringing found on this DVD. All film credits have halos (I would call ringing instead of edge enhancement) above and below, which often happens when they were not filtered, but should have been. On screen text contain hard edges and should be filtered.

While the overall appearance of the film would suggest some type of horizontal filter has been applied, the appearance of excessive film grain at times would would seem to make that not possible. It is possible they applied a filter and then artificially sharpened (DVNR) the image to make up for the softness, which would explain the halos.

The audio, on the other hand, was nicely done. They used the surround channels for believable ambience.

The MPEG encoding dropped to video 36 times during the length of this film. During the last couple minutes of the film, the encoding drops to video and stays that way for the remainder of the film, I have included that segment in the example below. This appears to take place during the film credits, which is not uncommon. There was a drop to video at every chapter break for 10 fields. There were another 11 random drops to video, each lasting 2 fields.

E 111:46:01 | C 01:37:11
Pic: 01 B:F:PRB
Pic: 02 I:F:PRT
Pic: 03 B:F:PRB
Pic: 04 B:F:PRT
Pic: 05 P:F:PRB
Pic: 06 B:F:PRT
Pic: 07 B:F:PRB
Pic: 08 P:F:PRT
Pic: 09 B:F:PRB
Pic: 10 B:F:PRT
Pic: 11 P:F:PRB
Pic: 00 B:F:--T
Pic: 01 B:F:--T
Pic: 02 I:F:--T
Pic: 03 B:F:--T
Pic: 04 B:F:--T
Pic: 05 P:F:--T
Pic: 06 B:F:--T
Pic: 07 B:F:--T
Pic: 08 P:F:--T
Pic: 09 B:F:--T
Pic: 10 B:F:--T
Pic: 11 P:F:--T
Pic: 00 B:F:--T

E 111:47:00 | C 01:38:10

There were also a few other random drops to video throughout for varying lengths of time, all short. To have a better understanding of what the flags above mean, please refer to our "A Beautiful Mind" review. - Stacey Spears -

Divider

Paramount Pictures

2001, Color, Raged G

1 Hr 22 Min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (16: En.), 4:3 Full Screen

English Dolby Digital 5.1

English Dolby Digital 2.0

French Dolby Digital 2.0

 

Directed by John A. Davis

 

Featuring the voices talents of Martin Short, Patrick Stewart, Debi Derryberry, and Carolyn Lawrence.

 

Release Date: 7/02/02

 

 

     0

5

Entertainment

Video

*

Audio

*

Photography

MPEG Flags

Violence

None

Sex

None

Language

None

"Jimmy Neutron"

Synopsis

Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius is the new animated feature film from Paramount and Nickelodeon. Jimmy Neutron is unique in that both the theatrical film and television series were developed at the same time along with a multi-media franchise. Jimmy Neutron also received an Academy Award nomination this year in the new category Best Animated Feature Film.

In 2001, Nickelodeon created a series of 1 minute segments leading up to the premier of the film, which are included on the DVD under “interstitials and cliffhangers.” The actual TV series launches this fall on Nick starting 9/6/02.

Jimmy, as you might have guessed, is a boy genius. He has a pet robot dog named Goddard who is always by his side and comes loaded with features and bugs. His two best friends are Carl Wheezer and Sheen. The girl that he likes, if he were to like girls, is Cindy Vortex and her best friend is Libby. Of course Nick Dean is the cool kid in class that everyone looks up to.

Jimmy has more cool gadgets than James Bond or Batman, but unlike Bond and Batman, Jimmy builds all of his own toys.

As the film starts, we see Jimmy and Carl heading off into space on Jimmy’s rocket. He is trying to place a mini satellite into space so he can communicate with aliens. What Jimmy does not realize is that the Aliens who find the satellite are not really friendly and kidnap all of the parents in town. Jimmy and his friends must get together and save their parents from becoming a sacrifice to a big chicken God. To do this, Jimmy retrofits a bunch of rides at the new amusement park to fly into outer space. And so the adventure begins.

Unlike the Pixar films that cross the age barrier for all to enjoy, Jimmy feels more geared towards the younger audience. Adults may enjoy it the first time around, but may not be able take the multiple viewings their kids will surely endure.

Along with the interstitials, there are two music videos and a short making of documentary on the disc.

Technical Aspects

The video quality on this disc is excellent. The only flaw I could find is what appears to be clipped white detail. This is most noticeable when light is reflecting off of a characters face or the white extinguishing agent that Jimmy uses to put out the fire caused by his rocket pack. Paramount DVDs have always contained video with excellent dynamic range with detail the extends from below black to above white. I am sure this disc will become another favorite home theater demo disc. A word of warning to those with DVD players that have the insidious chroma bug, this will be another great test disc!

The audio on the disc is fun as well, but not quite as active as other recent films. I suspect this is purely by design to not frighten the younger audience. It seems that the young ones don't always appreciate mixes as active as as older folk. - Stacey Spears -

Divider

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