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Movie Renter's Guide

Number 90 - September, 2002

Staff


Now Playing
Divider

40 Days and 40 Nights American Psycho 2
Birthday Girl Brotherhood of the Wolf
Changing Lanes Comic Book Villains
Count of Monte Cristo Frailty
Panic Room The Scorpion King

Divider

Paramount Home Entertainment

2002, Color, Rated R

1 Hr 38 Min

 

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

English Dolby Digital 5.1

English Dolby Digital 2.0

French Dolby Digital 2.0

 

Directed by Roger Michell

 

Starring Ben Affleck, Samuel L. Jackson, Toni Collette, Amanda Peet, and Sydney Pollack.

 

Release Date: 9/10/02

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Photography

MPEG Flags

Violence

Yes

Sex

None

Language

"F" & "S" Words

"Changing Lanes"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

Gavin Banek (Ben Affleck) is a young attorney who has just made partner in his law firm. He is married to a senior partner’s daughter, and things could not be going better for him.

Doyle Gipson (Samuel L. Jackson) is an insurance salesman and father of two. He is also a recovering alcoholic. He has just been approved for his first home loan, which he hopes will turn his life around. Doyle and his wife are divorced. Doyle is hoping that the home will stop his wife from taking their kids and moving cross country.

Today is an important day for both Gavin and Doyle. Gavin has a court appointment to present evidence, and Doyle must fight for custody of his kids. While in a hurry to get to court, the two men are involved in a car accident on the F.D.R. Doyle wants to do the right thing and exchange insurance, but Gavin is in too much of a hurry and just gives Doyle a blank check and then runs off.

This unfortunate accident leaves Doyle stranded on the freeway, which in turn makes him late for his court appointment. When Gavin arrives to court, he realizes that he left the most important document at the scene of the accident. Doyle arrives just in time to hear that his wife has won custody of his kids. The judge does not appear to care about the traffic accident.

Things begin to unfold for the two of them from here. Gavin has until the end of the day to come up with the missing document. Failing to do so could send him and his partners to jail. Doyle has just lost his children and ends up in a bar. When Doyle refuses to give back the paper work, Gavin is forced to take some extreme measures. Each action gets a reaction from the other as we go deeper and deeper into trouble.

I got the impression Paramount really tried to push this film hard during its theatrical run. Every where you turned, the trailer for this film aired. I was really happy when the film was released because I knew the trailers would stop. By this time I was pretty turned off by the whole thing.

Being a fan of Samuel L. Jackson, I decided the give the DVD version a chance anyway. I am glad that I took the time to see this movie. Not only does Sam Jackson have another amazing performance, but this is probably the best acting job that Ben Affleck has ever done. While I enjoy all of the films Ben has been in, it is usually for something other than his performance.

This film is character driven. We see two people from different sides of the track break down in similar ways, even though they come from opposite backgrounds. It does not matter how much money you have or where you come from, when the pressure is too high, we toss out our scruples and do things that are less than honest. The film shows just how desperate we can become when everything we have is on the line.

It is a wonderful movie, and I highly recommend it.

Extras

There is your traditional making-of feature. This feature runs approximately 15 minutes, and there is very little in the way of content here. Most of it just shows us scenes from the film with a little narration. Both Affleck and Jackson tell us why they took the roles in the film. The thing I like most about the feature is how the director made notes during a scene and then gave them to that actor after the scene. Roger Michell, like Samual L. Jackson, has a background in theater. At the end of the day, the director provided the stage actors with the notes he has made.

The next feature on the disc is a short 6 minute talk from Michael Tolkin and Chap Taylor, the screenwriters for the film. I found this far more informative than the making-of feature.

There are two deleted scenes and one extended scene on the disc. The first scene is another interview between Gavin and recent law school graduates. During the film we see two interviews take place and this is a third, which appears to have been the first interview that day. The next deleted scene is with Doyle, when he almost loses his job because of his problem. Both scenes really provide a little more character development.

The extended scene takes place while Gavin is in the confession booth. While the scene in the film shows how upset Gavin is, this takes it to the next level. He really goes off on God.

And finally there is the theatrical trailer.

Technical

The image quality is excellent. There is a small amount of ringing in the image that can be seen around the dark coats being worn. It is minor and unobtrusive. The detail in both the close-ups and long shots are excellent. The film takes place during a rainy day, and the shots outside in this gloomy weather are noise free. The interior shots are also very clean.

The audio sound track is well done too. The exterior shots of New York are filled with lots of subtle details. You are well immersed in the sound field, and while the surrounds are active, they never call attention to themselves.

This is another excellent encoding job from Paramount. There are 0 drops to video during the film. This disc will play just fine in either flag or cadence based progressive scan DVD players.

Error Type

Comments

Chapter Break

No chapter break had a drop to video.

Video (2-2)

There were 0 drops to video.

Film (3-3)

There were 29 changes to 3-3 pulldown. They lasted for 2 MPEG PICs (6 video fields)

Film (2-2 / 30p)

There were 54 changes to 2-2 pulldown. They lasted for 2 MPEG PICs (4 video fields)

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

- Stacey Spears -

Divider

Lion's Gate Films

2002, Color, Rated R

1 Hr 33 Min

 

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

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by James Robinson

 

Starring DJ Qualls, Donal Logue, Michael Rapaport, Natashya Lyonne, and Cary Elwes.

 

Release Date: 9/03/02

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Photography

MPEG Flags

Violence

Yes

Sex

Implied

Language

"F" & "S" Words

"Comic Book Villains"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

This is a rather dark comedy about a couple of rival comic book stores trying to procure a perfect collection of comic books. The story is narrated by Archie (D.J. Qualls) who is friends with Raymond (Donal Logue) the owner of a comic book store who is in it because of his love for comics.

When Conan (Danny Masterson) tells Raymond about the existence of this almost mystical comic collection, he makes a plan to talk with the owner about purchasing the set. Little does Raymond know that Conan, earlier that day, told Norman (Michael Rapaport) and Judy (Natasha Lyonne) about this same collection. Raymond and Judy are the husband-and-wife owners of the rival comic book store in town. Unlike Raymond, their life does not revolve around the comics as much as it is a means to make money.

The stores really are two different operations. Raymond’s store is dark and dingy and sells nothing but comics. He has a small, but loyal, customer base. Norman and Judy’s store is more of a family shop. It is very clean inside, and they not only offer comics, but also offer whatever else is popular like action figures and collector cards.

Raymond wants the collection of comics so that he can make a name for himself. He wants to be recognized at the Comic-Con as the man who found the collection. Norman and Judy just want the money.

Both approach Mrs. Cresswell (Eileen Brennan), the owner of the comic collection. Actually it belonged to her now deceased son. While she does not have any interest in comics she does not want to part with the collection as it reminds her of her son.

Both comic book stores make several attempts to convince Mrs. Cresswell to sell them the comic collection. This competition pushes each store owner over the edge. The first violent act has Judy running Raymond down with her car. It escalates from there as Judy buys a handgun, and Raymond looks up an old high school acquaintance named Carter (Cary Elwes) to help him steal the comics.

While everyone is sucking up to Mrs. Cresswell for the comics, Archie has actually befriended her. He slowly loses interest in comics as she helps him to see there is more to life than funny books.

The film deals with the obsession of collecting. Being a former comic book collector, I know the obsession well. The only comics I own today are the original batch of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”, but I took them out of the bag a long time ago and I don’t care! :-)

Extras

With the exception of the theatrical trailer, there are no extras on this disc.

Technical

For an independent film, the video quality overall is good. There is a bit of background noise in some of the scenes, and the transfer is a little on the soft side, but it does look better than some big budget films.

The audio, while good most of the time, does have some audible distortion. Every time Donal Logue would scream, I could hear a small amount of mic preamp clipping. Other than the short distortions during the screaming, the film soundtrack is good. This film is pretty much dialog driven.

The MPEG flags have our good friend the toggling progressive_frame flag. At least they are consistent. There were no extra drops to video on the chapter breaks. Since most, if not all, MPEG decoders and flag reading DVD players have a special case for this encode, it should play back OK on any progressive scan player. I am still giving it a low MPEG encode score because we would like to see this encode error go away.

Error Type

Comments

Chapter Break

No chapter break had a drop to video.

Video (2-2)

The progressive_frame flag toggles on and off with each frame.

Film (3-3)

There were 0 changes to 3-3 pulldown.

Film (2-2 / 30p)

There were 0 changes to 2-2 pulldown.

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

- Stacey Spears -

Divider

Lion's Gate Films

2002, Color, Rated R

1 Hr 43 Min

 

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

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Morgan J. Freeman

 

Starring Mila Kunis, William Shatner, and Geraint Wyn Davies.

 

Release Date: 6/18/02

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Photography

MPEG Flags

Violence

Yes

Sex

Implied

Language

"F" & "S" Words

"American Psycho 2"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

The tie to the original film, while loose at best, is just enough of an excuse to cash in on the title. Rachael Newman, played by the insanely cute Mila Kunis (of "That 70s Show" fame), is the only surviving victim of Patrick Bateman (see original film). Less than traumatized by the experience, she sets herself on a path that she is determined will lead her to a position at the FBI where she will be able to "use her experience" and bring serial killers to justice.

And nothing (or is it nobody) is going to get in her way. The coveted position of Teacher's Assistant to serial killer guru Professor Robert 'Bobby' Starkman (William Shatner) is an open door to the FBI. When other students are in contention for the position, it's ok to kill a few people that she can save hundreds . . . right?

The whole thing plays out as a delicious black comedy, a trait which differentiates it substantially from the first film. It has a nice, fresh, Indie film feel to it, and the pop music integration is down right intoxicating.

Extras

In addition to the requisite trailer and the now ubiquitous commentary track, the disc features an outtakes reel and some deleted scenes, included an extended opening. As is so often the case with these, you leave with a complete understanding why the footage did NOT make it into the final cut. The extended opening is much longer than what is on the final product. We actually get to see Patrick Bateman a little bit more, and he even has some dialog. If you look close enough in the film, you will see Patrick cut the left shoulder strap of the baby sitter's dress and then go to work with the wire cutters. But while he is using the wire cutters, you can see that the dress shoulder strap is not actually cut. In the original version, he goes to cut the dress, and then Rachel interrupts him. After he tapes Rachel's mouth, he grabs the wire cutters so he never actually cuts the should strap.

- Brian Florian -

Technical

The 5.1 Dolby Digital track is an excellent example of how some of the lowest profile films can have sound equal to (in some cases surpassing) blockbuster hits. While the environments and actions portrayed do not exactly represent a sound artist's greatest challenge, what we do have is very clear dialogue, punchy and dynamic music, and a pretty sweet thunderstorm, all of which support the film, while calling no attention to the soundtrack itself (as it should be).

The image quality is almost on a par with the audio. How come such low budget films can get a great looking DVD transfers, while other high profile films look terrible? Perhaps it is because they don't have the extra money to spend on DVNR (Digital Video Noise Reduction), which is a good thing, as DVNR is evil! The image is clean and sharp, with good shadow detail. There is virtually no edge enhancement type artifacts. Both interior and exterior shots are noise free.

This is another title with the alternating progressive_frame flag. Unlike "Comic Book Villains", this title actually drops to video at each chapter break on top of the alternating flag.

Error Type

Comments

Chapter Break

Every chapter break had a drop to video.

Video (2-2)

There progressive_frame flag alternates during the entire film.

Film (3-3)

There were 0 changes to 3-3 pulldown.

Film (2-2 / 30p)

There were 0 changes to 2-2 pulldown.

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

- Stacey Spears -

Divider

Miramax Films

2002, Color, Rated R

1 Hr 30 Min

 

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

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Jez Butterworth

 

Starring Nicole Kidman, Ben Chaplin, Vincent Cassel, and Mathieu Kassovitz.

 

Release Date: 8/13/02

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Photography

MPEG Flags

Violence

Yes

Sex

Yes

Language

"F" & "S" Words

"Birthday Girl"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

John Buckingham (Ben Chaplin) has a comfortable life, maybe too comfortable. He mail-orders a Russian bride. Perhaps he's afraid of English women, or perhaps he just wants to shake his life up. Either way, he gets more than he bargained for (literally). Nadia (Nicole Kidman) can't speak a word of English so its no surprise when two old Russian friends (Mathieu Kassovitz and Vincent Cassel) show up for her birthday unannounced. Days later when their welcome has run out, one of the two men freaks out demanding that John rob a bank for them. The whole thing spirals down from there.

"Birthday Girl" is a decent caper film. Not an instant classic, but well worth the watch. Nicole Kidman is almost type cast as a sultry ____ (fill in the blank), but Chaplin is a perfect bumbling plebian. Kassovitz and Cassel (both French actors) make a hysterical pair of con artists.

Extras

There is a reasonably entertaining making-of feature and the Somthin' Stupid music Video that features Robbie Williams and Nicole Kidman.

- Brian Florian -

Technical

There are some cool, creative environmental effects applied to the music, and the various on screen cues mate well to what we hear. On the whole, the 5.1 Dolby Digital track is punchy and dynamic, though dialogue ineligibility suffers slightly on occasion.

The video is not up to the same level as the audio. Overall, the image is good, but all too often edge enhancement gets in the way of really enjoying it. While the image is detailed close-up, some of the long shots are a bit soft.

The MPEG encoding is about average on this disc. There are several long 3-3 errors that occur, but they should not cause too much of a problem with various DVD players.

Error Type

Comments

Chapter Break

Every chapter break had a drop to video.

Video (2-2)

There were 32 drops to video. The majority were for 5 MPEG PICs. (10 video fields) The longest drop was for 17, 184 MPEG PICs at the very start.

Film (3-3)

There were 65 changes to 3-3 pulldown. They lasted for 2 MPEG PICs (6 video fields) The longest lasted for 130 MPEG PICs.

Film (2-2 / 30p)

There were 44 changes to 2-2 pulldown. They lasted for 2 MPEG PICs (4 video fields)

Below are samples of the errors marked in red and chapter breaks marked in blue.

Video (2-2)

Film (3-3)

Film (2-2 / 30p)

E 09:47:02 | C 09:47:02
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
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Pic: 04 B:F:P-B
Pic: 05 P:F:PRB
Pic: 06 P:F:P-T
Starting Chapter 2.
Pic: 00 I:F:--T
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E 09:48:02 | C 00:00:38

E 00:01:02 | C 00:01:02
Pic: 10 B:F:PRT
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Pic: 06 B:F:PRT
E 00:02:01 | C 00:02:01

E 02:53:01 | C 02:53:01
Pic: 03 B:F:PRB
Pic: 04 B:F:P-T
Pic: 05 P:F:PRT
Pic: 06 B:F:P-B
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Pic: 11 P:F:P-B
Pic: 00 B:F:P-T
E 02:54:01 | C 02:54:0

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

- Stacey Spears -

Divider

Universal

2002 (USA), Color, Rated R

2 Hr 24 Min

 

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

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Christophe Gans

 

Starring Samuel Le Bihan, Vincent Cassel, Émilie Dequeenne, Monica Bellucci, and Jérémie Rénier.

 

Release Date: 10/01/02

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Photography

MPEG Flags

Violence

Yes

Sex

Rape

Language

In French

"Brotherhood of the Wolf" (Le Pacte Des Loups)

Synopsis

Plot Overview

I first saw "Brotherhood of the Wolf" back in January while it was in limited release here in the US. After seeing the film, I immediately ordered the French DVD, which was available in two versions, a 2-disc set and 3-disc super special edition. I picked up the 2-disc set, and I have watched the PAL DVD a couple of times now, albeit without English subtitles and in French.

Finally, the DVD is out in the US with English subtitles and an optional English soundtrack for those who do not like subtitles. The only down side is that it is a single disc release. So we do not get all of the cool extras that are found on the French DVDs, but we do get some, and I will talk about that in a bit.

This is the story of the Beast of Gevaudan that haunted Southwestern France back in the 18th Century. This beast had a nasty M.O. of killing women and children. The film is narrated by Thomas d’Apchaer, who is played by both Jérémie Rénier (young) and Jacques Perrin (old). Fronsac (Samuel Le Bihan) is sent by the King of France to investigate this alleged beast of the Gevaudan province. Fronsac is accompanied by his Native American friend Mani (Mark Dacascos), who he met while visiting the Americas.

Upon arriving, they run into a band of thugs harassing an old man and a young woman. This is the first scene where we get to see how tough Mani is. It is reminiscent of a Hong Kong action film with its well choreographed fighting scene and slow motion shots.

When they arrive in town, they are greeted by the young Thomas. Tommy boy ends up befriending Fronsac and Mani, and he spends a great deal of time around them. Their first task is to investigate the latest murder of a young woman. At this time, they run into the thugs from the previous day, who turn out to be part of the local army that has been searching for the beast.

As the story moves on, Fronsac falls for the beautiful Madeline (Emilie Dequenne). She is the younger sister of Jean Francois (Vincent Cassel). Francois, like the rest of the town, is not interested in Fronsac. He also becomes jealous that his sister has fallen for him. Fronsac becomes involved with a prostitute name Sylvia who is dark and mysterious. Both she and Madeline are strong female characters.

After a few failed attempts to capture the beast, the powers that be decide it is time to put this sucker to bed permanently. They instruct an unwilling Fronsac to use his taxidermy skills to turn a wolf into the beast so that France can rest easy knowing the beast is dead. Of course as soon as the dead beast is shown off in France, the killings begin again, and Fronsac and Mani head back to Gevaudan on their own.

The film is nearly two and a half hours long. At times, the pacing can be a bit slow. I wish they would have done a bit more editing to reduce the length, but I still enjoyed this film a lot. It is nice to see big budget action films come from some place other than the US. There are some great fight sequences, and the photography is breathtaking. Few people in the US got to see this film while it was in limited release, I hope a lot more people will buy or rent the DVD, because foreign films often just sit on the rack at the video store, unrented.

Extras

While there is not as much here as on the French DVD, there are still some goodies. There are several deleted scenes, each introduced by the director. The total running time of this piece is 40 minutes. Much of the time is used to explain the scene and why it was deleted. The first scene cut is from the opening fight sequence. The original fight version is almost three times longer. After viewing the scene and listening to the director, it was a good idea to shorten the fight sequence, because it makes a scene later in the film that much more powerful. I recommend you skip this section until you have watched the film.

Technical

The image quality on this disc is very good, but not perfect. The exterior shots are highly detailed, but there is some visible edge enhancement that can be seen as halos around some of the trees during the hunting scene, around the cross near the opening of the film, and around some of the uniforms of the soldiers prior to Mani being seen with some local riffraff. The interior shots are noise free, but they are also a bit murky and lack shadow detail (see the opening of chapter 3). The black levels appear a bit crushed. Even with my little gripes, the image is really good to look at.

The default soundtrack is the English 5.1 soundtrack, but I chose not to listen to it. I went with the original French 5.1 soundtrack and used the English subtitles. The soundtrack is a perfect fit for the image. The surrounds are used to create an engulfing atmosphere. They surrounds are active a great deal of the time, but your attention is never distracted from the onscreen action. The soundtrack is also free from any microphone preamp clipping.

This next section only applies to progressive scan DVD players. Because I chose to use listen to the original French soundtrack, I had to use the subtitles, and like 99% of the DVDs out there, careful attention was not paid to the subtitle process. 90% of the time when the subtitle went away, I saw a deinteralcing artifact on the subtitle itself. This is because when they created the subtitle, they did not ensure that each subtitle would break on a frame boundary. Many subtitles break or go away on field boundaries. When the two fields are weaved together to form the original frame of film, the subtitle is only present in one field, so there appear to be visible black lines in the subtitle. We first mentioned this in Part 5 of the DVD benchmark. We use "The Abyss" as our subtitle test. The good news is that some MPEG decoders are aware of this problem and correct for it. The MEI MPEG decoder found in the RP91 and RP82 from Panasonic, the Mediamatics MPEG decoder found in several JVC and Malata DVD players, and the new LSI Logic Ziva 5 MPEG decoder all have the ability to hide this problem because they re-sync subtitles on frame boundaries. Again this problem only matters if you have the subtitles on and you are watching at 480p or higher.

MPEG encoding is about average and should be OK on both cadence and flag based DVD players.

Error Type

Comments

Chapter Break

3 of the 21 chapter break had a drop to video.

Video (2-2)

There were 21 drops to video. The majority were for 5 MPEG PICs. (10 video fields) The longest drop was for 184 MPEG PICs at the very end.

Film (3-3)

There were 41 changes to 3-3 pulldown. They lasted for 2 MPEG PICs (6 video fields)

Film (2-2 / 30p)

There were 66 changes to 2-2 pulldown. They lasted for 2 MPEG PICs (4 video fields)

Below are samples of the errors marked in red and chapter breaks marked in blue.

Video (2-2)

Film (3-3)

Film (2-2 / 30p)

E 90:02:00 | C 10:14:39
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
Starting Chapter 14.
Pic: 00 I:F:--T
Pic: 01 B:F:PRT
Pic: 02 P:F:P-B
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Pic: 04 B:F:P-T
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E 90:03:00 | C 00:00:50

E 00:12:00 | C 00:12:00
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E 00:13:00 | C 00:13:00

E 93:44:00 | C 03:41:50
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E 93:45:01 | C 03:42:51

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

- Stacey Spears -

Divider

Columbia Tristar

2002, Color, Rated R

1 Hr 52 Min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 (16:9 En.)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

English Dolby Digital 2.0

French Dolby Digital 2.0

English DTS 5.1

 

Directed by David Fincher

 

Starring Jodie Foster, Kristen Stewart, Forest Whitaker, Dwight Yoakam, Jared Leto, and Patrick Bauchau.

 

Release Date: 9/17/02

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Photography

MPEG Flags

Violence

Yes

Sex

None

Language

"F" & "S" Words

"Panic Room"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

The story here is pretty simple: a rich husband cheats on his wife with a young model. The wife takes the daughter and gets a divorce. The ex-wife moves into an expensive property in Manhattan with her daughter paid for by the ex-husband. The prior occupant died, but no one knows where the money went. The grandchild of the prior occupant hires two men to help him retrieve the lost money. Unbeknownst to him, escrow closed early and mother and daughter have moved into said property, causing a small complication to his plan.

Jodie Foster plays Meg Altman, the now ex-wife of pharmaceutical king Stephen Altman, played by Patrick Bauchau from the TV series, "The Pretender". Meg and her daughter Sarah (Kristen Stewart) move into his multi-level home in Manhattan that comes equipped with an elevator and a secret panic room.

Junior (Jared Leto) is a grandson of the former owner, and he has hired Burnham (Forest Whitaker) and Raoul (Dwight Yoakam) to help him retrieve the money that has been hidden in the home. Burnham works for the security company, so he helps them get into the house. Raoul was someone extra Junior brought in because of his experience. Junior fails to tell Burnham about Raoul.

Meg and Sarah had moved in sooner than Junior expected. In fact, it is on their first night in their new home that this invasion takes place. Meg and Sarah manage to make it into the panic room in time to avoid the intruders. The problem is the money is hidden in the panic room, and the fellows will do anything to get inside.

This film is a bit of a departure from David Fincher’s previous work like "Fight Club" and "The Game", which had some unusual plot twists.

The acting in this film is first rate. Dwight Yoakam completely steals the show as a psychopath bent on getting into the room. He brings humor to this otherwise tense film.

Extras

The only extra on this disc is the original theatrical teaser, which I don't believe I had seen before. This is the first Superbit disc to include any types of extras.

The casing for this disc is unique. It consists of an outer paper / cardboard style case with an insert. The insert holds the disc and folds over. It is not as sturdy as the standard plastic keep case.

Technical

There are several firsts in this DVD for the Superbit releases. The first thing I mentioned above was the inclusion of the teaser. Even before you get to that, you will notice that this is the first Superbit that has movie related silk screen on the disc itself instead of the ugly red background found on all other Superbit discs. Once you put the disc in, you will notice that the usual Superbit intro is gone and has been replaced with animated menus. Along with the usual DD 2.0, 5.1, and DTS soundtracks, there is an additional soundtrack, which brings the total to 4 soundtracks on the disc. This is also the first Superbit to only be released as Superbit-only title.

Like all previous Superbit discs, this one includes a "seamless" layer break (no visible pause between layer changes). The DVD spec calls for a "non-seamless" layer break, so officially this disc is out of spec, as are all Superbit discs. However, Sony has made a huge PR win by choosing to author with a seamless layer break. What does this mean? It means that no matter which DVD player you own, you will not see the layer change occur. Why is non-seamless the standard? Apparently, the authoring system back when the spec was completed could not reliably author a seamless layer break. Rumor has it other studios will be putting seamless layer breaks shortly.

The image quality is excellent. There is a tremendous amount of detail visible throughout the film. The open credits involve exterior shots of New York with 3D text overlaid. First, this is the coolest set of opening credits I have seen in a film, and second, the detail is simply eye popping. Most of the film is spent indoors, which is darker and often difficult to capture and encode. There is very little in the way of noise. There is great depth and shadow detail. The only complaint is the small amount of edge enhancement that can be seen around the arms of Jody Foster when she is wearing a dark coat.

The sound track is on a par with the video. There are some great environmental effects that are used to increase the tension in the film. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is detailed, and there are no audible distortions that get in the way. I found dialog to always be intelligible. I quickly compared the DTS track, and I after adjusting the levels to compensate for DTS being 4 dB louder, there was really nothing that stood out that made me feel the DTS track sounded any better. I watched the entire film with Dolby Digital.

Something you might find interesting is that David Fincher used a Sony G90 CRT projector on the set to view the dailies. I believe they were shown using D-VHS.

The MPEG flags are average. You should have no real problems viewing this DVD on a flag or cadence based DVD player.

Error Type

Comments

Chapter Break

Every chapter break had a drop to video.

Video (2-2)

There were 30 drops to video. The majority were for 5 MPEG PICs. (10 video fields)

Film (3-3)

There were 42 changes to 3-3 pulldown. They lasted for 2 MPEG PICs (6 video fields)

Film (2-2 / 30p)

There were 33 changes to 2-2 pulldown. They lasted for 2 MPEG PICs (4 video fields)

Below are samples of the errors marked in red and chapter breaks marked in blue.

Video (2-2)

Film (3-3)

Film (2-2 / 30p)

E 51:02:01 | C 02:58:04
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Starting Chapter 11.
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E 00:42:02 | C 00:42:02

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

- Stacey Spears -

Divider

Miramax Home Video

2002, Color, Rated R

1 Hr 35 Min

 

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

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Michael Lehmann

 

Starring Josh Hartnett, Shannyn Sossamon, Vinessa Shaw, Paulo Costanzo, and Griffin Dunne.

 

Release Date: 9/17/02

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Photography

MPEG Flags

Violence

None

Sex

Strong Content

Language

"F" & "S" Words

"40 Days and 40 Nights"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

Up until 6 months ago, Matt’s (Josh Hartnett) life was complete. He had a girlfriend he was crazy about, and he is working at a successful dot-com. It was then that his girlfriend Nicole (Vinessa Shaw) dumped him. So for the past 6 months, Matt has been sleeping with as many women as possible trying to get over Nicole. The problem is that he is beginning to fall apart. After each sexual encounter he ends up having a small panic attack where he sees the ceiling crack and a black hole opening up to whisk him away.

We find him constantly in church confessing with his soon-to-be priest brother, who appears to be getting tired of Matt’s whining. One day on his way out of church he makes an important decision: he will give up sex for Lent. He will spend the next 40 days and 40 nights without any form of sexual gratification.

Since Matt has given up sex, he finds life much clearer now. He is getting more work done and appears to be happier. Then he meets Erica (Shannyn Sossamon) while doing his laundry. Their first encounter is spent with her talking with him, but he plays the silent type.

At the same time, Matt’s roommate Ryan (Paulo Costanzo) has told everyone at work about his plan. Bets are placed on when Matt will give up between now and midnight on the 40th day. Matt is upset when he learns of the bets being posted on the Internet because he did not want Erica, or anyone else, to know about it. But, she does learn about it, and she thinks he is just making a bet not to sleep with her.

Things begin to slowly spiral out of control with Matt because Erica is upset, and everyone at work wants him to quit so they can cash in on the large jackpot. Matt feels the pressure building.

40 Days, while not totally explicit, does cover some strong sexual matters. The film might be considered another teen gross-out film, but it manages to avoid the gross-out. The actors are also playing out-of-school students, which is a nice change to see them playing their own age. The film is a bit historical in that it records the short lived life of the dot-com revolution, which will soon just be a faint memory.

Extras

There is very little in the way of extras. You do get the almost now standard commentary tracks from the film's producer, director, and writer.

Also included on the disc is a rather cool teaser trailer that simply has Josh saying what he is giving up. This reminds me of the cool trailer that was used for "Strange Days".

Technical

This is an excellent video transfer from Miramax. There is a lot a detail in both interior and exterior shots. The colors are also well saturated. The average bit-rate appears high as well. The audio is very good. There is some deep bass that can be felt when Matt is having his panic attacks as the ceiling cracks. I could feel a loud thump in my couch. It happened with each attack. The dialog was always free of any distortions and was intelligible.

Not only are the audio and video excellent, but the MPEG encoding is very good. There are 5 total drops to video during the film. The longest drop is at the end and lasts for 16,274 MPEG PICs. This appears to be during the closing credits. This film should play just fine on both flag and cadence based DVD players.

Error Type

Comments

Chapter Break

No chapter break had a drop to video.

Video (2-2)

There are 5 drops to video.

Film (3-3)

There were 28 changes to 3-3 pulldown.

Film (2-2 / 30p)

There were 29 changes to 2-2 pulldown.

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

- Stacey Spears -

Divider

Touchstone Pictures

2002, Color, Rated PG-13

2 Hr 1 Min

 

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

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Kevin Reynolds

 

Starring Jim Caviezel, Guy Pearce, and Richard Harris.

 

Release Date: 9/10/02

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Photography

MPEG Flags

Violence

Yes

Sex

Implied

Language

Mild

"The Count of Monte Cristo"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

This film is based on the novel "Le Comte de Monte Cristo", written by Alexandre Dumas père in 1844. I can recall many other films that have been based on the tale of Edmond Dantès. This is also not the first novel from Dumas to be made into a film. I am sure everyone has heard of "The Three Musketeers".

When a ship's captain becomes ill, Edmond Dantès (James Caviezel) and Fernand Mondego (Guy Pearce) take a small boat to the nearest island in hope of finding a doctor. This island happens to be where Napoleon is staying. Napoleon agrees to help his sick captain if he will deliver a letter to an old friend. Edmond reluctantly accepts the letter.

Fernand and Edmond have been friends since childhood. Fernand comes from noble blood while Edmond is just a commoner. All of his life, Fernand has been jealous of Edmond.

When they return to port, Edmond is rewarded for trying to save his captain's life by being promoted to captain himself. He also has the heart of the beautiful Mercédès Iguanada and asks her to marry him.

Fernand’s jealousy overwhelms him, and he turns against Edmond by accusing him of being a traitor, which gets Edmond imprisoned for 13 years. While imprisoned, Edmond befriends Abbé Faria (Richard Harris). Edmond agrees to help Abbé escape in exchange for teaching him to read and write. Abbé also teaches Edmond math, economics, and sword fighting.

Once Edmond escapes, he runs into a band of thieves. He has to fight for his life and ends up becoming friends with Jacopo (Luis Guzmán). Jacopo helps Edmond recover some lost treasure from the island of Monte Cristo. Edmond uses this money to unleash his long thought plan for revenge and makes a large entrance as the Count of Monte Cristo.

This film came and went quickly at the theater, but I don’t understand why. As of this writing, it is the 30th highest grossing film of the year, pulling in $54,210,320, in a world where $100,000,000 is now expected, and where a $50,000,000 budget for production is no big deal.

I thought that James Caviezel looked much older and played the character well when he returned as the Count, but I am not sure if anyone else really looked 16 years older. I also found it a bit difficult to believe that no one would recognize him. But, if you want to get paid, you follow the script.

All in all, I had a great time with this film. The sets looked great as did the costumes. Some of the fight scenes felt a bit rushed, but it all came together. I wound up enjoying this film a lot more than I had ever expected.

Extras

Unlike most discs from Buena Vista, there are no trailers at the start of the disc.

First up is the section entitled “Epic Reborn” This is broken down into four divisions. You have the choice of playing each one on its own or having them all play back for you. My favorite one was the second portion in which the screenplay writer, Jay Wolpert, tells us about adapting the novel into a film. He talks about the changes he made to the story and why. He even talks about some of the feedback he received on his changes. Another interview I enjoyed was with the fight choreographer. Actually, I have mixed feelings. I enjoyed seeing the training that went on, but it also breaks the illusion that the fights just happened.

Next up are the deleted scenes. And like the first section, you are given the choice to view them on their own or all played back to back. There is also an intro from the director and editor. Both of them are also speaking during each deleted scene, and they explain why they were removed.

Then comes some multi-angle shots from the dailies. There are also the standard audio commentaries available.

And finally, there is the “Layer By Layer: Sound Design” feature. What is cool about this feature is that you get to control what you listen to. You can hear the composite track with everything, the dialog only, music only, or sound effects only. The scene used for this feature is when Edmond escapes from the prison.

Technical

The film runs at just over two hours and is spread across a dual layer DVD. The image is detailed throughout, with some minor edge enhancement here and there. There is good shadow detail visible in the dark scenes, of which there are many. The scene in which the Count makes his grand entrance is reminiscent of the picture quality found on "Shakespeare in Love". The detail in the costumes and location are excellent. There are several exterior shots that are just ripe with detail. The audio soundtrack is also very detailed. There is great dynamic range, and there are no audible distortions present. The surrounds are effectually used to create atmosphere.

The MPEG encoding on this disc has a rather large handful of errors. There are 148 total drops to video. The good news is that only 4 of the 30 chapter breaks drop to video. Of the four, one seemed to drop as a result, while the other three occurred while the encoding was already in video. There were 41 3-3 errors at 2, and 191 2-2 errors, which most were 3.

Error Type

Comments

Chapter Break

3 of the 30 chapter break had a drop to video.

Video (2-2)

There were 148 drops to video. There were several drops that last for more than 50 MPEG PICs.

Film (3-3)

There were 41 changes to 3-3 pulldown. They lasted for 2 MPEG PICs (6 video fields)

Film (2-2 / 30p)

There were 91 changes to 2-2 pulldown. They lasted for 3 MPEG PICs (6 video fields)

Below are samples of the errors marked in red and chapter breaks marked in blue.

Video (2-2)

Film (3-3)

Film (2-2 / 30p)

E 36:20:00 | C 03:08:20
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Starting Chapter 10.
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E 59:57:01 | C 03:18:20
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E 59:58:01 | C 03:19:20

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E 110:39:00 | C 01:06:37

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

- Stacey Spears -

Divider

Lion's Gate Films

2002, Color, Rated R

1 Hr 39 Min

 

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

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Bill Paxton

 

Starring Bill Paxton, Matthew McConaughey, and Powers Boothe.

 

Release Date: 9/17/02

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Photography

MPEG Flags

Violence

Yes

Sex

None

Language

Minor

"Frailty"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

Fenton and Adam Meeks live in a small house behind the rose garden with their father (Bill Paxton). The three lives are pretty normal until one night when their father comes into their room and tells them he just had a visit from an angel. The angel told him that he has been chosen to kill demons. When the kids wake up the next morning, everyone acts as nothing had happened, but Fenton is not sure if it was a dream or real until their father drops them off at school and tells them to not mention the events that took place the previous night.

The story is told to us by an older Fenton Meeks (Matthew McConaughey). The film actually begins in the present when Fenton goes to the FBI to tell them that he believes his younger brother Adam is the God’s Hands Killer that the FBI is searching for. Powers Boothe plays the FBI agent Wesley Doyle that Fenton tells this story to.

Fenton continues to tell Wesley the events that took place during his childhood. He believed that nothing was going to happen until the day his dad came back and told them that the angel had shown him the weapons used to kill these demons, which included a pair of gloves, a pipe, and an axe. The only things missing were the names of the demons to kill.

Much more time had passed, and Fenton began to relax. He had hoped this would all pass, until the angel made another visit and his dad got the list of names. Dad said they look like people but were really demons.

Back in the present day, Fenton convinces Wesley that he knows where his brother has hidden the bodies of his victims. The two set off in the storm to that old rose garden.

This is the directorial debut for Bill Paxton, and he also stars as Fenton's and Adam's father. One important item in the film that I have not mentioned is the soundtrack, which is used to control the tension in the film and it does a great job of it. The lighting and photography control the pace.

I remember the initial previews for this movie. While most films give you one liner reviews from notable film critics, the comments for this one came from other film makers like Sam Raimi and James Cameron, which I found more than a bit unusual.

The violent scenes are really left up to your imagination. I guess he felt it would be more terrifying this way, as Hitchcock knew well.

I recommend you pick up a copy as quickly as possible, if you like good horror films, because this one is a dandy.

Extras

There are four deleted scenes that play back to back once you start them. The most notable scene is when Fenton is digging a big hole. You can view the scenes with or without commentary.

There is also a making of feature that runs just under 20 minutes. We hear from Bill Paxton (Director), Brent Hanley (Screenwriter), as well as some of the other cast and crew members.

Lion’s Gate has once again included an episode of the Sundance channels “Anatomy of a Scene” This time they take apart the scene in which Powers and Matthew are driving out to the rose garden. This feature runs just under 26 minutes.

Also included are three commentaries by Bill Paxton, Arnold Glassman (Editor), David Kirschner (Producer), Brian Tyler (Composer), and Brent Hanley.

Technical

With a few exceptions, this film takes place at night. Controlled lighting is used throughout the film to set the mood with shadows. The image is free of video noise and edge enhancement. The colors are a bit muted, but this appears to be intentional.

The audio soundtrack is excellent. Dialog is always intelligible, and there are no distortions in the soundtrack. The surrounds are effectively used to grab you when needed, and they never distract you from the onscreen action.

Like past DVDs from Lion's Gate, the progressive_frame flag toggles. There is also a drop to video at each chapter break. Only the chapters breaks will cause problems for flag- and some cadence-based DVD players.

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

- Stacey Spears -

Divider

Universal

2002, Color, Rated PG-13

1 Hr 32 Min

 

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

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Chuck Russell

 

Starring Dwayne Johnson, Steven Brand, Michael Clarke Duncan, & Kelly Hu.

 

Release Date: 10/01/02

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Photography

MPEG Flags

Violence

Yes

Sex

Implied

Language

Minor

"The Scorpion King"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

Let’s get straight to it, this is the time of year when there are very few new releases at your local Cineplex. Summer is now over and it is quickly turning into indoor weather. What are you going to do? Rent some movies and stay indoors. Well, "The Scorpion King" is not Oscar Nominated, but it is worth the rental fee. There, I have said it!

It has been 20 years since we first saw body building champion Arnold Schwarzenegger play the on-screen role in "Conan the Barbarian". Now, big budget action films are the norm. Big sets, lots of explosions, scantily clad women, cheesy one-liners, and impossible feats, need I go on?

WWFs The Rock a.k.a. Dwayne Johnson stars in this latest action bonanza that is more or less a prequel to "The Mummy 2". Well, The Mummy 2 introduces us to The Scorpion King, but this film tells how he came to be.

A king named Memnon (Steve Brand) is winning victory after victory with the help of his sorceress Cassandra. (Kelly Hu). She is able to tell him when and where his enemies will strike. He uses this to his advantage. Now Memnon is wiping out all tribes that are in his way to build one kingdom under his name.

The remaining tribes hire a small group of assassins, known as the Akkadian, who are led by Mathayus (Dwayne Johnson) to kill the sorceress so that they can have a chance in battle of defeating Memnon. Mathayus make a move to kill the sorceress, but it is too late, the tribal leader's son, who hired Mathayus, has betrayed them and joined forces with Memnon. Both of Mathayus' men are killed, including his brother, but the sorceress convinces Memnon to spare him. Actually she tells him that her visions say he or his men cannot kill him.

At this point Mathayus and a thief named Arpid (Grant Heslov) who adds a bit of comic relief, make their way back to the palace of Memnon and kidnap the sorceress. Along the way they also meet up with one of the tribes led by Balthazar (Michael Clarke Duncan.)

All of this leads to a final confrontation at the palace.

I have watched a number of films where at the end, I just wish I could get the hours of lost time back, but I did not feel this way after seeing The Scorpion King, though I had thought I might. While I would not consider this film a guilty pleasure, it did entertain me for an hour and a half and it will make a good rental during these slow months at the theater. As an interesting observation about the film, I don't recall one unattractive woman in the film.

Extras

There are a surprising amount of extras on this disc. First up is an alternate, enhanced, viewing of the film or at least this is how they bill it. What happens is when you select this option, an onscreen icon will be displayed during scenes when you can see an alternate version. The problem is these alternate scenes are not anamorphic and if you are watching on a 16:9 display, the image will be geometrically distorted for these scenes. They are actually included on their own later in the supplements and that is the better way to watch them, I believe.

There are several feature’s includes on the disc. There is a nearly 15-minute entitled “Spotlight on Location: The Making of Scorpion King.” Next up is the 3.5 minute feature called “Ancient World Production Design.” After that is the 6-minute feature “Preparing the Fight.” While I enjoy the features that involve the action choreography, they do spoil the illusion of a natural fight. There is a 4-minute piece called “The Rock and Michael Clarke Duncan” Both of these guys are huge! Hang in there, two more features left. A short 3-minute “Working with Animals” and finally “The Special Effects”

You also get the theatrical trailer, lots and lots of production notes, cast & crew filmographies. Also, as I mentioned before, you have all of the alternate / deleted scenes. Also included is a music video by Godsmack called “I Stand Alone.”

There is even a sneak peak at the up coming Hulk movie and Taken.

Technical

The image quality is very good. There is a lot of detail throughout, and while there is some visible edge enhancement, it is minimized. The image has a snap to it that does not feel over-enhanced. It is one of the better looking DVDs from Universal, thought not as good as "Brotherhood of the Wolf".

This is a very active soundtrack. There are a lot of Foley effects that follow the on screen action and barrage of weapons flailing about. The deep bass is impressive, there are no audible distortions, and dialog is always intelligible. The sound tracks are used to provide great ambience.

Error Type

Comments

Chapter Break

0 chapter break had a drop to video.

Video (2-2)

There were 0 drops to video.

Film (3-3)

There were 28 changes to 3-3 pulldown. They lasted for 2 MPEG PICs (6 video fields)

Film (2-2 / 30p)

There were 51 changes to 2-2 pulldown. They lasted for 3 MPEG PICs (6 video fields)

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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