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Movie Renter's Guide

Number 92 - November, 2002

Staff


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Divider

Bad Company Desert Saints
Don't Look Down Invasion
Men with Brooms Outrage
Reign of Fire Road to Wellville
Shiner Spider-Man
Urban Jungle The Wrong Guy

Divider

Artisan

1998, Color, Not Rated ?

1 Hr 30 Min

 

Aspect Ratio: 4:3

English Dolby Stereo

 

Directed by Larry Shaw

 

Starring Megan Ward, Billy Burke, and Jerry Kinney.

 

Release Date: 10/22/2002

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

MPEG Flags

Violence

Mild

Sex

No

Language

Yes

"Don't Look Down"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

Carla, her photographer husband, and sister Rachael head up to the mountains to take some pictures. When Rachael falls off a precipice, Carla is unable to save her. She develops acrophobia and is seemingly being haunted by her sister from the grave. To overcome her fears and get on with her life, she participates in a radical therapy with the help of a psychologist. But when the good doctor's past reveals some disturbing events, Carla mental stability spins out of control while the visions of her dead sister overtake her.

Commentary

This one scores two yawns on the boring scale. Its starts off all right but then just goes nowhere. The whole acrophobia side bar take too much time away from the classic genre elements, leaving us uninterested in how it ends. Megan Ward turns in the only decent performance.

Extras

There is nothing for extras.

Technical

The Dolby Stereo track is genuinely pleasing, with crystal clear dialogue and a good sense of environmental ambiance most of the time. Music, like much of the track, is front heavy, and it just does not feel as dynamic as it should.

The 4:3 aspect ratio is in fact the OAR (Original Aspect Ratio) for this film. The picture does show some good detail, and the darker scenes are nicely rendered, but an overall distracting presence of video noise and edge enhancement simply spoil any other positive qualities.

The flags, as we are coming to expect from these off beat Artisan titles, are all over the place.

Error Type

Comments

Chapter Break

The chapter break did not cause a drop to video.

Video (2-2)

There were 211 drops to video, each lasting anywhere from 3 to 95 MPEG Pics with one lasting for 1293.

Film (3-3)

There were 47 changes to 3-3 pulldown. They lasted for between 2 and 3 MPEG PICs. (6-9 video fields)

Film (2-2 / 30p)

There were 243 changes to 2-2 pulldown. They lasted for between 2 and 3MPEG PICs. (4-6 video fields)

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

- Brian Florian -

Divider

Artisan

1998, Color, Not Rated

1 Hr 30 Min

 

Aspect Ratio: 4:3

English Dolby Stereo

 

Directed by Robert Allan Ackerman

 

Starring Rob Low and Jennifer Gray.

 

Release Date: 10/22/2002

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

MPEG Flags

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Yes

"Outrage"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

When he sees a group of rich delinquent youths breaking into a car, Tom Casey makes a call to the cops. After getting arrested, the leader of the privilege class gang orders the trashing of Tom's car. Tom gets their names and threatens one of the group. In retaliation, they harass his wife. Things quickly spiral out of hand as the kids keep getting off, and Tom ends up looking more and more unstable to his wife and the cops.

Commentary

This movie goes nowhere and takes such elaborate means to get there, that it is outright painful to watch. If I did not HAVE to write this review, I would have hit the eject button about halfway through.

The film tries to make use of the classic "The audience knows what authorities in the movie don't," but it fails miserably. Instead of tension, or even frustration, we just have a sense of boredom.

Not recommended on any level.

Extras

There is nothing for extras.

Technical

The Dolby Stereo track is only par with at times an over processed feel, especially in the dialogue. It comes across as just loud, not dynamic, and wants for more ambient environment creation.

The 4:3 aspect ratio is in fact the OAR for this film. The picture feels very soft and wants for more real detail. There is video noise, compression artifacts, and noticeable edge enhancement.

The flags...another disaster.

Error Type

Comments

Chapter Break

The chapter break did not cause a drop to video.

Video (2-2)

There were 44 drops to video, each lasting anywhere from 1 to 174 MPEG PICs.

Film (3-3)

There were 23 changes to 3-3 pulldown. They lasted for 2 MPEG PICs. (6 video fields)

Film (2-2 / 30p)

There were 36 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

- Brian Florian -

Divider

Artisan

2002, Color, Rated R

1 Hr 37 Min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

English Dolby Digital 5.1

English Dolby Stereo

 

Directed by Van Fisher

 

Starring Frank John Hughes, Seidy Lopez, and Lombardo Boyar.

 

Release Date: 8/20/2002

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

MPEG Flags

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Yes

"Urban Jungle"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

After a 7 year prison term for shooting his sadistically abusive father, Tommy (Hughes) is easing into freedom and rebuilding a life. His job as a school cook seems at first mundane, but people soon discover he's quite talented and start soliciting his apple pie. Sophia (Lopez), one of the teachers at the school, starts to date Tommy, and the two soon fall for each other. Sophia's little brother is mixed up in drugs and male prostitution, so when he falls into a huge debt, he can't pay. Tommy has to choose between falling back into the crime world to help Sophia's brother, or keeping his own new life safe.

Commentary

According to the liner notes, this film was financed by the director himself with maxed out credit cards and the sale of his house. Filming of the 50 total actors in 29 locations was done in just 19 days without permits.

In a word: Bravo!

This movie is a triumph of raw talent and an obvious passion for the craft. The characters are believable, successfully developed in the short hour and a half, while the acting, filming, and editing are all so grounded, free of the formulaic Hollywood standards, that despite technical issues, everything "works". 

Extras

Cast filmographies and a trailer are all that are included. Funny how some movies get a director's commentary that no one ever listens to while a film like this gets passed over.

Technical

The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is a decidedly good effort, given the circumstances (budget, time, etc.). While much of the dialogue is less than perfect on-the-set capture, it is never wanting for intelligibility and inherits some of the ambient information of the locals. Beyond that, it feels a little front heavy but not to the total neglect of the surrounds.

The 1.85:1 film is unfortunately not 16:9 enhanced. It adequately preserves what one imagines to be the raw candid quality of the shooting with whites that are often blown out. Detail is fair, color is consistent, but edge enhancement rears its ugly head once again, and there is some very noticeable blocking compression  artifacts.

The encoding of the film is all over the place, video for a while, film for a bit, back and forth all through the picture. It is very hard to watch on a flag reading progressive DVD system, as combing and/or toggling of softness are almost constant.

Error Type

Comments

Chapter Break

No chapter break had a drop to video per sť, though at several the flags had already dropped to video.

Video (2-2)

There were a whopping 1124 drops to video, each lasting anywhere from 3 to 338 MPEG Pics.

Film (3-3)

Between 3-3 and 2-2 progressive, there was an incredible 1166 errors.  We did not bother counting how many of one versus the other. 

Film (2-2 / 30p)

See above.

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

- Brian Florian -

Divider

Buena Vista Home Entertainment

2002, Color, Rated PG-13

1 Hr 57 Min

 

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

English Dolby Digital 5.1

English DTS 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Joel Schumacher

 

Starring Anthony Hopkins and Chris Rock.

 

Release Date: 11/12/2002

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

MPEG Flags

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Yes

"Bad Company"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

When a CIA agent is killed in action, the government has 9 days to train his twin brother to complete the mission, which is to buy a stolen nuclear weapon before someone else does.

Jay Hayes and Kevin Pope are identical twins but never knew each other existed because their mother died during childbirth. Jay was diagnosed at birth with a medical condition, so in order to increase the chances of adoption, the hospital separated the kids at birth, which has me asking, "How did the CIA know Kevin had a twin?"

Kevin lucked out and was adopted by a good family. He was well educated, while Jay spent his years in a foster home. Jay is street smart and cons people playing chess and scalps event tickets.

Jay is taken into the CIA and is brought up to speed quickly, but is never really told what he is doing until the people who killed his brother try to murder him.

Commentary

This film follows the traditional Jerry Bruckheimer formula for an action film. We have good guys, bad guys, bullets, action, and comedy. You can pretty much see everything coming long before it gets there, but at least the ride is a fun one.

I enjoyed the one-liners from Chris Rock a lot more than I thought I ever would. He brought much needed comic relief to the film. While it is not as entertaining as "Armageddon" or "The Rock", it is a step up from "Con Air".

Extras

The only extra on the disc is a roughly 11-minute feature on the film where we get to hear from several members of the cast. They each try and tell us what the film is about, the genre, and how great it was working with everyone.

The other item listed under the extras is a register your DVD option. It tells you to put your disc in a PC and you can register the film. If you ever have a problem with your disc, you can then get a replacement.

Technical

The image has a lot of eye popping detail with just a little bit of edge enhancement (EE). The EE is noticeable on some of the finer detail, like the helicopters. Some of the detail in the facial shots might be a bit unnatural, but not at all distracting. The image is clean and free of any noise in both exterior as well as interior shots.

The soundtrack is not at active as previous Bruckheimer action flicks, but it is no "Driving Miss Daisy" either. The musical score makes itself known early on. There is a lot of ambient information oozing from the surround speakers, but none of it ever distracts your attention away from the onscreen action.

This is another DVD that has the alternating progressive_frame flag. The good news is that there are no extra drops caused by chapter breaks.

Error Type

Comments

Chapter Break

No chapter break had a drop to video.

Video (2-2)

The progressive_frame flag alternates on / off throughout the entire film.

Film (3-3)

N/A

Film (2-2 / 30p)

N/A

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

- Stacey Spears -

Divider

Artisan

2002, Color, Rated R

1 Hr 29 Min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

English Dolby Stereo

 

Directed by Rich Greenberg

 

Starring Kiefer Sutherland and Melora Walters

 

Release Date: 9/17/2002

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

MPEG Flags

Violence

Yes

Sex

Graphic

Language

Yes

"Desert Saints"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

Banks is a high caliber hit man embarking on the job he'll retire on. He usually gets a woman to do the public things: buy the cars, book the hotels, etc, and then he kills them when the job is done. On his way south to Mexico he picks up a hitchhiker with more to gain than lose, and soon she's looking more like a partner than an expendable part of the job. Banks begins to lose his edge at a time when he needs it most.

Commentary

For a cheap movie, this actually isn't so bad. The overall premise is a little pedestrian, and the production values and script leave a lot to be desired, but Sutherland and Walters play off each other very well. There is a delicious unforeseen twist half way through that revives your interest and holds it to the end. Sudden bursts of unrealistic coarse language and a somewhat graphic sex scene lasting for a few seconds cheapen an otherwise good screen play.

Extras

Nothing, except for the trailer.

Technical

The Dolby Stereo soundtrack scores only average. The sound space is at times fully exploited, but it is inconsistent, and much of the time feels front heavy if not center heavy. Dialogue is clear and unintelligible but has a low-fi, unnatural quality about it that makes you feel like you are listening to a TV speaker, not a surround sound setup.

The 1.33:1 aspect ratio is in fact the OAR for this film. Extremely soft in nature, there is edge enhancement and video noise in abundance. Feels more like VHS than DVD.

The entire film start to finish is encoded as video. Hope you have good motion adaptive deinterlacing player for this one.

Error Type

Comments

Chapter Break

N/A

Video (2-2)

The entire film is encoded as video.

Film (3-3)

N/A

Film (2-2 / 30p)

N/A

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

- Brian Florian -

Divider

Buena Vista Home Entertainment

2002, Color, Rated PG-13

1 Hr 42 Min

 

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

English Dolby Digital 5.1

English DTS 5.1

 

Directed by Rob Bowman

 

Starring Matthew McConaughey, Christian Bale, and Izabella Scorupco.

 

Release Date: 11/19/2002

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

MPEG Flags

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Yes

"Reign of Fire"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

A dragon is awakened from its hibernation during a tunneling project in downtown London. A young boy by the name of Quinn (Christian Bale) survives the ordeal after an up-close and personal experience with the dragon.

Twenty years later, the dragons have spawned and wiped out most of mankind. Quinn is now all grown up and is the leader of a small group of people, consisting mostly of children, in a castle outside of London.

A militia led by Van Zan (Matthew McConaughey) arrives at the battle worn castle where Quinn and his people are living. Shortly after their arrival, a dragon attacks, and Van Zan and his team kill the dragon.

Van Zan has traveled from America, and along the way has lost many men. Van Zan and Quinn have it out when Van Zan drafts the few adults that live with Quinn to fill the shoes of the dead soldiers.

Commentary

This film made a quick trip from the theater to home video. I have always been a fan of post apocalyptic films, and this is no exception. Both Bale and McConaughey are guilty of overacting, but then again, I was not expecting a whole lot from this popcorn flick.

The film had a grungy look that I found believable. Everything looked worn out and burned, and all the characters were scruffy looking.

The film is actually a bit short. It was all wrapped up pretty quickly, which left me wanting more. One of the more impressive scenes was with the archangels skydiving to slay the dragon. This was an intense scene, and they only did this once. There are very few actual dragons in the film, but they look believable and not at all digital.

There is more character development for Quinn than any other character, and I liked the scene where he puts on a play for the children.

Extras

The original theatrical trailer is included along with two features. The first feature is entitled "Breathing Life into the Terror" that is just over 8 minutes long. The second feature is called "If you Can't Take the Heat..." and runs 15 minutes. Both features cover the special effects development process and the pyrotechnics used to bring it all to life.

There is also a "Conversation with Rob Bowman" that is just over 11 minutes long.

The other item listed under the extras is a register your DVD option. It tells you to put your disc in a PC and you can register the film. If you ever have a problem with your disc, you can then get a replacement.

Technical

This film is highly stylized with sharp contrast scenes. Because of the sharp contrast, it is easy to see the visible edge enhancement. Most dark objects have a faint halo around them. I found this visible throughout the entire film.

With the exception of the halos, the image is clean and free of noise. It is very sharp, overall an ok to good transfer. If it were not for the EE, it would have been a great transfer.

The audio is used almost as a supporting character, from the opening with the pigeons enveloping us, to the wind created by the flight of the dragons. The dialog is almost always intelligible I had a hard time understanding what was being said during one of the prayers, but other than that it is clean and free of any mic preamp clipping.

The Flags...

Error Type

Comments

Chapter Break

No chapter break had a drop to video.

Video (2-2)

There were no drops to video.

Film (3-3)

There were 27 changes to 3-3 MPEG encoding.

Film (2-2 / 30p)

There were 44 changes to 2-2 / 30p MPEG encoding.

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

- Stacey Spears -

Divider

Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment

1994, Color, Rated R

2 Hr 00 Min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 P&S

English Dolby Stereo

 

Directed by Allan Parker

 

Starring Anthony Hopkins, Briget Fonda, Matthew Broderick, John Cusack, and Dana Carvey

 

Release Date: 9/10/2002

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

MPEG Flags

Violence

No

Sex

Yes

Language

Mild

"Road to Wellville"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (Hopkins), the actual inventor of breakfast cereal, runs a health sanitarium (spa) in the heart of cereal country, Battle Creek, Michigan. Will (Broderick) is being dragged by his wife Eleanor (Fonda) to the sanitarium, where he learns that health from the doctor comes at a strange cost: Nothing but grains to eat, regular bowel cleansing, and no sexual activity of any kind. Kellogg's adopted but now estranged son (Carvey) hooks up with an entrepreneur (Cusak) to try and make their own cereal fortune.

Commentary

Here is what is true: There was a man name John Harvey Kellogg who believed grain was the only thing people should eat. Together with his brother they invented a way to make the stuff palatable and Corn Flakes was born. But while the brother went on to make a commercial success out of it, John Harvey, the eccentric one, focused on "saving lives" in the Battle Creek Sanitarium which really did exist. He did have a huge number of adopted kids and was against sex.

This last item, of course, is what Hollywood decided to focus on in their fiction, set around these real events.

The movie is funny and entertaining, but is by no means a great achievement or a classic on any level. Something with more concrete ties to the real story might have found a place in the hall of fame, but this fiction is only worth a casual laugh.

Extras

There is nothing for extras.

Technical

The Dolby Stereo track is excellent. The surrounds are used to full advantage to add ambient environmental cues, and the front soundstage is spacious and dynamic. While dialogue is clear and free of distortions, Hopkins can be at time hard to understand, due no doubt more to his rendition of the accent and not the sound engineer's efforts

This release of the movie was butchered . . . I mean "formatted to fit your screen" (Pan & Scan). That grotesque fault notwithstanding, the transfer is par, with a reasonably sharp image with just a bit of video noise but alas a distracting ringing around edges much of the time. Colors are consistent if not the most lively, and details in the dark are well defined.

The flags . . .

Error Type

Comments

Chapter Break

Every chapter break had a drop to video.

Video (2-2)

There were 31 drops to video.

Film (3-3)

There were 37 changes to 3-3 pulldown. They lasted for 2 MPEG PICs (6 video fields)

Film (2-2 / 30p)

There were 46 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

- Brian Florian -

Divider

Buena Vista Home Entertainment

1998, Color, Rated PG-13

1 Hr 34 Min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

English Dolby Stereo

 

Directed by David Steinberg

 

Starring Dave Foley and Jennifer Tilly

 

Release Date: 9/24/2002

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

MPEG Flags

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Yes

"The Wrong Guy"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

Nelson Hibbert is a corporate guy trying to make it to the top. When he gets passed over for the promotion he is sure he deserved, he decides to give his boss an earful. When he bursts into the office, he finds the boss has just been murdered, and the bumbling Nelson gets "evidence" all over him. He panics and goes on the lam, never knowing that the cops have the full surveillance tape and know he's innocent. Circumstances are such that the real killer and Nelson keep crossing paths, finally leading them to small town USA when Nelson meets narcoleptic country girl Lynn, and they somehow stumble out of the mess together.

Commentary

This movie is billed as a comedy, and it is funny, but really it is more of a Hitchcock satire (Hitchcock directed "The Wrong Man"). Right from the opening credits we gets the delicious Hitchcock-esque music, and even the cinematography can be identified as emulating certain elements from the master.

With all that in mind, things start out great. I'm laughing, I'm interested, then it all goes downhill. Somewhere halfway through the pacing of the story, things start to drag and never recover. By the end, you are just praying for the credits to roll so you can get on with your life.

Extras

There is nothing for extras.

Technical

The Dolby Stereo track is quite good for what it is. Never collapsing to center, there are some curious spatial cues given by the surrounds which make them feel almost discrete. On the whole, it is not as dynamic as we expect, but fortunately dialogue is unusually clear and natural sounding.

The 1.85:1 aspect ratio of the film is unfortunately not 16:9 enhanced. This is a shame, because this is an otherwise quite detailed and good looking transfer. Images are crisp, and colors and nicely saturated, without being overstated. A touch of edge enhancement is noticeable, even on smaller interlaced displays.

The flags...

Error Type

Comments

Chapter Break

Every chapter break had a drop to video.

Video (2-2)

There were 30 drops to video.

Film (3-3)

There were 46 changes to 3-3 pulldown. They lasted for 2 MPEG PICs (6 video fields) 

Film (2-2 / 30p)

There were 35 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

- Brian Florian -

Divider

Artisan

1997, Color, Not Rated

4 Hr 00 Min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 P&S

English Dolby Stereo

 

Directed by Armand Mastroianni

 

Starring Luke Perry, Kim Cattral, and Rebecca Gayheart.

 

Release Date: 11/19/2002

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

MPEG Flags

Violence

Yes

Sex

Implied

Language

No

"Invasion"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

"Invasion" is a TV miniseries on the story by Robin Cook. It first aired on TV back in 1997.

A meteor makes its way to earth and into the hands of Beau Stark (Luke Perry). When he handles the tiny rock, it stings him. Later that day he comes down with the flu and is taken to the hospital where he miraculously feels better.

Cassy (The Noxema Girl, a.k.a. Rebecca Gayheart) soon realizes that her boyfriend has changed. He has become more confident, smarter, and more sexually aggressive. Later that night he gets Cassy out of bed to show her a meteor storm.

The meteor storm drops thousands of rocks just like the one that bit Beau and soon more and more people begin to get sick. Some of the people have violent reactions and die.

Pitt, a friend of Beau and Cassy, is an intern at the local hospital. He and Dr. Moran (Kim Cattral) are concerned and want to talk with the CDC, but the hospital administrator is against that. They quickly learn that the people who have been infected have begun to change like Beau and are up to no good.

Commentary

I recall while growing up that every year the miniseries on TV was a big event. There have been some great ones from "The Blue and the Gray" to "V". "Invasion" is no different, but in many ways, the DVD is better than the original TV presentation. The image quality is better, there are no commercial interruptions, and you get to see the entire series in one sitting instead of over multiple days.

"Invasion" is a B Movie by today's standards, but I found it to be entertaining. It is another alien invasion story being told, so being a fan of Sci-Fi is important and if you are, then I suggest you consider this an option next time you are looking for something to rent.

Extras

There are no extras on the disc.

Technical

The opening of the film contains a lot of noise in the dark scenes, but the rest of the film looks pretty good for a made-for-TV movie. Unlike "V" that has been released on DVD in widescreen format, Invasion is in 4:3, which is most likely the original aspect ratio.

There were a couple of scenes during the film that caused some problems for the deinterlacer in my progressive scan player. I suspect it was the digital effects overlaid on top of the video. I have seen this happen before, even on big budget films, like "Star Trek: The Motion Picture".

The audio is two-channel and is mostly dialog that comes from the center channel. There are a couple of scenes where we get a bit of noise from the surrounds, but not that often. The soundtrack was free of audible distortion, and the dialog was always intelligible.

The flags were a surprise to me, because Artisan usually does not do a job this good on MPEG encoding. The drops on video were a little longer than normal, but not terrible. There were no drops caused by chapter breaks, and this TV mini-series was encoded as film as opposed to video.

Error Type

Comments

Chapter Break

No chapter break had a drop to video.

Video (2-2)

There were 25 drops to video, with many longer than normal.

Film (3-3)

There were 34 changes to 3-3 pulldown. They lasted for 2 MPEG PICs (6 video fields)

Film (2-2 / 30p)

There were 59 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

Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment

2002, Color, Rated PG-13

2 Hr 1 Min

 

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

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Sam Raimi

 

Starring Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Cliff Robertson, and Rosemary Harris.

 

Release Date: 11/01/2002

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

MPEG Flags

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

No

"Spider-Man"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

While on a high school field trip, the nerdy Peter Parker gets bitten by a genetically engineered spider. Around the same time, a government contractor, who is working on a military project, subjects himself to untested performance enhancers to prove that his technology works. Born are both a super hero and a super villain.

Peter soon realizes that he is going through some serious changes and uses his new found strength to earn some money. This ultimately leads to the death of his uncle, and it forces Peter to use his new found talents to stop crime.

Norman Osborn, Peterís best friendís father, just so happens to be the government contractor who becomes the Green Goblin after taking the performance enhancers. The Green Goblin goes after Spider-Man because he wants him on his side. At the same time, both Peter and Harry Osborn are competing for the affection of Mary Jane Watson.

Commentary

Another comic book action hero makes its way to the big screen. Several comic book characters have been turned into feature films, but only a few have been worth watching, and I include Spider-Man in that short list.

This will probably be the first of many films in the franchise. This film really provides us with the background story.

Most of the visual animation looks unnatural. The photorealism is fantastic, but the movements of the digital spidey leave much to be desired. He flip-flops around, and you can tell when he is computer animated or a guy in a suit.

While the effects leave room for improvement, the film overall is a winner. I never felt that the film takes itself too seriously. The only issues I really had were a couple of lovey-dovey speeches given by both Peter and MJ. I found myself daydreaming during those scenes but immersed in the rest of the film.

Extras

This is a 2-disc set, and the extras begin on disc 1. First up is an option to watch some extras during the film. This is called "Spider Sense". An icon will show up on-screen during the movie. When you click on it, you get taken to a short feature. Also on disc 1 are two commentary tracks and the traditional filmographies for the actors.

Disc 2 is broken out into two sections. First up in section one is a 25-minute feature on the mythology of Spider-Man. There are also four still galleries included in the first section.

The second section begins with a 25-minute HBO special on the making of Spider-Man. This is your traditional pat yourself on the back piece. Next up is a 36-minutes E! Entertainment special on the film, which is much more enjoyable than the HBO special. Then come some short profiles and screen tests with the director, composer, and several key actors.

Technical

"Spider-Man" is a very colorful film. On the whole, it appears to be using a horizontal low-pass filter, like most of Columbiaís non-Superbit titles. Detail in close-ups and long shots can leave a little to be desired, but on the whole it looks good. There is very little in the way of edge enhancement.

The soundtrack is free of any audible distortion. It is very dynamic, but surprisingly most of the action takes place in the front half of the room. While the surrounds do get used, they are not that aggressive.

These flags are on par with the work we have seen done by Columbia. I sure would like it if they could get an update to their encoder to remove the errors caused by the chapter breaks, or place them to avoid the break.

Error Type

Comments

Chapter Break

Every chapter break had a drop to video.

Video (2-2)

There were 43 drops to video.

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 51 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 -

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Artisan

2001, Color, Rated R

1 Hr 42 Min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (16x9 Enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

English Dolby Stereo

 

Directed by Paul Gross

 

Starring Paul Gross, Molly Parker, and Leslie Nielsen

 

Release Date: 10/29/2002

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

MPEG Flags

N/A

Violence

No

Sex

Yes

Language

Yes

"Men with Brooms"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

In the last will and testament of a devout curling coach is the odd request for his ashes to be put in a curling rock and for the team he coached 10 years ago to reunite and win the coveted local title of Golden Broom. The four misfits, led by Cutter (Gross), set out to overcome their individual hang-ups and look to the prize as motivation for getting back into the game of life.

Commentary

This is a pretty good movie, but for the most part, it follows the formulaic drivel of a sport-centric picture, complete with old and new girlfriends, the estranged coach, and of course a finale involving an impossible shot/goal/play (whichever applies to the sport at hand). Within that context though, "Men with Brooms" is not a bad picture and in fact has some higher significance: It is one of the very few films which is genuinely "Canadian" while at the same time being accessible to everyone. The stereo types are present but not overplayed and hey, Canada has contributed more than its fair share of great acting talent to Hollywood so maybe it's time more movies were made which touch home.

Extras

There is a very short featurette which is basically a synopsis of the movie as told by the various actors and the director on the set. There is also a formal interview with writer/director/actor Paul Gross.

Technical

The Dolby Digital soundtrack is above par with crisp, clear dialogue and dynamic music. The surrounds are employed discreetly to enhance the ambiance of the various environments and also are successfully employed for some "slide by" effects as the curling rocks travel off screen.

The 16x9 enhanced transfer would be quite good were it not for some distracting edge enhancement and ringing. It is otherwise nicely detailed with nice shadow delineation and consistent colors.

This is the second DVD we have encountered from which our exclusive software could not extract the MPEG PIC flags.

- Brian Florian -

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Buena Vista Home Entertainment

2000, Color, Rated R

1 Hr. 40 Min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 Enh)

English Dolby Stereo

French Dolby Stereo

 

Directed by John Irvin

 

Starring Michael Caine

 

Release Date: 8/20/2002

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

MPEG Flags

Violence

Yes

Sex

Nudity

Language

Yes

"Shiner"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

Billy "Shiner" Simpson (Caine) is a boxing organizer who is into both legitimate and underground events. The biggest fight of his life is coming up:  his son takes on the American champion. But despite all his efforts setting up the gig, his son goes down so fast that Shiner suspects him of throwing the fight. When he confronts his son, the boy is shot by a sniper, and Shiner goes on a rampage to exact his revenge.

Commentary

This movie follows the formula of what is becoming a sub genre: the British action thriller, characterized by a proliferation of the "F" word, an abundance of bumbling sidekicks, and at times brutal violence. At one point Shiner threatens a man by putting a gun to his pregnant wife's belly. There was a time when we would have said England is more conservative about violence and more open about sexual content as compared to North America, but the last ten years of film has demonstrated a complete reversal!

All in all, this is a fair effort but not good enough to recommend beyond a basic level. The story took so long to set up, that by the time things got going, I lost interest and just wanted someone to tell me who done it so I could get on with my life.

Extras

There is nothing for extras.

Technical

The DVD is mislabeled as having a Dolby Digital 5.1 track. What is on the disc is a two-channel track, presumably Dolby Stereo encoded. It is punchy and dynamic, free of distortion such as mic preamp clipping, but dialogue at times seems muffled and difficult to understand.

The wide 2.35:1 frame is aptly exploited by the cinematographer. This transfer shows good detail, less than the usual video noise, and is free from distracting compression artifacts. Alas an overdoes of edge enhancement / ringing spoils it.

The flags . . . are not good. There were frequent errors, and these tended to last quite a bit longer than we normally see. On the other hand, chapter breaks are clean.

Error Type

Comments

Chapter Break

No chapter break had a drop to video.

Video (2-2)

There were 84 drops to video, each lasting a whopping 57 to 75 MPEG PICs.

Film (3-3)

There were 29 changes to 3-3 pulldown. They lasted any where from 2 to 76 MPEG PICs (228 video fields)

Film (2-2 / 30p)

There were 109 changes to 2-2 pulldown. They lasted any where from 2 to 76 MPEG PICs (152 video fields)

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

- Brian Florian -

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© Copyright 2002 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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