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DVD Video Reviews, Pt. 2 - Sept. 2003

Reservoir Dogs-- Special Edition (1992)

Starring: Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Chris Penn, Steve Buscemi, Lawrence Tierney, Michael Madsen
Studio: Artisan
Video: 2.35:1 Widescreen Enhanced, 1.33:1 Pan & Scan
Audio: DTS 5.1, DD 5.1, DD 2.0, Audio Commentary
Extras: Trailer, Deleted Scenes (5), Interviews (6), Critic Commentaries (3), K-Billy Radio Takes and Info, 1992 Sundance Festival interviews, 1991 Sundance Institute Reservoir Dogs Pre-production Scenes, Dedications and Tributes (7), Film Noir Web (7), Action Figures, Location Scouting, Brief Style Guide, Poster Gallery
Length: 100 minutes
Rating: ****

Several men are sitting at a table debating what the lyrics of Madonna’s hit song “Like A Virgin” really mean. Soon after follows a conversation about the merits of tipping a server in the restaurant - a classic movie scene. If you didn’t already guess from his cameo appearance in the first five minutes of the film, Reservoir Dogs is written and directed by Quentin Tarantino - and was his break into big-time movie-making. The film revolves around thieves who plan to rob a bank, one of whom is actually an undercover police officer. The movie jumps back and forth telling different sides of the same story (much like Pulp Fiction). The plan goes awry as the police are at the bank waiting for them. Most of the film involves the few who make it back to the rendezvous point, and how they try to piece together what happened and what to do about it after the fact.

The re-released special edition of this film is packed with tons of extras—some of which seem a bit extraneous/superfluous, while others clearly shed light on both the film and the people involved with its success. There were four different DVDs with altered packaging. The one I was sent had Mr. Pink on the cover, had a small bio of him on the inside cover complete with quotes, had pictures of Mr. Pink in the insert, and of course, the whole package is pink. One of the many things that make this film so special is the down-to-earth dialogue. It really makes you believe the characters are in fact common criminals, and yet at the same time, have philosophical and/or normal conversations just like any other person would. This gift of dialogue and storytelling is what keeps the viewer riveted and repulsed (depending on the scene) at the same time. There is a group of star actors present, but none of them overpower the others in the whole scheme of the film. Although the film ends somewhat abruptly, the ending is nothing less than satisfying. Purchase here

- Brian Bloom

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

Starring: Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd, Joanna Cassidy, Charles Fleischer (voice)
Studio: Touchstone/Amblin
Video: 1.85:1 Widescreen Enhanced, 1.33:1 Full Frame
Audio: DD 5.1, DTS 5.1, French, Spanish
Extras: THX Optimizer, Deleted Scene (w/ commentary), Audio Commentary, Valiant Files (includes sketches, paintings, posters, etc), With and without animation comparisons, Toon stand-ins, Story of the animation and special effects in the film, On the Set takes, Titles that give info about the film while it plays, Acme warehouse (w/ fun and games) and Bonus Material--Roger Rabbit Shorts (3), Previews
Length: 104 minutes
Rating: ***1/2

This film will take its place in history along with many other noteworthy movies. Although on the surface the story seems to be not unlike other films—a down and out private detective is hired to do a spy job and discovers a conspiracy plot where multiple characters seem to be guilty – the big difference is the exacting blend of live action and animation to the point where it is sometimes hard to tell one from the other. Detective Eddy Valiant is hired to catch Jessica Rabbit playing paddy cake with Marvin Acme. When Acme ends up dead, all the clues point to the rabbit. But something is fishy. It seems that Acme owns the rights to Toontown, a magical place where most of the Toons live. Judge Doom is on the case and has invented a liquid, dip, which will dissolve the toons in a matter of seconds. He has other ideas for the Red Line, the transportation system in Los Angeles of the time, and for a radical new idea called a “freeway.” His involvement is deeper than expected.

The writers of the film were influenced by and pay homage to many classic films by Bogart as well as great films like Chinatown. There are many wonderful extras in this two-disc set like the three animated Roger Rabbit shorts, full audio commentary, and titles at the bottom of the frame that give all sorts of background information about the film. There is a great soundtrack, the story is funny and involving, acting in the film is solid, and the animated characters walk in and out of the frame without distraction. The film took years to make, but it is clear that the effort was worth it. The execution is commendable and the film is clearly something special. Like many good animated films, Who Framed Roger Rabbit works on a few different levels. It is likely that you can watch the film with the entire family and everyone will find it enjoyable. Purchase here

-Brian Bloom



Punch Drunk Love (2-Disc Superbit Edition)(2002)

Starring: Adam Sandler, Emily Watson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Luis Guzman
Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Studio: Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment
Video: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Audio: English DD 5.1EX, DTS 6.1ES, DD 2.0, French DD 2.0
Subtitles: English, French
Captions: English Closed Captions
Extras: “Blossoms and Blood” featurette, two deleted scenes, twelve Scopitones, three theatrical trailers, Mattress Man commercial, still gallery of additional artwork by Jeremy Blake, booklet
Length: 95 minutes
Rating: ***

Barry Egan is the socially-challenged owner of a small novelty business in California. He is dominated by his seven sisters and does not have any female companionship of his own. A quiet, unassuming man, Barry is prone to fits of violent outbursts. However, things begin to change for Barry when he meets one of his sister’s friends. This woman, Lena Leonard, stirs emotions in Barry that he has never felt before. Unfortunately, a single call he made to a phone-sex line, prior to meeting Lena, threatens to unravel all the positive momentum in Barry’s life.

The overall video quality of this DVD is very good. Images are clean with fine detail. Colors are warm and dark with fully saturated hues. Picture defect mastering is solid with no major flaws or compression artifacts. The overall audio quality is also very good with the English DTS 6.1ES track serving as the basis for this review. The soundtrack mix tends to favor the front channels. Dialogue is natural-sounding and properly anchored in the center channel. The surround channels are selectively utilized for both music and sound effects, and even include a couple of split rear effects. The low frequency effects channel has some surprisingly deep and rumbling bass, especially in the music score. Tactile sound effects are present in about one third of the DVD’s chapters, and appear as subtle to moderate impacts that originate from sound effects and the music. Purchase here

Reference equipment used for this review: [Video projector- Studio Experience Cinema 17SF; Projection screen- Da-Lite 106” Da-Snap; DVD player- Pioneer Elite DV-37; A/V Receiver- Sherwood Newcastle R-963T; Speakers- BIC DV62si mains, DV62CLRs center, Adatto DV52si rears, D1210R subwoofer; Tactile Transducers- Clark Synthesis Gold; Video Switcher- Key Digital SW4x1; Cables/Wires- www.bettercables.com ]

- Calvin Harding Jr.

The Lady and The Duke (2002)

Starring: Jean-Claude Dreyfus, Lucy Russell
Studio: Columbia TriStar
Video: 1.77:1 widescreen enhanced
Audio: French 5.0
Extras: Trailers (The Lady and the Duke, Happy Times, Sunshine State)
Length: 129 minutes
Rating: **

If you are a big stage play watcher, then most likely your rating of this film will be much higher than mine. In fact, scenes fade to black like acts in a play. Elocution is loud and punctuated much like a stage play where actors speak loudly to be heard out in the crowd. Much of the background includes matte paintings that are reminiscent of low-budget productions. Lengthy scenes of dialogue slow down the story and make the film seem much longer than it is. I was not able to view the film at one sitting, and at the end was practically counting the minutes til its conclusion. The style of the production and the fact that the film is in a foreign language didn’t help either.

The story takes place during the French Revolution of the 1790s. The Lady, the aristocrat Grace Elliott, is accustomed to the better life replete with servants, vacation homes, and associations with royalty. As she gets caught in the throes of revolution. her safety is in question and she must take it upon herself to keep out of danger. Her morality and fervent belief in the sanctity of life propel her into a situation where she takes a fugitive in her custody that would surely perish without her assistance. Her longtime friend, the Duke of Orleans, denounces this action, and she risks her friendship with him. The film takes place over years at a time with title cards enlightening the viewer as to date and locale. At the end, there is a trial where Grace is asked to inform on other members of her social class. Even when she is not on trial herself, some of the new administrators are much more inclined to make her suffer as a criminal. This film may appeal to historical buffs, but even lovers of foreign films, dramas, and well-acted films (like me) might have trouble embracing this one. Purchase here

-Brian Bloom

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Complete Fourth Season (1995-1996)

Starring: Avery Brooks, Michael Dorn, Nana Visitor, Colm Meaney, Terry Farrell, Rene Auberjonois
Studio: Paramount Home Entertainment
Video: 4:3 Fullscreen
Audio: English DD 5.1, English DD 2.0
Subtitles: English, English Closed Captions
Extras: “Charting New Territory: Deep Space Nine Season Four” Featurette, “Crew Dossier: Worf” Featurette, “Michael Westmore’s Aliens: Season Four” Featurette, “DS9 Sketchbook: John Eaves” Featurette, photo gallery, Section 31 Hidden Files, Indiana Jones DVD trailer
Length: 1,183 minutes
Rating: ****

Deep Space Nine is a space station that orbits the planet Bajor. Under Federation control, Commander Benjamin Sisko and his crew operate Deep Space Nine. The space station is a valuable commodity in that it is positioned in close proximity to a wormhole. This wormhole provides rapid travel for spaceships to distant locations in space. The mission of the Deep Space Nine crew is to serve as host to interplanetary travelers throughout the quadrant while simultaneously protecting the station from hostile takeover attempts by rival alien species. Memorable highlights from the fourth season include the addition of Worf to the cast in the two-part season opener (“The Way of the Warrior”); “Little Green Men” where Quark, Rom and Nog are mistakenly transported back in time to Earth of 1947 in Roswell, New Mexico; “Our Man Bashir” where Dr. Bashir poses as a 1960’s spy in a holodeck program; and “The Visitor” where an accident causes Sisko to disappear before his son's eyes thereby causing Jake to begin a life-long quest to bring his father back. The entire 25 episodes from the 1995-1996 season plus the special features are spread out over seven discs. (Disc One: The Way of the Warrior (Parts I & II), The Visitor, Hippocratic Oath. Disc Two: Indiscretion, Rejoined, Starship Down, Little Green Men. Disc Three: The Sword of Kahless, Our Man Bashir, Homefront, Paradise Lost. Disc Four: Crossfire, Return to Grace, Sons of Mogh, Bar Association. Disc Five: Accession, Rules of Engagement, Hard Time, Shattered Mirror. Disc Six: The Muse, For the Cause, To the Death, The Quickening. Disc Seven: Body Parts, Broken Link, Special Features).

The video quality for Season Four is very good. Images are clean with fine detail. Colors are warm and robust with well saturated hues. Black levels are consistently dark. Picture defect mastering is solid with no major flaws or compression artifacts. The overall audio quality is also very good with the English Dolby Digital 5.1 track serving as the basis for this review. The soundtrack mix favors the forward channels. Dialogue is crisp and properly anchored in the center channel. Surround channels are fairly active and are used for ambient sound effects and the music score. The quality and quantity of tactile sound effects varies amongst episodes, ranging from fair to excellent. Tactile effects appear as light to moderate impacts originating from sound effects and the music. Purchase here

Reference equipment used for this review: [Video monitor- NetTV DTV-34XRT; Video scaler- Silicon Image iScan Pro; DVD player- Philips Q35AT; A/V Receiver- Sherwood Newcastle R-963T; Speakers- BIC DV62si mains, DV62CLRs center, Adatto DV52si rears, D1210R subwoofer; Tactile Transducer- Clark Synthesis TST 329 Gold; Cables and Wires- www.bettercables.com ]

- Calvin Harding, Jr.


The Hunted (Widescreen Collection)(2003)

Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Benicio Del Toro, Connie Nielson
Directed by: William Friedkin
Studio: Paramount Home Entertainment
Video: 1.85:1 Enhanced for Widescreen
Audio: English DD 5.1, English DD 2.0, French DD 5.1
Subtitles and Captions: English and English Closed Captions
Extras: Commentary by Director William Friedkin, six deleted scenes, “Pursuing the Hunted” documentary, “Filming the Hunted” documentary, “Tracking the Hunted” documentary, “The Cutting Edge” documentary, theatrical trailer, three preview trailers
Length: 94 minutes
Rating: ***

Aaron Hallam is a trained military assassin whose traumatic last mission in Kosovo has caused him to go mentally haywire. He has since killed four deer hunters in the forests near Portland, Oregon. In order to help track down Hallam, the FBI enlists the aid of L.T. Bonham. Bonham was the instructor originally hired by the military to teach Hallam and others recruits how to kill and survive in the wilderness. Using his superior tracking skills, Bonham quickly locates and assists in the capture of Hallam. However, Hallam escapes custody and forces Bonham into a final, deadly game of cat and mouse.

The overall video quality of this DVD is excellent. Images are pristine with razor sharp detail. Colors are deep and rich with nicely saturated hues. Picture defect mastering is perfect with no major flaws or compression artifacts. The overall audio quality is also excellent with the English Dolby Digital 5.1 track serving as the basis for this review. The soundtrack mix actively utilizes all of the discrete audio channels. Dialogue is clean and intelligible. The surround channels are aggressively used for sound effects and the music score. The low frequency effects channel delivers solid, punchy bass to the film’s many action scenes. Tactile sound effects are present in about one half of the DVD’s chapters and appear as subtle to moderate impacts that originate from both the sound effects and the music soundtrack. Purchase here

Reference equipment used for this review: [Video projector- Studio Experience Cinema 17SF; Projection screen- Da-Lite 106” Da-Snap; DVD player- V, Inc. Bravo D1; A/V Receiver- Sherwood Newcastle R-963T; Speakers- BIC DV62si mains, DV62CLRs center, Adatto DV52si rears, D1210R subwoofer; Tactile Transducers- Clark Synthesis Gold; Video Switcher- Key Digital SW4x1; Cables/Wires- www.bettercables.com ]

- Calvin Harding Jr.

The One (Superbit)(2001)

Starring: Jet Li, Delroy Lindo, Carla Gugino, Jason Statham
Directed by: James Wong
Studio: Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment
Video: 2.35:1 Enhanced Widescreen
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, English DTS 5.1
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai
Length: 87 minutes
Rating: ***

The One is based on the notion that the world is actually made up of multiple universes in different dimensions, all operating concurrently. Taking this concept one step further, it also means that there are multiple versions of the same person living in each of these worlds. Travel between these different worlds is possible through a dimensional wormhole. Gabriel, a police officer in our world, has an evil likeness, Lawless, from one of these other worlds. Lawless has been traveling to all of the different worlds killing off his mirror identities so that now only he and Gabriel remain. As each mirror identity was killed, its lifeforce was absorbed by Gabriel and Lawless thereby creating supernatural powers in them. This sets up a final confrontation between the two as they battle to become ‘the one.’

The video quality of this Superbit release is excellent. Images are clean with fine detail. Blacks are consistently dark throughout the film. Colors are lush and rich with fully saturated hues. Picture defect mastering is perfect with no major flaws or digital compression artifacts. The overall audio quality is also excellent with the English DTS 5.1 track serving as the basis for this review. The soundtrack mix actively utilizes all of the discrete channels with distinct channel separation. Dialogue is natural sounding and properly anchored in the center channel. The surround channels are often aggressive, used for both music and ambient sounds, and include multiple split rear effects. The low frequency bass is crisp and tight with an occasional rumble from the film’s relentless action scenes. Present in about three-quarters of the DVD’s chapters, tactile effects appear as light to moderate impacts that originate from both the sound effects and music score. Purchase here

Reference equipment used for this review: [Video projector- Studio Experience Cinema 17SF Projection screen- Da-Lite 106” Da-Snap; DVD player- Pioneer Elite DV-37; A/V Receiver- Sherwood Newcastle R-963T; Speakers- BIC DV62si mains, DV62CLRs center, Adatto DV52si rears, D1210R subwoofer; Tactile Transducers- Clark Synthesis Gold; Video Switcher- Key Digital SW4x1; Cables and Wires- www.bettercables.com

- Calvin Harding Jr.

The Quick and the Dead (Superbit) (1995)

Starring: Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe, Leonardo DiCaprio, Roberts Blossom, Kevin Conway, Lance Henriksen, Pat Hingle, Gary Sinise
Directed by: Sam Raimi

Studio: Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment
Video: 1.85:1 Widescreen Enhanced
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, English DTS 5.1
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean
Length: 105 minutes
Rating: ****

The town of Redemption is hosting its annual quick-draw competition and some of the most outrageous characters in the Old West show up for the big cash prize. John Herod, the defending tournament champion, rules over Redemption with an iron fist. He is an evil man who taxes the townspeople fifty cents for every dollar they earn. Herod holds the quick-draw event as a way of killing off his enemies. Herod’s competition this year includes: his quick-lipped son, ‘The Kid”; Ellen, a tough woman with a personal score to settle; and Cort, a former outlaw-turned-preacher who is being coerced into participating in the competition.

The video quality of this Superbit DVD release is very good. Images are sharp with intricate detail. Blacks are consistently dark throughout. Colors are clean and accurate with nicely saturated hues. Picture defect mastering is solid with no major flaws or digital compression artifacts. The overall audio quality is excellent with the English DTS 5.1 track serving as the basis for this review. The soundtrack mix incorporates all of the discrete channels with distinct channel separation. Dialogue is crisp and intelligible. The surround channels are moderately active, used for both music and ambient sounds, and include numerous split rear effects. The low frequency bass is deep, palpable and adds welcome depth to Alan Silvestri’s perfectly suited musical score. Present in about one-third of the DVD’s chapters, tactile effects appear as light to heavy impacts and originate both from the sound effects and the music soundtrack. Purchase here

Reference equipment used for this review: [Video projector- Studio Experience Cinema 17SF Projection screen- Da-Lite 106” Da-Snap; DVD player- V, Inc. Bravo D1; A/V Receiver- Sherwood Newcastle R-963T; Speakers- BIC DV62si mains, DV62CLRs center, Adatto DV52si rears, D1210R subwoofer; Tactile Transducers- Clark Synthesis Gold; Video Switcher- Key Digital SW4x1; Cables and Wires- www.bettercables.com ]

- Calvin Harding Jr.

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