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DVD Video Reviews - June 2003 Pt. 2

Star Trek: Nemesis (Widescreen Collection) (2002)

Starring: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Tom Hardy
Directed by: Stuart Baird

Studio: Paramount Home Entertainment
Video: 2.35:1 Widescreen enhanced
Audio: English DD 5.1, English Dolby 2.0 Surround, French Dolby 2.0 Surround
Subtitles: English and English Closed Captions
Extras: Director commentary, “New Frontiers: Stuart Baird on Directing Nemesis” featurette, “A Bold Vision of the Final Frontier” featurette, “A Star Trek Family’s Final Journey” featurette, “Red Alert! Shooting the Action of Nemesis” featurette, deleted scenes, photo gallery, preview trailers for “The Hours” and the “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine DVD collection”, scene selection
Length: 116 minutes
Rating: ***

In this fourth movie voyage for the Star Trek: The Next Generation crew, a wedding celebration for Riker and Troi is delayed when the Enterprise is asked to travel to the Romulan home world for peace treaty discussions. There has been a political upheaval in the Romulan Senate and a new leader, the Praetor Shinzon, is now in sole power. Shortly after arrival, Picard discovers that the Praetor Shinzon is not actually a Romulan but a genetic clone of Picard himself. Furthermore, Shinzon has no intention of forming a peace treaty with the Federation; rather he is planning the annihilation of Earth with a powerful new weapon. Picard and the crew must find a way to defeat this new enemy, a task made all the more difficult since Shinzon and Picard share similar thought and intelligence.

The video quality of this DVD is excellent. Images are clean with nice detail. Black levels are deep throughout the film. Colors are dark 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 Dolby Digital 5.1 track serving as the basis for this review. The soundtrack’s mix actively incorporates all of the discrete channels. Dialogue is crisp, intelligible and properly anchored in the center channel. The surround channels are aggressive, utilized for both music and ambient sounds, and also incorporate several split rear effects. The low frequency effects channel is active and pumps out rumbling, explosive bass. Present in about one-half of the DVD’s chapters, tactile effects are present in the form of light to heavy impacts that originate from both the sound effects and the 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/Wires- Bettercables.com]

- Calvin Harding Jr.


Clear and Present Danger (Special Collector’s Edition) (1994)

Starring: Harrison Ford, Anne Archer, Willem Dafoe, James Earl Jones, Thora Birch, Benjamin Bratt, Miguel Sandoval
Directed by: Phillip Noyce

Studio: Paramount Home Entertainment
Video: 2.35:1 Widescreen enhanced
Audio: English DTS 5.1, English DD 5.1, French DD 2.0 Surround
Subtitles: English, Spanish, and English Closed Captions
Extras: “Behind the Danger” featurette with new cast and crew interviews, theatrical trailer, scene selection
Length: 141 minutes
Rating: ****
Available separately or as part of the Jack Ryan Special Edition DVD Collection

Back in the employ of the CIA, analyst Jack Ryan takes over as acting Deputy Director of Intelligence when his good friend, Admiral Greer, is stricken with a terminable disease. Ryan’s first assignment in his new position is to investigate the murder of a wealthy U.S. businessman who also happens to be a friend of the President. After it is determined that this businessman was murdered because of his ties to the Colombian drug trade, top-ranking government officials respond by ordering an elite group of soldiers into Colombia. The soldiers’ secret mission there is to hinder the business operations of the drug lords. Ryan, however, is unaware of the clandestine mission and when things suddenly go awry, the soldiers are left stranded and under attack. Ryan risks his life and career to rescue the soldiers and expose the corruption reaching into the highest levels of the U.S. government.

The video quality of this DVD is very good. Images are clean with nice detail. Black levels are dark throughout the film. Colors are warm and rich with 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. (Note: This is one of the first three DVDs from Paramount to include DTS as an audio option). The soundtrack’s mix actively uses all of the discrete channels. Dialogue is always intelligible and properly anchored in the center channel. The surround channels are moderately active, utilized for both music and ambient sounds, and also incorporate several split rear effects. The low frequency effects channel shines on many occasions by putting forth booming, powerful bass. Present in about one-half of the DVD’s chapters, tactile effects are present in the form of light to heavy impacts that originate from both the sound effects and the 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/Wires- Bettercables.com]

- Calvin Harding, Jr.


Patriot Games (Special Collector’s Edition) (1992)

Starring: Harrison Ford, Anne Archer, Patrick Bergin, Sean Bean, Thora Birch, James Earl Jones, Richard Harris, Samuel L. Jackson
Directed by: Phillip Noyce
Studio: Paramount Home Entertainment
Video: 2.35:1 Widescreen enhanced
Audio: English DTS 5.1, English DD 5.1, French DD 2.0 Surround
Subtitles: English, Spanish, and English Closed Captions
Extras: “Patriot Games Up Close” featurette with new cast and crew interviews, theatrical trailer, scene selection
Length: 116 minutes
Rating: ****
Available separately or as part of the Jack Ryan Special Edition DVD Collection

Based on the Tom Clancy novel, Patriot Games finds retired CIA analyst Jack Ryan on vacation in England with his wife and daughter. While waiting for his family outside of Buckingham Palace, Ryan thwarts a terrorist attack on members of the Royal Family. Ryan returns to the United States as a local hero for his actions. Subsequently, one of the surviving terrorists, obsessed with avenging the death of his younger brother who was killed by Ryan during the failed attack, escapes the authorities back in England. This terrorist and several of his compatriots then travel to Maryland to track down Ryan and his family.

The video quality of this DVD is very good. Images are clean and sharp. Black levels are consistently deep. Colors are accurate and dark with 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. (Note: This is one of the first three DVDs from Paramount to include DTS as an audio option). The soundtrack’s mix actively uses all of the discrete channels. Dialogue is crisp and natural sounding. The surround channels are moderately active, utilized for both music and ambient sounds, and also employ a handful of split rear effects. The low frequency effects channel pumps out several sequences with dynamic, thumping bass. Present in about one-third of the DVD’s chapters, tactile effects are present in the form of light to heavy impacts that originate from both the sound effects and the 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/Wires- Bettercables.com]

- Calvin Harding Jr.

Italian For Beginners (2000)

Starring: Anders W. Berthelsen, Anette Stovelbaek, Ann Eleonora Jorgensen
Studio: Miramax
Video: 1.55:1
Audio: Danish w/ some Italian, DD 2.0
Extras: Trailers (Amelie, Birthday Girl, In The Bedroom, The Shipping News, The Son’s Room)
Length: 97 minutes
Rating: ***1/2 (almost ****)

A young pastor, Andreas, arrives at a new Church and is about to come into contact with a most interesting group of characters. Like many of the films today this one consists of a multiple storylines that, in the end, become entangled. Each has their own little interesting quirks and history that help to flesh them out and make them feel real. Jorgen works at a hotel, is growing old alone, and wishes for the company of a young woman. He is friends with Hal-Finn, and meets the preacher who is staying at the hotel. Karen is a hairdresser having to deal with her mother’s serious illness when chance makes her meet up with Hal-Finn. Hal-Finn is an upstart working at the restaurant in the hotel where Jorgen runs and works with Giulia, a young Italian woman that Jorgen fancies. Olympia is constantly berated by her father. She works at a pastry shop where she frequently drops things due to her clumsiness. She comes into contact with Hal-Finn, Andreas, and Karen. They all attend an Italian class, and their lives become more intertwined as the film progresses. A trip to Italy will change their lives forever.

I was a bit taken when I realized that this film was in Danish and that it is filmed on video. It clearly didn’t hinder my enjoyment as I was soon engrossed in the various storylines of the film. I anxiously waited as the characters began to become aware of each other and their lives crossed. The human element in this film is all-important as the characters have to come to terms with their problems and their own deficiencies and needs. This film is very much about self-discovery and the issues of real life. There is an undercurrent of humor and seriousness at the same time that is incredibly poignant. At one point you feel sympathy for the characters while at other times, embarrassment. Yet, the reality of every situation draws the viewer close into the story and gives the film more meaning than many other movies. It seems that each character needs a little help at one time or another, and one of the other characters is there to be his/her friend and give support. There is more than one touching scene, and it is unlikely that the viewer will come away unaffected. Highly recommended. Purchase Here

-Brian Bloom

Séance On A Wet Afternoon (1964)

Starring: Kim Stanley, Richard Attenborough
Studio: Home Vision Entertainment
Video: B&W, 1.66:1 Widescreen Enhanced
Audio: Mono
Extras: None
Length: 115 minutes
Rating: *** 1/2

As the film begins, there is some confusion as to what is going to happen, but soon enough those questions are answered. The two characters, Myra and Billy, prepare a vacant room for a new guest, but not one who is expressly invited. It is hard not to give away secrets related to the plot and present any sort of summary, however, it can be said that a crime is in the works. A devious plan is hatched, but it is Myra in this case who controls the ultimate designs, while her husband is merely her underling. From the exterior they live a comfortable life in their middle age. But there is much hidden deep beneath the surface. Myra has a most interesting gift—a gift of distinction that helps to give her strength—the power to communicate with the dead. The air she gives off, her actions, her words and thoughts are disconcerting at times. You might even say they border on frightening. The direction and camerawork promote these feelings with zooms and other movement. Is she mad or does she truly see a different world?

Needless to say, things get muddled along the way, as things don’t always go as planned. The tension in the air builds and builds and Billy struggles with his actions and tries to come to terms with the horror that inevitability has put on his plate. The movie doesn’t end in the way you’d expect and manages to play tricks with the viewer.

Audio crackles a bit and video has occasional noise, but overall the picture is good and audio is effective. The sound is a bit congested, but music and effects are well used during the film to help evoke all sorts of moods. Many of the scenes have a continual air of mystery, wonder, awful foreboding—it is hard not to be at the edge of the seat on occasion. It is the absence of sound effects and the presence of John Barry’s score that is almost nerve-wracking. The lighting style changes throughout the film. In parts it can be dark and scary, in others gray and melodramatic, and even bright and clinical—all intentional and all used at just the right moments. Kim Stanley was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance. The director, Bryan Forbes, went on to make a few more very memorable films like International Velvet and The Stepford Wives. The strong performance by Stanley is quite noteworthy, as is the style of the film. Purchase Here

-Brian Bloom

The Man In The White Suit (1951)

Starring: Alec Guinness, Joan Greenwood, Cecil Parker
Studio: Anchor Bay
Video: 1.33:1 B&W Full Frame
Audio: English 2.0, French 2.0
Extras: Trailer, Alec Guiness Bio
Length: 85 minutes
Rating: *** 1/2

There is some interesting background on British cinema during the post-WWII era described in the booklet that accompanies this DVD. In an effort to boost domestic cinema in Britain, Sir Michael Balcon created Ealing Studios and began to produce films about England. After the war, he decided that comedies would be the way to get international exposure. This began the new style of English comedy—“understated, self-deprecating and irreverent.” Black comedies and social satires became quite popular and paved the way for many hit movies that met with worldwide acclaim. Among these films is The Man In The White Suit.

The story focuses around Sidney Stratton, a man who is determined to invent a fiber that is fireproof, dirt proof, and that will last virtually forever. His idealism gets the better of him as he spends the research money from different textile companies he works for in pursuit of his goal. He gets fired from position after position until he finally finds a man, Alan Birnley, whose greed gets the better of him and completely funds his project. Although it is being kept a secret, other textile manufacturers and laborers soon discover the plan. Unfortunately, they do not share Stratton’s views, and believe that an everlasting material would cause great loss of jobs and profits. They unite and pursue Stratton in an effort to subdue his invention and his person! Birnley’s daughter (who has a fondness for Stratton) is enlisted to help change Sidney’s mind about the whole affair. But it is to no avail, and he escapes captivity with his white suit—a prototype made from the new fabric. A funny chase ensues—suppression is the only viable answer according to both Capitol and Labor. In the end, it may all just come to pieces.

Picture and sound are good, and performances are funny and work well in the film. The film was nominated for an Oscar for best screenplay, so you can assume the dialogue is well done and quite enjoyable. The action, unlike modern movies that would have tons of special effects added, is primarily achieved by editing, and depicted in a few scenes that take place while Stratton is running for his life. The pace may be slow for some, but most people will appreciate the style and wit of the British approach. Purchase Here

-Brian Bloom

Dead Reckoning (1947)

Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Lizabeth Scott
Studio: Columbia
Video: 1.33:1 Full Frame, B&W
Audio: Mono
Extras: Trailers (The Bridge On The River Kwai, The Caine Mutiny, Lawrence Of Arabia), Vintage Advertising, The Bogart Collection [of movies]
Length: 105 minutes
Rating: ***1/2

The film opens with frenetic music as a man runs into a church to hide from the police. While hiding in dark shadows, our mystery man begins to tell his tale of deception and murder to a priest. It all started when two military men are pulled out of France and sent to Washington. When one finds out that he is about to be awarded a medal, he runs off—something funny is going on. His Captain assures his superiors that he will investigate and get to the bottom of this strange disappearance. As the Captain uncovers more information the mystery grows greater. It seems this fellow was involved in a crime years ago, but he’s not to be found. Single minded and shrewd, the Captain goes looking for answers. It seems there is always a woman involved somewhere in Bogey’s films and in this one she’s a doozey—lovely, blonde, and surely dangerous. There are more players in the game than the Cap expected and before long Bogey is the prime suspect. Secrecy and stealth become the newest ingredients in the Cap’s drink. In trouble and out of trouble, the ending is not exactly what you’d expect, but won’t leave the viewer wanting.

Bogey speeds the dialogue out faster than an auctioneer in this film noir classic. The one-liners keep coming and are quick to elicit laughter from the viewer at how chauvinistic and dated they are. There are occasional film scratches with black lines up and down the screen starting at 19 minutes in and lasting for about a minute to one and a half minutes. Audio is fine, and otherwise the picture is okay. The pace of the film is relatively fast with hardly any lull in the action. Even people talking seem to involve movement by the character or something else in the frame. Narratives by the main character help to connect the viewer with the detective side of the story. Bogey is an expert gambler, ladies man, sharp dresser, and fast talker. If he’s quick-witted enough he might just be able to solve the case. Purchase Here

-Brian Bloom


The Director’s – Sidney Lumet (1997)

Studio: AFI/Wellspring
Video: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Audio: DD 2.0
Extras: Filmography
Length: 60 minutes
Rating: ****

This DVD presents numerous interviews with Lumet, fellow actors, and other professionals who describe their experience making films—people like Jack Lemmon, Dyan Cannon, Ossie Davis, Rod Steiger, Andy Garcia, Jacqueline Bisset, Christopher Walken, and Melanie Griffith. All those interviewed have incredibly high regard for Lumet and praise for his wonderful style and skill. The famous director has helped produce over 40 feature films, yet he began his entertainment career as a young Broadway actor. In 1957, the highly regarded Twelve Angry Men marked the beginning of his film career. In order to overcome the difficulty of translating the stage play that primarily takes place in a single room, Lumet made skillful use of the camera. The director himself comments on some of the problems and interesting situations that resulted in the creation of select films that the documentary expands upon. Lumet expresses his desire to create “real” movies with people who can make that a reality. Some of the highlighted films included are: Network, The Verdict, Serpico, 12 Angry Men, The Hill, Dog Day Afternoon, The Anderson Tapes, Fail-Safe, The Pawnbroker, Murder On The Orient Express, Prince Of The City, Family Business, Q & A, A Stranger Among Us, Night Falls On Manhattan. I enjoyed this documentary a great deal, and there is not way you can come out of it without learning a little more about some great films. I just wished it lasted more than an hour! Purchase Here

-Brian Bloom

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