DVD: Five Years and Still Sizzling Page 6
Sound **** Picture ***½ Film ****
(DreamWorks Home Entertainment)
Animation has undeniable advantages over live action when it comes to DVD image quality: sharp, inherently well-defined edges, bright colors, a narrower video dynamic range, and in some cases, including this one, a direct transfer of computer-animated digital files to video with no intermediate telecine film-to-video transfer required. Even with all of this, Shrek is still a mind-blowing video experience. The audio is fine, too, though a little less spectacular than in some of DreamWorks' other animated efforts. (The Road to El Dorado and Prince of Egypt spring to mind.) The film itself is a laugh riot. This Special Edition holds both anamorphic widescreen and full-frame transfers; the widescreen is on disc 2.
Sound **** Picture *** Film ***
(HBO Home Video)
This surprisingly moving film is about the race, in 1961, between Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle to break Babe Ruth's home-run record. Newer records have been set since, but those races were nothing like this one, when two players on the same team—Ruth's own New York Yankees—vied for the honor.
The star here is the picture quality, which is out of the park—amazingly crisp and natural-looking, and not just in comparison with other TV movies. It looks better than the DVDs of most theatrical features. The sound is full 5.1, too, and while it's nothing particularly noteworthy, it's clean and sweet.
Spy Game: Collector's Edition
Sound *** Picture *** Film ***
(Universal Studios Home Video)
An evocative look at the lives of two CIA operatives, Spy Game may not be telling it like it is, but certainly feels as if it's telling it like we believe it to be. The video is a little harsh and grainy, but that appears to be what the filmmakers intended. The sound is fine, though a little short of the best we've heard in this sort of film.
Sound **½ Picture **½ Film **½
(Dimension Home Video)
The picture here is heavily compromised by that old devil, edge enhancement. The sound is clean but lacks the punch you expect in this sort of film. The movie itself, about the kids of famous spies who save the day, is okay and very kid-friendly. It reminds me more of mid-'60s Disney live-action films than of their up-to-date stuff. Even the special effects are old-fashioned—and not very convincing.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture: Director's Edition
Sound ***½ Picture *** Film **½
(Paramount Home Video)
I was too harsh on the video quality of this release in my March/April 2002 review. As seen through the Reference Imaging/Teranex display, it's sharp and detailed, with a refreshing lack of visible edge enhancement. The sound can be a little hard and lacking in high-frequency air, but the restored soundtrack is otherwise very effective. Dramatically, however, this first Star Trek film, from 1979, is very much a mixed bag, with the actors still uncomfortable getting back into their roles after a 10-year hiatus.
Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace
Sound **½ Picture ***½ Film **½
(20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)
Edge enhancement is the culprit here; you can see that there's a good transfer underneath it. The sound is a little bright but otherwise good, with deep, powerful bass. By the time you read this you'll probably have seen Episode II—Attack of the Clones, which hopefully will be better dramatically than this rather flat effort. There's lots of eye candy here, but not much else.
The Stunt Man: Limited Edition
Sound ** Picture **½ Film ****
(Anchor Bay Entertainment)
The picture and sound quality are hardly the attractions, so don't expect much from them, but the film itself is a wonder: a movie about the movies unlike any other such story I can think of.
Sound *** Picture *** Film ****
(Paramount Home Video)
If you can lock into the leisurely pace of this lengthy saga about a Hungarian Jewish family as we follow their lives through several generations, from the 19th century to the 1950s, you'll enjoy a rich, rewarding journey. It's also a thought-provoking reminder of how deeply each of us is affected by events over which we have no control.
The picture quality is marred by edge enhancement in a few scenes, but it's infrequent enough to be tolerable. The sound is appropriate to the film: it occasionally surprises with a striking effect or musical passage, but generally blends into the background, neither enhancing nor detracting from the story.
Sound ***½ Picture ***½ Film ***½
From the director who gave us Thumb Wars comes this riotously funny takeoff on the film Titanic. The cast is, well, all thumbs. Thumbtanic runs only 27 minutes, but the price is about half that of most DVDs, so you get your money's worth. The transfer is thumbtastic, too. Seriously, this film is a real surprise. The video is shockingly crisp and vivid, though there are a few motion artifacts. The sound, too, is excellent, particularly the modest but well-recorded music track. Woo-Hoo!
Tombstone: The Director's Cut
Sound *** Picture ***½ Film ***½
(Touchstone Home Video)
The close-ups are good and the colors are rich. But the long shots look soft, and there's enough edge enhancement to hold down the video rating. The sound is the star—a little bright, but very dynamic and punchy. The music track is very well recorded and the dialogue sounds natural. The film itself is dynamite—one of the best westerns ever made, with a strong cast and script. There's considerable violence, though; not a movie for the kids.