Based on the book by Louis Sachar who is also responsible for the screenplay of the film, Holes is nice mix of fun, drama, myth and folklore. I don’t want to give away too much of the story because part of the enjoyment of this film is how the story gradually unfolds and “reveals” itself bit by bit. But I can safely get you started: Young Stanley is sent to a “reform camp” of sorts after having been caught in an apparent theft. This sort of thing is consistent with his family's usual experience of bad luck that his father is fond of blaming on a “curse” that has plagued their family for several generations. The camp is located out west on a dried lake-bed where the activity of choice is digging 6-foot deep holes. As one might imagine, there’s more to this hole digging exercise than a simple character-building activity for wayward boys and this imparts a nice sense of mystery to the film. Ok, you'll have to watch the movie to find out the rest! Sorry to cut this short but I don't want to steal any of the movie's "thunder". The resolution of this rather unorthodox plot-premise is well worth the 117 minute ride.
The quality of acting is excellent and film-style is pleasing. Brightly-exposed scenery communicates the heat and sensation of the environment very effectively. This film is an interesting union of serious drama, light-hearted fun, and mythical folklore. It all comes together beautifully for the viewer willing to explore these seemingly divergent paths. The many young-actors display their roles well in the film and create characters for whom it is easy to care which is important because the power of this film depends in large part on the emotional involvement of the viewer. Sigourney Weaver does a fantastic job in her role and seems a perfect fit for the part—the same way in my mind Carol Burnett seemed the ideal actor for the role of Miss Hannigan in “Annie”. Unlike the jarring (distracting) presence of Julia Roberts in “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,” Weaver seems as able at pulling off a less-assuming supporting role with aplomb as she does taking center stage blasting Aliens with a flame-thrower. She garners my respect more and more with each film where I encounter her.
Holes is a movie that can be enjoyed at many levels by young and old alike. There are some complex connections that take some time to fully untangle and give this film good repeat-viewing status. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Disney has done it right. This DVD being my first encounter with the film, I can’t directly compare the image with the memory of a projected film print, but I can tell you that this DVD is mastered to marvelous perfection. Despite the plethora of extras, compression seems unchallenged and I was hard-pressed to find any obvious digital artifacting to fault.
Colors are bright and varied, and the sometime slightly over-exposed look of the film is rendered with gorgeous accuracy. Subtle gradations in dark tones are smooth and natural with no “banding”. Film-grain (yes, it’s present at times) comes through with naturalness and doesn’t cause the compression to impart “digititis” as often happens. I didn’t notice much in the way of DNR “dithering” noise but I didn’t have a chance yet to view this large-scale (just on my 34” 16x9 direct-view). If I get a chance to do that I’ll post back with a projected-image update (and as usual once the disc is in your hands I invite you to share your impressions along with a description of your display equipment).
No haloing/ringing from edge-enhancement anywhere to be seen. Plenty of natural detail leaving an image that does not look over-filtered or processed. All in all a *very* film-like picture that deserves nothing but praise from what I can see. Thanks Disney!
Picture: 5 / 5
p.s. A separate P/S version is also available...so beware...and don’t blindly grab the first DVD off the shelf at Walmart!
WOW. I’d love to shake the hand of the guy who mixed the audio for this disc. As impressive as the picture is, the audio on this disc impressed me even more. Frequency response is wide. Bass is solid and highs are open and airy. Mid-range timbers (vocals) are natural, clear, and non-fatiguing. Sound is dynamic yet I never felt I needed to adjust the volume to tame loud passages or boost low-level dialogue. The soundstage spreads seamlessly across the front and out into the room around the listener. Dialog is surprisingly directional (a good thing IMO) for a modern movie...following the action off screen or tracking characters as they change position. Surround use is plentiful and used to outstanding effect. And this leads me to discuss something very special about the audio mix on this disc...
There is something beyond ordinary “sound quality” that makes the audio of this DVD so impressive. This is not at action movie. No big explosions or space-ships flying overhead. Yet I think I may have found the “reference” film to demonstrate 5.1 recording to its best advantage.
You’re sitting in front of your computer. If you’re at work (and I know that none of you ever surf the HTF while at the office so this is completely hypothetical ) you hear the air circulating from the ductwork overhead, you hear a phone call from a coworker far off to the right and behind you to your left another coworker is having a conversation with someone while you hear a windows “beep” to your left-rear because someone just got a new message in their MS Outlook email.
You’re experiencing a 360 degree sound field (actually more if you consider the vertical axis) and all without explosions, helicopters flying over head or Terminator gun-shots wizzing by.
If “normal” life takes place with 360 degrees of sound, then a movie filming “normal” situations can too. And Holes does just that.
From the very opening scene we hear the sound of singing and instead of a stereo presentation up front like a normal movie “soundtrack”, we’re surrounding by the laborers hard at work putting their toil to song. This sound presentation immediately engages you as a participant in this movie...not a spectator. Dialog and sound-effects are highly directionalized for a modern film and create the same sense of 360 degree space. In almost every scene the sound mix is used in some way to communicate an experience that contributes a level of story-telling as meaningful as the visual film style or screenplay. Indeed, I consider the sound-mix of this film to be an invisible “actor” with a leading role.
It is unusual for the creative team of a low-action film to approach sound-mixing with this degree of care; but for Holes they have incorporated sound as a principle device used by the film not just by the raw “content” of the audio, but by the *way* they’ve mixed and mastered it. Just like folks who watch the P/S version will miss out on a key layer of the film’s communication, those who watch Holes in anything less than 5.1 decoding will be missing a key element of the experience this film was intended to deliver. To all those responsible for the audio mix of this film and its presentation in 5.1 DD on this DVD, I congratulate you on a job well done.
Sound: 5/ 5
p.s. Both Spanish and French soundtrack options are also delivered in 5.1 though I didn’t have time to do a critical evaluation to compare with the English 5.1...
There’s a nice helping of extras on this disc that Disney managed to include without any apparent compromise in picture quality to the feature film.
Commentary is presented in 1.0 DD mono (center channel only) and we have 2 commentary tracks to choose from: The “kids” which is mildly entertaining but not very insightful IMO, and commentary by the director and screenplay writer (who is also the book author) which I found very worth-while. Many key decisions regarding direction-choices, film style, location issues and why some aspects of the story were modified from the book-original are all discussed. If you read the book or you enjoy commentary to better get-to-know a movie then you’ll find it very worthwhile.
Next up are the six deleted scenes. Presented in 4x3 letterbox, image quality is wanting (appear to be sourced from video) but worth watching. I found myself appreciative that some scenes were cut/trimmed but also found myself wishing that others had been incorporated into the final film (especially the court-scene).
We get a group-interview with the young cast presented in 4x3 letterbox (see a trend starting?) that’s fun to check out. It seems to be shot on video so I just have to wonder...*why* didn’t the guy push the “16x9” button on the camcorder if they were shooting a 1.78:1 image? In any case it’s not like the interview is a visual masterpiece that’s going to put your calibrated HDTV to the test so maybe it’s not that big a deal...but after getting all those luscious 16x9-encoded extras on my Lord of the Rings DVD I’m kind-of spoiled .
More interesting to my mind is the (4x3 letterbox) “Making of” documentary that ties in nicely with those who enjoy the film’s commentary. And don’t be fooled by the “music video” notation on the packaging. This is *not* a full-length video as one would normally expect...it’s more of a music-video “intro” that shows the boys from the film doing a bit of karaoke to a pop-hit and it fades-out after just a minute or so (you don’t get the whole song). Audio for the Music Video is ProLogic-flagged 2.0 DD and...you guessed it...4x3 letterbox video presentation.
There’s a gag-reel which I managed to miss the two times I put the DVD in to check out the “extras” on the disc. I should add that the box label specifies Spanish subtitles but on my player I only could access English subtitles for the film.
This film can be enjoyed equally by people of all ages. A heart-warming story that utilizes an unusual premise and some interesting plot elements set it apart from the more common formula-driven movies you find. Superb image quality and a genuinely outstanding audio presentation add a meaningful contribution to the presentation of this charming film. If you saw it in the theater chances are you’re happy to hear the DVD does the film justice allowing you to place your pre-order without fear. Those of you who are not familiar with this film, if your experience is anything like mine, you’ll be well-rewarded if you buy this title sight-unseen. If you have any doubts...give it a rent. However you manage to make it happen, I heartily recommend that you watch it!