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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: Alex & Emma



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#1 of 4 OFFLINE   Herb Kane

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Posted December 09 2003 - 03:46 AM

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Alex & Emma





Studio: Warner Brothers
Year: 2003
Rated: PG-13
Film Length: 96 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Enhanced Widescreen
Audio: DD 5.1
Color/B&W: Color
Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
MSRP: $27.95
Package: Snap Case






The Feature:
I’m going to be honest with you up front and admit that I enjoy the odd “chick flick” every now and then. Okay, you single guys reading right now (the ones rolling your eyes – you know who you are)… you too, will eventually become a fan of the occasional romantic comedy after the donning of the “Kryptonite” on the left hand ringfinger… My motto is to never trust anyone that says “trust me”, but “trust me”…!

When I received Alex & Emma, I knew very little about it but became interested after learning it was a Rob Reiner film starring Kate Hudson and Luke Wilson. Being relatively familiar with most of Reiner’s previous films (“When Harry Met Sally”, “The Sure Thing”, “Misery”, “The Princess Bride”, “This Is Spinal Tap”, and my favorite Reiner “Stand by Me”), I actually looked quite forward to delving into this one.

Alex (Luke Wilson) is an author, albeit an author who is having problems finishing his latest romance novel. Normally, time and a good plot would solve such problems. However, what Alex doesn’t have is time (and he doesn’t have the plot either, but we’ll get to that in a few minutes). He desperately needs the writing fee for his book to pay off a large gambling debt to a loan shark short on patience. After brief negotiations (while being dangled upside down off of his balcony) Alex is given 30 days to finish his novel or end up dead. All Alex needs now is someone to help him type his, as yet unwritten, novel before his time is up.

Enter Emma (Kate Hudson), a stenographer who does temp work. After convincing her that it really is her typing abilities and not her other assets he’s after, Emma warily agrees to help Alex. Frankly, she just doesn’t like the odds of him actually finishing the book in time. Charming and opinionated, Emma becomes a source of inspiration and annoyance, challenging Alex at every opportunity. Life begins to imitate art as the lines between reality and fiction begin to blur.

Now as much as you might find this hard to believe (basically for those in denial that such formulaic type films exist…), Alex eventually falls in love with Emma. Shocking and amazing I know, but we knew that was going to happen, right…?

Generally, I think of myself as a pretty liberal reviewer. I try to give everything I review (and watch in general), the benefit of the doubt and I’m of the opinion that (let’s face it) most of the stuff being released by the studios nowadays meets or exceeds our expectations. Well, I’m afraid divine intervention would have been required to infuse life into this one… While it would be easy to simply criticize the efforts of Hudson and Wilson for a film that seemingly falls flat on its face, I’m afraid they didn’t have much to work with in the first place. But if one thing is necessary for a romantic comedy to succeed, it’s chemistry (or even a flicker). I’m afraid I had a hard time believing they even liked each other…



Video:
As we might expect from a new WB release, this video presentation is yet another example of a quality transfer to our favorite format.

The movie is peculiar in that the majority of it was shot in a very dark dingy looking apartment… very dark. While most of the film appeared to be quite sharp in appearance clarity wise, there are a number of soft sequences – all of which looked rather pleasing. At the other end of the spectrum, while Alex is writing his novel and we flashback to the novel scenes, much of that is shot with an exaggerated bright yellow look to it. As a result we go back and forth on a regular basis to quite a varying contrast. All in all, it’s rather effective. During the apartment scenes Wilson looks like he needs meds for high blood pressure… skin colors were extremely red. Colors during the novel sequence were quite bright and nicely saturated. Black levels were deep and there was a nice sense of contrast, given what they were trying to achieve.

I wasn’t able to spot any film dirt or dust which is not surprising given how new the film is. At the start of the movie, I was able to detect some (albeit slight) compression artifacting, however, it ran its course rather quickly. There were occasional signs of enhancement from time to time but again, it was rather minimal.

Overall, a nice video presentation.

Beware – a FULLSCREEN version exists.



Audio:
Unlike the video presentation, the audio presentation is a rather bland offering. While I really can’t be critical of it, it certainly isn’t worthy of high praise either. I think perhaps the best way of describing this track is to say it does what it has to do and that’s it. When a few of the music sequences start it is never aggressive or forthright – it’s just, well, there.

The film is mostly dialogue driven which is always clear and intelligible. Unfortunately the track lacks any depth whatsoever and is just rather un-involving.

The track is virtually free of any scoring which leaves an already flat movie, go unaided… The use of surrounds were all but non-existent. I made note of a single rainfall where surround use was employed which lasted all of about ten seconds and was barely perceptible. Ironically the only time I noticed any LFE was during the main menu music sequence while a catchy jazz/fusion tune was playing. The musical highlight was the Norah Jones tune, “Those Sweet Words” that played during the end credits.

A track that is rather insipid, at best…!



Special Features:
Unfortunately, there are only two special features that we are offered on this disc, remarkably, one of them is the best the disc has to offer – the Theatrical Trailer. As I have said before, if the trailer is included, I always watch it before the feature. I’m a big fan of trailers and I find them particularly helpful especially for titles I am not familiar with. As was the case with this feature, I watched the trailer first and thought I was in for a treat. Although the colors were muted, the audio (and music) was forward, almost aggressive and sounded great. It was a far cry from what I got however.

The only other special feature was a full length Commentary featuring director Rob Reiner and star, Luke Wilson. This was unequivocally, one of the worst commentaries I have ever had to sit through – in fact I didn’t. The first five minutes of the feature focused on what urinals were used on the set of the washroom – true story. There were lulls to a point where I had forgotten I was watching the commentary and when someone spoke I was startled… I would consider it mildly informative at best.



Final Thoughts:
I’m afraid I don’t have much to say on a positive note about this film. About thirty minutes into it, I started “clock watching” – never a good sign. I kept on thinking (no hoping) that the pace would pick up and would eventually be at least on par with the dozens of romantic comedies that seem to get released on a regular basis… it never happened. This film stayed flat from start to finish. In fact I can’t think of a single sequence worthy of even an “honorable mention”…

Although once again, Warner Bros. doesn’t disappoint in their presentation of this film to disc, there is just no good reason to seek this out. Not one! In all good conscious, I can’t even recommend a rental. I’m still asking myself… “what were they thinking…?”




Release Date: December 23rd, 2003
My Top 25 Noirs:

25. 711 Ocean Drive (1950), 24. Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), 23. Desperate (1947), 22. Pushover (1954), 21. The Blue Dahlia (1946), 20. The File on Thelma Jordon (1949), 19. He Ran All the Way (1951), 18. The Asphalt Jungle (1950), 17. The Killing (1956), 16. I Walk Alone (1948),...

#2 of 4 OFFLINE   Jenna

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Posted December 15 2003 - 04:56 PM

I *love* chick flicks, but even I'll be passing up this one. Too bad, there haven't been many chick releases lately either.
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#3 of 4 OFFLINE   Dave Vaughn

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Posted January 05 2004 - 02:14 PM

My wife and I watched this last week. It was worth the $4.00 rental and was an enjoyable hour and a half. Although we almost turned it off the first 15 minutes because the beginning was so bad. We were both glad we stuck with it. I think the word that sums up the movie is "cute"...definately not great.

Dave
Technical Writer/Blu-ray Reviewer
www.hometheater.com


#4 of 4 OFFLINE   R. Kay

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Posted January 05 2004 - 02:55 PM

I always found Luke Wilson to be a bit of a stiff. Even in 'Old School' I thought he was pretty weak.