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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: Freaky Friday (VERY RECOMMENDED!!!)



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#1 of 29 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

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Posted December 11 2003 - 03:03 PM


Posted Image


FREAKY FRIDAY
Studio:Disney
Year:2003
Film Length: 97 minutes
Aspect Ratio:16X9 encoded 1.85:1 (4x3 encoded 1.33:1 open-matte version on same disc)
Audio:5.1 DD English
Extras:Behind-the-scenes featurette, Deleted Scene, Two alternate endings (with Director commentary intro), Gag Reel, Two Music Videos...




Movie...



What a great movie. Watching this DVD is my first introduction to this film and I am extremely impressed. One of the most entertaining and outstandingly fun films I’ve seen in a very long time--a solid laugh-fest that had me rolling at-or-beyond Finding Nemo levels. I had expected a film with modest entertainment value with the usual list of flaws for a “B” grade flick…you know the type: thos modern “funny” movies with plot lines that are inconsistent and cobbled together with generally poorly written dialogue that even good actors can’t manage to overcome. But not only did Freaky Friday not have the flaws that I was anticipating, it didn’t even stop at neutral—it is genuinely good.

I had never seen the “original” 1970’s version, but I was already familiar with the premise of the story from all the trailers (yes, those beloved forced trailers on all those Disney DVDs Posted Image ) I’ve seen: A mother (Jamie Lee Curtis) and daughter (Lindsay Lohan) who are having a tough time understanding, and more importantly, respecting each other, wake up one morning to discover that they have swapped bodies…or consciousnesses (whichever you prefer). Naturally this becomes a fertile vehicle for some humor-laden situations and Freaky Friday is enormously successful in this regard; prepare to laugh out-loud. But having a great sense of humor doesn’t mean that this film takes shortcuts or becomes superficial. Freaky Friday delivers some first-class character development (I found myself being reminded of the TV series “My So Called Life”) and intelligent dialogue. Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan provide some astounding performances. And finishing it off, Freaky Friday resolves the 97 minutes of conflict with a few touching scenes that wrap all of the crazy action up into a nice and tidy emotional bow.

Those of you with kids might be worried about too much sexual humor for the family. Rest easy…while some of the comedy and circumstances deal with adult- topics, everything is tastefully restrained and language use is mild. I think that most parents could comfortably watch this film with their families without having to reach for the remote to avoid any objectionable material. The fact that Freaky Friday can pass with a friendly PG rating without feeling dumbed-down puts it up there with films from a bygone era that entertained with intelligence and wit rather than depending on cheap tricks or vulgarity.

Freaky Friday delivers.

Picture...


I only had a chance to screen this title on my 16x9 direct-view. Overall the image looks satisfying with perhaps a few problems, and I have not ever viewed a projected film-print of this title so my comments should be interpreted with this in mind.

When you start the disc up you get a menu asking which version of the movie you’d like to watch…WS or full-frame. You also see an image/icon displaying a shot from the film in both versions to illustrate the difference. Beware HTF faithful…this is a soft-matte movie and so the “full frame” is not truly pan-and-scan and indeed the added top/bottom picture information is visible in the "full frame" image icon on the aspect-ratio-selection menu. This is therefore not the movie to pull out to try to demonstrate the virtue of widescreen if you have friends over who need to be educated as “why are there black bars?” -- they’ll look at you unimpressed when they discover that those black bars are indeed covering the top and bottom of their picture as they had always suspected. Be sure to warm up widescreen newbies with a few easy wins like a hard-matte 2.35 movie before getting into open-matte 4x3 territory. Ok, next topic…picture quality.

First the good: Freaky Friday had excellent black level, good contrast, color saturation, and a generally rich, 3-dimensional picture. Film grain is evident but no doubt an artifact that is faithful to the source elements so not to be regarded as a problem. The image appears generally smooth and natural with a somewhat stylized color-palette that tends towards warm. This later characteristic can be seen more easily when comparing against some of the same scenes from the movie captured “on video” in the bonus materials.

Some negatives: On my display, blacks appeared to be slightly crushed (dark black tended to swallow up shadow detail) and the image appeared a little dim/overly dark in general. It’s hard to try to evaluate image detail on a 34” screen because the shadowmask of the tube and beam-spot-size of the CRT guns get in the way…but my impression is that Freaky Friday might be a tad over-filtered to ease in compression, which at times reveals artifacts no doubt in part due to the fact that both the 16x9 OAR WS and 4x3 open-matte version have been encoded on the same side of this dual-layer disc. Nevertheless, I applaud Disney for providing both aspect ratio options on the same disc purchase (I’m a big fan of having both versions available on one disc purchase and personally do not like dual-release strategies) and folks shouldn’t be frightened away…overall compression is handled fairly well.

The most obvious problem with the image mastering is the one that continues to plague many DVD releases and is the one that could be so easily avoided: Edge Enhancement. The image has a generally “soft” look (partially due to filtering?) and it appears that some mastering minds conspired to turn a sharpening dial up a notch or two too high. The ringing only became obvious when I got close to my direct-view…closer than 2 screen-widths away. I think that folks with front-projection systems will notice some occasional ringing but hopefully it won’t look too distracting in most scenes. Folks watching on smaller displays or from a farther viewing ratio will probably not see the artifact, but that’s no excuse for such easily avoidable image artifacts (yes, this disc bears the highly-touted THX logo. I won’t go there Posted Image ). Bad Disney!

Overall: A generally nice picture with a few artifacts that may distract front-projection and other large-screen viewers in certain scenes…

Picture: 4/ 5
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Sound...


The English 5.1 mix is satisfying and musical numbers are nicely spread across the front three channels. However I was disappointed in the lack of surround activity; there were some scenes where I expected to hear more 360 degree envelopment but the sound always seemed strongly anchored up front. I realize this is a matter of taste given the folks at the mixing board but still. Frequency response is wide and bass use is substantial in a few key scenes where appropriate. Dialogue is clearly rendered and voices sound natural and non-fatiguing. The guitar solos in some of the musical numbers sound especially sweet without any overly-bright edge. A basically “good” soundtrack given the genre of this film though I would have liked a slightly improved sense of atmosphere that I think a more involved, yet tasteful, manipulation of the surround channel may have afforded.

Bottom line: Sound is fine but don’t expect it to replace your Fifth Element Diva Scene for demo material.

Sound: 4/ 5
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Special Features...


The behind-the-scenes featurette (4x3) is the standard fare for this sort of film…and that’s a good thing. It’s entertaining, gives you some bits of candid conversation with the actors, director, and rest of the team and is worth watching.

There is one “official” deleted scene that I enjoyed checking out but more interesting were the “alternate endings” that, effectively, constitute a kind of deleted scene. These alternate endings each get an intro by the director and I have to say that I thought that the second alternate ending would have been better (IMO) than the final choice for the film. The final choice for the film can also be accessed from this special features area and what seems to happen is that the disc cues up the film…the 4x3 open matte version…at the same starting point of the two alternate endings and then it plays through the credits. Would have like for Disney to have opted for the WS version of the “ending” to play given that both the deleted scenes are WS…but small quibbles my friends. In any case, linking back to the active feature-film content for this feature makes an efficient use of bit-space on the disc so I applaud the effort in that regard.

There are two music videos on the disc both 4x3 lbxed with 5.1 audio and sound decent (seems to mostly come from the front L/R speakers…the center is underutilized as is common practice with many music-oriented 5.1 mixes though I disagree with this practice). “What I like about you” performed by Lillix and “Me vs. the world” performed by Halo Friendlies. I’m not the one to judge the musical/artistic merit of these two videos, but they seem fine to me. Could I ask a question though? Music-video makers…if you KNOW that you’re making a 1.78:1 music video…why not go 16x9 to use full resolution rather than mastering as a 4x3 lbxed image? Most video gear these days can go 16x9 just as easily as 4x3 so let’s try pressing that button and add in 1/3 more image resolution for those of us with 16x9-compatible displays.

There’s a blooper reel which is cute.

Overall seems to me a nice supply of extras rounding out a decent DVD presentation. I guess one could complain that the trailer is missing...but I'm sure you can find it (right at the beginning) on several of your other Disney DVDs so don't fret. Posted Image

In Wrap-up...


Good humor. Good writing and acting. An immensely entertaining film that’s intelligent and decidedly well executed, Freaky Friday has also got some good repeat-viewing value. One of those have-a-good-time movies you can count on to please when everyone’s debating what movie to watch. Two thumbs up. Highly recommended by yours truly!

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
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#2 of 29 OFFLINE   RafaelB

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Posted December 12 2003 - 12:49 AM

Nice review, Dave!

Coming from a big fan of the original film, I was a little hesitant to see this in the theaters, but I'm so glad I did. Jamie Lee Curtis is at her funniest! And the chemistry between her and the Lohan girl is fun.

I'm so looking forward to getting this one on DVD and sharing it with my sibs kids. Posted Image

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#3 of 29 OFFLINE   Ron-P

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Posted December 12 2003 - 04:03 AM

What's the street date? My daughter want's this and it'd make a great stocking stuffer if it's out before the 25th.


Peace Out~Posted Image
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#4 of 29 OFFLINE   Tim Glover

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Posted December 12 2003 - 04:16 AM

Dec. 16th Ron. Posted Image My daughters want this for xmas too.

#5 of 29 OFFLINE   Malcolm R

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Posted December 12 2003 - 04:18 AM

Ron-P, I believe it's out this coming Tuesday.

I loved this film when I saw it in theaters. I just devolve into helpless laughter everytime I see the trailer and JLC looks into the camera (as the mirror) and says "I'm old...Oh, I'm like the Crypt Keeper!" Perfect delivery! Posted Image Posted Image
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#6 of 29 OFFLINE   Tommy G

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Posted December 12 2003 - 04:27 AM

OK so I guess I'm trecking out Tuesday to pick this one up. It will be in my daughter's stocking now. Here's another title I'll have to check out in Dave's Weekly Roundup.
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#7 of 29 OFFLINE   Ron-P

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Posted December 12 2003 - 06:22 AM

Thanks guys. My wallet's going to feel some pain come Tuesday.

1. Freaky Friday
2. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
3. Escape from New York: SE
4. Seabiscuit: 2-disk set


Peace Out~Posted Image
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#8 of 29 OFFLINE   Randy A Salas

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Posted December 13 2003 - 11:15 AM

[quote] Beware HTF faithful…this is a soft-matte movie and so the “full frame” is not truly pan-and-scan and indeed the added top/bottom picture information is visible in the "full frame" image icon on the aspect-ratio-selection menu. This is therefore not the movie to pull out to try to demonstrate the virtue of widescreen if you have friends over who need to be educated as “why are there black bars?” -- they’ll look at you unimpressed when they discover that those black bars are indeed covering the top and bottom of their picture as they had always suspected. Be sure to warm up widescreen newbies with a few easy wins like a hard-matte 2.35 movie before getting into open-matte 4x3 territory. [quote]

Way to go, David. This was an excellent point and thoroughly described.

Few titles actually pose this kind of problem--showing sample images of widescreen and open-matte presentations properly during menus. In fact, The Usual Suspects SE had an open-matte presentation, but the viewing-option icon on that disc incorrectly showed a pan-and-scan image. For what it's worth, I compared the two presentations on Freaky Friday tonight, and there's very slight cropping on the sides of the open-matte presentation but not enough to call it P&S.

Nice attention to detail, David, on something people might overlook.
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#9 of 29 OFFLINE   Stephen_J_H

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Posted December 14 2003 - 03:20 PM

Chiming in here, based on theatrical presentation. The soft look of the film is intentional, or at least it was in the print I ran at work over the summer. Also, the black levels of the release print weren't particularly solid, which may also have been a stylistic choice. I thought the print looked like garbage based on these two factors, but since they have been transferred to the DVD, I'm inclined to get this and reevaluate the image quality. Thanks for the thorough review, David.
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#10 of 29 OFFLINE   Richard Travale

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Posted December 14 2003 - 03:37 PM

Wow, I was going to avoid this movie but after reading your review I am now going to give it a rent. Thanks.
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#11 of 29 OFFLINE   Steven L

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Posted December 16 2003 - 12:20 PM

I wanted to purchase this today, but when I read the back of the box, it only stated "Fullscreen (1.33:1)"; there's no mention of a widescreen 1.85 version. Can anyone confirm that in Canada the DVD also contains the widescreen version?
Steve

#12 of 29 OFFLINE   Kevin Baker

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Posted December 16 2003 - 01:32 PM

The Canadian version is 1.33 full screen ONLY! I think in order to fit the french language track on the disc, the OAR version of the film was left off. I've just checked the copy that I picked up today, and am now off to return it. Guess I'll have to order this one from the U.S.

Thanks, Disney!Posted Image

#13 of 29 OFFLINE   Cahyo Wicaksono

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Posted December 17 2003 - 12:59 AM

Yep Canadians only get the full-frame only. Dammit! Posted Image

#14 of 29 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

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Posted December 17 2003 - 01:15 AM

Hey...that's ironic payback for the 16x9 anamorphic Good Will Hunting you guys got!

Just kidding-it irks me too. Is it easy to import the US disc?

-dave Posted Image
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#15 of 29 OFFLINE   Cahyo Wicaksono

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Posted December 17 2003 - 01:18 AM

It's easy to import, but the shipping cost plus duties plus CanadaPost's brokerage fee will double the price of the disc from the US as opposed buying it in Canada. Especially when Canadian DVDs are relatively cheaper than the US counterpart.

#16 of 29 OFFLINE   Kevin Baker

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Posted December 17 2003 - 01:48 AM

Amazon.ca shows that the version of Freaky Friday they are selling is the 1.85/1.33 version of the disc. I've just placed my order, and hopefully it will reach me before Christmas (I'm giving it as a gift, and I absolutely refuse to give the full screen disc).

Now I'm still stuck with the full frame disc that I opened yesterday, before realizing that the widescreen version was missing from it. I can't return it since it was opened, so a call to Disney's customer service department to voice my concern is definitely going to happen today.

I did watch the full frame version last night, and I can't get over how "video" the actual picture looked. Compared to the 1.85 clips of the movie from the trailer and special features, it just looked terrible!

BTW, it is a very cute and funny flick. I was pleasantly surprised (and want to see it in OAR even more now! Posted Image )

#17 of 29 OFFLINE   Andrew D F

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Posted December 17 2003 - 02:44 AM

Kevin, Beware. I ordered the so-called 1.85/1.33 version from Amazon.ca, but when it arrived it was the 1.33-only version. It turns out that no 1.85 version exists for sale in Canada. Apparently BVHE made this decision without notifying any retailers. Nice.

#18 of 29 OFFLINE   Kevin Baker

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Posted December 17 2003 - 03:11 AM

I've contacted Disney's customer service department, and basically all they can do is forward my comments to their marketing department. The representative had to talk to someone in their technical department to verify that the 1.85 version was ommitted in order to fit the French language track on the disc. Also, I did get informed that many customers weren't happy with the Pirates of the Carribean DVD being in widescreen onlyPosted Image.

Hopefully, more people will contact Disney and let them know what they thing about the decision to remove the widescreen version of the movie.

#19 of 29 OFFLINE   Stephen_J_H

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Posted December 17 2003 - 03:45 PM

I'm disgusted! I guess I'll have to get one from a US online store, or get my cousin to import one for me.
"My opinion is that (a) anyone who actually works in a video store and does not understand letterboxing has given up on life, and (b) any customer who prefers to have the sides of a movie hacked off should not be licensed to operate a video player."-- Roger Ebert

#20 of 29 OFFLINE   Randy B A

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Posted December 17 2003 - 05:38 PM

I just picked this up at blockbuster for 12.99 with a trade in of Dinner with Friends that I got for free at bestbuy a while back. I used a 15 dollar gift card that I just got for christmas.

Thanks for the review Dave. Posted Image





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