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HTF REVIEW: "Willow"


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#1 of 60 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted November 06 2001 - 12:41 PM

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WILLOW


Fox saved the best for last!

The last time I saw Willow was back
in the mid 1990's on a VHS, released through
Columbia Pictures, who held the rights to the
film. My last memories of this movie was a
fairly grainy pan & scan release.

Since the introduction of DVD back in 1997,
Willow was always one of those movies that
was readily requested for Columbia to release.
Alas, the studio never responded to any of our
inquiries and by the year 2000, most everyone felt
that this movie would never see the light of day.

Earlier this year, I was given privileged
information that LucasFilm had given the rights to
Willow over to Twentieth Century Fox, and
that the studio was preparing a Special Edition
release by year's end. I had been told not to
broadcast the information, but as many will
remember, I taunted all of you that Fox had a
very special release up its sleeve. When the
news hit that Willow was finally going to
see the light of day, there was an incredible
buzz on the internet. It was great to see that
all of you were sharing the same elation I had
when I was first told the news.

It is my best guess that LucasFilm was extremely
proud of Fox Home Entertainment with the job they
were doing with Phantom Menace. I don't
think there was any doubt that the care of this DVD
be given to any other studio than Fox. I'll tell you
now, it was the best gamble LucasFilm could have made.
There is no other studio that could have done as
much justice to this Willow DVD than the
people at Fox Home Entertainment. After all, Fox
has the greatest reputation of all studios for
putting out incredible DVD product.

While I was amazed at the transfer of Planet
Of The Apes
, nothing could prepare me for how
good Willow looks and sounds on DVD. I sit
here extremely excited about what I have just watched,
and I'll slowly unfold the details of this remarkable
DVD release.

First, let me briefly talk about this film.
Released in 1988, Willow was a collaboration
between Executive Producer George Lucas and Director
Ron Howard. While it turned out to be Ron Howard's
few Box-Office failures, the movie struck a chord
with audiences who fell in love with the fantasy
aspect of the film. In time, the film became one
of the most well regarded fantasy films of all time.
Willow is as much a personal film of George
Lucas as E.T. was for Steven Spielberg. In
fact, Lucas was determined to pay homage to his
character by giving him a brief appearance in The
Phantom Menace
pod race sequence.

The story is of a little peck called Willow
(Warwick Davis) who finds an abandoned Dalkini baby.
This is no ordinary baby, for she bears the mark of
the chosen one who will bring the demise of the evil
Queen Bavmorda (JeanMarsh), an evil sorceress. It
is up to Willow to keep this baby safe and deliver
her from evil. Along the way, he meets a great
swordsman (Val Kilmer) who unwillingly defends the
small Willow against Bavmorda's army. So starts the
adventure of a lifetime filled with special effects,
incredible action sequences, and creatures of fantasy.

Never before has the film looked and sounded as
good as it does in this new anamorphic widescreen
DVD Special Edition. In fact, based on the fact
that this film is 13 years old, it's close to
perfection.

Pop the DVD in, and an absolutely stunning menu
sequence begins that sports the Willow logo and
slowly strolls through the different scenic
landscapes that encompass the story, while each
of the main characters appear and slowly come to
life. It's a wonderfully enchanting menu that
immediately sets the mood for a great fantasy story.

From the moment the film began, I knew that this
transfer was going to be exceptional. The first
scene is the birth of the chosen child. It's a
very dark scene, filled with smoke and murky
photography. A Nursemaid sneaks the baby away
through dim corridors and out of the castle. Normally
scenes like these would immediately show graininess
in the transfer. There wasn't even a hint.

Keeping in mind that this film came out of the
late 80's, you can't help but be stunned by how
remarkable the picture quality of this disc is.
It rivals anything recently filmed and transferred
to DVD.

The reason why this film has taken on a totally
new meaning for me, is because now in its widescreen
glory, I can appreciate Willow for its
scenic beauty. From the deep green colors of Willow's
home farmland to the white snowy peaks of mountains
set against deep blue skies, this transfer shines
like no other! I never knew how gorgeous the
cinematography in this film was until watching this
DVD. It's breathtaking, to say the least.

In fact, the transfer of this DVD looks so good,
it brings out the deficiencies of the special effects
from that time period. Take a look at the tiny Brownies
for instance. With all the grain that VHS brought,
these tiny little people were flawlessly superimposed
into the film. Now on DVD, the transfer looks so
clean, that you can clearly see the rough edges around
these superimposed effects. You'll see this again
later in the film when a 2-headed monster attacks a
castle.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound is another remarkable
addition to this DVD. The sound cannot be described
as anything less than tremendous! I had the volume
turned up rather high, and my entire theater room
came alive and enveloped me with the crisp, booming
soundtrack. The sound on this disc is so incredible
for a film this age. It sounds better than most DVDs
recently released. From the thunderous booms my SVS
subwoofer gave off from an approaching army -- to the
beating hoofs of horses during a climatic wagon chase,
the soundtrack is full of punch. Even during James
Horner's magnificent score, you can still hear
Willow's small footsteps walking across the sand.
Every tiny noise is dramatically brought out. Even
the rear speakers remain active through the entire
movie from thunder that crackles around you -- to
crickets that encircle a campfire. I can only sum
all my comments up by saying this was an incredible
audio experience.

Let's go to the Special Features.....

Included on this disc is an original 1988
featurette that takes you on the sets and across
Continents to see what it took to bring Willow
to the screen. Ron Howard and George Lucas give
their own insights into what they wanted this film to
be.

Morf to Morphing is a look at the actual
dawn of the digital effects age. I was amazed to
learn that MORF technology was experimented
in Willow, as many of the effects sequences
demanded something better than simple dissolves.
We meet effects wizards Doug Smythe and Dennis Muren
who describe how they first turned to computer graphics
to produce some of the amazing effects in this film.
Using mere models that were then later digitally
manipulated, it is incredible to watch how this
experimental effects work back in 1988 has now
become so mainstream. There is so much technical
information presented here, that effects geeks will
be glued to their screens.

There are approximately 8 television spots and 3
theatrical teasers/trailers included.

Finally, there is an extensive photo gallery that
you can flip through using your remote, that shows
beautiful color photos that take you through the
making of Willow.


Final thoughts......


While Fox's upcoming Planet Of The Apes
scores high on overall DVD presentation, I feel that
Willow is the gem that Fox saved for last.
No other studio could have taken the needed care and
released such a beautiful audio and video experience
on DVD. It just goes to prove that there is a studio
out there willing to go to great lengths to give
films like this such a remarkable makeover. This
is certainly one the best transfers of any of Fox's
catalog titles. Bravo!

Release Date: November 27th
















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#2 of 60 OFFLINE   Sean Oneil

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Posted November 06 2001 - 01:09 PM

WoW! Sure sounds like a winner.

I was planning on picking this one up but am now looking forward to it a bit more. WS-RPTV ready to go ...SVS locked and loaded Posted Image

I also noticed the 'Peck' during the podrace scene BTW.



#3 of 60 OFFLINE   Kenneth Cummings

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Posted November 06 2001 - 01:11 PM

I can't wait to get Willow. Disprite the cover(Willow is a bit TOO happy), I just want to see this movie all the way through. Yes, I never got to see all of the movie yet so this will be good. By the way, one question. Is the commentary from Ron Howard on the disc? DVD File reviewed the disc today, but made no mention of this already annouced commentary.

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#4 of 60 OFFLINE   Colin Jacobson

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Posted November 06 2001 - 02:08 PM

Quote:
Is the commentary from Ron Howard on the disc? DVD File reviewed the disc today, but made no mention of this already annouced commentary.

The press release I received the other day mentioned a Warwick Davis commentary, though, not one from Howard. (I guess Howard doesn't like commentaries anymore, since he didn't do any for Willow AND The Grinch.) The DVD File review mentions Davis' track - dunno why Ron didn't bring it up. I'm still waiting for my screener, however, so he's one up on me! Posted Image

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#5 of 60 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted November 06 2001 - 02:20 PM


Guys,

I rarely listen to Director commentary.
It's hard enough reviewing up to 4 films
a week.

I watch each film in its entirety first.
Supplents are next. To go back and watch
a second time with commentary is just too
much. For that reason, I often accidently
leave out references to commentary in my
reviews. I realize that is unfair to many
of you and I apologize.

The packaging credits only 1 commentary
by Warwick Davis.




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Ronald Epstein (pronounced like the English "Ronald Epstein")
Circa 2000
Home Theater Forum Administrator
All forum questions & to get on our private forum mailing list (new members)... Email: hometheaterforum@home.com
Problems with the webpage or site? Contact WEBMASTER
Email Packy packy@hometheaterforum.com

 

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

 Click Here for the latest/hottest Blu-ray Preorders  Click Here for our complete Blu-ray review archive

 Click Here for our complete 3D Blu-ray review archive Click Here for our complete DVD review archive

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#6 of 60 OFFLINE   Shane Martin

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Posted November 06 2001 - 02:44 PM

Thank God I can dump my rotting Laserdisc.
/gesture Columbia Tri Star. It seemed that all Columbia discs were rotters.

Thank God Fox got the rights to this movie and has released it right(albeit with the help of Lucasfilm).



#7 of 60 OFFLINE   David Lambert

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Posted November 06 2001 - 03:02 PM

My wife, Stephanie, is VERY pleased at this great review. She's been looking forward to this for forever...

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#8 of 60 OFFLINE   Michael Lee

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Posted November 06 2001 - 03:56 PM

This is one of my favorite movies of all time. This is timely because my SE LD had serious rot on side 1 the last time I looked. I cannot wait for the 27th.

Thanks for the inside look, Ron!

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#9 of 60 OFFLINE   Sean Conklin

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Posted November 06 2001 - 04:29 PM

[rubbing hands]Can't wait to get my hands on this gem![/rubbing hands]

Now let's have some Real Genius and Back To The Future!!

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[Edited last by Sean Conklin on November 06, 2001 at 11:29 PM]

#10 of 60 OFFLINE   SteveBjr

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Posted November 06 2001 - 04:49 PM

Willow is one of my favorite Fantasy movies of all time. I am so excited to hear that Fox has put so much effort into making this a great disc. I can't wait til the 27th to pick this up. Thanks for the review i think, now i'm even more excited than i was already Posted Image

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#11 of 60 OFFLINE   Scott Weinberg

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Posted November 06 2001 - 05:40 PM

This is my #1 November DVD! I can't wait to pick it up.

Thanks for the scoop, Ron. Your enthusiasm is duly noted!

(And don't look now, but wasn't one of those Brownies played by Kevin Pollak!?>?!!? Posted Image )


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#12 of 60 OFFLINE   PhilipG

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Posted November 06 2001 - 06:30 PM

I'm thrilled Fox have given Willow a quality release on DVD. I watched a print earlier this year at a special screening and it was really poor.

So, bravo, Fox! Superb video and sound is what I care about - the rest is icing on the cake. Posted Image

#13 of 60 OFFLINE   Wes Ray

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Posted November 06 2001 - 06:45 PM

I never really liked Willow back in the day, but I just may pick this one up.

#14 of 60 OFFLINE   Barry S

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Posted November 06 2001 - 07:59 PM

Having never seen Willow in OAR, I'm very excited about this one. I was a wee lad when this movie came out and I've always enjoyed it. It should be a revelation since I've never seen the film in anything but pan&scan VHS.
AFI Top 100 Challenge progress: 50 49 48 47 46 45 44 43 films remaining.

Next up: The Philadelphia Story

#15 of 60 OFFLINE   AdrianOC

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Posted November 06 2001 - 08:03 PM

I have always loved Willow and played my widescreen vhs copy until it wore out completely.

Now I can gracefully retire it and await for the dvd release.

Bring it on! :-)

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#16 of 60 OFFLINE   Josh LeClair

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Posted November 06 2001 - 08:34 PM

I almost forgot this was coming out. For those of you that haven't seen it, Sci Fi channel is showing it this sunday and in widescreen.

#17 of 60 OFFLINE   Mike Voigt

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Posted November 06 2001 - 09:02 PM

Awesome! I've been waiting for this one since 1997, since I first got a DVD player.

This will be on my Christmas request list - or on the next day shopping list, if I don't get it!

Mike

#18 of 60 OFFLINE   Craig S

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Posted November 07 2001 - 02:22 AM

I only saw Willow once, on a rented VHS over a decade ago. I wasn't impressed at all and had planned to skip this one.

Dammit, Ron, now you've got me intrigued and I'm about 98% ready to put this on my pre-order list!! I hate this forum!! It's costing me big bucks!! Posted Image

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#19 of 60 OFFLINE   Ruben Zamora

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Posted November 07 2001 - 03:01 AM

This is too good to be true. Just yesterday my cousin was aksing me what DVD to buy me for my birthday on the Nov. 28. I could not think of a DVD I wanted that came out at the time. NOW I SEE this post. OMG I know what DVD she'll be getting me now. I CANT WAIT. Val Kilmer provides Excellent comedic relief in this film.

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#20 of 60 OFFLINE   Dave_P

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Posted November 07 2001 - 03:43 AM


I'm with quite a few of you on this one. I only saw this movie once in OAR when it was out in the theaters when I was 16. I have the VHS P&S copy that I can still watch because this is one of my all time favorite movies, but I cannot wait to get the DVD of this movie. I just cannot wait!!! I'll be in the stores picking this one up come the end of November.




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