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HTF REVIEW: Sahara



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#1 of 27 OFFLINE   Scott Kimball

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Posted August 28 2005 - 12:03 PM

Posted Image
Sahara





Studio: Paramount

Year: 2005

Rated: PG-13

Length: 123 minutes

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Audio: Dolby Digital English 5.1, English, French 2.0

English Subtitles

Closed Captioned

Special Features: Two Commentaries, 3 Featurettes, Deleted Scenes

Suggested Retail Price: $29.99 USD
Release Date: August 30, 2005


Preposterous!
Formulaic!
Dirk Pitt is no Indiana Jones!

But you know what? It doesn’t matter. I still enjoyed Sahara... quite a bit, in fact. And the funny part is, I put off reviewing this DVD because I wasn’t looking forward to the film, which is based on a novel by Clive Cussler, which I haven’t read.

Underwater explorer and adventurer Dirk Pitt (Matthew McConaughey) believes an Ironclad ship from the U.S. Civil War is buried beneath the desert sands of the Sahara. Of course, nobody really believes his crazy theory. Not his partner Al Giordino (Steve Zahn). Not the money man of Dirk’s exploratory operation, Admiral Sandecker (William H. Macy, who is wasted in the role). Nobody.

Sandecker gives Dirk and Al the use of his boat and three days to prove his theory.

Along the way, the adventurers meet up with Dr. Eva Rojas, a worker with the Wold Health Organization, who is looking for the source of a strange and deadly disease.

Suffice it to say that the goals of Dr. Rojas and Mr. Pitt become rather codependent. After all, you’ve got to find some way to keep the love interest around - even if the love isn’t very interesting. And, if it weren’t for Dr. Rojas, the evil warlord in Mali wouldn’t have any reason to chase the trio across the desert.

Whether or not they find the ship, the source of the disease, or love, makes little difference in this film... and as a viewer, you really won’t care. It’s not about the resolution to the plot, because the plot is thin and disjointed - and really isn’t important to the film.

How can a plot not be important? This film has a plot that serves only one function - filler between action sequences. There had to be a way to get the characters from point “A” to point “B” in order to take part in the next action sequence.

Great sequences are had by land, sea and air. Highlights include a preposterous boat chase, and an equally preposterous “sail” across the desert on the wreckage of a long-ago crashed plane.

There is a nod to the superior Indiana Jones films, in that Al keeps losing his hat.

So hold on to your hat, and be prepared to lose a couple of I.Q. points. This is not a film to be analyzed. It is indeed preposterous and formulaic... but don’t let that stop you from having a fun ride.

The picture is presented in anamorphic 2.35:1. It features a mostly sharp and detailed image (with just a hint of ringing). The print is very good. Contrast is excellent, with good black levels and shadow detail. Colors are beautiful, warm and nicely saturated. I could detect no banding in the fine gradients of the sky and desert sands, and no blocking or mosquito noise in areas of high frequency detail.

Very nice.

The audio is available in English 5.1, and in English and French 2.0. The 5.1 soundtrack has good frequency response and crystal clear dialog. I was hoping for a bit more defined directionality and a bit stronger, tighter response from the LFE channel. Music sounds nice... I just wanted more spaciousness, overall... I never really felt like I was in the middle of the action.

This is good, but not excellent.

Special Features

Commentary by director Breck Eisner

A terrific commentary! Eisner covers a lot of ground, and rarely stops speaking for more than a few seconds at a time. There’s good stuff on trivia, cinematography, music, stunts, effects, script, cast and more.

Commentary by director Breck Eisner and producer / actor Matthew McConaughey
This commentary is a bit less technical. There are more personal stories, and there’s more information on acting and characterizations - plus a fair bit of simple reminiscing.

Featurette: Across the Sands of Sahara (15:01)
A by-the-numbers “making of” featurette, with participation from all the principle actors, the director, and others. Kind of glossy... not too deep... but brief and to the point.

Featurette: Visualizing Sahara (20:07)
Broad and shallow, this featurette covers too much in too little time, not giving adequate coverage to anything. Blink, and you’ll miss nuggets about storyboarding, previsualizations, cinematography, costume design, set design (Ironclad, Solar Tower), the boat chase, practical effects, stunts, etc... This is an interesting piece, but it should have covered half as much, or been twice as long.

Featurette: Cast and Crew Wrap Film (9:45)
An interesting montage of the days shooting the film.

Deleted Scenes (with optional commentary)
There are four scenes. The commentary explains the reasons for the cuts. Some of them were cut for pacing, others were cut because the referred to another cut, etc...


Final Thoughts
This fun, brainless popcorn flick is an enjoyable ride. Excellent video, good audio and a smattering of extras add to the value.

Recommended.

#2 of 27 OFFLINE   RogerH

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Posted August 28 2005 - 12:10 PM

I'll be getting this when Blockbuster sells the previously viewed copies.

#3 of 27 OFFLINE   Mike<> C

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Posted August 28 2005 - 12:30 PM

saw this and am getting it release day.

#4 of 27 OFFLINE   Mark Oates

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Posted August 28 2005 - 01:13 PM

R2 got screwed with a bare-bones version that doesn't have any of the extras. I rented this one and enjoyed it, but I'd rather have the two-disc R3 edition which has a DTS soundtrack.
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#5 of 27 OFFLINE   TonyD

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Posted August 28 2005 - 03:23 PM

i agree with the barely a plot.
decent action movie.

looked great on my mits.
seems like many movies coming to dvd are getting worse as far as EE/ringing and low bit rates and whatnot.

this would qualify as a superbit from sony as it was near or
abaove 7 most of the film.

i also agree about the soundstage, there wasnt one.

surrounds were barely audible, i had to put my ear next to them to make sure they were on.
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#6 of 27 OFFLINE   John*D

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Posted August 28 2005 - 05:22 PM

I will be getting this and the bonus disc at BB this week! Posted Image

#7 of 27 OFFLINE   Stephen Orr

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Posted August 29 2005 - 10:54 AM

I'm a huge Clive Cussler fan, and really enjoyed the movie, so I'm buying this one.

#8 of 27 OFFLINE   Harold Wazzu

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Posted August 29 2005 - 11:33 AM

Quote:
I will be getting this and the bonus disc at BB this week!


Ditto!


#9 of 27 OFFLINE   Justin Bauer

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Posted August 29 2005 - 04:03 PM

I also like Cussler's books, for the most part, and saw why he sued the filmmakers. He was not happy at all with how the movie turned out. I like Zahn, but he really was not what Al Giordino was supposed to be.
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#10 of 27 OFFLINE   Amy Mormino

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Posted August 29 2005 - 10:35 PM

What is in the bonus disc at Best Buy? Anything worthwhile?

I'm a Cussler fan also and I heard about his problems with the movie. Too bad, because it would have been cool if he had participated in the extras like some authors do. I believe that he wasn't happy with Penelope Cruz's casting. Actually, I may be wrong but I heard that he did approve of Zahn because of his enthusiasm for the role.

#11 of 27 OFFLINE   Scott Kimball

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Posted August 29 2005 - 11:01 PM

Cussler's contract insisted on approval on the casting of Dirk and Al (McConaughey and Zahn), and he gave his approval. I have no idea if he approved of Cruz. While there is no mention of the lawsuit in the extras (that I heard, though I only listened to about half of the commentaries), there is mention of bits that he approved of.

-Scott

#12 of 27 OFFLINE   Jordan_E

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Posted August 30 2005 - 04:19 AM

Quote:
I have no idea if he approved of Cruz.


I approve of Cruz every time!
Anyway, personal views aside, I am looking forward to watching this one. Never read any of the books, but it looks about on par with Flight of the Phoenix remake, which was also nothing more than pure popcorn fun (although it DID have killer action for my sub!).
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#13 of 27 OFFLINE   Paul McElligott

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Posted August 30 2005 - 04:36 AM

I've got this coming today via Netflix, so we'll see. I grew up as a big Cussler fan but I haven't read one of his new books in ages.

One Cussler book I still think would make a good movie is "Night Probe." (Sound kinda dirty, don't it?) Great plot, but I think they'll have to finesse the ending so it'll play better in Canada and the UK. If you've read the book, you know what I mean. "Vixen 03" might have made a good movie at one time, too, but time and reality has passed it by.
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#14 of 27 OFFLINE   Mike_Richardson

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Posted August 30 2005 - 04:36 AM

I thought this was (and still is) one of the worst movies of 2005. The plot IS a mess, but IMO, so is the action -- not one part of the movie was interesting to me, and I'm a fan of "dumb action films". A disaster...even RAISE THE TITANIC was a far better film!

#15 of 27 OFFLINE   Paul McElligott

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Posted August 30 2005 - 04:38 AM

Quote:
even RAISE THE TITANIC was a far better film!
Ouch! Posted Image
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#16 of 27 OFFLINE   Phil Iturralde

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Posted August 30 2005 - 06:27 AM

Thanks Scott for the Review and DVD Details!!! Posted Image Pretty much echo's the same feeling and comments by Roger Ebert!

Quote:
What is in the bonus disc at Best Buy? Anything worthwhile?

Got mine @ Best Buy w/Bonus DVD (details below)

BONUS DVD - 20 mins. Full Screen Posted Image
- Making of the Camel Chase Scene
- 2 Animatics Sequences
- Storyboard-to-Movie Comparisons

My wife and I are big Clive Cussler fans and I read the book "Sahara" about a month before the movie release, ... and we both really enjoyed the movie! I felt the friendship and interaction between McConaughey & Zahn caught the books character's spirit on screen!!!

I plan to force-ON the Matrix 6.1 mode to add more rear center channel separation - in most blockbuster DVD's, the DD/DTS-5.1 surround mixes, .... identical Right & Left Surround INFO moves solidly to the Rear Center Channel speakers completing the full-360-degree surround sound effects!!!

This Friday NITE DVD = "Sahara", ... party of about 1/2-dozen or more family & friends - w/snacks & frosty margarita's served!

Should be glorious on my (AVIA/Digital Video Essentials DVD) Video Calibrated Toshiba 50" 16:9 HDTV & REFERENCED (Dolby Labs DD-EX 6.1) Audio Calibrated JBL S-Series 6.1 / SVS HT setup!!! Posted Image

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#17 of 27 OFFLINE   Chris Tedesco

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Posted August 30 2005 - 11:41 AM

Quote:
party of about 1/2-dozen or more family & friends - w/snacks & frosty margarita's served!


Now that's what I'm talkin about!!

#18 of 27 OFFLINE   Steve Schaffer

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Posted August 31 2005 - 01:41 PM

I watched Sahara last night and it's one of the best popcorn flicks I've seen in a very long time, much better than I expected it to be.

Didn't require any more suspension of disbelief than any of the Indy films and struck me as a sort of cross between James Bond (high tech megalomanianc villian) and the Indiana Jones films.

After seeing it I'm sorta sad it didn't do better theatrically as I'd love to see some sequels.
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#19 of 27 OFFLINE   Stephen Orr

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Posted August 31 2005 - 01:55 PM

Actually, Brett Eisner recently said that at least one sequel is a possibility. There are about 18 different stories to tell.

#20 of 27 OFFLINE   Kain_C

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Posted August 31 2005 - 02:48 PM

I can't help but to think National Treasure when I think of this film. Lots of similiarities. Leading guys who aren't usually into that type of adventure (note I did NOT say action; there is a difference) role, large, epic type adventure, mindless action, etc.

If you liked National Treasure, will you like this one?

I hope not, because National Treasure was one of the worst movies I've seen in a long time. Terrible acting, worst dialogue ever, and it was plain boring and predictable to boot. I do not understand that movie's rather noteworthy appeal at all.


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