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HTF REVIEW: The Big Lebowski



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#1 of 42 OFFLINE   Steve Tannehill

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Posted October 19 2005 - 04:57 PM

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The Big Lebowski
Studio: Universal Studios Home Video
Year: 1998 (2005 Release)
Rated: R
Aspect Ratio: 1.85x1, enhanced for 16x9 displays
Audio: English, French DD 5.1; Spanish DD 2.0
Captions/Subtitles: English SDH; French and Spanish Subtitles
Time: 1:57:16
Disc Format: SS/DL (DVD-9)
Case Style: Keep Case

The Feature:
The Big Lebowski cracks me up. Jeff Bridges is Jeff Lebowski, a drugged out, White Russianed bowler known as "The Dude" who one day goes home only to be attacked because his wife owes a lot of money to someone. One of the assailants then... ruins The Duder's rug. What a bummer. Complicating matters further is that His Dudeness is not married. But his smarter bowling partner Walter (John Goodman), a profane Vietnam vet, suggests that this is a case of mistaken identity, and that Dude should visit the real Lebowski--the Big Lebowski--and seek restitution. The Big Lebowski is rich, and is not amused when the Dude--who looks like drugged out beach bum--comes in asking for money. So the Dude steals a rug.

The plot thickens when the young trophy wife of the Big Lebowski is kidnapped... or so we think. The Dude is then brought in to be the bag man...and it gets complicated. Betrayal. Bloody toes. Bowling. You have to watch it to appreciate it.

The Big Lebowski is from Joel and Ethan Coen, who brought us Fargo and Raising Arizona. The press materials supplied with the DVD point out that dozens of web sites are out there devoted to the movie, and there are even "Lebowski Fests" in cities across the country where people bowl, drink White Russians, and watch the movie. I wonder if any controlled substances are involved?

All the Dude ever wanted was his rug back. It really tied the room together. But will this DVD tie your DVD collection together if you are a fan?

The Feature: 4 / 5
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Video:
The first Lebowski had obvious compression problems, edge enhancement, dirt, speckles, and looked generally less than great. It was also a 1.78x1 anamorphic transfer, not the 1.85x1 original aspect (although, honestly, unless your overscan is set extremely well, you won't notice the difference). It was an early example of an early transfer with too much material on the disc.

The new Lebowski is free of the noticeable dirt and speckles. The aspect is 1.85x1, anamorphic enhanced. As with the prior transfer, the picture is very colorful, with solid blacks. The compression artifacts appear to be gone (yea). While there has been a complaint that filtering caused the image to have a softened look, I don't personally find this to be distracting.

What I do see is enough of an improvement over the prior video transfer to where I will not be going back to it.

Video: 4 / 5
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Sound:
Last time, we got a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack in English. This Lebowski adds French in 5.1 and Spanish in 2.0. Want to learn to curse in a foreign tongue? This is a good movie to start. Dialogue is center-focused, music is on the front (and the music soundtrack is great--lots of Creedence, but be careful with The Eagles). There's some good ambience in the surrounds and even a tad of LFE. No complaints.

Sound: 4 / 5
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Extras:
The extras are uninspiring, especially when compared to the original Polygram release.

First off, we have an introduction to the film in 4x3 widescreen by "Forever Young Film Preservation" hosted by "noted" preservationist Mortimer Young. Yeah, right. They should have used this 4:41 of space to show how Universal remastered the disc in fact, instead of in fiction.

From the previous Polygram release is the 24-minute "The Making of The Big Lebowski" with lots of Coen Brothers interview footage. It is okay, but if the Lebowski Fests are so fun, why isn't there a documentary on this DVD taking us to one? Do you count this as a rehash, or a missed opportunity, or something new for someone seeing this DVD for the first time?

There are eight production notes, but this is in lieu of the Polygram edition's numerous Cast and Filmmakers bios and filmographies.

Finally, the new edition includes 26 black and white photos taken from the set by Jeff Bridges. They play automatically and are set to music.

Lost from the new release is the Teaser Trailer that appeared on the Polygram DVD.

If you spend an extra $30 retail, you can get eight of those photographs in an envelope, a bowling towel, and coasters. The movie is the same. Unless you are a total fanatic, I can't see this being of value. Then again, there are people who bought the Showgirls gift set, right? (None of them reading this review, of course! Posted Image )

Extras: 2.5 / 5
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In Conclusion:
Okay, this is a close call. If you are new to The Big Lebowski, don't mind a lot of foul language, and like the Coen style of strange humor, this disc is hard to beat. At $20 retail, with some stores selling it for as low as $12-$13 right now, it is hard to pass up. For another $20 or so this week, you can get the collector's set, which is not something that interests me, but might you.

If you are considering a double-dip, there are few features that make it worthwhile, unless you are looking for the language dubs or subtitles, but the transfer is definitely improved over the last one--with room for improvement for that eventual HD release that we all know is around the corner.

Overall Rating: 3.5 / 5
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Release Date: October 18, 2005




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#2 of 42 OFFLINE   Dharmesh C

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Posted October 19 2005 - 07:17 PM

Thanks for the review; I'll stick with the original.

#3 of 42 OFFLINE   jim.vaccaro

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Posted October 19 2005 - 09:49 PM

Great cult movie. This is on my Christmas list. Glad to hear the video issues have been addressed, as I rented the previous disc and was unimpressed with it on my 43" Sony.

#4 of 42 OFFLINE   Sean Patrick

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Posted October 20 2005 - 01:22 AM

wow, that review is VERY generous towards the transfer.

i was hoping the other reviews were wrong, but after watching some of the new dvd for the first time just now... I have to say this is a bad rehash of the old transfer, HEAVILY filtered. It's horrible, in my opinion, and look WORSE than the original dvd!

This is definitely taken from the same old transfer the original DVD was taken from, but for whatever reason, increased disc space and 5 years of compression improvements has resulted in a botched "special edition" that is full of aliasing the original dvd didn't even have!

#5 of 42 OFFLINE   dpippel

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Posted October 20 2005 - 01:42 AM

Wow Steve, 4 out 5 for the video? Generous indeed. To me the video quality on the CE is easily as bad as the original transfer, just in a different way. I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree on that one.

Careful man, there's a beverage here!


#6 of 42 OFFLINE   JonZ

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Posted October 20 2005 - 04:10 AM

Funny, the comments about the video on the old transfer, because when I learned to do the squeeze trick on my old JVC, that was on this title I really saw a difference,how much clearer a 16x9 transfer was.

This is the scene below, the scratches on the metal, the jewels,everything came out alot more when watched in 16x9, I thought this was a great transferPosted Image(This was about 7 years ago though)

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This looks fine on my 32 inch HDtv, so Im gonna stick with the old one for now.

#7 of 42 OFFLINE   Jordan_E

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Posted October 20 2005 - 04:50 AM

I've been putting off buying this one in hopes for a really decent SE...well, guess I get what I get and am forced to like it. But I need to buy this one now and doubt there will be an HD version any time soon. Sold.
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#8 of 42 OFFLINE   Random Hero

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Posted October 20 2005 - 09:15 AM

I watched the movie today and I'm happy with the DVD. The little "restoration" piece was funny with the various versions of the movie clip.

Granted, I'm not an audiovisual expert, but I'm happy with my purchase. Posted Image

#9 of 42 OFFLINE   Darren Gross

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Posted October 20 2005 - 10:45 AM

I'm surprised at your comments on the 'restoration' piece Steve. I thought it was a total hoot and incredibly dryly funny. Some great digs at the current studio system too.

While not worth a rebuy for, its definitely a welcome little tidbit.

I agree with some of the other posts. The transfer looks identical, only the authoring seems different.

#10 of 42 OFFLINE   Matt Birchall

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Posted October 20 2005 - 02:09 PM

Quote:
Then again, there are people who bought the Showgirls gift set, right? (None of them reading this review, of course! Posted Image )

To be fair to suckers like me, it should be pointed out that at the time it was released, the only way to get the new Showgirls disc (with the anamorphic transfer) was to buy the silly-ass gift set. There weren't two options available, unlike this situation. If I could have bought the disc by itself, without all of the frills, I would have.

This is not to say that I haven't greatly enjoyed the novelty pasties, though.

#11 of 42 OFFLINE   jim.vaccaro

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Posted October 20 2005 - 06:04 PM

To everyone who says this transfer looks identical (or worse) compared to the old one, please check out dvdbeaver's side by side comparisons. The new transfer is quite noticeably better. Yes, it seems a tad softer in some areas, but in reality that's a small price to pay for better color, OAR, and no digital artifacts (I *hate* those things!). In all actuality the first transfer seems to be oversharpened to my eyes anyway.

#12 of 42 OFFLINE   Sean Patrick

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Posted October 20 2005 - 08:42 PM

jim vaccaro -

like i said in an earlier post, those new screenshots are misleading ...i also thought the screenshots looked great but this dvd does not look better than the old one. it looks different because of the filtering but that's it....the same shimmering on edges is still there from the original, just hidden by filering, resulting in some pretty bad aliasing in some scenes. i'm watching on a 103" screen so i am probably seeing things some people won't, but it's been a long time since i've seen such a soft transfer on a major release.

Also, what's up with the opening shot being zoomed in? comparing the first shot of the movie with the old dvd (when the tumbleweed is going towards the cliff) there is a VERY noticeable zoom into the picture going on. the lettering in the first few credits is much larger and information is cut off on all sides when compared to the original transfer.

#13 of 42 OFFLINE   Sean Patrick

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Posted October 20 2005 - 08:45 PM

PS -there is also no improvement in color as you state. have you actually watched the dvd yet?

the thing that bothers me most about all the filtering that's been added is that it drastically decreases picture depth. at least the original dvd with all the artifacting had decent picture depth and contrast.

#14 of 42 OFFLINE   jim.vaccaro

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Posted October 20 2005 - 09:41 PM

like i said in an earlier post, those new screenshots are misleading


Which post did you say this in?

No, I have not seen the DVD yet, and when I do, it will be on a 43" Sony HD RPTV. DVDbeaver's review doesn't mention aliasing; that's not to say there isn't any. I can't argue with one way or the other on that since I haven't seen the disc, and it would be pointless anyway.

Based on the screenshots I have seen, I do notice a difference in color temp and I prefer the new transfer in that regard.

#15 of 42 OFFLINE   Sean Patrick

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Posted October 20 2005 - 09:52 PM

jim -

sorry, must have been the OTHER lebowski thread i made that comment in...

when you do get to watch the dvd, look no further than the first scene with the Dude, in the grocery store....look at the edges of items on the shelf and the letters on the two signs hanging from the ceiling. Really nasty aliasing.

something about seeing the picture in motion really looks different than the screenshots....not sure why. i really thought people around here were being too picky with their comments on the transfer when i saw the screenshots, needless to say i ended up being VERY disappointed.

i'll definitely be selling this new dvd and reverting back to the old release.

#16 of 42 OFFLINE   dpippel

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Posted October 20 2005 - 11:56 PM

To everyone who says this transfer looks identical (or worse) compared to the old one, please check out dvdbeaver's side by side comparisons. The new transfer is quite noticeably better. Yes, it seems a tad softer in some areas, but in reality that's a small price to pay for better color, OAR, and no digital artifacts (I *hate* those things!). In all actuality the first transfer seems to be oversharpened to my eyes anyway.

The comments I've made about the TBL CE are based on comparing the actual transfers in my home theater Jim, not by looking at DVDBeaver screenshots. As I've said, the new transfer does do away with most of the compression artifacts in the original release but at the expense of almost all fine detail. The new transfer is a lot more than "a tad" softer.

Careful man, there's a beverage here!


#17 of 42 OFFLINE   jim.vaccaro

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Posted October 21 2005 - 02:28 AM

OK, fair enough. In my opinion, people on this board generally overreact concerning video transfer quality though (don't believe me? Read the Ben Hur thread). And given the choice between digital artifacts and a soft picture, I'll choose a soft picture everytime. But that's just me.

I don't think The Dude would care too much one way or the other, so long as the White Russians flow and the herb is plentiful. Posted Image

#18 of 42 OFFLINE   dpippel

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Posted October 21 2005 - 03:27 AM

And given the choice between digital artifacts and a soft picture, I'll choose a soft picture everytime.

The point I'm trying to make is that we shouldn't HAVE to choose between the lesser of two evils. BOTH of these transfers leave a lot to be desired. I'm completely disappointed that Universal squandered the great opportunity they had here to come up with the definitive DVD release of a film that's become a part of our very culture. They screwed it up royally IMO. Too bad Criterion doesn't have the rights to The Big Lebowski. Maybe someday.

I don't think The Dude would care too much one way or the other, so long as the White Russians flow and the herb is plentiful.

I don't know about that. A good transfer and a wealth of extras really would've tied the DVD together. The carpet pissers did this.

Careful man, there's a beverage here!


#19 of 42 OFFLINE   Sean Patrick

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Posted October 21 2005 - 08:53 AM

i agree 100% with doug - this isn't just a "tad softer" with all the artifacts gone. the detail has been absolutely crushed by filtering. i'd go as far as saying the transfer is a travesty. it's almost laserdisc-level detail, with laser-disc style dot-crawl and aliasing on what should be areas of fine detail.

and i still want to kno why the first shot is so drastically zoomed in during the opening credits.

#20 of 42 OFFLINE   Paul Arnette

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Posted October 21 2005 - 09:52 AM

Hi all.

Wow. I have to stay that I'm very glad I stumbled into this thread because I was completely unaware of overwhelming disappointment with this new transfer. I too saw the screen grabs on DVD Beaver and thought this was a slam dunk double dip.

I guess what it boils down to for me is what Doug said, we shouldn't have to settle for the lesser of two evils, and I don't intend to. If Universal can't do it right, I will wait until the do, hopefully on Blu-Ray. Until then, I can live with my original disc and save my hard-earned money for the TONS of other product coming out this quarter.

That being said, I don't necessarily disparage anyone who decides they want to upgrade or is buying this movie for the first time. But for me, "I do mind, the Dude minds. This will not stand, ya know, this aggression will not stand, man" Posted Image
Universal Blu-ray Discs I will not be buying while they're offered only as Blu-ray + DVD 'flipper' discs:

The Jackal
, Out of Africa, and Traffic.