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HTF DVD REVIEW: Chaos Theory



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#1 of 1 OFFLINE   Ken_McAlinden

Ken_McAlinden

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  • Join Date: Feb 20 2001
  • Real Name:Kenneth McAlinden
  • LocationLivonia, MI USA

Posted June 23 2008 - 07:10 AM

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Chaos Theory

Directed By: Marcos Siega

Starring: Ryan Reynolds , Emily Mortimer, Stuart Townsend, Sarah Chalke, Mike Erwin, Constance Zimmer, Matreya Fedor

Studio: Warner Brothers

Year: 2007

Rated: PG-13

Film Length: 87 minutes

Aspect Ratio: 2.4:1

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Release Date: June 24, 2008

The Film

Chaos Theory tells the story of Frank Allen (Reynolds), an expert on time management who arranges his life down to the last second via a system involving lots and lots of index cards. His wife, Susan (Mortimer), tries to help him out on the morning of an important lecture by adjusting the clocks in their home by ten minutes. Unfortunately, she sets them ten minutes back instead of forward, resulting in Frank missing his ferry and being late for his own lecture on time management. This sets off a chain reaction of escalating events that threaten to destroy Frank's home life as well as all of his preconceived notions about who he is and how the world works.

While for the majority of the film's running time, it plays as a darkly comic farce, Director Siega experiments a lot with the tone of the film dropping in bits of broad comedy, mostly involving Frank abandoning structure and devoting his life to whimsy, as well as scenes of heavy domestic drama, mostly involving everyone's feelings towards Frank and Susan's daughter, Jesse. The experiment is not always a success, particularly in the heavier moments mixed into the film's excessively contrived final act, I still liked it enough to recommend it for anyone looking for a change of pace comedy.

Holding the film together through these somewhat awkward tonal shifts is a cast headed by Reynolds and Mortimer who are both likeable enough in character that one can tolerate a certain amount of illogical behavior. The supporting cast includes Townsend as a confirmed bachelor and longtime friend of the couple with a deeper connection to them to which they are all oblivious, Sarah Chalke as a would-be temptress, and Jocelyne Loewen as a somewhat addle pated pregnant woman who unwittingly figures into Frank's downward spiral. They usually hit the right comic tone even if they are drawn a bit too broadly to be believable.

The Video

The 16:9 enhanced 2.4:1 widescreen transfer appears on one side of this double sided single layered DVD-10 disc. The flip side of the disc includes a 4:3 full frame presentation. For the purpose of this review, I did not watch the 4:3 reformatted version. The widescreen presentation can be difficult to asses at times as Siega and his Director of Photography Ramsey Nickell have clearly watched a lot of Stanley Kubrick movies and like to push the film's exposure beyond the point of light sources blooming. This results in an image that is somewhat grainy and diffuse, but usually in an aesthetically pleasing manner. Unlike Kubrick, they also chose to use anamorphic lenses. Based on the number of lens flares, they appear to have gotten their hands on some vintage lenses that are more susceptible to the phenomenon than the modern variety. The DVD presentation renders the retro-stylized film image fairly well, although some of the grainiest scenes give the compression algorithm fits. Fortunately, this is not a significant issue from a reasonable viewing distance.

The Audio

The English Dolby Digital 5.1 track encoded at 384 kbps sounds more like a 3.0 track for most of the film's running time. While there may have been some very light ambience in the surrounds, I only actually noticed them working at two points in the film. Even the music tracks barely wrap around to the surrounds until the film's closing sequence. That being said, fidelity is good and is substantially above average for a low bitrate 5.1 encoding. A French Dolby Digital 2.0 Pro-Logic surround dub track is also available.

The Extras

Identical extras appear on both sides of the DVD-10 disc. They consist of a set of three additional scenes. They are accessible directly from the main menu. Chapter stops are included, but individual scenes are not accessible from the menu. They are presented in 4:3 letterboxed video with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Descriptions and running times are as follows:
    [*]Original Opening of Film (1:10) – In this version, the prospective bride and groom have a conversation through a closed door rather than beginning things with a conversation between the prospective groom and his buddies.[*]Exterior Cabin Day (2:47) This presents the "morning after" that follows the New Years eve scene from the film where Frank and Susan hook up.[*]Alternate Ending (1:22) – This presents an additional gag at the end involving some humorously inappropriate behavior from Buddy.
When the disc is first spun up, the viewer is greeted with the following skippable promotional spots, all of which are in 4:3 video letterboxed when appropriate with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound:
  • Anti-Piracy PSA with scenes from Casablanca (1:00)
  • Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show DVD trailer (:33)
  • The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 theatrical teaser (1:19)
  • Anti-tobacco PSA (:32)
Packaging

The double sided single layered DVD-10 disc is packaged in a standard Amaray-style case with no inserts. The disc carries the 16:9 enhanced widescreen and 4:3 full frame reformatted presentation on separate sides with identical extras and promos on each side. The cover image is a somewhat bland picture of Reynolds with a red background.

Summary

Chaos Theory is a darkly comic farce with a widely varying tone and a plot that relies heavily on unrealistic coincidences and irrational behavior that somehow still managed to entertain me. The DVD is presented with a 16:9 enhanced widescreen presentation that renders the highly stylized cinematography well with only some minor compression-related hiccups related to rendering heavy film grain. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is serviceable, but rarely employs the surround fields for any purpose. Extras consist solely of three interesting deleted scenes, including an alternate opening and closing for the film.

Regards,

Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA