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Blu-ray Reviews

Dick Tracy Blu-ray Review



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#1 of 17 Matt Hough

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Posted December 06 2012 - 09:36 AM

Back in the 1980s and early 1990s, making comic books come to life was a tough business. Popeye had the right comic book look but wasn't particularly entertaining. Tim Burton’s Batman created another totally unique world we had never seen before and met with a very favorable worldwide reaction even if the film’s plotting was sometimes deficient. Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy, with more than $50 million spent on it, likewise establishes a peerless visual style that's unlike anything seen in movies before. If ever the look of a comic book could be transformed onto celluloid, this movie has done it. Sadly, though, looks aren't enough. The film is entertaining only in fits and starts with some serious problems.








Dick Tracy (Blu-ray + Digital Copy)
Directed by Warren Beatty

Studio: Disney/Touchstone
Year: 1990
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1   1080p   AVC codec
Running Time: 106 minutes
Rating: PG
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, 2.0 Spanish
Subtitles:  SDH, French, Spanish


Region: A-B-C
MSRP: $ 26.50



Release Date: December 11, 2012

Review Date: December 6, 2012




The Film

3.5/5


Once again, the story is at fault. The most notable weakness of the narrative is in its structuring of the crimes. If one is going to have a police detective as the protagonist and have the criminal underworld determined to overcome him, the story needs to be set up that builds a hierarchy of mayhem leading up to a master plan of evil. Instead of this, Jim Cash and Jack Epps have used a scattershot approach to their plotting having Dick Tracy (Warren Beatty) and arch nemesis Big Boy Caprice (Al Pacino) play a dull game of one-upmanship that is tedious to follow and that feels aimlessly unsatisfactory. Caprice wants to control all crime in the city; Tracy tries to stop him, but there are no real capers on either side, and without those specific plans which succeed or fail, we flounder around trying to form our own story out of the bits and pieces that have been offered. To his credit, director Beatty has done eye-catching montages for both Tracy’s initial successes against the mob and Caprice’s follow-up crime spree (the latter set to composer Stephen Sondheim’s catchy tune “Back in Business,” one of five songs the Tony and Oscar-winning composer supplied for the movie.)


Tracy has his own hands full with two women in this tale: his loyal girl Tess Trueheart (Glenne Headly) and nightclub vamp Breathless Mahoney (Madonna). Neither of the two relationships ever goes beyond comic strip clinching, and a romantic bust up between Tracy and Tess adds an irritating complication to the story which could have been explained in simple dialogue exchanges between the two sweethearts. All of this is story weakness: the lack of a crime plot, the absence of true romance, a forced breakup, and then matters are further complicated by the introduction of an orphan kid (Charlie Korsmo) who witnesses a mob hit in the film's first few minutes and never even mentions to Tracy (whom he comes to love) that he could help him put the mob boss behind bars. The subplot with Tracy and Tess growing to love The Kid (as he’s called) but too busy to offer a permanent home putting him in line for the orphanage is sweet but another distraction.


Visually, though, the picture continually amazes. Dick Tracy has the shadowy, sinister look that enhanced Batman, but it has added splashes of garish primary color to emphasize the comic strip nature of the piece. Elaborate makeup (which won one of the film’s three Oscars) disguises half a dozen Hollywood star and character actors so that overplaying is really just about the only chance these actors have to make emotional points. But aside from Al Pacino who literally steals the show as Big Boy Caprice (in much the same way that Jack Nicholson stole Batman from Michael Keaton), the acting in the leading roles isn't much to speak of. Beatty is stolid to the point of mummification as the title character, Glenne Headley is a too mousy Tess, and Madonna's high exposure performance as Breathless is stiff and unconvincing (the Stephen Sondheim songs she's given to sing including the Oscar-winning “Sooner or Later” and the even better “What Can You Lose?” in a duet with the peerless Mandy Patinkin also point up her vocal inadequacies. It’s too bad someone like Bernadette Peters, a far better actress and singer, wasn’t engaged for the role.) In smaller parts, Charles Durning is fine as Chief Brandon, Charlie Korsmo endears as the initially bratty and later faithful as a bloodhound kid, Dustin Hoffman has fun as the whimpering Mumbles, R. J. Armstrong is a creepy Pruneface, and Dick Van Dyke peeps in briefly as the city's crooked district attorney (suggesting more could have been done with his character). Look briefly to catch glimpses of James Caan, Paul Sorvino (memorable as Lips), John Schuck, Estelle Parsons, Mike Mazurki, and Michael J. Pollard.


Because the story is so rashly plotted, Beatty's direction is similarly unbalanced. He shoots Madonna's musical sequences badly and then allows the editing to chop them up into almost incomprehensible bits. (There is one priceless moment when Big Boy attempts to take over choreographing the chorus girls leading to a very funny muddle of legs and feet.) The climactic showdown between Tracy, Caprice, and a faceless enemy (whose identity is one of the film's only surprises) isn't milked for all its dramatic impact, either. But, a perilous rescue from an exploding boiler engine makes for a snappy bit of adventure midway through the film, and both of those montage scenes are a tonic, but again, these slapdash highs and lows happen back-to-back throughout the movie making for a very jarring and only occasionally rewarding viewing experience.



Video Quality

4.5/5


The film is presented in its theatrical 1.85:1 aspect ratio and is offered in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. The bright, almost fluorescent colors are beautifully handled in the encode pushing to the very boundaries of blooming without ever crossing over. Flesh tones are consistently presented. Sharpness is the film’s inconsistent aspect. Most of the film is sharp and appealing, and Beatty gives himself some glamour close-ups in soft focus, but some other scenes are soft for no apparent reason, and contrast is likewise either expertly dialed-in or slightly milky. Black levels are very good. The film has been divided into 12 chapters.



Audio Quality

4.5/5


The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is a very impressive presentation. Several explosions in the film have really incredible heft in this mix, and there are some effective uses of split sound effects in various channels. Stephen Sondheim’s songs and Danny Elfman’s background score (which will certainly remind you of his work in Batman) get wonderful spread through the fronts and rears and constitute a welcoming immersive experience for the listener. Dialogue has been well recorded and has mostly been placed in the center channel with an occasional bit of directionalized dialogue to spice things up.



Special Features

½ /5


There are promo trailers for Oz:The Great and Powerful, ABC’s Castle, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit.


The second disc in the set is the digital copy of the movie with enclosed instructions for transferring to Mac and PC devices.



In Conclusion

3.5/5 (not an average)


Dick Tracy, for all its comic punch and bluster, just isn't consistently enjoyable. It has its moments, but it's a shame that Tracy wasn't as committed to finding a good story for himself as he was for jailing hoods. The Blu-ray is about as good as this film will ever look on home video, but it’s a crime that various participants in the film weren’t interviewed about their experiences in making the movie for this new release.




Matt Hough

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#2 of 17 Jeff F.

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Posted December 06 2012 - 09:46 AM

This was one of the few movies I ever walked out on in the theater. It seems that time has not healed its wounds.

#3 of 17 Dick

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Posted December 06 2012 - 02:05 PM

This was one of the few movies I ever walked out on in the theater. It seems that time has not healed its wounds.

I'll probably be in the minority as this thread lengthens -- for all its shortcomings, including some I agree with in Matt's review, I am mesmerized by the visuals here, and by Danny Elfman's lush score. I could "inhabit" this city and its near-psychedelic color scheme for many hours without tiring of it, short of seeing actors and script becoming a downright embarrassment, which I do not feel happens in DICK TRACY. I am glad it's out on Blu-ray looking good, as this will be one I come back to often. My big regret is that Warren Beatty wasn't able to wrest this film from Disney and give it the director's cut treatment he apparently wanted it to have.

#4 of 17 Brian McP

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Posted December 06 2012 - 03:07 PM

Also Ian Wolfe's final film, playing a forger.

#5 of 17 Todd Erwin

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Posted December 06 2012 - 04:37 PM

This was the first film released in the CDS digital sound format. I remember being surprised at how directional some of the effects were. One of the problems with the format was that it did not eliminate the need for a backup 35mm print in case the digital processor failed. It was also unreliable, crashing on a regular basis.

#6 of 17 Douglas Monce

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Posted December 06 2012 - 05:13 PM

I quite enjoy this film for what it is, a classic comic strip come to life. I'll be picking it up. Doug
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#7 of 17 Mark Walker

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Posted December 06 2012 - 06:01 PM

I agree with much of MattH's review. Sometimes I like what I like. I will pick this up once the price hits $15.00 or less. I would paid more but the lack of any bonus content makes this one a only-at-a low price purchase.

Paramount, please release DRAGONSLAYER on Blu-ray

Dragonslayer_1981HTF_zps4e370848.jpg

 

 

Vermithrax Pejorative deserves to be seen in high-def.


#8 of 17 David Coleman

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Posted December 07 2012 - 01:14 AM

Great review! Looking forward to seeing this one on bluray! Encouraged by the audio /video review! Sent from my SGH-T989 using Tapatalk 2

#9 of 17 Peter Neski

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Posted December 07 2012 - 08:49 AM

While these Movies are really different , both "Dick Tracy "and "One from the Heart" aren't great as visual art to me,even with ,Storaro I really think of this as "One from the heart Part 2"even if these films are Beautifully shot by Storaro,the stuff before the camera is pure Hollywood Back Lot ,I don't like the sets and feel they aren't photogenic ,Storaro can't do things with light to fix the stuff placed in front of the camera Tracy looks like fake sets that just got painted ,sure there's still some of Storaro's magic,and the Matte paintings are nice ,but so were Coppola's camera tricks on" One From the Heart "

#10 of 17 Dick

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Posted December 08 2012 - 08:53 AM

While these Movies are really different , both "Dick Tracy "and "One from the Heart" aren't great as visual art to me,even with ,Storaro I really think of this as "One from the heart Part 2"even if these films are Beautifully shot by Storaro,the stuff before the camera is pure Hollywood Back Lot ,I don't like the sets and feel they aren't photogenic ,Storaro can't do things with light to fix the stuff placed in front of the camera Tracy looks like fake sets that just got painted ,sure there's still some of Storaro's magic,and the Matte paintings are nice ,but so were Coppola's camera tricks on" One From the Heart "

There was absolutely no intention to make the city or the characters in this film realistic. It's meant to be garish and gaudy and over-the-top. That was the point: not to duplicate our reality, but rather the reality of the comic book characters. Yes, they look fake. Does anything in an old DC comic look real to you? This is a briliant visual representation of those comic books, I think.

#11 of 17 Tom M

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Posted December 08 2012 - 09:22 AM

Bravo, Dick! Warren Beatty said that Dick Tracy lives in a simple, uncomplicated world. Beatty also said that DT himself is equally simple and uncomplicated. He's dedicated to his job and little else. Beatty plays him that way and IMO it's a very good performance. That said, I feel it's a great crime that Bruce Campbell never played Dick Tracy. That man's chin was MADE for the role! :)
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#12 of 17 Gem1836

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Posted December 10 2012 - 08:53 AM

I always felt that DICK TRACY would stand the test of time for the most wonderful look and color pallete. The are times when the designs mimick the Fleischer Superman cartoons which have haunted me with their dark shadows and Art Deco splendor all these years. Again, I'd love to see this in a theater again.

#13 of 17 cafink

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Posted December 10 2012 - 09:26 AM

Dick Tracy's plot might be unremarkable, but it gets the job done with no real problems that stick out for me, while the visuals are absolutely gorgeous. It seems to me that this is just about the perfect movie to watch in high definition, so I'm happy to see it being released on Blu-ray with good image quality. I will definitely purchase this one!
 

 


#14 of 17 Felix Martinez

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Posted December 24 2012 - 01:05 PM

I really like the film and thought the blu-ray looked wonderful projected on a larger screen.


The soundtrack, however, is mastered quite loud and a bit too dynamically compressed for my taste.  The mix is really nice and immersive, and would have benefited from an extra 4-5db headroom.



#15 of 17 Ken_McAlinden

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Posted December 29 2012 - 04:25 PM

Note: For those of you who take advantage of the digital copy via iTunes, this title does *not* currently show up in the iTunes Cloud after you redeem it.  You will need to keep a copy in local storage to be able to access it via iTunes, iPods, iOS devices, Apple TV, etc.


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#16 of 17 Stephen_J_H

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Posted December 31 2012 - 07:05 AM

Curious. I wonder if this is because of some absurd proviso in Beatty's contract for the film.


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#17 of 17 Ken_McAlinden

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Posted January 01 2013 - 02:14 PM

Originally Posted by Ken_McAlinden 

Note: For those of you who take advantage of the digital copy via iTunes, this title does *not* currently show up in the iTunes Cloud after you redeem it.  You will need to keep a copy in local storage to be able to access it via iTunes, iPods, iOS devices, Apple TV, etc.


Originally Posted by Stephen_J_H 

Curious. I wonder if this is because of some absurd proviso in Beatty's contract for the film.

I am sure it has something to do with the fact that the film is not currently available for purchase or rental from the iTunes store, but it would probably take a room full of lawyers to figure out why.


Ken McAlinden
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