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HTF REVIEW: "O"



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#1 of 12 Ronald Epstein

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Posted February 13 2002 - 08:02 AM

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"O"



A film with perhaps the shortest title in
film history, "O" is a modern-day retelling
of the Shakespeare's classic, "Othello".

It is difficult for me to take this film and
relate it to the original classic, because frankly,
everything I ever learned about Shakespeare, I
forgot long ago. Therefor, please allow me to judge
this film based upon the entertainment value rather
than comparing it against its historic counterpart.

In this film, "O" is for Odin James
(Mekhi Phifer), the school's star basketball player.
He is a modern day hero and the envy of all,
including the team's coach (Martin Sheen) and the
Dean's Daughter, Desi (Julia Stiles), who shares
her love with the basketball star.

With envy comes jealousy, and such is the case
with Hugo (Josh Hartnett), the coach's son, Odin's
friend, and a fellow team player who has always
wanted to fly with the best, but has yet to soar.
Hugo is a friend with ulterior motives. Resentful
that his father shows preference to Odin, Hugo
stages a sinister plot that will cast treachery,
jealousy, and mistrust into the lives of Odin and
Desi. A chain of events spirals into the type of
tragic ending that Shakespeare is so well known for.

Without any knowledge of the original tale of
"Othello", I found "O" to be quite entertaining.
The story of cunning friendship betrayal is full
of twists and turns. Set against a soundtrack of
hop-hop music, this young cast of actors is quite
good, though never giving the powerful performances
a story like this needs. Because of this, the film
falls short of being extraordinary or memorable.


How is the transfer?


This is actually the second Lion's Gate title
I have had the honor of reviewing. Last month,
I gave Lost and Delerious a big thumbs up
on overall transfer quality. "O" looks just
as nice. The transfer looks very clean, with hardly
a trace of grain except in the darkest passages.
Colors are very accurate -- especially with the facial
flesh tones. It's good to see that this studios is
keeping a good track record with consistently
impressive transfers. The film is presented in
widescreen and full frame, which can be selected right
from the main menu (instead of flipping sides).


The 5.1 Dolby Digital mix is very good. Though
the hip-hop music can be overly loud and intrusive,
the audio is quite clear. The rears are given their
share of activity, especially during the many
basketball events where the crowd can be heard
cheering in the stands.


Extra Features


I probably forgot to mention that Lion's Gate has
released "O" as a 2-disc Deluxe Edition.
The main feature is on disc ONE, while the supplements
are placed on disc TWO.

Pop the discs in, and you are greeted with a short
animated menu that shows a cheering crowd dissolving
into a profile shot of Odin. Menu commands appear.

In addition to Director Tim Blake Nelson's
commentary...

I was very surprised that this disc actually
contained the original 1922 silent version of
Othello, starring Emil Jannings and Directed
by Dimitri Buchowetzki. The silent film is presented
in its newly restored version with a brand new score.
I had hoped to watch it in its entirety, to compare
it to the 2001 remake, but I must admit that I got
bored with this silent version very quickly. I can
only tell you that of the 30 minutes I watched, the
quality of the film was better than I expected, and
the musical score certainly complimented the film well.

There are a total of 4 extremely short Interviews
with the 3 main cast members and Director. Julia
Stiles
(Desi) talks about how Director Tim Blake
Nelson was an encouraging presence on the set --
especially when they only had two weeks or rehearsal
time. Mekhi Phifer (Odin James) talks about
how easy it will be for this film's audience to
relate to the athlete. He hopes this film encourages
the discussion of violence among school kids and their
parents. Josh Hartnett (Hugo) gives insight
into his character, and tries to draw out all the
rights from the wrongs. Finally, Director Tim
Blake Nelson
talks about the character of Hugo.
He then addresses the use of drugs in the film and
the need to address it in a remake that uses teens
as it focal point.

There are 4 Deleted Scenes that you can
watch with or without Director's commentary. A
scene with Hugo and Roger shows us a little
more about Roger and his obsession for Desi. Hugo
gives Roger a little pep speech, and explains why
Roger gained so much faith in Hugo's devious plan.
The Cafeteria scene shows Hugo pleading to
Desi to talk some sense into getting Mike back on
the team. Later, she approaches Odin, only to be
reprimanded. A drug dealer talks about white control
in Drug Deal. He spells out the hard, cold
facts of becoming a rising black star in a
white world. Finally, an earlier confrontation
occurs in Odin and Desi. This is yet another
scene that shows Odin's rising, out-of-control anger.

Director Tim Blake Nelson was so proud of the
basketball sequences, that he wanted to include
them on this DVD. In this supplemental area, he
replays 3 of the key basketball sequences and while
doing commentary with Russell Lee, the Director
of Photography. Lee explains how he used
unconventional crane shots and mobile shots on the
court to bring an interesting new feel to the
basketball action. Nelson explains that one of
the film's basketball sequences was supposed to play
against an operatic score, but it didn't work out. Instead,
they used a hip-hop score instead.

The film's Original Trailer is also
included as well as 6 other titles from Lions
Gate Films.


Final Thoughts


If you were like me, you probably would have
read Shakespeare on the back of the box, and
immediately felt this sunken feeling in your
stomach.

Realize, however, this is a highly entertaining
story built around Shakespeare's classic tale. It's
totally fresh, presented in a manner that all
audiences can easily relate to. Though the film's
performances never make this as powerful of a film
that it should be, it is still one that I would
recommend as a rental at the very least.

Release Date: February 19, 2002

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#2 of 12 Jason Hughes

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Posted February 13 2002 - 09:12 AM

You sold me. It's on my pre-order list at DVD Empire.
Government in action = Government inaction

#3 of 12 Yumbo

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Posted February 13 2002 - 09:42 AM

it's worthwhile.

#4 of 12 Ron Eastman

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Posted February 13 2002 - 10:20 AM

I've been interested in this film since it was first announced and then put on hold due to high school shooting incidents. Since I missed it during it's short theatrical run it's nice to know that it's coming out on DVD in what sounds to be a feature filled special edition. This will definitely be on my buy list next week.

Ron, I'm surprised by your aversion to Shakespeare! Posted Image I can't recall a time I've been disappointed by either a modern retelling of a Shakespeare work or a classical version. These are simply powerful stories that stand the test of time.

"The last thing I want to be remembered as is an annoying blabbermouth." - Del Griffith
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#5 of 12 Nick_Scott

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Posted February 13 2002 - 02:04 PM

Just pre-ordered from Amazon!

Something about the movie always confused me:
(includes a HUGE spoiler!!!)

At the end, HUGO was arrested. However, there wasnt any LIVING witnesses, so I'm not sure how the police new that he was a killer?? Did I miss something?


#6 of 12 Ronald Epstein

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Posted February 13 2002 - 09:01 PM

Quote:
Ron, I'm surprised by your aversion to Shakespeare! I can't recall a time I've been disappointed by either a modern retelling of a Shakespeare work or a classical version. These are simply powerful stories that stand the test of time.


I wish I had done better in school.

The fact I did very little reading as a teen
has haunted me in my adult life.

It is difficult to write reviews, because of
my lack of education.

If I could go back 25 years, I would read
everything in sight -- especially Shakespeare.
But these days, there is just no time in my
life to try to further myself. Imagine the things
I could write in this forum if I had been better
versed.

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#7 of 12 Ron Eastman

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Posted February 14 2002 - 10:40 AM

Ron, your reviews are fine and I don't see any problems with your writing! More than a few times your reviews have successfully swayed me to give a film a chance which I would have otherwise overlooked and I thank you for it.

It's never too late to begin expanding your literary horizons. Shakespeare's plays happen to be very quick reads and the Elizabethan English is easy to get used to. If I may, I suggest picking up The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (UNABRIDGED) to get you started.

"The last thing I want to be remembered as is an annoying blabbermouth." - Del Griffith
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#8 of 12 Ryan L B

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Posted February 14 2002 - 10:45 AM

The only modernized shakespeare retelling that I hated was Romeo and Julliet. Yes, it was supposed to be hip, especally for GEN Xers, but I thought it was just plain bad. I did enjoy Moulin Rouge from the same director. What is his name.

#9 of 12 Nick_Scott

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Posted February 14 2002 - 11:27 AM

I very much enjoyed TITUS, though, the dialouge was a bit rough at times. I had to leave the subtitles on for most of the movie.
I'm not a Shakespear purist though- I would of prefered modernized dialouge. Not modernized like O, but stuff that sounds Shakespearian, but easy for us dummies to understand like Shakespear in Love.

#10 of 12 Michael St. Clair

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Posted February 14 2002 - 03:43 PM

Quote:
If you were like me, you probably would have read Shakespeare on the back of the box, and immediately felt this sunken feeling in your stomach.

Posted Image

Ron, get thee to a library! You owe it to yourself. There is more to life than movies, variety is the spice of life!

If you feel you shortchanged yourself on your education, that is no reason to shortchange yourself now.

#11 of 12 Darrel Johansen

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Posted February 14 2002 - 03:45 PM

I DO like Shakespeare, having been given an excellent, in-depth experience in high school. And I do appreciate your reviews, Ron --don't feel bad about missing some things in your education. I think if anyone over 30 who did not wish they had studied a bit more of this or that when they were younger is probably not very reflective.

I've got two DVD versions of Othello, and look forward to this one and the silent version on this DVD. My favorite current versions are Zefferelli's Romeo and Juliet (on DVD now), Henry V (Branagh), Richard III (1995). Really looking forward to Branagh's Hamlet (not yet announced on DVD).

Here's hoping we continue to get good movies, whether the plots are recycled (as I'm told is inevitable) or not!

#12 of 12 NolanJ

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Posted May 14 2005 - 11:06 AM

I recently purchased "O" in a single disc format.

Can somebody please tell me if the 2-disc set had a different transfer?

I ask because if the 2-disc transfer had improved audio or video I would like to take this movie back.

Thanks !