DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Explorers

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Scott Kimball, Oct 12, 2004.

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  1. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

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    [​IMG]

    Explorers



    Studio: Paramount

    Year: 1985

    Rated: PG

    Length: 106 minutes

    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1, anamorphically enhanced

    Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1

    Subtitled in English, and Closed Captioned in English

    Special Features: 2 Additional Scenes

    S.R.P. $14.99


    Release Date: October 19, 2004




    Joe Dante’s Explorers is one of those films that is more than the sum of its parts. It’s a film that draws its characters too thinly, as if ripped from a comic book. It’s cliched and silly, and has a third act completely out of step with the rest of the film. But with all of its faults, it is still an enjoyable ride for sci-fi fans.

    Explorers started the careers of Ethan Hawke and River Phoenix, who star as two young teens who dream how to build an electronic circuit board which makes space travel possible, and well within the grasp of a few enterprising kids. Ben (Hawke) is the dreamer and motivator, while Wolfgang (Phoenix) plays the nerdy, brainy type who puts together the electronics. The two hook up with a third boy, Darrin (Jason Presson) who has the street smarts to come up with the parts and build their simplistic craft.

    The first two-thirds of the film is impressive, as we watch the boys devise and build their ship, and test its capabilities. It’s a dream of many kids that age, realized in a fairly believable fashion.

    It’s when the boys get to their final destination that things take a sharp turn. The film, at this point, yanks you from your believing in the film and proposes characters so preposterous that it is difficult to accept them at face value. The story becomes, in effect, a Shaggy Dog Story.

    Still, the film has loads of charm, some great sci-fi references for genre fans, and remains a fun ride. If only it could have lived up to the potential described by the first part of the film...

    Star Trek fans, be on the lookout for Robert Picardo, who appears in three roles in this film, though you’ll probably only recognize him in one.

    Explorers is a fun ride of a film, and a good sci-fi movie for kids.

    The Transfer
    Explorers is presented in an anamorphically enhanced aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The picture has a good level of detail, offering up good sharpness without presenting noticeable sharpening artifacts. The image is bright and has good contrast. Black levels are a bit inconsistent, but are acceptable - and there is good detail in the shadows.

    Grain is variable, appearing somewhat heavy in some darker scenes and in some effects shots - but it is much as I remember the theatrical presentation.

    Colors are a touch on the warm side, and are well saturated.

    The print is fairly clean for its age, showing only minor dust spots.

    Overall, this is a very pleasing transfer of this catalog title.

    The audio is served up in Dolby Digital 5.1. It has impressive directional effects. When Wolfgang’s basement is destroyed by the sphere, you’ll hear sounds all around the room as the sphere impacts objects in 360 degrees. Late in the film, sound effects are again quite impressive, enveloping you in a very active soundfield. Very nice.

    Low frequency effects are present when called for by the effects, and deliver impressively at those times. Outside of the effects shots, however, bass response is on the mild side.

    Mid and high ranges deliver adequately throughout. Voices sound natural and clear.

    This is an excellent sounding mix - even more when you consider the age of the source.

    Special Features
    The only special feature on the DVD is the inclusion of two deleted scenes:
    Wolfgang is Bullied, and Unexpected Thunder Road Ride. These are interesting fodder for fans of the film, but add little to the exposition. They total less than four minutes in length.

    Final Thoughts
    Explorers is not without its problems as a film, what with thinly drawn characters and a story that goes off track in the third act - but it is a guilty pleasure of mine. Sci-fi fans will enjoy all of the references to classic sci-fi seen throughout the film.

    The transfer is strong for a catalog title, and the price is right.

    Recommended.
     
  2. Steve Christou

    Steve Christou Long Member

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    Thanks for the review Scott, one of my favorite Joe Dante flicks, happy to see it finally on dvd. Really pleased the audio is 5.1, I feared it might have been released only in 2.0. And a couple of deleted scenes too, ooh. All for less than a tenner. Nice.[​IMG]
     
  3. ZackR

    ZackR Supporting Actor

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    Thanks for the review. A childhood favorite of mine that will find itself in my DVD player on release day!! In fact, I have never seen it except in P&S, so I am really looking forward to it. I know it is cheesy and silly, but like so many things I watched as a kid, the nostalgia factor is just too much for me. There are few things I enjoy more than sitting down with a film from my younger years. [​IMG]

    Thanks again for the review!
     
  4. Paul Hillenbrand

    Paul Hillenbrand Screenwriter

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    This film has always been an enjoyable sci-fi fantasy for me.[​IMG] The antigravity computer program really rocked.[​IMG] There's now a nostalgic heir about the movie because of the antiquated computer equipment used in the film, which I'm sure was state of the art at the time, and the young performances of some fine actors. [​IMG]

    Will definitely pick this one up on the 19th.[​IMG]

    Paul
     
  5. Michael Osadciw

    Michael Osadciw Screenwriter

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    Thanks for the review, Scott.

    Loved this movie when I was a kid. Although now adays it just might be a rental.

    Mike
     
  6. Bryan Tuck

    Bryan Tuck Screenwriter

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    Thanks for the review, Scott. I would have loved to hear a Dante commentary on this one, but I'm glad Paramount has given us a good presentation of the movie at such a good price. Nice to see the scenes from the original theatrical version included as well.

    I admit the film has its problems, but I've always really enjoyed it. If nothing else, the "Starkiller" film-within-a-film is hysterical, and there's Dante's unmistakable talent for balancing satire with genuine heart. There's also a terrific score by Jerry Goldsmith, including what I think is one of the best main themes he ever composed.

    Can't wait to get this.
     
  7. Darren Gross

    Darren Gross Supporting Actor

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    Just as an FYI, the two deleted scenes were included in all theatrical prints, but were ommitted at Dante's behest from the home video releases.
     
  8. Stephen_J_H

    Stephen_J_H All Things Film Junkie

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    I remember that, because the original VHS release was labeled as the "Home Video Version." I'd always thought it had more to do with the name of the ship and the fact they couldn't use the Springsteen song of the same name, but it's funny how the memory plays tricks on you sometimes.
     
  9. Paul Hillenbrand

    Paul Hillenbrand Screenwriter

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    The back of the DVD keepcase has the following:Why Paramount?[​IMG]

    After viewing portions of the disc today, I noticed a very odd phenomena at 30:04, when the boys are searching for parts in a place called "Rogers Junk Yard", one of them passes buy a red snow sled. The name and the company icon painted on the middle of the sled is moving/dancing frantically on it while every thing else, the sled and in the room is normal and still. How this can happen on a DVD puzzles me.[​IMG] It's only the icon that's moving and wobbling like a bad VHS tape. This flaw is definitely unacceptable to me and I'm surprised Scott didn't notice it, unless it's only on my disc?[​IMG]

    FYI, the deleted scenes look very familiar to me and I'm almost certain I remember them in the theatrical showing. Could these scenes be what was taken out of the theatrical version? And if so, WHY?

    Paul
     
  10. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    Apparently, Joe Dante never was able to finish the movie, so Paramount released it before the final cut was made.

    So, when the first home video edition was relesed, Joe Dante slightly re-edited it since he wasn't allowed to do so for the theatrical release.

    This is probably why there is no Joe Dante commentary (not unlike Warner's Looney Tunes: Back in Action DVD).
     
  11. Jesse Skeen

    Jesse Skeen Producer

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    Another missed opportunity for seamless branching.
     
  12. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

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    I just checked this scene out, and I observed no problems.

    Could it be dot crawl on your display? It's not uncommon on areas that border a saturated red... some displays handle it better than others.

    -Scott
     
  13. Paul Hillenbrand

    Paul Hillenbrand Screenwriter

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    So that is what "dot crawl"or a decoder artifact looks like.[​IMG] It very well could be. I use my Apple G4 computer to search and verify all features on discs before I document and enter pertinent information on DVD Profiler software.

    The display I used was an Apple Cinema 23" HD monitor, and this is the first time I noticed this type of technical glitch when playing a DVD. The Explorers DVD was viewed last night on my home theater system and there was no "dot crawl"or "decoder malfunction artifact" present. The disc was not the problem.

    Thanks for catching this Scott.[​IMG]

    Paul

    Post edited to reflect possible decoder problem.[​IMG]
     
  14. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

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    Could also be the decoder in Apple's DVD player, if that's what you used. I've noticed some odd artifacts with that software DVD player before.

    Given your additional info, I doubt the issue is dot crawl since that is most often visible in a composite connection. I can't believe a Cinema Display with a DVI connector would exhibit that problem.

    -Scott
     
  15. Jason Walstrom

    Jason Walstrom Supporting Actor

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    Yes I remembered in the theatrical cut being an opening titles
    sequence with the main characters on their way to school. In the VHS version the opening dream cuts to Ethan Hawke being punched in the face. I remembered as a kid noticing this and thinking it strange.

    It has aired on regular tv at times with the Opening titles sequence being back in. I always thought the scene with Wolfgang's pants being ripped as funny.

    I like the theatrical version better and wished it was on the dvd version.
     
  16. johnbr

    johnbr Stunt Coordinator

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    I liked the theatrical version better and would love to have seen it on dvd.[​IMG]
     
  17. Chris

    Chris Lead Actor

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    A child hood favorite as a teeny-bopper; I look forward to picking it up!
     

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