FLIGHTPLAN Studio:TOUCHSTONE Year:2005 RunTime:98 minutes Rating:PG-13 Aspect Ratio:16x9 encoded 2.35:1 (separate 4x3 Pan-and-Scan atrocity also available…read packaging carefully!)Audio:5.1 DTS, 5.1 DD English, French & Spanish Subtitles:English (Hearing Impaired), French, Spanish SpecialFeatures:Making-of featurette, Designing the props, commentaryReleaseDate:January 24, 2006 Film... Good but not great in my humble opinion. Perhaps it was because I was hoping for more. Or perhaps it was because love Jodie Foster and want all of her films to be classics like Silence of the Lambs (I try to forget Nell). Or maybe it was that the trailers gave away too much of the film so by the time the movie started to roll I already had the basic story worked out in my mind. Whatever the case, found myself entertained, but under whelmed with Flightplan. Though I rarely give plot-summaries in my “movie” reviews, the premise of this film…of Jodie’s daughter mysteriously vanishing during her trans-Atlantic flight, has some problems (I don’t think I’m giving anything away beyond what the trailers already reveal to would-be watchers). The basic premise is a good one—that Jodie’s daughter vanishes during the flight without a trace while all the attending flight-staff can’t recall any memory of seeing the little girl nor confirm that she ever boarded the plan given the ticketing records. However, the film seems to want to rush past “hey, but in real life you would just…” moments hoping that in the cinemagraphic whirl of excitement the audience won't become too analytical regarding plot devices cleverly... and not-so-cleverly... woven together. I mean, a woman basically says that her daughter has gone missing and all the staff including the pilot look at her and assume she’s crazy because the ticketing office can’t verify that a ticket was issued? Since when has the airline installed a computer system deemed error-free? I'm sure that *stranger* things have happened beyond passengers ending up on planes without a ticketing record. And I’m still trying to figure out why none of the passengers managed to ever see Jodie’s daughter prior to her disappearance. Perhaps these issues are just “minor details” that the good movie-watcher loyalistically sets aside. This viewer wanted just a little more sensitivity from the writers to deliver a story that didn’t try to gloss over obvious questions. Other than that, it’s got some nice suspense, and it gears up towards the end in a way makes the 98 minute commitment generally worth the while. I enjoyed this film though I wouldn’t rank it among the “Silence of the Lambs” suspense-thriller classics. It’s entertaining, but far too “Hollywood” to ever really push you into a mental or emotional corner like the best suspense films can do. Picture... I was a bit let down. I’ll state right-up-front that I did not screen this film during its theatrical run, so I can’t be 100% certain of what the film-print was capable of doing on the big screen. However, the issues I’m seeing with the DVD image presentation feel far too “typical live-action Disney-DVD” in nature for me assume that they are film-print related. Overall, I can’t shake the “it looks too soft” feeling. Yes, this DVD needs Viagra (just had to say it…I know you were thinking it. ). I’ve already read the “the image looks sharp with lots of detail!” reports from all the other web reviews. All I can assume is that these other guys are watching from greater than 2 screen-widths which would be typical for even “big screen” rear-projection and plasma sets. For those of you sitting closer than 1.75:1 screen widths, I think you’ll agree with me that the image just looks too soft. There is zero-to-none fine detail in any of the background scenes and only the occasional scene or close-up looks “sharp” (there are a few, but they certainly don’t characterize the look of the overall movie). And while I didn't see much in the way of MPEG noise, the picture does look very "digital" to my eyes...it's got that "processed" look that runs counter to what a film-like presentation ought to be. Contrast also seems a bit dim…the image looks a tad dark to me and colors are subdued…but I’m willing to believe that these tonal issues are reflective of the print and therefore consistent with a proper DVD presentation. I saw no distracting edge-haloing or other artifacts. However I will reiterate that wide-angle viewers may find this DVD presentation disappointingly lacking in fine-detail (though viewers from greater than 2 screen widths will probably not see anything objectionable). Picture Quality: 3.5 / 5 Rating Rationale... Movies were intended by their creators to be viewed wide-angle. That’s generally means “big”, but as long as you sit close enough to your screen to fill a generous portion of your field of vision (1.75:1 screen widths or closer), you’re “getting the big picture” regardless of your screen size. A DVD recording should be judged like any other medium: Does the DVD do a faithful job recording the source? In the 1960’s this was called “hi fidelity” when we talked about 2-channel stereo music recording. It’s a principle that the home-video industry would benefit from remembering when they start turning dials on their video consoles to "improve" for home-audiences what looked just-fine-already when projected on a 50-foot screen at the cinema. In general, the look of the original projected film print as intended by the director is the “reference” point by which a DVD should be judged (I say “intended” because if a print was poorly produced for distribution, the DVD should not make the same mistakes). If a director wanted you to be dazzled by clarity and brilliant color then the DVD should do this. If the director wanted you to watch his or her movie through a haze of misty film grain then the DVD should faithfully replicate that detail. What’s “good” is not a matter of what subjectively looks pleasing to the eye, but rather what is faithful to original artwork…which in the case of film, is intended look of the original projected film print. Exceptions to this rule need to be carefully considered, evaluated, and discussed. There are different ways of doing things (think of DTS digital images (formerly Lowry) cleaning the cells of dust for Bambi) and one shouldn’t blanketly dismiss unconventional efforts out-of-hand. However, any home-video presentation that deviates from the “hi fidelity” goal of replicating what that director wanted/expected you to see needs careful attention to make sure that our home-video medium doesn’t pander to mass-market appeal for “pretty pictures” in such a way that abandons the authentic look of the projected film-print. Remember, the film medium is already beginning to vanish, and in the not-to-distant future projected film will disappear as a means for distribution as it is slowly replaced by digital projection. As this happens, and as historic prints are digitally restored and archived, it’s important that the craftsmen and artists responsible for digitally transferring and restoring our history of film share goals that preserve the historic integrity of the art of film that they represent with 1's and 0's. Those 1's and 0's may be the only way you ever get to see some of the greatest movies ever made, and so it's important that our brave new digital world gets this right. Rating Key: SCORE Description 1-2 An absolute abomination. Hurts to watch. Think "Outland" (scan-line aliasing, chroma noise, dotcrawl)-- truly horrid. 2-3 Has some serious problems, but one can at least watch it without getting a headache despite all the problems though you might try to talk your guests into picking a different movie to watch if you have a large projection screen. Think Cold Mountain. 3-4 Good or at least "acceptable" on a big-screen, but not winning any awards and definitely room for improvement if you view the image wide-angle (though smaller-screen viewers may be quite content). Think the first extended cut of Fellowship of the Ring...decent picture but still some HF filtering and some edge-halos. 4-5 A reference picture that really makes the most of the DVD medium and shows extraordinary transparency to the film-source elements. Non-videophile observers can't help but remark "WOW". Think The Empire Strikes Back, The Fifth Element Superbit, or the new Toy Story 10th Anniversary Edition. Viewing Equipment: Currently running DVDs on my OPPO DVD player (Faroudja deinterlacing) which scales to 720P, feeding my BenQ 8700+ PJ via DVI, projecting onto a 106” 16x9 Dalite HiPower screen, viewed from approximately 1.6 screen-widths distance. Well mastered DVDs produce a stunningly film-like image in this scenario, and lesser-mastered material quickly shows its flaws. Sound... Audio is very impressive. In particular the mix takes good advantage of the 5.1 palette to really envelope the listener in key moments in the film (like the take-off). Dialogue is clear and natural and despite the ADR recording it integrates well (as do the effects). Both the DTS and DD presentations do an outstanding job, but the DTS takes the edge with dynamics and a finer sense of resolution and detail especially in low-level acoustics and ambient decays…things that are “subtle” to some listeners but that make all the difference to others (like me). In my system, the DTS also seems to have a stronger bass impact though I’ve noticed that bass is often handled differently by different 5.1 decoders when processing DTS versus DD (or so it seems based on many user comments in other similar comparisons). So while I prefer the DTS mix for the slight improvement it brings in my system, the DD presentation is also excellent and without having the DTS to compare would offer no disappointment. Based on differences in audio systems and listener tastes, it’s possible that some people might prefer the sound of the Dolby Digital (though it sounds slightly flatter with less realism to my ears). Sound Quality: 4.5 / 5 Special Features... [*]Feature Commentary:The director gives a great commentary track and goes into a lot of detail about each scene and various issues that pertain to them like decisions that were made, re-shoots, writing decisions or storyline changes. I found it quite interesting. The one fault might be that at times the director seems to take this movie a bit too seriously (it seems a little ironic given some of the “obvious” flaws that could have so easily been addressed to make it so much better). [*]The In-Flight Movie: The Making Of Flightplan:This is a very in-depth, and longer-than-usual 38:30 minute documentary that covers all aspects of the movie like the actors, storyboard concepts, music recording, digital effects etc. Because of its length, I suspect that only folks who really enjoy the film might want to invest the time…but for those who do I think they’ll find it well worth it. Definitely a notch or two above the mere promotional “and it was such an amazing experience” stuff we all dread. [*]Cabin Pressure: Designing the Aalto E-474:This is a nice 10 minute feature detailing the construction of the airplane prop (interior) used for the film. I was astonished by the degree of detail and care that the film crew put into planning and building this thing. Even “so so” viewers of the movie might appreciate visiting this little extra before they pop the disc out of the tray. [/list] All Together... If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a watch though I personally was hoping for a slightly higher-caliber movie featuring Jodie Foster. Disney continues to feed my conspiracy-theory about trying to make hi-def look “so much better than DVD” by giving us another filtered, but watchable image for wide-angle viewers. The plus side is that folks sitting farther from their screens will find an acceptable picture, and everyone will love the 5.1 DTS and DD mixes on this disc. Extras are few but worthwhile given the limitations of a single-disc edition. Just be careful not to buy or rent the pan-and-scan version by mistake!!!