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Blu-ray Review The Faculty Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Todd Erwin, Aug 2, 2012.

  1. Todd Erwin

    Todd Erwin Producer
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    The Faculty teamed up writer Kevin Williamson and director Robert Rodriguez in a modern day version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers set in a small-town high school. Echo Bridge brings the film to Blu-ray in a barebones release with above average video and a superb lossless audio track.




    The Faculty


    Studio: Echo Bridge (licensed by Miramax)
    US BD Release Date: July 31, 2012
    Original Theatrical Release Year: 1999
    Rated: R (for violence/gore, strong language, drug use, and some nudity)
    Running Time: 105 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
    Audio: English (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1, PCM 2.0 stereo)
    Subtitles: None

    Movie: 3.5 out of 5
    In the late 1990s, Kevin Williamson was nearly on top of the world. His television series, Dawson’s Creek, was one of the highest rated programs on the then-struggling WB network and made stars out of James Van Der Beek, Katie Holmes, Michelle Williams, and Joshua Jackson. He was also the screenwriter of the teen horror films I Know What You Did Last Summer and the Scream series.

    Director Robert Rodriguez was another rising talent during this period, having made El Mariachi for a reported $7,000, and then following that up with the Showtime movie Roadracers, the sequel (of sorts) to El Mariachi, Desperado, and From Dusk Till Dawn. Wanting desperately to make Spy Kids, but having very little experience in visual effects, Rodriguez was offered to direct The Faculty, from a screenplay by Williamson, as a training exercise.

    Williamson’s screenplay, from a screen story by David Wechter and Bruce Kimmel, borrows heavily from Invasion of the Body Snatchers with a splash of Aliens, with parasites infecting first the faculty, who began to act very differently, almost free of their inhibitions (many of their first lines at the beginning of the film are “I’ve always wanted to do that”) and drinking large amounts of water. When science nerd Casey (Elijah Wood) finds a strange looking pod on the football field, he takes it to science Professor Furlong (pre-Daily Show Jon Stewart), where it comes to life and multiplies when dropped into an aquarium full of water. After football jock Stan (Shawn Hatosy) is attacked by the elderly and frail Mrs. Brummel (Susan Wills) in the boy’s shower, Casey and Delilah (Jordanna Brewster) begin investigating the faculty, and witness Coach Willis (Robert Patrick) and Mrs. Olson (Piper Laurie) transform and infect Nurse Harper (Salma Hayek) in the Teacher’s Lounge. With help from the rest of the core student body, they try to uncover the queen and defeat her.

    The result is an entertaining, although not highly original, science fiction horror film set in small-town Ohio (but filmed in Rodriguez’s home town of Austin, Texas) at the local high school. The Faculty is populated by what would be considered stereotyped characters, such as the overly aggressive football coach (Robert Patrick), the penny-pinching principal (Bebe Neuwirth), the hip science teacher (Jon Stewart), the mousy English teacher (Famke Janssen), the jock (Shawn Hatosy), the prom queen/cheerleader/newspaper editor (Jordana Brewster), the misunderstood goth (Clea DuVall), the drug dealer (Josh Hartnett), the new girl (Laura Harris), and the Peter Parker-like science nerd (Elijah Wood). But it is Williamson’s dialogue and the cast’s performances that elevate the film above what would have been a very ordinary, run of the mill horror film. Rounding out the cast are Christopher McDonald as Casey’s father, Daniel von Bargen as the alcoholic history teacher Mr. Tate, Usher Raymond (aka R&B artist Usher) as fellow jock Gabe, as well as a cameo by Ain’t It Cool News leader Harry Knowles.

    Video: 3.5 out of 5
    The transfer used on Echo Bridge’s Blu-ray, while not anywhere near reference quality, is above average, better than one would expect considering the company’s track record. The 1080p/24 transfer, using the AVC codec at an average bitrate of 23 Mbps (occasionally maxing out at just over 40 Mbps) on a BD25, approximates the film’s intended 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Colors are consistent and not overly saturated (they often appear slightly muted, but I think that was the intended look). Grain is evident, providing a nice film-like appearance without being distracting. The print used is virtually free of any scratches or debris. Detail, for the most part, is quite good, although there is some occasional softness to the image here and there. Where the transfer suffers somewhat is in the darker sequences, where shadows will, at times, lose detail and blend in with the background. All in all, though, this is a definite improvement over the previous Buena Vista non-anamorphic DVD from 2000.

    Audio: 4 out of 5
    Where this disc excels is in the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. This is a hyped up, loud, and extremely active mix that benefits from the increased dynamic range and fidelity. The mostly rock-inspired soundtrack pulses in the fronts and rears with added oomph from the subwoofer, the football game and explosions that occur near the end also have a sonic push to them. Even the quieter scenes, such as school hallways and classrooms, have a real sonic depth to them, with classmates travelling up and down the hallways and intercom announcements reverberating through the halls. Yet, with all the activity, dialogue is never lost or strained, coming through crisp and clear, never having to fight with the music or sound effects. Echo Bridge has also provided a Dolby Digital 5.1 track (at 448 kbps) and a PCM 2.0 stereo track (at 2.3 Mbps).

    Special Features: 0 out of 5
    As with most Echo Bridge releases, there are no special features on this disc whatsoever, even though director Robert Rodriguez has mentioned publicly that he, at one time, was working on a special edition of this film for DVD (back when Miramax was still part of the Disney family).

    Overall: 3.5 out of 5
    Much like the previous Buena Vista DVD release, Echo Bridge’s new Blu-ray of The Faculty is a barebones, movie-only edition. Fans of the film will likely welcome having the film not only in a true widescreen transfer, but in a decent HD encode as well with an very active lossless 5.1 mix, and can pretty much junk their old non-anamorphic DVD.

     
  2. JohnS

    JohnS Producer

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    Thanks for the review.
    It's great that we get a lossless 5.1 mix
    Finally going to pick this up. It's a guilty pleasure.
     
  3. haineshisway

    haineshisway Producer

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    Oops, I didn't read the entire review :)
     
  4. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

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    Unless it's a boring tale, how did your story end up being made by that team? How long before the film was made did you write your story?
     
  5. haineshisway

    haineshisway Producer

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    Here's the history of The Faculty. In 1989 I woke up in the middle of the night, had a brilliant idea and wrote it down on my bedside pad. In the morning I read it - "Invasion of the Body Snatchers in high school." I never have those kinds of high concept ideas, but I thought what student at one time or another hasn't thought his teacher was an alien. I thought it was such a fun notion - I called my pal David Wechter and he loved the idea so we began writing the screenplay that would become The Faculty. I had the title immediately. Our script was, if I may say so, pretty terrific - lots of humor, lots of gross-out scenes, and things cleverly worked out. We finished it, polished it, and off it went to our agents at William Morris. Said agents could literally not give the script away. Horror was out, no one cared, and that was that - on the shelf it went.
    Flash-forward to 1996 - I"m in NY. I'm now a full-time record producer and I'm in the studio producing the revival cast album of I Do! I Do! The phone rang in the booth and it was for me - we were thankfully on a break and I took the call. It was David. Miramax had called our agent, desperately looking for a horror film. Scream had come out, revitalized the horror film genre and now all those who were pronouncing horror dead a mere six years prior, suddenly were all scrambling for things. In this instance, they wanted a finished script that Kevin Williamson, writer of Scream, could rewrite and make his directorial debut with. Time was of the essence, hence the want for a finished script. Our agent sent The Faculty over, and two hours later they optioned the script. That's Hollywood. Six months later they renewed the option. By that time, Williamson had decided to make his directing debut with another film (Killing Mrs. Tingle) and our film was handed to Mr. Rodriguez and then greenlit immediately. Our script deal was tiered to various budget levels - so much for the smallest level, more for the medium level, and more for the top level. It immediately went to the top level and it literally began raining money for David and me. The film went into production - they'd neglected to offer us the initial rewrite, which they have to do per WGA rules - so even though we hadn't cared, we received that fee anyway. Then they didn't want to have to arbitrate the screenplay credit with the WGA, because frequently the WGA sides with the original writers and grants them full script credit, no matter how drastic the rewrite, and Williamson's rewrite was pretty drastic, retaining only the structure and ideas, and a few character names - not one line of dialog we wrote remained - so they came to us with an offer to basically buy us out of the arbitration process - we'd receive sole story credit. I'm sure they did this because in their adverts they didn't want to have to say "From the writer of Scream and two guys from the Valley." The offer was too small, and not worth our time. I countered with a significantly larger number and said if we were going to do it, that number at least made sense to us. They agreed immediately.
    And that's the story, other than to say that while Kevin brought his usual hip thing to the table, our script was much more fun and wouldn't have dated in that early 1990s hip way. It was a moderate hit for Miramax and they came back to us to talk about a sequel. We came up with a really terrific story, pitched it to them and they loved it, EXCEPT, as Harvey Weinstein said over the phone, "It's great, it's really great. But it would cost too much. Boys, we're looking for a couple of people in a room." Meaning, of course, they wanted to do a direct to video ultra low-budget sequel - if someone had told us that we might have come up with something :)
     
  6. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

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    ^ Thanks for the info, Bruce! I'm a big fan of The Faculty so it's interesting to hear anything about the making of it.
     
  7. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

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    Bruce, thanks for answering my question. Gotta love how Hollywood works. :)
     

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