What kind of DVD reviews do you like?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Sutjahjo Ngaserin, Jan 20, 2002.

  1. Sutjahjo Ngaserin

    Sutjahjo Ngaserin Stunt Coordinator

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    Hi guys,
    Just read two different short reviews of The Remains of the Day (1993) and find it interesting how 2 established magazines chose to take the very different route in their writeups.
    I have my clear preference for magazine A's DVD reviews as I think it is able to give you the essence and nuances of the film although it has less detail on the DVD quality itself.
    As I am curious how others on this forum feel and would really appreciate (and enlightening) if others can help contribute their opinions on these 2 reviews. I think both reviews are educational and serve their purposes for different kind of DVD viewers, and I would like to find out if I am the minority or the majority here.
    ================================================== ================================================== ================
    Magazine A (my preferece)
    I must say, I like Merchant-Ivory films, but even if you don't, if you find them too precious and fey, give Remains of the Day a chance. Based on Kazuo Ishiguro's novel about a butler in 1930s England who works for the leader of the upper crust's appeasement lobby but choose-out of misplaced professionalism-to ignore his complicity in the unfolding horror of World War II, It's a film as trenchant as it is delicate, as passionate as it is understated. In a related plotline, the butler also, for similar reasons, suppresses his own ardor for the housekeeper. On the surface, Remains of the Day is a critique of the era's gentlemanly aristocracy. More broadly, it's a parable about the tragic consequences of apathy, both political and emotional, and irreversible pangs of bad judgment. The tragedy is that these are all decent people making these dreadful mistakes from the best of intentions. As one of the characters says, the fact that they are decent people makes the consequences all the worse. All the acting is pitch-perfect, especially Anthony Hopkins as the butler who is, as he puts it, "too busy serving" to apprehend what's going on. It's a wonderously nuanced performance, the slightest rise of an eyebrow or hint of a smile conveying more soul-churning than many other actors' pyrotechnics, Emma Thomson is hardly less captivating as the housekeeper, another trapped soul but one who rattles the cages, longs to unleash her instincts, and turns most sorrowful when her cries go unanswered. James Ivory is even more adept than usual at visually evoking the literary style of his source-material. The cinematography by Tony Pierce-Roberts, who has worked with Ivory many times before, is gorgeously elegant, and the DVD transfer captures this very well.
    ================================================== ================================================== ================
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ ++++++++++++++++
    Magazine B
    P3.5/S3.5 Presentation, Critics' composite 4.5
    {b}The Remains of the Day[/b] is a fascinating and absorbing study of repressed love and blind devotion, with Hopkins and Thompson as British servants to an English Baron (Fox) in the 1930s. In addition to all the pantry intrigue and routines, Hopkins and Thompson harbor unrequited love for each other while their master, a foolish Lord, makes alliances with Nazi-sympathiszers. Told in flashbacks from the 1950s. Based on the novel by Kazuo Ishugoro. Includes audio commentary with Emma Thompson, a 30-minute documentary with new interviews, two featurettes, deleted scenes, and filmographies.
    The anamorphically enhanced 2.35:1 DVD picture exhibits images that are generally sharp, but fine details seem slightly smeared at times. Colors are rich and warm, with good balance, and deep undefined blacks. There is a hint of edge enhancement noticed, infrequent pixelization, and loss of fine detail that appears to be related to noise reduction.
    The Dolby Digital 5.1-channel audio is a remastering effort that offers a pleasing listening experience, namely through the music. The orchestral music score has been nicely recorded, and enveloping, with a further sense of immersion offered through the gentle to moderately engaged surrounds. Despite this being a ten year-old production, fidelity is quite good and voices sound remarkably natural. The low-end provides for a gentle low-end foundation to the music.
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ ++++++++++++++++
    Jaw
     
  2. george kaplan

    george kaplan Executive Producer

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    Neither of those reviews hits much of a chord with me, but as a general answer to your question, I much prefer type B. I am looking for a review of the dvd, not the movie. I only buy dvds of movies I've already seen, and know that I like. So, what somebody else's opinion is of the movie is really irrelevant. I want to know how the dvd is. It's very irritating when one of your favorite movies comes out, and some dvd reviewer goes on about how the movie sucks and why would anyone buy such crap, although it sure looks good. [​IMG] But that's just me.
     
  3. Joe Schwartz

    Joe Schwartz Second Unit

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    Like George, I only buy DVDs of movies that I've seen already, so I don't need reviews to tell me how good or bad the movie is. The picture and sound quality are slightly important to me, but not a deal-breaker -- if I love a particular movie, I'll buy it on DVD even if the picture and sound quality are below average.
    What I really want in a review is opinions about the extras on a DVD. Now that I've purchased most of the movies that I love, I'm trying to decide whether to buy certain movies that I like but don't love. In those cases, it's usually the extras that make me decide. For instance, I decided to buy Big Trouble In Little China (which I like but don't love) mainly because it has a commentary between Carpenter and Russell, which several reviewers enjoyed (and because I loved their commentary on The Thing).
    I wish more reviewers would describe the style and quality of commentary tracks, documentaries, and featurettes.
     
  4. bill lopez

    bill lopez Second Unit

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    Skip the movie plot, all we need to know is the dvd itself.

    Like when Ron picked DVD OF THE YEAR, I assume that pick was based on the dvd video,sound & it's extras not on how good the movie was.
     
  5. Adam Tyner

    Adam Tyner Screenwriter

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    I buy the vast majority of my DVDs sight-unseen, and though a negative review of the plot of a movie I'm interested in won't deter me from picking up a disc, a positive review from a site/reviewer I respect can often interest me in purchasing a movie I wouldn't have otherwise.
     
  6. Jeff_A

    Jeff_A Screenwriter

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    My preference is example B. As some others have indicated, I will only purchase DVD's of films that I have seen (and enjoyed). Thus, a review of the film is not necessary for me.

    I do, however, find the exclusive information on DVD quality invaluable.
     
  7. PatrickL

    PatrickL Second Unit

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    I prefer example B.

    I appreciate the fact that most review sites break out, in different paragraphs or under discernible headings, the critique of the video and sound transfer. There are at least a couple of sites that don't do this - the critic's musings on the film are hopelessly interwoven with the information about the quality of the dvd. I avoid these reviews like the plague.

    In the best situation, the reviewer takes on the movie itself, and then clears away those impressions and moves on to review the quality of the transfer on the disc with just as much depth.
     
  8. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    I like reviews that allow some flexability for artistic values and also age-related faults.

    One review site took a point away from Moulin Rouge's audio (4 out of 5 was final score) just for not having enough surround activity. The makers of the film probably meant for the audio to be front-based as an artistic choice. Artistic or not, it seems like it's more important to have all the speakers active than hearing what was intended.

    Mono soundtracks RARELY earn anything over 2 out of 5 points in most reviews. Mono soundtracks such as Young Frankenstein, Casablanca, Citizen Kane, and Arsenic and Old Lace have excellent sound that sounds just as clear as any 5.1 track.

    The best reviews are by people who understand film and research a little on the movie they're reviewing. If someone took the time to research a little about...let's say, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, they would realize the graininess, softness, and other flaws are due to the extremely low-budget the movie had.

    Many reviewers of the DVd of Ben-Hur praised it for having the seemingly accurate 2.76:1 aspect ratio. Anyone who knew how the film was really presented would know it was meant to be seen between 2.55:1 and 2.66:1.
     
  9. Horatio Jones

    Horatio Jones Stunt Coordinator

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    There are two things that determine for me how much faith I put into a review:
    1. The type of review: I prefer more of the technical aspect of things, rather than a descripion of the movie. If I want a description of the movie I'll watch the trailer. I typically will have seen the movie anyway, although there are a few occasions where I have bought the DVD with out seeing the movie first: Haunting, Men of Honor, Memento, etc. I think a good review gives you some background info but spends the majority of the review on the technical stuff: picture quality, problems, sound quality, exteas, etc.
    2. Who is doing the review. I can not stand predictable reviews and I am not a fan of nepotism/favoritism etc. A perfect example is Widescreen Review, how many of use knew that Pearl Harbor would get a 5 for DD and a 5+ for DTS, these guys are just way too damn predicatable. They also will never bash a classic movie that has been deemed the best. I think Citiczen Kane is far too overhyped, is it a good movie yes, the best ever hardly. The DVD was not as perfect as purist like to argue. Oh well to each their own. But predicatability is a killer for me. While I find Ron's reviews entertaining and at times revealing: Ground Hog Day does not have a DTS, is a great example, I pretty much know that if it is a Fox release he is going to really like it. I prefer a bit more variety.
    It's kinda like the Simpson's episode where Homer is a food critic and gives 2 thumbs up to everything he heats. He gets reprimanded and then gives 2 thumbs down to everything. Now I'm not saying that a reviewer has to give a thumbs up to 50% of the movies they review, but I mean let's be frank here, there is a problem when a person's reviews are far too predictable, to the point where you don't even have to read it to know what it will say, which is exactly why I stopped my subscription to Widescreen Review.
     
  10. Sutjahjo Ngaserin

    Sutjahjo Ngaserin Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks guys!

    It seems review type B is overwhelmingly more popular...

    To be fair both reviews are very short reviews and might have restrained the reviewer somewhat...

    I still think review type A has more depth, although more descriptions of the quality would be better...

    Jaw
     
  11. Douglas Bailey

    Douglas Bailey Second Unit

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    Personally, I like the balance that Colin Jacobson -- an HTF member, incidentally -- hits in his reviews for DVD Movie Guide.
    He devotes one section to discussion of the film and another (clearly-labelled) section to the DVD transfer, mix and features. If you already know you want the film, you can jump straight to the DVD details: if you're not sure, you can read about the film before getting to the technical stuff.
    I generally read both sections even for films I know I want, but that's because I enjoy Colin's writing style a great deal: he's worth reading even when I disagree with him, which is (IMHO) the mark of a good critic.
    He's also very good about conveying the enjoyability (or lack thereof) of a given "special feature", which is usually hard to judge from the back cover. If a gallery has annoying navigation controls or doesn't make good use of the screen, Colin will mention it. I find this very handy.
    doug
     
  12. Rob T

    Rob T Screenwriter

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    B is best of those 2.
    IGN DVD reviews are great. [​IMG]
     
  13. Neil Joseph

    Neil Joseph Lead Actor

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    I prefer more of an emphasis on the DVD than on the movie, although I like a little writeup on the movie itself.
     
  14. Sutjahjo Ngaserin

    Sutjahjo Ngaserin Stunt Coordinator

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    For comparison purpose only, here is the review of the same DVD from dvdmg [/url]http://www.dvdmg.com/remainsoftheday.shtml[/url]

    Reviewed by Michael Mittleman

    Title: The Remains of the Day: Special Edition (1993)

    Studio Line: Columbia TriStar

    Oscar®-winners Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs) and Emma Thompson (Howards End) reunite with the acclaimed Merchant Ivory filmmaking team for this extraordinary and moving story of blind devotion and repressed love.

    Hopkins stars as Stevens, the perfect English butler, an ideal carried by him to fanatical lengths, as he serves his master Lord Darlington, beautifully played by James Fox (The Servant). Darlington, like many other members of the British establishment in the 1930s, is duped by the Nazis into trying to establish a rapport between themselves and the British government. Thompson stars as the estate's housekeeper, a high-spirited, strong-minded young woman who watches the goings-on upstairs with horror.

    Despite her apprehensions, she and Stevens gradually fall in love, though neither will admit it, and only give vent to their charged feelings via fierce arguments. The film is marvelously acted by a supporting cast that includes Christopher Reeve and Hugh Grant.

    Director: James Ivory

    Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, James Fox, Christopher Reeve, Hugh Grant

    Academy

    Awards: Nominated for Best Picture; Best Director-James Ivory; Best Screenplay; Best Actor-Anthony Hopkins; Best Actress-Emma Thompson; Best Art Direction-Set Decoration; Best Costume Design; Best Score-Richard Robbins.

    DVD: Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9; audio English DD 5.1 & Dolby Surround, Portuguese, Spanish & French Digital Stereo; subtitles English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai; closed-captioned; single sided - dual layered; 28 chapters; rated PG; 134 min.; $29.95; street date 11/6/01.

    Supplements: Director and Producer Commentary with Emma Thompson; Exclusive Documentary Featuring: New Interviews with Anthony Hopkins, Christopher Reeve, and Other Cast and Crew, Costume and Production Design, Location Footage. Deleted Scenes; Exclusive Featurette; HBO: First Look; Filmographies; Production Notes.

    Purchase: DVD | Score soundtrack - Richard Robbins

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Picture/Sound/Extras: B+/B/B

    If your familiarity with Anthony Hopkins from watching the two films in which he plays the psychopathic Dr. Hannibal Lecter, then The Remains of the Day is going to be a revelation. While Hopkins’ performances as Lecter - especially in The Silence of the Lambs - are undeniably interesting, the subtlety of his acting is largely obscured by the character’s outrageousness. The Remains of the Day is the ultimate antidote to the overblown Hannibal the Cannibal, as Hopkins almost the entire film to internalizing his character’s feelings, and he does it brilliantly.

    Hopkins plays James Stevens, a skilled English butler who displays such loyalty, discretion and restraint that he’s highly valued by Lord Darlington (James Fox) the 1930s aristocrat who employs him; unfortunately, Stevens’ obsession with playing this role virtually ruins his own life.

    Stevens is the consummate professional, never allowing personal feelings to get in the way of doing his job. Neither a potential love interest - the housekeeper Sally Kenton (Emma Thompson) - nor an employer who is a foolishly naïve Nazi sympathizer distract him from the job, regardless of how be might feel deep inside. Even the death of a close relative doesn’t distract Stevens from completing the job.

    Unfolding in the form of extended flashbacks from a later time, after Darlington’s demise, we watch in amazement and frustration as Stevens runs the household capably, regardless of the distractions - such as Darlington’s stupid decision to fire a pair of German Jew servants, and Stevens’ own inability to acknowledge his feelings for Sally. Hopkins is brilliant in high tightly reined in portrayal of a man who has sacrificed some (all?) of his humanity to gain recognition as an accomplished professional servant. He plays Stevens straight from the first scene to the last, allowing only his eyes to convey what’s going on inside - making this man who knows no other way to survive both sympathetic and painfully tragic.

    Based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro and made by the producer/ director team of Ismail Merchant and James Ivory. The Remains of the Day is both a fascinating period piece and an achingly honest tragedy. While some of the supporting players - including Christopher Reeve, as a skeptical American and Hugh Grant as Darlington’s disapproving godson - are under-used, this is forgivable, as the movie is about Stevens far more than the events around him. Hopkins’ performance more than compensates for the under-written parts, and Thompson provides all the support he needs, with a compelling turn as an equally professional servant, but one whose humanity remains much closer to the surface. Fox is also very good.

    As the film nears its conclusion, we see our first evidence that Stevens might be able to find happiness after all. Taking time off from work and traveling in his new boss’ expensive automobile, Stevens at least temporarily divests himself of his true persona on a road trip to see Miss Kenton for the first time in years. For a short time, Stevens frees himself of the stigma of association with the now discredited Darlington, and goes so far as to impersonate a wealthy man. But even with this subterfuge, you can be sure that the filmmakers aren’t going to let Stevens step outside the limitations inherent in what he’s made himself. They know - and this fine film reminds us - that instant remakes just don’t happen, and people who’ve spent 50 or 60 years harboring their true thoughts simply don’t find it easy to express decades of suppressed feelings. Stevens is a symbol of his declining era, and a victim of it. He certainly inspires respect, but more than that, deserves our pity.

    In the end, Stevens must come to some sense of resignation and resolution, both about Darlington and about himself. The source of Stevens's pride is also, after all, potentially the source of his shame. He was willing enough to shine in the light of Darlington's greatness, and now must either share in his disgrace, or--what is perhaps more difficult--admit that his own dedicated and deeply considered "professionalism" has had no real part to play on the stage of world history.

    From the audiences point of view, the English countryside and its stately homes are wonderful things to take in here. But, in keeping with the conservative look of most Merchant/Ivory films, there are no real cinematic moments to remember despite the fine work of cinematographer Tony Pierce-Roberts. It hardly matters. Producer Merchant, director Ivory and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala have sagely concentrated on the emotional power of Ishiguro's narrative. If ever there was a novel to be faithful to, it is this one: Every great moment in the movie (not counting the acting) can be traced to the book.

    As for that acting, the central conflict between Hopkins and Thompson -- a veritable Trojan War of implications and ironies - will rank as some of the best moments you'll ever see on screen. Fox plays his part with magnificent ease, nobility brimming from his every gesture. There is also wonderfully touching work from Peter Vaughan as Hopkins's father. Too old to be a butler, he has been charitably reassigned as an under-butler by his son. But the demotion also has its physical demands. Vaughan's ailing, failing attempts to maintain dignity are among the most poignant scenes in the movie.

    I used to believe that Merchant/Ivory productions were an acquired taste, but no such thoughts enter my mind these days. Their collective mandate is all about painstaking photographic detail combined with thoughtful, honorable representation of some of the most beautiful literary works of our time. One of the toughest challenges facing a movie company that realizes a novel to the screen is how to do it justice and Merchant/Ivory seem to have mastered the technique. The Remains of the Day is definitely one of the best productions this team has come with and that’s saying a lot. Honored with eight Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor (Hopkins), Best Actress (Thompson), Best Director and Best Screenplay, The Remains of the Day is an engrossing film experience that works on many levels offering lessons about class behavior, wanton inhibition and blind dedication. It’s also one of Hopkins’ best performances in what has certainly been an illustrious career thus far.

    The DVD:

    The Remains of the Day is a Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment release presented in anamorphic widescreen using the film’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. It’s a single-sided, dual layered disk containing a plethora of different soundtracks ranging from English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround to English, French, Spanish and Portuguese Dolby 2.0 stereo surround tracks plus some valuable bonus features.

    When this film was originally released into theaters back in 1993, theatergoers remarked how beautiful the film looked although cinematographer Tony Pierce-Roberts was never anointed with an Oscar nomination. The British Academy corrected that oversight by the way. In any case, the film had an exquisite look to it that seemed to be missing from both its VHS and laserdisc releases. In addition, those home releases cropped the aspect ratio ever so slightly making the video appear more like 2.20:1. Here, Columbia has restored the full 2.35:1 width and punched-up the picture to a slight degree making certain colors stand out more causing the viewer to take notice.

    The overall video quality is quite good, as viewers will immediately notice the emerald green lawns and rarely used brilliant reds during the exterior shots of the mansion as rose gardens speckle the finely manicured landscape. The biggest difference of course is that this is the first time we get to see this wonderful film in anamorphic widescreen, a process that automatically sharpens the picture providing a wealth of new detail in comparison to the fuzzier versions on laserdisc and tape.

    The saturation levels used during the transfer to DVD have been bumped up somewhat from my recollection of how this film looked, but I’m not displeased with the result. In addition to added sharpness, there is a more striking quality to the color palette that I believe invigorates the background and makes the film look newer. On the other hand, this enrichment, if you will, causes the flesh tones to wander a little too far into the orange slice of the hue, but that’s a matter of taste as it is not considered a defect.

    Black levels are also well maintained providing a smoother, deeper appearance for color transitions as well as offering some substance with regard to shadow detail and background objects. The print is not perfect as anyone will attest to when they see a few white spots and speckles from time to time and predictably close to reel changes. One other negative is the visible edge enhancement apparent during some of the more highly contrasted scenes of which there are few actually. Columbia has had problems with edge enhancement issues on some of their biggest releases like Lawrence of Arabia and Close Encounters of the Third Kind of older films while the newer stuff like Memento and Snatch, they seem to get just right. Obviously, the boys in the control room feel as though any picture more than two or three years old needs a face lift and they’re oblivious to the side effects.

    From an audio perspective, the Dolby 5.1 sound track is a welcome inclusion even though this film is full of empty dialogue and pregnant pauses. It’s the ambient sounds within the mansion that are most pleasing since the 5.1 channel effect offers a keen sense of subtle immersion to the viewer and that’s exactly where we want to be.

    This is one of the tamest sound tracks you’ll ever experience with the only harsh sound being a fallen tray dropped by an old butler. But, it’s the high ceilings, lush area rugs, crystal glassware and other signature belongings that faintly come to life through this ever-so-subtle sound track. Throughout it all, there is the hauntingly beautiful musical score by Richard Robbins that takes up much of the space on the surrounds when they become active. Don’t bother listening for any driving bass or large spanning dynamic range - it’s not here. There is however, distinctly clear dialogue and excellent front stage management to go with the faintly softer and sparingly used ambient effects.

    In addition to the various language 2.0 stereo tracks mentioned above, there are also subtitles provided in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean and Thai. There’s also English close captioning for the hearing impaired.

    For extra features, Columbia has gathered producer Ismail Merchant, director James Ivory and co-star Emma Thompson for a Screen Specific Commentary that comes across as informative and spirited, but runs out of steam during the second half of the film. I’m not aware of any other voice over commentaries that Merchant and Ivory have participated in, so from that standpoint, this one is a rare treasure. Ms. Thompson is always delightful and ebullient in her manner, but her contribution here is not as thought provoking as the others. It’s a good commentary track accompanying a superb film.

    There are six Deleted Scenes to pore over in the next bonus feature. None of them are particularly important from a context perspective. However, we get an optional voice over from director James Ivory and more important, these scenes are shown to us in full frame without matte thereby exposing boom mikes, lighting equipment etc. It serves to illustrate exactly what has to be done in the post-production editing room since the negative includes all this unwanted exposure.

    There is a recently produced 30-minute Documentary on how this film was made. This new behind-the-scenes piece was made exclusively for the DVD release and includes up-to-date interviews with much of the cast and crew. There is also a follow-up promo piece called Blind Loyalty, Hollow Honor: England’s Fatal Flaw that basically places the film’s content into a political context by means of some of the very same interviews that took place in the previous documentary. This add-on lasts only 15 minutes.

    A third documentary, or I suppose we should call this HBO: First Look a featurette, is 28 minutes in duration and the only difference between it and the aforementioned ones is the timeline since this one had to be done about seven or eight years ago when the film was first released into theaters or thereabouts. As many of you have probably already guessed, we have now entered the redundant stage of the special features and there’s no reason why this last piece had to be included apart from the reason that it already existed. By the way, all these documentaries are full frame videos with non-anamorphic film clips.

    Finally, there is the Filmography section with cast and crew bios.

    The Remains of the Day is one of the cornerstones of the Merchant/Ivory factory along with Howard’s End and Room With A View. This one rises above the other two for a variety of reasons, most of which has to do with the utterly compelling non-relationship relationship between the housekeeper and the head manservant against the backdrop of pre-blitz England. The film is a sumptuous display of British manors and manners and the DVD meets the task of bringing this wonderful film into the home with a good-looking image and a subtly ambient Dolby sound track. There's more extra features than one would have expected even if one of them happens to be totally redundant. Highly recommended.

    Viewer Film Ratings: 5 Stars Number of Votes: 4
     
  15. Dave Barth

    Dave Barth Stunt Coordinator

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    Review A is a review of the film; review B is a review of the DVD.
     

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