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DVD Impressions #1 - Almost Famous + Many More

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DVD Impressions #1 - Almost Famous + Many More

Old 03-25-01, 03:13 PM
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Following is the first in what I hope will be a continuing series of quick take impressions of DVDs Iíve viewed over the course of the last week (this first installment includes a few extras from the last couple of weeks). Iím not sure whether Iíll have time to keep it up, but weíll see how it
goes. Please add your own impressions.

Cruel Intentions

Came close to buying this several times before relenting, and am very glad I finally gave in. A very well done
and entertaining retelling of Dangerous Liaisons. Iím a big fan of DL (see below), but never realized that CI was
based on the same story. A very nice video transfer with decent audio to go along with it.

Dangerous Liaisons

After watching Cruel Intentions, another viewing of Dangerous Liaisons was in order. Very interesting to
compare how they tell the story. DL is an old favorite that I always enjoy watching. My last viewing a few months ago was before I went widescreen, anamorphic, progressive, component, etc., etc. I was pleasantly surprised with the transfer at the time. Not so this time around. The transfer is anamorphic, but itís pretty soft (maybe intentionally so), and exhibits a fair bit of grain. Not reference material by any means, but certainly watchable. And watch it you should.

Natural Born Killers (Oliver Stone Coll.)

I previously owned the Directorís Cut release of NBK but upgraded to the new version because of the anamorphic transfer. Despite the hodge-podge of techniques and film stocks used, the new transfer looks great. The audio is every bit as good.

Legends of the Fall

I picked this one up primarily because I thought my wife would like it, but I think I ended up enjoying it more
than she did. A wonderful transfer and the audio shines when given the chance too. Recently reduced in price, LOTF makes a very nice addition to the collection.

Amadeus

A dreaded flipper disc, and bare bones at that. But donít let that deter you if youíre an admirer of this great
film. The transfer is surprisingly good, if not quite up to par with more recent efforts in terms of sharpness and
detail. However, the rich and vibrant color more than makes up for it. A real treat for the eyes. The DD 5.1
soundtrack is also MUCH better than I expected from such an early DVD release. Sure, a remastered special edition would be sweet but, in the meantime, this version will do just fine.

Bananas

My first full viewing of Bananas. Less cohesive and not quite as funny as Love and Death and Sleeper from the
period immediately following it, Bananas offers up some seriously inspired bits nonetheless. The anamorphic
transfer is pretty decent for a film of this vintage, but Iíve seen better and so have you.

When Harry Met Sally

Another one to appease my wife. The good news is that WHMS is one of the rare romantic comedies that appeals to men as well as women. Iím not really a fan of either Billy Crystal or Meg Ryan, yet WHMS still manages to draw me in. Blessed with a really good transfer, WHMS is a joy from beginning to end. Looking forward to checking out the Rob Reiner commentary. If youíve been hesitating on this one, wait no longer.

Ben Hur

My first end to end viewing of Ben Hur (How many times have YOU seen the chariot race?). The quintessential epic, BH makes for a long afternoon or evening of viewing. My expectations for the DVD transfer of Ben Hur were sky high based on the many reviews Iíd read, and I have to admit to some disappointment as a result. Although the transfer is exceptional for a movie thatís now over 40 years old, itís no North By Northwest. While the colors are wonderful, and the picture is generally sharp, the image is soft at times and things get muddy in many of the darker scenes. A solid four stars, but not five. No real complaints about the audio though, again especially considering the vintage. Thereís even some low bass to be heard. Check out those tympanis in the score.

Almost Famous

I turned 18 at the tail end of 1973, the year in which Almost Famous is set. A pretty formative time to be sure,
and the reason that AF resonated so deeply with me. While I didnít spend anytime backstage, I was immersed in the culture of the time, and Cameron Crowe does a nice job of depicting it. If anything, I think he sanitized the craziness. As a result, thereís a bit of an edge that gets lost in the nostalgia. But I quibble. I found Almost Famous thoroughly entertaining. A very nice transfer but it suffers from a bit of the same softness as another recent Dreamworks release, American Beauty. No such complaints about the audio though. The vintage soundtrack and concert sequences come through loud and clear in your choice of DTS and DD. A
Crowe commentary would have been nice (check out the one he does with Amy Heckerling on Fast Times at Ridgemont High), but it looks like weíll have to wait for a special edition for that.

Serial Mom

Finally got around to watching this after several months on the shelf. The non-anamorphic (ugh!) transfer is merely okay. It wonít win any awards, but itís not objectionable either. Decent color, but sharpness is lacking. One of the more accessible of John Waterís films, and featuring a hilarious performance by Kathleen Turner, Serial Mom is not for everyone. It is for me though, and Iím looking forward to the John Waters commentary.

Toy Story

Hard to believe, but two full months after going widescreen I still havenít watched Gladiator, Fifth Element, or Toy Story 2. However, now I can at least stroke Toy Story off my list of unwatched reference DVDs. I often think itís somehow unfair to judge a TV by how animation looks on it but, after watching Toy Story, I donít care. The image is simply stupendous. The audio is up to the task too with wide dynamic range and deep and powerful bass in the scenes that call for it. If all DVDs looked and sounded this good, Iíd NEVER leave the house.

Beastie Boys Video Anthology

I bought this on a bit of a whim based on the positive buzz. Iím not very familiar with the Beasties, let alone a fan. On the surface, this Criterion Collection set is a collection of a dozen and a half Beastie Boys videos spread across two discs. If thatís all it were, BBVA would already be well on its way to eBay. But thereís a whole lot more going on here than first meets the eye. BBVA makes full use of the audio and angle capabilities of DVD, which virtually allows you to customize the videos. For example, a particular video might offer seven alternate versions of the video and seven different remixes of the audio. Do the math. Thatís 49 possible combinations for just ONE of the videos, and they can be switched on the fly. Very original and very cool. On top of that, there are band commentaries, director commentaries, and more. The videos are presented in 4:3 format and look terrific. And the soundÖ Run for cover! Even at a low volume setting, it kicks. Iíve never heard such
focused and powerful bass emanate from my system, and thatís saying something. As conceptually cool as BBVA is, if you donít like the Beasties to begin with, this package isnít likely to convert you. For fans, itís a slam-dunk.

Boys Donít Cry

Boys Donít Cry easily ranks as one of my favorite films of 1999. Dark and disturbing to be sure, but equally touching, and featuring an Oscar winning performance by Hillary Swank in the lead role of Brandon Teena. The story is made all the more powerful by the fact that itís true. BDC features a really nice transfer with very good color, sharpness and shadow detail that only falls short of overall excellence due to occasional shortcomings in each of those areas. Iím really looking forward to listening to the director commentary to learn more about the story, characters, and film. If youíve somehow missed Boys Donít Cry along the way, Iíd highly recommend that you check it out. Itís a film that deserves to be seen.

Pete

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