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Details At A Glance
||Yes, 1 - 1.78:1, Dolby Digital 2.0
Cast & Crew Biographies
Isolated Music Score
Cast & Crew
Warner Home Video
Sarah Jessica Parker
Michael J. Fox
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio
||English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Isolated Music Score (Dolby Digital 5.1)
|Theatrical Aspect Ratio
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement
|Action In or After Credits
Let's see, maybe if I cut and paste a few comments from
my review of Heat, I might get
away with a slightly quicker review than usual. Well, actually, the only
two actors in this film that would qualify as favourites of mine in a positive
sense of the phrase would be Jack Nicholson and, of course, Natalie
Portman. As I have already mentioned, young Natalie has had a place
in my heart ever since her brilliant portrayal of Lauren in Heat,
and she does an equally fine job with the limited role she has here. Anyway,
as luck and a bad script (or just an extremely cheesy one in this case)
would have it, cameos from what seems like every actor in Hollywood occur
in this film. We even get to see some notable names die in a rather hideous
fashion. Mars Attacks! is basically director Tim Burton's
tribute to the B-grade science fiction movies from the 1950s, much like
Wood was his tribute to the worst of the self-satirical directors
from the same era. As the production notes explain, Mars Attacks!
is also based around a set of playing cards that came out during
the 1950s and were quickly recalled due to the nature of their imagery.
Although some would view this recall as just another case of the censors
letting their imagination get away with them in terns of the content of
a product, Burton was fascinated by the cards themselves, and this film
is the result of that fascination. From what I understand of the production
notes, Tim Burton would be one of the few people to own a vaguely
complete set of these trading cards, which are worth a fortune these days.
Of course, the plot would be completely worthless
without some clever writing using a vaguely credible story and some likeable
actors. Every ridiculous plot device from B-grade science fiction is hilariously
lampooned in this film, and one of the funniest examples is the translator
used to try and decode what the hell it is the Martians are on about when
they first appear on television. Whomever it is that has assumed creative
control of Star Trek has their name thoroughly stamped all
over this little barb in the film. The Martian language sounds like a cross
between a rabid dog with a bad case of the hiccups and a helium overdose,
and their bodies look something like the people I saw during my last series
of serious hallucinations. However, if there's one thing that really
makes this film memorable, it's the weapon that humanity uses against the
Martians when tanks, bullets, and nuclear missiles all fail. I don't want
to spoil it for you, but if you've always thought that ******ing was the
most utterly useless form of artistic expression devised by man, then you're
really going to change your mind once you've seen this film.
The video quality is generally quite good, especially
during scenes that involve heavy use of CGI, but a few minor annoyances
popped up here and there. The film is presented at in aspect ratio of 2.35:1,
complete with that ever-wonderful bonus of 16x9 enhancement. The transfer
is generally quite sharp, but some scenes here and there were somewhat
blurred, especially towards the beginning of the film. The running of the
flaming cows at the end of the introduction really suffers from blurring
to an extent that leads me to believe that this was not intended as part
of the original theatrical exhibit. Shadow detail was generally very good,
which is especially important to a film with as many low-lit sequences
as this. No low-level noise made its way into the transfer, which is also
very important to a film with as many low-lit sequences as this one. This
is probably the best transfer of a Tim Burton film that Warner Brothers
have managed to bring to DVD so far, although that's not a very adequate
description given the efforts they've put in with Batman
and Batman Returns. Let's just say that the transfer is of
a quality I am not used to seeing with Warner Brothers titles.
The colours were vivid and vibrant throughout the
transfer, a deliberate artistic decision on the part of the director and
the set designers which is reflective of the material that inspired the
film. Early in the film, a small amount of colour bleeding can be seen,
especially in areas with a lot of red, such as the fields in shots of rural
areas. Given the tendency of the film to move towards oversaturation, the
colours were rendered exceptionally well during the majority of this presentation.
MPEG artefacts were happily absent from the presentation. Film-to-video
artefacts consisted of a moderate amount of aliasing that exceeds what
I would call acceptable for a film of this vintage. The usual suspects
were responsible for this: the brick walls, the venetian blinds, the car
grilles, and there was even a moiré on one of the reporters' hats.
Film artefacts were not a particular problem, except for a few scratches
at the occasional moment.
There are two audio tracks to choose from on this DVD,
both of them in Dolby Digital 5.1: your standard English soundtrack, and
an Isolated Music Score. I listened to both audio tracks, although the
Isolated Music Score lost my interest after the one listen. The dialogue
was muffled for a significant portion of the film, which made for a somewhat
strenuous listening experience. The beginning of Chapter 4 seemed to be
just a little out of sync, with the audio lagging a little behind the video.
While this problem was not particularly noticeable for most of the time,
it did detract a tiny bit from my enjoyment of the film. Nonetheless, this
audio track could have been reference material if not for this small problem.
The music is basically a large-scale orchestral score
conducted by Danny Elfman. It is inspired by the same melodramatic
orchestral scores that accompanied the films which the movie is inspired
by. Like the props, the colour scheme, and the script, the music is larger-than-life,
and it adds to the overall cheesy feel of the film. The music is very well
spread out over the entire soundfield. This results in the surround channels
being frequently active, with lots of ambience, music, and special effects
pouring out of them. The soundtrack was very enveloping and did a very
good job of drawing me into the story with the use of directional special
effects. The .1 channel was used quite well, mainly for the huge explosions
that occur rather frequently in the movie.
An alternate ending in which Tom Jones gets disintegrated
would have been nice, but the extras that are present are of high quality.
One thing I cannot abide is the fact that RSDL formatting wasn't used,
as this would have provided plenty of space to address all of the quality
problems that occur on the disc.
The menu design of this movie is reasonably good, although
I found it somewhat troublesome to navigate. Sadly, there is no animation,
and a small amount of sound that I found somewhat annoying after a couple
of repetitions. There is a little extra in the sound selection menu, which
is labelled as a Martian soundtrack. It leads to a somewhat minuscule extra,
but an amusing one, all the same.
This trailer is presented at the aspect ratio of 1.78:1,
with 16x9 Enhancement and a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack with surround
encoding. It appears to have been taken from a print source, but the quality
Extensive production notes are provided, which provide
some insight into the making and inspiration of this film.
Cast & Crew Biographies
Very extensive Cast & Crew Biographies round out
the extras, although the use of the words "very extensive" only describes
the number of cast members for which biographies are provided. The biographies
of Jack Nicholson and stars in his echelon of the film are quite
extensive, while the smaller parts played by actors that would generate
a lot of interest such as Natalie Portman were deemed worthy of
only rather small biographies. Still, this is a much better selection of
Cast and Crew Biographies than I am used to seeing.
R4 vs R1
The region 4 version of this disc misses out on;
Given that this film simply demands to be seen in widescreen,
and that the Region 1 version is a flipper with a Pan & Scan butchery
on the other side, I think Region 4 is definitely the version to go for.
Dual-sided formatting (with a Pan & Scan monstrosity on the other side)
A second theatrical trailer
A Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack for the main feature
Mars Attacks is a hilarious movie, presented
on a much better DVD than Warner Brothers normally provide us with.
The video quality is good, albeit with a couple of
The audio quality is mostly excellent, with a superb
surround presence. Some of the dialogue is problematic at times, however.
The extras are reasonably comprehensive and interesting.
Warner Brothers would do well to go back to this standard.
© Dean McIntosh
February 28, 2000
||Grundig GDV 100 D, using composite output; Toshiba SD-2109,
using S-video output
||Panasonic TC-29R20 (68 cm), 4:3 mode, using composite
input; Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm), 16:9 mode/4:3 mode, using composite and
||Built In (Amplifier)
||Panasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Sharp CP-303A Back
Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Subwoofer