|Category||Drama||Main Menu Audio
Dolby Digital Trailer - Rain
Featurette - Making Magic
Featurette - Casting The Spell
Audio Commentary - Denise Di Novi (Producer) Griffin Dunne (Director) Sandra Bullock (Heart's Desire, err Actress) and Alan Silvestri (Composer)
Listing - Cast and Crew
|Running Time||99:57 minutes|
Roadshow Home Entertainment
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||No||English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Theatrical Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||
|Subtitles||English for the Hearing Impaired||Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Practical Magic did not seem to suffer well at the hands of the critics and the general consensus seems to be that this is not much cop at all. But it really has never seemed to me to be that bad a film. Sure, it is not up there as a classic film, and perhaps it could have done with just a little bit more judicious pruning, but I find this an enjoyable enough diversion for 100 minutes. Now how much that has to do with the fact that Sandra Bullock stars...
Something of a cross between Little Women (coincidentally another Denise Di Novi film) and The Craft, this is the story of the two Owens sisters - sensible stay-at-home Sally (Sandra Bullock) and tempestuous red-haired Gillian (Nicole Kidman). The Owens women for generations have been witches and have been blessed with the curse placed by Maria Owens many many years ago. Said curse is simple really - any man who falls for the love of an Owens woman will find his life slightly truncated as a result. Sally and Gillian had the fate befall their father, and compounded that loss with that of their mother who died of a broken heart shortly thereafter. Sally and Gillian were brought up by their Aunts Frances (Stockard Channing) and Jet (Dianne Wiest) and learned the ways of the craft, too. Sally, in order to forestall the curse of the Owens women as a child cast a spell that demanded such traits from a man as would prevent her from ever falling in love. Gillian did what she had to do, which was not much. Jump forward a little and the sisters are all grown up and Gillian is heading off to explore the wide world. Sally stays home, falls in love with a little help from her aunts, marries and has two daughters herself. Husband promptly dies when run over by a truck. Gillian goes exploring the world, finds a man and gets hurt so that Sally comes to the rescue. The trouble is that her boyfriend dies as a result and in order to reverse this rather tragic event, the sisters attempt to cast a spell to revive him and fail miserably. However things are not all that they seem, and it would seem that the boyfriend is now a spirit determined to exact revenge. Cue Special Investigator Gary Hallet (Aidan Quinn) who is investigating the disappearance of Gillian's boyfriend and ends up on the sisters' doorstep. Guess what qualities he has?
Hardly the greatest screenplay ever written and apparently the first attempt to bring to the screen one of the best-selling novels of Alice Hoffman. The main problem with the story is that the material does not necessarily sustain the length of the film as perhaps it should, and this could certainly have done with a little more tightening of the story. However, the characters themselves are nicely developed and they are well brought to life by the cast. Whilst all eyes will of course be on the two stars in Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman, much of the real interest is elsewhere. The essence of the story is best captured in the characters of the two aunts and they are wonderfully brought to life by Stockard Channing and Dianne Wiest. Some of their little scenes are what make this film worthy of a view. Nonetheless, both Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman do a better than decent job here in bringing the two very different sisters to life - does anyone do the vampish look better than Nicole Kidman at the moment? Both have done better films in the past, but equally have done some rather appalling ones too. Reasonably well directed by Griffin Dunne, it would however have been interesting to see what a really good director could have done with this film.
Definitely not a great film, but at least an entertaining enough one that has suffered a little more wrath from the critics than it deserved. Fans of the cast should not need much convincing on this one, and it is worthy of investigation by everyone else. Just approach it with a bit of fun in mind and you could do a lot worse.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and it is of course, being a Roadshow Home Entertainment release, 16x9 enhanced.
Perhaps I was anticipating this too highly but for a 1998 film this really was not as sharp a transfer as I was expecting. That is not to say that it is poor or anything, for indeed it is not. In general, barring a couple of lapses, this is a quite sharp transfer. However, the depth of field at times is rather limited (most likely intentionally) and this highlights just the hint of softness in the image that seems to be present here. The overall detail as a result is occasionally not as good as I would have liked, but overall remains very good. Shadow detail is also lacking just little on occasions, but this is almost certainly a reflection of the way the film was intended to look. There is little in the way of grain problems here at all and this is overall a very clear transfer. There is no low level noise in the transfer.
The overall tone here seems to be quite deliberately chosen as far as colours go, with the early historical scene having a distinctly darker edge to it that effectively balances a lighter tone for the scenes around the Aunts' house. Internal shots have a rich tone to them that accentuates the wood of the building very nicely, producing a nice inviting feel to the colours. Overall, the colours are rather nicely rendered with a nice saturation to them that is utterly believable. Whilst I would not in general call this a vibrant transfer, it certainly has an evocative feel to it. There is no problem with oversaturation in the transfer and nor is colour bleed an issue.
Practical Magic is yet another well-authored
DVD from Roadshow Home Entertainment with the only noticeable problem of any kind
in the transfer being some very slight aliasing in one shot during the
"circle" scene late in the film. Otherwise there are no MPEG artefacts
and no film-to-video artefacts. There are a few white flecks dotted here
and there in the transfer, but that was the extent of the film artefacts
and they were only noticeable for the fact that a couple pop up against
The dialogue comes up very clear and easy to understand in the transfer, and there is no problem with audio sync in the transfer.
The music score comes from one of the better known names in the business at the current time, Alan Silvestri. This score is a good indication as to why he is sought after nowadays for film work - this is a very nicely done piece of work that more than ably supports and to some extent carries the film. Whilst it is not an utterly memorable effort, you are certainly aware on a number of occasions of how the music is helping the film. Some nice contemporary songs flesh out a good soundtrack.
The film has been blessed with a rather nice soundtrack
indeed and in some ways this is a nice demonstration of subtlety in sound.
There is some especially nice little detail ambience out of the rear channels
that really does do a great job of engrossing you and immersing you in
the sound picture being created. The front surround channels have been
quite nicely handled as well with a rather nice open sound to the whole
transfer that I find quite appealing. The bass channel does not get exactly
an overdose of usage, but when it was called upon it certainly kicked in
quite nicely to support the action. A very nicely mastered soundtrack,
even if it does not have a huge presence - which obviously is not what
this film would need in a soundtrack.
|Surround Channel Use|
© Ian Morris (have
a laugh, check out the bio)
30th November 2000
|DVD||Pioneer DV-515; S-video output|
|Display||Sony Trinitron Wega 80cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in|
|Amplification||Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL|