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Dish, The (Remastered Blu-ray) (2000)
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Details At A Glance
||Comedy / Drama
Featurette-Making Of-The Dish on The Dish
Audio Commentary-with Rob Sitch and Santo Cilauro
Audio Commentary-with Jane Kennedy and Tom Gleisner
Year Of Production
||Cast & Crew
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Andrew S. Gilbert
Pan & Scan/Full Frame
English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio
|Original Aspect Ratio
English for the Hearing Impaired
Yes, Cliff smokes a pipe
Annoying Product Placement
|Action In or After Credits
NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.
Masterminded by the same quartet responsible for 1997’s The Castle (Rob Sitch, Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner and Jane Kennedy), The Dish is another thoroughly delightful Australian drama-comedy, as well as a welcome history lesson that zeroes in on overlooked but important events from 1969. Devoid of big expensive special effects, the charms of The Dish are derived from its astute character work, the affable ensemble cast, and its dry, typically Aussie sense of humour. But above all of that, the film tells a simple yet amazing true-life story about dedication which will linger in your mind long after the end credits have expired. In short, The Dish is the perfect alternative to generic action blockbusters or dumb, crude American comedies, and it developed into something of an internationally beloved motion picture for good reason.
Before the launch of Apollo 11 in July of 1969, NASA reaches out to the small rural Australian town of Parkes, which is home to the largest radio telescope in the Southern Hemisphere. Situated in the middle of a sheep paddock, Houston seeks to use the dish to receive and relay transmissions from Apollo 11 in the Southern Hemisphere, including both communications and the images of the prestigious moon landing itself. The telescope is operated by pipe-smoking “dishmaster” Cliff Buxton (Sam Neill), along with Mitch (Kevin Harrington) and Glenn (Tom Long), while young Rudi (Taylor Kane) harbours great pride for his role as the dish’s Head of Security. To supervise things, NASA sends along a representative in Al Burnett (Patrick Warburton). With the Apollo 11 mission getting underway, local Mayor Bob McIntyre (Roy Billing) could not be more excited or proud about his town’s involvement with NASA, schmoozing a United States Ambassador (John McMartin) as he awaits the arrival of the Prime Minister (Billie Brown).
The story of the Apollo 11 astronauts and the 1969 moon landing is surely well-known enough, as it has been told many times before in motion pictures and documentaries. The Dish therefore relegates that story to the background, eschewing an American viewpoint to concentrate on an element of the Apollo 11 mission that’s seldom written about. The Dish takes place entirely in the town of Parkes, and never cuts away to any dramatic recreations of the astronauts aboard Apollo 11. Naturally, the script does take certain liberties with history, such as somewhat minimising the role of NASA’s Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station near Canberra, but it’s not a big deal - after all, most historical films are fictionalised to some extent. What matters is that The Dish is dramatically satisfying and well-rounded, framed around an aging Buxton who visits the radio telescope to gaze upon her again, which brings back memories.
The Dish is packed with subplots to add further colour to the story, as this is more than just another movie about the moon landing - it’s primarily about a town gathering together, as well as the unsung courage of the individuals whose indispensible contributions are often overlooked. There is a sweet subplot involving the shy Glenn, who playfully flirts with pretty local girl Janine (Eliza Szonert), while the visitation of the American Ambassador at one stage forces the dish crew to fake a radio transmission with Apollo 11. The Dish is very funny, but it earns hearty belly-laughs through genuinely witty writing, as it’s devoid of crude or mean-spirited content. Indeed, rest assured that even though it carries an M15+ rating for a single use of the word “f***,” the movie is suitable for all audiences.
Sitch may be the only credited director on the project, but the closing credits make it clear that credit for The Dish belongs to the four-person team of Sitch, Cilauro, Gleisner and Kennedy, as they wrote, produced and conceived the movie together. Backed by a modest budget, The Dish may not carry the slick appearance of a big-budget Hollywood movie, but it’s agreeably old-fashioned in its cinematic approach, demeanour and laid-back pacing. Miraculously, the movie never necessarily feels like a low-budget endeavour, as it does not look cheap or nasty. Shot on 35mm film by cinematographer Graeme Wood, the movie carries a warm appearance and is full of period details, effortlessly and subtly evoking the late 1960s. In addition, Sitch and co. make extensive use of archival video and audio clips at various points to amplify the illusion and further set the scene. The climactic moon landing itself is incredibly touching, and Sitch wisely lets the event speak for itself by relying on the archival material. The sequence drives home the real significance of the event, which could have ended in disaster at any point, and it’s rewarding to see the main characters’ hard work paying off. The accompanying original score by Edmund Choi (who also scored The Castle) is suitably majestic and full of flavour, while the movie also features an agreeable selection of memorable classic songs (“The Real Thing”) and pieces of music (“Classical Gas”).
The ensemble cast is filled out by a terrific selection of Aussie actors, from the always-reliable Billing as the Mayor, to The Castle’s Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell as a Reverend. Perhaps the most recognisable face in the cast is Neill (a New Zealand native), who brings his trademark gravitas and warmth to the role of Cliff Buxton. The acting is convincing and natural across the board, with spot-on comedic timing from everybody in the ensemble. Good-natured, funny, touching and warm, The Dish further verifies that the Working Dog team have a knack for creating films that manage to be dramatic and funny, whilst never taking themselves too seriously or talking down to the audience. And all on a meagre budget that would barely covering the catering of a major Hollywood production. The Dish is a genuine cinematic treat.
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Roadshow first released The Dish on Blu-ray back in May 2017, after the release date had shifted around a few times. Many consumers, myself included, immediately noticed huge issues with the movie's video presentation. Despite the cover advertising "Stunning High Definition," Roadshow had actually just used a dated old master from the movie's initial release, which was natively standard definition. Adding insult to injury, the master was encoded in PAL, and therefore the slow-down necessary for a 1080p encode resulted in severe aliasing which plagued every single shot. It was a debacle, and a slap in the face to the movie's fans. Even the DVD looked better, because at least it doesn't carry the heavy aliasing. With the online community emailing Roadshow to express their disappointment, they eventually made the decision to recall the release and commission a brand new high definition master. It may have taken them a number of months, but Roadshow's new release is now upon us, advertising that the popular film has been "Remastered & Restored in High Definition." To further make up for the old release, this new Blu-ray also features terrific newly-commissioned artwork. Let's face it, the only way to go was up...
And sure enough, true to their word, Roadshow's new remaster of The Dish is a huge improvement. The ugly red push, misjudged colours, and shoddy brightness/contrast of the old master is eliminated. In addition, there isn't any appalling aliasing and the master is natively HD this time around. Indeed, this is a true restoration, finally giving the world a proper high definition master of The Dish, future-proofing it for streaming and television broadcasts, not to mention other Blu-ray releases around the world. This new AVC-encoded, 1080p high definition presentation is framed at 1.78:1 (hence filling widescreen televisions), as opposed to the movie's theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Judging from screenshots, framing is slightly different compared to the DVD and the first Blu-ray - there's a slight loss of visual information at the sides of the frame. However, it's not a huge deal - there is no awkward framing, and I doubt anybody will be too bothered considering the strengths of the remaster.
Placed on a single-layer BD-25, The Dish takes up a reasonable 19GB of space, with an average video bitrate sitting around 21 Mbps which is okay, but not outstanding. The grain could certainly be a bit better resolved with a higher bitrate, and the image does admittedly look a hair soft as well. There are still artefacts, too - see a line running down the right side of the screen at the 1:55 mark, and some minor telecine wobble which is particularly evident during the opening and closing credits, as well as other print damage scattered throughout. But these are the only shortcomings of an otherwise fine Blu-ray presentation, which felt like I was watching the movie for the first time all over again. In terms of detail and textures, the remaster is a revelation for those who've spent years watching The Dish on VHS and DVD. Facial close-ups resolve as much detail as possible, while textures on clothing and the intricacies of the dish control room are brought out extremely well. Grain is thankfully left in tact, with no signs of unnecessary digital tampering like noise reduction or edge enhancement. Grain can be heavy at times of course, particularly under lower-light, but it keeps the transfer looking detailed - it's never smooth or smeary. Of course, the archival footage spliced throughout the movie is of poorer quality compared to the main feature, looking soft and unrefined, with print damage and other artefacts, but these flaws are baked into the original negative. At least no unnecessary digital tampering was performed; no noise reduction or edge enhancement. The Dish looks pleasingly organic.
The colours look faithful to the intentions of the filmmakers, with a realistic and distinctively filmic palette. Skin tones are realistic and Neill's red jumper always stands out, while movie as a whole looks noticeably warm with an oh-so-slight orange/yellow push. Admittedly, some shots look a bit faded in terms of colour, which I guess is understandable due to the age of the movie. Blacks are surprisingly strong and contrast is exceptional, creating a nice sense of depth from start to finish. However, during at conversation at the 33-minute mark which takes place at night, darkness engulfs chunks of the faces of Neill and Harrington, while the night sky is pitch-black. It does look like black crush is creeping into the video at times, which could be source-related, but I cannot be certain. It can be a tad distracting. However, at least the encode never falls victim to any banding, macroblocking, ringing or unsightly aliasing.
Details of the remaster are hard to come by - therefore, I cannot be certain if the restoration team scanned the negative, the interpositive, or a release print. I also cannot be certain what resolution the film print was scanned at, though it looks to be a 2K scan as it doesn't carry the definitive refinement of a 4K scan. (Probably a scan of the interpositive, as well, but this is just guesswork.) Don't expect The Dish to scrub up as well as an expensive Hollywood blockbuster, but for a movie of this vintage and budget, it's just fine. And Roadshow does deserve kudos for commissioning this remaster in the first place. I could name any number of catalogue titles from the same period that look worse. Those who rightfully crucified Roadshow for their nasty cash-grab of an original Blu-ray really ought to rush out and buy this disc, as the transfer is perfectly satisfying and their efforts deserve to be rewarded. It really is an effort befitting of one of Australia's most beloved movies.
Subtitles are available in English. The track is perfectly-formatted and easy to read, making the package feel more complete.
Video Ratings Summary
The Dish comes to Blu-ray with a lossless, 16-bit DTS-HD MA 5.1 track which carries an average bitrate of 1791 kbps. The audio was likewise lossless on the first Blu-ray, and it's likely that this is the same mix, but I cannot be certain. Nevertheless, the audio presentation is about as good as can be expected, fulfilling expectations without emerging as demo worthy in any capacity. Perhaps owing to the source, the audio is not exactly as crystal clear as a more recent (or a more expensive) motion picture, with an oh-so-slight muffle to some of the dialogue. Also, don't expect a great deal of surround activity, panning effects or noticeable subwoofer usage, as The Dish predominantly spotlights characters talking, and the mix is therefore front-centric for the most part.
Even despite the audio's inherent shortcomings, dialogue is still easy to hear and comprehend throughout the movie, as the mix properly prioritises the chatter over the music and sound effects. And since this is a 5.1 mix, it fills the rear channels, feeling "fuller" and more immersive than a mono track ever could. Subtle environmental atmospherics are evident from time to time, and music comes through all available channels. The subwoofer does come alive at certain points - strong winds starting at the 78-minute mark certainly sound impactful, for instance, and you can hear the rumbling of the wind during scenes set indoors. Fortunately, I did not notice any encoding anomalies like sync issues, nor does the source suffer from any pops, clicks, hissing or drop-outs. Could it sound better with a remastered 24-bit audio track? Maybe. But maybe the difference would be negligible, so let's just be thankful with what we have. This lossless track is a welcome upgrade over the DVD, and it nicely complements the remastered video presentation.
Audio Ratings Summary
|Surround Channel Use|
Not as much as the DVD, and there is still a missed opportunity for some retrospective interviews, but considering that we still have zero extras for The Castle, this is good enough. It's likely that Roadshow wanted to save costs by using a BD-25 - and including other extras would have necessitated a BD-50.
The Dish on The Dish (576i; 11:21) Taken from a dire standard definition source, this is an archival piece about the making of The Dish featuring interviews with many of the primary cast and crew. Writing, casting and shooting is covered, and it briefly touches upon the score as well, containing footage of the recording sessions. This is interesting, even if it is too short and feels promotional in nature.
Rob Sitch and Santo Cilauro: Focus on Directing and 2nd Unit Directing The first audio commentary on this disc concentrates on the technical aspect of the shoot, with Sitch and Cilauro mostly keeping the conversation scene-specific. The two men find a fair bit to say, even pointing out that the shoot happened in winter as Australian summers don't look particularly good on camera. Other topics include building a narrative in the opening montage of archival footage, using natural light, cricket games on the real dish, shooting with multiple cameras, scripting & shooting a montage at the 19-minute mark, and many other things. They even mention having an expert in physics and mathematics on set, while the real-life events are discussed as well. Unfortunately, the commentary can at times be hard to hear over the movie, as prioritisation is a bit skewiff. Nevertheless, this is an agreeable commentary track
Jane Kennedy and Tom Gleisner: Focus on Casting, Music and Archival Footage Rather than covering the same ground as Sitch and Cilauro, Kennedy and Gleisner focus on other aspects of the production, and have a lot of anecdotes and recollections to impart. They point out that the town of Forbes was used in place of Parkes, talk about aspects of the real story, and discuss the impact of the movie (the person who mowed the lawn outside the dish came forward). Like the previous commentary, the volume of the movie can be a bit much at times, making parts of the commentary hard to make out. This aside, this is another enjoyable and informative track.
Photo Gallery (HD; 7:01) This is a silent slideshow of images - including screenshots, behind-the-scenes snaps and promotional stills - which you can also navigate manually with chapter skip buttons. A nice addition to the disc. It's welcome to see that at least one of the extras is presented in pristine high definition.
Theatrical Trailer (576i; 2:33) If anybody is interested in seeing what the tragic original Blu-ray presentation looked like, this is pretty close, with some heavy aliasing. Anyway, here we have the original theatrical trailer for The Dish, which is another nice inclusion.
"Sometimes" TV Spot (576i; 00:32) A TV Spot for The Dish, which actually features better video quality than the trailer.
"Four Men" TV Spot (576i; 00:32) Another TV Spot. Again, this is nice to have from a historical standpoint.
Bonus Trailer (576i; 2:55) A bit of shameless self-promotion - here we have the trailer for 1997's The Castle.
R4 vs R1
NOTE: To view
non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually
also NTSC compatible.
Compared to the Region 4 DVD release by Roadshow (which is still in circulation), the Blu-ray misses out on:
And compared to the Region 2 DVD from Warner Bros., this Blu-ray additionally misses out on:
- The Footage We Loved But Couldn't Use (75:35)
- Hidden Dish (1:25)
- Cast & Crew Biographies
- Apollo 11 Diary
- Key Dates In Human Space Flight
It's a shame this isn't the definitive release which reconciles all available extras. Whether or not these things mean anything to you is entirely up to you. But given that this is the only Blu-ray release of the movie currently available, I can't complain too much.
- Exclusive Sam Neill Interview
- Radio Spots
The Dish is a true gem. It remains a superb Australian movie bolstered by witty writing and great actors. Anybody who likes The Castle will sure to find value in this one.
Fans of the movie can rejoice, for we finally have a proper Blu-ray release on our hands, and it's a real keeper. Making use of a full remaster, the movie looks and sounds better than ever, while there is a nice supply of special features. In short, this is the release I've been hoping for. (And what we should have gotten in the first place.) Rush out and buy this one if you like the movie!
© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Tuesday, February 27, 2018
|DVD||LG UP970 4K UHD HDR Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output|
This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 2160p.
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver.
This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
|Amplification||Samsung Series 7 HT-J7750W|
|Speakers||Samsung Tall Boy speakers, 7.1 set-up|