Tadpole (2002)

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Sell-Through Release Status Unknown
Available for Rent

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Romantic Comedy Audio Commentary-Gary Winick (Director)
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 75:13
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Gary Winick
Studio
Distributor

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Aaron Stanford
Sigourney Weaver
John Ritter
Bebe Neuwirth
Robert Iler
Peter Appel
Alicia Van Couvering
Kate Mara
Ron Rifkin
Paul Butler
Hope Chernov
Debbon Ayer
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI Rental Music Renaud Pion


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    When you look at the cover of this film, you think you're looking at a high-budget, full-blown, Hollywood movie. You're not. This film was shot in 14 days (of principal photography) on a budget of US$150 000. It wasn't shot on film (not on that budget!) — they used DV (Digital Video) cameras, and it shows. The video looks like a student film, unfortunately.

    The cast is top-notch. The protagonist is played by Aaron Stanford, in his first film, but he is surrounded by experience. Sigourney Weaver needs no introduction, and neither does John Ritter. Bebe Neuwirth may not be a household name, but you've seen her before (perhaps most notably as Lilith, Frasier's ex-wife, in Frasier), and she is beautifully cast here. All three of these actors turn in excellent performances.

    The story is a fairly simple one. Fifteen-year-old Oscar (Aaron Stanford) is coming home from school for Thanksgiving. Oscar is very sophisticated for his age — his favourite author is Voltaire. He harbours a passionate love for his step-mother, Eve (Sigourney Weaver), something neither Eve nor his father (John Ritter) know about. His father is trying to encourage his interest in girls. After the Thanksgiving party, Oscar goes out and gets a little drunk, and bumps into Eve's best friend, Diane (Bebe Neuwirth). She takes him back to her place because she's a bit concerned about him. He seems to be in some pain, so she starts to massage him (being a chiropractor, and something of a masseuse). They end up in bed together, which Oscar is mortified to discover when he awakens the next morning. Now what will happen? Will Diane let on to Eve? Has he betrayed his only love? How can he make things right, or at least, stop them getting worse?

    Few things are as passionate as a fifteen-year-old boy in the throes of first love. This is really quite a reasonable plot, and the performances help make it all believable.

    The director (Gary Winick) explains in his commentary that he views his work in DV as lying somewhere between film and theatre. Although there are multiple takes (a luxury not possible in theatre), the budgets don't allow for the gloss of a blockbuster film. To a certain extent, this feels like a Dogma film, due to the lower quality of the DV camera image, and the jiggle of handheld cameras — I don't like Dogma films. It's not a Dogma film, however — they had to use a fair bit of ADR to clean up some of the dialogue, and some of the shots are Steadicam. In the end, it does come out looking like a student film, at least in terms of video quality. The content, though, is well above that level.

    One item of trivia: the name Adam LeFevre appears early in the opening credits, yet he doesn't appear in the cast list, and I can't find a part he might have played — maybe he got cut out?

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced. The framing makes it look like this film was shot for this ratio, or very close to it.

    The image is a bit soft, mainly due to the lower resolution of the DV cameras. There are occasional shots where focus is less than perfect. Shadow detail is reasonably good, but there are plenty of shots with swathes of unrelieved black. There's no film grain, but the lack of resolution in the DV cameras makes an excellent substitute — if this were shot on film I'd be describing it as having quite a lot of film grain. There is what looks like a touch of low-level noise here and there, but it's difficult to judge. There are some shots where parts of the picture, mostly backgrounds, are over-exposed, and there are times when the exposure appears to vary during the shot (the director mentions at one point that the cameras were on automatic, so that makes sense).

    Colour is a bit variable, leaning toward dull, and never completely faithful — skin tones are sometimes a bit orange, sometimes a bit washed out. There are no colour-related artefacts like colour bleed or over-saturation — the colours are just not accurate.

    There are no film artefacts, because this wasn't shot on film. There don't seem to be any digital tape artefacts, either.

    There is some aliasing, but it never gets out-of-hand. There some moiré, too, such as at 28:38, but it isn't troubling — for some reasons digital cameras seem more prone to moiré than film cameras. There are no MPEG artefacts. All up, this is a fairly clean transfer of relatively low quality source materials. It is let down by the low resolution of the cameras and their lack of precision regarding colour.

    There are subtitles in English, and captions in English; there are also subtitles for lines in French which are burned into the image. I watched the English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles: they are easy to read, well-timed to the dialogue, and more than passably accurate.

    The disc is single-sided and single layered, so there is no layer change. The cover claims the disc to be dual-layered, but that's incorrect. With the feature clocking in at only 75 minutes, and no extras other than the commentary, there's no need for another layer.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The soundtrack is provided in English. It's a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, although you could easily mistake it for a Dolby Digital 2.0 affair, because it makes no use of the subwoofer, and the surround work is next to indistinguishable.

    The dialogue is quite variable — some is fairly clear, some is muffled, some just sounds oddly resonant — but it is mostly reasonably easy to make out. There are no visible audio sync blunders, even in those portions that have clearly been ADRed.

    The score comes from Renaud Pion, and it's rather nicely suited to the action. There are a number of songs in the soundtrack, too.

    The surrounds are used, although the only way I could determine that was by comparing the main soundtrack with the commentary — all they do is provide a slight deepening to the soundstage. The subwoofer is not used until the David Bowie song in the closing credits.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The menu is static and silent. It's simple to use.

Audio Commentary — director Gary Winick

    This commentary is fairly low-key. He does impart quite a bit of information, although at times he concentrates on things he'd like to have done better. There are gaps in the commentary, but not particularly long ones. All up, this is a reasonable listen.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This film was released on DVD in Region 1 earlier this year. The R1 DVD has exactly the same features, except that it is NTSC, and this one is PAL. There's no reason to buy the R1 over the R4, and I rather expect that the R4 will come to market at a lower price.

Summary

    Tadpole is a well-acted film, with a decent (albeit simple) plot, on a DVD that's not too wonderful.

    The video quality is not good.

    The audio quality is adequate.

    The only extra is a decent commentary.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Thursday, May 15, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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just a question... - Geoff (read my bio) REPLY POSTED