Very Bad Things (1998)

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Released 8-Aug-2000

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Dolby Digital Trailer-Egypt
Theatrical Trailer
Biographies-Cast
Filmographies-Cast & Crew
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1998
Running Time 96:10
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Peter Berg
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Christian Slater
Cameron Diaz
Daniel Stern
Jeanne Tripplehorn
Jon Favreau
Jeremy Piven
Leland Orser
Case Brackley-Trans-No Lip
RPI $39.95 Music Stewart Copeland


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Very Bad Things opens with a bachelor party thrown by the friends of groom-to-be Kyle Fisher (Jon Favreau) in a Las Vegas casino. Flying high on drugs and liquor, the revellers, led by the calculating Robert Boyd (Christian Slater), must face a sobering moral dilemma. Loud mouth Michael (Jeremy Piven) has accidentally killed their expensive Asian hooker by literally hooking her to the bathroom wall during a lust frenzy. Instead of calling the police and ending the movie in the first reel, the gang takes matters into their own hands with murderous results.

    Very Bad Things is a heavy-handed addition to the suburban slaughter sub-genre, represented thus far by the likes of Heathers, I Married an Axe Murderer, and John Water's underrated Serial Mom. While there is nothing overly sophisticated about any of these black comedies, Very Bad Things aims for a level of mayhem a gear or two higher, and consequently it loses the control and ambiguity of its contemporaries. Although there are some great moments scattered here and there, I felt it was too haphazard and clumsy to succeed as either a comedy or a drama. Having said that, my flatmate enjoyed this film immensely, so if you are able to cut loose and accept Very Bad Things at face value, it might actually be a Very Good Thing.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Authored by Warner Advanced Media Operations and not the Sony DVD Centre, the picture quality on this DVD still maintains Columbia Tristar's usual high standard.

    Presented in a measured aspect ratio of 1.82:1 without 16x9 enhancement, Very Bad Things looked fine on my 16x9 TV after zooming it to widescreen proportions.

    While sharpness and detail levels are excellent overall, 16x9 enhancement would have yielded even more foreground and background resolution. An abundance of surface textures were evident enough for detail junkies such as myself, and the overall crispness of the transfer sometimes made me forget it was not anamorphic. Shadow detail was spot on, which came in handy for the darker scenes in the Arizona desert, and blacks were solid.

    Being a recent film, it is no surprise that colours were bold and consistent throughout the feature, with natural skin tones and no colour bleed or oversaturation. Shots of Las Vegas neon tend to thrive on celluloid and digital video; this film was no exception.

    A few white specks were the only typical film artefacts I noticed. At 36:13 an unusual glitch occurs when the lower two thirds of the frame overlaps part of the upper frame. At first I thought that dust had caused an MPEG snag, but after examining the problem area, which happens during the body part burial sequence, there is no doubt that the bung frame was encoded as is from the source. Some mild aliasing and film grain is also present, though neither is distracting. Overall, this is an excellent single-layer, 4x3 transfer.

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

Audio

    The energetic Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack helps to offset the lack of 16x9 video enhancement.

    The numerous screaming matches between our traumatized thirty-somethings are delivered effortlessly by the centre channel. Normal dialogue was also easy to understand, although ADR was obvious in places. Distortion and synchronization were no problem.

    The original music score by Stewart Copeland, together with the chosen bluesy rock songs, only left a vague impression on me the first I watched the movie, so I cleared some time from my busy schedule to reappraise this aspect of the film. Overall the music was well rendered, with special attention paid to separation across the front stage and keeping everything at the appropriate volume. Bass was generous, and the rears chipped in to pull the melodies toward the viewer. This is a good score to play loud!

    As the boys struggled to retain their sanity, the surround channels were exploited well to advance the derangement quotient. Sudden left-right, front-back 'growl' pans had the desired shock effect, giving the satellite speakers and subwoofer a trouncing. Actually, the excellent dynamic range lends punch to all aspects of the soundtrack. Foley effects in particular were prominent in the mix and well imaged.

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

Extras

Menus

    A simple no-frills menu design.

Dolby Digital Temple Trailer

    This is my favourite Dolby Digital trailer. As always, it reminded me of why I spent all that money on the sound system.

Theatrical Trailer (1:09)

    Full-frame with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Represents the movie well.

Talent Profiles (8)

    Filmographies are included for Cameron Diaz, Jon Favreau, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Leland Orser, Jeremy Piven, Daniel Stern, Christian Slater, and writer/directer Peter Berg, who has had several acting roles in the past, most notably in the marvellous Cop Land.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 4 version of this DVD misses out on:     This clearly makes the Region 1 NTSC DVD a better choice over the Region 4 DVD, if the extra cost of importation is not an issue. Along with higher resolution, the NTSC disc runs at the correct speed, thereby presenting the scene timing and soundtrack as it was intended. The Dolby Digital 2.0 track may also be a drawcard for some.

    Update 18/6/2008: According to site reader "ANU", Flashback Entertainment now distribute this title locally with a 1.33:1 ratio transfer and 2.0 audio, as opposed to the 5.1 track on the old Columbia Tri-Star platter.

Summary

    My flatmate liked Very Bad Things, although his girlfriend said it was "just dumb". I thought three or four scenes were outstanding, with my favourite being the brilliant David Lynch-inspired epilogue. In fact, if Davey Lynch had written and directed Very Bad Things it would have been more to my taste. The entire cast is suitably manic, and the grisly moments should appease those of you who can see the funny side of homicide. I certainly can, but as I said, a degree of elegance and restraint would have produced a more substantial experience.

    Columbia Tristar have spared some expense with the video transfer, which is not 16x9 enhanced, while the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is better than the movie deserves. Considering the superficial nature of the story, Very Bad Things is definitely a try before you buy DVD.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Rod Williams (Suss out my biography if you dare)
Friday, September 01, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDMarantz DV-7000 (European model), using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Ergo (81cm). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderDenon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital decoder.
AmplificationArcam AV50 5 x 50W amplifier
SpeakersFront: ALR/Jordan Entry 5M, Centre: ALR/Jordan 4M, Rear: ALR/Jordan Entry 2M, Subwoofer: B&W ASW-1000 (active)

Other Reviews NONE
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Flashback? - A.N.U (read my bio) REPLY POSTED