Man on the Moon (1999)

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Released 22-Nov-2000

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio
Featurette-Spotlight On Location
Deleted Scenes
Music Video-R.E.M. - Man On The Moon
Music Video-R.E.M. - The Great Beyond
Biographies-Character-Andy Kaufman
Theatrical Trailer
Production Notes
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1999
Running Time 102:19 (Case: 172)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (92:19) Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By Milos Forman
Studio
Distributor

Magna Home Entertainment
Starring Jim Carrey
Danny DeVito
Courtney Love
Paul Giamatti
Case Click
RPI $34.95 Music R.E.M.


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

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

Plot Synopsis

    Speaking of films that nobody saw...

    I've been a Milos Forman fan for some time now, considering his Mozart biopic Amadeus one of the best of the breed. It appears Forman got a taste for the biopic back in '84, because barring his Dangerous Liaisons-wannabe, Valmont, he's delivered nothing but biopics since!

    I'm sure a lot of people caught The People vs Larry Flint in one form or another (hey, it's about porn!), but Man On The Moon depicts the life story of Andy Kaufman, a cult comedian very few Australians would have even heard of, let alone want to see a film about; perhaps this explains why it came and went in our cinemas so quickly. I'm sure Kaufman himself would have been pleased to see the film sink quickly from view - he always fought against appealing to the lowest common denominator in his own act!

    Many consider Andy Kaufman to be one of the first true performance artists, a man willing to challenge his audience to think for themselves, to ask themselves, 'Why am I here? Is this funny? Am I being entertained?' To this end, he would pull stunts no sane stand-up would consider attempting, such as leading the audience in a rousing rendition of '100 Green Bottles Hanging On The Wall', and not stopping. On one occasion he spent ten minutes lying motionless in a sleeping bag on stage. Always seeking to push himself and his audience to new levels, never willing to go for the safe path and the easy gag, he was one of the most daring performers in history.

    His invented character, Foreign Man, was an ingenious concept; in essence Kaufman impersonated another comedian, an extremely poor one. In fact, the humour didn't lie in the terrible jokes that Foreign Man delivered, it was in his nervousness and stage fright - in essence, seeing a performer die onstage, deliberately. Kaufman could then turn on a dime to deliver a perfect impersonation of Elvis Presley that the King himself declared his favourite.

    Kaufman's Foreign Man shtick led to a hosting gig on the legendary show Saturday Night Live, which encouraged ABC studio execs to offer him a leading role in the seminal US sitcom Taxi, which also boosted the profile of such stars as Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd, Tony Danza and Carol Kane. However, his onset eccentricity and public dissatisfaction with the show won him no favours, and his career went into decline after the series was finally cancelled.

    With such a unique subject and the involvement of so many people who worked and lived with the man, this film could have been a revelation. Sadly, the creative team seemed happy to follow the basic biopic formula, documenting dramatic career points while never attempting to explore the mind of Kaufman himself. What made him choose the path he did? Was he actually mentally unhinged, as some who worked with him speculated? What was he striving for, and what was his formula for achieving it? The film is so flimsy on details that you're never quite sure how such a scattershot talent could credibly land the roles he did. Still, performances are good, especially Jim Carrey's remarkably accurate portrayal of Kaufman.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    The original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is preserved, with 16x9 Enhancement.

    Milos Forman is a big fan of the Panavision process, and this is a serviceable, although not spectacular-looking film. This was the first Magna Pacific title I've seen, so I was interested to see what the picture quality was like, and fortunately they appear to be using competent technical folk. Picture detail is as you would expect from a recent transfer. Contrast and shadows are fine, and while the picture has slight grain, it's very filmic and natural in quality and never disturbed me.

    Colour is natural and well-saturated.

    There were no film artefacts to be seen, and MPEG artefacting was so minor as to be inconsequential. Aliasing was noticeable in one or two places, but it wasn't a major concern.

    The disc is RSDL-formatted. The layer change (at 92:19) is rotten. Note to disc authors - never program a layer change during a dissolve! It was noticeable on my fast DVD-ROM, and I can only imagine that it would be quite jarring to a viewer with a more leisurely DVD player, especially given the context of the scene.

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

Audio

    For a change, this disc contains only one soundtrack, rather than the 18,000 you get on most discs (including Hindu, Klingon and Northern Wolfskink). It's a standard 90s-drama 5.1 channel English Dolby Digital mix.

    Dialogue is clear, natural and intelligible throughout, which is fortunate, because the disc contains no subtitles!

    Audio sync is generally fine, although a trace of lip flap was noticed early on in the piece where the young Kaufman is being reprimanded by his father. This appears to be a source problem rather than a transfer issue, as it vanishes when the scene changes.

    The soundtrack is by the mega-huge band, R.E.M., and pretty much consists of reworkings of the songs Man On The Moon (which is mostly about Kaufman) and The Great Beyond. They serve their purpose, but this isn't a soundtrack that will find a place in your memory.

    The surrounds are used quite minimally, as you'd expect for drama. This is no demo disc, although a few key scenes do make a token effort to draw you into a scene, in particular Kaufman's career as the world's greatest Inter-Gender Wrestling Champion (yep, he only wrestled women).

    The LFE channel is used so sparingly that you could probably lend your sub to your DJ friend without missing out on much.

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

Extras

    Magna Pacific could have really gone to town here. Considering the film is about a real guy, who did a lot of work for television, it really wouldn't have been much of an effort to dig out some archival footage to explain to us poor Australians why this schmuck is so highly regarded by those in the know. But, sadly, this wasn't to be.

Menu

    Yay! Music and stuff! Tasteful, stylish.. a good beginning.

Spotlight On Location

    Yawn. A standard Universal puff piece that does nothing to educate the viewer. Serious opportunities were wasted here, as I've mentioned. It's utterly frustrating when you realize that Bob Zmuda, Kaufman's writing partner, and George Shapiro, his manager, were both involved in the making of the film, yet this extended commercial gives them no time to reminisce about their time with him whatsoever. You won't watch this twice.

Theatrical Trailer

    Presented in non 16x9-enhanced, 1.85:1 video, and with the glaring defect of only the front right speaker producing sound.

Deleted Scenes

    These don't really add anything of interest to the film, basically being extensions or repetitions of other scenes in the film. One of the more interesting ones shows Kaufman and Zmuda destroying his Foreign Man character on stage, essentially informing the audience that the routine they came to see was old and hackneyed, and no longer of any interest to them.

Music Videos

    Surely everybody likes R.E.M? Well, if not, skip these two videos. The Man On The Moon clip shows a tiny bit of Kaufman archival footage, which is more than you can say for the rest of the extras. The Great Beyond is a far more conventional clip.

Andy Notes, Production Notes and Cast & Filmmakers Biographies

    Basic information, along the same kind of lines as we've come to expect.

R4 vs R1

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

    The only real difference worth noting here (unless you speak French) is the inclusion of a DTS soundtrack on the R1 version. If a DTS version of a dialogue-focussed film twists your dial, go for it. The rest of us will be happy with the local edition.

Summary

    Like the man himself, this is a film that doesn't deal all of its cards to the audience. Definitely worth a viewing, but I would expect its audience to be somewhat limited.

    Video and audio quality are both fine, but not of demo quality.

    I found the extras disappointing.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Paul Dossett (read my bio here or check out my music at MP3.com.)
Friday, November 17, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer 103S DVD-ROM with Hollywood Plus decoder card, using S-Video output
DisplayMitsubishi DiVA (78cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationYamaha DSP-A1
SpeakersFront L/R: Richter Excalibur SE, Centre: Richter Unicorn Mk 2, Surrounds: Richter Hydras

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Comments (Add)
Theatrical Trailer - Anonymous
R4 - OOP now??? - Anonymous
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