Joe's Apartment (1996)

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Released 14-Oct-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1996
Running Time 76:35
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By John Payson
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Jerry O'Connell
Megan Ward
Billy West
Reginald Hudlin
Jim Turner
Robert Vaughn
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $14.95 Music Carter Burwell
Kevin Weist


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English 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

    Back in the mid nineties, music company Geffen decided to move into film. "Hip" television channel MTV decided that sounded like a good idea, and before we knew it, Geffen Pictures were releasing MTV's first ever movie. History will show that Geffen's foray into movies was short lived (about 4 films through '96 and '97), as the head of Geffen moved on to be the 'G' in "Dreamworks SKG". MTV films have scarcely fared any better, with each of their theatrical releases coming under severe fire from the critics. But back to 1996, and to MTV's first film. For their first release, MTV turned to a successful short "film" (all of two minutes in length) that originally aired on the MTV network some four years earlier and had gained a cult following. They asked director John Payson to extend his short to feature length, and so Joe's Apt. went from two minutes to eighty, and Joe's Apartment was born.

    So what is Joe's Apartment about? In a word - cockroaches. Lots of cockroaches. The "hero" of the story is a loser from Iowa by the name of Joe (Jerry O'Connell), who moves to New York City after graduating from college, only to find that getting a job is hard, and locating an apartment he can afford is even harder. Eventually, and through a certain amount of luck, he finds his very own place, and moves in. He has barely been there thirty seconds when he finds the first sign of cockroaches, but for a wonder, they don't bother him and he goes on with his life. It is only after his landlords attempt to do him in, and he is rescued by the cockroaches, that he begins to think things might be somewhat amiss. Despite their best intentions, the friendly cockies - who not only talk, but sing and even dance - end up taking Joe to the edge, but when they eventually realise what they've done, no one can stand in the way of the cockroach army that is determined to set Joe's life right.

    This film is far from perfect, and the largest problem is that in stretching a 2 minute short into an 80 minute feature, the detail was not also expanded. The result is a simplicity of plot - the events in the film seem like a collection of scenes more than a coherent story - that serves to make the film a little on the slow side. The look of the characters is also quite strange, with Jerry O'Connell sporting the most ridiculous floppy hairdo, and Megan Ward, who plays love interest Lily, looking decidedly average (and based on some of her other work, with any sort of care, she can look far better than average). Finally, the film ends up having a one-joke feel, as the singing, dancing, cockroaches clearly take centre stage, with all else given a secondary feel.

    Despite these problems, and in some cases, because of them, this film is a good fun watch that can be enjoyed in "switch off the brain" mode. Cult status beckons, and those who can put up with the lack of humour diversity (it really is pretty much one joke stretched for 80 minutes) will get quite a kick out of rooting for the cockroaches and their buddy Joe. Those not so easily amused be warned however - this film is probably not for you. For the cockroach fetishists and those who don't like to think in front of their movies, Warners decision to release this as part of their new budget range will be appreciated.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer presented for Joe's Apartment is certainly not of the highest quality, but for a movie you can pick up brand new for well under $15, it isn't all that bad either.

    Presented at close to the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, this transfer is at 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. The small adjustment to the original ratio is likely to go unnoticed.

    Sharpness is not all that wonderful, and the transfer is quite soft overall. It is not to the point of being difficult to make out the necessary actions, but some fine detail is obscured. There is a constantly high level of background grain, but it never really becomes overpowering, apart from during the opening sequence between 0:30 and 2:10, where much of the footage contains open sky. Shadow detail is likewise lacking slightly, not lending much depth to the darker scenes, resulting in pools of flat murkiness from time to time, although never to the point of being a problem. There is no low level noise present.

    Colours are slightly washed out, but not too bad. The green of the gardens comes across nicely, while the browns and oranges of the cockroaches are enough to make them squeamish to look at. The colours are not helped by the mostly drab grey colouring of the environs in which this movie takes place - it makes you thankful to live in a country where open space is not at a premium, even in the cities.

    Compression artefacts are restricted to some slight pixelization on the opening grain, with no other problems. Aliasing is almost non-existent, and what is there goes by largely without notice. Film artefacts do crop up from time to time, such as at 34:15, but are generally infrequent enough not to be a problem.

    The subtitles are quite comprehensive, and follow the spoken word quite closely, only rarely abbreviating. The only real criticism is that they are rather small, so some may find them difficult to make out.

    This is a single layered disc, and therefore does not contain a layer change.

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

Audio

    The audio may only be two channel, but despite that restriction, it is still more than sufficient for the film.

    This disc contains one solitary audio track - the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround. The track is flagged as surround-encoded, and definitely benefits from having it enabled.

    Dialogue is generally clear and easy to understand at all times. On a few occasions some of the cockroach dialogue becomes a little difficult to make out, but this is more due to the nature of the dialogue than any fault in the soundtrack itself. Audio sync is also generally good, although does slip out on a few occasions, such as at 30:15.

    The music is a combination of score music, credited to Carter Burwell (with some help from Moby), contemporary songs, and cockroach songs (from Kevin Weist). It is a generally effective mix, although the full song-and-dance numbers carried out by the cockroaches are at times quite bizarre.

    Surround activity is very low, only occasionally coming to life with audio content, mostly from cockroach activity. In general, centralisation of dialogue is the main benefit of enabling surround processing (although that is a very good benefit).

    The subwoofer only receives re-directed bass, and there is not an enormous amount of that to go around. It rumbles to life from time to time but generally stays dormant.

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

Extras

    Suiting the "budget" range into which this DVD has been released, there are no extras at all on this disc. For the price it's hard to see the lack of extras as a disappointment.

Menu

    The menu is 16x9 enhanced, static, and features a "standard" Warners menu with an image of the movie in the background.

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 disc misses out on;     The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     As the Region 1 version of this disc is apparently 1.33:1 full frame, our disc is the hands-down winner. Combine that with the bargain-basement price, and we're onto a good thing (well, if singing cockroaches tickles your fancy anyway).

Summary

    This is a good, fun, movie about singing, dancing cockroaches, and their pal named Joe. Not entirely for the squeamish, but worthy of cult status if nothing else.

    The video quality is average, but it is more than watchable with a 16x9 enhanced transfer, and is probably better than this film deserves.

    The audio transfer is never going to set your home theatre alight, but it is perfectly serviceable, and provides well enough for the needs of the movie.

    There are no extras. At all. Well, unless you count the low, low, retail price of this DVD.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Wednesday, October 22, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-555K, using Component output
DisplayLoewe Xelos 5381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersRochester Audio Animato Series (2xSAF-02, SAC-02, 3xSAB-01) + 12" Sub (150WRMS)

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