Powder (1995)

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Released 23-Sep-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Fantasy None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1995
Running Time 107:07
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (74:45) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Victor Salva
Studio
Distributor

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Mary Steenburgen
Sean Patrick Flanery
Lance Henriksen
Jeff Goldblum
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $24.95 Music Jerry Goldsmith


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
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
French
Spanish
Portuguese
Dutch
Swedish
Norwegian
Danish
Finnish
French Titling
Spanish Titling
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    There are distinctly messianic undertones to Powder, a story of a lost and remarkably gifted outsider who has much to offer an insensitive and rigid world.

    Our lead character, Jeremy Reed, more commonly known as Powder (Sean Patrick Flanery), is a photophobic albino, discovered cowering in a dingy basement of a farmhouse, his deceased grandfather upstairs in the kitchen. The director of a local boys' home, Jess (Mary Steenburgen), enters his world and discovers quickly that this is a remarkable and mysterious human being. With no one else to care for him, and the farm under probate, Jess coaxes him from the only place he ever knew refuge and thrusts him into the harsh world of everyday reality in a small town.

     Not only does he look decidedly different, there are certain abilities and qualities that Powder possesses that are far beyond the ken of most mere mortals, a fact quickly recognised by his high school science teacher (played in his inimitably quirky style by Jeff Goldblum), and more slowly understood by others, including the local sheriff (Lance Henriksen).

     What ensues is a relatively metred piece of film making, exploring our human incapacity to accept anyone who is different from the norm, and to some extent, the experience of those who live outside the "acceptable" boundaries. Powder endures all the insecurities, fears and shunnings that we as a species seem to habitually endow upon anyone who is different, and the film points at the potential lost when our boundaries of acceptability are too narrow.

     It is a slick little piece, perhaps a little burdened with clichés, that frequently points to the director Victor Salva's roots in thriller/horror films. These visual references stop the film from becoming too saccharine and help to build tension effectively. Unfortunately, his previous films weren't the only aspect of the director's past that shadowed him into this film, but I shall allow you the dignity of finding out that information on your own, rather than stating it here to cloud the objective appraisal of the film.

     All in all, I found Powder to be a nobly intended piece of film-making, superior to much of the "outsider" genre. Occasionally the more philosophical elements of the script came across a little self-consciously, but it's a hard ask in a Disney-based movie to extemporise to any great extent. The plot was generally plausible (although Powder's photosensitivity seemed to vary somewhat), the acting was comparatively understated and its thematic desire for all of us to become a little more accepting and honest was nobly intended.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced, and is true to its cinematic ratio.

     Overall, I found this transfer a tad soft with the shadow detail somewhat murky on occasions. There was a mild amount of low level noise which made the film appear a little one-dimensional at times, and this also affected the smoothness of panning shots, which occasionally were a little short on resolution. Grain levels were generally good although at their most obvious in large light areas. There were occasions where light halation was quite distinct. Whilst it may have been deliberate at 9:00, it certainly wouldn't have been a directorial decision at 18:22, but it was relatively occasional and only a minor annoyance.

     The colours were apparently deliberately muted with a generally grey palette, which made the occasionally brightly lit scenes such as at 46:17 a rare treat. The skin tones played accurately and overall the colours stayed where they belonged, with just occasional edge enhancement.

     There was occasional aliasing to be found, for example at 41:52, 58:50 and 84:23, but overall it was not too distracting, probably due to the inherent softness in the print. Some amount of macro blocking led to loss of definition in the background. There are some film artefacts, noticeably at 16:35 and 81:28, but they generally were not too distracting and didn't impede the viewing experience.

     There were subtitles available for this film. I looked at the English ones and they were clean and accurate.

     This disc is an RSDL disc, with the layer change occurring at 74:45 in a manner that was not distracting to the viewer.

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

Audio

     There is one available English speaking soundtrack in Dolby Digital 5.1, plus spoken French and Spanish soundtracks in the same format. I listened briefly to the French and Spanish ones, and their orientation appeared identical to the English speaking one.

     Dialogue was clean and distinct at all times, although occasionally a little "toppy" or shrill, though mostly well modulated. Audio sync remained consistently accurate and presented no problems at all.

     Jerry Goldsmith's score was pretty much typical of this veteran's work. He churns out reliable but unremarkable music that underpins the action clearly and competently mirrors the scene's action.

     The surround channels were used subtlety and effectively, allowing enough ambient sound to fill out the soundscape without becoming a distraction. Similarly, the activity of the subwoofer was pretty much spot on - never over-dominating but serving its purpose effectively.

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

Extras

     There are no extras on this disc.

Menu

     The menu is 16x9 enhanced, silent, non-animated and very straightforward, offering scene selections, set up options and "play."

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;

     So R4 is the winner.

Summary

     Powder is a film that may just catch a little tear in your eye with its themes of alienation and redemption. Overall, it's a stylish and well presented movie that has some fine little moments and noble intent. The video and audio quality are generally not insulting and it may just give you your "hope and wonder" back, as the back cover tells us this story is about.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Mirella Roche-Parker (read my bio)
Monday, December 08, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDSinger SGD-001, using S-Video output
DisplayTeac 76cm Widescreen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationTeac 5.1 integrated system
SpeakersTeac 5.1 integrated system

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Comments (Add)
Powder - European or American release? - perplex REPLY POSTED
16x9 Enhancement - James