Overall | Face/Off: Special Edition (1997) | The Rock: Special Edition (1996) | Snake Eyes (1998) | Con Air: Special Edition (1997)

Nicolas Cage Collection: Collector's Edition (1996)

Nicolas Cage Collection: Collector's Edition (1996)

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Released 4-Aug-2003

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Overall Package

    Four Nicolas Cage movies for $70? That's a bargain in anyone's language. When the movies are John Woo's action masterpiece Face/Off: Special Edition, the great The Rock: Special Edition, the Brian DePalma thriller Snake Eyes and Con Air: Special Edition, this seems almost too good to be true.

    The Nicolas Cage Collection: Collector's Edition is simply a box set of the four above previously released DVDs. It is presented in a slip case with separate Amaray cases for each movie, identical to their retail packaging save for the removal of the individual bar codes on the slicks. This has always been my preferred packaging for box sets, despite the relatively large amount of storage shelf space it takes up, simply from a durability point of view.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Michael Demtschyna (read my bio)
Saturday, January 03, 2004
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AllZone4DVD - Kevin S

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John Woo masterpiece - Johnny Wadd (i am bionic)

Overall | Face/Off: Special Edition (1997) | The Rock: Special Edition (1996) | Snake Eyes (1998) | Con Air: Special Edition (1997)

Face/Off: Special Edition (1997)

Face/Off: Special Edition (1997)

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Released 6-Nov-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Audio & Animation
Theatrical Trailer
Featurette-Action Overload
Biographies-Cast
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1997
Running Time 133:19 (Case: 139)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (79:35) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By John Woo
Studio
Distributor

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring John Travolta
Nicolas Cage
Joan Allen
Gina Gershon
Alessandro Nivola
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $34.95 Music John Powell


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Russian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
French
Italian
German
German for the Hearing Impaired
Spanish
Swedish
Norwegian
Danish
Finnish
Icelandic
Portuguese
Estonian
Smoking Yes, occasionally
Annoying Product Placement Yes, mildly
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    In the mid-1990s, another popular foreign director made his way over to America in order to get his name on some big productions and, hopefully, earn a few dollars in the process. That director goes by the name of John Woo, and his first English-language film was Hard Target, which is hardly what one would call an inspiring start to a new career. Still, after another couple of attempts, he created Face/Off, a memorable piece of work that one IMDB user eloquently describes as being the "greatest action movie ever made, period". I wholeheartedly agree with that assessment, although I would put the word "Hollywood" between the first two words of that statement. Still, given that Hollywood has churned out some memorable pieces of action in its time, that's the kind of endorsement I look for when choosing an evening's visual entertainment.

    The film begins with Castor Troy (Nicholas Cage) getting ready to assassinate Sean Archer (John Travolta), which is a rather callous thing to do when your target is riding on a merry-go-round with his son, Michael (Myles Jeffrey). When Castor takes his shot, he manages to hit Sean in the chest, but the bullet passes through and hits Michael, killing the five-year-old boy and leaving a father with a wound that would normally never heal. From there, we fast forward several years to a time when Castor and his brother, Pollux (Alessandro Nivola) plant a bomb in what looks like a busy shopping centre within Los Angeles. Shortly after this, Sean and his fellow agents at a special service branch attempt to arrest the Troy brothers while they are attempting to fly out of the city, a stunt that leaves six agents dead, and Castor in a deep coma.

    The problem is that Pollux won't talk to anyone besides his brother about the location of the bomb, and the suggestion is made to Sean that he assume Castor's identity via some exceptionally radical surgical procedures. Sean does this, thinking that he can quietly go into the prison and get the information he needs from Pollux, but things go badly awry when Castor awakens with his face missing and a real axe to grind. Soon, while Sean is escaping from a high-tech prison and acquainting himself with Castor's old accomplices, the most important being Sasha Hassler (Gina Gershon), Castor is cavorting with Sean's wife, Eve (Joan Allen), and his daughter, Jamie (Dominique Swain). The question is whether Sean can bring Castor to the justice that Castor deserves, and get his own face back in the bargain.

    Those expecting a standard action film will be quite surprised by the twists and turns that this one takes, and there is a certain depth to it that also works well in its favour. Even when characters die within minutes of being introduced, the film somehow makes viewers care about them, and there definitely isn't any such thing as an easy death here. The special effects used to swap faces, and in some cases to make Nicholas Cage's voice come out of John Travolta's mouth, or vice-versa, are still strong today. The action sequences are amazingly effective, and the climactic sequence in particular is the single most effective chase since the original Mad Max, making this a must-have as far as action films go.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Again, we are dealing with a film that Buena Vista have decided to remaster, presumably due to complaints from local consumers about the original flipper formatting. This new transfer is quite stunning, even without the benefit of comparison to its predecessor.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and it is 16x9 Enhanced.

    This transfer is sharp, so sharp in fact that it makes me sad that not everyone has made the leap into the DVD-Video era, because it simply looks that stunning. The shadow detail is excellent, with plenty of subtle graduations between light and dark in the numerous night-time and low-lit sequences of the film. There is no low-level noise to spoil these rich blacks, either.

    The colours of this film vary between a sort of bright but limited palette in the scenes that take place in outdoor locations, to being quite cold and metallic in the prison sequences. The transfer captures these schemes without missing a beat, and it shows no sign of bleeding or composite artefacts.

    MPEG artefacts were not noticed in this transfer, with the overall image having a very smooth and natural look to it, which is something we can thank the RSDL formatting for. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of a few noticeable instances of aliasing, the worst of which was on the chrome on the side of a car at 114:03. While aliasing was more abundant in this transfer than the last Buena Vista transfer I looked at (Starship Troopers), it was usually just as hard to spot. Film artefacts consisted of a few sizeable marks and hairs on the picture, none of which were truly intrusive, and a slight peppering of smaller white marks through most of the feature.

    The English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles are generally quite accurate to the spoken dialogue, almost being word-for-word all the time, but their placement is quite intrusive. Instrumental music is often accompanied by a pair of notes at the top of the picture, which is somewhat distracting.

    This disc is RSDL formatted, with the layer change taking place during Chapter 25, at 79:35. This is just after Nicolas Cage's infamous dialogue about taking Sean Archer's face off, and while it is quite noticeable, it does not interrupt the flow of the film too badly.



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

Audio

    Matching a video transfer that is a real pleasure to look at is an audio transfer that will demonstrate to friends and family why you invested in a Dolby Digital 5.1 capable receiver.

    There are four soundtracks on this DVD, the first three of which are in Dolby Digital 5.1 with a bitrate of 384 kilobits per second. These are the original English dialogue, a German dub, and a Spanish dub, with a Russian Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded 192 kilobit per second soundtrack for good measure. I listened to the English dialogue.

    The dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times, with none of the usual variances in volume or mumblings to get in the way. There were no problems with audio sync, either. Brief but noticeable pops were heard in the English soundtrack at 13:47, 44:28, and 96:19, which were somewhat distressing because the soundtrack is otherwise of near reference quality.

    The score music in this film is credited to John Powell, and an interesting effort it is, too. The music in a lot of scenes tends to emphasise the more dramatic and emotional subtexts of scenes, such as when the combatants are dealing with certain losses. There are also a number of cues that really get the blood flowing, but the slower, more dramatic ones tend to stand out more. A small amount of contemporary numbers can be heard in this film, but like most contemporary numbers, they are quickly forgotten.

    The surround channels are used quite aggressively at times by this soundtrack, although the usage tends to be somewhat restricted to action sequences or special effects sequences. One of the quieter sequences where the surround channels got a workout came at 38:43, when the voice of the warden can be heard reverberating around the prison walls. The other really notable use of the surround channels starts with the gun battle at 114:03, which continues for an extended period of time. The amount of effects with bullets whizzing around the sound field will keep your Dolby Digital decoder working overtime, I can assure you of that much.

    The subwoofer had a whale of a time supporting the sounds of guns, music, crashing planes, crashing boats, magnetic boots hitting a steel floor, and numerous other effects that are scattered about the film with abandon. It supported all of these things and more without making itself conspicuous, which is quite a feat in and of itself.



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

Extras

    A rather scant collection of extras, but what the hey, it's all about the film.

Menu

    The menu is animated with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, and it is 16x9 Enhanced.

Theatrical Trailer

    A very unusual two-minute theatrical trailer in which John Travolta, in character, explains the central premise of the film before we are treated to a cavalcade of action sequence snippets. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, and it is not 16x9 Enhanced.

Featurette - Action Overload

    This is merely a one-minute collection of pieces from the action sequences of this film, presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. It is not 16x9 Enhanced.

Cast Biographies

    Biographies for John Travolta, Nicolas Cage, Joan Allen, Gina Gershon, and Alessandro Nivola are presented under this menu. Interestingly, John Travolta and Nicolas Cage have their two-page biographies split into different menu options labelled with Good Guy and Bad Guy in brackets beside them. All of the other biographies, save for that of Alessandro Nivola, are two pages in length, but the second pages of Joan Allen's and Gina Gershon's biographies can only be accessed from the first.

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

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;

    There is no compelling difference that makes me recommend the Region 1 version over the Region 4 version.

Summary

    Face/Off is an innovative idea for an action film that is executed in an inspired manner, although the slower, more reflective moments tend to grate on repeat viewings. I personally have no hesitation in recommending it for a night's entertainment, or even several nights worth of entertainment, although I would tend to space my viewings out a little.

    The video transfer is excellent.

    The audio transfer is excellent.

    The extras are somewhat spartan.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Monday, November 12, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using S-Video output
DisplaySamsung CS-823AMF (80cm). Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony STR DE-835
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer

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DVD Net - Martin F (read my bio)

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dialogue clear or not? - REPLY POSTED

Overall | Face/Off: Special Edition (1997) | The Rock: Special Edition (1996) | Snake Eyes (1998) | Con Air: Special Edition (1997)

The Rock: Special Edition (1996)

The Rock: Special Edition (1996)

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Released 6-Nov-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Audio & Animation
Teaser Trailer
Alternate Subtitles-Tour Of The Rock
Featurette
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1996
Running Time 130:56
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (72:09) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Michael Bay
Studio
Distributor

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Sean Connery
Nicolas Cage
Ed Harris
John Spencer
Michael Biehn
William Forsythe
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $34.95 Music Hans Zimmer
Nick Glennie-Smith


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Czech Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Hungarian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/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 English
French
Italian
Dutch
Polish
Czech
Hungarian
Greek
Bulgarian
Croatian
English Information
French Information
Dutch Information
Italian Information
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    The Rock is not a deep and serious study of human interaction. Nor is it a romance, nor a comedy. This is an action film. A fine action film, with a soundtrack designed to allow you to test your sound system (not quite to destruction...). If that doesn't appeal, then I suggest you continue to the next film. If you are interested in action films, then don't pass this one up - it is one of the best.

    The action begins less than 5 minutes into the film; the soundtrack begins before they clear the first logo off the screen. But this is not a mindless action movie - we get introduced to each of the main characters in turn. First, Brigadier General Hummel (Ed Harris), whom we meet as the opening credits roll. As we are meeting him, we meet another of the protagonists - a nasty substance called VX gas; we are left in no doubt as to its properties, because they are demonstrated in gruesome detail by an accident. Second, Stanley Goodspeed (Nicholas Cage), who we meet as he is defusing a nasty little combination of C4 plastic explosive and sarin gas. And in a little while we get to meet John Mason (Sean Connery) - he is brought out of an ultra-high security prison, because they need someone who knows the innards of Alcatraz prison (Alcatraz is "The Rock"), and he is their only choice, as he is the only man ever to escape from Alcatraz (What, you thought no one had escaped? Well, that's what the FBI wanted you to think - conspiracy theory stuff).

    This movie has a plot, which is a feature of only the best action films. Admittedly, most of the plot exists to set up the primary scenario, but it does give depth and motivation to the characters. Our bad guys are not simple evil people - they are honourable men pushed too far. Our good guys are not lily-white, either. This gives more texture to the interactions; gives more meaning to events. Sure, you can see it as good guys versus bad guys, if that's the kind of movie you want to watch, but if you want a little more, there is more.

    I liked the bit lifted from Aliens: a Seal team wearing mini-cams, led by Michael Biehn. There are references to an awful lot of other films, but I'll leave it up to you to spot them - it is much more fun that way.

    All in all, this is one of the best examples of an action film you could ask for.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The picture is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced. Exactly as it should be.

    The image is razor-sharp, and beautiful to look at. Some images are foggy, but I'm convinced that is intentional, part of the interesting lighting effects that Michael Bay has chosen to use. Shadow detail is excellent. There is no low level noise.

    Colour, where appropriate, is strong and well-saturated. There is no colour bleed, and no oversaturation. Quite a bit of the action takes place in low light, but we still get decent colour and clear imagery.

    There are film artefacts, but they are negligible - tiny and not especially noticeable. There are a few fine traces of aliasing (the cost of a razor sharp image), but none of them are exceptionable; perhaps the most noticeable is at 48:06. There are no MPEG artefacts. This is a nice clean transfer.

    There are heaps of subtitles. I checked the English subtitles; they are accurate and easy to read, even though they are placed mostly on the picture, rather than under it. See the extras for details on the second set of English subtitles.

    The disc is single-sided and dual layered, in RSDL format. The layer change is placed at 72:09. The layer change is quite obvious - it is a shame that they spoiled such a great transfer with a bad layer change.

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

Audio

    There are several soundtracks; English, French and Italian in Dolby Digital 5.1, and Czech and Hungarian in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround. I listened to the one in English.

    The dialogue is easy to understand at all times. I could have done with a little less in the way of coarse language, but it seems to be symptomatic of American action films of this vintage, so I guess we don't get a lot of choice. There are no visible audio sync problems.

    The score is fabulous - it is part of what makes this movie a great experience. It is credited to Nick Glennie-Smith and Hans Zimmer, but I think a lot of the credit is due to Hans Zimmer - it is involving, exciting, and drives the movie forward. Really good stuff.

    The soundtrack uses the surround speakers continuously for score, and intermittently for directional effects, and very good directional effects they are. The subwoofer gets plenty to do, too.

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

Extras

Menu

    The menus are animated with music, and are well-themed to the movie. The transitions between menus are cool, but the accompanying sound is a little too loud.

Teaser Trailer (3:08)

    Rather fun, but, as usual, it gives away one or two plot points.

Featurette (5:00)

    Not very long - more an extended trailer with some behind-the-scenes footage than a real featurette.

Tour The Rock

    This is the coolest extra. It switches on a different subtitle track. The subtitles are filled with (mostly) entertaining snippets. Some are information about Alcatraz (as advertised in the title of the extra), but many of them relate to the actors and other films they have been in. If you don't need the subtitles to understand the dialogue, then I suggest you consider turning this on before viewing - it's fun.

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

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

    This is complicated. The Rock has been released in Region 1 at least twice. The best Region 1 version is part of the Criterion Collection - it is a two disc set. The video transfer on the Criterion edition is of equal quality to this one, although it is a touch darker. The Criterion edition has nothing but English (soundtracks and subtitles) - this version has lots of languages. The only other thing this one has that the Criterion edition doesn't is the Tour The Rock subtitle track.

    The Criterion version has (in addition to the features of this disc):

    That's a lot, but apart from the dts soundtrack, none of it affects the experience of the movie itself. The Criterion edition is expensive. If you want the most detailed background to the movie, then I have to recommend the Criterion version (even though it doesn't have the extra subtitle track). I suppose you could always get both the Criterion and this Region 4. On the other hand, if you are primarily interested in the movie, then this Region 4 version is the obvious choice - much cheaper. One thing I must say: do not buy the earlier editions - the quality is not up to this standard.

Summary

    The Rock is an exciting movie, presented brilliantly on DVD.

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio quality is superb.

    The extras are not bad, but nothing like the Criterion edition.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Saturday, November 17, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDArcam DV88, 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 and Right: Krix Euphonix, Centre: Krix KDX-C Rears: Krix KDX-M, Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Robert M

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R2 Version -
R2 Version is cut. -
R2 cuts have been restored in special edition -

Overall | Face/Off: Special Edition (1997) | The Rock: Special Edition (1996) | Snake Eyes (1998) | Con Air: Special Edition (1997)

Snake Eyes (1998)

Snake Eyes (1998)

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Released 12-Jul-1999

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1998
Running Time 94:30
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (70:03) Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Brian De Palma
Studio
Distributor

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Nicolas Cage
Gary Sinise
John Heard
Carla Gugino
Stan Shaw
Kevin Dunn
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $34.95 Music Ryuichi Sakamoto


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/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 English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Snake Eyes is a thriller starring Nicolas Cage as a flamboyant (and corrupt) Atlantic City police officer, Rick Santoro. A heavyweight prize fight is the setting for the assassination of the secretary of the Department of Defence. But who is responsible, and why? There are many suspects, including the chief security officer assigned to protect the politician, Kevin Dunne (Gary Sinise), who incidentally is also Rick's best friend.

    This thriller works by flashing us back to the events surrounding the assassination utilizing different points of view as more and more information is revealed. It has its moments, but basically never quite becomes believable, so it fails to develop much more than a modicum of tension.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This transfer is exemplary, and is nearly perfect. It is of reference quality.

    The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. It is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer was extremely sharp and very clear. There was a lot of rapid camera panning, and subsequent motion blur, but this appeared to be inherent in the print rather than a fault with the transfer. Much of this movie was shot in darkness or in low lighting conditions, and it is fortunate, therefore, that the shadow detail of this transfer was very good, allowing a lot of detail to remain in the picture. There was no low level noise.

    The colours were well presented, even though somewhat on the muted side.

    No MPEG artefacts were seen. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some very minor aliasing, but this really was minor. Potential severe aliasing candidates were spread throughout this movie, and virtually none of them shimmered at all. The ones that did, did so subtly instead of harshly. Film artefacts went unnoticed.

    This disc is an RSDL disc, with the layer change placed within Chapter 9, at 70:03. It is slightly disruptive, but certainly beats getting up to turn the disc over, as has been the case with so many Buena Vista titles of late.

    There is only one set of subtitles on this disc, English for the Hard of Hearing.

Audio

    There is only a single audio track on this DVD; an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack.

    Dialogue was a little hard to understand at times, especially early on in the movie where it sounded somewhat muffled.

    There were no audio sync problems with this disc.

    The musical score was by Ryuichi Sakamoto and was singularly unremarkable.

    The surround channels were used moderately aggressively, especially during the fight, where crowd sounds were placed throughout the entire sound field. Overall, however, this soundtrack was not particularly enveloping.

    The .1 channel was used occasionally to augment the special effects, but was not worked hard by this soundtrack.

Extras

    There are no extras on this disc.

Menu

    The main menu is plain and functional.

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;     The Region 1 version of this DVD misses out on;

    The Region 4 version of this DVD is the clear winner because of its 16x9 enhancement.

Summary

    Snake Eyes is a somewhat ho hum thriller. I suggest you rent this disc before you purchase it.

    The video quality is exceptional, and is of reference quality. Because it is 16x9 enhanced, it is superior to the Region 1 version of this disc.

    The audio quality is passable without being remarkable.

    The extras are non-existent.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Michael Demtschyna (read my bio)
Thursday, July 15, 1999
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-505, using S-Video output
DisplayLoewe Art-95 (95cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderDenon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital decoder. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.
Amplification2 x EA Playmaster 100W per channel stereo amplifiers for Left, Right, Left Rear and Right Rear; Philips 360 50W per channel stereo amplifier for Centre and Subwoofer
SpeakersPhilips S2000 speakers for Left, Right; Polk Audio CS-100 Centre Speaker; Apex AS-123 speakers for Left Rear and Right Rear; Yamaha B100-115SE subwoofer

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Vincent C

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Overall | Face/Off: Special Edition (1997) | The Rock: Special Edition (1996) | Snake Eyes (1998) | Con Air: Special Edition (1997)

Con Air: Special Edition (1997)

Con Air: Special Edition (1997)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 6-Nov-2001

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Audio & Animation
Theatrical Trailer
Featurette-The Destruction Of Las Vegas
Featurette-View From Above
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1997
Running Time 110:37 (Case: 115)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (59:44) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Simon West
Studio
Distributor

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Nicolas Cage
John Cusack
John Malkovich
Steve Buscemi
Ving Rhames
Colm Meaney
Mykelti Williamson
Rachel Ticotin
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $34.95 Music Mark Mancina
Trevor Rabin


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Russian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
French
Italian
German
Spanish
Swedish
Norwegian
Danish
Finnish
Icelandic
Portuguese
Hebrew
Greek
Estonian
Smoking Yes, occasionally
Annoying Product Placement Yes, mildly
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    It's funny how viewing habits tend to go in cycles. After bursting back onto the Region 4 review scene with reviews of discs bearing a fiendishly clever piece of political satire and an action slaughterfest with a deep-and-meaningful about identity, I thought it would be nice to sit down and look at a disc bearing a film that is well-noted for having no brains and little heart. That film, naturally, is Con Air, another fine example of Jerry Bruckheimer's noted penchant for creating films with more explosions and loud noises than the Gulf War, yet spending maybe one red cent on the screenplay.

    The film begins with Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage) visiting his wife, Tricia (Monica Potter) at her place of work, which happens to be a crappy old diner in a rest stop for truck drivers and the like. After being set upon by three thugs who took offence to Cameron taking offence to them insulting his wife, he puts up such a fight that it ends with one dead thug and two who look a bit the worse for wear. In an astounding case of things not going the way they normally would in the American court system, Cameron is sentenced to a few years in prison, at which point we fast forward to his release date. In another contradiction of normal procedure, Cameron is put aboard Con Air, a military transport that is used by the prison system to transport its hardest convicts.

    Whilst there, we are introduced to such one-dimensional characters as Guard Sally Bishop (Rachel Ticotin), Nathan "Diamond Dog" Jones (Ving Rhames), Johnny Baca (Danny Trejo), Garland "The Marietta Mangler" Greene (Steve Buscemi), and the toughest, most one-dimensional of all, Cyrus "The Virus" Grissom (John Malkovich). When the convicts effect an outlandish plan to hijack the plane, everything turns into an action film mess with only the most cursory of rhyme or reason. Of course, on the ground we have U.S. Marshal Vince Larkin (John Cusack) fighting with his superiors about what the intentions of the convicts are and how best to deal with them. This is a useful diversion, as it gives us some background information on who the heavies that have taken over the zoo are, and what their intentions would be.

    If this sounds like the sort of big no-brainer action-fest that you'd enjoy for a night's viewing, then please, by all means indulge in this effort. I've even learned to tolerate the glaring factual errors that plague this film (how do you draw insulin out of a vial that is shaped like that?). Those who prefer a little brains or heart and soul in their action-fests are advised to have a look at Grosse Pointe Blank or Face/Off instead.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Once again, Buena Vista Home Entertainment have gone right back to scratch and remastered one of their earliest releases, presumably due to complaints about the cheap and dodgy look of the previous release, complete with that little slip of paper advising the consumer that the disc would work on Region 4 players in spite of being marked as Region 2.

    This transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 with 16x9 Enhancement, essential features for anyone who wants to experience this film in its proper glory.

    The first thing that struck me about this transfer is how smooth and clear the resultant picture was, especially in comparison with the overcompressed haze of the original Region 4 release. I almost had to recheck the logos on the packaging, because this certainly reminded me of one of Columbia Tristar's sterling efforts, the compression was that transparent. The only trade-off of this increased sharpness is an increase in film-to-video artefacts, but I'll get to that in due course. The shadow detail of this film is very good, although not up to the sort of standards I would expect of such a recent film. Very little of this film takes place in darkness, so this is more of an observation than a complaint. There was no low-level noise.

    The colours in Con Air are somewhat contrary to the norm in action films of this kind. Rather than the usual dull, steel-toned look that most hardcore action films tend to emphasise, this film mostly takes place in the day, with the locations being either brightly lit or full of earthy, warm hues. This transfer captures that colour scheme without showing any composite artefacts or other such problems.

    MPEG artefacts were not present in this transfer, a nice change from the original release where compression-related grain was noticeable in any wide expanse of colour. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of numerous instances of aliasing, most of which were borderline acceptable. The two instances of aliasing I found most objectionable came at 67:45, on a barbed-wire fence, and at 76:11, on the side of a small plane. Thankfully, these were the exception rather than the norm, and I'd happily take a sharp-looking picture with a few artefacts of this nature over a blurry, overcompressed picture that has none. Film artefacts were mildly present in this transfer, mostly being small black and white marks on the picture that were not intrusive or distracting.

    The English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles on this disc are very faithful to the dialogue, although their placement is still a little objectionable in my view. Why not just place them within the borders of inactive pixels that are necessary to transfer the whole 2.35:1 film into a 1.78:1 frame? Speaking of subtitles, burned-in ones are present at 19:11 to translate John Malkovich's conversation with Danny Trejo, which is somewhat irritating if you understand enough Spanish to get the gist of what they are talking about.

    This version of Con Air is RSDL formatted, and a great number of the advantages it has over its predecessor can be associated with this fact. The layer change takes place in the middle of Chapter 9 at 59:44, just after Nicolas Cage asks why a certain character couldn't have just put the bunny back in the box.

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

Audio

    Again, just as Buena Vista appear to have redone the video from the ground up, they also appear to have created a whole new audio transfer that shows off the film's aural design like it should have been.

    There are four soundtracks on this DVD, the first three all being Dolby Digital 5.1 efforts with a bitrate of 384 kilobits per second. In order, these are; the original English dialogue in 5.1, a German dub in 5.1, a Spanish dub in 5.1, and a Russian Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded, 192 kilobit per second soundtrack rounding the list off. I listened exclusively to the English soundtrack, mostly due to not having time to compare the others.

    The dialogue is remarkably clear and easy to understand during this film. Several characters shout, scream, mumble, or mutter at many points in the film, and this transfer captures all those variations without a snag, although I may have missed one or two problem areas when I was distracted briefly by the rest of the audience. Suffice it to say that this is as good as it is likely to get for Con Air within the limits of today's technology. There are no discernable problems with audio sync, although I didn't test this disc on any player or device that is noted for accentuating such problems.

    The music in this film is credited to Mark Mancina and Trevor Rabin. One recurring theme in this score is highly percussive and bass-heavy, giving it a sort of oomph that lets you know in no uncertain terms that this is an action film. My favourite pieces of music in this film come at 28:17 and 34:32, and, to be brutally honest, they are my favourites because they make uninteresting establishing shots seem exciting and dramatic. They almost sound like the sort of music that Sergio Leone would have had in his films if the styles and recording equipment had been invented at the time.

    So now, after a lot of waffling about video and other assorted features, I get into one of the most impressive features of this disc. The surround channels are used in an aggressive but inelegant fashion to support music, passing cars, passing planes, bullets, flying hunks of metal, and a squillion other sound effects that keep the Dolby Digital processor working overtime. You certainly wouldn't know that this was a lower bitrate soundtrack from just listening to it, that's for certain. My favourite surround channel uses came when a plane passed overhead at 31:14, and 42:13, as well as when John Cusack drives by in that crappy car at 58:17. By far my favourite example of the surround channel usage was at 39:28, when Cyrus' bomb explodes. The sound of the door flying over John Cusack's head really leaps out in this soundtrack, making this an excellent scene to demonstrate the full capabilities of the format.

    Speaking of that bomb explosion at 39:28, the subwoofer went wild supporting it, as it did at other times in the film when people are either shooting each other or crashing into things. The climactic landing in Las Vegas is a particular highlight of this disc where subwoofer usage is concerned, as is any moment when the previously mentioned pieces of music are present.

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

Extras

    None of these extras were encoded with timing information, so I had to use the stopwatch function of my Casio to ascertain their approximate running times.

Menu

    The main menu is mildly animated and accompanied by Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. It is 16x9 Enhanced.

Theatrical Trailer

    This two minute and twenty second theatrical trailer is presented in an approximate 1.66:1 ratio with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, and it is not 16x9 Enhanced.

Featurette - The Destruction Of Las Vegas

   This is little more than an electronic press kit, prepared for a quick special on Entertainment Tonight or the like, judging by its running length of two minutes and thirty seconds. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, and it is not 16x9 Enhanced.

Featurette - View From Above

    Again, one can picture this piece being used on Entertainment Tonight, although it does run slightly longer at four minutes and thirty seconds. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.66:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, and it is not 16x9 Enhanced.

R4 vs R1

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

    There still only appears to be one edition of Con Air available in Region 1, which is the same edition that I compared the previous release to.

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

   The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    An extra trailer is no substitute for 16x9 Enhancement and a second layer of space, regardless of what anyone says about the video quality. Make mine a Region 4 disc, please.

Summary

    Con Air is a popcorn film, pure and simple, with factual errors the size of a point-blank shotgun wound, as well as some truly insipid characters who deserve everything they get. The saving grace, of course, is some well-executed action sequences and a strident, punchy score, both of which will give your audio setup a good work-out.

    The video transfer is immaculate except for a minor problem with aliasing.

    The audio transfer adds excitement where there was none. It is of reference quality.

    The extras are disappointing.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Friday, November 16, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using S-Video output
DisplaySamsung CS-823AMF (80cm). Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony STR DE-835
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer

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