Alex and Emma (2003)

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Released 14-Jan-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Romantic Comedy Dolby Digital Trailer-Rain
Audio Commentary-Rob Reiner (Director) And Luke Wilson (Actor)
Theatrical Trailer-2:03
DVD Credits-Roadshow
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 91:40
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Rob Reiner
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Luke Wilson
Chino XL
Lobo Sebastian
Rob Reiner
Kate Hudson
Paul Willson
David Paymer
Sophie Marceau
Alexander Wauthier
Leili Kramer
Rip Taylor
Gigi Bermingham
Jordan Lund
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $39.95 Music Marc Shaiman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (320Kb/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 for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Alex Sheldon (Luke Wilson) has writer's block. He is also a fool. Bad enough that he has thrown away his $75 000 advance betting on greyhounds, but he has borrowed money from Cuban loan sharks and lost that as well. A pair of well-muscled men come to his crumby apartment and explain to him that they would like to get the $50 000 that he owes them. Dangling him out the window gets his attention. Setting fire to his laptop (it happens to be a Fujitsu laptop — I recognise the design) emphasises their point. Alex offers them $100 000 in 30 days, and they graciously accept his offer. Alex knows he will get $125 000 when he hands in the manuscript for his next book. So all he needs is to finish the book. Easy enough, except that he's stuck on the first sentence...

    Having lost his laptop, he can't type the book himself. He hires a stenographer, and Emma Dinsmore (Kate Hudson) shows up. She is extremely dubious about working for a dishevelled young man in his apartment, but agrees to give it a try. Alex starts dictating his book.

    The style of this film is rather interesting, because we get to see the story in the book, featuring Polina Delacroix (Sophie Marceau), John Shaw (David Paymer), Adam Shipley (Luke Wilson), and Polina's au pair (Kate Hudson, repeatedly). The scenes from the book are interleaved with real life, mostly featuring Alex and Emma discussing what is happening in the book. Emma is frequently unimpressed with Alex's writing (for that matter, so am I). Her comments on his writing, although caustically phrased, help Alex to shape his novel.

    Emma is a really nice person — she's well-spoken, she's smart, she's capable, and I have absolutely no idea why she's working as a stenographer. Alex, on the other hand, is something of a loser, even a jerk. He lacks the guts to express his feelings openly. And I really dislike his stupidity with regard to gambling, his belief that he can make his life better by winning large sums of money. He's not a good writer. And his Flamenco dancing is appalling.

    One thing I considered a flaw in the film: why would a telegram from Paris to a Frenchwoman be written in English? Then again, maybe that is an indication of Alex's sloppy writing?

    In the commentary, Rob Reiner notes with some amusement that in the other film that he has made about a writer, Misery, the writer's name is Paul Sheldon. In this film about a writer the writer's name is Alex Sheldon. Maybe one day he'll make a film about a writer called Sidney Sheldon? Particularly amusing when Rob Reiner is playing the publisher in this film.

    This will never rate as my favourite Rob Reiner film. The Princess Bride holds that slot as the moment. Other people might nominate When Harry Met Sally. I also enjoy The American President, Stand By Me, and This is Spinal Tap. Still, coming in after a list like that is no shame. This one will do nicely to fill in the gap until his next really good film. It's an enjoyable romantic comedy.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This DVD is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and is 16x9 enhanced. I'm fairly sure that the original aspect ratio was 1.85:1, so this is close.

    The picture is clear, but not especially sharp; indeed, the sharpness is a little variable. Shadow detail is mostly very good (see, however, the scene in the cafe around 76:22). Film grain, although occasionally just visible, is no problem. There is no low-level noise. There is some visible edge enhancement at times, but it never reaches annoying levels.

    Colour is very well rendered. The scenes in the book are colour-timed to a more golden palette, emphasising the fantasy world. The real world, by contrast, is cooler and bluer. This helps keep things straight. There are no colour-related artefacts.

    It's a little disappointing that a film made this year shows a few film artefacts, even if they are small. Have a look at the tiny white spot at 76:31, for example. Still, you have to be a perfectionist to complain.

    There are tiny touches of aliasing, and minor moiré on Alex's herringbone jacket, but neither is distracting. There are no MPEG artefacts.

    The only subtitles are English for the Hearing Impaired. They are reasonably accurate (I spotted one or two strange rewordings), well-timed, and easy to read.

    The disc is single sided and single layered; meaning there is no layer change. This film fits comfortably onto the one layer.

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

Audio

    There are two audio tracks; there's the soundtrack in English Dolby Digital 5.1 (at 448kbps), plus the commentary in English Dolby Digital 2.0 not surround encoded, at a surprisingly high 320kbps.

    The dialogue is clear and easy to understand, although parts of the conversation in the restaurant sound very obviously ADRed (Luke Wilson's voice is muffled). There are a few minor lapses in audio sync, but you have to watch very closely to see them.

    The score, from Marc Shaiman, is excellent at supporting the action. The theme song sung by Norah Jones, Those Sweet Words, gets two outings, one during the movie, and one under the closing credits.

    This is an extremely frontal soundtrack, with almost nothing noticeable from the surround speakers. Surprisingly, the subwoofer gets a near continuous low-level signal, doing a nice job of supporting the bass register, but so well-integrated that I had to keep an eye on it to see that it was being used.

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

Extras

Menu

    The menu is static and silent, but easy to operate.

Theatrical Trailer (2:03)

    This is a nice trailer, one that makes the movie sound better than it is. It is filled with spoilers, so don't watch it before seeing the film.

Commentary: director Rob Reiner and actor Luke Wilson

    Not the greatest commentary of all time, but fairly entertaining. Both have plenty to say, and there are few gaps in the commentary. There's not a lot of technical content, but it is interesting to learn some of what happened on-set and off. Rob Reiner points out a number of ideas that he has stolen from his previous films, but he doesn't mention all of them (such as a woman who reads the last page of a book first).

R4 vs R1

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

    This film is available in Region 1 in both full-screen (for the wide-screen challenged — one gathers there are more of those in the US), and in wide-screen. Their wide-screen version has the same features as this disc, except that it includes a French soundtrack and French and Spanish subtitles. The bad thing is that, being a Warners release, the Region 1 disc is in a snapper case. Pass! I'll forego the French and Spanish and get a nice transparent Amaray case, thanks.

Summary

    A pleasant romantic comedy presented rather nicely on DVD.

    The video quality is quite good.

    The audio quality is very good, albeit frontal.

    The extras are few, but do include my favourite, a commentary.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Monday, January 12, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, 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, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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