Little Secrets (2001)

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Released 22-Apr-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Family Main Menu Audio & Animation
Dolby Digital Trailer-City
Audio Commentary-Director and Writer
Featurette-Making Of-11:27
Outtakes-4:46
Theatrical Trailer-1:34
Trailer-Kermit's Swamp Years, Stuart Little 2
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 92:45
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (47:46) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Blair Treu
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Evan Rachel Wood
Michael Angarano
David Gallagher
Vivica A. Fox
Jan Gardner
Rick Macy
Paul Kiernan
Tayva Patch
Micah Schow
Caitlin E.J. Meyer
Landon Kunzelman
Danielle Chuchran
Haley McCormick
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Sam Cardon


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/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
Italian
Spanish
Dutch
Arabic
Czech
Danish
Finnish
Greek
Hebrew
Hungarian
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Swedish
Turkish
Italian Audio Commentary
Spanish Audio Commentary
Dutch Audio Commentary
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

    For some reason (let us not analyse too deeply the disturbing workings of my mind) I thought this was a Hong Kong martial arts flick, so I wasn't exactly prepared for what appeared on the screen as I started reviewing it. I received it on an unlabelled preview disc, so the first warning I got of my misunderstanding came when the menu appeared. Let me clarify things: this is not from Hong Kong (it's an American film, shot in Salt Lake City), and it's not a martial arts film, either.

    This is a family film, and a better than average one, too. The central character is Emily (Evan Rachel Wood), a 14 year old whose primary preoccupation is playing the violin — she is preparing for an audition for a youth orchestra, which is very important to her. Her mother is pregnant, and both her parents seem fairly preoccupied with the impending baby. And her two best friends are off at camp.

    Emily has a sideline. Once a week she runs a secret-keeping service, mostly for the younger children in the neighbourhood. For the sum of 50c she will listen to a secret. If it involves a broken object, she'll take custody of said object (she keeps everything neatly labelled). It's quite interesting to hear some of the secrets that are revealed to her.

    Just moving in next door is a new family. Emily meets Philip (the younger brother - Michael Angarano) when he tries to conceal a broken object in her garden — she, in her professional secrets mode, shows him the right way to deal with this mishap. This, plus the fact that she shows up that night asking to watch a live classical music concert on TV (her father is watching sports on their only TV), give the two of them a chance to start to become friends. David, the older brother (David Gallagher), is off at tennis camp while the two of them are getting to know one another.

    At first I was a little wary, because I was a bit uncomfortable with the idea of encouraging children to keep secrets, especially secrets about things like stealing. What I didn't appreciate was that this was exactly the point of this film. And its moral. Fortunately, the moral tone is encapsulated in a nicely plotted storyline, excellently acted. There's a lot more to this story, but I don't want to spoil it for you. You'll want to discover all the things that happen as they happen. Until almost half-way through the film, things seem fairly light and inconsequential, but it gets more serious. There are a couple of moments in the first half that sound what seem like false notes, but they are explained by later events.

    Evan Rachel Wood is superb. I really believed she could play the violin (you'll learn about that in the extras...). She gives a remarkable performance playing a fourteen year old, although she probably benefits from being fourteen at the time. Her parents (played by Jan Broberg Felt and Rick Macy) are real characters, not wallpaper. And the kids are quite credible. And Vivica Fox, playing Emily's music teacher, is good, too.

    For a while I was wondering if Haley McCormick, who plays Jenny, had been in something else I'd seen — she seemed so familiar. I worked it out, though: she looks amazingly like Jane Krakowski did when she was in National Lampoon's Vacation. Of course, Haley wasn't born when that film was made...

    Believe it or not, this is a film that adults can enjoy. Of course, it's easier to justify it if you watch it with children or young teens (older teens will probably enjoy it, but they won't want to watch it with you!). You might want to talk to them about the film afterwards, too, because there are a couple of things that might disturb them a little.

    This is a thoroughly pleasant film, reminding us of what it's like to be a young teen, when simple things can be the end of the world. It's not a terribly deep film, but a steady diet of deep films may not be healthy.

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

Transfer Quality

Video

    This disc has a transfer in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and is 16x9 enhanced. That's the original and intended theatrical aspect ratio — can't ask for more than that.

    The image is beautiful to look at. It's sharp, with light film grain to soften the image just a little bit. Shadow detail is very good. There's no low-level noise.

    Colour is rendered well, with no colour-related artefacts. There is plenty of colour on display, too.

    I spotted one film artefact (a small black spot at 29:58) the first time through. I spotted another the second time through, but I think it may have been a reflection. There's not much to find.

    On a progressive system there is no aliasing; on a non-progressive display there is a little bit of aliasing, but it is quite minor. There is no moiré. There are no MPEG artefacts. This is a nice clean transfer.

    There are subtitles in quite a few languages, including both English and English for the Hearing Impaired. I watched both the English subtitle tracks. They use quite different fonts, but they are equally legible. The English for the Hearing Impaired track places the subtitles under the speaker, which is nice. They are well timed to the dialogue, and seem accurate enough, although it's a touch irritating to see a china pattern subtitled as "Crown Darby" rather than "Crown Derby", and to see a subtitle say "flutist" when the dialogue used "flautist" (which is the preferred term).

    The disc is single-sided and dual layered, formatted RSDL. The layer change comes at 47:46. It's hardly noticeable with the regular soundtrack; it's noticeable, but not troubling, with the commentary track.

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

Audio

    The soundtrack is provided in English, Italian, and Spanish, but I only listened to the English soundtrack (and the commentary). It is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track encoded at 448kbps.

    The dialogue is clear and comprehensible. Audio sync is never obviously out, although the first passage of dialogue with Emily looks very slightly off.

    The music is entertaining and lively, enhancing the action. Sam Cardon has done an excellent job.

    The surrounds are never obvious, and I had to pay special attention to realise that they were carefully extending the soundstage — nicely and subtly done. The subwoofer never draws attention to itself, either, but does get used on occasion to put a floor under the sound.

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

Extras

Menu

    The menu is animated with music. It's easy to use.

Dolby Digital City Trailer

    Please, please, please — someone find out where they store this thing and destroy it! This has to be the single most overused fragment in DVD history. It should not be permitted on another DVD — perhaps the DVD Forum could make a ruling that no DVD can include it henceforth? There are plenty of other Dolby Digital trailers, and any of them would be preferable to this grotesquely overused thing.

Audio Commentary: director Blair Treu, writer Jessica Barondes

    This is quite a decent commentary. It's not a technical exposition, but I'm not a huge fan of a commentary that's purely a technical treatise. There is occasional mention of how a particular shot was done, but this is interesting: for one shot they raised the cameraman on a crane, and then he climbed through a window wearing a Steadicam — that's pretty cool.

    They start talking about 20 seconds in, and hardly pause until 40 seconds from the end — we certainly get our money's worth.

    This commentary is subtitled, but unfortunately only in languages other than English.

Featurette: Making of (11:27)

    This making of is OK, but nothing special. The movie footage is noticeably softer than the movie transfer. There are a few useful comments in amongst the (low-key) mutual admiration.

Blooper Reel (4:46)

    The usual collection of forgotten lines and flubs, but it's still amusing.

Trailers

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 1 version of this disc was released about a year ago.

    The Region 4 disc is missing:

    The Region 1 disc is missing no features (it even includes the same trailers).

    According to reports, the Region 1 transfer is OK, but not stellar. I get the impression that we have received a rather better transfer. I think that out-weighs a full-frame transfer and a soundtrack CD (which may not even be available any more). I'm giving this one to R4.

Summary

    A thoroughly pleasant film on quite a good DVD.

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio quality is very good.

    The extras are quite good.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Monday, January 26, 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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