Red Skies (2002)

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Sell-Through Release Status Unknown
Available for Rent

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Audio & Animation
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 76:28
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Larry Carroll
Robert Lieberman
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Gary Weeks
Vivian Wu
Shawn Christian
Kadeem Hardison
Rachael Crawford
Pauley Perrette
Case ?
RPI Rental Music Frankie Blue


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English
German
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

     Ah, the cruel, cruel world of TV. One minute you have a steady job, with a TV series tracking along well, and the next some network executive doesn't like the look of the "figures", so you're out on your ear, and all the people in TV land forget about you as they sit down to watch the next generation of reality show (something like Who Wants to Beat a Tape Recorder with a Stick After Marrying a Large Rat). Of course, for some it is even worse - a harsh twist of fate that gives a glimmer of hope then mercilessly snatches it away. I am, of course, referring to the passed-over pilot. For those unfamiliar with the system (and you're forgiven for that as Australian networks tend not to commission, let alone show, anywhere near as many pilots as their US counterparts), the essentials are that a single episode (although usually a 2-parter) is made of a concept so that network execs can have a look and decide if they think the show will do well. If the pilot is great, the show has an order placed for as many episodes as the network needs, and it is full steam ahead. If the pilot is terrible it will usually be dumped completely and no-one even knows it was made (although this option is not as common, as the network is loathe to dump a project on which it has already spent plenty of cash). If the pilot is anything short of truly unredeemable, but not good enough to convince the execs on first viewing, it is often broadcast as a "special" or "telemovie". If the ratings for the show are good enough, it will be picked up (although probably re-tooled a bit), and it's off to happy-land. If the ratings aren't so crash-hot, then it's the discard pile for the show. So what does all this mean - well, pretty much that the ratings for Red Skies when it aired (is that the right word?) on the USA pay-TV network were not all that spectacular, because this double episode is all that was ever made.

    It's fair to say that this presentation is not likely to attract all that many purchases (although the fact it is being touted as John Woo's film may fool some), but as a rental it has plenty to offer the casual fan. The story follows a Chinese undercover operative (Vivian Wu) who has tracked an arch-criminal all the way from China to the USA. When her partner is killed, and her attempt to capture her quarry thwarted by the untimely arrival of a special FBI unit lead by the gruff Malcolm Cross (Shawn Christian), she is forced to team up with her American counterparts in an attempt to track down the gangster.

    According to the show's creator, head writer, and executive producer (busy boy then...) John Rogers, the feel of the show was meant to be a cross between a British police show and a Hong Kong action movie. The end result hardly feels all that British, more CSI with kicking, and chasing, and young people (because we all know that gruff guys in their mid-thirties get plum positions as long as they're TV-star good looking). That is not to say that the show is not enjoyable. For all the somewhat obvious script, the charisma of the leads and the ease of slipping into the feel of the show make it a decent enough way to while away an hour and a half. There are a few problems relating to the TV-show origin of the presentation, the most notable being the veritable plethora of characters introduced in only ninety minutes, and the number of open-ended story lines. The biggest of these is the almost supernatural abilities of Agent Cross, which are referred to once, and never so much as mentioned again, much less explained, but there are many smaller ones of the same type. Obviously these are being set up so future episodes could explore them, but with the show not being picked up, they are never going to be explained any further.

    Red Skies is an entertaining enough film for the genre, and should serve as a decent rental for those who have run out of "real" movies to watch, or just want some lighter viewing. Note that John Woo's involvement in this one is largely limited to a little story and casting input - this is not a John Woo film as the advertising tries to make you think.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The quality of the transfer for Red Skies is surprisingly good, given its "discarded" TV pilot nature.

    Presented at an aspect ratio of exactly 1.78:1, this transfer is 16x9 enhanced. There is no information available as to whether or not this was the original aspect ratio, but as it just so happens to be the exact widescreen TV aspect ratio, there is a good chance that it is.

    The transfer is not particularly sharp, although this is not really an issue, as it is still nice and clear with plenty of detail. "Smooth" is probably a better description than "soft". There is a reasonable amount of background grain, but it is only particularly noticeable on a few occasions, such as between 0:25 and 0:40. There is no low level noise present.

    Colours seem to be a little on the bland side, lacking in any real richness or depth, but this does appear to be on purpose as it is consistent throughout, apart from a few highlights, such as the lighting in the club scene.

    There are no compression, film, or film-to-video artefacts present in this transfer. It is one of the cleanest prints you will have the pleasure of viewing (which would hopefully be the case for recent direct-to-video product), and it is not obscured by any visible artefacts - top work.

    There are subtitles on this disc, but they're not going to help you understand the dialogue. The only purpose of the subtitles is for location cards and the like, and they hard-set to whichever audio language you choose.

    This is a single layered disc, and as such 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 transfer is pretty much what you would expect from a TV series transferred to DVD - decent quality, yet mostly frontal stereo, that occasionally comes to life in the surround channels.

    There are two audio tracks present on this disc, being the original English dialogue, and a German dub, both presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 (at 448 Kbps).

    Dialogue is generally clear and easy to understand, although some may have trouble with the strong Asian accent of Vivian Wu (although if you listen carefully she is actually speaking quite clearly). Audio sync is usually not a problem, but on one occasion does go out slightly. That is between 59:59 and 60:39. Aside from that one period, there are no problems.

    The score is provided by Frankie Blue, and is typical TV fare, neither disgracing nor outdoing itself. It is of a somewhat "modern" style, but never draws attention to itself, although the action sequence scoring is a little lacklustre.

    Surround presence swings between good during action scenes and some of the more dramatic moments and quite poor for the rest of the time, but as this is fairly typical of TV shows, there is little to complain about.

    The subwoofer seems to be a little short-changed in this one, with fewer rumbles than would normally be expected, but again, this is probably due to the TV origins of the material. It would have been nice had the bass been boosted a little for DVD release however.

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

Extras

     If I could rename this section to "Extra" then I would - for that is all this DVD sports. A single extra (and no, having it available in two languages does not make it two extras).

Menu

    The menu is animated, 16x9 enhanced, and features Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

Trailer (0:32)

    This trailer was presumably made once it was decided to pass on Red Skies as a TV series, as it is not cut like a 30-second TV spot, and ends with "On Video Now". Presented at 1.78:1, not 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

R4 vs R1

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

     This disc is not available in Region 1, or in UK Region 2. The only other available version appears to be (not surprisingly) a German Region 2 release - which is likely the purpose of the German soundtrack on this disc. The specs are identical.

Summary

    Red Skies is a relatively enjoyable (in a cheesy B-grade way) action/melodrama. As it was a TV pilot that was passed over, it is understandably full of loose ends, and has too many characters, but it is worth a rent for those with too much time on their hands.

    The video quality is very good, and about the only thing that can be said in the negative is that it is not the sharpest image ever committed to DVD.

    The audio quality is about what is expected of a TV series brought to DVD. The "5.1" mix plays more like a "2.0 surround", and the music is rather run-of-the-mill, but it does its job.

    A solitary extra is probably par for the course for a discarded TV pilot that no-one has ever heard of, but it won't stop me from complaining about it.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Thursday, February 26, 2004
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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