Kalifornia (1993)

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Released 11-Feb-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Main Menu Audio
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1993
Running Time 113:18 (Case: 117)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Dominic Sena

Magna Home Entertainment
Starring Brad Pitt
Juliette Lewis
David Duchovny
Michelle Forbes
Kathy Larson
David Milford
John Zarchen
David Rose
Tommy Chappelle
Judson Vaughn
Patricia Sill
Brett Rice
Marisa Raper
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $14.95 Music Carter Burwell

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.30:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Every so often I get to review a disc which delivers an unexpected surprise. This is one such DVD. Brad Pitt plays one of the most revolting trailer-trash characters this side of a Jerry Springer marathon in this bargain-price release. He is joined by ole big nose himself (David Duchovny) and the occasionally annoying Juliette Lewis. Michelle Forbes fills out the leading roles in Kalifornia - a film which I had not seen before, but turns out to be well worth a viewing.

    Brian Kessler (Duchovny of The X-Files) is an aspiring writer. In trying to extend himself beyond simple magazine articles, he determines to write a full-blown book. The topic du jour? Serial killers. After Brian's attractive girlfriend, aspiring photographer Carrie (Forbes), has her work rejected by yet another art gallery they decide to head out of town and aim for the bright lights and eternal sunshine of California. En-route they plan to visit the stomping ground of some of America's most infamous murderers - Brian will write the text and Carrie can take the appropriate pics. Being somewhat depleted in the cash stakes, thanks to an expensive apartment and a gas-guzzling old convertible, he and Carrie are forced to seek someone to share the petrol expenses on their cross-country jaunt.

    Enter Early Grayce (Pitt) - or Early Graves as he could be known - and his white-trash woman Adele (Lewis). Beer-swilling Early is on probation for a number of crimes - including carrying a gun. Adele is a sad character, prepared to tolerate Early's verbal abuse and the occasional beating - meted out only when she deserves it. As the foursome progress across America, Early's penchant for violence becomes ever more obvious as (unbeknownst to Carrie and Brian) a trail of corpses piles up behind them. This is a trip which will end with somewhat fewer travellers than set out on the journey...

    This is a surprisingly good thriller. It manages to build a fair degree of suspense and if you can get past the occasionally gruesome violence and annoying Adele there is a tense movie just begging to be enjoyed. The dusty desert scenery is well shot and the characters are all believably conveyed by a strong ensemble cast. Brad Pitt is, unsurprisingly, the stand-out performer, and is well cast against type as a sociopathic Redneck. Lewis evokes memories of several characters she has played before and since (Cape Fear or Hysterical Blindness) but when you play damaged goods so well, why not milk it for all its worth? Duchovny is occasionally credible as the gullible and idealistic novelist (although he sometimes lapses into his natural balsa-like state). The flick is notable not only for its strong cast, but because it was the first feature for Dominic Sena (Gone in 60 Seconds, Swordfish). This (rather violent) film is certainly worth a rental, and for serious fans of any of the starring actors, this low price disc may well be worth a purchase.

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Transfer Quality


    The video quality of this transfer is acceptable, although not without its flaws.

    The feature is presented 16x9 enhanced at approximately 2.35:1 which is the original theatrical aspect ratio. The transfer is a little grainy at times - particularly against bright sky backdrops - but not enough to become annoying. Overall the image is acceptably sharp at all times.

    The dark scenes show quite solid blacks with no significant of low level noise. Shadow detail is perfectly acceptable throughout. The colour palette is nicely varied - between the city scenes, the lush pastures and the later desolate desert landscapes aided and abetted by dreamy sunsets, there is a very nice variety to the tones on offer. There is no colour bleeding evident. Skin tones look natural throughout the movie.

    I witnessed no major MPEG artefacts in this video transfer. Edge enhancement is quite noticeable at times, as a sizeable halo around buildings and telephone wires in particular. It is rarely annoying - but certainly becomes noticeable on a larger screen. Aliasing was not a worry on my (progressive scan) set-up, but there was still an occasional hint of shimmer which suggests it may become more prevalent on an interlaced player. Telecine wobble is noticeably present in the opening titles but does not cause any real concern during the bulk of the feature.

    There are frequent film artefacts, both positive and negative, which crop up throughout the film. These are often minor (no tears or major scratches) but are frequent enough to become noticeable.

    Unfortunately there are no subtitles available.

    The disc is in a single sided and single layered DVD 5 format, so there is no layer change to detect.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio transfer is quite good, and overall is surprisingly immersive for a Dolby Digital 2.0 piece.

    The sole audio track available is a perfectly serviceable Dolby Digital 2.0 affair encoded at 224 kbps. The sound is nicely clean throughout, with no significant evidence of hiss, clicks or dropouts. Dialogue is almost always clear, although the strong accents may sometimes make you wish that there were some subtitles on offer. I noticed no issues with audio sync.

    The original musical score is credited to the accomplished Carter Burwell (The Man Who Wasn't There, Adaptation) and, whilst not particularly memorable, it suits the mood of the film very well.

    The front speakers provide extremely good separation with some very satisfying panning effects covering the front of the soundstage. The centre channel transmits the dialogue well, exemplified by the crystal clear narration of Duchovny's character. If you have a Pro Logic II system, the surround speakers get a surprisingly solid workout. Starting with a highly atmospheric rainstorm, there are numerous surround effects on offer during the flick. This disc really demonstrates that a simple 2.0 track can still have an impressive surround ambience courtesy of Mr Dolby. Overall this is a soundtrack that may make you double-check that it is not in fact a 5.1 transfer.

    Again thanks to Pro Logic II, the subwoofer was used frequently to add a subtle but welcome bass note to the soundtrack. There is no true LFE as such, but the subby still gets to make its mark courtesy of the score, storms and road noises.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are no extras on the disc.


    The main menu is a static graphic of the actors' faces, accompanied by a vocal musical number. The menu is presented 16x9 enhanced and allows the meagre selection of playing the movie or choosing one of a slight sixteen chapter stops.


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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 release of Kalifornia comes on a DVD9 disc with both 2.35:1 and 1.33:1 versions of the film and a few extras:

    The Region 2 release has the following features:

    The Region 4 release with its OAR - particularly at this price - would be my recommended purchase.


    Kalifornia is a very enjoyable thriller. It features Brad Pitt as a sociopathic serial killer - a part which he performs to a tee. This is a surprisingly good movie. Well worth a rental, and at the budget price could well be worth a purchase for fans of the actors or the director in his first cinema release.

    The video quality is reasonably good, but does have a few niggling flaws in the shape of edge enhancement and film artefacts.

    The audio transfer is surprisingly good, particularly if you have a Pro Logic II set-up.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Daniel O'Donoghue (You think my bio is funny? Funny how?)
Tuesday, March 23, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDHarmony DVD Video/Audio PAL Progressive, using Component output
DisplaySanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR600 with DD-EX and DTS-ES
SpeakersJensenSPX-9 fronts, Jensen SPX-13 Centre, Jensen SPX-5 surrounds, Jensen SPX-17 subwoofer

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Comments (Add)
unrated? - Valdi REPLY POSTED
Re OAR -
Good review - REPLY POSTED
A rare gem - REPLY POSTED
Can anyone confirm unrated or rated? -