Random Hearts (1999)

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Released 18-Apr-2000

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Main Menu Audio & Animation
Dolby Digital Trailer-City
Theatrical Trailer-3
Audio Commentary-Sydney Pollack (Director)
Featurette-Making Of-HBO First Look: The Making Of Random Hearts
Deleted Scenes-3 + comm
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Isolated Musical Score
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1999
Running Time 127:15
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (79:32) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Sydney Pollack
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Harrison Ford
Kristin Scott Thomas
Charles S. Dutton
Bonnie Hunt
Dennis Haysbert
Richard Jenkins
Paul Guilfoyle
Case Brackley-Trans-No Lip
RPI $39.95 Music Dave Grusin


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.0 (448Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (256Kb/s)
Isolated Music Score Dolby Digital 5.0 (448Kb/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
German
Dutch
Arabic
Czech
Danish
Finnish
Greek
Hebrew
Hindi
Hungarian
Icelandic
Norwegian
Polish
Swedish
Turkish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Random Hearts is based on the book by Warren Adler, and starts with three interlinked stories. Firstly, there's Dutch Van Den Broeck (Harrison Ford), a DC Internal Affairs officer. Secondly, there's a congresswoman, Kay Chandler (Kristin Scott Thomas), who is running for re-election, and finally, there's Dutch's wife (Susanna Thompson) and Kay's husband (Peter Coyote) who were sitting together in First Class when they were killed in an airplane crash.

    When Dutch learns that his wife was not on a business trip as she had told him, he becomes obsessed with finding out if his wife was having an affair, and if so, how long it had been going on for. After he works out who was sitting next to his wife on the plain, he goes to see Kay Chandler and presents her with his suspicions. Kay doesn't seem overly surprised and just wants to put it all behind her and get on with what's left of her life. Dutch continues to look for clues in the hope of finding an answer to the question of how long the affair had been going on for.

    There is a powerful and superbly acted scene in this movie, where Kay and Dutch have just come back from Miami and they are sitting and talking in Kay's car at the airport. From this point on, the movie focuses on the dilemmas and decisions that now surround our main characters as they try to come to terms with the loss of their partners and their resulting lives.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer of this movie is great, with only a few minor problems.

    The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. It is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is extremely clear, and very sharp at all times, except for a couple of occasions during the outdoor cabin scene, where the background appears to be lacking a little detail. Shadow detail is exemplary and no low level noise was seen.

    The colour and skin tones are perfectly balanced through the entire movie.

    There were no MPEG artefacts. Aliasing was very rare and very mild when it did occur. Occasional film artefacts appear, but they are generally small and not distracting.

    Unfortunately, edge enhancement has been applied to this transfer, and as a result there are noticeable halos around some objects. But, for the most part, it is either mild or imperceptible. However there are the odd instances where it does become pretty obvious and slightly distracting. A couple of scenes also suffer from some minor background graininess. The worst affected sequence occurs in and throughout Chapter 10. I re-watched Chapter 10 and some of the other sequences that were affected by excessive edge enhancement on my 68cm non-16x9 enhanced TV, using a composite input. Both of these problems basically disappeared, and I could only just see the above-mentioned problems because I was specifically looking for them. It's times like these that I think I should have settled for a new 16x9 enhanced 68cm TV instead of a projector and just sat a little closer to the screen to make it appear bigger. (Ed. Paul, I'll happily buy you such a TV and swap it for your projector - just name the time and the place.)

    This disc is an RSDL disc, with the layer change occurring between Chapters 18 and 19, at 79:32 with only a small pause. It is perfectly placed as a scene shift occurs at this point.

    I also viewed this disc with the English subtitles on, and I am happy to report that they are pretty close to the spoken dialogue, with just the odd word now and again missing or wrong.

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

Audio

    Well, what can I say? This is a flawless audio transfer, that only just misses out on being of reference quality. The extra detail and clarity that I heard may be partly or wholly attributable to the soundtrack using a 448Kb/second Dolby Digital bitstream instead of the usual 384Kb/second bitstream. Either way, I would like to see more Region 4 titles produced with this higher bitstream rate.

    There are four audio tracks on this DVD; English 448Kb/second Dolby Digital 5.0, German 448Kb/second Dolby Digital 5.1 (the .1 channel is empty), Isolated Musical Score 448Kb/second Dolby Digital 5.0, and an English Audio Commentary track by Sydney Pollack (Director), which has a 256Kb/second Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack. I listened to the English and Audio Commentary soundtracks from start to finish. I also listened to a couple of scenes with the German soundtrack selected. It appeared to be of an equally high quality. The Isolated Musical Score soundtrack as expected only contains the music and is also of excellent quality, clear and clean.

    The dialogue was extremely clear and easy to understand throughout the entire movie.

    Audio sync is not a problem with this transfer, and is spot-on throughout the entire movie  There were two dialogue substitutions made that I noticed, but both of these were fairly unobtrusive. One occurred at 37:36 minutes.

    The musical score is by Dave Grusin, and it suits the movie well, even if it is a little sparse in places.

    Even though this movie is not a high-action, big-bang, swinging-from-the-ceiling type movie, it nonetheless makes good use of the Dolby Digital 5.0 soundtrack. The surround speakers are used for music ambience and subtle but noticeable background effects, like distant car traffic, wind or just some other sound that you would normally associate with that particular scene. This added another level of realism to the film, so I found myself in the scenes with the actors instead of just watching them from my arm-chair. I was there... standing in the room with Kay Chandler (oh, how I wish this was true… umm, daydream… anyway, back to the review!). There were also some noticeable directional effects present - the helicopter buzzing around the downed jet was the most obvious example of this. Not once did the soundfield collapse down to just the front centre speaker. Please remember this is largely a dialogue-driven movie, thus most of the sound information does come from the front speakers, with the surround speakers creating a nice spatial soundtrack that is very easy and enjoyable to listen to.

    There is no .1 LFE channel on the English soundtrack, but it was not particularly missed due to the movie's content. Since I watched this movie several times to produce this review, I was able to experiment with the use of my sub by plugging it into one of the stereo outputs on my DVD player. I found that it was active in quite a few sequences, which subtly added further depth to the soundstage. This, by the way, is a favourite trick of mine when there is no .1 channel available on a disc.

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

Extras

    There is a fantastic selection of extras on this DVD. The extras include; an Audio Commentary track by the director (Sydney Pollack), three Theatrical Trailers, a Featurette 'HBO First Look - The Making Of Random Hearts', three Deleted Scenes with Commentary and Talent Profiles.

Menu

    The menu consists of a non-16x9 enhanced black & white picture of Harrison Ford in sunglasses, the same as on the DVD cover, with small highlights from the movie playing. This is all set to one of the movie's theme songs. The menu has the following selections; Languages/Audio Setup, Subtitles, Scene Selections (28), Extra Features, and Play Movie.

Director's Commentary - Sydney Pollack

    The commentary features Sydney Pollack in the centre channel speaking over a 256 Kb/second Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack. I found it very interesting and informative, with lots of information about the plot and the actors. There is also information about the timing and filming locations used during the film. This is one of the better audio commentaries I have listened to, and it makes it into my top five list of audio commentaries.

Theatrical Trailer, Random Hearts - U.S. Theatrical Trailer (2:27 minutes)

    This is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, non-16x9 enhanced, with a 448 Kb/second Dolby Digital 5.0 soundtrack. The video and audio quality are very good. This is my favourite trailer out of the three on this disc.

Theatrical Trailer, Random Hearts - International Trailer, English (1:31 minutes)

    This is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, non-16x9 enhanced, with a 256Kb/s Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack. The video is very good and audio quality is also good.

Theatrical Trailer, The Devils Own, English (2:21 minutes)

    This is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, non-16x9 enhanced, with a 256Kb/s Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack. The video is very good and the audio quality is also good.

Featurette HBO First Look – The Making Of Random Hearts (22:51 minutes)

    This is basically an extended promotional piece for the movie, with interviews with Sydney Pollack (Director), Harrison Ford and Kristin Scott Thomas. There are also some behind-the-scenes details. Varying aspect ratios are used; the interview material is presented in 4:3, and the film footage is presented in a non-16x9 enhanced 1.85:1 aspect ratio, which does suffer occasionally from some aliasing. The audio is a 256Kb/s Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack.

Deleted Scenes (3 with Director's Commentary)

    The three deleted scenes are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and are non-16x9 enhanced, with a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack with Sydney Pollack narrating why the scene was deleted and what he thought of the scene. All three suffer from quite bad aliasing at times and the third also has some moiré effects thrown in for good measure, but even with these problems they are still of good video quality and are an extremely welcome extra, as they add to the movie.

Talent Profiles

    This section contains a brief Biography and Selected Filmographies for Sydney Pollack (Director), Harrison Ford, Kristin Scott Thomas, Bonnie Hunt and Charles S. Dutton.

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 reviews on the R1 transfer quality also seem to be very good, with the same audio and visual limitations mentioned. Taking this into consideration along with the innate superiority of PAL over NTSC, I would strongly recommend the R4 version.

Summary

    The video transfer of this movie is great, with only a few minor problems.

    Well, what can I say, this is a flawless audio transfer, that only just misses out on being of reference quality.

    There is an extensive selection of extras on this disc which Columbia Tristar really deserves to be congratulated for.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Paul Williams (read Paul's biography)
Saturday, April 01, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-725, using Component output
DisplaySony Projector VPH-G70 (No Line Doubler), Technics Da-Lite matt screen with gain of 1.0 (229cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SV919THX
SpeakersFronts: Energy RVS-1 (3), Rears: Energy RVSS-1 (2), Subwoofer: Energy EPS-150 (1)

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