Simple Plan, A (Universal) (1998)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 13-Dec-2000

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Theatrical Trailer
Interviews-Cast & Crew
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1998
Running Time 116:05 (Case: 121)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (58:21) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Sam Raimi
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Bill Paxton
Billy Bob Thornton
Bridget Fonda
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music Danny Elfman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (384Kb/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 None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Hank (Bill Paxton) was happy. His life was nothing spectacular, but he was content. At the start of the movie he has a stable job as a clerk at a local store and his beautiful wife Sarah (Bridget Fonda) is pregnant with their first child. His life is uncomplicated and trouble-free, but this all changes after Hank, Jacob (Billy Bob Thornton) and his friend stumble across a crashed light airplane, with 4.4 million dollars in cash in a duffel bag inside.

    Hank is all for reporting the crashed plane and turning over the money to the authorities, but Jacob and his friend want to keep it. So, after some discussions they come up with A Simple Plan that may allow them to keep the money if no-one is searching for it. The rest of the movie deals with the events, actions and consequences of the decision not to turn the money over to the authorities.

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

Transfer Quality

Video

    At first glance, the picture quality of A Simple Plan seemed really good, but after closer scrutiny it turned out to be not that great after all - not bad by any means, but grain and pixelization does degrade this transfer.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1:85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The sharpness and detail of foreground objects is excellent. Mid-ground objects tended to be slightly softer while the background objects are very soft and out of focus for much of the movie, which is probably because of the way it was filmed. Shadow detail is very good. Unfortunately, edge enhancement has been used on this transfer, resulting in small halos around any strongly-contrasted object. I wish the authoring companies would wake up and realize that edge-enhancement actually decreases the picture quality on DVD, and stop applying it.

    Colour is well-saturated and natural-looking throughout. At 78:44 a noticeable colour/brightness change occurs mid scene, which was a little distracting. Whether this is a transfer or a source material fault is unknown.

    Grain is present for most of the movie and it induces some subtle pixelization, which I will talk more about shortly. The grain and pixelization generally only disrupts the background detail, but there are several occasions where it also affects the foreground picture. One of the most noticeably soft and grainy scenes can be found at 57:59. Also, the second half of the film seemed to be more affected by grain than the first half, for reasons unknown. Thankfully, there are only a few occasions where it really becomes noticeable and distracting.

    There are three specific but minor MPEG artefacts present. These can be found at 4:08, where there is some digital ringing around the edge of the writing, probably partly induced by the edge enhancement, 58:00, where some of the fine upper framework of a windmill disappears and then reappears several times, and finally at 73:08 - 73:38, where some minor but very noticeable macro-blocking occurs on the stone work behind the stairs. Minor pixelization occurs regularly throughout the movie and appears to have been induced by the grain. If you look closely at the picture you can see the ill effects of this. One such example can be found at 108:16 - 108:31 - watch Bill Paxton's jacket. The only instances of aliasing occur during the end credits, which makes the writing appear to not be scrolling smoothly up the screen, but this is very minor and really isn't a concern.

    There are quite a lot of small film artefacts present, but due to their size they are easily overlooked and thus do not disrupt the picture.

    Our preview version of A Simple Plan actually came on two single DVD-R discs, so it is a little hard to be specific on where and how good the layer change will be, but the final disc will be an RSDL disc, with the layer change occurring at or very near 58:21 on a scene change. I suspect the layer change will be totally transparent, as a fade to black occurs at this point and the music drops to nothing. As soon as we get a final pressing of this disc we will update this review.

    (Update 26-Jan-2001: The layer change does occur at 58:21 and is totally transparent.)

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

Audio

    There is only one audio track on this DVD which is a Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack which has an impressive bitrate of 384Kb/s. I must say that if this is the quality you get from doubling the bitrate of a Dolby Digital surround-encoded soundtrack from 192Kb/s to 384Kb/s, then I'm all for it, as this one sounds great.

    The dialogue was extremely clear and easy to understand throughout the entire movie and is well integrated into the front soundstage.

    No audio sync problems were noticed with this transfer.

    Danny Elfman's musical score suits the movie.

    The surround channel is well-used, which creates a surprisingly enveloping soundfield for this mostly dialogue-driven movie. Frequent subtle and not-so-subtle sound effects and music from the surround speakers really kept the soundfield from collapsing to the front. The soundstage is also well balanced.

    The subwoofer is lightly used throughout the movie, mostly for the music, but there is the occasional sound effect that benefits from the presence of the subwoofer.

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

Extras

    There is a reasonable section of extras present, but visually the quality is lacking a little.

Menu

    The menus are 16x9 enhanced with the main menu having a still picture and theme music. The menu selections are; Play Movie, Scene Select (14), Biographies, Interviews and Trailer.

Biographies

    This section contains Biographies and Film Highlights for; Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton, Bridget Fonda and Sam Raimi (Director).

Interviews (15:44 minutes)

    The picture quality of these interviews is quite acceptable, but average, as it is very soft and the still backgrounds suffer from being overcompressed. The audio quality is extremely good. Sam Raimi's voice jumps around the front soundstage if you have your audio decoder in surround mode.

    The interviews are grouped by person. The available selections are: Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton, Bridget Fonda and Sam Raimi. You can play an individual topic or play all of that person's interviews as a single interview. I must say I liked the way these interviews were set out as they are easy to navigate and quick to find any particular subject. I recommend you watch these after you have seen the film.

    Bill Paxton talks about; The Book (0:30), The Characters (1:35), The Discovery (0:51), The Plan (0:28) and The Film (0:19).

    Billy Bob Thornton talks about; The Screenplay (0:25), The Character (0:27), The Set Up (0:58), The Farm (0:20), Hitchcock (0:26) and The Director (1:19).

    Bridget Fonda talks about; The Character (1:16), The Director (0:42) and The Sadness (0:22).

    Sam Raimi talks about; The Book (0:33), The Characters (0:49), The Brothers (0:59), The Movie (0:09), The Wife (0:40), Innocence and Evil (0:07), The Crime (0:47), The Secret (0:21), The Style (0:17), Bill and Bill Bob (0:46) and The Actors (0:28).

Theatrical Trailer (2:27 minutes)

    The theatrical trailer is of reasonable quality, presented in a 16x9 enhanced aspect ratio of 1.85:1, with a 320Kb/s Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. There is a pop in the audio soundtrack at the very beginning, and the picture suffers from occasional strong grain and from being over-bright, which makes the picture appear washed out. There is some chroma noise in the red writing in the end credits.

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 Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     With the addition of a 448kb/s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, the R1 disc is the clear winner here. Unfortunately, you will miss out on the mildly interesting interviews and have to put up with those annoying 3:2 pull-down artefacts with the R1 disc.

Summary

    For me, A Simple Plan was a good movie, presented on a reasonable DVD.

    Overall the picture quality is good. What spoils the picture is the pixelization and edge enhancement.

    The audio quality is very good, but where's the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack?!

    There is a reasonable section of extras present, which are of acceptable quality.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Paul Williams (read Paul's biography)
Wednesday, November 15, 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 amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SV919THX
SpeakersFronts: Energy RVS-1 (3), Rears: Energy RVSS-1 (2), Subwoofer: Energy EPS-150 (1)

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Paul D (read my bio here or check out my music at MP3.com.)

Comments (Add) NONE