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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
Empire Falls (2005)

Empire Falls (2005)

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Released 9-Aug-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Dir. Fred Schepisi & Writer/Author Richard Russo
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2005
Running Time 196:37 (Case: 190)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Fred Schepisi
Howco International
Warner Home Video
Starring Ed Harris
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Helen Hunt
Paul Newman
Robin Wright Penn
Aidan Quinn
Joanne Woodward
Dennis Farina
William Fichtner
Estelle Parsons
Theresa Russell
Kate Burton
Jeffrey DeMunn
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Paul Grabowsky

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

Lives are like rivers: eventually they go where they must; not where we want them to.

    Based on the Pulitzer prize winning novel by Richard Russo, who also had the guts to adapt his own novel for the screen, Empire Falls is one of those classic rambling tales, somewhat reminiscent of the subtle irony and human introspection of F. Scott Fitzgerald and the grandiose epics of human tragedy that is the hallmark of John Steinbeck. Although I have not read the novel, I am now inspired to do so.

    The problem with adapting a novel to the screen (nearly 500 pages in its Vintage paperback edition) is that it’s hard to sum up that much information in a two hour movie. For that reason, the producers chose to make a TV mini-series, and to avoid issues inherent to censorship on commercial TV channels, the project was conducted through HBO, that bastion of cable TV that freely tells the censorship board to go stick it, we’re doing what we want not what fits your “family values”. The other great thing about getting HBO involved was that, as a cable TV service, they are not constrained by timeslots and advertising budgets. As a result, Russo was freed up to write a script for a series that was as long as required to do justice to the novel. The result is, as I am told, one of the finest adaptations from text to screen that manages to do justice to the novel. For me, it was the joy of watching a movie that clearly had literary origins not butchered to satisfy a convenient time schedule.

    Directed by the talented Fred Schepisi (whose brilliant Last Orders was a testament to his skill at adapting literary works for the screen), this movie flows so smoothly, you are barely aware of the passage of four hours. Empire Falls is both the story of the town and the story of two families – the Roby’s and the Whitings, representing the working class and the affluent elite. The focus point of the story is Miles Roby (Ed Harris), proprietor and part owner of the Empire Grill, his family spanning three generations in this quiet corner of New England. His father, Max (Paul Newman) is a local bum and alcoholic. His daughter, Cristina, who everybody calls “Tick” (Danielle Panabaker), is coping with growing up in a small town where everybody knows everybody else’s business. His wife, Janine (Helen Hunt), is about to leave him for another local in her attempt to find the sort of love she most wants. And his brother, David (Aiden Quinn), works with him at the grill. But, as with all small towns, there are lots of secrets here in Empire Falls, and Miles is about to realise just how closely interconnected the residents of this old town are.

    There is nothing to fault this movie on. Although an ensemble piece, as Last Orders was, Harris does an amazing job of holding it all together as the central focus point – though, in all fairness, Newman is the show stealer here, with every scene he is in a joy to watch (I’m sure he got a kick out of playing a bum). That’s not to detract from any of the other fine performances in this movie, which cobbles together so many quality actors in one production that it’s hard to find any detractors from an outstandingly high level of quality. Sure, this movie doesn’t have the slick feel of a Hollywood blockbuster, but neither would it have benefited from such production lavishes – a movie about a small town should feel like a small town, and that’s what this movie does effectively; it makes it about the characters, not the actors.

    Funny, poignant, poetic, haunting and worth every cent – I can guarantee you that you will want to watch this one again. Grab your loved ones for a cold winter’s night in with this one. You won’t be disappointed.

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Transfer Quality


    Presented in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio, 16x9 enhanced, I watched this projected on my 100" matt white screen via my Sony VLP-HS60 projector, scaled at 1080i by my DVD player over HDMI (and therefore rescaled to 720p by the projector).

    This is a stunning transfer – shadow detail, mage detail, clarity, colour were all right on the money. If this transfer has one fault it is a very slight softness of the image. But much of that may have been a film technique (partly to hide the wrinkles and skin blemishes on the faces of Ed Harris and Paul Newman that are so apparent in their interviews in the special features.

    No film artefacts or film-to-video artefacts to speak of. This is a very smooth transfer.

    Subtitles are available in all the languages listed above. The English subtitles stay fairly true to the dialogue.

    The dual layer pauses occur at 65:38 on Disc 1 and 63:10 on Disc 2. Both occur on static title cards and are barely perceptible.

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


    Audio is available in English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and French 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo. I listened to the English track the whole way through and sampled the French track, which seemed fine.

    This audio track is as good as the video, and an excellent accompaniment. While lacking the depth of 5.1 DTS or 5.1 LPCM, the TA-DA9000ES did an excellent job of processing the Dolby Digital into a theatre-like experience.

    While a little light on the rear surrounds to create that real surrounding ambience, there was plenty of ambience from the front.

    Dialogue is clear, crisp and undistorted.

    The rears mostly come to life with the wonderful score by Paul Grabowsky that strikes that perfect chord between humorous and bittersweet.

    The subwoofer gets some minor work out.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    All menus are presented in 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, static and silent.

Audio Commentary: Richard Russo and Fred Schepisi (Disc 1 & 2)

    Presented in 2.0 Dolby Stereo. One of the best and most informative audio commentary tracks I’ve listened to in a while – actually adds to your experience of the film, rather than being a long boring windbag fest. Definitely worth listening to, but only after you’ve watched the movie once.

Featurette: “Behind The Scenes – The Making of Empire Falls” (12:03) (Disc 2)

    Presented in 1.33:1, 2.0 Dolby Stereo soundtrack, this is largely promotional, but there are some interesting tidbits from the interviews.

R4 vs R1

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

    The R1 release has the original English 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo track and a French 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo track. I have read no criticisms of the R1 picture quality, but we have no faults here either. We have more subtitles. Unless you have special language needs, buy whichever is cheapest.


    Empire Falls is a magical cinematic experience. It will stick with you long afterwards, and you’ll wish you had more friends who’d seen it to crack jokes with. If you’ve got a group of people who don’t mind sitting through a long film, I suggest making this one a group event. Excellent viewing and well worth the price of entry.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Edward McKenzie (I am Jack's raging bio...)
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVPNS92, using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-HS60 WXGA 3LCD Cineza Projector (10,000:1 contrast ratio) with 100" Longhom Pro-Series Micro-Textured White Matte PVC 1.78:1 16:9 Fixed Mount Screen with Black Velour Trim. 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.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersJensen QX70 Centre Front, Jensen QX45 Left Front & Right Front, Jensen QX20 Left Rear & Right Rear, Jensen QX-90 Dual 10" 250 Watt Subwoofer

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