Ask the Dust (2006)

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Released 13-Aug-2007

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Featurette-Making Of
Outtakes
Interviews-Cast & Crew
Audio Commentary-Director Robert Towne and Cinematographer Caleb Deschanel
Trailer-Original Theatrical
Trailer-Madman Propaganda
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2006
Running Time 112:25 (Case: 115)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (79:59) Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Robert Towne
Studio
Distributor
Capitol Films
Madman Entertainment
Starring Colin Farrell
Salma Hayek
Donald Sutherland
Eileen Atkins
Idina Menzel
Justin Kirk
Jeremy Crutchley
Ronald France
Dion Basco
Donna Mosley
Paul Rylander
Natasha Staples
Wayne Harrison
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Ramin Djawadi
Heitor Pereira


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    In the dusty streets of Hollywood during the great depression, second-generation Italian immigrant Arturo Bandini (Colin Farrell) is a writer trying to carve a name out for himself. Living from commission-based paycheque to paycheque, he writes stories of the man on the street for literary magazines. Alas the longer he spends writing, the less time he has to live and how can a man write about what he cannot experience?

    With his only true confidant a burnt-out, homosexual war veteran who lives across the hall in the cheap hotel they call home, Arturo longs to know the love of a woman. He finds a tempestuous love-hate relationship with a fiery Mexican waitress named Camilla (Salma Hayek) and adulation from a Jewish housemaid named Vera (Idina Menzel), only for disaster to strike every time he comes close to one of them.

    Ask The Dust is an unashamed Hollywood vanity project (complete with semi-gratuitous "arthouse" nudity). After Penning a script based on John Fante's novel, Chinatown scribe Robert Towne spent over a decade getting the project off the ground before securing financing based on the up-and-coming Colin Farrell's involvement (previously Johnny Depp and Val Kilmer had been attached and failed to secure financing). The final product is not the timeless classic that this long incubated project aspired to be, but it's not terrible either.

    Surprisingly for something with such a long life in pre-production, the most disappointing part of the film is the script. The characters are shallow and rather two dimensional, as is the underlying story. Many parts of the story simply don't gel with one-another and the films hops about awkwardly. Some of the dialogue is great, however, and harks back to the stilted style of such classics as Casablanca.

    The look of the film is perfect for the intended era and the acting, though a little melodramatic, manages to carry the film in the end. Unfortunately, none of the high points are enough to make Ask The Dust memorable as more than "the one with Colin Farrell and Salma Hayek's bits in it".

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, slightly fuller than its original 1.85:1 aspect, and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The video quality is quite hit and miss. The video is reasonable sharp and has a fine, film-like level of grain to it. Shadows lack detail, enough so that you have to pay close attention on occasion but not so much to make it impossible to see what is going on. The colour palette is a little washed out, though intentionally so in order to give a dusty 1930s look to everything.

    Quite a number of film artefacts are visible throughout the feature, particularly for a recent film. Though only a handful are particularly large, there are enough film artefacts visible to give the impression that the film is much older than it actually is. Mild telecine wobble is occasionally noticeable (eg. around the 38:20 mark).

    Some scenes are affected by severe macro blocking, particularly those that feature a reasonable amount of movement in the image. The most noticeable instances occur during a three minute scene that runs from about the 32:00 mark to the 35:00 mark, during which the two characters featured in the scene frequently become so pixelated that they are hard to identify.

    There are no subtitles on this disc.

    This is a RSDL disc. The layer change occurs at 79:59, at the start of a scene, though it was not noticeable on my equipment.

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

Audio

    A Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kbps) audio track and a Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kbps) audio track are available.

    The audio tracks are fairly quiet. The dialogue is quite clear and at a good level in the mix.

    The score is fairly minimal and primarily consists of classical guitar. Quite appropriate for the film and it sounds decent enough in the mix.

    There is little in the way of surround usage during the film. In fact, much of the audio is centred such that the audio sounds near mono. This is not the sort of film that requires a lot of surround use to suck the audience in, but this mix is particularly lifeless. There is no noteworthy subwoofer usage.

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

Extras

Audio Commentary by Director Robert Towne and Cinematographer Caleb Deschanel

    This chatty commentary is very good natured and on a number of occasions more interesting than the feature itself. This is a rare commentary that is well worth a listen and genuinely adds to the overall package of the disc.

Making Of Featurette (14:14)

    A moderately interesting and surprisingly thorough "Making Of" featurette. Using a lot of interviews and backstage footage, the featurette covers the usual acting motivation guff as well as the interesting back-story to the production and the effort required to re-create 1930s Hollywood (which the film does an excellent job of capturing).

Cast and Director Interviews (12:59)

    Interviews with Director Robert Towne and cast members Colin Farrell, Salma Hayek, Justin Kirk and Idina Menzel. These short interviews are light and fluffy, press-kit style interviews that run over the usual promotional questions such as how the interviewees feel about the film, how special the story is to them and so on. Nothing terribly noteworthy in this lot, but they are worth a look.

B-Roll Footage (8:24)

    Raw behind the scenes footage with no introduction or explanation. This footage gives an interesting fly-on-the-wall look at what production on a film is like, but sheds no real insight into Ask The Dust.

Theatrical Trailer (2:24)

    A fairly typical theatrical trailer. presented in a 1.85:1 aspect, but not 16x9 enhanced.

Trailers

    Trailers for several other Madman releases, preceded by an annoying anti-piracy trailer. Includes The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Matando Cabos, Donnie Darko and Narco

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 edition misses the Cast and Director Interviews, B-Roll Footage and a handful of trailers for other films. The Region 4 edition misses nothing found on the Region 1 edition, making it the winner of this comparison.

Summary

    A rather shallow depression era drama come romance film that will struggle to be remembered as more than "the one with Colin Farrell and Salma Hayek's bits in it".

    The video presentation is quite disappointing for a recent film. It features severe pixelation throughout several key scenes. The audio presentation is adequate. The extras are quite good and reasonable in number.

    Worth renting rather than buying on spec, despite a noteworthy cast and crew.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Adam Gould (Totally Biolicious!)
Monday, June 18, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDSony Playstation 3, using S-Video output
Display Samsung 116cm LA46M81BD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderPioneer VSX-D512. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX2016AVS
Speakers150W DTX front speakers, and a 100W centre and 2 surrounds, 12 inch PSB Image 6i powered sub

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
any idea if the r1 transfer is better? -