Phone Booth (Blu-ray) (2002)
Audio Commentary-Director Joel Schumacher
Theatrical Trailer-Phone Booth
Theatrical Trailer-League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
|Year Of Production||2002|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Joel Schumacher|
Twentieth Century Fox
Paula Jai Parker
Arian Waring Ash
John Enos III
Richard T. Jones
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 (1536Kb/s)
French dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
German dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
††† Phone Booth is a white-knuckled study in suspense. While it might not be the best thriller ever made, it is certainly one of the most enjoyable and memorable of recent years. Phone Booth was released on DVD locally in 2003, but now four years later, it is available to enjoy in high definition.
††† Stu Shepard (Colin Farrell) is a rude, selfish, and callous opportunist. His mercenary and amoral attitude seems to make him a successful publicist, but a lousy human being. We meet Stu in the filmís opening. He is a smug PR jerk swaggering through Manhattan, with a doting apprentice in tow. We hear Stu arrogantly wheeling and dealing, and talking trash on his mobile phone, while his confused lackey desperately scurries after him. Sure heís a lying sleazebag, but Stuís also cocky and cool, and we canít help but like him.
††† Stu uses the same phone booth near Times Square every day to call his "favourite client", an aspiring, young actress Pamela (Katie Holmes). Stu is desperately trying to convince Pamela to sleep with him. Pamela is a little flirty, but really not interested. Stu uses the phone booth, as his suspicious, and no doubt, long-suffering wife Kelly (Radha Mitchell) might be checking his mobile phone bills.
††† One day, as Stu hangs up from chatting with Pamela, something strange happens. The telephone rings in the phone booth, so Stu naturally answers it. "A ringing phone has to be answered doesn't it?"
††† The caller (Kiefer Sutherland) on the other end has a menacing gravel-voice. He also has a high-powered 30-caliber rifle pointed directly at Stu's chest. Through a terrifying demonstration, the initially sceptical Stu soon realises how much trouble he's in.
††† This is not a random act. The caller knew Stu would be in the booth. Indeed, it seems that the caller knows a great deal about Stu, including his shady business dealings, and his attempts to start an extramarital affair.
††† The caller orders Stu to remain in the phone booth no matter what happens. Stu will have to obey the caller, and fend off load-mouthed prostitutes, their pushy pimp, and later the police, led by Captain Ramey (Forest Whitaker).
††† Stu's small, glass-walled prison transforms very quickly from being a phone booth, into being a transparent, confessional booth. The moralizing sniper seems to believe he is doing God's work, by forcing Stu to publicly confess and repent his sins.
††† The filmís tight screenplay was written by Larry Cohen, who is best known for his B-Grade 'exploitation' films. Cohen wrote such screen gems as Black Caesar and Maniac Cop, and has also been writing for television, almost since it began in the US in the 1950s. Cohen also wrote and directed classic B-movie horrorthons, such as God Told Me To, and It's Alive.
††† Cleverly, throughout his writing career, Cohen has used horror-film plot devices to expose and explore the cracks and ironies of the modern world, and Phone Booth is no exception.
††† Interestingly, Cohen followed his Hollywood success with Phone Booth by writing a script for another mainstream claustrophobic thriller, about another every-day victim in danger of being shot, and who canít hang up their phone, as their life depends upon it Ė Cellular.
††† As a Director, Joel Schumacher has tackled a variety of film styles and subjects, with varying success. His better known films include: St. Elmo's Fire, The Lost Boys, Flatliners, Falling Down, The Client, Batman Forever, A Time to Kill, Batman & Robin, 8mm, Tigerland, and most recently, The Phantom of the Opera. While his films arenít always great, theyíre usually interesting, and often punch above their weight.
††† With Phone Booth, Schumacher has adopted a slick visual style, with fancy camera work and rapid pacing through his editing, which keeps us on the edge of our seats. Although only running for 81 minutes, and seemingly set in real time, the filmís set-up still requires a lot of skill for it to pay off. After all, with almost the entire story taking place in real time on a single street corner, the story very easily could have been very boring.
††† Schumacher might be presenting us with split screens, image inserts, and fisheye lenses, but itís not just his striking visual style that keeps us hooked. As a director, Schumacher knows how to make us jump, and he expertly manipulates the emotions of the audience throughout the film. For example, Schumacher forces us feel uneasy, as we also experience Stu's anxiety, fear, and frustration.
††† The acting in Phone Booth is universally superb. Colin Farrell can be great in films, as he was in Hartís War, and here he again provides us with a truly absorbing performance. It is genuinely uncomfortable to watch his character squirm, as he has his protective layers of lies and deceit, carefully and completely stripped away throughout the film. His moving confession scene in Phone Booth is perhaps his greatest acting moment onscreen to date.
††† The supporting cast in Phone Booth is also terrific. Forest Whittaker, as always, is completely solid and believable. Katie Holmes is as cute-as-a-button, and obviously not stretched here, as for her role, she plays a beautiful young actress. But it is ex-Neighbours and Blue Heelers actress, Radha Mitchell, who really shines. As she did in Pitch Black and Man On Fire, she makes the most of her supporting role.
††† When you think of films you want released in high definition, I must admit that Phone Booth wasn't exactly on the top of my list. That said, the film does benefit greatly from the new format.
††† Phone Booth is presented with a high definition transfer, authored in 1920 x 1080p. It has been encoded using MPEG-2 compression, averaging around 26 Mbps. The transfer is presented in a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1, in a native widescreen 16x9 frame. This is the film's original theatrical ratio.
††† The sharpness of the image is excellent. Consider, for example, the depth of detail in the Times Square and NYC street scenes at 1:27 and 32:04. The black level is also excellent, with true deep blacks. The shadow detail is very good, for example, consider the detail in Pamela's face in the restaurant interior at 11:43.
††† There is a consistent approach to colour in this film, to create certain moods. For example, the scenes of Pamela inside the restaurant have a warm, almost reddish tint, whereas the scenes on the NYC streets by comparison, have a slightly desaturated look, with a blue wash over them. This helps create a feeling of cold and isolation.
††† Although the source material is about five years old now, the transfer looks like it is of a much more recent print. There are no problems with MPEG, Film-To-Video, or Film Artefacts. Some of the scenes are a little grainy, but I assume that this is due to the film used in the source material.
††† 17 subtitle streams have been recorded for this disc, and the English subtitles are†accurate.
††† This is a BD-25 (25 GB Blu-ray disc), with the feature divided into 28 chapters.
††† As a dialogue-based thriller, I wasn't expecting a surround sound 'demo-disc', but Phone Booth still provides a great home theatre listening experience.
††† Originally released theatrically with Dolby Digital, dts, and SDDS audio, there are four audio options on this Blu-ray disc: The first is an English dts-HD Lossless Master Audio for the feature, which can potentially support an unlimited number of surround sound channels, and downmix to 5.1 if required. As I mentioned in a previous review, this is 'future-proofing' as currently there are no Blu-ray or HD-DVD players that are able to decode the dts-HD Master Audio, but all Blu-ray and HD-DVD players can currently decode the dts-HD "core" audio at 1.5 Mbps. I understand that firmware upgrades in the near future (via download) will address this situation. There is also French and German dubbed audio for the feature, presented in dts, and encoded at 768 Kbps. Finally, there is a audio commentary presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, encoded at 224 kbps.
††† Despite the extensive use of ADR, the dialogue quality and audio sync are excellent.
†††The film's score is effective, and provided by Harry Gregson-Williams, who has also successfully scored a variety of different styles of films, such as Enemy of the State, Chicken Run, Domino, Deja Vu, Kingdom of Heaven, and the Shrek films.
††† The surround presence and activity suits this dialogue-based film. While the surround sound mix is usually quite front-heavy, the rear speakers are used to help carry the score and provide some ambience throughout, such as the NYC traffic at 5:50. As with the DVD, at times there are also some clever directional effects, and panning between speakers. This subtle approach to the sound-design maintains an immersive sound-field while keeping the viewer firmly focused on the screen.
††† While there is not a LFE-heavy track, the subwoofer is utilised when appropriate.
|Surround Channel Use|
††† Phone Booth was released locally on DVD in 2003 with the Director Audio Commentary and The Making Of Phone Booth (28:19) as extras. In what appears to be a worrying trend for BD-25 releases, the BD has dropped the featurette, and added trailers.
††† †Director Joel Schumacher provides an excellent, chatty screen-specific commentary, in which he discusses the film production in great detail. Apart from how he selected the cast and locations, he also discusses the difficulties of filming the movie in chronological order in under two weeks. There are also some interesting trivia and amusing anecdotes throughout.
††† Phone Booth has been released on Blu-ray in North America as well, and ignoring some of the subtitles and language dubs, our high definition discs are basically the same in terms of content.
††† Phone Booth was released on DVD in 2003, but has not been released on HD-DVD.
††† Despite the simple premise, Phone Booth provides us with plenty of twists, jumps, and some moments of unbearable tension.
††† The video quality is very good.
††† The audio quality is also very good.
††† The extras are very slim, but genuine.
|DVD||Sony Playstation 3 (HDMI 1.3) with Upscaling, using HDMI output|
|Display||Panasonic High Definition 50' Plasma (127 cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||Samsung Pure Digital 6.1 AV Receiver (HDMI 1.3)|