Anaconda (1997)

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Released 30-Sep-1998

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1997
Running Time 85:44
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Luis Llosa
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Jennifer Lopez
Ice Cube
Jon Voight
Eric Stoltz
Jonathan Hyde
Owen Wilson
Case Brackley-Trans-No Lip
RPI $36.95 Music Randy Edelman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Dutch
Arabic
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    I suppose the first question to answer is why the heck is he reviewing a DVD that has been out for over twelve months? Simple really, and there are two reasons. Firstly, none of the major Australian Region 4 sites has reviewed the disc before, so it fills a gap in the review listing. (Ed. Damon from DVD NZ has reviewed this title.) Secondly, I personally believe that it is important to return to the early releases in Region 4 to see how they stand up in comparison to later releases. After all, it seems logical that with the improvements we would expect as a result of increased familiarity with the format - and I believe that in general there has been improvement since the initial releases - early discs that may have originally impressed may not hold their stature on return viewing.

    And so Anaconda made a trip into the player, and a fresh repressing it is too with the Gold Standard Quality label on the case and a nice picture disc presentation. Okay, it has been roundly panned in most quarters as being a pretty ordinary film, currently enjoying a 4.2 out of 10 rating on the Internet Movie Database. Does it deserve the criticism? Well, basically yes if you want to take it seriously. The broad plot here is director Terri Flores (Jennifer Lopez) is heading into the Amazon backwaters to make a television documentary on the 'People of the Mist', a fabled Amazonian Indian tribe. Accompanying her is a specialist on the tribe (and potential love interest), Dr Steven Cale (Eric Stoltz), cameraman Danny Rich (Ice Cube), narrator Warren Westridge (Jonathan Hyde), producer Denise Kalber (Kari Wuhrer) and general dogsbody/sound guy Gary Dixon (Owen Wilson). Heading upriver in search of the tribe, they come across a stranded snake catcher Paul Serone (Jon Voight), whom they take on board with somewhat disastrous results. The original mission goes by the wayside fairly quickly after a slight accident and they end up battling one rather large, angry and very ravenous anaconda (plus a snake catcher) in order to return to civilization - to the detriment of most, including the snake.

    As you may have gathered, this is not Shakespeare that we are talking about. The story is fairly poor and quite predictable, stretching credulity to the limit at times. Not that there aren't some seriously sized snakes in that part of the world, but the depiction of the anaconda just fails to meet the criteria for believable in my mind (no doubt plenty of herpetologists will be able to shoot me down here). With the story being less than great, it would require a great cast to help raise the story out of the mire. Sorry, it did not happen, unless you can accept Jon Voight's way over the top effort. Across the board, this is not an especially great demonstration of acting, with Ice Cube leading the way here. Little things like character development might have helped here, but this is sadly lacking indeed. Add to that some fairly lacklustre direction, and some effects that hardly leave you gasping, and there is not an awful lot to redeem this effort. Some have unkindly suggested that even the self sacrifice of Jennifer Lopez running around in a singlet top for eighty minutes could not raise this effort from the mire. I will not be so crass, but at times you really do begin to wonder what, if anything, will save the film. About the only thing for me was some actually not too shabby cinematography, which has captured the feeling of the Amazon jungle fairly well. This is really very B-grade stuff, and sort of works at that level, but even that is stretching things a bit.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Okay, so the plot is not much to write home about, so what about the video transfer? Well Columbia TriStar has set itself some very high standards in this area over the past twelve months or so. And in that regard, this holds up pretty well indeed.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and it is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is quite sharp throughout and in its way very clear, let down by only a few moments of soft focus: an example being at 40:58. Definition at times is a little lacking: however, this is not a transfer problem, but rather an effort to convey the eerie feeling of the jungle and river. It has to be said that this has in generally been shot a little darker than I would normally expect. Shadow detail was good, if lacking the absolute definition of the very finest transfers. Other than that, a nice transfer that holds up well in comparison to later efforts from this stable.

    This is generally a quite vibrant colourscape, with some nice rich tones. Colours have been nicely rendered and are very natural looking. There has been no effort made to indulge in wildly garish green tones to the jungle, which does help the film somewhat. Some of the shots of sunrises and so on were wonderfully done and really convey the natural beauty of the region.

    It may be earlier Columbia TriStar, but there were still no MPEG nor film-to-video artefacts noted. If there were any appreciable film artefacts, then I certainly missed them. A nice clean transfer that does nothing to detract from the film, and shows that Columbia TriStar have been on top of this game for some time.

Audio

    The overall audio transfer was not too bad either.

    There are four audio tracks on the disc: the default English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded soundtrack, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, a French Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded soundtrack and a French Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. I listened to the English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack.

    The dialogue was crisp and clear, and easy to understand, throughout.

    Audio sync did not appear to be a problem with the transfer.

    The music score comes from Randy Edelman, although it is not especially memorable. It did not seem to have anything especially noteworthy about it and it really does not do an awful lot to help the film along - but then again does anything?

    This is a nicely balanced and quite nicely detailed soundtrack. The surround channels have been well used, with the rear channels providing some lovely background detail sounds like insects and birds. The sound picture is quite natural, totally convincing and you are well positioned in it.

    The bass channel did not get a whole lot of action, but when it was called upon it was suitably boomy and well supported the surround channels.

Extras

    This is earlier Columbia TriStar, so there are absolutely no extras on the disc, a situation they have thankfully addressed with many of their later releases.

Menu

    A decently themed menu, although lacking enhancement of any kind.

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:     Unless the need for a pan and scan version is overwhelming, there seems little reason to prefer one version to the other, as I doubt that you really need a trailer for this film. It should be noted however that the film was shot in Super 35, so that the pan and scan version has minimal side information loss and adds plenty of top and bottom information.

Summary

    Okay so Anaconda is not the greatest film ever made: indeed it leaves quite a bit to be desired. However, the transfer is good and if you have never seen the film and you have a bent for B-grade flicks, might well be worth a rental from your local video store. I could not in all honesty recommend you buy it though, unless you are a really serious Jennifer Lopez fan.

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio quality is very good.

    The extras missed the boat up the river.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Sunday, October 31, 1999
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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