Let's Get Skase (2001)

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Released 1-Aug-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Menu Animation & Audio
Audio Commentary
Theatrical Trailer
Deleted Scenes
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 96:30
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Matthew George
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Lachy Hulme
Alex Dimitriades
Craig McLachlan
Bill Kerr
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music Craig Bryant


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes, constantly
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    A warning: extremely unpopular and inflammatory feelings about the justice system and financial administration of this country that it is my right to have follow. If this might bother you, you may wish to skip the paragraph after next.

"So why did Australians want him back here to face justice? Not because he was a criminal. Because he was a bulls*** artist."

    Let's Get Skase was one of the last, if not the last, films I got to see at Castle Hill's ultra-modern cinema multiplex (which is so large, with over a dozen full-size theatres, that it occupies two large blocks of a shopping complex). The reason I insisted to my immediate family that we had to go and see it was a bit complex, as I usually find myself avoiding Australian films like the plague (anyone who has read my review of The Dish will understand why). However, Let's Get Skase, as directed by Matthew George, is not your typical Australian film - there is no flag-waving to be seen, and all the humour is based largely upon what a corrupt, selfish society this country was turning into during the period from about 1985 to 1993. I enjoyed this film because (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) it doesn't expect me to be proud of the Australian citizenship I renounced once again in disgust over John Howard's covering for an archbishop who in turn covers for child abusers. If you don't like that fact, well, all I can say is live with it like the people who were burned by Skase's financial dealings have had to live with bankruptcy.

    The plot, such as it is, concerns itself with the collapse of Christopher Skase's media empire, and the reaction by numerous Australians to that event, featuring a lot of footage taken from various television shows, including Andrew Denton's self-titled comedy hour that I sorely wish was still on. Much of the plot in this film revolves around the facts, such as Denton's crazy telethon to raise money in order to hire a bounty hunter to bring Skase back to these shores, but then it drifts a little more into the realm of fiction.

    Peter Dellasandro (Lachy Hulme) is at a meeting of shareholders who are facing the possibility of financial dissolution when he hits upon a great idea - if Denton is not going to follow through on getting someone to kidnap Skase and bring him back to face justice, he's going to do it himself. Enlisting the help of such misfits as Danny D'Amato Jr. (Alex Dimitriades), Peter organises a team to get into Skase's mansion, kidnap the man, and get him back home so he can tell his creditors where all the money is. Unfortunately, a more co-ordinated effort is taking place, led by the despicable Eric Carney (Craig McLachlan), and it appears that Skase (impersonated to perfection by Wayne Hassell) has a new, more complex plan to swindle even more working Joes out there.

    Okay, so it isn't rocket science, or an adaptation of the greatest story on Earth like what we're expecting later this year, but it is rollicking good fun that will keep a smile on the face of every hardworking taxpayer, or even dissident schmos just looking for an even break like myself. It is interesting to note, however, that the opinions of a lot of armchair critics on the IMDB are very divided about this film, with some criticising it for being in poor taste. Myself, I feel that the real joke is the fact that people like Skase can get away with ripping off the Commonwealth for millions while people who get caught cheating on their dole form for one week end up in court. A member of the Celibate Rifles whose name I forget felt the same way, and I am sure there are plenty more out there, so let's dive right in.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer for this film is rather unusually framed - the actual viewing area is slightly above the centre of the 1.78:1 frame, and the transfer itself is slightly wider than the intended aspect ratio of the film. The transfer is presented at 2.46:1 (measured), and it is 16x9 Enhanced. The aspect ratio as it was shown in the theatre was 2.40:1, so this is acceptable, although a bit odd.

    One unusual feature of this film is that it relies quite heavily on television broadcasts in order to get the viewer who isn't familiar with Christopher Skase up to speed. These snippets of footage from such sources as the Andrew Denton show are not very sharp at all, but this was inherent in the theatrical exhibition, so I am not going to get on Roadshow's case about that. The television broadcasts were heavily matted from a 1.33:1 aspect ratio into a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, almost as if to say to Pan And Scan junkies "here, how do you like it?", or something.

    In light of that, the sharpness of this transfer is quite good, with those archival materials being a little sharper on DVD than was the case in the theatre, mostly due to the reduction in screen size. The main feature footage is much sharper, and comparable to any contemporary transfer, so the diffuse look of the archival footage can be blamed on said footage's pedigree. The shadow detail is very good, which is especially welcome during the third act, where shadow detail is important to make out what is going on during the raid on Skase's mansion. For some reason, I tend to find that transfers of wholly Australian productions have slightly less shadow detail than is normal, but there won't be any serious complaints here. Low-level noise was not a problem except in the archival footage, where it is inherent in the source material, being broadcast material and all, anyway.

    Having gotten that out of the way, the colour portion of the transfer is also affected by the source material that was used in the film, too, with the archival footage often looking very blotchy. When the film is based upon honest-to-goodness thirty-five millimeter material, however, the colours are quite warm and richly saturated, almost overly so. If I had to sum up the colours in a single sentence, I would say they had the look from an episode of Days Of Our Lives, which I assume is a deliberate touch on the part of the filmmakers.

    MPEG artefacts were not found in this transfer, except during the archival materials which looked a little blocky during the theatrical exhibition, anyway. One cannot realistically expect to put materials such as these through an MPEG-2 compressor and expect that there won't be additional bits of macro-blocking and grain, anyway. Overall, however, one would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the original film and this DVD-Video transfer at least in terms of the effect that the compression has had. Unfortunately, the area of film-to-video artefacting is where it all comes crashing down in the proverbial heap, with a number of very noticeable aliasing artefacts detracting from what is essentially an excellent transfer. Cufflinks at 62:05, brick walls at 15:28, almost anything that can shimmer does so, although the severity is not too bad, considering. Film artefacts were found in mild amounts, with the overall total being only slightly more than acceptable for a film of this vintage.

    There are English subtitles present on this DVD, which, while lacking any sound cues, should be able to keep the Hearing Impaired viewers reasonably up to speed with what is happening. Being that I have quite acute hearing, I cannot comment on how much of the comedic impact the subtitles retain, but the story does make sense in their rendition of the dialogue, which is more than I can say for some efforts I have sampled.

    This DVD is RSDL formatted, but my attempts to find the layer change were unsuccessful.

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

Audio

    The Internet Movie Database lists this film as merely being presented in stereo, which, to quote the film, is bulls***, because I remember there being some very distinct directional cues during the theatrical exhibition. However, any home theatre critic worth his salt will also tell you that theatrical exhibitions have much less immersive soundfields than is the case in home theatre, and Let's Get Skase more than lives up to that tradition.

    There are two soundtracks included on this DVD, both of which are in English: first up is the original dialogue in Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 kilobits per second, and the second soundtrack is an Audio Commentary in Dolby Digital 2.0 at 192 kilobits per second. I listened to both of these soundtracks from start to finish - one is almost as funny as the other.

    The dialogue is clear and easy to understand at almost all times, although there are moments of shouting and screaming when the thrust of a sentence is slightly lost, not that these parts of the dialogue are particularly important to the overall plot. The audio sync during the archival footage is slightly out, as are some of the Spanish dialogues that occur during the final act, but otherwise, the audio sync cannot be faulted (these problems were noticeable during the theatrical exhibition, anyway).

    The music in this film is credited to Craig Bryant, with some additional numbers provided by Craig McLachlan and his band. The score music does a great job of adding excitement to the film, and it is an especially quirky effort.

    The surround channels are used throughout this film to provide an immersive, although not constant, soundfield that makes the film just that little bit more fun to watch. They are especially effectively used for a passing train at 6:52 and the reverberations of a PA system at 49:57, to name the two most obvious examples.

    The subwoofer is also used throughout the film to support passing cars, explosions, and all sorts of impactful sounds that you wouldn't normally expect to hear in such a light-hearted comedy. It supported the rest of the soundtrack well without calling undue attention to itself.

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

Extras

    Considering that this film was made in Perth using Australian nickels, I would have expected a little more from the DVD release in the extras department. Oh well.

Menu

    The menu is very appropriately themed with televisual archive footage of Christopher Skase, 16x9 Enhanced and accompanied by Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound. It is very easy to navigate.

Audio Commentary - Matthew George (Director/Writer), Lachy Hulme (Actor/Writer)

    A warning first: this Dolby Digital 2.0 audio commentary is mastered about ten decibels louder than the main soundtrack, so anyone who has an interest in the welfare of their speakers would be advised to turn the volume down before listening to this commentary. Having got that out of the way, the audio commentary does share a lot of interesting trivia about the making of the film, so it is well worth a listen.

Theatrical Trailer

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 with 16x9 Enhancement and Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, this two minute and twenty-eight second trailer is very good at making the film seem interesting without giving too much away.

Deleted Scenes

    This extra is presented as a seventeen minute and twenty-nine second featurette, with no annotation as to where the deleted scenes fit in with the rest of the film. It should be fairly easy to guess by context, anyway. They are presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, and they are not 16x9 Enhanced. The video is of relatively poor quality, and there is a rather loud buzz from the right speaker at 9:52 for a couple of seconds.

R4 vs R1

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

    There does not appear to be a Region 1 version of this disc as yet. This can be explained by the fact that most Americans don't even know who Skase is, but there may or may not be a Region 2 version in the works. I suspect that this is the best version we will be able to get for quite some time.

Summary

    Let's Get Skase is a rare commodity in films these days - light entertainment that doesn't go quite so low-brow as to become patronising, annoying, or stupid like some films and programmes I will not glorify by mentioning here. While it has very little of relevance to say about life in general, for one moment it provides an uplifting story about the people whom our society is seemingly set up to screw over getting some of their own back. You can't turn your nose up at a film with that kind of theme unless you're an even nastier sort than I am.

    The video transfer is very good, although aliasing does bring it down a bit.

    The audio transfer is excellent, far more than what I was expecting for this film.

    The extras are sparse.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Saturday, April 20, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using S-Video output
DisplaySamsung CS-823AMF (80cm). Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony STR DE-835
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer

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