The Best of Times (1986)

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Released 23-Apr-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Menu Animation & Audio
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1986
Running Time 99:27 (Case: 104)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Roger Spottiswoode
Studio
Distributor

Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring Robin Williams
Kurt Russell
Pamela Reed
Donald Moffat
Holly Palance
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI $32.95 Music Arthur B. Rubenstein


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

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Plot Synopsis

"A film with a Catch (Or Two)"

    Is there one thing in your life that you wish you could do over again? Is there a mistake that forever haunts you and despite your attempts to forget it, is forever burned in your mind? Don't you wish that you could erase that mistake once and for all? This is the dilemma that plagues Jack Dundee (played by the quick-tongued Robin Williams). For almost as long as people have remembered, the Taft High Rockets football team have been beaten into submission by the overwhelming might of rival team the Bakersfield Tigers. Taft have never even got close to Bakersfield. Except once. In 1972, the Rockets, lead by star quarterback Reno Hightower (played by Kurt Russell), played a tied game against Bakersfield. When the opportunity came to score against the Tigers in the last play of the game, Reno chose to throw his final pass to Jack Dundee. Unfortunately, Jack dropped the ball, and it was the defining moment of his life.

    Fast forward to 13 years later. Jack has married Elly (played by Holly Palance), daughter of a local bank president called The Colonel. Jack has been given the position of vice-president by Elly's father in order to keep her in the manner she has been accustomed, and also (according to Elly's father)  to keep her from being married to a complete loser. But, Jack is not happy, and the memory of the dropped pass echoes in his mind over and over again. At breaking point, Jack is told to do a very simple thing: replay the game. If you can't change history, then why not rewrite it? Struck with this idea, Jack seeks out Reno Hightower, who now works as Taft's local motor mechanic. Left with busted knees and a failing marriage, Reno (unlike Jack) looks to the past for comfort as being a star quarterback was the one time in his life when his talent shined.

    When approached by Jack about playing the game again, Reno baulks at the idea. But Jack won't let up and soon the whole town of Taft is in replay fever. When Jack pitches the idea at The Colonel (played by Donald Moffat) who just happens to be Elly's father and the president of the Bakersfield Tigers, he jumps at the idea and the match is on! But Elly and Reno Hightower's wife Gigi (played by Pamela Reed) aren't so keen on the idea and do everything they can to discourage the two from replaying the game. With the town behind him and the old team getting into shape (sort of), Jack and Reno set out to remake history. And with hard work, courage, luck and just a little bit of magic, they may just do it.

    Made in 1986, this comedy tries hard but fails in the end to deliver. Headed by accomplished director Roger Spottiswoode (The 6th Day: 2000, Tomorrow Never Dies: 1997, Air America: 1990, Turner & Hooch: 1989), this film goes through the motions with little to remark upon. Robin Williams puts in a very restrained performance as Jack Dundee with little of his usual improvised banter and physical comedy. Supporting actors Kurt Russell, Pamela Reed (The Right Stuff: 1985, Cadillac Man (again with Robin Williams): 1990, Kindergarten Cop: 1990) and Holly Palance (daughter of Jack Palance) do a good job with the material given to them but it is not enough to save the movie. The screenplay was written by Ron Shelton, whose work includes Under Fire: 1983, Bull Durham: 1988, and White Men Can't Jump in 1992, and does not live up to either his prior or later works. You can put together a quality cast, good screenwriter and a fine director but you can't always make it work. The script lets this film down in the end and for the most part, despite its release on DVD, The Best of Times will probably be largely forgotten.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The quality of the movie is in no way representative of the quality of the transfer. The transfer is much, much worse. While not quite unwatchable, this disc does stray fairly close to that mark.

    This disc presents us with a 1.33:1 pan & scan transfer of the film and as such there is no 16x9 enhancement. The theatrical aspect ratio of this film was 2.35:1. While pan & scan can be semi-watchable where the original aspect ratio was 1.85:1 or 1.66:1 (I did say semi-watchable) and there is less information cut away,  to pan & scan a 2.35:1 feature tosses away too much image and at the end of the day you often have noses taking to each other. It is always a shame to be denied a film's original theatrical aspect ratio on DVD, no matter what the movie. After all, isn't this why we have this format; to preserve and present film as it was intended by the director? Over the course of time, this reviewer begins to wonder.

    Shadow detail is quite lacking during the presentation of this film on DVD. Some of the darker scenes have little or no detail whatsoever. This could be due to either the condition of the original print used (which is quite bad) or the poor quality of the mastering to disc. Dark scenes leave much to be desired as 52:15 into the film demonstrates. Low level noise seems to be kept at bay although this can be hard to determine at times with this title as there are so many MPEG artefacts and so much film grain visible.

    Colour during this feature is of reasonable quality considering the quality of the print and the quality of the transfer to DVD. What we have here is a slightly muted colour transfer that presents as much as can be expected with this title.

    The main transfer quality problem with this title is MPEG artefacting. Every image viewable during the film is littered with pixelization dots that shimmer and halo around anything that moves and corrode any even-coloured surface such as single colour walls and sky shots. While this disc is single layered, this amount of over-compression seems to be unwarranted due to the film's fairly short length. Aliasing is not an issue with this title. Edge enhancement is viewable throughout this movie and while not overly distracting, it is there. There are quite a few film artefacts to be seen during this film, especially grain. There are also quite a few nicks and spots especially at 22:27 and 46:48. For a total overview of what this disc has in store, 3:52 into the film exhibits MPEG pixelization, film artefacts, grain and edge enhancement all in the one shot. Not pretty.

    There are no subtitles on this disc

    As this disc is single layered, a layer change is not an issue.

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

Audio

    This disc features a very flat audio transfer.

    There is only one audio track available, that being an English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. Although the track is in stereo, there is little right to left separation audible and the sound from this film verges on being mono. Playing the film back in Dolby Pro Logic failed to move much sound away from the screen and most of the sound came from the centre channel. There is a very slight separation across the front three channels in Pro Logic mode, but no amount of DSP could generate anything remotely sounding like a theatre with the audio on this disc. There is also quite a noticeable audio drop-out at 71:59 with the audio being slightly muted after that point.

    Dialogue quality is acceptable, though not remarkable with all the major players being able to be heard throughout the feature.

    Audio sync was for the most part okay, though there are portions of the film where the sync seems just a tad out of alignment. It is not overly distracting or too frequent, but it is there.

    Arthur B. Rubenstein gives us an unremarkable score that suits the film and its mood but has nothing remarkable about it. Some of the synthesizer music near the end of the film sounds a bit dated.

    Because of the limited stereo separation with the audio of this title, no surround presence exists despite this reviewer's best attempts. The rear channels remain silent during the film.

    There is very little subwoofer activity during this film, but the one section where we do hear something is at 37:55 during a passage of the film's score. As to on-screen action, the subwoofer is mostly silent.

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

Extras

    The extras are light on the ground with this title.

Menu

    After the distributor's logos and copyright warnings, we are presented with an animated menu themed around the City of Taft's Fox Theater as featured in the film. Listed on the theatre's marquee are our three menu choices. These are:     This menu plays music from the soundtrack for 56 seconds after which, if no selection is made, the disc defaults to Movie (play). This menu is presented full screen with no 16x9 enhancement. The audio is in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo.

    The chapter menu offers three to four chapter choices per page with still images of scenes from each respective chapter at the left of screen on a background of Jack Dundee in his football helmet . At bottom right are the options of Back, Next and Menu. This menu is full framed, non 16x9 enhanced and features background music from the film's soundtrack in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo.

Theatrical Trailer

    On offer is the original theatrical trailer featured full screen (pan & scanned). Exhibiting more grain and the same amount of MPEG artefacting as the feature, this trailer runs for 2:14. There is no 16x9 enhancement and the audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo.

R4 vs R1

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

    This title has been released in R1 with some minor extras.

    The Region 4 version misses out on:

    The Region 1 version misses out on:

Summary

   While the performers attached to this picture are first rate, sadly this film is not. Lacklustre at almost every turn, there is little to command attention. Robin Williams is sedate while Kurt Russell was much better in Big Trouble in Little China, which was released in the same year as this movie. In the end, The Best Of Times is an entirely forgettable film.

    The video transfer is terrible, verging on unwatchable with almost every artefact imaginable on-screen throughout.

    The audio transfer is quite ordinary and flawed with little stereo information. The film might as well have been in mono.

    The extras are almost non-existent with only a trailer on offer.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Sean Bradford (There is no bio.)
Tuesday, May 14, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic A300-MU, using S-Video output
DisplayHitachi CP-L750W LCD Projector. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V2090
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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