O (2001)

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Released 13-Jun-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Menu Audio
Dolby Digital Trailer-Rain
Audio Commentary
Deleted Scenes-4 +/- commentary
Featurette-Basketball Scenes Analysis (3)
Interviews-Cast & Crew
Theatrical Trailer
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 90:46
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Tim Blake Nelson
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Josh Hartnett
Julia Stiles
Mekhi Phifer
Elden Henson
Andrew Keegan
Rain Phoenix
Anthony Johnson
John Heard
Martin Sheen
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music Jeff Danna


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (320Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes, not so much smoking as doing lines of cocaine.
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Of Shakespeare's many tragedies, Othello is a personal favourite of mine. The devious and evil Iago is a creation of the other character's complete lack of compassion for him, and the success of his blood-soaked plot relies completely on Othello's own powerful jealousy - in the end Othello is brought down not by the machinations of an envious colleague, but through his own short-comings. The greatest and most fiendishly enjoyable aspect of Othello, however, is the way in which the play ends, as it further underlines the point that the very society that created Iago was more severely punished than Iago himself.

    The tale of Othello revolves around the great Moorish general Othello - the only black man in an otherwise white fort - his relationship with the beautiful Desdemona, and the terrible plot of the insanely envious Iago. In this modern version of the classic tale, we have Odin 'O' James (Mekhi Phifer) - the only African-American student at an otherwise elite white private school - a hot NBA prospect on the verge of an amazing career, as the "general" of his team. He is dating the prettiest girl in school, Desi Brable (Julia Stiles), has a very good friend in Michael Casio (Andrew Keegan), and has just been named the most valuable player on his basketball team by coach Duke Golding (Martin Sheen). There is only one problem - although he does not know it yet - and it comes in the form of the brilliant but insanely envious Hugo Golding (Josh Hartnett) - the modern version of Iago. Hugo is the son of coach Duke, and believes it was his right to be the MVP - he is envious of all the attention that everyone pays to O, and is even more envious of the relationship O has with his own father. In an effort to bring O down, Hugo launches a devious and intricate plot to turn O against Desi and Michael. As the story progresses, Hugo's desires become darker, and eventually turn to murder. The machinations of this one person will ultimately change the lives of everyone around him - and no-one will thank him for it.

    This version of the tale is not without its problems. For starters, the combination of score (often including operatic moments) and very flowery dialogue - the characters do not speak Shakespearean English, but they certainly spout Dawson's Creek-like dialogue on a frequent basis - often borders on being pretentious and comes close to slipping into being art for art's sake, and thus loses some of its impact. The acting also has its ups and downs (as is really to be expected with such a large and young cast), especially Mekhi Phifer who struggles as the jealous lover, while Julia Stiles, whose acting talents have certainly been proven beyond doubt elsewhere, seems to sleepwalk through her part here. On the up side, Josh Hartnett is simply brilliant as the devious and envious Hugo, and proves here why he has become the new golden-boy of Hollywood. Probably the greatest strength of O is that it manages to be a remarkably faithful adaptation of Othello at the same time as completely altering the setting. As director Tim Blake Nelson mentions during his interview, it is quite scary that the tale of Othello can quite convincingly be transported to an American high school - it is a sad indictment of modern youth.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer afforded O is one of the best ever produced. Even being as picky and as harsh as possible there are almost no problems at all with this transfer - and even those that can be found when looked for really need fine inspection to pick up. A sterling effort, and one that should be applied to more discs.

    Presented at the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, this transfer is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is very sharp, presenting a high level of detail. There is almost no visible grain present during the film, with only the "flash-forward" sequence from 67:24 to 68:50 showing grain, and that was entirely intentional on the part of the film-makers, so really does not qualify. Shadow detail is also very good, with nothing becoming obscured from view almost regardless of the lighting levels. There was no low-level noise present.

    The colours are spot on - blacks are deep, and the highlights (such as the basketball uniforms) are vibrant and colourful. Probably the only note to make here is that the cinematographer seems to like blue quite a bit, as many of the scenes are bathed in a blue tinge which gives a very "sterile" effect, and dulls colours somewhat.

    This transfer is totally free of both compression and film-to-video artefacts - and I mean totally free. It is a very impressive effort. There are a number of film artefacts, such as at 0:52 on the white dove, but while they are relatively common, all are tiny, being of no distraction whatsoever.

    The subtitles are almost word-for-word accurate (including all the song lyrics - even those in Latin!), only dropping the occasional word, and never affecting the flow of the dialogue.

    This is a dual layer disc, but is arranged with the movie on one layer, and the extras on the other. This is actually very pleasing to see as it would have been tempting to compress the transfer a little more and fit this on a single-layered disc, but instead we have the reference-quality transfer enabled by using the extra space.

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

Audio

    While very good, the audio quality does not compare with that of the video. There are a number of little problems, and some were significant enough to be annoying.

    There are two soundtracks present on this disc, being the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 5.1 (at 448 Kbps), and an English audio commentary track in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo (at the ridiculously high 2-channel bitrate of 448 Kbps).

    While the dialogue is always clear and easy to understand at all times, it does suffer on a number of occasions from very audible hiss. Probably the most noticeable occurrence is during the first spoken lines of the movie from 1:13 to 1:33, but it recurs on an annoyingly regular basis. While it does mean that there are no audio sync problems at all, the end result is possibly even more annoying than bad audio sync (and certainly will be for those who do not easily spot sync problems). Additionally, the dynamic range of this soundtrack seems to be a little out of balance, as the basketball sequences are considerably louder than the remainder of the film. The effect is that you either struggle to hear the majority of the film, or are deafened during the basketball sequences (watch out for Martin Sheen's whistle during training - ear-splitting would be an understatement!).

    The musical accompaniment to this film is an interesting effort. It really consists of three parts - the traditional score component provided by Jeff Danna, a collection of contemporary pieces, and a collection of classical/operatic pieces. While the score is quite effective, the combination of contemporary and classical/operatic pieces really does not work - they clash more than they support, and keep the action sequences set to music from becoming the adrenaline-pumping scenes expected from sports movies.

    The surround channels are actively used to support both the score, and some of the more aggressive ambient effects. They do tend to die down during the quieter moments, but when the team runs out for a game of basketball it would be easy to believe that some of the crowd members are in your room.

    The subwoofer gets some very deep and solid bass to deal with during many of the hip-hop/R&B flavoured musical pieces, and also helps out where necessary during the remainder of the movie. A very impressive effort for what is largely a dialogue-based film.

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

Extras

    We are presented with a medium-sized collection of extras that are lacking anything in the way of depth or real interest.

Menu

    The menu is static, 16x9 enhanced, and features a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack.

Audio Commentary - Tim Blake Nelson (Director)

    This commentary track is a listenable effort that only reveals a small amount of information about the project. It does tend to drag at times, but to his credit Tim Blake Nelson manages to talk almost continuously for the duration of the movie, leaving almost no gaps at all - making it a lot easier to stick with the commentary despite its shortcomings.

Deleted Scenes

    This section presents four deleted scenes as follows:     All scenes are presented at 1.85:1, not 16x9 enhanced, with both English dialogue and audio commentary soundtracks (in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo). While the scenes are interesting, for most it is obvious why they were removed. The audio commentary does not help here either - as an example, one of the scenes essentially consists of a 20-second explanation as to why it was removed, followed by a minute of silence. Compounding the problem is that the dialogue mixed underneath the commentary is at such a low level that it is almost inaudible, even when the long silences occur. On the upside, a "play all" button is available.

Basketball Scene Analysis (5:59)

    This section presents the three basketball game sequences from the movie again, but this time they are accompanied by commentary from director Tim Blake Nelson and director of photography Russell Lee Fine. The scenes are presented at 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced with a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio track. They can be played separately or as one via a "play all" button.

Interviews

    This section presents four interviews as follows:     All are presented at 1.33:1 (not 16x9 enhanced) and feature Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio. Again, a "play all" button is provided.

Theatrical Trailer (2:01)

    Presented at 1.33:1 (not 16x9 enhanced), this trailer features Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

Biographies

    This section contains surprisingly full-featured biographies/filmographies for:

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;     The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     While a second complete film seems like a major addition, the fact is that few people are likely to watch it - it really is more of a gimmick. Officially I will have to give this to the Region 1 version, but unless a 1922 adaptation of Othello is of particular interest, I would stick with Region 4 when it eventually makes it out for retail sale.

Summary

    O is a flawed but ultimately enjoyable modern re-working of Othello. It is presented on a very good quality DVD.

    The video quality is of reference level, and outshines most available DVD transfers.

    The audio quality is very good, although there is a little too much hiss in the dialogue, and the mixing levels are not particularly well matched.

    The extras are of a fairly low quality, although there are enough that avid fans of the movie should be happy.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Monday, August 05, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using Component output
DisplayLoewe Xelos 5381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersAll matching Vifa Drivers: centre 2x6.5" + 1" tweeter (d'appolito); fronts and rears 6.5" + 1" tweeter; centre rear 5" + 1" tweeter; sub 10" (150WRMS)

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DVD Net - Anthony H (read my bio)
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region4dvd.net - Darren R (read my bio (fun for the whole family))
Jeff K's Australian DVD Info Site - Wayne F
DVD Plaza - Anthony C (read my bio)

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