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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
The Shipping News (2001)

The Shipping News (2001)

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Released 2-Jun-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Dive Beneath The Surface Of The Shipping News
Audio Commentary
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 106:40
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (68:50) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Lasse Hallstrom

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Kevin Spacey
Judi Dench
Julianne Moore
Cate Blanchett
Pete Postlethwaite
Scott Glenn
Rhys Ifans
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $36.95 Music Christopher Young

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/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
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian Titling
Italian Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Adapted from the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by E. Annie Proulx, The Shipping News has been a long time making its transition to the screen. The producers acquired the rights nearly a decade ago, but some disagreements saw the project on hold for many years. Eventually, a decent script was forthcoming and Swedish filmmaker Lasse Halstrom (Chocolat, The Cider House Rules) was convinced to come on board as director. An almost ensemble cast was assembled with Kevin Spacey, Dame Judi Dench, Julianne Moore, Scott Glenn, Cate Blanchett and Pete Postlethwaite starring in this acclaimed story about getting a second chance in life and making the most of it.

    Kevin Spacey stars as R.G.Quoyle, a man of almost no self-esteem who is a bit of a deadbeat loser in just about everything he tries. He's drifting through his life as an ink-setter working at his local newspaper in a small town in upstate New York. In the very quick introductory scenes of the film, we see Quoyle get seduced by the tramp Petal (Cate Blanchett in a role that again proves she can never be typecast), quickly married to her, and then finding himself the father to her child, Bunny (don't worry the names get even stranger). Skipping forward several years, Petal is accidentally killed in a car accident, leaving Quoyle alone with his daughter. When both his parents also die, his Aunt Agnis (Judi Dench) arrives and manages to talk him into moving back with her to the family's ancestral home in Newfoundland, Canada. Despite not being all that inclined to go, Quoyle sees this as an opportunity to start his life over, and so somewhat reluctantly makes the long trip north.

    Upon arriving in the remote island in the North Atlantic ocean, Quoyle is struck by the harsh reality of the wild environment. He is taken to the old family homestead, a dilapidated wooden shack high on a rocky point overlooking the wild North Atlantic ocean. It is here he is expected to live with his daughter and Aunt, even though the house seems to have a certain mysticism about it that only his daughter can appreciate. He gains a job as a journalist at the local newspaper, with the strange banner of The Gammy Bird. His task is to report on the odd car crash and write up the ship movements in this maritime-rich area - hence The Shipping News. Despite not having any journalistic experience, after a couple of false starts, he makes a decent go of it. It is here that he meets an odd assortment of characters with equally odd names. There's the international correspondent, Beaufield Nutbeem (Rhys Ifans), old-hand hack Tert Card (Pete Postlethwaite) and newspaper editor Jack Buggit (Scott Glenn). This garrulous crew seem to spend more time talking about boating and fishing than actually working and are quick to dispense all manner of maritime advice to Quoyle. The most important local that he meets is single mother, Wavey Prowse (Julieanne Moore). She appears to have similar self-esteem problems and a past that she would rather forget. The two might just share something in common.

    This is one of those films that sees the location gain the status of a character in its own right. It is the sort of film that finds you looking in your old school atlas to work out exactly where Newfoundland is, studying the map closely and wondering just what else happens in that part of the world. It is also the sort of story that you know is severely limited by the medium of film. Not having read the novel, I am unable to offer a direct comparison, but I feel that this is the sort of story that just needs several days to digest and leave revolving around your imagination. There are apparently several devices in the novel (such as maritime knots), that are important in the story that don't appear to be completely conveyed here. Having said that, this is a pretty fair attempt, with suitably excellent performances from the large cast. The glimpse of life in a place that most of us couldn't even place on a map is worth the price of the rental alone.

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Transfer Quality


    This is an almost flawless transfer.

    The video is presented in the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. It is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is sharp as a tack all round, with some minor edge enhancement throughout being the only negative aspect. Shadow detail is exemplary and given the nature of a couple of very dimly lit scenes, this is a good thing. There is virtually no grain, even in the wide open outdoor scenes. There is no low level noise.

    Colours are quite pale, and no wonder, given the landscapes of Newfoundland are dominated by ice, snow, and sub-arctic vegetation. Skin tones are perfectly natural and blacks solid and true.

    There are no MPEG artefacts. There is very little evidence of film-to-video artefacts, with a brief glimpse of aliasing in a couple of scenes. These instances are really so minor that they are barely worth mentioning. There is a little dirt on the print here and there, the most noticeable occurrence being at 19:18. There are also several other film artefacts throughout, though these are predominantly of the small white and black spot type.

    English and Italian subtitles are the flavours offered. I sampled the English for the Hearing Impaired variety and found them to be highly accurate.

    This is a dual layered disc with RSDL formatting. The layer change is located at 68:50 and is very nicely placed, being barely perceptible.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are three audio soundtracks on this disc; two Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in English and Italian and a Dolby Digital 2.0 commentary track. I listened to both English tracks. While not a demonstration track, this is still clean, modern and powerful with a sensational score backing. There is little use of the surrounds and only minimal subwoofer use when required.

    Dialogue is excellent, which given the nature of this film, being quite dialogue-heavy with very unusual accents, is quite important. There are no problems with audio sync.

    The stunning landscapes are complemented by a sensational score. Credited to Christopher Young, it blends pipes and drums to create a stirring almost Celtic style rhythm. It adds to the mystique of the location superbly. A definite highlight.

    As mentioned above, there is minimal surround use. The subwoofer is called on a couple of times, but is very restrained and is barely noticed in the overall mix.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Main Menu Audio & Animation

Featurette - Dive Beneath The Surface of The Shipping News

    Running for 23:32 minutes, with video presented in a full screen aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and images from the film in 2.35:1, this is not 16x9 enhanced. Pretty much your standard promotional piece with everyone congratulating each other on how wonderful they all are. A few decent behind-the-scenes images are seen, but it is mostly voiceover with images from the film. Predictably, much of the discussion focuses on the location and how cold and wet everyone was. Somewhat surprising and very disappointing was the complete lack of discussion about one of the highlights of the film - the musical score.

Audio Commentary

    A four-way commentary featuring two of the producers in Linda Goldstein Knowlton and Leslie Holleran, screenwriter Robert Jacobs, and director Lasse Hallstrom. The former two control much of the commentary and also have the most to say, detailing some of the aspects of the history of the film rights and some of the logistical problems encountered with filming in Newfoundland. Lasse Hallstrom and Robert Jacobs only speak occasionally and they focus most of their attention on the actors, the artistic choices made and some of the difficulties in adapting the novel for the screen. Interesting at times though a little more technical information would have added to the diversity.


    Three photo galleries, containing images from Behind-The-Scenes, Portraits, and Scenic Views. There are a total of 116 photos all-up, with the photos presented as groups of four thumbnail size images that need to be selected to view the individual photo. Some good shots are contained here, especially the portraits of the stars. The only negative is that they are a little small for my liking.

R4 vs R1

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

    Apart from the inclusion of several extra trailers and a French soundtrack instead of the Italian one, both discs are pretty much the same. Unless the French soundtrack is important then the local product (when it comes out of its rental window) is the version of choice.


    The Shipping News is a complex story that will reward you if you sit and watch intently. A glimpse of life in a remote and usually unseen land, a rousing score, and some fine performances from quality actors are the highlights.

    The video quality is almost faultless with perhaps a little too much edge enhancement.

    The audio is restrained in its surround activity, though the superb score more than makes up for any multichannel shortcomings.

    The extras are limited, and dominated by a slightly above-average commentary track.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Wednesday, October 23, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5106DO, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

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