Ace Lightning-Episodes 1-7 (2002)
Menu Animation & Audio
Game-Zap Lord Fear
|Year Of Production||2002|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Various|
Roadshow Home Entertainment
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.78:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The basic premise of the series is simple: Mark (Tom Wansey) is a thirteen year-old boy who has just moved from Britain to the USA with his parents. Soon after arriving, whilst playing his "Ace Lightning" video game one day during an electrical storm, a lightning bolt hits the satellite dish on the roof of the house, the video game mysteriously freezes and suddenly the game's characters emerge from the "sixth dimension" into the real world.
The video game characters are: Ace Lightning (Michael Riley), our hero who boasts electrical powers, his arch nemesis Lord Fear and a whole gang of Lord Fear's evil, but very dumb, cohorts. The premise of the series is that as the characters are now trapped in the real world, the only way they can escape back to the sixth dimension is in exactly the same way that they would win the game - that is, by collecting all six pieces of the "amulet of Zoar" that gives them the power to travel back. If Lord Fear collects all pieces of the amulet, then this power would also apparently (but it's never really spelt out to us why) mean disaster for all mortals in the real world, too.
In addition to all this happening, Mark must go about his normal life, hiding the existence of Ace Lightning and Lord Fear from his parents and friends, but setting about going to a new school and trying to settle in making new friends. On his first day at school, Mark befriends the rather dorky Chuck (Marc Minardi), the least popular boy in school, and also has an instant liking taken to him by Samantha (Shadia Simmons), the most popular girl in school. So now the series is set up; Marc must help Ace Lightning defeat Lord Fear, whilst keeping the existence of all the video game characters from everyone else, whilst also starting school and keeping out of trouble with his new dorky friend, and whilst also trying to play cool for Samantha..........
OK, so that little storyline is set up well in the first two episodes and starts out interestingly enough alright, but then unfortunately nothing much more really happens for the rest of the series. After Episode 2, it's really just a sequence of fairly banal confrontations between the superheroes, where Mark usually gets in the middle, but where the superheroes never kill each other or even inflict any real damage. So you know full well when one episode ends that the next episode will start out and end off in pretty well exactly the same way, with yet another confrontation between the characters that resolves fairly aimlessly. The only semi-interesting aspect to the storyline is how Mark goes about day to day life at school, trying to impress Samantha and convince her he is not "weird", but still running off all the time to have his adventures with Ace Lightning and also at the same time trying to stay out of the trouble with the cruel (or is just plain dumb) science teacher.
Apart from a lack of plot, two other things let this series down; the quality of the screenplay and the quality of some of the acting. The dialogue is fairly corny. In terms of acting, I think the three main characters of Mark, Chuck and Samantha all acquit themselves fairly well, but it is the quality of the acting from most of the secondary characters that is poor, especially that of Mark's parents, who are just completely unrealistic and annoying, and Mark's young cousin in Episode 5 (plain precocious).
The integration of CGI with live action is for the most part well done, but is at times a bit variable. Sometimes the blend with live action works almost seamlessly, but there are several shots where the integration is rather awkward and obvious. In the instances where it doesn't work, this is often due to a lack of adequate lighting and shaders on the characters to blend them against the background better. Anyway, whilst the CGI may not stand up to too much scrutiny at a technical level, it certainly does gel sufficiently to hold up the illusion at a kids' level, which is what is important.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.
Being a very recent production and shot using modern equipment, sharpness and shadow detail are both excellent. All images, both foreground and background resolution are razor sharp and there is no low level noise at all.
Colours are rich and beautifully saturated, with no chroma noise. Skin tones are excellent.
There are no MPEG artefacts. The only film-to-video artefact is some minor aliasing, which has a habit of manifesting on Mark's striped T-shirts a lot, among other areas, but remains fairly unobtrusive. There are no film artefacts at all (this series may well have been shot on digi-beta).
There is only one subtitle option available on this disc, being English. I sampled the subtitles for one episode and found them quite acceptable. The subtitles do not translate every single spoken word and in many cases is more of a short-cut for the dialogue, however the subtitles are still more than sufficient to get the message across and they are well timed.
This disc is RSDL formatted, however I did not note the layer change. I assume the layer change must be between episodes, which would be logical and is considerate.
The audio transfer on this disc is also superb. There is only one track, being English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround (192 Kb/s). This track cannot be faulted at all.
Dialogue quality is excellent throughout. It is always crisp and clear and there are no instances of dialogue being muffled or hard to pick up. The audio sync is spot on.
The music in this series is pretty cool. The main theme song is a contemporary rock number. It's a great tune and will have you humming along. Plus, it has a pumping rhythm track, with some great kick drums and guitar work. It's well laid down using modern recording techniques and the track gives the main speakers a decent workout. The musical score for each episode is also based around a contemporary rock feel and is used to very good effect. The scoring is used sparingly but always to good effect. I did not, however, notice any credits listed for the writer/performer of either the main theme song or the musical score.
There is good dynamic range and clarity to this audio track, with all music and sound effects being well recorded and well mixed.
The surround channels are used fairly effectively. It is not a full-on surround mix to knock your socks off by any means, but then nor would you expect this in a made-for-TV production of this budget. It does have enough ambient effects to give the mix a little depth, and quite effectively, too.
There is some great use of subwoofer in this audio track, principally more for boosting the low end of the music and but also for adding some occasional grunt to the knocks and other low frequency sound effects..
|Surround Channel Use|
There are a few extras here, but none of them really add anything much to the enjoyment of the feature.
The only complaint with the menus is that the cursor navigation is very awkward on all screens, so it is very pedantic when it wants a "down" arrow to highlight a certain icon for example, and won't let you intuitively get there by pressing any of the other arrow buttons, despite the fact that most menu screen have their icons arranged in a circular pattern. This makes for a frustrating time navigating the menu screens at first.
With the same video and audio specifications as the main feature, this is a relatively short "behind the scenes" piece of footage, showing the man stars goofing around in a couple of scenes. I didn't find this extra interesting at all.
Zap Lord Fear Game
This is a lame DVD game, if ever there was one! It basically involves a static screen, with Lord Fear and some of his other cronies flashing across the scene in steps. The object of the game is to use the cursor buttons to highlight him at the right spot and then zap him quickly before he disappears. Trouble is that he is very quick indeed and the cursor movement is so pedantic that it makes it very hard to get to him in time. I'm sure the kids will probably master this very simple game in about 5 minutes time and then look for something else.
Character Bios and Live Action Bios
Listed under two separate extras icons, these two extras are basically just as the name suggest, character bio screens. They are nothing very exciting at all. The first one is just a series of static screens giving bios of the main real-life characters (Mark, Chuck and Samantha) - note these are character bios, not actor bios. The second extra is a series of animated screens giving bios of all the CGI characters. These extras will probably be of slight interest to the kids, wanting to check out the "stats" of all the characters, but again, these are probably 'read-once-and-then-forget-about' extras.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
|DVD||Toshiba 2109, using Component output|
|Display||Toshiba 117cm widescreen RPTV. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Yamaha RXV-1000. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.|
|Amplification||Elektra Home Theatre surround power amp|
|Speakers||Orpheus Aurora III mains, Orpheus Centaurus 1.0 centre, Velodyne CT150 sub and B&W DM303 rears|