Bicentennial Man (1999)

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Released 7-Jun-2000

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Theatrical Trailer-non-16x9, Dolby Digital 5.1, 448Kb/s
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
Isolated Musical Score
Dolby Digital Trailer-City
Trailer-Jumanji; Hook
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1999
Running Time 125:59
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (67:26) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Chris Columbus
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Robin Williams
Sam Neill
Embeth Davidtz
Wendy Crewson
Oliver Platt
Case Brackley-Trans-No Lip
RPI $36.95 Music James Horner


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Isolated Music Score Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Dutch
Arabic
Croatian
Czech
Danish
Finnish
Greek
Hebrew
Hindi
Hungarian
Icelandic
Norwegian
Polish
Swedish
Turkish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Bicentennial Man is based on the novella of the same name by Isaac Asimov. The year is 2005, and human-shaped robots are the latest and greatest domestic appliance. These robots can be programmed to perform any menial task.

    The movie follows the life of a human-shaped robot named Andrew (Robin Williams). He is purchased by Sam Neill (only referred to as Sir in the movie) and is set to work doing the menial tasks like cooking, cleaning, and so forth. Not everyone in the family is thrilled to have Andrew around. In fact, Sir seems to be the only one that really appreciates him! After a small accident, orchestrated by one of the family members against Andrew, he seems to start exhibiting some human traits, like curiosity, compassion and fear of heights! Andrew is made part of the family, which consists of Sir (Sam Neill), his wife Ma'am (Wendy Crewson), Miss (Lindze Letherman) and Little Miss (Hallie Kate Eisenberg).

    I will not say any more as it will start to spoil the movie. Through the wonderful performances given by the entire cast, this movie really comes to life.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The picture quality would almost be of reference quality, if it wasn't for the frequent aliasing that plagues and ultimately spoils the picture. If you are lucky enough to own a progressive scan DVD player, fear not, as this transfer just shines, and is truly magnificent to behold.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio somewhere in between 1.85:1 and 1.78:1. It is 16x9 enhanced. One interesting but totally inconsequential thing that I noticed was that the active picture area varied ever so slightly, as if two different types of cameras or film stock were used during filming.

    The picture was extremely clear and sharp at all times. Shadow detail was perfect, and no instances of low-level noise, edge bleeding or edge enhancement were noted.

    The colour was exemplary - beautifully saturated, rich and vibrant.

    All of the above aspects of the picture quality were easily of reference quality.

    There were two sequences that suffered from graininess in the sky; 56:08 - 56:22 and 62:50.

    There are quite a few tiny or small film artefacts, with the odd hair and scratch, too. Most are unobtrusive and I suspect that many will go by unnoticed, especially on a TV set.

    This is an RSDL disc, with the layer change occurring at 67:26 in Chapter 15, during a scene change. There is a slight pause but it is not disruptive to the flow of the movie, thus I must say it is a very well-placed layer change.

Interlaced Scan DVD Player
    I wish I could say that aliasing was not a problem with this transfer, but unfortunately it is. It strikes frequently, and even though it is not severe in most cases, many of these instances are still bad enough to be distracting. Andrew's shiny metallic appearance regularly suffers from minor aliasing, and since you are watching him you tend to notice it. By far the worst two scenes for aliasing are 22:15 and 107:13 - 107:26. Both of these scenes contain buildings. Other noteworthy instances can be found at 3:23, 3:36 and 7:09. I felt that the aliasing could have been much worse than it was, considering the subject material and the sharpness inherent in this transfer.

    There are also a couple of instances of minor moiré artefacts at 36:16, 36:51, 40:12, 40:36 and 40:43. These stem from the aliasing.

Progressive Scan DVD Player
    When utilizing a progressive scan DVD Player (or PC in my case), Bicentennial Man became a whole new movie. None of the above-mentioned scenes suffered from even the slightest aliasing or moiré problems. The whole movie becomes rock-solid, and is truly magnificent to watch! It is particularly interesting to note that progressive scan also fixed the moiré problems. After seeing the difference that a progressive scan player can make, I will be rushing out to purchase one the moment they become available here.

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

Audio

    This is a wonderful soundtrack. It is clean and expansive. It will not make you go WOW, like Armageddon or The Matrix, but it has been perfectly transferred from the original movie.

    There are two audio tracks on this DVD, a 448Kb/s English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and an Isolated Musical Score soundtrack, which is also encoded as a 448Kb/s Dolby Digital 5.1 track. I listened initially to the default English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and thence to the Isolated Musical Score whilst I was writing this review.

    The dialogue was clear and easy to understand throughout the movie, with only a couple of minor exceptions where the dialogue became a little harder to understand.  Audio sync was very good with only some of Andrew's mouth movements not quite looking right.  I do not believe this is a transfer problem, so I have not deducted any marks from the audio sync section for this issue. There are a couple of instances where the spoken dialogue at the time of filming has been replaced.

    James Horner's musical score suits the movie well. It supports and enhances the on-screen action beautifully.

    Overall, the sound is open and expansive, which is very nice to listen to. Even though the surround channels do not generally draw attention to themselves, they do help to create this open soundstage. There are a couple of instances of directional effects - the panoramic scenes of the city with the flying cars zooming around would be the best examples of this - but this is not the type of movie that calls for heavy or aggressive surround channel use.

    There really aren't any sequences that call for heavy subwoofer use, but the .1 LFE channel is subtly used to add a little extra punch to the soundtrack throughout the movie. This is not the type of movie that actually needs a subwoofer.

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

Extras

    There are only a small number of uninspiring extras on this disc; 3 Theatrical Trailers, a short Behind The Scenes featurette, and 3 Cast & Crew Biographies/Filmographies. There is also the standard Dolby Digital City (helicopter) trailer before the movie starts.

Menu

    The menu consists of a silent non-16x9 enhanced still picture of Andrew on a blue background with the following selections; Languages/Audio Setup, Subtitles, Scene Selections (28), Extra Features and Play Movie.

Theatrical Trailer – Bicentennial Man (2.49 minutes)

    The Bicentennial Man trailer is of excellent quality, and is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 (4x3), with a 448Kb/s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack.

Theatrical Trailer – Jumanji (2.44 minutes)

    The Jumanji trailer is of excellent quality, and is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with a 192Kb/s Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack.

Theatrical Trailer – Hook (1.58 minutes)

    The Hook trailer is of excellent quality, and is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with a 192Kb/s Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack.

Behind the Scenes Featurette (5:07 minutes)

    This is basically a promotional piece for the movie, comprised of excerpts from the movie, some behind-the-scenes shots and comments from Chris Columbus, Robin Williams, Sam Neill and Hallie Kate Eisenberg.  It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with a 192Kb/s Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. The picture quality is excellent.

Talent Profiles

    This section contains Filmographies & Biographies for Chris Columbus, Robin Williams and Sam Neill.

Dolby Digital Trailer (City/Helicopter)

    This is the Dolby Digital trailer in which a helicopter flies through a city street and ends up at a cinema.

R4 vs R1

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

    If our release date remains the 7th June 2000, then we will be able to buy Bicentennial Man six days before it is released in Region 1. At this stage, the exact contents of the R1 and R2 versions are still somewhat speculative, but from the information I have been able to find on the Internet, it looks like they are pretty much all going to have the same extras. Taking this into consideration, I would recommend the Region 4 version due to PAL's innate superiority over the NTSC format.

    Note: I would expect the aliasing and moiré effects to be more severe on an NTSC version due to it having less horizontal resolution (480 lines vs 576 lines).

Summary

    Bicentennial Man is an enjoyable movie, which stands up to multiple viewings well.

    The picture quality is marred by frequent aliasing.

    The soundtrack is wonderful.

    There are only a small number of uninspiring extras on this disc.

There is an Official Distributor Comment available for this review.
read

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Paul Williams (read Paul's biography)
Sunday, May 21, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-725, using Component output
DisplaySony Projector VPH-G70 (No Line Doubler), Technics Da-Lite matt screen with gain of 1.0 (229cm). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SV919THX
SpeakersFronts: Energy RVS-1 (3), Rears: Energy RVSS-1 (2), Subwoofer: Energy EPS-150 (1)

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