Wonder Boys (2000)

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Released 8-Jun-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Curtis Hanson (Director)
Interviews-Cast & Crew
Featurette-Pittsburg Interactive Location Map (with Dir Comm)
Featurette-Singer/Songwriters of Wonder Boys
Music Video-Things Have Changed-Bob Dylan
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 106:30
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (85:28) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Curtis Hanson
Studio
Distributor

Magna Home Entertainment
Starring Michael Douglas
Tobey Maguire
Frances McDormand
Katie Holmes
Rip Torn
Robert Downey, Jr.
Case Click
RPI $34.00 Music Christopher Young


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.30:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
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

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

Plot Synopsis

    Wonder Boys is a film from director Curtis Hansen (L.A. Confidential) that received critical acclaim and has been nominated for many awards around the world. The movie won an Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Song. It also received Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations for Best Leading Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay.

    The movie was marketed very poorly by Paramount and as a consequence did not do well at the box office. I have no recollection of any publicity surrounding this film when it was released in Australia - a pity, as I think this film could have been very successful if marketed correctly.

    Wonder Boys covers a series of events that occur over a single weekend and revolve around University Professor Grady Tripp (Michael Douglas). Grady's wife has just left him. He is having an affair with the university chancellor (Frances McDormand). One of his young students (Katie Holmes), has a crush on him. He is trying to finish a book for his editor (Robert Downey, Jr.), and one of his students (Tobey Maguire) will change his life.

    This disc features a high quality transfer and an excellent selection of extra material that has been licensed from Paramount. Magna Pacific should be congratulated on this production and hopefully we will see this level of quality in future releases from them. I was, however, not overly enamoured of the case that the disc came in, which featured an unusual "winged" locking mechanism. Luckily, the slick and disc can be transferred to an Amaray case without any problem.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The feature is presented in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.30:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. This is a welcome change from the Pan & Scan transfers that Magna Pacific have often previously released.

    The transfer is consistently sharp and provides excellent levels of detail at all times. During a few scenes, some very minimal edge enhancement seems to have been used but this is not distracting to the viewer. During the numerous darkly-lit scenes, excellent levels of shadow detail can be seen. At no stage was any low level noise detected.

    The colour palette used in this film is slightly muted, with an emphases on greys and whites. This colour choice is intentional and works extremely well with the rain and snow-filled environment.

    At no stage were any MPEG artefacts detected during the feature.

    Aliasing does pose a number of problems for this transfer, with numerous occurrences throughout the film. Some examples of aliasing can be seen at 8:12, 26:21, 31:28, 58:20 and 101:10. While none of the aliasing seen in the movie is extremely severe, its frequent occurrence is slightly disruptive to the viewer.

    Throughout the transfer minor film artefacts can be seen. Each of these artefacts are quite minor and non-disruptive to the viewer. Examples of these artefacts may be seen at 4:34, 11:40, 17:12, 28:35, 45:46 and 61:47. Some film grain is also visible during a small number of short dimly-lit scenes.

    The layer change occurs at the start of Chapter 13 (85:28) and is only slightly disruptive to the viewer.

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

Audio

    Despite being listed as a 5.0 mix on the setup menu, this disc actually provides a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix at 448 kbps. There is also a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix at 192 kbps provided for the commentary track, but due to the actual commentary provided this may be considered as an alternate audio mix for the feature (see Extras).

    The dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times during the movie.

    During a single scene in a bar at the start of Chapter 6 there is an obvious sync problem with the dialogue. Listening to the mix of the scene it would appear that this sync problem is due to ADR work and is not a fault of the transfer. At no stage in the mix were any audio drop-outs detected.

    The soundtrack includes the original Bob Dylan work 'Things Have Changed' that was written for this film and won both a Golden Globe and Academy Award. In addition to this song, numerous other Bob Dylan tracks are used during the film. This soundtrack works extremely well with the on-screen action and the reasons for the choices made are outlined by director Curtis Hansen in the supplements.

    This film relies heavily upon dialogue, and understandably the sound mix is focused across the front three channels. The surround channels are used effectively to create an enveloping sound stage during the party and auditorium scenes and to provide support to the soundtrack and score. The sub channel is used minimally to support the soundtrack and receives very little use outside of this role.

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

Extras

Menu

    The main animated menu is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. The cursor is a light yellow and is difficult to see on some menu items.

Trailer (1:56)

    The trailer is presented with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced. This trailer shows a number of film artefacts and has very faded colours.

Cast & Crew Interviews (12:03)

   This featurette is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and includes clips from the film at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Segments from the director and all principal cast members are provided where they discuss the casting and their experiences working on the movie. Significant aliasing, compression and edge enhancement artefacts can be seen during the featurette.

Commentary

    Located under the set-up menu is an option to enable a commentary by director Curtis Hansen. This is not a feature-length commentary and comments are only present at five points throughout the film. Each comment lasts less than a minute. They appear to be further comments taken from the featurette discussing the soundtrack. Luckily, the times at which each comment appears is noted on the menu to make locating the comments quite easy. For the remainder of this track, the standard 2.0 mix of the film is provided. As the comments are very short and occur during musical segments, this mix may be considered as an alternate mix of the main audio track.

Featurette: Singer / Songwriters of Wonder Boys (6:17)

   During this short featurette, director Curtis Hansen discusses the music choices made and how Bob Dylan became involved with the project.

Music Video (5:13)

   The music video is Bob Dylan performing his award winning track 'Things Have Changed'. It is presented with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack and at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 (not 16x9 enhanced).

Soundtrack Listing

   This extra is a listing of the songs provided in the soundtrack and provides access to the Bob Dylan music video as well as links to related sections of the featurette.

Pittsburgh interactive location map

   In an extra similar to that provided on the L.A. Confidential disc, a map showing many of the film's locations is shown. Upon selecting each location, we are given some background information by director Curtis Hansen and shown related clips from the movie. These segments show numerous aliasing, compression and edge enhancement artefacts. During the segment describing Grady Tripp's house at 0:21, a frame containing major MPEG macro-blocking artefacts can be seen.

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

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;

    As the Region 4 version contains the full 5.1 mix this would be the version of choice.

Summary

    Wonder Boys is an excellent but overlooked film that deserves the critical acclaim it has received.     The 2.30:1 anamorphic transfer is of high quality and is only let down by a number of aliasing artefacts.     The highly dialogue-driven audio mix is supported by an excellent soundtrack and suits the on-screen action.     An interesting collection of extras are present on this disc but would have been further enhanced by a feature length commentary.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Anthony Kable (read my bio)
Wednesday, June 20, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 1200, using S-Video output
DisplaySony KP-E41SN11. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationFront left/right: ME75b; Center: DA50ES; rear left/right: DA50ES; subwoofer: NAD 2600 (Bridged)
SpeakersFront left/right: VAF DC-X; Center: VAF DC-6; rear left/right: VAF DC-7; subwoofer: Custom NHT-1259

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