Space Cowboys (2000)
Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Dolby Digital Trailer-Canyon
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Featurette-Up Close With The Editor
Featurette-Tonight On Leno
Featurette-Back At The Ranch - A Look Behind The Scenes
DVD-ROM Extras-Web Links
|Year Of Production||2000|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (67:58)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Clint Eastwood|
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Tommy Lee Jones
Marcia Gay Harden
Courtney B. Vance
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.30:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Subtitles||English for the Hearing Impaired||Smoking||No|
|Annoying Product Placement||Yes, 1958 edition of Playboy magazine|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
(Scene: at two deck chairs next to a pool in a plush Beverly Hills Hotel ...)
"I have this great idea for a new movie. It's a new space flick with a twist, combining elements from The Right Stuff, Armageddon, Deep Impact and Apollo 13. Add in a bit of conspiracy a la L.A. Confidential, throw in a few references to the Cold War, and package it with a few allusions to Western movies. We can even have a outer space version of a ride into the sunset."
"I'm not sure about this. Hasn't this sort of thing been done to death? What's the twist?"
"We use big name ageing Hollywood stars to play the roles of the astronauts."
"You mean it's going to be like Cocoon?"
"Kind of. It's also going to be a buddy movie, and two of the characters will have a love/hate relationship, like in Grumpy Old Men."
"Gee, I don't know about this ..."
"Just think about it. Getting people like Clint Eastwood and James Garner to play in it won't cost as much as using Keanu, Tom or Brad. With the money we save we can throw in James Cromwell, Donald Sutherland, and Tommy Lee Jones, promote the "star-studded" cast list, and the public will lap it up."
"Sounds good. Give Clint a ring, will you?"
In 1958, four Air Force officers - Frank Corvin (Clint Eastwood), Bill Hawkins (Tommy Lee Jones), Tank Sullivan (James Garner), and Jerry O'Neill (Donald Sutherland) - were part of a team called Daedalus chartered with investigating the possibilities of outer space exploration. Their daredevil (dare I say "cowboy"?) attitudes and disregard for personal safety in their desire to push the test planes past design limits led to the destruction of several prototype planes, much to the displeasure of their commanding officer Bob Gerson (James Cromwell). In a fit of spite, he replaced the four would-be astronauts with a monkey called Mary Ann and cancelled the Air Force project to be replaced by a civilian administration called NASA.
Fast forward forty years. Our four buddies have long-since retired from the Air Force and are pursuing wildly improbable careers (including Baptist minister, roller-coaster designer and daredevil crop-duster).
The guidance system on an old Russian "communications" satellite called Ikon has failed and its orbit is rapidly decaying. General Vostow (Rade Serbedzija) has enlisted NASA to help repair the satellite before it burns up in Earth's atmosphere. Bob Gerson has been assigned as the project leader. Because the satellite control systems are so antiquated and obsolete, none of the MIT graduates at NASA can figure out how the guidance system works (despite having access to the schematics - and before all you electrical engineers start snorting, I think this is pretty unlikely and difficult to believe, too). Bob realizes that the design of the guidance system seems to resemble (read: has been copied from) the system used for Skylab, which was designed by none other than Frank.
Sara Holland (Marcia Gay Harden) and Ethan Glance (Loren Dean) approach Frank for help. Despite his animosity towards Bob for destroying his chance at going into outer space forty years ago, he reluctantly agrees - with one condition. NASA must send him, and the original Daedalus team, as the astronauts in the space shuttle mission to repair Ikon. Reluctantly Bob agrees, but secretly plans to replace them with the backup crew by failing them in their physical check-ups. We also begin to suspect that Ikon is not quite what it seems, and there is some secret shared between Bob and General Vostow regarding the satellite.
The rest of the story is about the four old buddies stumbling through their physical check-ups and astronaut training, much to the amusement, condescension and scorn of the much-younger NASA team. In the process, they teach a thing or two to their younger colleagues and slowly gain their respect. Needless to say, despite all obstacles, our cowboys do end up in space where the stakes of the mission become far higher when the true nature of Ikon is revealed.
If you can accept the far-fetched nature of a plot that stretches the boundaries of credibility, not to mention numerous logic and scientific goofs, then this is an enjoyable and feel-good movie featuring some actors that we've known and loved for many years. I am not going to reveal the ending, which is fairly predictable. Let's just say that enjoying it requires not only suspension of disbelief, but a full cessation of all higher level brain functions.
The transfer is quite sharp, and I was surprised to be able to read most of the letters on the eye chart at 40:44 and 40:49 quite easily (apart from the bottom row) and even verify that the characters were reading the eye chart correctly. For the record, "Hawk" (Tommy Lee Jones) did give a 100% correct reading, right down to the "M.A.D.E. I.N. U.S.A." bit :-) but, perhaps deliberately, Clint Eastwood fluffed his reading. (He said "E.F.L.E.P.T.P.L.E.P.F.L.F.L.E." where the last "F" should have been an "E". If this was in the script, then technically Frank has substantially less than 20/20 vision to have fluffed up that early.)
This transfer has excellent black levels and owners of LCD projectors are going to love it. The space scenes all feature nicely deep and satisfying blacks.
The only MPEG artefact that I noticed is Gibbs effect ringing permeating through quite a lot of scenes, but fortunately never to the point of annoyance. This is only noticeable if you have a large display and I think most people probably won't be bothered with it. There is occasional shimmering present at various points in the transfer, noticeably in the name of the building at around 32:37-32:39 and in the city skyline backdrop of the Jay Leno show at around 63:30-63:39. Curiously, there is a moiré pattern around the arm lifting from the space shuttle at around 80:09-80:14.
There is an English for the Hard of Hearing subtitle track but I did not engage it.
This is a single sided dual layered disc (RSDL). The layer change occurs in the middle of a chapter at 67:58 rather than just between chapters. The screen freezes on Frank's face just after he's received a lambaste from Bob during a quiet lull in the audio track. It is very well-placed - on my system, it was not noticeable despite repeated viewings.
Dialogue is pretty clear and easy to understand, apart from some of Tommy Lee Jones' lines near the beginning of the film where he is trying to shout above the drone of the experimental plane. There are no audio synchronization issues with the transfer.
Someone should tell the sound editor that "in space no one can hear you scream ..." because there is no atmosphere to carry sound waves. The last third of the film is so full of "sound effects" during the space scenes that I couldn't help but be annoyed. I mean, haven't these people watched 2001 A Space Odyssey? That's the way to portray space scenes. Silent. Eerie.
The music features a lot of excerpts from various songs, including one written especially for the film by NSYNC. The theme played over the end credits is so sickeningly American that I had to stop myself from throwing up.
The surround channel usage is excellent, with numerous examples of panning across front and rear speakers, and use of split surround effects.
Likewise, there is extensive use of the LFE ("0.1") track for various effects. The audio track is not afraid to send out deep bass to all five main channels in addition to the LFE track. This is a good demonstration disc to illustrate why it is useful to have full range speakers on all channels. A good example is the space shuttle launch scene at around 75:56-76:10.
|Surround Channel Use|
The audio track for this feature appears to be slightly out of sync, and the video transfer is a bit soft.
There are some video glitches at around 3:59, 4:27 and 4:30.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-626D, using Component output|
|Display||Sony VPL-VW10HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (203cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Front and rears: B&W CDM7NT; centre: B&W CDMCNT; subwoofer: B&W ASW2500|