8mm (1999)

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Released 18-Oct-1999

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Filmographies-Cast & Crew
Theatrical Trailer-1.33:1, non-16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0
Audio Commentary-Joel Schumacher (Director)
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
Dolby Digital Trailer-City
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1999
Running Time 118:20
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (63:55) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Joel Schumacher
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Nicolas Cage
Joaquin Phoenix
James Gandolfini
Peter Stormare
Anthony Heald
Chris Bauer
Case Brackley-Trans-No Lip
RPI $36.95 Music Mychael Danna


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
German 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
German
Dutch
Czech
Danish
Finnish
Greek
Hebrew
Hindi
Hungarian
Icelandic
Norwegian
Polish
Swedish
Turkish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes, mildly
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Tom Welles (Nicolas Cage) is a private investigator who gets the call of his dreams from one of the elite of Pennsylvania society regarding a job. The only problem is the job itself: the client's husband died leaving a rather disgusting film - a snuff film - in his safe and his widow wants to know if it is real or not. Tom is sickened by the film, as clearly this appears to be the real deal as far as snuff films are concerned and therefore some poor unfortunate girl is dead as a result. Though the film is at least six years old, and through some slightly fortuitive circumstances, Tom ends up in Los Angeles in an adult book store where Max California (Joaquin Phoenix) works, and who is able to assist Tom to track down, through his connections and knowledge, the possible origins of the film. Through this fortuitous connection, Tom locates the involved parties - a worse than porno king in Dino Velvet (Peter Stormare), a porno filmmaker in Eddie Poole (James Gandolfini) and a sadistic actor known as Machine (Chris Bauer). However, all is not at it seems and Tom has a problem in keeping himself alive let alone his erstwhile partner Max, and the twist is an interesting one. All does not end too happily as most of the characters end up being rather late.

    This is not my usual cup of tea at all I am afraid and the subject matter is not one that I can especially come to grips with - indeed I would hope not too many would (but like David Cronenberg's Crash, this explores an element of society that does indeed exist). It also does not help that Joel Schumacher rarely makes a film that I enjoy and to be honest I think this falls into his growing dud pile - artistically very meritorious, but it forgets that we watch films for entertainment and this is not what I would call entertainment. Whilst the story itself may have merit, some the leaps of coincidence to keep this moving are simply a little too huge to ignore in my view, which detracts a little from the finished product. The style of film that Schumacher has created also makes it difficult for the film to flow really well. Nicolas Cage was his usual stellar self as the private investigator but the rest of the main cast really did a good, convincing job of their roles too. I think that this could have been well served by being a little tighter in the script, both story wise and length wise however.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Well it has been a little while since I had a Columbia TriStar disc in the player, and it sure is a noticeable difference to everyone else. Argue the style of the transfer all you like, but the quality of the transfer is undeniable.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and it is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is beautifully sharp throughout and in its way very clear and with wonderful definition. However, due to the style of the film adopted by Joel Schumacher, this is at times quite a dark transfer and the shadow detail does suffer as a result. In some extremely dark shots, like corridors, this does degrade to being almost without shadow detail at all. This is however not a transfer problem but the way the original film was made, in order to highlight the nature of the subject..

    This is generally a quite muted colourscape, giving a very drab and dingy feel to the film, albeit richly toned - exactly as intended, reflecting the very underground nature of the subject matter. The dark colourscape is effectively counterbalanced by the vibrant day scenes in Miami and Los Angeles. Definitely one that requires no lighting in the viewing room I would suggest, but overall a superbly effective transfer.

    It is Columbia TriStar, so there were no MPEG artefacts noted, video artefacts were virtually non-existent and even film artefacts were few and far between. The closest I can come to being picky about the transfer is the merest hint of a little telecine wobble at about 83:44 but that is barely noticeable and could hardly detract from the film.

    There appears to be two additional subtitles on the disc - German and Dutch - which may be hearing impaired subtitles, although I would need confirmation on this: they are certainly not noted on the packaging. If they are not hearing impaired subtitles, they do duplicate other subtitles on the disc.
(Ed. They are subtitles for the extras.)

    This is an RSDL disc with the layer change at 63:55, the change being not too disruptive although noticeable.

Audio

    This is another well mastered audio transfer.

    There are three audio tracks on the disc: the default English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, a German Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and an English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. I listened to both the default English soundtrack and the English audio commentary.

    The dialogue was generally crisp and clear, and easy to understand, throughout.

    Audio sync did not appear to be a problem with the transfer.

    The music score comes from Mychael Danna, and a strikingly unusual score it is too. It gives the distinct impression of Turkish music at times, and I suppose brings all the connotations of the near east to the film as a result. This is a very atypical approach to a film score, somewhat incongruous to the film's locations, and as a result I think that one is more aware of the score. I am not convinced however that it aids the film too much, although director Joel Schumacher certainly seems impressed by it, judging by his comments in the audio commentary.

    This is a nicely balanced soundtrack, with the front surround channels creating a nice sound picture. The rear channels did not get much action, but when they did the detail was very nice and effectively counterbalanced the front channels. Obviously, not a film that relies heavily upon spacial effects, and the whole soundtrack seemed to be very natural.

    The bass channel did not get a lot of action at all, being used mainly to emphasise some action scenes.

Extras

    A decent collection of extras if lacking a little in quality. The Dolby Digital City trailer makes an appearance on the disc.

Menu

    A nicely themed menu, although lacking enhancement of any kind.

Theatrical Trailer

Featurette - Making of

    A shortish, 5 minute, effort which is the typical extended promotional type of featurette that is becoming very common nowadays, with some interview material and limited behind the scenes material. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 (except for the film excerpts), is not 16x9 enhanced and with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Of rather limited value really.

Director's Commentary - Joel Schumacher (Director)

    This commentary features Joel Schumacher in a separate soundtrack, with occasional excerpts from the film soundtrack. Joel is not an especially engaging person, with too much umm and arrh for my liking, and this really starts to drag after a while to my mind. It does not bear much relationship to the on-screen action, and is really more a collection of incidental stuff about the subject matter, trivia stuff and so on. Some of his insights are quite forgettable (such as when Cage picks up the baby in an early scene) and I really did not find this especially engrossing. Nonetheless, it is a worthwhile addition to the disc.

Filmographies

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:     Unless the need for a pan and scan version is overwhelming, there seems little reason to prefer one version to the other, although Region 1 would have to be the slight winner with having the additional film transfer.

Summary

    Whilst the subject matter of 8MM does not enthrall me, and I doubt that I would watch the film often, there is no doubt that this is a quality film on a very good transfer from Columbia TriStar. The problem is, is it really entertainment?

    The video quality is very good indeed.

    The audio transfer was of almost the same standard.

    A decent if not especially great package of extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Sunday, October 24, 1999
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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