|Category||Drama||Theatrical Trailer(s)||Yes, 1 - 1.85:1 non-16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 mono|
|Year Released||1996||Commentary Tracks||None|
|Running Time||115:18 minutes||Other Extras||Main Menu Animation & Audio|
Fox Home Entertainment
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||MPEG||None|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Dolby Digital||5.1|
||Soundtrack Languages||English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s)|
|Theatrical Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No- in fact, very clever placement|
|Action In or
For those very few of you who are unfamiliar with the basic story of Romeo & Juliet, I will provide a short synopsis of the original story and then will discuss this movie's interpretation of this timeless story. The original story is set in the medieval town of Verona where two houses dominate in the power struggle for this town; the Montagues and the Capulets. They are sworn enemies. Both families have but a single offspring; Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet. Romeo and Juliet meet and instantly fall in love behind their parents' backs. They marry in secret, by way of a priest that hopes their union will resolve the rift between their families, but things do not go well for the two lovers. Juliet's cousin, Tybalt, kills Romeo's best friend, Mercutio. Romeo, in a fit of rage, in turn kills Tybalt. This results in him being banished from Verona. Meanwhile, Paris is betrothed to the already-married Juliet. In desperation, Juliet seeks the help of the priest to resolve this situation, leading to some desperate measures which go horribly wrong.
This story retains its timeless power to this day - indeed I keep watching the various interpretations of this story over and over again, somehow hoping that the ending will be different just this once, but it sadly never is.
This interpretation of Romeo and Juliet begins with a news broadcast setting the scene for our star-cross'd lovers, quickly moving into a spectacular confrontation between the modern-day Montagues and Capulets at a petrol station. We are introduced to our principal players in a very rapid-fire fashion; Tybalt (John Leguizamo), Mercutio (Harold Perrineau), Romeo (Leonardo DiCaprio), Juliet (Claire Danes), Ted Montague (Brian Dennehy), Fulgencio Capulet (Paul Sorvino) and Captain Prince (Vondie Curtis-Hall), and the action continues at a frenetic pace. There is perhaps a little too much use of sped-up film footage in this movie, though I certainly do not recall this being an issue the first few times I saw this movie. Perhaps my tastes have mellowed a little in this regard over the years.
The language of the Bard flows naturally and generally very accurately from the lips of the principal actors, breathing a wonderful life and passion into these timeless words. Very quickly, you become used to the olde English phrases, a tribute to the actors delivering these lines. Not once during the entire movie did I note the words themselves getting in the way of the emotions delivered along with the words. Of particular note in this regard is a stand-out performance by Vondie Curtis-Hall (Captain Prince) whose lines as the Chief of Police are utterly convincing and extremely powerful. Leonardo DiCaprio and Clare Danes are brilliantly cast in the roles of Romeo and Juliet and have a superb chemistry on-screen. This is one film in which you can truly say that Leonardo DiCaprio was cast for his ability as an actor rather than for his ability to draw in the teenage girl demographic. Indeed, it was this film that catapulted Leonardo to Hollywood superstardom. Before Romeo + Juliet he was just another young Hollywood hopeful. Another stand-out role is that of the priest, superbly brought to life by Pete Postlethwaite. If I had to pick one weak role in this film, I would pick John Leguizamo's Tybalt, who came across as far less menacing than I felt he should have. If I had to pick one weak point in the script, I would point to the change in the timing of the final climactic scene which is a little too "Hollywood" for my liking and is at some variance with the original story.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. It is 16x9 enhanced.
The image is extremely sharp and extremely clear, with great shadow detail and no low level noise.
The colours in this transfer are simply brilliant. There is a huge range of colour palettes on display here, many of them vibrant with all of the hues of the rainbow on display and all magnificently rendered on this DVD with no colour bleeding whatsoever. The only slight criticism I will make of this vibrant and varied colour palette comes right at the end of the movie, where Romeo and Juliet are lying together. I felt that these scenes were ever-so-slightly oversaturated, with very reddish skin tones. This is, however, a very minor criticism of a transfer which is otherwise superlative in its rendition of colour. There is also a slight hint of chroma noise in the image between 22:09 - 22:44, in the blue background behind Romeo, though I suspect we are seeing the results of an optical zoom in on the original image rather than any specific transfer problem here.
There were no MPEG artefacts detected in the transfer, not even during the frenetic opening sequence which whizzes by with dramatic clarity and impact.
There were some minor problems with aliasing. Two culprits in particular stood out as mildly problematic; chrome lines on cars and fairy lights. None of this aliasing was any more than mildly noticeable, and certainly none was of any significant concern.
There were a few film artefacts seen, but no more nor less than would be expected from a film of this recent vintage.
This is an RSDL disc with the layer change coming at 53:26, during Chapter 18. This is well-placed and minimally disruptive to the flow of the movie.
Dialogue was generally very clear and easy to make out. Given that the language of this movie is olde English, frequently delivered in a very accented fashion, dialogue intelligibility is critically important to this movie, even more so than most other movies, as you have to both hear the words and then interpret the words. I did have to strain at times to hear all of the words spoken, and some were simply lost under the ambient noise, but generally this aspect of the audio transfer was handled very well, and probably as well as it could have been without becoming unnatural sounding.
There were no audio sync problems with this disc.
The score by Nellee Hooper is remarkable. A combination of contemporary music and classical pieces, this soundtrack is both stirring and moving when it needs to be. Both the timeless aspects of the story and the modern-day setting of the story are alternately highlighted by the soundtrack, brilliantly married to the on-screen action.
The surround presence of this movie is extremely dynamic. Considerable portions of the dialogue are delivered extremely softly, and this contrasts markedly with the tremendously aggressive surround presence during other portions of the movie. The opening in particular sets the scene for the entire movie with its aggressively surrounding soundscape virtually pinning you back in your seat with its power. Fortunately, this is also a soundtrack that does not omit the subtler ambient effects during the quieter moments of the soundtrack which make the difference between a good surround experience and a great one.
The subwoofer was used extremely aggressively by this soundtrack, at times almost excessively. Both music and special effects were given a large kick-on by the subwoofer track. The fireworks in particular were very notable in this regard with every explosion having a larger-than-life, visceral impact.
The video transfer is excellent.
The audio transfer is brilliant.
The extras are limited.
© Michael Demtschyna
9th March 2000
|DVD||Toshiba 2109, using S-Video output|
|Display||Loewe Art-95 95cm direct view CRT in 16:9 mode, via the S-Video input. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Audio Decoder||Denon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital AddOn Decoder, used as a standalone processor. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||2 x EA Playmaster 100W per channel stereo amplifiers for Left, Right, Left Rear and Right Rear; Philips 360 50W per channel stereo amplifier for Centre and Subwoofer|
|Speakers||Philips S2000 speakers for Left, Right; Polk Audio CS-100 Centre Speaker; Apex AS-123 speakers for Left Rear and Right Rear; Hsu Research TN-1220HO subwoofer|