|Category||Action||Theatrical Trailer(s)||Yes, 1 - 1.33:1, non-16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0|
|Year Released||1994||Commentary Tracks||None|
|Running Time||111:12 minutes||Other Extras||None|
|Region||2,4||Director||Jan De Bont|
Fox Home Entertainment
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||MPEG||None|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Dolby Digital||5.0|
||Soundtrack Languages||English (Dolby Digital 5.0, 384 Kb/s)|
|Theatrical Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or
For those who may not know the story here, where have you been since 1994? Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves) and his partner Harry Temple (Jeff Daniels) work for the Los Angeles Police Department. Called to a hostage situation in a downtown building, Jack and Harry save the day by rescuing all the hostages from a stranded elevator, and apparently see the death of the hostage taker, Howard Payne (Dennis Hopper). After receiving decorations for their feat, Jack has a nasty surprise when one of the Big Blue Buses of Santa Monica (now that brings back memories) blows up virtually in his face. Turns out that Howard is anything but deceased, and now rather peeved about being diddled out of his $3,000,000. So he has set a little challenge for Jack involving a Big Blue Bus running from Venice to Downtown. Said bus has a rather large explosive device attached to it, set to trigger once the bus attains 50 miles per hour and set to explode if it falls below that speed after triggering. Cue Annie Porter (Sandra Bullock) belatedly catching said bus, and the race is on for Jack to locate the bus and then figure out how the heck to save the passengers without forking out the $3,700,000 ransom, as well as getting the girl, all whilst getting one large bus to do some quite extraordinary things.
Okay, so no one ever accused this of having a scintillating plot. Indeed, there are so many plot holes here that you run serious risks of bodily harm when falling into them. But that completely overlooks the raison d'être of this film. This is nothing more than a typical Jan De Bont over the top effort where nothing is overlooked in the quest for topping every piece of action in the film. This is just supposed to be a mindless exercise of entertainment, a couple of hours of brain-off action. In that regard, the film succeeds admirably. Obviously where the plot is so loose, great acting is not a requirement. Which therefore makes this the absolute perfect vehicle for Keanu Reeves, whose lack of acting ability has never been questioned. Indeed this is almost the most bearable effort of his that I have seen. Of course, this was the film that catapulted Sandra Bullock into the serious heavyweight league in Hollywood, and it is plain to see why. She will never be recognized as a great actress, but there is no doubt that she brings to the screen a refreshing naturalism that I find quite (okay, very) appealing. The star here is Dennis Hopper who is quite delightful as the scheming ex-cop out to gather his just deserts in his view. He brings just the right sort of mix of intelligence and eccentricity to the role. Whilst this will never be recognized as a great film, it nonetheless garnered two Oscars in 1995 - for Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing and for Best Sound. They were deserved in my view, but the technical quality ends there really. You just have to get used to the odd blooper, like having the bus shown with a very visible side camera mounted, and the grossly obvious underbody device used to jack the bus up for the famed hard right turn onto the freeway. But these are overlooked in the fun to be had in the film.
This rates a solid 7 out of 10 on the Internet Movie Database, reflecting the fun that is to be had here. Not a great film but certainly a great piece of entertainment.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced.
After becoming so familiar with the Region 1 release of the film, this immediately grabbed me as a very nicely sharp and well defined transfer - just check out the opening titles, which have always left me a little underwhelmed in the Region 1 version. Here they are really bright and vibrant, with plenty of definition. Whilst there are a few odd lapses, more as a result of the way the film was shot than anything else, this maintains a high standard throughout. It is not however a really clear transfer although there are no really distracting problems in that regard. Overall shadow detail was perhaps just a little on the disappointing side on a couple of occasions, but overall more than acceptable. There does not appear to be any low level noise problems with the transfer, although at times the picture does seem just a little grainy. The only really perturbing glitch is at 97:37 where the picture appears to jump: this looks as if there are a couple of missing frames in the film. This may be a bad edit in the original film, but I do not recall seeing it before.
Overall the colours are nicely vibrant and very nicely toned, just on the right side of being rich toned. Apart from the slight oversaturation of the colour in the elevator scenes, which is intended as it is in all versions of the film I have seen, this is a very nicely saturated transfer without going way over the top (now there is a rarity for a Jan De Bont film!). This really came over as a very natural looking transfer, as opposed to the slightly muted tone of the Region 1 version.
There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. Film-to-video artefacts were virtually non-existent, mainly comprising some minor aliasing, the most noticeable of which is on the building rooftop around 11:48; however in this regard, this is a much better effort than the Region 1 release. Surprisingly, film artefacts were barely noted during the film, with just the odd speckle blemishing what is actually quite a clean transfer.
This is an RSDL formatted disc with the layer change coming at 76:17, just as the scene changes to the approach to Howard Payne's house. This is a nicely placed layer change, just noticeable but not really disruptive to the film at all.
Note that the packaging refers to a Hebrew subtitle option, but this is not present on the disc.
There is only the one audio track on this DVD, the English Dolby Digital 5.0 soundtrack.
Dialogue was always clear and easy to understand.
There were no audio sync problems with this disc.
The score by Mark Mancina is a beauty, highlighted by one of the most memorable film themes to emerge in the nineties. And no opportunity is lost to use the theme throughout the film, especially when the action is driven along a little. Very nice stuff indeed.
Straight out, this grabbed me as a lovely sounding effort. Even though it lacks the bass channel, this is only really noticeable in the explosions (of which there are several in true Jan De Bont style). This is a very nicely detailed effort with plenty of use of the surround channels, especially the rears. As a result this is a far more detailed effort than the Region 1 in little ways, such as the sounds of tools clattering in the opening sequence in the elevator control room. The sound is also a lot brighter and more vibrant, resulting in a really nice soundscape, totally enveloping and very believable. This is probably one of the best uses of a 5.0 soundtrack that I have heard and it even puts a fair number of the 5.1 soundtracks I have heard to shame. There really is not too much to complain about here.
The video transfer is good.
The audio transfer is very good.
The extras are anything but exciting.
Just one suggestion to Fox Home Entertainment - the technical detail on the rear cover is good, but can you make it a little bigger so that it is actually easier to read please?
© Ian Morris
19th January 2000
|DVD||Pioneer DV-515; S-video output|
|Display||Sony Trinitron Wega 84cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in|
|Amplification||Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL|