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Before I start I would like to say that this has not been an easy review to write. For a long time I just sat staring at the computer with no words coming to mind for me to type. I at first thought this was writers block...check out how pretentious I am getting in my old age...however, I now realise it was the product that was causing the problems.
Aberlour 10 Year Old Whisky is a good whisky. And that was my problem, I really do feel I could stop the review now with those nine words! However, you obviously need to know more than simply that and why that is the case, so here goes.
Lets start with that all important sniff. This is a very dry whisky, very reminiscent of the sherry oak cask that it is matured in. Fruit is also a main factor in the aroma and that makes this a very sweet smelling whisky. To sum up this section I would say that this whisky smells like you would expect a whisky to smell.
Taste? The first thing that you notice is the smotthness of the whisky, it doesn't so much assalt you as caress you. Once again you are reminded of the fruit with pear and apple tones being the order of the day. I am going to say this again though as this is going to be my main point later, this whisky tastes exactly like a whisky is supposed to taste.
How about that all important finish? Once again I would simply like to say that yes it has a finish. It is long, soft and warming, just as a whisky should be.
And that really is the main problem with this whisky. It is a good whiskey. The description says that this is a definitive example of a Speyside Single Malt and that is exactly what it is, it is a whisky. However, it is not a memorable one.
I first encountered this whisky at a pub, and as I recall now I enjoyed it, abd then thought nothing more of it. My next experience was buying a bottle for a holiday from a supermarket. I saw it, I know that I had tasted this whisky before but I couldnt remember where, and I had no recallection of it so I thought I would give it a go again. That bottle is long gone and now that I come to write this review, I couldn't for the life of me remember it. It took this long mulling it over to recall it and to have an opinion of it.
Don't get me wrong this is not a negative review. Aberlour is not a bad whiskey. It does exactly what it says on the bottle. It is a 10 year old Speyside single malt, but that is all that it is. Don't expect fireworks with this bottle.
In my mind a great whisky is one that leaves you with a memory, the place you drank it, the people you were with, the reason it was good, heck I can remember the atmosphere at the time of drinking a great whisky. Aberlour does not give you that. It is a good whisky to introduce whisky to friends or as a bottle to take on holiday with people that drink whisky but dont love whisky.
Picking this out from the shelf you are looking for a deep red cylinder box with the white label. If you are looking to buy this whisky it is available online from the Aberlour website (www.aberlour.com) for £23.00. Alternatively Sainsbury's currently have it on offer at £16.99. My local whisky shop I have not asked what he sells it for, and I don't think I will be doing.
Dont get me wrong, I don't hate this whisky by any imagination, I merely don't love it either. It's middle of the road. A safe whisky.
Bushmills 16 year old whisky is the most under rated whisky. On the other hand, Bushmills 16 year old whisky is the most over rated whisky. Confused? You should be because so am I!
Bushmills was my first foray in to the world of Irish single malt whisky's and it was a place that I stayed at for quite sometime. The standard Bushmills is a very drinkable whisky. So I was expecting good things from the Bushmills 16 Year Old Whiskey, especially as it offers this unique "Three Wood" finishing.
Three wood finishing does pretty much what you expect, the whisky is matured through 3 different casks, Oloroso, Sherry and Bourbon seasoned casks, with the whisky finally kept in port wine barrels (surely this should be called 4 wood?). All this is to add depth to the flavour, and you can see why that should be the case with all the extra flavours that should be present. Unfortunately I dont think this has happened.
First of all, the smell (I know I should call it the nose, but it is just to pretensious). I hear you screaming that this should be obvious, you should get Oloroso, Sherry and/or Bourbon, either all three or at least one of them, or maybe even port. However this is not the case, what you do get is a very heavy aroma, almost reminiscent of treacle toffee. Now this may be because the three woods have all combined, but for me this was a little dissapointing.
The taste. Any Oloroso, Sherry or Bourbon here? Nope! Instead you do get a very full bodied, almost heavy whisky. And if anything I would say that it is slightly nutty.
What about the finish? Well, here at least we are left with something of a positive. This does leave you feeling like yopu have drunk a lovely old port. Although I have described the whisky as heavy on more than one occasion, the finish is not not heavy, rather it is a deep luxurious finish, and this is very satisfactory.
So overall this is a good whisky. However this is my problem, that I eluded to at the begining of this review. This is a really over rated whisky, which I believe it is if this is the only Bushmills product you have tasted. If you start your Bushmills journey here, you will think this is the bee's knees, very rich and very deep.
However, this is the most under rated whiskey for those that have tried any other Bushmills whiskies. In my mind when you are drinking a product that is supposedly a step up from the bog standard product then this product should be better. However, I dont believe that the 16 years or the three wood finish adds anything to this product, and you may as well just stick to the normal Bushmills.
This is especially evident when you consider the price as well! For a Bushmills Original Irish Whisky you can pick one up in Sainsbury's for a rediculously cheap £13.99, on offer at the moment. However, for this 16 year old one, it is not available in the supermarkets that I have been too, nor is it on the Bushmills website as available to buy. At various online shops you can pick this bottle up for...wait for it...£46.99!!! As such I have never even enquired about this whisky from my local whisky shop!
If you still want to give this a go, look out for the traditional Bushmills oblong tin box, this comes in a burnt red coloured box. However, in my opinion there are better whiskies out there to spend nearly £50 on, and if you really like Bushmills stick to the original.
I think it would be appropriate to begin this review with a quick note. Should any of you ever want to buy my a present, of a whisky nature, then please, please, please buy me a bottle of this. This is my all time favorite whisky bar none!
Despite my love of whisky, it took me a long time to discover Irish whisky. This part of the whisky journey began with Bushmills and that is where I stayed for a long time. Once again though, through the recommendation of a whisky shop owner, however, this time an Irish one, I bought a bottle of Connemara Single Malt Whisky and I have never looked back since.
There is something traditionally Irish about this whisky, that I really can't put my finger on. You think of Connemara, the region of Ireland, and you might think of the horses with the same name, but if you have never been there you wouldn't know of the traditional Irish beauty of the region. A rugged Atlantic coastline, tall mountains and lush green bog lands have all somehow been captured in this bottle of whisky. I dare you not to feel like an Irishman while drinking it.
I think the reason for all this is the way it is distilled. As the description of this product above tells us, some very old traditional Irish customs of whisky makling have been revived here, and once again this is reflected in the whisky, making you feel like you are drinking a very original whisky, something from days gone by.
So what about the all important aroma? Well right from your first sniff I have to say this is the most balanced whisky I have ever had. The smoke and peat aromas are there straight from the off, and last with you the entire breath. But add to that the classic combination of heather and honey, and finish it off with an oaky aroma and you have got the perfect blend. Honestly I would be happy just enjoying the smell of this whisky, well almost happy!
On to the all important taste, and the balance is still the overall impression you are left with. The taste begins almost sedately with the honey and heather starting you on a journey that you can just tell is going to be good. Add to that the distictive malt texture that comes from the traditional Irish technique and the taste really begins to lift off. Finally, you acheive orbit once the peat spreads across your palate accompanied with just a hint of vanilla.
What about that all important finish? It is glorious! You will be left savouring the taste long after you have swallowed, the peat, honey, oak and vanilla all lingering long enough to leave you with a smile on your face and your mouth watering thinking about your next taste.
When all this is considered, I believe that this single Irish malt is more than capable of standing alongside many if not all of its Scotish counterparts. I believe it has not tried to copy the style of scottish single malts, but instead has its own uniquely irish style. As such this always has pride of place on my drinks tray.
On the shelf, look out for a short and stumpy cylinder that houses this bottle, the greens and different shaped bottle, also a little short and stumpy make this whisky stand out a little. The look also reminds you of ireland, but once again I don't know why. The only downside of this whisky is that it is not always easy to find. You cannot buy this direct from the Connemara website, nor have I seen it in any supermarkets. Your best bet once again is from your local whisky shop where it is usually £23.99 or amazingly this is stocked by John Lewis at not an unreasonable £25.99.
If you have never had an Irish single malt, or if you are noew to whisky all together then I really recommend starting here, it is simple gorgeous!
What do you mean you have never heard of Benriach...well join the club. Up until last year I had never heard of this whisky, and it was by sheer chance that I stumbled across it, and this really emphasizes the importance of getting to know your local whisky shop. As a regular customer, he knows which whisky's I like and what I have tried before. When I am looking for a new whisky I like to simply give him a price range and a simple brief of what I want and he offers his expert opinion. On this occasion he handed me this, Benriach 10 Year Old Whiskey, I can do nothing but thank him!
So what have you been missing out on? Well to stick to my style lets talk first about smell. The first thing that hits you in my opinion is the fruitiness of this whisky, This is unusual as it is a peated whiskey and normally this is the first thing noticeable from any peated whisky. However, don't worry the peat is not far behind the fruit and it is complimented nicely by a hint of oak.
Taste wise, this is again different to any other whiskys that I have tasted, rather than a peat taste assaulting you first, the fruity sweetness of this whisky is the first taste on this journey. However, saying that the peat is always there as a companion to all the other flavours. The sweetness that follows is very reminiscent of honey. Apparently, according to the experts I should also be getting the oaky flovour as I swallow but I really dont taste that.
The finish again is different to all my other whiskys. While the firey kick is there, it is not that agressive, meaning that it has quite a short finsh. The taste lovely but not long lasting. This is not a criticism, merely my thought, it is very different to other whiskies and variety is the spice of life so they say...whoever they may be.
Overall, this was a very surprising little treat that was discovered by accident. If your one thought when buying a whisky is that I want a powerful peaty whisky than this might not be the whisky for you. However, I really like this whisky and enjoy it on a warm summers night, or to introduce friends to the wonderful world that is whisky
Look out for the black and gold cylinder which contains the golden bottle. You cannot buy this whisky direct from the Benriach website, and as of yet I have not seen it sticked in any of the local supermarkets, so this may take a little searching out. If you have a friendly neighbourhood whisky shop then I think you should get a good price for this unknown little gem, it was on offer in the shop for £18.99...but expect it to increase when word gets out.
Ardbeg 10 years old is a Single Islay Malt Scotchish Whisky and as such has the distinctive peaty taste that accomplines most Islay malts and this is one of my personal favorites.
As the description of this product tells you, it is a special bottling for the Ardbeg distillery as it is the only non-chill filtered whisky in the Ardbeg range. This sounds very exciting, but I had no idea what that meant, so I did a little research. I still have to admit that the actual process still eludes me, however, the reason to chill filter a whisky is to maintain consistency across a distillation run, that is, each bottle will taste the same. I have found that this method was implimented when the whisky industry was a little more hap-hazard than it is today.
So what that means with this whisky is that the drink that you have in your bottle is almost straight from the cask, which means you are getting a very original taste.
The first thing that I would have to talk about is the smell. Well coming straight from the cask almost does make a difference. Don't be expecting a subtle whisky hit from this one, Ardbeg 10 is very much in your face. This fact hits you from your first sniff with this whiskey being once of the most noticable peaty aromas of any whisky I have had. Saying that there is a good balance to the smell an underlying sweetness reminiscent of caramel of toffee. There is also a smokeyness to this whisky, which is perhaps the smell that lingers the longest, imagine a dying open fire, and you wouldn't be that far away from the smell.
So what about the taste? Sitting on the tongue, you get the initial feeling of smoothness, however, that is soon replaced by once again the strong peat and almost an espresso kick to accompany that. The fire is also definately there, but it is tempered by the sweetness thats rounds out the taste very nicely.
This whiskey also has an excellent finish. It is almost as if it realizes that it has just smacked you round the face and eases that with a long and smokey, almost comfoting finish. You feel happy to hold this in your hand, knowing that the next sip means all this is going to happen again.
According to my local whisky shop, Ardbeg 10 is one of the most popular whiskies that they sell, and it is easy to see why. If you are new to single malts, and in particular single Islay malts then this might be the wrong whisky to begin your journey with. However, if you like your Islay, and if you like a strong peat whisky, and if your happy to be slapped around a little (that is meant in a positive way, I promise) by your whiskey, then I think that this is the drink for you.
Look out for the distinctive green and black packaging that imitates the green bottle with black label inside and pick up an excellent whisky. On the Ardbeg website (www.ardbeg.com) this is available for £31.99, which I think is a little overpriced. Alternatively, you can buy this is Sainbury's for £28.99. Or if you get friendly with your local whisky shop, he might just do you a deal, like he did for me, where I got it for £24.99.
X Men 2 picks up where the first film left off, with Wolverine heading north to Alkali Lake to explore his mysterious past. But while he is out of contact, relationships between mutants and humanity deteriorate further when a blue-skinned mutant makes an attempt on the life of the President.
Following this, a military scientist named William Stryker convinces the President to order a military intervention on a known stronghold of the mutants, Charles Xavier's academy. Professor X orders his X Men to investigate the attack on the President, to mitigate the harm it has caused. Storm and Jean Grey attempt to track down the would-be assassin, while Charles visits his old friend Magneto in his plastic prison. Wolverine returns in time to be left babysitting the younger mutants in the mansion. Which is when Stryker's forces attack.
Stryker has more intricate plans than just a little shock and awe, and with Professor X and Cerebro at the heart of his scheme, courtesy of a mind control serum; the war between Mutants and Mankind has truly been joined.
X Men 2 gets a top-notch 2.40:1 anamorphic transfer, resounding in clarity and a joy to behold.
The production design for the film is excellent, building on the splendid work done for the first film, although the X-Plane gets a redesign to suit the demands of the second story. We have also reached that point where effects are limited only by one's imagination and wallet, so this allows for plenty of stunning set pieces in this film.
You have a choice between DD 5.1 and DTS English, with optional English subtitles. The sound design for this film is sublime. Once you have seen the opening sequence, with Nightcrawler making his way around the White House, you'll want to kiss your speakers in gratitude for the experience. An outstanding musical score, clear dialogue, it is the textbook definition of a perfect audio track.
A 2-disc Special Edition means oodles of extra goodness for your delectation. But this time, there is an 'everything but the kitchen sink' approach that means it's all a little hit and miss.
Aside from the film though, all that Disc 1 contains are the commentaries. The first is with director Bryan Singer and cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel, while the second features producers Lauren Shuler Donner and Ralph Winter with writers David Hayter, Dan Harris and Mike Dougherty. But since both tracks pretty much cover the same ground about the film's making of, you wonder why they bothered with the repetition. If it's worth anything, Singer's commentary is a little dry and gappy, while Donner's is more light-hearted. Both are optionally subtitled in English.
Disc 2 contains the rest of the copious extra features, divided into appropriate sections.
History Of The X-Men contains The Secret Origin of the X-Men, which lasts 15 minutes and takes us from the first comics all the way to first film, as well as Nightcrawler Reborn, which lasts 8 minutes and is an exploration of the character.
Pre Production has three featurettes. Nightcrawler Attack is one of those multi-angle featurettes that looks at the opening sequence of the film, from storyboard to final product. Evolution in the Details: Designing X2 sees Guy Dyas take us on a tour of the many sets of the film, and discuss the production design. This lasts 18 minutes. To round off this section there is a United Colours of X featurette that looks at the Costume design over 9 minutes.
The meatiest section of the disc is Production, which contains 6 featurettes. Wolverine/Deathstrike Fight Rehearsal is just that and lasts 90 seconds, with a couple of stunt performers having fun with knives.
Introducing The Incredible Nightcrawler sees actor Alan Cumming talk about his memorable character for 10 minutes. This is accompanied by a 4-minute time-lapse film of the make up being applied, as well as a 3-minute Nightcrawler stunt rehearsal, which just appears to be one of the angles from the earlier featurette.
FX2 lasts 25 minutes and looks at the special effects sequences in the film. Technically this should be in post-production, but as there are also some stunt sequences highlighted it doesn't make much difference. Finally, and most significantly is an hour long making of featurette, where the cast and crew all contribute to the behind the scenes look at the movie.
Post Production has a couple of bits. Requiem For Mutants: The Music of X 2 pretty much speaks for itself, and lasts 12 minutes, while X2 Global Webcast Highlights sees snippets of interviews with the cast and crew that were originally broadcast on the Internet, and lasts 17 minutes.
There are 11 deleted scenes in all, and as most of them really only add a few extra frames they are mostly superfluous. There are 3 trailers and copious stills and sketches in the Galleries.
X Men 2 is the ideal summer blockbuster, building on the first film, and in almost every way a bigger and more stunning experience, certainly delivering more bang for the buck, while retaining the sensibilities and strength of character that so defined the first film as something special. It's certainly a joy to see these fantastic characters fulfilling their potential with a mega-effects budget behind them.
The story is much more epic, fitting the set-up of the first film, that of a war between mutants and humanity, and every dramatic moment in the film is given suitable weight. Yet I can't help preferring the first film to the second, despite its more obvious flaws.
The strength of character remains at the forefront for the sequel, although in some respects this has become the Wolverine and Storm show. Hugh Jackman once again embodies Wolverine, and his search for his past lies at the heart of the second story. Halle Berry swaps wigs, and more noticeably loses the accent, as she dominates more of the proceedings. It's a positive move as we get to see what Storm is capable of as a mutant.
Once again, it is down to Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart to lend gravitas to the film as Magneto and Xavier. Such powerhouse performances at the heart of what is essentially a comic book movie give it a strength that gives appeal to a wide audience. The addition of Brian Cox as Stryker simply adds to this.
Character interactions are finely observed, and I love the dynamic that forms between Nightcrawler and Storm, as the two debate the comparative values of anger and faith. Rogue and Bobby supply the emotional arc of the film to a lesser extent, as the two attempt a romance despite their powers, but more central is the flirtation between Wolverine and Jean Grey, although for the second film running, it means that poor Cyclops is sidelined for much of the film.
Making much more of an impact, both visually and dramatically is the character of Pyro, rebellious mutant with an impulse control problem.
Set pieces in the film are truly spectacular, not just for the profusion of digital effects, but because they reveal the characters that have only been hinted at in the first film. Wolverine finally gets to cut loose with those adamantium claws of his when Stryker's men attack the mansion. Nightcrawler has one of the most memorable entrances in movie history, Storm literally brews up her namesake when the X Plane comes under attack, and Mystique's assault on Stryker's base is brilliantly choreographed. Then there is the whole Jean Grey/Phoenix storyline that is set into motion here to awesome effect.
While X Men 2 continues with the alienation and discrimination allegory from the first film, I feel that in its rush to present an epic and meaningful storyline, it has sacrificed a little something. While there is no danger of the characters slipping into caricature, there is a sense that unlike the first film, there is not much of an attempt to present them as more than just their powers, which sort of goes against the message of the film.
As part of a series it matters less, as the first film did the important part of the character development, but as a stand-alone film, this hurts it, with really only the Nightcrawler coming across as fully developed and rounded. I also feel that the sequel has lost the intimacy of the first. It's a bigger film, the budget is apparent with every frame, but it no longer seems as if the characters drive the story. The relationship that formed between Rogue and Wolverine is pretty much absent here, yet it was at the core of the first film.
X Men 2 stands out in terms of spectacle most certainly, and the story is excellent, but what made the first film so special was its humanity for want of a better word, and that's one reason why I still prefer it.
X Men 2 is great entertainment, but the passage of time has allowed me to reflect, and it's lost some of its lustre. Compared to the first film it is very much a big budget event movie, and while the strength of character and depth of story is still there, the message just as powerfully conveyed, there is just a hint of coldness and contrivance about the whole thing. The disc itself is splendid, great picture and sound and a bucket-load of extras promising value for money. For fans this is an easy purchase.
In the near future, mutations in the genome are gifting some members of the human species with strange abilities. This has led to divisions and segregation, with many 'normal' humans resenting and fearing the mutants, and some calling for segregation and registration. The most vocal of these proponents is US Senator Kelly, who has introduced a bill to that effect.
Mutants of course oppose him, but they themselves are split into factions. Professor Xavier's group wishes for mutants to coexist peacefully with humanity, both working for the common good, while Magneto's group wishes for mutants to reign supreme over a human underclass. The superior beings ruling the lesser for their own good. It is the battle between these two factions that is the heart of this story.
Presented in anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen, the fact this is a recent film results in crystal clear and flawless picture. Directed by Brian Singer, X men is a character piece, driven solely by the needs of the story, which is a major reason why the film is so good.
The effects are therefore secondary to the story, but are seamlessly blended into the film. You really believe what you see on the screen and never once are you tempted to look for the seams. The effects when you do notice them are quite brilliant and awe inspiring. The climactic battle between Wolverine and Sabretooth atop the statue of Liberty speaks for itself.
X Men comes with DD 5.1 sound. The sound is as accomplished as the picture and I couldn't spot any flaws. The score from Michael Kamen is spot on, and he defines this movie with his music.
Starting with well-constructed menus, this disc is well stocked with special features. There are 6 deleted scenes, totalling 11 minutes. There is an option to view the movie with these scenes branching from the film, but they are incomplete, lacking music and completed effects. It is a shame that they weren't in the final cut as they expand on the characters, especially Rogue and Cyclops.
There are two featurettes. The first is the Fox Special: The Mutant Watch, which is a look at the characters and the making of the movie wrapped in a spoof news report, starring Senator Kelly explaining the need for a bill in Senate. There's a neat twist in the tail as well. The documentary sequences are informative also.
If you just want the making of, look at the other featurette, which contains much the same material without the dramatised news report linking the segments. There is also Hugh Jackman's screen test with Anna Paquin, which goes a long way to explaining why he was ideal for the part. There is an Art gallery containing character and production designs.
The cast is excellent throughout, though of course some performances are especially noteworthy. Hugh Jackman is Wolverine. He is so good that when I look back at the cartoons, I automatically see Jackman in the role, the same for many other of the cast, particularly Halle Berry and Patrick Stewart as Storm and Xavier respectively.
I was concerned that Ian McKellan may not be suitable for the role of Magneto, who is always the big bad guy, yet McKellan accomplishes by sheer force of personality what any number of muscle-bound actors could ever do, bring depth to the role.
This can be said for the entire cast, they make this film work by doing what is rarely done in similar films, they play the roles as characters, not caricatures and this more than anything makes the film work. If any one disappoints, it is James Marsden as Cyclops. His character has very little to do other than being jealous when Wolverine pays too much attention to Jean Grey, but that is a problem with the length of the movie being insufficient to develop his character rather than in his performance.
X Men works because of the fundamental story it tells. The performances are consistently outstanding and the story gripping from beginning to end. If there is one drawback to the film, it's the length. It is far too short. I would have loved to see more character development, actually I would have preferred more, full stop. This is the way all comic books should be adapted.
The Matrix Revolutions, the film that concludes the tale.
The machines are still tunnelling toward Zion, while Neo lies comatose aboard the Mjollnir. However Neo is jacked into the Matrix without any physical connection, trapped in a form of digital Limbo after his mysterious burst of power in the real world. Morpheus and Trinity go into the Matrix to rescue Neo from the clutches of the Merovingian, then Neo visits the Oracle one last time to find the answers to his questions.
Yet while Agent Smith is busy remaking the Matrix over in his own image, a sinister traitor awakes aboard the Mjollnir. Still, Neo learns what has to be done, and while he and Trinity set out to accomplish this, the others must return to Zion as the humans make their last stand against the machines, even now breaking into the hidden city. Tonight the war will end, one way or another.
The Matrix Revolutions gets a pristine 2.40:1 anamorphic transfer. The picture is pin sharp. Once again the Matrix can be distinguished by a faint greenish tinge and despite the prevalence of dark scenes, and the fact that the climax takes place in a rainstorm with plenty of particulate motion, the image remains as reference quality throughout.
This film is once again a special effects bonanza, with all disciplines used in bringing the dual worlds to life. The fight sequences are just as explosive as before and Revolutions makes substantial use of computer generated images just as Reloaded did.
There's been a quantum leap in image quality and photo-realism in the intervening months though, and there is little as distracting as the Burly Brawl. Still, I do find the excessive use of CGI distracting, no matter how well accomplished it looks, and certain moments in the climax were jarring in their unreality.
Once again the sound comes in DD 5.1 English and German and befitting an action movie, it's a powerful vibrant soundtrack that makes full use of the surrounds. You would expect nothing less of a film like this and just as Reloaded, it's impossible to fault technically.
The dialogue is clear throughout, and Don Davis' music is exactly what we have come to expect from the Matrix movies. The music for the climax and the end credits fits the tone of the film and makes a change from music of the first two. Subtitles are provided in several European languages, both for the film and the extras.
I couldn't begin this section without mentioning the cover, which is simply horrendous. It's as if they couldn't make up their minds about which image to use, so they stuck all four on. In addition, it's stylistically different from the first two discs. The animated menus are once again gorgeous to look at, and once again they give too much of the story away, not that Revolutions has that much story to begin with.
On disc 1, as well as the film, you will find trailers for all three films, as well as a short trailer for the Animatrix.
On disc 2, Revolutions Recalibrated is the main documentary that runs for 27 minutes. It's the making of, with behind the scenes footage as well as interviews with the cast and crew. There's some interesting stuff among the monotony.
CG Revolution is 16 minutes and shows just how much CG was used in this film, and how it was used.
Super Burly Brawl is 6 minutes and is a multi-angle featurette that looks at the film's climax via the final footage, the storyboards and the behind the scenes footage.
Operator leads to four featurettes, Neo Realism, 13 minutes, looks at more CGI and how it was used to replace actors and digitally create bullet time. Super Big Mini Models, 9 minutes, looks at the models used to realise some of the effects. Double Agent Smith, 7 minutes, looks at how the many Smiths were realised for the final scenes. Mind Over Matter, 8 minutes, looks at the stunts and how the wirework was accomplished and enhanced for Revolutions.
Before The Revolution is an update for all that has come before, to help you catch up with the story. This is presented in chronological order in five sections, Birth, The Matrix, The One, Zion, and Truth. You get information in the form of text and images, as well as the occasional movie clip.
3D Evolution is a fairly comprehensive image gallery, of concept art, storyboards and the final scenes. There's a fair number of images you can view in a 6-minute slideshow, but navigating through the images via the remote isn't easy, and the interface is clumsy.
On the whole the extras are a vast improvement over Reloaded, but still lack depth.
The Matrix was such an amazing film that bettering it would have been difficult. With the Matrix Reloaded, it rapidly became apparent that it was as nowhere near as good as the first, but the hope remained that in conjunction with Revolutions, the two sequels would combine to form a whole worthy of the first film. Unfortunately Revolutions reveals that hope to be a forlorn one.
Yes, it completes the story and it is in a few ways better than Reloaded. In some ways it's worse though. Revolutions is a technically accomplished film, as visually striking as we have come to expect, filled with action but on the whole it's just not satisfying. While it isn't that good, it isn't a turkey either, it's just walks a fine line of mediocrity that leaves the slightest of sour tastes in the mouth.
Revolutions is overlong, we get a slow build up as Neo recovers and a course of action is decided on. Then comes the climactic defence of Zion, an amazing piece of cinema, stunningly choreographed and like little seen before.
When that battle ended, I wiped sweat from my brow and relaxed, but there was more to come, nearly an hour as Neo has yet to face his final confrontation. I simply didn't care at this point, though that may have more to do with the nature of the Super Burly Brawl itself. In hindsight, both Revolutions and Reloaded feel like one film split down the middle and stretched tenuously to fill four hours.
The script is tired and rehashed. There's another lobby shoot-out, Trinity gets to wheel out her trademark Scorpion and Dragon kicks, Neo has yet another chat with the Oracle and yet another battle with Smith.
A complaint I had about the first sequel, Neo's invincibility has been addressed, but the Matrix is now a sterile neutral place. We get a glimpse early on of the Merovingian's nightclub, but by the end it has become a rain soaked Smithville. It's an imbalance between the sequels that actually makes Reloaded, despite it's lack of story the more satisfying experience.
The dialogue similarly suffers. In the first film there was an intelligent dialogue that hinted at a complexity underlying the story. The second film attempted to expand on this, but the dialogue became stilted and cumbersome, especially by the time the Architect was introduced. In the third film, the dialogue is laughable. It's as if the writers thought, "We still have twenty minutes to fill, let's add a few more syllables."
The final confrontation between Smith and Neo is actually something I found tedious. Once again CGI rears its ugly head, I still can't accept digital actors in place of the real thing, and CGI bullet time is a poor substitute for the ingenuity of the original optical technique.
I think the sheer implied energy of the combat strains the bounds of fantasy, let alone reality, when both Smith and Neo take to the air to fight in a sort of free-fall dance, there's no frame of reference, and the mid-air kung fu lacks weight and is unsatisfying, also the earth-shattering collisions between the two quickly jade. Smith himself is a parody of the character created in the first film, indeed in one of the story points of Revolutions he is reduced in stature to little more than an aspect of Neo. Even Don Davis' music sounds tired and repetitive. As the visuals of the Matrix Revolutions scream, "More! More! More!" everything fundamental about the film just whispers "less, less, less".
The Matrix Revolutions is a visual experience on a par with the first two films. Stunning set pieces, amazing action and mind blowing visual effects unfortunately do little to hide a narrative vacuum. The extras on the discs surpass those on Reloaded, but are still thin, no doubt anticipating the inevitable Super Special Editions. But if you are a Matrix completist like myself, you probably already have the disc or anticipate buying it soon. As long as you don't fool yourself into expecting something this film isn't, you won't be disappointed.
It has been six months since the events of the Matrix, and with the aid of The One the forces of Zion have been freeing minds from the machines at an unprecedented rate. It's enough of a threat for the machines to take action, and as the film begins, the machines have begun to tunnel to Zion, to eliminate it once and for all. While the military under Commander Lock are set to make a stand at the gates of Zion, Morpheus believes that the fulfilment of prophecy is at hand. He awaits the call of the Oracle to put into motion the events that will prove the final victory over the machines.
Neo on the other hand is himself beset with visions, and is tormented by dreams of Trinity's death. A visit to the Oracle will set forward a chain of events that will reveal the ultimate truth about the Matrix, and Neo will have to make a choice that will determine the fate of humanity.
The Matrix Reloaded has an absolutely stunning 2.40:1 anamorphic transfer, with what is to my eyes a flawless picture. The minute you see those green computer characters scrolling down the screen and realise that they are glowing with a fire and vitality that was completely absent in the first film's transfer that you realise that you are in for a treat.
The colours, the contrast, the sharpness and the sheer depth of the image is simply stunning, with the expansive sets and brilliant visual effects presented with astounding clarity.
However the downside to the immaculate transfer is the clarity with which the excessive use of CGI becomes apparent. Distracting in the cinema, here it is downright annoying, and I feel it detracts from the overall score.
The sound comes in DD 5.1 English and German flavours. It's a powerful dynamic soundtrack that is difficult to fault. The dialogue (such as it is) is clear throughout, and the superb action sequences take your speakers for an irreverent test drive. The music is in the same vein of the first film.
The extras comprise of "Preload" which lasts 22 minutes and is essentially a making of documentary, with interviews with the cast and crew. Padded with scenes from the movie and behind the scenes footage, it's essentially a brief PR piece to set up the film, the operative word being brief.
The Matrix Unfolds is a six-minute bit that takes an overall look at the Matrix phenomenon, the films, the anime and the game. All of which is repeated in further detail elsewhere on the disc making this extremely redundant.
Perhaps the most impressive piece is the Freeway Chase. 30 minutes of documentary footage regarding the creation and filming of one of the most expensive and massive car chases ever conceived. Filming of the stunt sequence alone took longer to shoot than most movies and involved building a freeway from scratch. This is probably the most rewarding extra on the disc and invites repeated viewing.
Finally there is the MTV Movie Awards sketch, which inserted Stifler and the Trousersnake a.k.a. hosts Justin Timberlake and Seann William Scott into key scenes of the film. Expecting the worst, I found this 10-minute sketch to be quite funny and irreverent.
But the bottom line is that there is no audio commentary and there is only one decent documentary. A film like the Matrix has a wealth of material that could provide hours of background footage, the martial arts training alone that the actors had to endure could fill a whole disc, not to mention the effects and stunts.
First let's get one thing clear, which is I like The Matrix Reloaded a lot. It's an amazing visual accomplishment that that is relentless in its supply of thrills and spills, but as a sequel to the first film it is adequate at best.
It's popcorn for the eyes, chewing gum for the mind that supplies a hit of intense flavour but little or no nourishment. If you are a fan of the Matrix, you probably already own this, and if you are considering buying this then I can heartily recommend it as a stunning piece of visual entertainment. But...
This is where I take my gloves off and start picking at the frayed edges, of which there are many. Whereas the first film had a complex story, rich in cultural references and possessing a unique originality, the sequel seems designed for marketing and visual effect only.
I had hoped that with the technology and style firmly established in the first film, they would make the effort to tell an exciting and interesting tale. After all, you can't invent bullet time again, and the stunning revelations and unique worldview that so enraptured audiences of the first film can't be repeated. Alas the producers went for bigger, better, faster, brighter action and stunts, choosing to neglect the narrative. The Matrix Reloaded lacks any story whatsoever.
The film lasts 2 hours, or 2 hours and 10 minutes if you include the end credits, yet for those 2 hours nothing of narrative value actually happens. As the film begins, machines tunnelling from the surface imperil Zion, as the film ends, machines tunnelling from the surface imperil Zion.
This film acts solely as filling between the two slices of bread that are The Matrix and The Matrix Revolutions. In between the action, we are drip fed revelations of the nature of the Matrix, tantalised with truths and half truths about the machine world and the human world up until the revelatory confrontation between the Neo and the Architect, which is incidentally laden with the most ponderous, unwieldy dialogue since Anakin Skywalker professed his love to Padme in Attack Of The Clones.
Indeed the dialogue and the philosophy of the Matrix have transformed from the elegant simplicity of the first film to pop psychology of the worst kind. Some of the lines that Laurence Fishburne has to spout made me feel sorry for the actor. Fortunately some awesome butt kicking opportunities compensate him.
Neo is somewhat problematic as a character now. Rendered indestructible in the Matrix, it's hard to generate any sense of peril towards him in the film, something that is problematic as he is the central character. He's constantly doing his "Superman" thing, but there is no Kryptonite in the Matrix. Although his laconic observation of "upgrades" when confronted with the new improved Agents hints at more of an obstacle. The film tries to get over this by giving him time constraints, he has to get to a certain place in a certain amount of time to save the day, but it isn't enough. It's actually far more thrilling and exciting to watch the action scenes with Trinity and Morpheus, as there is still the sense that they can be beaten.
While much of the film fails to stand out in terms of characterisation, there are a few bright points, Hugo Weaving reprises his role as the new improved Agent Smith, free of the system and following his own agenda, with some initially interesting new abilities, the strange speech patterns are still there as is the subtle menace.
The high point has to be the introduction of the Merovingian played by Lambert Wilson, a deliciously self centred and self-gratifying creature that lights up the screen. His little byplay with Persephone played by Monica Bellucci does much to enliven the unwieldy script. Also of interest are the albino dreadlocked twins, who briefly bring a little cheek to the film, as well as a compelling final performance from Gloria Foster as the Oracle.
On the downside there is a constipated performance from Harry Lennix as Commander Lock that is far too distracting for words, in an apparently pointless triangle between himself, Morpheus and Niobe.
Finally, if the Matrix Reloaded establishes one thing, it's that CGI humans aren't good enough yet to fool anyone. If there were any moments that pulled me out of the cinema experience kicking and screaming, it were the blatant uses of CGI in some of the stunt sequences. The Burly Brawl was a prime case in point.
For much of it, I was greatly impressed with the sweeping camera work, the multiple Agent Smiths and the fight choreography. Then all of a sudden we switch to CG and anyone who accuses Keanu Reeves of being wooden should hang their head in shame. Plastic CG Keanu looks absolutely nothing like real Keanu.
And what is the point of CGI bullet time. The original bullet time concept was an amazing development that allowed audiences to get a close up view of the action. Doing the same thing in CGI is not only a cheap rip-off of an expensive optical technique, but it only highlights just how fake your CG character looks. This happened far too often for my liking.
The Matrix Reloaded is an amazing sensory experience, which I don't hesitate to recommend. But you can't get away from the fact that in an attempt to go one step beyond the original the story has been neglected in favour of visuals, and what story there is, is stretched wafer thin.
Neo lives a double life. Mild mannered computer programmer by day, demon hacker by night, and his life is tormented by questions, questions about the Matrix he believes that the terrorist Morpheus can answer. He spends his nights searching for this mysterious and elusive character, but his activities draw the attention of the authorities and soon Agents wishing to use him to track Morpheus pursue him. However with the aid of another hacker, Trinity he is able to elude these fearsome characters and introduces him to Morpheus.
It turns out that Morpheus has in turn been searching for him and believes that he is the 'chosen one', one who will have power over the Matrix and will free the human race from slavery, a slavery that is insidious and never apparent. What Morpheus tells Neo will alter his perceptions and change his world forever.
The disc is given the treatment it deserves and 2.35 anamorphic transfer is what DVD is all about. The image is flawless in terms of clarity and depth of colour. This film took what came before it and totally blew it away in terms of effects and cinematography.
The film design is spectacular, combining amazing fight sequences with outstanding stunts and innovative special effects to produce something that had never been seen on the cinema screen before. The Wachowski brothers direct this amazing film and redefine what is considered possible. The worlds that they paint are beautifully realised with powerful colours and vivid imagery.
The music by Don Davis is not insignificant in helping realise the storyline, but I must admit the choice of other music for the soundtrack is extremely effective. The lobby scene particularly springs to mind. The same is true for the sound, a DD 5.1 English soundtrack puts you in the film. Just turn the volume up and annoy your neighbours, you know you want to.
The disc contains the usual filmographies. Add to that a documentary called 'Making the Matrix', a 26-minute look behind the scenes of the movie, with interviews and such like.
Then there is the White Rabbit option, which allows you to jump out of the movie at various points to take a look at how certain scenes were realised. This amounts to nine clips totalling about 24 minutes of footage. Clicking on the two red pills takes you to two documentaries. 'What is Bullet Time?' takes you to a 6-minute look at the special effect behind many of the films more memorable sequences. 'What is the Concept?' show you how the concept drawings were realised into the final movie and lasts about 11 minutes.
Keanu Reeves stars as Neo and is excellent as the unwitting hacker thrown in at the deep end into a universe he can't comprehend. Laurence Fishburne is his mentor, Morpheus and carries the part with a pseudo Zen air that suits the character well. Carrie-Anne Moss is stunning as the enigmatic Trinity and Hugo Weaving is brilliant as the eerie Agent Smith. Joe Pantoliano is Cypher and adds a little irreverence to the part.
The cast work well together and really excel in their roles, not unexpected when you consider that the principals spent six months getting into shape and training for the strenuous action that takes place in this movie.
The Matrix, what can I say about this film that hasn't already been said? The directors quote anime and cyberpunk as two big influences and it's easy to see the effects on this film.
However I found the Matrix to be highly derivative. The machines ruling the world have been done several times before, most notably Terminator, and the theme of the messiah, here 'the chosen one' is a familiar device often used in cinema. Neo's Luke Skywalker against Morpheus' Yoda is an obvious homage. Hell, if you push me, I can find elements of Tron in this.
But all this is not a criticism, but more an observation. If it ain't broke then don't try and fix it. What the Wachowski brothers have done is take what's best in previous stories and have created a visual world that is new and unparalleled in its ingenuity and excitement. They reinvent the old concepts in such a way that it's as if you had never seen them before and make you want to watch them again and again
In the summer of 2001, while waiting for the main feature to start in a dingy cinema somewhere, I was treated to perhaps the most electrifying movie trailer that I have ever seen. It started off with a heist, with the crooks escaping by helicopter from the roof of a high-rise building. The camera follows their daring flight through the manmade canyons of Manhattan until they end up snared in a massive web strung between the twin towers of the World Trade Centre. That one trailer sparked my imagination to such a degree that I cannot even recall the name of the film I saw that day. Subsequent events rendered that trailer in bad taste, and I doubt the trailer even exists today. It's certainly not on the Spider-Man DVD, though it may be the only thing that isn't.
Peter Parker is your average introverted orphan kid with a crush on the girl next door. Unfortunately Mary Jane Watson is the girlfriend of the typical school jock, while Peter is the nerdish school paper photographer that everyone picks on. Fortunately he has some positives in his life, he lives with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May who dote on him, his friend Harry's father, industrialist Norman Osborn also keeps a keen interest in how young Peter is doing.
Oscorp is poised to complete a deal with the military to provide performance enhancing drugs, but a disinterested General is poised to let the deal fall through if the drug isn't proved successful. On the same fateful day that Peter Parker is bitten by a genetically modified spider, Norman Osborn decides to test the serum on himself with catastrophic results. That very night, both Spider-Man and the Green Goblin enter the world.
Peter initially uses his powers for personal gain, but tragedy makes him realise the responsibility of his powers. After graduating from school he heads for the Big Apple to pursue his future, unaware that an explosive confrontation with the Green Goblin awaits that will define his character.
Spider-Man comes with a 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer, which is acceptable. The picture is a tad grainy, a little soft and the contrast seems lacking. There were even one or two blips of print damage, which was surprising for such a recent film. But by and large, Spider-Man is a colourful and vibrant film and that does come through strongly on the disc.
The effects are also very well accomplished and Spider-Man is brought to life with verve and panache. The CGI is impressive throughout and the movie comes together as a seamless whole. That said there were one or two moments where CG Spidey seemed a little 'light' and insubstantial, but this still proves a wonderful demonstration of what technology is capable of.
A DD 5.1 English track is provided on this disc and it is a well-accomplished and impressive mix that immerses you in the film. The surrounds are put to notable use in the action sequences and suit this film well. The score is a Danny Elfman one and he provides an individual and inspiring theme for Spider-Man
The 2-disc set is a boon for movie fans and comic book fans alike and is almost overflowing with extras and goodies. The booklet, as well as containing much advertising has a couple of pages of production notes, and the discs have some brilliantly designed menus.
On Disc 1, as well as the film, it contains two commentaries, both in DD 2.0 Surround. The Filmmakers and Cast commentary is provided by Sam Raimi, Grant Curtis, Laura Ziskin and Kirsten Dunst, while the Visual Effects Designer and Crew commentary is provided by John Dykstra. I personally found the effects commentary the more interesting one, as with a film such as Spider-Man the effects crew actually have more of interest to talk about.
If you enable the SpiderSense webisodes from the main menu, A little Spidey head will pop up from time to time in the film and allow you to access little featurettes pertinent to that particular scene. There are interviews with the Spider Wrangler, the wrestler Randy Savage aka BoneSaw, the model maker and more. I would have preferred to be able to watch the featurettes separately though.
Weaving the Web is a trivia subtitle track that pops up comic book style captions through the movie with little titbits of info, although a couple flash by too quickly to read.
The Character Files gives a filmography for the main actors in the movie.
With disc 2, this disc is divided into 2 sections focussing on the movie or the comic.
Web of Spider-Man: The Comic contains three subsections. The Activision Game: Hints and Tips provides some game footage with a voiceover. The DVD ROM link leads to an explanation of what you will find if you have a PC. But the meat of the goodies is in The Evolution Of Spider-Man.
Spider-Man: The Mythology of the 21st Century is a 26-minute documentary with interviews with Stan Lee and various artists who discuss the birth and the development of the Spider-Man comic.
The Spider-Man Archives looks at some classic covers and stories through the years in the form of a gallery.
The Artists Gallery is a look at some great artwork and sketches from the film.
The Loves of Peter Parker gives biographies of all the women in Spider-Man's life.
The Rogues Gallery is a look at the villains that have plagued Spider-Man and are presented in the form of a 3D representation of the character with selectable biographies and statistics.
Goblin's Lair contains the promotional material associated with the film. This kicks of with HBO: The Making Of Spider-Man, A 25-minute look at just that with interviews with the cast and crew and some behind the scenes footage.
"Spider-Mania" An E! Entertainment Special is a 40 minute look at the whole Spider-Man phenomenon associated with the film and again contains interviews with the cast and crew but is plagued with an annoying voiceover and a tendency to frivolity.
There is a Director Profile, 7 minutes, which looks at Sam Raimi but comes across as little more than an appreciation society.
More interesting is the Composer Profile lasting a similar length of time that looks at Danny Elfman. He gives an insight into how he works which makes this a better piece.
Finally there are some screen tests and some gag reel footage that lasts about 10 minutes in total.
Nowadays when it comes to comic book conversions, films like the X-Men and the Matrix have raised the bar considerably. Stylistically and in terms of narrative, films have to go the extra mile to impress, and Spider-Man doesn't quite make it. It is perfect summer movie material, giving great visuals for you to chew your popcorn by, but there is a little something lacking that stops it being great movie and settles for being a good one instead.
However Spider-Man is notable for reversing one particular trend, that of comic book movies having to be dark and moody to be interesting. Spider-Man manages to be light, bright and engaging, yet remains true to the characters and story without lapsing into shadowy brooding stereotypes.
Tobey Maguire is perfectly cast as Peter Parker and makes the role his own. He nails the introverted teenager perfectly and gives him a sensitivity and humanity that really gives the audience something to relate to. Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn/Green Goblin is excellent, and he takes what could easily have been a laughable role and makes it sinister and disturbing.
But for me the star of the movie has to be J K Simmons whose character of J Jonah Jameson, the editor in chief of the Daily Bugle is inspired. The hard-bitten newsman is a joy to watch and is utterly entertaining. Unfortunately that is where the notable performances end.
While Kirsten Dunst is gorgeous in every way and does her best with the character of Mary Jane Watson, I found that Mary Jane was quite underwritten and gave little opportunity to shine, ending up little more than a damsel in distress. Similarly, James Franco is hardly noticeable as Harry Osborn.
The film remains balanced on a precipice for much of the 2 hours, poised between laughably camp and seriousness, but while there are laughs and thrills, it never strays from that fine line and Sam Raimi carries it all off with aplomb.
Spider-Man isn't a great film, but it is a good one, and will be at home in any film collection. The picture quality isn't the best in the world, but the discs are overflowing with extras to sate the appetite of any comic fan. One or two minor niggles with the discs aside; you still get hours of goodness from this package. Thoroughly recommended
James Edwards is a hard working New York cop, who gets caught up in fantastic events, when the suspect he's chasing displays some otherworldly abilities. He's trying to come to terms with the events of that night when he's paid a visit by the mysterious Kay. Kay works for a top-secret organisation that polices alien immigration to the Planet Earth.
Investigating Edwards' suspect, Kay accompanies Edwards to a jewellery shop owned by Jeebs to identify an alien weapon. Jeebs runs an illegal alien weapon store on the side of his shady jewellery business and Kay wants to shake him down. Edwards, on the assumption that it is a routine interrogation plays good cop to Kay's bad cop. However he is shocked when Kay produces a ray gun and blows Jeebs' head off, his shock turns to stunned disbelief when Jeebs head regenerates and proceeds to give Kay the information.
Trying to get a handle on the situation is difficult and becomes pointless when Kay produces a device called a neuralyser and proceeds to erase Edwards' short-term memory. But Kay has been impressed by Edwards' performance and invites him to MIB headquarters in New York for an unconventional job interview.
Edwards passes the test and is offered a position as a Man In Black, but the job comes with a catch, Edwards agrees to have his identity and history erased, down to his fingerprints. From now on he will only be known as Jay.
While these relatively mundane events are occurring, galactically significant matters occur when a UFO crash lands at a farm and the farmer, Edgar is killed. Assuming Edgar's form, a galactic assassin begins a search for the Galaxy. The Galaxy is in the possession of an Alien dignitary and is essential to interstellar peace. When Edgar kills the dignitary and goes on a rampage in New York searching for the Galaxy, Kay and the newly recruited Jay must stop Edgar and recover the Galaxy before an Alien battlecruiser destroys the Earth.
The film is presented in a widescreen anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer. The picture is uniformly pristine and sharp. The colours are strong, but by and large this isn't a very colourful film, set as it is mostly in the city and strangely enough, big on black.
The design of the movie is excellent, with a wide variety of interesting aliens inhabiting the universe. I think the general MIB design, especially of the headquarters is inspired, with a very sixties feel to the piece. This is echoed in the costumes, sets and weapons.
There is a wide choice of sound options, English, French and German in DD 5.1 and English again in DD Surround. The sound is competent enough, but nothing special. The surround feels under used and the action is definitely localised on the screen. The music is definitely a signature of the film, and the theme is comedic and appropriate to the feature, it's just not very memorable. Will Smith contributes with another movie rap to end the movie with.
This disc is brimming with extras and you can spend more time with these than on the movie itself. Let me summarise. Starting with an 8-page collector's booklet, there is also a multiple angle Tunnel Scene deconstruction, building up the scene over five layers. There is a production photo gallery with 40 odd pics.
There is a 23-minute documentary, Metamorphosis of MIB, detailing the creation of the movie from the comic book source. It is a very FX oriented documentary with minimal contribution from the actors.
There are 5 Extended and alternate scenes totalling some 4 and a half minutes. There are some character animation studies taking a look at 3 alien characters again using multi angles, with 4 layers each. There are 3 storyboard comparisons and storyboard galleries for 2 scenes.
You also get a conceptual art gallery, covering some 9 categories ranging from characters to weapons. The obligatory filmographies for the cast and crew are supplied. There is a 7-minute featurette that I'm afraid is little more than an extended trailer. Speaking of trailers, you get the teaser trailer for MIB and the theatrical trailer. You get Will Smith's rap lite video for the movie, which whilst pretty to look at, does little to entertain otherwise.
The cream of this crop has to be the Visual commentary with Barry Sonnenfeld and Tommy Lee Jones. To get the full effect, you have to switch to pan and scan rather than anamorphic, but you then get cute silhouettes of the commentators who get to draw on the screen to make their points a la football punditry. The commentary is good and informative. Sonnenfeld is critical and objective while Tommy Lee Jones takes the viewpoint of the audience and asks the questions we want asked as well as making his own observations.
A brilliant idea is the ability to choose the topic you want to hear about from the commentary, and jumping to the scene. It's a shame that other movie commentaries don't follow suit. I must mention the menu design. It's brilliant and adapts the MIB headquarters to good effect without ever seeming cluttered.
Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones star as Jay and Kay. Will Smith plays a familiar role as a smart mouthed, wise cracking policeman thrown into the deep end against an alien menace. Will Smith's character is exactly what we expect from him and he doesn't disappoint, being charming and flamboyant as always. Tommy Lee Jones is always excellent and livens up this film as Kay. World weary and very cool, he easily steals the show.
Linda Fiorentino is Laura Weaver, a medical examiner who gets caught up in the adventure when the MIB pay a visit to her morgue. Her character is interesting as she shows a morbid fascination with her subject and a twisted sense of humour, but unfortunately, the character is never satisfactorily developed.
Vincent D'Onofrio is the alien/Edgar and plays the alien with a wonderful quirkiness and of the wall physicality. Rip Torn gives good value as the MIB head, Zed and Tony Shalhoub makes a brilliant appearance as the momentarily decapitated Jeebs, and yes he is wearing prosthetics.
Men In Black is a funny intelligent movie that entertains from beginning to end. The two principal characters are well developed and the pace relentless. Linda Fiorentino is captivating but under used, and a great cause of that must be the running time. Released in a period when movies averaged well over two hours, MIB bucked the trend by being an anorexic 97 minutes. The film works on the strength of its characters and set pieces.
Stargate was the first in the series of summer event movies made by Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich. The fact that it pays lip service to Egyptian mythology and history is what lifts it above the rest of its ilk. It also has its roots in a common premise held by conspiracy theorists and UFO aficionados, in which the human race couldn't possibly have evolved without extra-terrestrial interference.
The story starts 10000 years ago, when a dying alien comes to Earth. Happening upon a tribe of prehistoric humans in Egypt, he possesses a youth and becomes Ra. Flash forward to 1928, when an archaeological expedition discovers a mysterious, large ring in the desert, beneath which are the petrified remains of what appear to be Anubis and Horus.
In the present day, (1994) a young scholar, Daniel Jackson is drafted in to decipher the hieroglyphs and markings on the device. He translates the markings to mean Stargate and deciphers the instructions. When activated, there appears a vortex that leads to a planet at the other side of the known universe.
Enter Colonel Jack O'Neill, who is ordered to reconnoitre the other side, determine any threat and if necessary destroy the other Stargate. Daniel Jackson claims to be able to operate the other Stargate and bring them back home, so he joins the expedition.
Thus begins a fantastical journey through millions of light years to a distant planet. Once there, Jackson realises that he cannot return them without studying native hieroglyphics, which are conveniently absent, so they must explore the world to find these. They find natives who are enslaved by Ra, and while negotiating with them Ra returns. To return home they must lead a slaves' revolt against Ra and free the world.
By and large, the anamorphic transfer is flawless. The sets are expansive and detailed and are well portrayed on this disc. My particular bugbear is extra footage. This hasn't had the lavish care that the rest of the film has and it shows. When the focus switches to an added scene the quality change is very visible. It feels like you're watching VHS all of a sudden. This can be quite disconcerting and is the main reason I wish that the theatrical release was included on the disc.
The sets are very lavish, especially Ra's spaceship and the care and attention that was placed on the design of this movie is evident. This film was made on the cusp of the revolution in Digital effects and relies on both CGI and models. It's a surprise to see, but wires are evident holding up Ra's flying machines. Perhaps a little extra work could have sorted that out too.
Sound is well implemented in four languages. The English tracks are DD 5.1 and DTS. The Dolby Digital is more than acceptable with the action and effects well represented. The Soundtrack is excellent with David Arnold providing a memorable score.
Extras include the director's commentary, photo gallery, trailer and promo reel. The photo gallery contains 22 stills taken from the movie and the production. The promo reel is 10 minutes of movie.
The DVD release is Stargate: Director's Cut, which is actually more of an extended edition rather than a reworking of the movie. The scenes do add a little to the story, but don't essentially alter the film and it seems more of the filmmakers conceit rather than any creative decisions that have included them. For instance, the prologue where Ra happens upon the prehistoric people is repeated in flashback later in the film. Unlike Independence Day, where you had the choice of watching the Theatrical or Extended versions, here you have only the Director's Cut, which is a shame. I personally would have preferred having the choice.
The characters in these films are usually clichés and this is no exception. However the cast is more than up to the task and succeed in fleshing out the bare bone that they no doubt had to work with. James Spader plays the archaeologist and does show the expected absent-mindedness with aplomb. However he does portray a competent scholar, while the audience shares his sense of wonder, especially when he first steps through the Stargate.
Kurt Russell is the army Colonel O'Neill and does well with what would normally be a gung-ho marine character. He has a back-story concerning a deceased son that brings a sense of personal angst to the portrayal. But I have to say that, Jaye Davison's performance of Ra is exceptional. He brings an otherworldliness and majesty to the role that really fleshes out the character to more than just your average bad guy. You'll also see French Stewart (Third Rock) in a memorable minor role as Ferretti
This is a fun film, full of action and Egyptian pop-mythology. Close Encounters crossed with Indiana Jones. In the scheme of things it's an enjoyable piece of fluff. The design of the film is grandiose and lavish and it makes great eye-candy. There is the usual Hollywood schmaltz and sentimentality, but thankfully it is not too cloying, cheesy salute not withstanding. Its a blast.
Ghostbusters was such a successful movie that a sequel was inevitable. What is surprising is that it took five years to get the cast together for it. What is really surprising is that even with the same talent, the sequel isn't up to much. Don't get me wrong, I still like this movie!
5 years on and fifty pounds heavier, the Ghostbusters are back. The sequel picks up after the company has been put out of business by an ungrateful city after the Gozer incident. Ray owns an occult bookstore and occasionally teams up with Winston as party entertainers. Egon is back at the university, researching the effects of extreme emotion on psychic phenomena, and Peter Venkman has a cable TV show, where he interviews various would be psychics and attention seekers. After a brief dalliance, Dana Barrett left Peter and has since had a baby, Oscar from another relationship.
However, the familiar problems faced by Ghostbusters resurface, when a mysterious force that drags his pram into the street kidnaps Dana's child. Seeking help, she contacts the defunct team and they happily investigate by digging a big hole in the street. They find a river of ectoplasm flowing deep under Manhattan and manage to blackout the city in the process.
One quick court case later, where Louis Tully defends them and some ghosts resurface, they get the court order against them rescinded and Ghostbusters is back in business. Investigating properly, they find that the river of slime is flowing to the Manhattan Museum of Art, where Dana works restoring paintings. Looming over her workspace is a painting of Vigo the Carpathian, a medieval psychopath. Using his minion, the unwilling Janosz Poha who Vigo controls, he plots to take Dana's baby and live again through the child.
Ghostbusters II is displayed in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen 5 years on and the effects are just the same. Slimer looks a little worse actually, but the ghosts and ghostbusting looks fairly similar to before.
In the first film, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man made a memorable appearance striding down the streets of New York. Here it's the Statue of Liberty, and she looks really fake. I think the angle used in that scene is wrong. Instead of using the people view looking up at a looming Marshmallow man, we have an eagle eye shot of Lady Liberty striding down the street. It looks like a woman dressed up as the statue. The picture itself is clean and well presented, though there are a few sign of age.
There is a DD 5.1 English soundtrack as well as 2.0 Stereo German, French, Spanish and Italian. Randy Edelman has supplied the music this time, and the spooky music of the original has gone to be replaced by a more triumphant theme for the Ghostbusters.
Worse, the early eighties pop of the original has been replaced by, I'm sorry to say, Bobby Brown, who also has an ill-advised cameo. Ray Parker Jr barely gets a look in and even the presence of Jackie Wilson isn't enough to redeem this soundtrack.
As far as features go, you can watch the trailer and read the filmographies if you want.
The cast all return for the sequel. Bill Murray is if anything even more sarcastic as Peter Venkman, Dan Ayckroyd is still earnest as Ray Stantz, Harold Ramis is the intellectual Egon Spengler and Ernie Hudson is the reliable Winston Zeddemore. Sigourney Weaver is a little restrained this time as Dana Barrett but Rick Moranis gets an expanded role as the lawyer cum fifth Ghostbusters. Annie Potts has a meatier role too as Janine Melnitz and finally gets her man. Peter MacNicol of Ally McBeal fame is the slimy Janosz Poha though it's difficult to place his accent.
Sequelitis hits the ghostbusting franchise and does it terminal damage I'm afraid. You would never expect this Peter Venkman to ask, "Are you currently menstruating?" and similarly the bite has been removed from all the other characters. This isn't a criticism as the film was obviously marketed at a younger audience. However, the story has suffered considerably as a result.
Superficially, this film can be seen as a remake of the original. Supernatural problem occurs, Ghostbusters try to solve it, no-one believes them and they end up incarcerated, Mayor gets desperate for help and releases Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters save the day. Deeper down though, the story seems forced, the idea of peoples' feelings causing bad ghostly happenings, and the way to solve the problem being "get everyone to be nice to each other" just seems very Sesame Street to me.
Although Ivan Reitman takes the reigns again, the magic isn't there and the film is often slow in places. But, and this is a but that redeems the film, is again the cast. With so much talent in front of the camera the chemistry is palpable. Despite the weakness of the script, Bill Murray et al are eminently watchable and their performances rescue this film from sequel oblivion. They may be busting ghosts for a younger age bracket, but the Ghostbusters are back.
Forget your misgivings about the story and spin this disc just for the fun of it. Ghostbusters II is not half bad.
The most successful comedy of all time. At least that's what it says on the back of the case. I instantly fell in love with it. There had never been anything like it. The scary genre and the comedy rarely mixed, but in Ghostbusters was something new, a ghost movie with great effects but belly laugh funny as well.
Three scientists are thrown out of their university when their funding is withdrawn, the problem being their area of research, parapsychology and the paranormal. Yes, Ray Stantz, Peter Venkman and Egon Spengler are fascinated by spooks, spectres and things that go bump in the night. However, before their research was so unceremoniously halted, they had managed to collect enough data to realize that they could capture and indefinitely contain a ghost.
Seizing this opportunity with a judicious loan, they set up Ghostbusters, a service designed to eliminate any pesky ghosts that may be plaguing your neighbourhood, for a fee of course.
Meanwhile, a big dog in her refrigerator is haunting musician Dana Barrett. A sceptical Dana visits the Ghostbusters for their assistance. Peter, all too willing to assist a beautiful lady, jumps at the chance and Dana Barrett becomes their first job. Before they can solve her problem, all manner of ghouls and wraiths invade New York and suddenly the Ghostbusters are in big demand.
Worked off their feet, they hire Winston Zeddemore to be the fourth 'buster and the team is complete. By now though, Dana has been possessed by the Helldog from her fridge, Zuul the Gatekeeper and awaits the Keymaster who happens to inhabit her diminutive neighbour, Louis Tully. When the Gatekeeper and the Keymaster meet, Gozer will come to destroy the city. Only the Ghostbusters can save us now.
Ghostbusters is presented in glorious anamorphic widescreen in a 2.35:1 ratio. The picture is clear and the colours are strong. I can't fault it. The effects as would be expected are of their time, 1984 and as a result seem a little dated. But the film is so good that I can easily suspend my disbelief and enjoy the film. In fact, the effects have stood up surprisingly well, considering.
You get the choice of a DD 5.1 English soundtrack or a 2.0 German. The sound is excellent and the action really comes through well. I could really feel the bass when the Helldog growled. The music by Elmer Bernstein is very good, I wouldn't have thought comic and spooky could be combined musically, but here it really works well. Of course there is the brilliant soundtrack featuring, of course Ray Parker Jr.
There is a veritable feast of Ghostbusting extras on this disc accessed through the smartly animated menus. As well as the obligatory trailers and two pages of production notes slipped in the case, you get around 8 minutes of deleted scenes. There is an original featurette that gives 10 minutes of making of.
In a special effects section, you can see a recent interview with the special effects team with 16 minutes of how they did it. There is a before and after, multi-angle featurette, and several concept drawings. You also get some storyboards. 3 of them get the split screen treatment with the finished scenes, the other 7 are just the storyboards.
There is a gallery, with loads of production pics and movie stills and finally there is the commentary. You have the option to either watch the movie with just the audio commentary or if you switch to 4:3 mode, you can see the silhouettes of the commentators watching the movie. The commentary is brilliant, one of the best of its ilk and the conversation is sharp and witty.
The cast are a brilliant ensemble. It's hard to pick out any individual performance so I won't try. Bill Murray is the sarcastic Peter Venkman, Dan Ayckroyd is the eager Ray Stantz, Harold Ramis is the intellectual Egon Spengler and Ernie Hudson is the reliable Winston Zeddemore. Sigourney Weaver is brilliant as Dana Barrett and Rick Moranis is her puppy dog like neighbour. Annie Potts is memorable as the receptionist Janine Melnitz.
The cast work together very well, and it's easy to believe that much of the dialogue was improvised. They make the most of a fabulous and witty script.
This is a must have disc. A brilliant film is showcased ideally on DVD. The script is beyond compare and the performances are excellent. It's a fast paced action comedy that is relentless in its ability to entertain. Every time I watch this film, I enjoy it just as much as before, and I will happily sit there, shouting out the lines as the characters speak them. Ivan Reitman's direction is spot on, the pacing is fast and sharp and best of all, this film is hilarious.