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Region 4 DVD Reviews: Cruisin' into the Future

Originally published in Australian HI-FI, Feb/Mar 2003 - v.34#1

Minority Report cover Minority Report
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton and Max von Sydow
Eyes Wide Shut cover Eyes Wide Shut
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Starring: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Marie Richardson and Rad Servedzija
Movie: A, Picture: A, Sound: B+, Extras: A Movie: A, Picture: A+, Sound: A, Extras: B
The one thing I hate above all others in a DVD is exhibited by Minority Report. That thing is the enthusiastic application of UOPs (for User Operation Prohibitions). Unlike CDs, DVDs were designed to make use of digital processing technology. So they incorporate playback controls, such as the menus, links between titles and those UOPs. A UOP stops you from doing something: say, skipping the copyright notice at the start of a movie. I don't normally notice them, thanks to my modified DVD player gleefully ignoring all such controls. Unfortunately I used a standard DVD player for this review.

On Minority Report there are UOPs on changing the audio tracks. Ugghh! This is something I haven't seen since some early Disney DVDs. Want to change from the Dolby Digital to the DTS sound track? No point pressing the Audio button on your remote: it won't work. Instead you need nine keystrokes on the remote, taking you back through the main menu. Can't understand a bit of the dialogue and want to run the subtitles for clarity? Back to the main menu again! Why?

The dystopian future (is there any kind) of Philip K Dick's story is shown by the use of preponderantly blue, overcranked film. The first sentence of Dick's story has Tom Cruise's character thinking: 'I'm getting bald. Bald and fat and old.' Cruise? Hmm. As with Total Recall, the movie takes the basic premise of a Dick story, and then goes its own way, omitting Dick's own charming twists. Still, this story rolls along fast, is logically coherent within its own context and features some cute, not unreasonable, gadgets.

The DVD video transfer is great with an average video bit rate of 6.36Mbps, rivalling the new Superbit discs. The huge collection of extras are loaded on a separate disc. The sound is good, but not outstanding, and the sub is overused in the production of nothing but formless rumbles.

In Minority Report Tom Cruise spends much of the time being chased, being confused and trying to work out what is going on. In Eyes Wide Shut, Stanley Kubrick's last movie, Cruise spends some of his time thinking he's being chased. Otherwise, he is just as confused and uncertain as to what's going on.

Slowly paced, if it weren't for the American accents you would suspect that you had turned on an SBS movie by mistake. Long, slow scenes with lots of pregnant pauses. Quirky characters overwhelming the stars in their brief scenes (spot Alan Cumming--Floop from Spy Kids--as the hotel receptionist). Nevertheless it builds up tensions of several kinds, satisfyingly over much of its two and a half hours, if only to dissipate the mystery element rather unsatisfyingly in the penultimate scene with a claim of simple misunderstanding. It's a bit like the cheat at the end of Vanilla Sky, another Cruise film, and many a primary school child's composition: 'and then he woke up from his nightmare'.

The film is presented on DVD in Academy Ratio (1.37:1). And, no, it is not a Pan and Scan cut. Kubrick preferred to film on full frame 35mm. Widescreen cinema presentations were made by masking the tops and bottoms of the frames. On the DVD, you see the whole of the picture as recorded on the negative.

The quality of this transfer is extraordinary. The detail is immaculate, convincing. The colours are rich and Kubrick's framing and photography most likely cannot be surpassed. There isn't much in the way of surround sound (despite the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio), but the dialogue is never ill-defined and the bass is clean and strong. The theme music spends part of its time played sparsely on piano, sounding startlingly real.

Running time: 139 minutes
Aspect: 2.40:1 anamorphic
Sound track: English: Dolby Digital 5.1, 448kb/s and DTS 5.1, 754kb/s; Hungarian, Russian: Dolby Digital 2.0 (with Dolby Pro Logic encoding), 192kb/s
Subtitles: English for the hearing impaired, Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Dutch, Estonian, Hebrew, Hungarian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Turkish
Features: Separate feature disc: Story to Screen featurettes, Deconstructing featurettes, Stunts featurettes, Production Concepts, Stills
Running time: 153 minutes
Aspect: 1.37:1 (original aspect ratio)
Sound track: English: Dolby Digital 5.1; 448kb/s; Two commentary tracks: both Dolby Digital 2.0, 192kb/s
Subtitles: English, Arabic, Romanian, Bulgarian, English for the Hearing Impaired
Features: Interviews with Cruise, Kidman and Steven Spielberg (30 minutes); Trailers

© 2002-2008, Stephen Dawson