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Steven Spielberg
Richard Dreyfuss, Holly Hunter, Audrey Hepburn
Writing Credits:
Jerry Belson

The spirit of a recently deceased expert pilot mentors a newer pilot while watching him fall in love with the girlfriend that he left behind.

Rated PG

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish DTS 2.0
French DTS 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 123 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 5/5/2015

• Trailer


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Always [Blu-Ray] (1989)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 31, 2018)

Hello, and welcome to one of Steven Spielbergís most obscure films! Due to the directorís immensely high profile, there really canít be a forgotten Spielberg effort, but some of his movies have largely gotten lost in the shuffle.

For instance, relatively few ever saw 1974ís Sugarland Express. However, that flick remains reasonably well-known due to its historical value since it was Spielbergís first theatrical release.

While the movie didnít sell too many tickets, the cast of 1989ís Always helps save it from obscurity. After all, it stars two Oscar winners in Richard Dreyfuss and Holly Hunter, though the latter wouldnít obtain her award until a few years later for 1993ís The Piano. It also features John Goodman in a supporting part well before he turned into a star via Roseanne and The Flintstones.

As a Spielberg piece, Always seems unusual just because itís so darned bland. Actually, it stands out in other ways, mainly because it offers the directorís rare foray into the romantic comedy genre. Of course, other Spielberg flicks included romantic elements, and Always features drama and bathos as well as some lighter aspects, but it still seems unusual due to its emphasis.

The film focuses on the adventures of pilots who drop water on forest fires. Regarded as the best of the bunch, Pete (Dreyfuss) lives a good life with his best friend and coworker Al (Goodman) as well as his radio controller girlfriend Dorinda (Hunter). However, she worries about him due to the danger involved in the job, and his risky attitude toward the task doesnít engender fewer worries on her part.

As such, Pete agrees to take on a job as a pilot trainer, though he hates to leave the active skies. He does this to show his affection for Dorinda, although he apparently canít bring himself to actually tell her he loves her. Inevitably, Pete takes on one last job when a major fire roars, and he doesnít come back alive from this one.

The rest of the film follows Pete in ghostly form, as he has to tie up loose ends before he can move to the next world. Mostly this involves letting go of Dorinda, who remains scarred by his death.

In Cyrano fashion, he acts as the spooky guide for bumbling pilot wannabe Ted (Brad Johnson) and he helps the goof become a strong flier. However, he reacts less positively to a budding romance between Ted and Dorinda, and he has to deal with his own emotions before all involved can move on with their lives (and deaths).

Always doesnít exactly venture into much new ground creatively, though itís hard for any remake to indulge in fresh territory. Usually, the most a filmmaker can hope to do with this sort of effort is to give it an interesting twist or attitude.

I never saw A Guy Named Joe - the film that Always reworks - so itís impossible for me to judge the success of Always in that department. Nonethelss, I canít say that much about the film seems particularly inspiring.

Really, Always has to be the most nondescript film Spielberg has made. I donít regard that as a terrible negative, for Iíll take the blandness of Always over the stereotypically Spielbergian sentiment of Amistad and Color Purple, but it feels less like one of his own flicks than the others.

Always comes across as a competent and occasionally engaging piece, but it lacks much sense of personality. The actors all seem perfectly competent, but the overall generic tone robs them of much spark or flair.

The entire project delivers a moderately entertaining and warm experience, but it feels like the cinematic equivalent of Chinese food. This means that half an hour after the credits roll, you may forget you ever watched it.

The unmemorable side of Always really seems to be its main flaw. At this point, the most significant aspect of the movie is the way that it prefigured the following yearís megahit Ghost.

I think itís very likely that director Jerry Zucker took in a few screenings of Always, as Ghost clearly evokes the Spielberg flick, including the iconic use of an old pop standard. ďSmoke Gets In Your EyesĒ pops up in Always like ďUnchained MelodyĒ works in Ghost. Both also feature leads who canít tell their women they love them until itís too late.

It seems odd that a rip-off of a Spielberg film handily outperformed the directorís own work, but thatís what happened here. Always struggled to gross a mediocre $43 million, while Ghost snagged a hearty $217 million and became the second top-seller of 1990, behind only super success Home Alone.

Ghost works no better than Always, and it probably delivers the inferior flick, really. So why did it earn so much more money?

I have little idea. I guess audiences were more eager to see sexy young Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze hook up instead of aging Richard Dreyfuss and cute but unspectacular Holly Hunter.

Whatever the case may be, I wonít bemoan the financial failure of Always, for the movie merits no wails of pain. At best, the film offers a reasonably entertaining and compelling experience, but it remains forgettable and quickly fades from consciousness.

The Disc Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B+/ Bonus D-

Always appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a less than stellar presentation.

My main complaint stemmed from artificial sharpening, as the movie often exhibited minor edge haloes. Overall delineation seemed good but those haloes became a persistent distraction and leant a ďdigitalĒ look to the image.

Otherwise, the presentation held up well. No signs of jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I saw no print flaws.

Colors went with a warm, natural feel that came across nicely. The hues consistently looked vivid and full Ė much better than expected from late 80s film stocks.

Blacks looked deep and dark, while shadows offered nice clarity and smoothness. If the transfer lost the edge haloes, this wouldíve been a top-notch presentation, but that artificial sharpening made his a flawed transfer.

I felt happier with the surprisingly vivid DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Always. Given the vintage of the movie and its genre, I didnít expect a very exciting mix, but I was pleasantly surprised by the experience.

Most of the film stayed fairly reserved, and for those portions, general ambience and the score dominated the track. Those elements came across with reasonably good definition, as the movie featured a nice sense of atmosphere and solid stereo separation to the music.

However, the action sequences really brought the mix to life. When fires raged and planes soared, the track kicked into higher gear and became quite active and involving.

These elements provided clear delineation from the side channels, and the surrounds bolstered the effort with good reinforcement. In addition, the rears added some strong unique audio that created a lively and engaging piece during the appropriate sequences.

Sound quality remained fairly solid. Speech usually appeared natural and distinct, and I discerned no problems related to intelligibility. Effects came across as acceptably clean and accurate, and they provided good dynamics.

Music also offered nice fidelity, as the score appeared clear and vivid throughout the movie. Always benefited from some solid low-end, as bass response consistently appeared deep and rich. I remained pretty happy with the soundtrack of Always.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the original DVD from 1999? Audio offered superior range and clarity, while visuals were tighter and cleaner. Even with the annoying edge haloes, the Blu-ray still easily bettered the non-anamorphic DVD - but this one shouldíve been better.

As for extras, the Blu-ray includes the movieís trailer and thatís it. Given the filmís lack of popularity/notoriety, this doesnít surprise me, but it does disappoint.

At best, Always offers a moderately compelling diversion, but it lacks anything to make it more than that. I enjoyed my time with the film, but thoughts of it left me almost instantly and the experience seemed forgettable. The Blu-ray offers very good audio but comes with inconsistent visuals and virtually no supplements. This turns into an erratic release for a mediocre movie.

To rate this film, visit the prior review of ALWAYS

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