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Simon West
Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, John Malkovich, Ving Rhames, Steve Buscemi, Monica Potter, Dave Chappelle, Nick Chinlund
Writing Credits:
Scott Rosenberg

Get Ready To Fly.

From the hit-making producer of The Rock and Crimson Tide comes the hard-hitting blockbuster Con Air - starring Academy Award®-winner Nicolas Cage, John Cusack and John Malkovich! A prison parolee (Cage) - on his way to freedom - faces impossible odds when the maximum security transport plane he's on is skyjacked by the most vicious criminals in the country ... led by the infamous murderer Cyrus "The Virus" Grissom (Malkovich)! Buckle up and hang on tight as explosive, high-flying action soars to new hights ... and delivers high-caliber motion picture entertainment!

Box Office:
$75 million.
Opening Weekend
$24.131 million on 2824 screens.
Domestic Gross
$101.087 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 2.35:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby 2.0

Runtime: 115 min.
Price: $14.99
Release Date: 3/24/1998

• 2 Theatrical Trailers


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Con Air (1997)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 12, 2006)

When I view a typical summer blockbuster shoot-em-up movie, I usually find it easy to deactivate the logical parts of my brain and simply go along for the ride. Why did the space-buggies in Armageddon have machine guns on them? Because it looked cool - next!

Unfortunately, the workings of Con Air stretched credibility way too far. The film wants to have its cake and blow it up, too: it needs a protagonist who is a convict but not a criminal, someone with whom the audience will sympathize and respect. To accomplish this difficult feat, Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage) goes to jail after killing a man in a bar fight. Sounds simple, right?

No, this was no ordinary bar fight: Poe and his pregnant wife Tricia (Monica Potter) are attacked by three drunks - rednecks, of course, since the audience already hates them - and Poe accidentally kills one of them while protecting himself and his wife. Note that the scumbag came at Poe with a knife when this occurred.

If you haven't seen the film, you're probably wondering how someone could get sent to jail for what it clearly a case of self-defense. Poe was just discharged from the military, where he served as an Army Ranger. Rangers must be nothing more than trained killing machines, because the judge says that Poe - and all other Rangers, I guess - aren't subject to the same laws as the rest of us because they can fight too well! Poe is sent up the creek for what appears to be the maximum sentence, even though he copped a plea to get a shorter term. That’s some nice lawyering!

Sorry, but I just could not get past this patently absurd premise. When I watch Apocalypse Now, I prefer to stop it about two-thirds of the way through because the last 50 minutes of it - the Brando scenes - are so bad, they ruin the film for me. If you want to enjoy Con Air, I recommend that you just start at the 5 minute and 38 second mark; you'll begin with the title card and you'll never miss the first 5:37.

Once you get past the ludicrous set-up, Con Air seems mildly entertaining. It's a by-the-numbers Jerry Bruckheimer production: good cast, nice production values, stuff blows up, vaguely fascist overtones, blah blah blah. Bruckheimer does what he does very well, but his films clearly have a sameness to them that can be enervating. Of the Bruckheimer films from the period around this one’s 1997 release - Enemy of the State, Armageddon, The Rock, Crimson Tide - I found Con Air to stand as the weakest of the bunch. Basically, it has the slightest storyline of the pack. All of those other films showed heroes battling for some greater societal good, whether to save the world (Armageddon) or just to save some tourists and a city (The Rock).

Con Air lacks that sense of real heroism. Sure, you could argue that when Poe takes it upon himself to stop the planeload of convicts from escaping, he's keeping them off the streets and protecting innocent people. However, I never really got the sense that was his motivating factor. Mainly, he seemed interested in halting the progress of his fellow prisoners because the script told him to do so. The flick tosses in his quest to save his diabetic insulin-needing buddy “Baby-O” (Mykelti Williamson), but that’s a loose connection.

All plot faults aside, Con Air does deliver the basic goods. It moves along at a decent pace and provides a fair amount of thrills. Again, it doesn't match the excitement level of most other Bruckheimer films, but it nonetheless gives you a fairly watchable and entertaining two hours.

The DVD Grades: Picture C/ Audio A-/ Bonus D-

Con Air appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. That was a problem, as the transfer lacked the spark and clarity I’d expect.

Digital hazards created the biggest concerns. An awful lot of edge enhancement was apparent, and this gave the image an unstable look. Close-ups fared pretty well, but wide shots shimmered, strobed and looked jagged. They had a messy look to them caused by the haloes. This meant that beyond those close shots, definition was mediocre to poor.

Print flaws were another problem, though not to the same degree. I noticed occasional specks, spots, and marks. While these weren’t dominant, they seemed too heavy for a recent movie.

Otherwise, the transfer had quite a few positives. Colors looked nicely natural and vivid. The film usually stuck with a somewhat bland palette due to the institutional nature of most settings, but some segments expanded on the possibilities well. The Las Vegas scenes offered very vibrant and bold hues that popped off of the screen.

Black levels seemed to be deep and rich, and shadow detail was clear and appropriately opaque; low-light situations were easily discernible and accurate. I saw too many good elements for me to knock this transfer below a “C”, but it definitely had many concerns. Note that on bigger displays – especially 16X9 TVs – the visuals will look worse and worse. I tolerated them because I have a 4X3 set; I expect this transfer would look atrocious on a widescreen TV.

On the other hand, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Con Air was a success. The soundfield provided a fantastically involving experience that remained very active throughout the entire film. All five channels received a serious workout on a virtually constant basis, as the different speakers rarely received any down time. None of this use seemed to be forced or artificial; the elements blended together naturally and believably for a distinct, engrossing experience that helped make the movie more enjoyable.

Audio quality also sounded fairly good, though a few factors had a negative effect on my overall grade. Dialogue usually seemed to be reasonably warm, but some lines came across as somewhat thick and edgy; intelligibility always remained fine, however. Some effects also came across as surprisingly flat and thin. They weren’t terribly unnatural, but they appeared a bit harsh and mechanical at times.

Nonetheless, most of the effects were acceptably accurate, and they showed fine low-end response. The various elements packed a serious punch and gave my subwoofer a definite workout. Music sounded clear and vivid, as the score showed good dynamics and fidelity. In the end, the soundtrack worked well for the movie, but these minor quality complaints meant that Con Air dropped below the ranks of the best of the best.

As for supplements, all we find are a teaser trailer and a theatrical trailer. Nothing else appears in the package.

As a movie, Con Air provided a moderate amount of fun thrills, but I thought it seemed less vivid and involving than most Jerry Bruckheimer productions. It felt more like a “cookie-cutter” release than others. The DVD offered flawed picture plus very vivid sound and almost no extras. Action fans will probably derive some pleasure from Con Air, but it doesn’t sit high on my list of the best from the genre. Still, I didn’t mind the experience, as it offered some decent segments. Too bad this is such a problematic DVD.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.9629 Stars Number of Votes: 27
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