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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 NR

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 122 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 5/16/2006

• Previews


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: Unrated Extended Edition (1997)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 15, 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 nearly ruin the film for me.

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.

Note that this “Unrated Extended Edition” of Con Air adds about seven minutes to the running time of the original theatrical version. Don’t expect any significant new sequences, as this take instead features lots of small pieces. For instance, we see Cameron’s arrest, and Pinball introduces himself. These are fine but not exactly stunning.

The most significant additions expand some of the secondary characters. We get to know Baby-O much better and see why he inspired such loyalty in Cameron. Those elements help allow us to better understand why Cameron won’t leave him behind, though they’re not truly necessary.

We also get a little flirting between Larkin and fellow agent Ginny, and we learn more about Malloy’s relationship with DEA agent Sims. That last one makes Malloy less cartoony, which is actually a negative here. He exists as a one-dimensional prick until the end of the movie, so the extra character range makes him less effective in an odd way.

I can’t claim that the extra seven minutes does much to make Con Air a better film. It displays slightly greater definition and dimensionality, but since it exists as a thrill ride, none of that’s really important. Still, I think there’s some enjoyable and useful stuff here, and the longer cut is probably the superior version of the film.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ 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 been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While not a slam-dunk, this transfer definitely improved on the old non-anamorphic one.

Sharpness was generally solid. Though significantly decreased from the prior edition, I still noticed a little edge enhancement, and those haloes occasionally made the image a bit less concise than I’d like. Nonetheless, the movie usually appeared well-defined. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and only a few print flaws appeared. I saw a couple of specks and that was about it.

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 vibrant and bold hues.

Black levels seemed to be deep and rich, and shadow detail was clear and appropriately opaque; low-light situations were easily discernible and accurate. Overall, Con Air offered a pretty positive picture. It tightened up the old presentation and lost that disc’s ugly digital issues. That meant it merited a “B” for visuals instead of the “C” I gave the original release.

On the other hand, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Con Air matched up closely with the audio of the prior disc. The soundfield provided a very 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 Previews. The DVD opens with ads for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Glory Road, Annapolis and Grey’s Anatomy. These also appear in the “Previews” domain with promos for Crimson Tide and Enemy of the State. The DVD drops the two Con Air trailers from the original release.

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 good 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.

This disc’s “Unrated Extended Version” adds a bunch of small character moments to the theatrical cut. These flesh out some of the secondary roles but don’t bring a lot to the table, so fans shouldn’t double-dip just to get the new shots. However, they will likely want to replace their old discs to get the upgraded anamorphic transfer. Without question, fans who don’t own the prior version should get this one, as it’s definitely the better of the two.

To rate this film visit the original review of CON AIR

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