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20TH CENTURY OFX

MOVIE INFO
Director:
Jan de Bont
Cast:
Sandra Bullock, Jason Patric, Willem Dafoe, Temuera Morrison, Brian McCardie, Christine Firkins, Royale Watkins
Screenplay:
Randall McCormick, Jeff Nathanson, Jan de Bont

Tagline:
Rush hour hits the water.
Box Office:
Budget $110 million.
Opening weekend $16.158 million on 2615 screens.
Domestic gross $48.068 million.
MPAA:
Rated PG-13 for frenetic disaster action and violence.

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
English Dolby Surround
French Dolby Surround
Subtitles:
English, Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 125 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 7/30/2002

Bonus:
• HBO Special
• Theatrical Trailers
• THX Optimizer


PURCHASE
DVD

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EQUIPMENT
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.

RELATED REVIEWS


Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Some question the intelligence of Keanu Reeves. As far as I’m concerned, he deserves a membership in Mensa for one reason alone: the fact he passed on Speed 2: Cruise Control. Originally slated to reprise his role as Jack Traven from 1994’s Speed, Reeves eventually decided against this.

Smart choice. I guess actor Sandra Bullock and director Jan de Bont weren’t quite so wise, as they returned for this very weak sequel. In Reeves’ place we found Jason Patric as Alex Shaw, another gung-ho supercop. Clearly the script was written for Reeves’ Jack, and the filmmakers did virtually nothing to alter the role.

Not that it would have mattered. I saw Speed 2 theatrically back in 1997 and found it to be a huge disappointment. It probably didn’t help that I experienced my first-ever case of movie-related motion sickness. (The second - and to date only other - example occurred in 1999 when I saw The Blair Witch Project.) Speed 2 offered some of the jerkiest and most stomach-churning hand-held camerawork I’d ever seen. Combined with the fact I sat pretty close to the screen, I needed to avert my eyes at times to prevent actually physical illness.

The content of Speed 2 itself didn’t help. To be fair, the film wasn’t actually nauseating, but it provided one of the most disappointing movie experiences I can recall. I really liked the original film, and even without Reeves, enough of the original cast and crew returned to make it seem possible that the sequel would be a winner.

How wrong I was. Speed 2 starts with a prolonged action sequence in which shots alternate between reckless driver Annie (Bullock) as she takes a driving test and her fairly new boyfriend Alex as he pursues some crooks on his cop motorcycle. Via an amazing coincidence, the two run into each other, and Annie learns that Alex lied to her about his real job. (Apparently things ended poorly between Annie and Jack because of his daredevil police capers.)

Despite her irritation, Annie agrees to go away on a cruise with Alex, and they set off to experience ocean bliss aboard the Seabourn Legend. Unfortunately, their lives don’t work that simply. Also on the boat, we meet disgruntled computer genius John Geiger (Willem Dafoe). He contracted a terminal illness due to his work but received virtually no compensation from his bosses. This left him pretty peeved, so he plots his revenge on the boat, for which he designed the computer system.

Basically, that finishes the actual plot elements of the movie. Geiger takes control of the ship and endangers the passengers. Alex snaps into supercop mode and tries to alter this. Annie - well, Annie’s essentially just there.

Among the many flaws of Speed 2, its misuse of Bullock stands as a significant one. An integral and useful part of the first film, here Annie does little other than wait to be rescued. She fails to play any substantial part in the proceedings, and she appears to have become much dumber in between flicks. Speed 2 makes her out to be ditzy and capricious. She feels like a loose cannon who exists solely so Alex can rescue her.

Speaking of whom, I think Patric’s probably a better actor than Reeves, but the man needs a personality transplant. I can’t imagine anyone making Alex seem duller and more lifeless. This absence of character leaves a gaping hole at the center of the film. At least Reeves brought some boneheaded spark to Jack; Patric fails to make any impact in this totally forgettable performance, and I couldn’t have cared less what happened to him.

Completing our triumvirate, Dafoe offers the best performance of the leads, but that doesn’t say much. He tries to bring some spark to the role but seems hampered by the poorly written character. In essence, Geiger is nothing more than a rehash of Speed’s Howard Payne. Both men got screwed by the system and want their revenge - end of story. Dafoe’s moments are some of the film’s most entertaining, but that remains faint praise.

Speed 2 feels like nothing more than an attempt to make some money. With its uninspired story and bland execution, it almost totally falls flat. The movie does include as much jerky hand-held camerawork as I recalled; even on the small screen, it still gave me a headache. I guess de Bont thought this kinetic motion would spice up the film. He was wrong. Speed 2 offers a boring and brainless affair that shames the name of the original.


The DVD Grades: Picture B / Audio A (Dolby Digital), A- (DTS)/ Bonus C-

Speed 2: Cruise Control appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Overall, the picture seemed good, but a few small issues kept it from greatness.

Sharpness looked positive as a whole. At times, wide shots came across as slightly soft, but those concerns occurred infrequently. Most of the movie seemed nicely crisp and distinct. Jagged edges and moiré effects created some small concerns, and I also noticed light edge enhancement at times. In regard to print flaws, I saw a few speckles, and the image also came across as moderately grainy at times. However, the latter issue mainly seemed related to the many low-light shots found in the movie and didn’t seem to result from transfer problems.

Colors worked well. The movie showed nicely rich and vibrant hues from start to finish, and they appeared concise and lively. The tones demonstrated no signs of noise, bleeding or other concerns. Black levels looked well developed and dense, and shadow detail usually appeared acceptably clear. However, the film’s smoky look occasionally made those shots somewhat too thick. Ultimately, Speed 2 usually presented a solid image, but this mix of concerns knocked my grade down to a “B”.

More impressive were the soundtracks of Speed 2. The DVD includes both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mixes. To my surprise, I preferred to Dolby track to a small degree. I’ll cover my thoughts about it and then detail the ways I thought it bettered the DTS mix.

Jan de Bont’s films always include active soundfields, and Speed 2 offered no exception. The track used all five channels to a terrific degree. From start to finish, the movie featured discrete audio from each of the different speakers, and the mix really made them count. Take the sequence in which the villain shut down the boat. Appropriate ambience sound emanated from all around the spectrum, and the elements seemed to be well placed and accurate. The material blended together neatly to create a vivid and involving atmosphere that helped bring the track to life.

Audio quality also seemed to be excellent. Despite some obviously looped lines, dialogue sounded natural and distinct throughout the film. I noticed no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Music sounded robust and clear, as the score provided a lively and punchy presence. Effects came across as accurate and concise, and they presented very solid dynamics. Bass seemed appropriately deep and rich, and the track provided plenty of low-end response to accentuate the action.

For the most part, the DTS mix seemed fairly similar to the Dolby one described above, but I still gave the latter the nod. In comparison, the DTS track displayed slightly thicker qualities. It showed a little too much midrange and lacked the same depth in regard to bass. The soundfields seemed identical, but audio quality declined to a degree. Both mixes worked well, but I preferred the Dolby Digital one.

Unlike the packed “Five Star” edition of Speed, its sequel includes only a couple of extras. Most prominent is an HBO Special called “The Making of Speed 2: Cruise Control”. Like the Dennis Hopper-hosted companion piece on Speed, this 31-minute and five-second program takes a cutesy approach: it features comedian Tim Conway - who plays a small role in Speed 2 - as he takes a bus ride to catch a cruise. This means he encounters driver Sam (Hawthorne James) and passenger Ortiz (Carlos Carrasco) on the bus and goes through other shenanigans after that. The “making of” parts show the standard mix of movie clips, shots from the set, and interviews with director de Bont, executive soundtrack producer Budd Carr, composer Mark Mancina, stunt coordinator Dick Ziker, special effects coordinator Al DiSarro, production designer Joseph Nemic III, special effects technician Mike Kirchmeier, production supervisor Spencer Franklin, ILM visual effects supervisor Stefen Fangmeie, and actors Sandra Bullock, Jason Patric, Willem Dafoe, Glenn Plummer, Temuera Morrison, Tamia, and Royale Watkins.

The interview pieces seem fairly bland and uninformative. Actually, one shouldn’t expect to learn much about the production from the program, as it mainly sticks to promotional material. However, it does include some decent behind the scenes bits. Few of these really illuminate the experience, but they contribute some interesting glimpses. To my surprise, Conway’s parts actually are the highlights of the program, as they seem moderately funny and enjoyable. Some predictable but still fun cameos crop up at the show’s end. The HBO piece doesn’t replace a real documentary, but it seems reasonably winning nonetheless. Heck, it’s more entertaining than the movie itself!

Within the trailers domain, we find three ads. We get a clip for Speed and two trailers for its sequel. All three appear with anamorphic 2.35:1 pictures and Dolby Surround 2.0 sound. Finally, we get the THX Optimizer. This purports to help you set up your home theater to best present the movie on the disc in question. Apparently the Optimizer is unique for each DVD on which it’s included; unlike programs such as Video Essentials, the Optimizer should tweak your set-up differently every time. Frankly, I’ve been very happy with my already-established calibration and I’m afraid to muck with it, so I’ve never tried the Optimizer. If you lack calibration from Video Essentials or a similar program, or if you’re just more adventurous than I, the Optimizer could be a helpful addition.

Speed 2: Cruise Control belongs in the sequel hall of shame. The movie does little more than offer a very poor imitation of the first movie. Unfortunately, it totally lacks that flick’s sense of fun and excitement, as it just tosses in flat characters, nauseating camerawork, and oodles of pointless destruction. The DVD provides slightly flawed but generally fine picture along with excellent audio and a passable collection of extras. None of these excuse the crumminess of the film, unfortunately. Speed 2 will mainly entertain masochists.

Note: this 2002 edition of Speed 2 replaces an old non-anamorphic version from 1999. Both covers look very similar, except the new one uses a different font for the movie’s logo and makes the title gold instead of red. The 2002 release also includes a THX banner across the bottom of the front cover. Both list for about $20, so if you want a copy of the film, there’s absolutely no reason to go with the old one.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.825 Stars Number of Votes: 40
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5 3:
32:
161:
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