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COLUMBIA TRISTAR

MOVIE INFO
Synopsis:
Loyal veteran Navy S.E.A.L. Lt. A.K. Waters (Bruce Willis) is sent into the heart of war-torn Africa on a hazardous assignment to rescue Dr. Lena Hendricks (Monica Bellucci), a U.S. citizen who runs a mission. When the beautiful doctor refuses to abandon the refugees in her care, Lt. Waters finds himself having to choose between following orders and the dictate of his own conscious. Together, they begin a dangerous trek through the deadly jungle, all the while being pursued by a rebel militia group, with only one goal in mind: to assassinate Lt. Waters' unit and the refugees in his care.

Director:
Antoine Fuqua
Cast:
Bruce Willis, Monica Bellucci, Cole Hauser, Johnny Messner, Tom Skerritt
Writing Credits:
Alex Lasker, Patrick Cirillo

Tagline:
He was trained to follow orders. He became a hero by defying them.
Box Office:
Budget $70 million.
Opening weekend $17.057 million on 2973 screens.
Domestic gross $43.426 million.
MPAA:
Rated R for strong war violence, some brutality and language.

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.40:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English, French
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 121 min.
Price: $24.94
Release Date: 6/10/2003

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary From Director Antoine Fugua
• Writer's Observations
• "Journey To Safety: Making Tears of the Sun"
• Voices of Africa
• Africa Fact Track
• Interactive Map of Africa
• Trailers


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EQUIPMENT
TV - Mitsubishi CS-32310 32"; Subwoofer - JBL PB12; DVD Player - Toshiba SD-4700; Receiver - Sony STR-DE845; Center - Polk Audio CS175i; Front Channels - Polk Audio; Rear Channels - Polk Audio.

RELATED REVIEWS


Tears of the Sun (2003)

Reviewed by David Williams (June 9, 2003)

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Edmund Burke

In Tears of the Sun, director Antoine Fuqua’s follow-up to Training Day, we meet Navy SEAL A.K. Waters (Bruce Willis), a lieutenant who’s sent into revolutionary Nigeria to rescue a physician, Lena Kendricks (Monica Bellucci). Given orders to extract all “critical personnel” from his commander (Tom Skerritt), Waters heads into the jungle to get Kendricks – an American by marriage – and some of her missionaries, out of the country before some Muslim rebels come knocking on her door and slaughter everyone in sight.

However, when Waters and his crew get to Kendricks’ jungle hospital, they find that she doesn’t want to leave without the Nigerians that she has been caring for at her mission. In order to get the doctor to leave, Waters tells her that if they will march to the helicopter landing/rescue zone, that he and his men will make sure that everyone is extracted … he neglects to tell her that he’s lying.

When the group arrives at the loading zone, Waters and his men try to jostle Doctor Kendricks on to the chopper so they can get out of heck out of Dodge … Nigerian patients/refugees be dammed. However, when Lieutenant Waters looks back and sees the natives waving goodbye at them, he has an unexpected change of heart and he begins loading old women and young children on the chopper to get them to safety first. He claims that he will lead the remainder of the group to safety himself – on foot – and for one of the first times in his military career, his conscience overrides his primary mission.

Against the wishes of his commander, Waters and his men head back into the dangerous jungles, while being pursued by a Muslim militia group who wants to see them dead. Along the way, through the eyes of the soldiers, we see the atrocities that are occurring in the country to its inhabitants (events that were fabricated for the film in case you didn’t know) and the dangers to Waters and his group increase because of the humanitarian tone the mission has now taken on. Will Waters and his men see the group to safety or will the Muslim rebels track them down and slaughter them before they can rendezvous with the other Americans?

Bruce Willis phones in his role here as the hardened Navy SEAL with his trademark discreet, minimalist style. His subdued rage and squinty-eyed look are in full effect here and while it works more often than not for the battle-hardened Lieutenant Waters, Willis is almost starting to become a caricature of himself with his stereotypical stare. Willis is joined by the very hot and somewhat talented Monica Bellucci whose only job in the film seems to be to argue each and every decision Willis makes, as well as overlook the obvious in the majority of the situations they’re placed in.

While the film has a worthwhile message, Tears of the Sun ultimately fails because it can’t decide whether or not it wants to be an action film or a humanitarian one – the “socially cognizant action genre” is a tricky genre indeed. While these two subjects have mixed much more smoothly in other films, the crew behind Tears of the Sun simply can’t pull it off here. It fails to portray its victims as anything other than background characters and while it’s somewhat successful at showing soldiers reconciling their conscience with their mission, it manages to fall into the trap of being somewhat stereotypical as well.


The DVD Grades: Picture A / Audio A- / Bonus B+

Columbia has released Tears of the Sun with an anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfer in the film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1. The film and its DVD transfer were very pleasing and Columbia has really outdone themselves here.

The film was consistently sharp and detailed, with even the smallest of objects coming through crystal clear on Columbia’s transfer. Colors were very earthy and natural, with the forestation of the Hawaiian jungles coming across as appropriately lush and inviting. Everything was properly balanced and saturated at all times and there was never any smearing of colors noted. The black levels were quite solid and strong throughout the film, with only the slightest amount of grain seen, while fleshtones were consistently pleasing and natural.

Flaws with the print were miniscule, as I noted some slight grain in some of the darker scenes, as well as some slight shimmer on some highly contrasted areas. Edge enhancement was kept to a minimum and flaws such as compression artifacting and jaggies were never noted. Print flaws such as flakes and flecks never distracted at any time and the master print for Tears of the Sun was as in as good of shape as you would expect for such a recent, major studio release.

This was an excellent effort from the studio and Tears of the Sun is as strong a presentation as you can get

Tears of the Sun comes from Columbia is a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that was pretty active and kept the your surrounds engaged for a good portion of the film. While there were moments where I felt Columbia could have employed the surrounds a bit more gratuitously, they still did a really good job of immersing the viewer into the action when the film called for it.

Effects were pretty immersive as helicopters engulfed your viewing area when they were in the air, gunshots and explosions rang out from all over, and Hans Zimmer’s very effective score seemed to get propped up quite often from the rears. The jungles of Nigeria offered up some decent environmental ambience from time to time, but not nearly as much as it seemingly could have. Even so, it was an engaging and engulfing listen that exploited the rather expansive soundstage quite nicely.

Dialogue was relegated to the forward spectrum for the vast majority of the film and was always easily understood and intelligible. Harshness or edginess were never an issue in the track whatsoever and everything from the film’s dialogue to its effects to Hans Zimmer’s nicely done score, was rich, full, and consistently crisp. Low end was appropriately deep and bombastic when called upon, but somewhat restrained in the grand scheme of things. Even so, it offered some really nice support to the score, as well as the effects – especially in the heat of battle.

Columbia has also included a French Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, as well as subtitles in English and French.

Columbia has added some really nice supplements for fans of Tears of the Sun with the first and foremost being a Director’s Commentary with Antoine Fuqua and while he offers up an engaging piece, it’s full of standard-fare information or information that’s rehashed on other portions of the DVD. We do get some personal information on why he wanted to make the film, as well as information on what it was like working with Hans Zimmer on the score, what it was like shooting on location – on aircraft carriers and in Hawaii, casting, background on certain deleted scenes, the military’s involvement in the project and the great respect he has for them, reactions to the critical reaction the film received, and so on. While first-rate information, it seemed to follow the “director’s standard commentary” a bit too much for my tastes … good stuff, just slightly generic.

Next are Writer’s Observations and what we have here, is nothing more than a writer’s audio commentary with Alex Lasker and Patrick Cirillo that lasts only 17 minutes and 13 seconds. The duo discuss the inspiration(s) for the film, the chaotic political environment and civil wars seen on the troubled continent in which Tears of the Sun takes place, and so on. They have obviously done their homework and seem to have a good grasp on the situations over there, but at times, they manage to slide in a bit too much of their political commentary into their writer’s commentary and it just gets in the way. To be quite honest, when one of the guys claimed he was ashamed to be an American because we don’t get involved in enough of these ethic cleansing situations around the world, I simply tuned out. However, it was so late in the short commentary, I had heard it all anyway. (One of these idiots complains that the Clinton Administration did nothing to help the troubled Nigerian country while in office and then proposes that Bush will more than likely be worse. Maybe it’s just me, but how can you do less than nothing? Liberal slant? Surely not!)

The Africa Fact Track is next and by turning this option –ON-, you get pop-ups scattered throughout the film about the country, as well as subjects/topics discussed and touched-on during the film. Don’t be fooled by the name though, because there’s a lot more covered here than just about Africa, as this “fact track” serves as our gateway into all sorts of facts about the film, its production, its score, the military hardware used, locations shot at, methods used to create certain scenes, and so on. Granted, there’s a lot of very good and factual information divvied out on the country and its tumultuous history, it’s just that you shouldn’t let the title mislead you … there’s a lot more here than just facts about the African continent. Heck, there are even facts that show up during the closing credits! Conveniently, depending on what type of “fact” you’re receiving, Columbia has decided to use different icons to designate and separate production facts from African facts – a very nice touch – and ultimately, there’s a lot to be learned by viewing the Africa Fact Track. If you can multi-task, the track can also be viewed in conjunction with either of the audio commentaries. (As a funny aside, the second “fact” to pop up goes something like this – “Founded in 1924, Columbia Pictures has a strong reputation for both critical and commercial success.” Africa fact track indeed …)

The film’s making-of featurette shows up under the heading Journey to Safety: Making “Tears of the Sun” (15:04). The principals in the film discuss the current political climate in Africa, as well as the tribal warfare that has been tearing the African continent apart for ages. We learn how Willis came about the story, how Fuqua became involved, the different subplots in the story, character motivations, shooting on location in Hawaii, how great so-and-so was to work with, and so on. There are admittedly some touching moments in the supplement when you hear some of the stories about some of the African natives - who actually serve as extras in the film and actually lived through similar situations in their own life - but outside of that, there’s nothing learned here about the production you haven’t seen and heard in other, more comprehensive, supplements.

In Voices of Africa, we hear from eight African citizens about the living conditions there, the constant political upheaval, and personal horror stories of their being beaten, tortured, or victimized in some form or fashion. Unfortunately, no subtitles have been provided (unless the person knows noEnglish) and all of the participants speak with thick and at times, unintelligible accents. Each participant may be selected individually or via a –PLAY ALL- feature provided by Columbia and with each story lasting anywhere from 90 to 180 seconds, we get around 20-minutes or so of total running time.

Deleted Scenes follow and here, we have the option of choosing from eight different selections including “Mission Establishing / Call For Help” (3:56), “Departure Prelude / Lt. Waters Talks to Father Gianni” (2:36), “Dr. Lena Kendricks Talks to Sisters / Grace and Siobhan / Gideon Arrives” (2:23), “Vulture at Mission” (0:25), “Village Pillage Outtake” (1:04), “Terwase Addresses Rebel Soldiers” (2:39), “Silk and Musa Talk About African Ancestry” (1:40), and “Arthur Azuka’s Final Speech” (3:50). Presented without commentary, each of the scenes simply expands on certain things already seen in the film and with the feature clocking in at over 2-hours, I’m sure folks were looking for a way to cut down on the running time of the film. None of the scenes in and of themselves would have added a whole lot to the proceedings and while their inclusion on the DVD is nice, they were all rightfully cut from the product you may or may not have seen in theaters. Each of the scenes is presented in 2.40:1 widescreen and Dolby Digital 2.0.

The Interactive Map of Africa gives us a map of Nigeria with different cities/provinces to click on and when we press –ENTER-, we are given some facts about the city. Nothing great for anyone other than those interested in the history of certain cities in the country. (I found the extra to be rather boring myself … I guess that makes me a self-absorbed American.)

Finishing off the extras are some Trailers for Tears of the Sun, Anger Management, Bad Boys II, Basic, Black Hawk Down, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, Hollywood Homicide, Radio (Cuba Gooding, Jr. in Remember the Titans meets Waterboy), and S.W.A.T.. Pretty good stuff actually…

Tears of the Sun was an average film with good intentions and a good heart. Unfortunately, the execution just didn’t do it for me. However, for fans of the film or die hard fans of its principals, Columbia has really done an excellent job on all aspects of the DVD – audio, video, and supplements – and it’d be hard to go wrong by picking up a copy when it streets. However, for those of you unfamiliar with the film, I’d highly suggest a rental first.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.8833 Stars Number of Votes: 60
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