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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

Changing Lanes [Blu-ray]

 

(Roger Michell, 2002)

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Production:

Theatrical: Scott Rudin Productions

Video: Paramount Home Entertainment

 

Disc:

Region: ALL (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:38:44.919

Disc Size: 34,156,902,688 bytes

Feature Size: 30,299,854,848 bytes

Average Bitrate: 40.91 Mbps

Chapters: 14

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: May 19th, 2009

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.4:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Audio:

Dolby TrueHD Audio English 3585 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3585 kbps / 24-bit (AC3 Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps)
Dolby Digital Audio French 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps / Dolby Surround

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, none

 

Extras

• Audio Commentary by Director Roger Michell

• The Making of Changing Lanes – in SD (15:00)

• A Writer's Perspective – in SD (6:30)

• 1 Extended Scene - in SD (4:37)

• 2 Deleted Scenes – in SD (4:55)

• Theatrical Trailer - in HD

 

 

Comment:

Changing Lanes touches on one of the core values of Western – and in particular, American – society.  Despite the images under the opening credits (a car gradually drifting out of its lane) and its sardonic marketing (“One wrong turn deserves another”), Changing Lanes is not about changing lanes; it’s about doing whatever is possible to stay in one’s lane, no matter the cost.  We all know what this feels like: to be so focused on an objective in this or that chapter of our life that we suffer nothing to derail us, even when that derailment provides a much needed opportunity for rethinking our goals.

 

Gavin Banek (Ben Affleck) and Doyle Gipson (Samuel L. Jackson) at first glance appear to have little in common except a pressing need to get to court on time.  Banek is an ambitious young attorney representing a client of dubious intentions. Gipson is a recovering alcoholic trying to reunify with his family.  In their urgent haste, their cars collide on New York’s F.D.R. Drive – not with any serious damage.  Each man, as most of us would, reacts to this untimely collision with anger and despair.  But for reasons that become apparent as the story unfolds, Banek and Gipson are driven to an irrational internecine duel, rationalizing direct and oblique warnings from friends, family, associates and conscience.

 

Changing Lanes is projected as a thriller, and this is no mere marketing ploy to engage audiences.  When we take matters to the point these men do, we experience our own personal dramas as thrillers, eschewing personal safety and civil concern for others.  The secondary gain of such drama is to blind ourselves to whatever may be the underlying motivation for our personal obsessive path – not just the immediate objective that engages our rage, but the apparently benign objective concerning career and family.  While at any number of points in the film, we are likely to say that we wouldn’t do such and such, or that we would do such and such else, it is important to see this thinking as a rationalizing process very similar to that of the protagonists, and to not let ourselves get sidetracked as they do. Changing Lanes  is a respectable thriller; but it is even better at showing us how we get mired into our own personal quicksand.

 

Leonard Norwitz (Len’s Views)

May 2nd, 2002

 

Image: 7/8  NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale.  The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

 

Like many movies shot on-location, differences in lighting makes for a more varied experience than we would see in the theater.  This is due to the fact that the larger the image the more the contrast evens out, and the smaller the image the more it is exaggerated by comparison.  In our home theatre we are inclined to notice supportive edge and back lighting, which gives a faux impression of extra dimensionality compared to scenes that are relatively flat lit.  This difference is not apparent in the theater.  If a movie appears to be incoherent in terms of contrast on video, it is likely only the result of scaling down the image to home theatre proportions.

 

 

 

I've never thought that anything of significance is done to deal with this discrepancy between theatrical and video contrast, nor should it be, since there is no way to predict the size of the consumer's display.  This has not prevented studios from a completely wrong-headed application of edge-enhancement.  (Their target audience couldn't care less, so what's the point!)  And in matters of noise reduction, apparently, DVD and Blu-ray studios feel it is their duty and right to deal with this, regardless of the DP's intentions, instead of letting the end user dial it in if desired.  My feeling is that whatever the case in the more broadly based DVD market, high definition transfers should be left alone as much as possible.  This does not mean that restoration is not appropriate in many cases (Where would I be without Coppola's new Godfather?) or that a complete rethinking of contrast and saturation (as with the recent Star Trek TV series) isn't a worthwhile effort, even if not remotely like what we would have or could have seen in 1968.  (To clarify, here I am only referring to the increased contrast and saturation not the new special effects, which are a different matter altogether.) 

 

So here's the rub – and where my foot gets a little stuck on its way into or out of my mouth: I have no memory whatever about my theatrical experience of Changing Lanes nor have I ever seen it on DVD, so what I am looking for on Blu-ray is a convincing rendering of the movie, one without distracting artifacts or enhancements, one that keeps my attention in the movie, not on how it got transferred to video.  I expect black levels to be consistent with the drama I'm watching, not pumped up to appease my video requirements nor washed out (as in Lionsgate's recent The Arrival).  Changing Lanes appears to done well for the most part, given how and on what it was shot.  I believe I see some noise reduction in the more dimly lit scenes (as in the bar that Jackson visits), and there's a little edge enhancement from time to time, but I was not particularly disturbed by either.  Film grain is present, as it should be.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music : 7/7

On first hearing, the 5.1 Dolby TrueHD mix is clear, crisp and immersive.  The car crash is unspectacular, but realistic enough.  The rain rains, the auditorium is cavernous, the P/A system that Affleck speaks on has a nice resonant reverb, and small crowds in courtrooms are claustrophobic.  I find, however, that the upper mid-range is always a little exaggerated, as if to try to make up for a flat (in the sense of "uninteresting") audio mix.  I could have done without the boost.

 

Operations : 6

Paramount offers us a straightforward, easy to navigate, unanimated and undetailed menu page.  Moving in and out of the extra features is accomplished easily.  There's a nice time line that comes up at the bottom of the frame on Pause.

 

 

 

Extras : 5

There's a weak attempt at supportive features with engaging titles that, except for the director's commentary, turn out not to amount to much (all imported from the DVD, by the way.)  The theatrical trailer is high def, but the other bits are not, as expected.  "The Making of Changing Lanes" is a 15-minute piece with brief EPK interviews with cast and crew and lots – I mean, lots – of feature film footage interspersed.  Much the same can be said for the 6-minute "Writer's Perspective" with writers Michael Tolkin and Chap Taylor.  These guys have something to say here and they say it well (e.g. that the story is about moral consequences), but there is far too much material from the film for such a short piece.  There is an extended confessional scene for Aflleck and two deleted scenes – in SD.  The main attraction, then, is Roger Michell's commentary, which is a little dry, but informative about the film's production and how different this job was for him than previous assignments (like Notting Hill and Persuasion.)

 

 

Recommendation : 7

While the image quality may be only pretty good and not demo material, it still is likely to be as good as can be hoped.  Audio is also satisfactory. The extra features are skimpy, so the recommendation for Blu-ray largely falls on the excellence of the film itself and the fact that this is the best version of the movie on video.  Recommended.

 

Leonard Norwitz
May 13th, 2009

 


 

About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.


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