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

Connected [Blu-ray]

 

(Benny Chan, 2008)

 

 

 

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Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Sirius Pictures International

Blu-ray: Tai Seng Entertainment

 

Disc:

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

Runtime: 1:50:34.666

Disc Size: 24,123,949,180 bytes

Feature Size: 23,399,092,224 bytes

Video Bitrate: 20.49 Mbps

Chapters: 18

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: January 21st, 2009

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 24 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio Chinese 4608 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 4608 kbps / 16-bit
Dolby Digital Audio Chinese 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Chinese 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Chinese 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps

 

Subtitles:

English, Chinese (traditional and simplified), Indonesian, Korean, Mandalay, none

 

Extras:

• Making of – in SD (26:12)

• Behind the Scene – in SD (38:20)

• Deleted Scenes – in SD (34:31)

• Alternate Scenes – in SD (8:44)

• 4 Trailers for the movie

 

 

The Film: 5
Based on the 2004 movie "Cellular" directed by David Ellis and starring Chris Evans, Kim Basinger, William H. Macy and Jason Statham, Connected is a scene for scene translation of the original movie into a Hong Kong context. Differences are subtle, but telling. The bad guy is more ruthless; the hero, more conflicted; the kidnapped woman, just as desperate and about as resourceful (she’s younger than her American counterpart, keeping the door open for a potential liaison after the closing credits); the good cop, less colorful (how could he be otherwise: Nick Cheung vs. William Macy.) Benny Chan’s movie is more self-conscious about stunts, the feeling is that if he didn’t have them, there would be no movie. And there isn’t as much savvy about cell phones in evidence here (though this might be partly a question of translation.)

In both films, a mother is kidnapped and brought to a secret location where she is threatened with harm to her child if she doesn’t tell where “it” is. She insists she doesn’t know what these guys want of her, so off they go to the kid’s school to put the screws on. Meanwhile, our antihero – in the one case an irresponsible surfer dude, in the other a reluctant loan collector and irresponsible dad, when, resourceful woman that she is, the kidnapped victim attempts to sort out a distress call with pieces of wire and an abandoned analog phone. The calls she makes are random and she happens on our antihero, who, driving about in his car, at first dismisses her pleas for help as a prank, but eventually comes to believe her story. The challenge and the thrill of both movies is to make his attempts to locate her child and her before the kidnappers do what they do best and while cell phones do what they do worst. The results can be funny and suspenseful depending on the moment and the director.

Louis Koo, as a responsible dad in the making, has this knack for finding a specific tone, face and posture for his character and sticking with it until the moment of crisis. He does much the same thing in his more recent film, Accident, but since that character’s unraveling takes longer, the technique is more effective. Liu Ye (City of Life & Death) is scary as hell as the bad guy, but his character is so one-dimensionally psychopathic we wonder how he could have risen to his position of authority – on the other hand, perhaps I’ve just answered my own question.

While not as consistently smart or as funny as the movie from which it is derived, on its own terms, Connected is not a bad movie. Its mistakes can be laid squarely at the foot of the director who seems to feel that more is always preferred. Not that Cellular is especially subtle, but one of its better ideas is that Basinger and Evans are far enough apart in age that in the mind of the audience, Evans’ willingness to help is made that much more altruistic and not complicated by romantic fantasies, while Chan keeps that door open. It changes the whole undertone of the movie, and not for the good. Chan also grants near superhuman powers to an otherwise harmless hero, he lingers too long on a child who cries too much and talks too much, he insists the heroine flee her captors into a gigantic open space. On the other hand, Chan does have his way with a car chase: there’s one toward the beginning that is very funny, even if not the slightest bit plausible. His use of Gong Beibi (Waiting Alone) as the house-sitter with a gun and a fighting spirit is a tasty call.

 

 

Image: 4/7  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.

The source material seems to be in good condition with few defects. The image itself is peculiar, nor do I see any good artistic reason why it should be. It is strongly filtered in a way that works better for landscapes than people. Sharpness and detail varies, depending, it seems, on how much the extra contrast blows out the image as well as how much DNR is applied which, at times, is quite a bit on some close-ups. Blacks are generally OK, though shadow detail is often lost. Occasional halos suggest oversharpening.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 5/7
For an action thriller with stunts left and right it is surprising how uninvolved the surrounds are, compared to other movies in the genre. Dialogue, with its smatterings of English and (from what I gather) both Cantonese and Mandarin is clear, though brittle. Music is thin. Bass is sometimes wompish, other times absent, especially in car crashes (very strange.)
 

Operations: 5
Subtitles are clean, with only a few English usage errors. The idea of having the Extra Features on a separate disc is, at first blush, classy until we realize that the feature film is presented on a single-layer disc. Thus making the second disc (a DVD) merely a marketing ploy.

 

 

Extras: 6
The half-hour Making-of segment looks at the stunts (a big part of this movie), casting, character motivation and concept, touching on Cellular, the American movie from which it is derived. I should mention that the Making-of piece and the deleted and alternate scenes are subtitled. That’s a plus.
 

Bottom line: 4
Neither the anticipated, but largely unrealized, benefits of high definition or the story’s transposition into a Chinese milieu makes for a better experience than watching the original movie on DVD.

Leonard Norwitz
December 28th, 2009

 

 

 

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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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