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

Reindeer Games [Blu-ray]

 

(John Frankenheimer, 2000)

 

 

   

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Dimension Films & Marty Katz

Blu-ray: Alliance (Canadian)  /  Miramax Lionsgate

 

Disc:

Region: 'A'

Runtime: 1:44:16.708  /  2:04:35.301

Disc Size: 16,570,408,805 bytes  /  43,640,384,687 bytes

Feature Size: 16,498,857,984 bytes  /  38,301,450,240 bytes

Average Bitrate: 21.10 Mbps   /   34.99 Mbps

Chapters: 16 (both Blu-rays)

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: April 7th, 2009  /  March 6th, 2012

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.78:1 / 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p (both Blu-rays)

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video (both Blu-rays)

 

1) Alliance - Region 'A' Blu-ray (cropped) TOP

2) LionsGate / Miramax (Director's Cut) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 3998 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3998 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio English 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio French 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps

 

DTS-HD Master Audio English 3585 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3585 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps / DN -4dB

 

Subtitles:

(none)

English (SDH), English, Spanish, none

 

Extras:

• (none)

 

Audio Commentary by John Frankenheimer

Original Theatrical Cut Scenes (8)

Behind the Scenes Featurette (6:09)

Trailer (1:40)

 

Production Description: Sizzling hot Ben Affleck (Pearl Harbor) and Charlize Theron (The Cider House Rules) team up with Gary Sinise (Mission To Mars) in this story of high-stakes crime and deception! Upon release from prison, Rudy (Affleck) poses as his old cell mate Nick in order to meet Nick's sexy pen pal, Ashley (Theron). But things heat up for Rudy when he's forced into an armed robbery plot being hatched by Ashley's evil brother (Sinise)! Also featuring Clarence Williams III (Life), Danny Trejo (Con Air) and Dennis Farina (Get Shorty) -- don't miss this nonstop thrill ride!

 

 

The Film: 6
It's a movie that has promise: John Frankenheimer directing in what would be his last feature film; Charlize Theron (3 years before her Oscar turn in Monster), Gary Sinise (Of Mice and Men and Forrest Gump well behind him and CSI: NY just a few years ahead). On the other hand, there's the altogether too lovely Ben Affleck and the unreliable Ehren Kruger (who scripted Arlington Road and Scream 3).

There's a scene not far into the movie where Rudy (Affleck) and Ashley (Theron) are getting acquainted at a roadside café. Rudy has just finished a five-year stretch for auto theft. Ashley has been a pen pal to Rudy's cellmate, Nick (James Frain) for long enough for Rudy to fall in love with her. When Nick falls victim in a knife fight, Rudy decides to take his place once outside and connect with the girl of both their dreams. Nick had photos of Ashley, but was reluctant to reciprocate, so Ashley ought not recognize Rudy is really not Nick. Anyway, they have this conversation where they confess how each thought the other would find themselves unattractive. Mind you, these are Charlize and Affleck.


I don't think the scene is meant to be funny, but it certainly goes some way to make sure we are not credibly disposed – until the arrival shortly thereafter of Gary Sinise, all wild-haired and angry as hell that Rudy would have the chutzpah to nail his sister and then try to deny he's really Nick. It actually plays better than it sounds because Sinise is so wonderfully sinister and deranged – that is, until there are one or two too many twists that end up undermining what Kruger spent so much trouble setting up.

Without giving away anything crucial, the gist of the plot is that Gabriel expects Rudy (now, at the point of gun, having admitted he is Nick after all) to help him and his gang of low life thugs to break into a casino that Nick worked for just before being sent up – Nick knowing where the safe is and all the security protocols and such. All Rudy wants to do is go home and enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with his family.
 


 

Image: 4/8    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were obtained 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 image is properly destaurated, with a flattened contrast and a cool blue color cast. It is also perceptibly oversharpened, perhaps to make up for the flat contrast. The bit rate for the AVC codec spends a lot of time in the teens before settling into the low-20s for most of the movie.
Note especially that the original 2.35:1 image is cropped to 1.78:1.

 

NOTE: Addition - May 2010: Francois has sent us captures from the French DVD 1.77 (open-matte) showing the extensive cropping of the Alliance Blu-ray. (Thanks Francois!)

 

The new LionsGate/Miramax transfer is both the Director's Cut and in the correct 2.35:1 aspect ratio. So while that alone makes it the definitive choice - it is also dual-layered with a high bitrate. BUT the image quality is far from perfect - it looks quite digitized. Colors do tighten but there is, what looks like, some edge enhancement and the visuals are also frequently very hazy. I'm going to take another look at this film because I did notice some unpleasant flaws in the Miramax/LionsGate transfer.
 

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

 

 

1) Alliance - Region 'A' Blu-ray (cropped) TOP

2) French (Open Matte) DVD MIDDLE 

3) LionsGate / Miramax (Director's Cut) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Alliance - Region 'A' Blu-ray (cropped) TOP

2) French (Open Matte) DVD MIDDLE 

3) LionsGate / Miramax (Director's Cut) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Alliance - Region 'A' Blu-ray (cropped) TOP

2) French (Open Matte) DVD MIDDLE 

3) LionsGate / Miramax (Director's Cut) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Alliance - Region 'A' Blu-ray (cropped) TOP

2) French (Open Matte) DVD MIDDLE 

3) LionsGate / Miramax (Director's Cut) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Alliance - Region 'A' Blu-ray (cropped) TOP

2) French (Open Matte) DVD MIDDLE 

3) LionsGate / Miramax (Director's Cut) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Alliance - Region 'A' Blu-ray (cropped) TOP

2) LionsGate / Miramax (Director's Cut) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Alliance - Region 'A' Blu-ray (cropped) TOP

2) LionsGate / Miramax (Director's Cut) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Alliance - Region 'A' Blu-ray (cropped) TOP

2) LionsGate / Miramax (Director's Cut) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Alliance - Region 'A' Blu-ray (cropped) TOP

2) LionsGate / Miramax (Director's Cut) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Alliance - Region 'A' Blu-ray (cropped) TOP

2) LionsGate / Miramax (Director's Cut) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Alliance - Region 'A' Blu-ray (cropped) TOP

2) French (Open Matte) DVD MIDDLE 

3) LionsGate / Miramax (Director's Cut) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Audio & Music: 6/7
The audio mix is serviceable, if unremarkable. Dialogue clarity is helped by the uncompressed mix, though not nearly as much as we're accustomed to. Gunshots sound off with some authority and seem to occur and ricochet in the right places.

The LionsGate/MiraMax audio transfer is quite technically similar to the Alliance and I agree with Leonard's comments. It had some buoyancy and depth - but not an overwhelming amount to extol.

 

Operations: 1
The only menu operation this disc offers is a choice of language/audio options. Not so much as a chapter menu, which makes it especially difficult if you want to locate an earlier scene.

 

 

 

 

Extras: 0
Zip!

Well, nothing new - but a darn-sight more than the Canadian Blu-ray. We get the previously released audio commentary by director John Frankenheimer - and it has some merit. There are also the eight original Theatrical 'Cut Scenes' for those curious plus a rather poor quality, 6-minute, Behind the Scenes featurette and a trailer.

 

1) Alliance - Region 'A' Blu-ray (cropped) LEFT

2) LionsGate / Miramax (Director's Cut) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray RIGHT

 

 
 
 

 

 

Bottom line: 2
Whatever we might think of the movie, I should hasten to point out that this is not the "Director's Cut" which is some 20 minutes longer and in 2.35:1. This
Blu-ray being 1.85:1 rules out this version before it gets out of the case.

The movie is not premium Frankenheimer but has merit as a down-and-dirty crime-heist caper with a full cast of ne'er-do-well thugs. The US Blu-ray is the best of the three editions compared but has some surprising video issues that have me scratching my head. If you are less-inclined to care about the higher-end technical issue - well, the price sure is right - plus you get the commentary.

 

Leonard Norwitz
April 18th, 2009

Gary Tooze

March 3rd, 2012

 

 

 

   


 

 

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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