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Case Number 09434

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The Perfect Storm (HD DVD)

Warner Bros. // 2000 // 129 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Ryan Keefer (Retired) // June 12th, 2006

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All Rise...

Judge Ryan Keefer likes to turn on the shower after he's run some water in his bathtub to pretend he's a captain of a submarine (he also paid Steven Wright 18 cents to use that joke).

Editor's Note

Our reviews of The Perfect Storm (published March 23rd, 2001) and The Perfect Storm (Blu-Ray) (published August 25th, 2008) are also available.

The Charge

A true story of men against the sea.

Opening Statement

Warner Brothers has been eager to trot out The Perfect Storm for any special edition, two pack of movies that has come down the pipe because it's supposedly got visual effects to burn, a bunch of good extras, and a nailbiter of a story, so much so that it made $180 million and firmly entrenched George Clooney (Syriana) as a bankable star in Hollywood. So now that it's coming out in the high-definition format, is it worth the money to upgrade?

Facts of the Case

Based on the book by Sebastian Junger, The Perfect Storm recounts the 1991 events surrounding the commercial fishing boat the Andrea Gail and its crew. You had captain Billy Tyne (Clooney), who had been experiencing a dry spell lately, the eager newcomer Bobby Shatford (Clooney's Three Kings co-star Mark Wahlberg), the rugged Murph (John C. Reilly, Magnolia), his arch-enemy Sully (William Fichtner, Black Hawk Down), the unattractive veteran Bugsy (John Hawkes, Me and You and Everyone We Know), and the ladies man Alfred (Allen Payne, Jason's Lyric). Tyne and his crew head out for the North Atlantic in October to catch some fish as part of a high risk-high reward scenario. No one else usually goes out in October, so Tyne's boat could come back to set the market. But the reason why no one else usually goes out in October of each year is because of the potential of facing storms comprised of large seas and high winds.

The Evidence

Gloucester, Massachusetts is home to a lot of fisherman that provide thousands of pounds of seafood for distribution and consumption by a lot of different companies. Many decide to be fisherman because of the money it can potentially bring (even a junior crew member on a boat can potentially take home several thousand dollars for one month's work). Most of them all realize that two things can happen to you when you fail. You can either come home with a ton of fish that isn't sellable because the ice machine doesn't work, or you may not even come home at all. It is a real risk you encounter in the profession, and there is a landmark in Gloucester that marks the names of the men before and since the so-called "perfect storm" that haven't made it back. The dangers out in the open water are causes for concern and Junger's book describes these in great detail. Stories of boats going full speed ahead against the winds and rain of a large scale storm, only to find themselves 50 or 60 miles off course are possible.

As much as I'd like to resist the urge to break this down into a "book vs. movie" comparison, there are a couple of points that I do want to gripe about, dramatic license or not. Understanding that in either format, one is essentially speculating on the final moments of the Andrea Gail from the point where Tyne gives fellow fishing boat captain Linda Greenlaw (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Scarface) his coordinates before disappearing. But the portrayal of Tyne as a man yearning to get his hot fishing hand back seemed to be a little bit heavy-handed, and the friction between Sully and Murph didn't appear to be in the book either. The book is more a portrayal of the danger involved in fishing and does provide some detail into the lives of the crew of the boat, but it's clearly not anything close to what the movie (and William Wittliff's screenplay) had in mind.

In a sense, The Perfect Storm was landmark in a rapidly growing hill that is now the computer generated effects, as there are a lot of mind-blowing effects, including water elements, which are a big part of the movie. Unfortunately by today's standards, some of the effects do show their age. The water scenes still look good and definitely leave you water-logged by the end of the movie, but some of the effects that involve computer generated ships and helicopters do look a little bit comical, bordering on amateurish. And on the HD DVD format, the picture looks a little bit murky and a little disappointing. Now in the interest of full disclosure for the technophiles in the house, I watched this film within hours after performing the firmware upgrade on my DVD player (and haven't watched another disc since on it as of this writing), so maybe I'm viewing it on a bit of a bias. The opening titles are a little bit jagged and uneven, and some of the background shots appear to duplicate some images, as if the viewer is a little bit unconscious or something. In what the video lacks, the audio is a comfort. While the Dolby HD track isn't available for consumption yet, the Dolby Digital Plus track is very solid, with a lot of bass activity to complement the crashing water from all speakers in your home theater.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

The thing that bothered me most as I watched this again was the relationship between Bobby and his girlfriend (played by Diane Lane, Unfaithful) and how much time that was given during the film. five years ago when the film was still fresh in everyone's minds, this bordered on the Titanic tip a little bit, and it's still there, despite some time has given it some distance.

Closing Statement

As it stands, The Perfect Storm is a great sounding disc with adequate extras. It could very well be a demo disc if Warner Brothers revisits it in the future, and I hope they do for the sake of the platform.

The Verdict

Petersen is found guilty for the bastardization of good work and turning it into another H2O fetish film in his work. The judgment on the disc is pending further review of the HD audio track at this time.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 84
Audio: 91
Extras: 85
Acting: 86
Story: 78
Judgment: 84

Perp Profile

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• 2.40:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 129 Minutes
Release Year: 2000
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
Genres:
• Action
• Blockbusters
• Drama

Distinguishing Marks

• Commentary by Director Wolfgang Petersen
• Commentary by Visual Effects Supervisor Stefen Fengmeier and Visusl Effects Producer Helen Elswit
• Commentary by Author Sebastian Junger
• HBO "First Look" on Production
• "Witnesses to the Storm" Featurette
• "Creating an Emotion" Featurette
• Conceptual Art Gallery with Director Commentary
• Stills Gallery








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