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Site created 12/15/97.


review added: 11/14/00



Frequency
New Line Platinum Series - 2000 (2000) - New Line

review by Dan Kelly of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Frequency: Platinum Series Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A/B

Specs and Features

118 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:20:30 in chapter 14), Snapper case packaging, audio commentary with director Gregory Hoblit, audio commentary with writer/producer Toby Emmerich and actor Noah Emmerich, isolated score with commentary by composer Michael Kamen (DD 5.1), theatrical trailer, 4 deleted scenes, "fact & trivia" subtitle track, The Science & Technology Behind Frequency video clips (includes Solar Science, Ham Radios, Time Travel & Theoretical Physics, Fighting Fires & Creating Natural Phenomenon for Film), Conceptual & Solar Galleries (multi-angle presentation of opening effects shot), cast & crew bios, DVD-ROM features (including PC Friendly weblinks and Ground Control playable PC game demo), animated film-themed menus with sound & music, scene access (21 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 and 2.0), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned

"What if you could reach back in time? What if you could change the past? What if it changed everything?"

These are the questions posed by the makers of Frequency in the ad campaign that preceded its theatrical release in the spring of 2000. Box-office analysts were predicting the same sort of box office sleeper success that The Sixth Sense achieved in the previous summer. Both films dealt with similar themes of unsolved murders and supernatural forces, and both work really well in their genres. In the end, Frequency did relatively well and found an audience, but the success that came to The Sixth Sense isn't something that happens very often. Fortunately, New Line has given Frequency a great DVD treatment that will hopefully widen its audience base.

Part of what really works for Frequency are the twists and turns it takes as the story unfolds, so I'll keep my description of the story brief. The film starts in Queens, New York in 1969, right around the time of the World Series. Frank Sullivan (Dennis Quaid) is a firefighter and a devoted father and husband. He spends his spare time speaking on a HAMM radio and playing ball with his son, John. Flash forward to 1999. John (Jim Caviezel) now works for the NYPD as a homicide investigator and lives in the same home he grew up in. His mom lives in a small apartment, and his father died on the job shortly after the opening set-up of the story.

Prompted by a visit from his next-door neighbor and childhood friend Gordo (Noah Emmerich), John pulls out his dad's old HAMM radio and starts to mess it. Soon, however, he starts to realize that he's talking with his dad, thirty years in the past. The premise of Frequency that allows John to talk with his father is admittedly fantastic, but it works for most of the film. In the film, both 1969 and 1999 fall into the high point of the sun's solar cycle, which produces brilliant aurora borealis right above New York. This interferes with the radio transmissions and allows the two of them to talk across time. But in just talking together, the two manage to change the way events unfolded in John's past. John soon realizes that his father can help him solve a brutal series of murders that have been plaguing New York for years - murders which, because of their altering the timeline, hit closer and closer to home. Frequency is a film that will definitely test your willingness to suspend disbelief, but it's a fantasy, and I think it pulls off that part of the story quite nicely.

Frequency could easily have been one of the best films of the year had the filmmakers spent more time on the sweet-natured father-son relationship (think Field of Dreams) and less on the crime/caper part of the story. That's where the movie stumbles. The character of John, for example, isn't always the most likable guy, so you have to work to empathize with him at times. The film's ambitious premise really works for certain parts of the movie, but seems to be an afterthought at other times. Toby Emmerich doesn't put a great amount of thought into the after effects of changing history. The theory here is that even the smallest change to the past could result in great, even fateful, changes to the present. The historical changes in Frequency affect only the main character in the film and those close to them. Emmerich even mentions in the documentary that Frequency is not going to please hardcore Sci-fi fans, who may be looking for H.G. Welles-style time travel fare. The gimmick here is all in the name of getting to a happy (and a bit too cheesy) ending. But, on the whole, it works to create an entertaining and touching film.

New Line has prepared a very nice all-around package of Frequency for its DVD release. The video is an almost completely defect-free anamorphic transfer, that preserves the 2.35:1 aspect ratio of its theatrical exhibition. This is an exceedingly clean print that presents a crisp, detailed and darn near immaculate picture. Colors and flesh tones are stable and appropriately saturated without bleed or fading, and black level is rich and deep. There is little (if any) in the way of edge enhancement, and you'd be hard pressed to find any NTSC artifacting. My only qualm with the picture is that there were one or two scenes that had a little more grain than they should have, given the relative newness of the film.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is also first-rate. This is a full-bodied mix that takes advantage of the entire audio system to create a really immersive sound field. Bass extension is active, but never forced, and adds natural intensity and depth to the mix. Surround separation and panning effects are also executed in a manner that creates a great sonic experience without ever taking the focus off of the film. Dialogue is well maintained with the focus on the center speaker, and there's a good balance in the rear surrounds with the effects and music tracks. New Line has also included a decent 2.0 surround track for those without 5.1 capability. It's good, but obviously doesn't come near the robust strength of the Dolby 5.1 mix.

As can be expected from New Line's Platinum Series, the features here are excellent. First up is a trio of commentaries that address different aspects of the film. The first two (one with director Gregory Hoblit and another with writer/producer Toby Emmerich and his brother, actor Noah Emmerich) are informative tracks that really show how much care went into making of the movie. This project was obviously close to Toby Emmerich's heart. However, both of these tracks leaned a little on the dry side. There are a lot of facts dished out here, but none of it is done with any great enthusiasm, and it becomes a tad tedious to wade through for more than 20 minutes or so at a time. I didn't necessarily find the score of Frequency to be one of the film's bigger assets, but it's here on an isolated track in 5.1 with commentary by composer Michael Kamen. Sometimes the music didn't seem to be in touch with the on-screen action (so a scene that should be sentimental ends up sounding foreboding and unsure), but it's good to hear Kamen discussing his work. Similar to the commentaries is an unadvertised fact and trivia subtitle track (think VH1 Pop-Up Video). Some of the facts are directly related to the film, while others are a stretch to say the least. But it's a fun, lighthearted and fast-paced track that adds a different dimension to the features.

The best of the features is easily the 30-minute documentary The Science and Technology Behind Frequency. It's a thoroughly engaging featurette that touches on the technical nature of some of the main themes of Frequency. An equal amount of time is spent discussing HAMM radios, solar patterns and auroras, fire fighting and the special effects in the film. It's like having Emmerich's script research for this film in documentary form. The packaging promotes the fact that the featurette is in Dolby Digital 5.1 and continues New Line's recent trend (along with Final Destination) toward anamorphic enhancement for ALL of their supplements. Way to go, New Line! Hoblit's commentary tells us that there were some 30 minutes cut from the film, and four of those scenes are here on the disc. They're not vital to the plot, so they were left out of the final edit. There's also a small video sequence that utilizes the multi-angle feature on your DVD player to show the different stages that went into creating the solar flare effects at the beginning of the film.

But we're not done yet. There are still the DVD-ROM features. You get the standard ROM features, like links to the film's theatrical website. Feeding the growing frenzy over the Lord of the Rings films, New Line included a themed web browser, wallpaper and screensaver if you just can't wait for the film. There's also a playable demo of the PC game Ground Control, but why it's on the disc and what it has to do with this movie I have no idea. New Line also took the "script-to-screen" concept way beyond what has been done before and made what they call a "dynamic index" for even more features. Each scene in the screenplay is indexed with corresponding illustrations and storyboards (if available), action sequences and music. It's another way to delve even deeper into the disc. This is a very cool feature that I hope becomes a standard part of New Line's DVD's.

New Line really went all out on this DVD. Frequency is a great little movie, and the features on the disc really complement the film. If you missed it in theatres, it's definitely worth a look on home video. Frequency is a hidden gem in New Line's recent library, and they've polished it up very nicely on DVD.

Dan Kelly
dankelly@thedigitalbits.com




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