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Site created 12/15/97.


review added: 2/27/98



The Rock
1996 (1997) - Hollywood Pictures (Buena Vista)

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

Film Rating: B-
Typical Simpson/Bruckheimer formula, but otherwise good non-stop action.

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/A+/C
Very good picture (but not 16x9), awesome surround, yet other than a trailer, few extras.

Overall Rating: B
A fun roller coaster ride, with terrific sound, but you'll be wanting that 16x9 in a few years.

Specs and Features

136 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), single-sided, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, film-themed menu screens, scene access (22 chapters), languages: English and French (DD 5.1), subtitles: English and Spanish, Close Captioned

Review

By now, you're no doubt familiar with the Simpson/Bruckheimer drill: set up the plot in about ten minutes, then let the shooting begin, progressively blowing up more stuff until the end. The good guy wins, the bad loses, and the body count is usually well into double-digits. The Rock is probably the best example of this formula.

Here's the story: a highly decorated, but embittered Marine Corps. General (Harris) steals a handful of rockets loaded with deadly VX gas, and leads a rogue military assault on Alcatraz Island. His plan is to hold the city of San Francisco (and 81 civilians on the island) hostage until the U.S. Government pays reparations to the families of men that died under his command while on covert operations. Of course, the Govt. will have none of this, and assembles a SEAL team to retake the island. Enter Agent Stanley Goodspeed (Cage), an FBI chemical weapons expert (with zero field experience) who must accompany the team to deal with the VX gas. Pretty straightforward right? Well, there's a catch: the General's got the island locked down tight. And the only person who knows the way in, has been rotting in prison without trial for thirty years. He's a former British spy (Connery), who knows just about every secret the U.S. has. And he's the only man that ever escaped Alcatraz alive.

Connery, Cage and Harris all do a commendable job of bringing life to largely cardboard characters. And the script is gimmicky, but hip (ya gotta dig that 'alien landings at Roswell' reference). But it's the action that's the real star here, and director Michael Bay keeps it coming fast and furious, right to the very end.

The DVD version of The Rock gives a darned good 2.35:1 letterboxed picture (transferred from the same master as the laserdisc), but don't look for a full screen, pan & scan version on this disc. What's far more disappointing, however, is the absence of 16x9 anamorphic enhancement. The reason is that an anamorphic transfer, even when viewed in letterbox on a regular TV, still boasts slightly higher resolution than a regular matted letterbox transfer like this one. And in three to five years, when you find yourself in the market for a new digital TV (which will all use the movie-like 16x9 aspect ratio), you'll wish all your DVDs were 16x9 enhanced. The ones that are will look absolutely stunning, displaying nearly 500 lines of resolution. Unfortunately, the ones that aren't (likeThe Rock), will only display about half that resolution. In other words, they'll look like crap in comparison.

The 16x9 issue aside, this DVD release delivers truly outstanding Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. The Pro Logic sound, while not nearly as immersive, is still better than most. Sound is also provided in French, and you'll find subtitles in English and Spanish. A decent theatrical trailer is available, the menus use film poster artwork, there are 22 chapters, and the film runs 136 minutes in all.

Bottom line

If you dig The Rock, really want to put your surround sound to the test, or just like action flicks, buy this disc now. Otherwise, it's not really a must have, but it is pretty good fun. A fair DVD value overall.

Bill Hunt
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com




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