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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 7/19/01

15 Minutes
Infinifilm DVD - 2000 (2001) - New Line

review by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

15 Minutes: Infinifilm DVD Film Rating: C-

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

Specs and Features

120 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, Amaray keep case packaging, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:42:01, in chapter 19), Infinifilm "enhanced", audio commentary track with writer/director John Herzfeld, 15 Minutes of True Tabloid Stars documentary, Does Crime Pay? roundtable discussion (with Gloria Allred, Mark Fuhrman, Aphrodite Jones, Ted Haimes and Stan Goldman), "Fact Track" subtitled information about the goings-on within the film, 6 deleted scenes with optional commentary by writer/director John Herzfeld, unedited footage from Oleg's videos for 2 scenes, music video for Fame by God Lives Underwater, color bars, theatrical trailer, cast and crew filmographies, DVD-ROM features (including weblink and script-to-screen screenplay access), animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (21 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0), subtitles: none, Closed Captioned

"If it bleeds, it leads."

I don't know what to think of 15 Minutes. I'm not too sure if I like it. That's not because it's a bad film. Really, it's not. My main issues with the film are the overall tone... and something I (unfortunately) really can't talk about unless you've seen the film. I'll drop that second issue for the sake of this review. Don't worry, I'm not going to ruin the film for anyone. But the tone thing, that's something we CAN talk about. See... there's this false sense of... oh, I dunno... "comedy" that the film sets up in more than one situation. It can be a bit jarring, especially after the first brutal murder spins your head.

Right from the get go, 15 Minutes makes you feel like you're watching this big ol' rip on tabloid journalism. The tone is set by strains of comedic music which, if this were a spoof, would fit the film just fine. But after the last minute of this film plays out your screen, you'll know that 15 Minutes is in no way a comedy. And then there's the supporting cast of comedy all-stars: David Allen Grier (as a throwaway thief that comes back to haunt the film), Kelsey Grammer (as a tabloid journalist hell-bent on finding that huge scoop that will change the way we watch TV) and Kim Cattrall (as a hard-nosed executive news producer). You know... I guess before I rip the film apart I should give you guys a bit of story set-up, huh?

15 Minutes follows a couple of Eastern European tourists in New York City. One wants money owed him from a past criminal act. The other is in love with American movies. When a reunion with an old friend goes sour (i.e. a brutal murder and an arson cover-up), superstar cop Robert DeNiro enters the scene along with Fire Marshall Edward Burns. DeNiro and Burns bump heads on who's crime scene it is (you know - so they can have face time on TV), and then a mysterious witness pops her pretty head into the picture. Lots of chases ensue, and suddenly the film spins into areas that I can't discuss really at all, because talking about any of it would be to give the story away too much.

The underlying theme this film addresses, regardless of all the murders, twists, turns and supporting all-stars, is all about how much the media controls our lives. DeNiro lives with it, Burns has to learn how to live with it and the two tourists use it to make names for themselves (along with a big stash of money). One plot point I can discuss, is that one of the "tourists" has a video camera, which he uses to tape the murders they commit. I'm sure you can guess how that plays into the story.

Overall, 15 Minutes works. It doesn't exactly work well, because so much of the film (towards the end) spirals out of control and becomes cartoonish. But it's not bad. Writer/director John Herzfeld has danced this line before, in his wacky hitman farce 2 Days in the Valley. That film was just as weak as this one... although it does grow on me the more I watch it. Maybe, over time, I'll take a shine to 15 Minutes as well. We'll have to see.

Video and audio-wise, this is a home run disc. The anamorphic transfer is pretty top notch, with nice solid blacks, accurate skin tones and bold colors. Given that this is a film set in New New York (you know - the Disneyfied New York), there's a lot of silver, neon and glass - lots of nice color work. But it all looks great here. There are no artifacts to be seen and detail is crisp without the vibrating edges you get with unneeded edge-enhancement.

The audio options, in English-only Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0, provide a strong and active sound field in both versions. Obviously, the 5.1 is the "better" of the two, but there's no shame in watching this film in stereo. There are no subtitles on this film, which is somewhat odd.

This DVD is New Line's second entry into their Infinifilm series of discs. I guess they'd better hurry and release a film titled 17 Seconds to follow Thirteen Days and 15 Minutes (if you're looking for a script New Line, I'm sure Bill and I can come up with something pretty quick). Anyway, the deal is this - I'm not impressed with Infinifilm. In fact, I don't like it at all. It's annoying, boring and silly. Here's how it works (in case you don't know): At the start, you have the option to watch the film with the Infinifilm option turned on or off. Having it on allows you to access pretty much every second of the supplemental features while watching the movie. Every few minutes (usually at the chapter stops), an Infinifilm icon/menu pops up, giving you a summary of the material that's available (which might be relevant to that point in the film... or not) and you can choose to access it (if you do, you jump right into it, then return to the movie where you left off - if not, the menu goes away).

The first thing we get are blurbs from the two documentaries on the disc. The first one, 15 Minutes of True Tabloid Stars, is on tabloid journalism (which is actually pretty enlightening considering that half of these people think the other half are evil, yet they're really not all that different). The other Does Crime Pay? is a roundtable-styled discussion on the values of the journalistic ideals presented within the context of film. Here we have icons of tabloid news like Mark Furman and Gloria Allred talking about the reality - the negative and positive - of tabloid news. It looks pretty staged (even if it isn't) and I didn't find much value in it. The good news is that you can access these documentaries directly, without having to view the film - completely independent of the Infinifilm feature. The bad news with this is, watching them independently is a very frustrating experience. The documentaries are divided into clips for the Infinifilm access. Each clip is bookended by leader - the program is constantly fading to black every 10 seconds so that the Infinifilm feature (when turned on and in use) can access the clips cleanly. It makes the documentaries VERY hard to watch. Infinifilm also lets you access cast and crew filmographies, unedited footage from the video camera used in the murders, a music video, the film's trailer and any one of 6 deleted scenes (with commentary from Herzfeld). But again, you can view it all separately, as you normally would with a special edition DVD.

Other features on this DVD include a commentary track with writer/director John Herzfeld. John seems like a fun guy, and he has a lot to talk about. He's quick with a story about the research and the filming, so this is a pretty fun track. As I noted above, he also does optional commentary on the deleted scenes. Oh... and that's another annoying thing - you can only access one deleted scene at a time, and each time you have to pick with or without commentary. That sucks. For you DVD producers out there, please continue to give us the option to "play all" with or without commentary. I don't want to have to tap my remote 12 times in 15 minutes... if you'll pardon the pun. While watching the film, you also can turn on a nifty subtitle feature called "Fact Track", where information pops up from time to time about some of the goings-on within the film - like how much money is wasted in America because of hangovers. That sort of stuff. Again, that's in place of actual subtitles. You'll also find a nice color bars feature, with mini instructions on how to use it, and the standard New Line DVD-ROM features (like website excess and their famed script-to-screen). Pretty much everything you could hope for is stacked into this disc, but getting to it can be annoying and frustrating. Maybe some of you will like this Infinifilm thing, but we at the Bits find it mostly wasteful of time. Hopefully, New Line will continue to develop their outstanding Platinum Series, because Infinifilm just doesn't cut it.

15 Minutes is worth a rental definitely, and the Infinifilm feature is worth checking out at least once (so you can see it and decide whether you like it or not). But with all the crowing New Line is doing about Infinifilm, I would imagine it's going to be around for a while. I guess I can live with it... as long as New Line only uses it for DVDs with titles that mark the passage of time. That should keep the numbers low, huh? You know, I'll be honest. There is one thing I like about Infinifilm DVDs. They come in keep cases.

Todd Doogan
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