(2002) - Touchstone (Buena Vista)
by Dan Kelly of The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Extras): A-/D
Audio Ratings (DD/DTS): B-/B
Specs and Features
97 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced,
single-sided, single-layered, keep case packaging, theatrical
trailer, film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (18
chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 and DTS 5.1), subtitles:
English, Closed Captioned
students can't be dismissed."
Ugh! Some movies should never have been made. New
Port South is a movie that's so completely lacking in any
narrative, direction or passion, that absolutely nothing happens
until the last 15 minutes of the film. The smidgen of conflict that
makes its way to the screen in the concluding moments of the film
doesn't really amount to anything either. By that time, I had lost
interest in any possible meaning that could have been contained
within it. It's a "Hey, teacher... leave those kids alone!"
message movie wrapped up with just enough conspiracy theory hoopla
to try and make it seem edgy. Edgy it isn't, but it's plenty dull.
It's not an exceedingly bad film, but that's not to say it's very
good either. More than anything else, I was just plain bored while
Unhappy high-schooler Maddox (Blake Shields) and his friends, Chris
(Will Estes) and Clip (Kevin Christy), are convinced that the
oppressive staff at their school is the root of all their problems.
When they learn that a former classmate was committed after
expressing similar dissatisfaction with the way things are run at
New Port South High School, they start a media blitz that could
rival a Miramax Oscar campaign. Mr. Walsh (Todd Field) takes the
brunt of their anger, and they trap him in one suspicious situation
after another in order to force him to fess up to his involvement
with the devious mind control the staff have over the students.
That's the premise of the story, and really that amount of
narrative can only carry about 30 minutes worth of film.
Unfortunately, that's almost the entire movie. It's an
ABC After School Special
that's stretched over a frame the size of a feature-length film. The
real problem with New Port South
is that first-time director Kyle Cooper and scriptwriter James
Hughes (son of the iconic 80's teen movie director John Hughes) have
no allegiance to anyone in the story. Not the kids, not the faculty,
not even in their own material. What they create in doing so is a
coldly distant movie and a tedious viewing experience that leaves
you with absolutely nobody to root for.
The movie stinks to high heaven, and Buena Vista has certainly done
nothing to the film on DVD to make it even worth a look. The
anamorphic widescreen picture itself is nice enough and presents the
film in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Compression artifacting,
edge enhancement and any other transfer-related defects are never an
issue. Black level and shadow detailing are accurate as is color
reproduction. The picture's weak spot is its flesh tones, which
retain an orange-like tint throughout the movie's running time.
Surprisingly, Buena Vista included both DTS and Dolby Digital audio
options. The 5.1 mixes are almost indistinguishable from each other.
Both reserve use of the rear channels mainly for the plunky,
electronic blips and bleeps of the music track, with only a
scattering of sound effects. Dialogue level is adequate, and most of
the separation effects are contained across the front end of the
sound field. The only thing that the DTS carries better than the
Dolby Digital track is a slightly more active .1 LFE channel, and an
ever so slightly louder soundtrack on the whole.
You'd think the Mouse would put a few extras on this baby to make
you want to fork over the cash. Not the case - the only thing you'll
get on here is a trailer for the box office and critical bomb,
Bubble Boy. A theatrical
trailer for the feature film would seem like a natural choice, but
seeing as New Port South only
made it to a few test markets before going to video, there's nothing
in the way of promotional material on the DVD. No audio commentary?
What a missed opportunity.
Todd Field directed and co-wrote what I consider to be the best
movie of 2001, In the Bedroom.
He even starred in a handful of enjoyable, noteworthy films -
Eyes Wide Shut,
Ruby in Paradise,
Haunting. Okay, so his track record isn't exactly
perfect, but still. I'd like to think someone who shows enough
talent as a first time director, to have his film honored with four
Oscar nominations, wouldn't be attracted to material like this. The
DVD certainly doesn't give you any impetus to rent this disaster, so
do yourself a favor and skip it entirely. It'll make me feel better
about wasting my time reviewing it for you.