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review added: 4/11/02



New Port South
2001 (2002) - Touchstone (Buena Vista)

review by Dan Kelly of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVsEncoded with DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1 Digital Surround

New Port South

Film Rating: D

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

"Some 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 watching it.

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, Twister and…The 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.

Dan Kelly
dankelly@thedigitalbits.com




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