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Paul Verhoeven
Elisabeth Shue, Kevin Bacon, Josh Brolin, Kim Dickens, Greg Grunberg
Andrew W. Marlowe, Gary Scott Thompson

Think You're Alone? Think Again.

Box Office:
Budget $95 million.
Opening weekend $26.414 million on 2956 screens.
Domestic gross $73.209 million.
Rated R for strong violence, language and some sexuality/nudity.

Academy Awards:
Nominated for Best Visual Effects.

Widescreen 1.851/16X9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround 2.0
French Dolby Surround 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 112 min.
Price: $19.94
Release Date: 10/16/2000

• Audio Commentary with Director Paul Verhoeven, Writer Andrew Marlowe, and Actor Kevin Bacon
• Isolated Score/Audio Commentary with Composer Jerry Goldsmith
• “Hollow Man: Anatomy of a Thriller” Featurette
• “Fleshing Out the Hollow Man” Featurette
• VFX Picture Comparison
• Deleted Scenes
• Talent Files
• Production Notes
• Trailers

Score soundtrack

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Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Hollow Man: Special Edtion (2000)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 15, 2007)

Paul Verhoeven: brilliantly visceral and daringly explicit filmmaker or goo-obsessed hack? The jury's still out on that one, as Verhoeven remains an intensely uneven director. Some of his films completely reek (Basic Instinct, Showgirls), some are hit and miss (Starship Troopers), while others are largely strong (Robocop).

While it probably fits best into the "hit and miss" category, Verhoeven's latest film, Hollow Man, comes very close to the "stinker" domain. This updating of the “invisible man” story provides a few solid thrills, but a combination of generally tired action and drab characters dooms it to mediocrity.

In Hollow Man, we find a team of scientists funded by the US military to find a way to make folks invisible. Headed by brilliant but arrogant Sebastian Caine (Kevin Bacon) and abetted by his second-in-charge - and ex-girlfriend - Linda (Elisabeth Shue), the film shows that these brainiacs have developed a serum that will make the injectee invisible. However, they’re having trouble bringing the subjects back to the visible spectrum.

The movie starts with Sebastian as he finds the apparent solution. After some success with it, he decides to take the next logical testing step: use the invisibility method on a human instead of an animal. He chooses himself and has a little fun. Unfortunately, the formula to return him to visibility doesn’t work, so he’s stuck in the world of translucency. This turn of events messes with Sebastian’s already-unstable mind and he goes from being simply a smug prick to becoming a truly nasty piece of work.

The story isn’t a direct copy of 1932’s classic James Whale Invisible Man, but the emotional instability of each main character offers one constant. It’s not a great framework, but it seems to be required to make the lead scary. After all, if this is just an average Joe who wants nothing more than to check out some naked babes, there’s not much of a movie there. We also don’t want to see a guy who begins the piece as an evil person; we need the transformation to make the chills effective.

That’s one minor problem with Hollow Man. We never see any likable characteristics of Sebastian. He’s handsome and smart but he’s clearly such a jerk that we don’t find his decent to violence as tragic or unexpected. Bacon offers a very solid portrayal of Caine, but the role is limited and not a great choice for a lead.

However, Caine stands out because at least he demonstrates a personality, something lacking in every other participant. Shue is a capable actress but she’s dishwater-dull as Linda; the character never displays any spark, intelligence or other compelling qualities. She’s complemented by another scientist on the team - and her current boyfriend - Matthew (Josh Brolin). He’s even more boring and drab than Linda; compared to him she’s a 24-hour party. I point out more problems with Brolin’s acting, but I won’t. Barbra Streisand is his stepmother, so the guy’s suffered enough.

Hollow Man may earn an award for “Worst Female Hairstyles”. All three of the main female characters were afflicted with genuinely atrocious haircuts. Kim Dickens and Janice Randle (two additional team-members) aren’t particularly gorgeous under the best of circumstances, so their ugly ‘dos didn’t bug me too much, but I genuinely hated the bob worn by Shue. She’s a tremendously sexy woman, but with that cheese-wedge haircut, I could barely stand to look at her. The movie has a $95 million budget but they sent all the actresses to Supercuts?

The film makes heavy usage of both computer-generated imagery (CGI) and green-screen shots. For the most part these work fairly well and have few apparently flaws. However, I rarely felt as though I wasn’t watching movie magic; I almost always was supremely conscious of the fact I was viewing sophisticated technical wizardry. Something about most of the work just seemed off for some vague reason.

Granted, none of that would have been much of a factor if the story itself were more compelling and if the movie presented greater levels of excitement. Unfortunately, Hollow Man largely fell flat. The film provides an occasional thrill but my adrenaline never really started to pump. As such, we’re left with a sporadically-entertaining but generally limp action/horror hybrid that largely wastes the involved talent.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio A-/ Bonus A-

Hollow Man appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. No significant concerns cropped up during this fine transfer.

Sharpness appeared strong throughout the film. Only a smidgen of softness interfered with a few wider shots. Otherwise, the movie looked crisp and detailed. Moiré effects and jagged edges seemed absent, and I noticed no edge enhancement. Print flaws also appeared virtually non-existent.

Colors were appropriately accurate and natural. The film used a fairly restrained palette, so little about the hues stood out in any way, but these tones seemed nicely reproduced nonetheless. Colors were always clear and tight. Black levels also appeared deep and rich, with strong contrast. Shadow detail came across as appropriately heavy but never seemed excessively thick; low light sequences looked just as dark as they should, and I was always able to easily discern the action. All in all, Hollow Man looked very good.

The film’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack was also very positive. The soundfield provided active audio from all five speakers. Actually, it took awhile for the surrounds to really kick into overdrive; the mix didn’t become really overwhelming until the action throttles up toward the climax. However, the audio presented lots of ambient information even during quieter scenes. Music spread nicely to the rears, and general sounds from the environments appeared strong. This tendency was best noted whenever the actors entered the lab’s kennel area; the animal noises always seemed placed in realistic and accurate locations.

Actually, spatial relationships were a high point of this track, as the mix consistently featured logical and nicely integrated sounds; everything seemed to emanate from the proper places. This extended to some nice usage of directional dialogue; while invisible, many of Bacon’s lines popped up all around the soundstage, an effect that greatly enhanced the creepy aspects of the story.

Audio quality appeared similarly good. Dialogue seemed consistently crisp and well-defined. Much of it needed to be looped, but the speech always blended nicely with the action and I noticed no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Jerry Goldsmith’s score sounded bright and dynamic, and some of the movie’s rock tunes also showed excellent punch; I really liked the scenes when Bacon cranked his car stereo, as the songs blasted clearly and with power.

Effects were also positive. No matter how loud the mix became, these components always remained accurate and free of distortion. All parts of the track boasted stellar bass. The low end of the film seemed warm and rich.

I had only one complaint about the soundtrack, and it related to the soundfield itself. (This may include a spoiler - be warned!) During the climax, sprinklers went off and surrounded us quite convincingly. However, while the sprinklers were still active, some other actions took place. These other sounds were not well integrated with the sprinklers; the latter took a back seat and became less prominent. It seemed artificial and awkward. The moments only lasted a few seconds, and they didn’t bother me enough to affect my rating of the soundtrack, but I thought I’d mention them anyway; these were the only weak moments in an otherwise-stellar mix.

As we shift to the extras, we find two separate audio commentaries here, starting with a running track from director Paul Verhoeven, actor Kevin Bacon, and writer Andrew Marlowe. All three were recorded simultaneously during the same session for this screen-specific affair.

As a whole, this was a fairly compelling commentary. It was a surprisingly democratic track. Usually one member dominates multiple-participant programs, but that doesn’t really happen here. Granted, Marlowe has less to say than the others, but he chimes in some useful details, and the Verhoeven and Bacon balance each other out well. Verhoeven probably spends too much time discussing technical details, but he still gives us a lot of compelling information, and Bacon adds a great deal of notes about his green-screen lifestyle during the shoot. I really enjoyed his statements, since that’s an issue rarely discussed by actors. Overall, it’s an above-average commentary.

In addition, a second commentary features veteran composer Jerry Goldsmith. Actually, this is one of those combi-commentaries; it’s mainly an isolated score, and Goldsmith provides remarks whenever his music doesn’t play. Unlike some of these affairs, Goldsmith’s statements never step on the score; all of his speech appears in between musical cues, so fans of movie tunes will be able to hear his work in its unfettered glory.

Personally, I don’t much care for movie scores, but I enjoyed Goldsmith’s remarks nonetheless. He provides a lot of solid information about his work on the film and his methods for scoring in general. It doesn’t quite substitute for a career overview - Goldsmith has been doing this for more than half a century - but I thought he offered enough compelling remarks about his work to keep me interested.

A slew of video extras also appear on the DVD. First up is a general featurette called Hollow Man: Anatomy of a Thriller. This 15-minute program offers the usual glossy promotional bent we expect of such pieces, but it presented enough interesting information to make it worth a look. We find a typical combination of movie clips, interview snippets, and shots from the set. The latter are what makes this show compelling, as we get to see lots of good “behind the scenes” material. It’s not a stellar documentary, but it’s above average.

In a section titled Fleshing Out the Hollow Man, lots more information is split into 15 different mini-featurettes. These cover a wide variety of topics, though most of them are technical in nature. We learn a lot about how all of the effects were created, and this includes one of the best visual demonstrations of motion-controlled camerawork I’ve seen during the second featurette (called “Invisibility Formula”). Each piece lasts between 50 seconds and six minutes, 40 seconds for a total of 39 minutes and 40 seconds worth of material. The “short clip” format can be a little frustrating, but the segments are all quite good and they merited viewing.

But that’s not all! Hollow tosses in a few other video programs. VFX Picture-In-Picture Comparisons are a fun way to see how the original photography looked. Most of the screen shows the raw footage from three different scenes. (I planned to provide the names of these segments but since their titles give away a lot of plot, I skipped this.) In the lower-right corner of the screen, we see the final material. The snippets run between 50 seconds and two minutes 15 seconds for a total of four minutes and five seconds. I really enjoyed this look at the shots in their “natural” state.

Deleted Scenes gives us three different snipped segments of the movie. We get “Was It a Dream?” (1:18), “Sebastian Attack” (1:17) and “Sebastian on the Prowl” (4:45). Two of these - the second and third ones - include commentary from Verhoeven, but this doesn’t appear in the traditional sense; he talks over some footage, but this is intercut with interview shots of him as well. It’s an odd presentation, and it’s not totally successful. The first scene uses the typical format and just presents the edited shot without any interference. Despite the awkward “commentary”, I enjoyed the opportunity to look at these scenes, all of which actually are extensions of included segments.

A few DVD stand-bys finish this terrific package. We find the “teaser” and the theatrical trailers for Hollow Man plus ads for Bacon’s A Few Good Men, Starship Troopers, and Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.

The DVD completes with the usual bare-bones Talent Files for Verhoeven and actors Bacon, Shue, Brolin, William Devane and Joey Slotnick. We also find some brief but informative production notes in the DVD’s booklet.

Despite that minor omission, Hollow Man offers a truly terrific DVD. Too bad the movie itself is a bit of a clunker. While I didn’t hate HM, I thought it was a fairly weak film that didn’t remotely live up to its potential. The DVD, on the other hand, is stellar. It combines absolutely fantastic picture and sound with a slew of compelling extras. Because I’m not wild about the movie itself, I can’t recommend this DVD with any gusto, but it’s such a great package that fans of the genre should check it out nonetheless.

To rate this film, visit the Superbit review of HOLLOW MAN

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