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COLUMBIA TRISTAR

MOVIE INFO
Director:
Paul Verhoeven
Cast:
Elisabeth Shue, Kevin Bacon, Josh Brolin, Kim Dickens, Greg Grunberg
Screenplay:
Andrew W. Marlowe, Gary Scott Thompson

Tagline:
Think You're Alone? Think Again.
Box Office:
Budget $95 million.
Opening weekend $26.414 million on 2956 screens.
Domestic gross $73.209 million.
MPAA:
Rated R for strong violence, language and some sexuality/nudity.

Academy Awards:
Nominated for Best Visual Effects.

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
Subtitles:
English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Thai, Korean
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 112 min.
Price: $28.95
Release Date: 5/28/2002

Bonus:
Disc One
• Superbit Feature Film
Disc Two
• HBO Making Of: "Anatomy of a Thriller"
• 3 Deleted Scenes
• "Fleshing out the Hollow Man" - 15 Behind the Scenes Featurette
• VFX Picture-In-Picture Comparisons
• Theatrical Trailers
• Filmographies


PURCHASE
DVD
Score soundtrack

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EQUIPMENT
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RELATED REVIEWS


Hollow Man: Superbit Deluxe Edtion (2000)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

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.

As the movie starts, Sebastian 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 film The 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 descent toward violence as tragic or unexpected. Bacon offers a very solid portrayal of Caine, as he provides more depth than exists in the written part, 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 absent 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 would 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 apparent 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 A / Audio A / Bonus B+

Hollow Man appears in its original theatrical aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the picture has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. . This disc represented the second DVD release of Hollow Man. The original DVD came out about 16 months prior to this one and it crammed two audio commentaries and a lot of video extras onto its single platter. Nonetheless, it still offered an excellent visual presentation.

However, apparently the good folks at Columbia-Tristar (CTS) thought they could improve upon that effort. Hollow Man - as well as some other films - has been reissued as part of their “Superbit” collection. According to the booklet that accompanied some other Superbit DVDs, this line offers “the highest standard for picture and sound available on DVD” with “higher bit rate for better picture resolution than standard DVD”.

Those are some lofty goals - will the DVDs reach them? After all, Hollow Man already looked very good. Overall, I found that the new Superbit version of the movie did improve upon the original presentation, but only in small ways.

Sharpness appeared virtually flawless throughout the film. At no point did I detect any soft or hazy shots, and the entire movie looked crisp and well defined. Moiré effects and jagged edges seemed absent, and I also noticed no signs of edge enhancement. Print flaws also appeared virtually non-existent. I saw no evidence of any grain, speckles, tears, grit, hairs, scratches or other defects; the film seemed clean and fresh.

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 great.

How did I feel the Superbit version surpassed the single-disc package? It seemed moderately tighter and smoother. While the old one looked great, this one simply appeared somewhat more vivid and three-dimensional. What was already solid became truly outstanding. I didn’t think the improvements were strong enough to merit an increase in my grade from an “A” to an “A+”, but I felt very impressed by the Superbit picture nonetheless.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks of Hollow Man were as strong as the picture. The soundfield consistently provided very active audio from all five speakers. Actually, it took awhile for the surrounds to really kick into overdrive; the mix doesn’t become really overwhelming until the action throttles up toward the climax. However, the audio presented lots of great ambient information even during quieter scenes. Music spread quite nicely to the rears, and general sounds from the environments appeared excellent. 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 place. 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 terrific. 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 cranks his car stereo, as the songs blasted clearly and with power. Effects are similarly fantastic. No matter how loud the mix became, these components always remained accurate and free of distortion. All parts of the track boasted absolutely stellar bass. The low end of the film seemed wonderfully warm and rich, and it lacked any distortion or flaws. It didn’t quite match up to the high standards set by the DTS edition of The Haunting - it remains the all-time DVD champ for bass - but Hollow Man presented lots of depth nonetheless.

I have only one complaint about the soundtrack, and it relates to the soundfield itself. (This may include a spoiler - be warned!) During the climax, sprinklers go off and surround us quite convincingly. However, while the sprinklers are still active, some other actions take place. These other sounds are not well integrated with the sprinklers; the latter take a back seat and become less prominent. It seemed artificial and awkward. The moments only last 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.

The original DVD only included the Dolby Digital mix; the DTS track is unique to this new disc. Did I hear any differences? Actually, the DTS version did seem slightly superior. It packed even stronger low-end punch, and the soundfield appeared a little better integrated, with more cleanly blended audio. I preferred the DTS track, but I didn’t feel the differences were significant enough to warrant a variation in grade between the two; they remained very similar.

Hollow Man comes as part of CTS’s new “Superbit Deluxe” line. The first few waves of Superbit titles totally omitted any supplements, which was the main complaint against them. The Deluxe discs offer an attempt for DVD fans to have their cake and eat it too, as they provide the same space-optimization behind all SB packages along with some supplements.

However, don’t expect a perfect world, for the Deluxe version of Hollow Man still omits some extras from the original disc. I’ll get to those later; first I’ll cover what we do find on the new release. 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.

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. Two of these - the seconds 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. The first two pieces last for 75 and 70 seconds, respectively, while the final one runs six minutes and 20 seconds.

A few DVD stand-bys finish this terrific package. We find the “teaser” and the theatrical trailer for Hollow Man. The DVD completes with a couple of basic weblinks and the usual bare-bones Filmographies for Verhoeven and actors Bacon, Shue, and Brolin.

So what does the Superbit Deluxe edition of Hollow Man omit from the original? In addition to some production notes from the DVD’s booklet, we lose two alternate audio tracks. The old release offered an isolated score that included comments from composer Jerry Goldsmith. It also featured a solid commentary from director Paul Verhoeven, actor Kevin Bacon, and writer Andrew Marlow. Lastly, the DVD omits “Talent Files” for actors William Devane and Joey Slotnick as well as trailers for fellow CTS films Starship Troopers, A Few Good Men, and Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.

While the other material seems inessential, those two audio tracks gave us a lot of good information, and they go missed here. Personally, I think CTS should compromise the Superbit concept to a minor degree to include audio commentaries. They take up little space and would likely make exceedingly little difference in regard to the movie’s picture and sound quality. Otherwise, CTS could also simply replicate the original disc for the second DVD; make the first platter a normal Superbit presentation and just plop the old disc in the second slot. It’d be the best of both worlds, and it’d probably be cheaper; CTS wouldn’t have to bother with any new disc creation for the extras package.

Nonetheless, the “Superbit Deluxe” line is a step in the right direction. The new release of Hollow Man doesn’t eliminate all of the concerns I had about prior discs, but at least it packages most of the original DVD’s extras. Too bad the movie itself is a bit of a clunker. While I didn’t hate Hollow, I thought it presented a fairly weak film that didn’t remotely live up to its potential. The DVD, on the other hand, appears stellar. It combines absolutely fantastic picture and sound with a nice roster of compelling extras.

Hollow Man is a tough recommendation to make, and not simply because I didn’t particularly like the movie. For those who might enjoy it, the question becomes which DVD to get: the original or the Superbit Deluxe one. While both provided excellent picture and sound, the Superbit one did slightly surpass the old release in both areas. However, the single-disc version provided the superior collection of supplements since it provided two audio commentaries. If those don’t matter to you, then I’d definitely sway you toward the Superbit edition; it shows the film to its best advantage. However, audio commentary fans will probably be happier with the original version; it provides nearly equivalent image and sound as well as the full roster of extras.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 33
35:
114:
10 3:
12:
81:
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