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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Brett Leonard
Cast:
Pierce Brosnan, Jeff Fahey, Jenny Wright, Geoffrey Lewis
Writing Credits:
Brett Leonard, Gimel Everett

Synopsis:
A simple man is turned into a genius through the application of computer science.

MPAA:
Rated R/Not Rated

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 108 min. (Theatrical)
141 min. (Director’s Cut)
Price: $34.93
Release Date: 6/20/2017

Bonus:
• Both Theatrical and Director’s Cuts of Film
• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Brett Leonard and Writer/Producer Gimel Everett
• “Cyber God” Documentary
• Deleted Scenes
• Original EPK
• Edited Animated Sequences
• Conceptual Art and Design Sketches
• Behind the Scenes/Production Stills
• Storyboard Comparison
• Trailer and TV Spot
• Easter Egg


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EQUIPMENT
Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


The Lawnmower Man: Collector's Edition [Blu-Ray] (1992)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 6, 2017)

Very loosely adapted from Stephen King’s 1975 short story, 1992’s The Lawnmower Man focuses on the world of virtual reality. Dr. Lawrence Angelo (Pierce Brosnan) conducts experiments that meld VR with pharmaceuticals in attempts to enhance intelligence.

Dr. Angelo’s work shows promise but his trials with animals hit a dead end. Desperate to make his studies succeed, Dr. Angelo decides to utilize a human subject: Jobe Smith (Jeff Fahey), an intellectually disabled groundskeeper. Dr. Angelo enjoys success with Jobe, but the experiments eventually come back to haunt him when Jobe goes into a darker, more malevolent frame of mind.

As noted, Man has connections to a King short story, but apparently the movie version didn’t make the author very happy. Originally promoted as Stephen King’s Lawnmower Man, the writer sued to get his name removed from the project because he felt it boasted no real connection to his work.

Which appears to be true, as only minor parts of the film echo the original story, and not enough to allow New Line to win the lawsuit. Because of this, the name “Stephen King” appears nowhere on the Blu-ray’s packaging, though I do seem to recall the film being sold as a King property back in 1992.

Would King have been so eager to distance himself from Man if he’d liked the film? Maybe, as I have to believe the quality of the movie impacted his decision.

I saw Man back in 1992 and expected to like it. The story sounded creative back in those nascent days of cyber-whatever, and its promise of “cutting edge” computer graphics added to the intrigue.

When I actually watched Man, though, I hated it – I absolutely loathed it and considered it one of the worst movies I’d ever seen.

That was precisely half my life ago, so I’d obviously seen a lot fewer movies at 25 than I have at 50. Given all the water under the proverbial bridge, I left myself open to the possibility that I overreacted when I first saw Man and that maybe it might be entertaining after all.

Nope. While I may no longer muster the same level of indignation with which I greeted Man in 1992, my 25-year-old self got it right: this is a terrible movie.

It’s easy to pick on the film’s atrocious computer graphics, and one might wonder if these criticisms seem fair. After all, 1992 was still pretty early in the CG game, so maybe I should cut the graphics some slack.

Which I would if I’d not thought they looked terrible 25 years ago. Sure, the CG looks even worse now than it did in 1992, but make no mistake: the visuals always seemed cheesy and cheap, so it’s not just age that renders them problematic.

Boy, are the CG images a concern, one that could’ve single-handedly harpooned the movie. These graphics are acceptable when presented as part of a videogame, but when the film tries to make them more “reality-based”, they turn into an active issue.

This becomes most obvious when Jobe uses his new mental powers to wreak havoc. For example, Jobe causes another character to become engulfed in flames, and the film uses CG fire.

I felt confused at this sight. Did the victim of the attack suffer from some sort of VR flames that were supposed to look like CG, or was the fire intended to appear realistic?

The former possibility seems more acceptable, as we can swallow the graphics if they weren’t meant to look real. It’s completely unclear, though, so I’m left with the probability that the movie just used horrible CG fire that we’re supposed to believe as organic flames.

Even if we ignore the laughably bad computer graphics, Lawnmower Man flops because it provides such an incompetent movie. The characters never become more than thin archetypes, and the script packs the film with roles who exist solely so Jobe can get revenge on them.

Apparently a high percentage of jerks live in this town, and they all treat Jobe poorly. This occurs as nothing more than a convenient trope to allow Jobe to run wild when he enters his god-like state – the mean-spirited characters serve no other narrative purpose.

Not that we get much of a plot anyway, as Dr. Angelo’s work never makes much sense and gets explored in an unconvincing manner. Honestly, it usually feels like the entire story exists just to get to the violence in the third act – and to showcase those “awesome” computer graphics.

Because of the muddled, meandering script, the movie plods along with little to sustain our interest, and the actors don’t help, as they overplay their parts at every turn. This becomes especially true for Fahey, as he makes Jobe into nothing more than a cartoon simpleton.

Given the level of incompetence on display here, I shouldn’t single out Fahey, but he really does offer a terrible performance. He makes Jobe a 40-year-old man’s idea of how a seven-year-old boy acts, and he never feels natural or believable. Granted, Hollywood usually gets intellectually disabled characters wrong, but Jobe misses the mark more than most.

Honestly, I find it tough to locate any positives on display in Lawnmower Man. I later came to appreciate some movies I disliked in my younger days, but this isn’t one of them, as Lawnmower Man offers a thoroughly awful cinematic experience.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus B+

The Lawnmower Man appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The movie generally looked fine but could show its age.

Sharpness appeared positive most of the time. Interiors showed some softness, but not to a substantial degree. Instead, the majority of the flick provided pretty good clarity and accuracy.

I saw no issues with jaggies or shimmering, and edge haloes remained absent. In terms of print flaws, I saw a couple of small specks, but these remained very infrequent and virtually negligible.

Circa 1992 film stocks didn’t boast the greatest colors, and the hues seen here could be a little heavy at times – especially in terms of blue lighting. Still, they usually appeared fairly well-rendered. Blacks seemed dark and tight, and shadows presented good delineation. Overall, this was a satisfactory transfer for a 25-year-old movie.

As for the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, it worked fine give its age. Though much of the soundscape remained restrained and focused on music and environmental domains, the mix came to life during the virtual reality sequences.

Those action-oriented segments became the most immersive of the movie, but I can’t claim they became great. While they brought out a bit of pizzazz, they didn’t do a ton to impress. Still, the soundfield appeared more than acceptable in general.

Audio quality was also positive. Music showed fairly good range and pep, and effects boasted reasonable accuracy and clarity. Speech became natural and concise. Though I couldn’t call this a great mix, it suited the film well enough.

The package includes a good array of extras, and we find two editions of the film. In addition to the theatrical version (1:48:03) on Disc One, we get a Director’s Cut (2:20:53) on Disc Two. My movie comments in the body of the review address the theatrical edition – how does the Director’s Cut differ?

The longer version expands on characters, and the longest sequence introduces Jobe earlier than in the theatrical cut. He meets one of Dr. Lorenzo’s simian test subjects and see aspects of the chimp’s abilities. Other aspects simply flesh out matters a little bit.

Does any of this material make the Lawnmower Man Director’s Cut superior to the theatrical version? Yes, as the longer take manages to create a better developed experience.

Unfortunately, the added footage can’t turn Man into a good movie. While the longer edition manages to feel more complete, it’s still silly, unconvincing and dull.;

Alongside both versions of the film, we get an audio commentary from writer/director Brett Leonard and writer/producer Gimel Everett. Note that the same track appears for both cuts but the shorter version of the film simply edits the commentary.

Both Leonard and Evertt sit together for this running, screen-specific discussion. Originally recorded for a 1990s laserdisc, they look at the roots of the project and its development, cast and performances, visual effects, sets and locations, budgetary issues, changes for the Director’s Cut, production design, and related topics.

Overall, this turns into an informative chat. Although Leonard and Everett can turn too self-congratulatory about the movie’s “pioneering” effects, they still touch on a lot of noteworthy subjects and create a solid chat that’s held up well since the 1990s.

Note that neither here nor anywhere else on the Blu-ray will you hear “Stephen King” uttered. Clearly this results from legal issues – Leonard and Everett refer to the short story’s “famous writer” but never say his name. The documentary doesn’t even allude to King in that oblique manner.

While Leonard/Everett do discuss the short story, they never mention the controversies and law suits, and the documentary avoids the subject as well. Again, I assume this stems from legal settlements, as everyone seems so careful to avoid the topic that it must be due to those ramifications.

Disc One brings us Cyber God – Creating The Lawnmower Man. In this 50-minute, 40-second show, we hear from Leonard, Beyond Fear author Joseph Maddrey, editor Alan Baumgarten, makeup effects Michael Deak, special effects coordinator Frank Ceglia, and actor Jeff Fahey. “God” examines the source and its adaptation, story/character areas, cast and performances, cinematography and production design, sets and locations, editing, various effects, music/audio, the Director’s Cut and the film’s release.

Despite the semi-limited roster of participants, “God” offers a fairly good look at the time. While we get too many stories repeated from the commentary, a fair amount of new material arrives, and all that makes “God” a worthwhile documentary.

12 Deleted Scenes fill a total of 27 minutes 30 seconds. These offer the same clips found in the Director’s Cut – I don’t think any unique footage appears in this compilation. I’m glad we can check out this material on its own, but it’s redundant if you’ve already watched the Director’s Cut.

With the Original Electronic Press Kit, we find a four-minute, 43-second reel and involves Fahey, Leonard, and actor Pierce Brosnan. They mull over the future of virtual reality as well as the movie’s effects. Other than a few shots from the set, this becomes a forgettable promotional effort.

Next we get Edited Animated Sequences. This section lasts four minutes, 15 seconds and shows a reel of CG elements displayed separate from their movie context. This doesn’t add up to much.

We also locate a theatrical trailer and a TV spot. I have the feeling these clips got Stephen King’s name clumsily excised from them, as some odd gaps in narration occur. For instance, the TV spot starts with “comes another shock to the system”, a line that makes more sense if prefaced with “from Stephen King”.

Disc One finishes with an Easter Egg. Click to the right of “Setup” on the main menu and an icon activates. This lets you view a 33-second promo for a Lawnmower Man videogame.

With that, we head to Disc Two, which focuses on stillframe materials. We find Conceptual Art and Design Sketches (32 screens) and Behind the Scenes/Production Stills (84). Both offer some decent images.

The set ends with a Storyboard Comparison. It runs one-minute, 54-seconds and shows one VR sequence. The presentation makes it less than engaging, as it uses a 1.33:1 ratio that makes both the movie scene and the boards awfully small and fuzzy.

Stephen King sued to get his name taken off of The Lawnmower Man, and I can’t blame him. I wouldn’t want to be attached to such an idiotic, incompetent movie, either. The Blu-ray provides mostly positive picture and audio as well as a nice set of supplements. I like this package but the movie itself remains terrible.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1.5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main