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BUENA VISTA

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Robert Rodriguez
Cast:
Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara, Ricardo Montalban, Holland Taylor, Sylvester Stallone, Mike Judge
Writing Credits:
Robert Rodriguez

Tagline:
3rd Mission. 3rd Dimension.

Synopsis:
Carmen's caught in a virtual reality game designed by the Kids' new nemesis, the Toymaker (Sylvester Stallone). It's up to Juni to save his sister, and ultimately the world.

Box Office:
Budget
$39 million.
Opening Weekend
$33.417 million on 3344 screens.
Domestic Gross
$111.760 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 84 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 2/24/2004

Bonus:
Disc One
• Audio Commentary with Director Robert Rodriguez
• 3-D Set Top Game
• Ten Minute Film School
• Alexa Vega In Concert
• Sneak Peeks
Disc Two
• “The Making of Spy Kids 3-D
• “The Effects of the Game” Featurette
• “Making Tracks with Alexa Vega” Featurette
• “Surfing and Stunts” Multi-Angle Program
• “Big Dink, Little Dink” Featurette


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EQUIPMENT
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.

RELATED REVIEWS


Spy Kids 3D: Game Over (2003)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 18, 2004)

With a total gross of more than a billion dollars in the US, the Lord of the Rings flicks set the bar for modern film trilogies. In comparison, the $308 million total raked in by the three Spy Kids flicks looks pretty puny. However, when one considers that all three of those movies cost a total of $113 million – or only $1 million more than the gross of the first film - then they start to present a much rosier picture.

Decidedly profitable, 2001’s Spy Kids and 2002’s Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams also proved to be quite entertaining for both younger audiences and adults. Would the final part of the trilogy – 2003’s Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over - live up to those standards?

No - Over ends the trilogy on a disappointing note. At the start of the flick, we re-encounter young Juni Cortez (Daryl Sabara). We learn he no longer works as a secret agent for the OSS. Disillusioned, he went independent and acts as a private investigator for kids. He saves money to buy an impressive new virtual reality game called Game Over that all the kids crave.

Since his family still works for the OSS, he doesn’t see them much, though the agency constantly pesters him to return. They succeed when he hears from President Devlin (George Clooney). Juni learns his sister Carmen (Alexa Vega) got captured and that Game Over is a trap; it takes over players’ minds. Carmen’s stuck inside it; she attempted to hack it for OSS but was imprisoned mentally.

Juni needs to shut down the game within 12 hours before it goes live and millions of others suffer Carmen’s fate. However, Juni can’t capture the Toymaker (Sylvester Stallone), the one behind it. The OSS imprisoned him in cyberspace, and he created the game as his revenge. Juni needs to get Carmen out but leave behind the Toymaker.

Over simply follows all Juni’s efforts to save his sister and foil the game. The movie doesn’t present any plot more complex than that, and it really fails to feel like part of the Spy Kids series. Mastermind director Robert Rodriguez came up with the story as something independent of the series and didn’t create it with Spy Kids in mind. One can feel that dissociation as one watches Over, for it really doesn’t connect with the style of the earlier flicks at all.

During his audio commentary, Rodriguez discusses criticisms that the film received along these lines. He states that he doesn’t see the lack of cohesion as an issue because he doesn’t want to make the same movie over and over again. That’s fine, but if you make something as part of a film series, it needs to have something to do with the earlier movies. Otherwise, it feels like you just took the brand name and slapped it onto an unrelated product.

That’s the impression that Over gave me. As he mentions in the commentary, Rodriguez made it a Spy Kids movie as a matter of convenience. Whereas a film separate from that universe would require lots of exposition, here he could just dive in and get to the flick’s video game world. That may have saved him time, but it doesn’t make the end result any more compelling. If anything, the lack of exposition and development lends Over an even more mercenary air.

The flick really does come across as a video game brought to life, but I don’t mean that as much of a compliment. Actually, lots of modern video games present intricate, movie-style plots, but Over eschews those. Instead, it just presents a series of “levels” that don’t relate much to each other. There’s no real story or depth; it’s all about the action and effects.

And it’s about the 3-D as well. This makes the movie feel quite gimmicky. To a degree, it seems to have no reason to exist other than to present lots of wacky 3-D effects. As all sorts of elements fly out of the screen, one occasionally will feel like one’s stuck in a big-budget episode of the Dr. Tongue flicks from SCTV.

Those who want to dig some 3-D will get a kick out of Over. For maximum dimensionality, you need to adjust your set’s picture, but if it’s properly calibrated, you should be good to go. The 3-D elements brought out nice depth and seemed pretty effective. I didn’t get a great sense of things that popped out of the screen, but the picture demonstrated a good feeling of dimensionality that created layers. It wasn’t dazzling, but it functioned well.

Unfortunately, nutty effects and 3-D are all Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over offer. The movie presents a sketchy plot that does little more than emulate a long video game. It suffers from a terribly anti-climactic ending and lacks any of the heart and charm found during the first two movies. Essentially just one big gimmick, Over presents some decent set pieces, but the package as a whole falls flat.

Footnote: be sure to stick around through the finish of the end credits. A fun treat awaits you there.


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

Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over 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. In an interesting touch, this set included both the 3-D and 2-D versions of the flick. For review purposes, I went with the 3-D edition, as this seemed to be the one most people would want to watch.

The 3-D properties made it an unusual piece to examine, though, as it definitely was tougher to rate in the usual ways. After all, I try to compare the quality of each disc to those of the film’s peers, but what other 3-D movies from this era are on DVD? None that I’ve seen, so Over stands on its own.

Shot digitally, I believe that the DVD replicated the source material accurately, but the form of photography created many problems. For one, sharpness always seemed off to a certain degree. The vast majority of the film took place in the 3-D world; not counting the end credits, maybe 12 minutes of the rest used standard 2-D photography. Surprisingly, those elements looked a bit soft and fuzzy. The 3-D shots were worse, but at least they had an excuse. Close-ups seemed reasonably crisp, but anything else started to appear ill defined and somewhat blurry.

At least no issues with jagged edges, shimmering or edge enhancement seemed present. Haloes definitely appeared, but those were connected to the 3-D photography. Source flaws also failed to show up, which made sense since Over never saw a frame of film.

Mainly because of the 3-D techniques, colors never remotely looked accurate. Each scene tended to favor one hue more than the others. One sequence might be mostly blue, while another would lean toward yellow and a third would go green. The 2-D shots were more realistic, but they still showed somewhat flat and lackluster tones. The effects of the 3-D glasses also influenced black levels. Once again, the 3-D styles made it tough to judge the accuracy of various elements, and dark tones tended to pick up the colors of the scene. Low-light shots were essentially non-existent within the movie’s videogame world.

As I mentioned earlier, I found it exceedingly tough to objectively rate Game Over. It looked ugly, but the 3-D technology made that appearance inevitable. On one hand, I didn’t feel comfortable giving the DVD a high grade simply because it wasn’t an attractive film. On the other, it didn’t deserve a terrible mark because the DVD replicated the source material and all its issues. I ended up with a “C+” but don’t take that as the be-all and end-all; ultimately, I felt the disc demonstrated the film about as well as it could.

Footnote related to the 2-D version: it runs a couple of minutes shorter than the 3-D edition. That’s because the latter includes a prologue with Alan Cumming as Floop. He gives us a quick piece of backstory and discusses the use of the 3-D glasses. The 2-D cut omits these scenes.

No caveats greeted the excellent Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Spy Kids 3: Game Over. The soundfield worked very well and added a lot to the film. Audio moved nicely across all five channels, and the different speakers displayed a lot of activities throughout the entire movie. Music demonstrated solid stereo imaging, and effects were placed appropriately in the spectrum. They transitioned neatly between speakers, and the surrounds added a good level of involvement to the package. The many action sequences gave the track an opportunity to shine, and the mix created a fairly seamless and involving piece. Given the flick’s videogame setting, the soundfield didn’t need to worry about realism, so the surrounds tossed in lots of great material. Many effects as well as a lot of dialogue popped up from the rear, and those bits helped make it exciting and ambitious.

Audio quality also seemed positive. While the first two flicks demonstrated some minor issues connected to dialogue, they failed to pop up here. Speech was consistently concise and distinctive, and none of the prior hollowness marred the lines. The score was tight and vivid, with nice range. Effects were accurate and vivid, as they lacked any issues related to distortion and also showed fine bass response. Low-end seemed tight and rich and kicked down the doors when necessary. Ultimately, the audio of Spy Kids 3 seemed very positive.

This “Collector’s Edition” of Spy Kids 3 packs a sizable roster of extras. We start on DVD One with a very brisk audio commentary with director Robert Rodriguez. Fans who’ve heard Rodriguez’s many prior commentaries will know what to expect here. He offers a running, sporadically screen-specific piece and rarely comes up for air. Almost no empty spaces occur, so when one does pop up, it comes as a shock.

Rodriguez goes over just about everything you could want to know about the flick, or at least as much as he can fit into a 84-minute movie. He chats about his thoughts for the story, working with the actors, composing the score, editing, using digital technology, and issues connected to the 3-D. This piece seems more technologically oriented than Rodriguez’s other ones, but that doesn’t create problems. He seems lively and engaging and covers the appropriate issues well in this solid commentary.

Up next comes yet another installation of Rodriguez’s Ten Minute Film School. The nine-minute and 52-second piece follows the same format of prior efforts. We watch quick film clips as well as raw footage while Rodriguez talks about the different elements. Most of the program concentrates on the extensive use of green screen, but he gets into some other bits like 3-D and visual decisions. In an odd touch, the last few minutes gets into tips for improving your home movies. It’s another brisk and informative piece that entertains and tells us some nice notes.

After this we find Alexa Vega In Concert. This presents the actress’s performances of three songs: “Game Over” (three minutes, 32 seconds), “Heart Drive” (3:32), and “Isle of Dreams” (2:57). We see some footage of the Austin premiere – from which these songs come – and mostly watch Vega as she performs. It’s not terribly interesting, though boy has Vega grown up since the first movie! She’s a real babe in the making.

Both discs one and two include a Set Top Game, though it’s presented in 3-D on platter one. This racing contest requires you to make directional choices ala Dragon’s Lair. It doesn’t seem very interesting.

The Sneak Peeks area offers promos for Ella Enchanted, Spy Kids, Spy Kids 2, the Spy Kids online store, the Spy Kids video game, the Brighter Child CD-ROM, the Spy Kids 3-D soundtrack CD, Brother Bear and Haunted Mansion.

As we head to DVD Two, we open with The Making of Spy Kids 3-D. This 21-minute and 13-second program presents the standard mix of production clips, movie snippets, and interviews. We hear from Rodriguez, 3-D expert Jeff Joseph, producer Elizabeth Avellan, visual effects artist Rodney Brunet, and actors Vega, Sylvester Stallone, Daryl Sabara, Ricardo Montalban, Ryan Pinkston, Bobby Edner, Courtney Jines, Bill Paxton, Alan Cumming, Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, Emily Osment, Holland Taylor, Salma Hayek and Steve Buscemi. It includes some general story and production notes plus a brief history of 3-D movies. That part’s moderately interesting, and we see a few decent shots from the production. Unfortunately, it’s mostly just a generic promotional piece that touts the film and congratulates many involved; it can easily be skipped.

After this we find The Effects of the Game. It runs six minutes and 42 seconds as it presents a study of the flick’s visual effects. Actually, “study” probably isn’t the right term, as the program includes no notes or narration about the work for the first five minutes. Instead, we see a mix of raw elements and final shots, and the program morphs between the two versions. During the final 102 seconds, we see CG animatics and Rodriguez tells us a little about them. Overall, this provides a cool look at the various elements.

A short look at the audio recording, Making Trax with Alexa Vega runs a mere 61 seconds. We see her tape one of the film’s songs. Notably, the piece lets us hear some of her bum notes, but it’s not very useful or interesting otherwise.

For a multi-angle feature, we go to Surfing and Stunts. It lets you jump between storyboards, green screen shots, and the final product; each segment lasts 68 seconds. I’d like to get a screen that shows all three options at the same time, but this is still a good way to depict the various stages for the scene.

Lastly, Big Dink, Little Dink fills 101 seconds. We get some quick notes from actor Bill Paxton about reprising the role from Spy Kids 2 as well as the involvement of his son James. We see a few decent shots from the production, but this clip seems generally insubstantial.

Although I liked the first two movies in the series, Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over falls flat. It includes a few good action pieces but feels like nothing more than a bunch of random events tenuously connected without a real story, charm or spark. The DVD replicates the original 3-D image fairly well, though the format makes the image look less than stellar. The soundtrack seems fantastic, however, and the DVD packs a pretty solid roster of extras highlighted by yet another excellent commentary from Robert Rodriguez. Families may want to give Game Over a look, for their kids will probably dig it, but the movie lacks the broad cross-generational appeal of its predecessors.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.2909 Stars Number of Votes: 55
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