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20TH CENTURY FOX

MOVIE INFO
Director:
John Polson
Cast:
Jesse Bradford, Erika Christensen, Shiri Appleby, Kate Burton, Clayne Crawford, Jason Ritter
Writing Credits:
Charles F. Bohl & Phillip Schneider

Tagline:
Obsession. Betrayal. Revenge. Some girls have all the fun.
Box Office:
Budget $8.5 million.
Opening weekend $11.326 million on 2856 screens.
Domestic gross $28.563 million.
MPAA:
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements, sexual content, disturbing images and language.

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Surround
Spanish Dolby Surround
Subtitles:
English, Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 85 min.
Price: $27.98
Release Date: 3/11/2003

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary With Director John Polson and Actors Jesse Bradford and Erika Christensen
• Deleted/Extended Scenes With Optional Director’s Commentary
• “Girlfriend From Hell” Featurette
28 Days Later Trailer


PURCHASE
DVD
Music soundtrack

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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


Swimfan (2002)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 6, 2003)

Call it Fatal Attraction for the teen crowd. 2002’s Swimfan takes the concept of the obsessed female stalker into the 21st century, as it transplants the scenario into the world of high school and Internet chat rooms. Unfortunately, the setting offers the only semi-novel aspect of the film, as the rest of it seems trite and tired.

Set in northern New Jersey, Swimfan introduces us to high school senior Ben Cronin (Jesse Bradford), his school’s top swimmer. Despite some drug problems a few years earlier, Ben set himself right and may earn a scholarship to Stanford if he performs well at an upcoming meet. Ben dates cute and chipper Amy (Shiri Appleby), and the two clearly adore each other. In

Into this domain steps a new transfer student, Madison Bell (Erika Christensen). She meets Ben when he helps her open her locker. Some chemistry ignites, and the pair clearly have the hots for each other. While Ben initially resists Madison’s charms, he eventually gives in, and the pair get it on during a swim.

Ben makes it clear to Madison that this was a one-time thing and he will stick with Amy, but she doesn’t get it. She begins to cyber-stalk him with instant messages and e-mails, and she slowly starts to make her presence known in other ways. As the film progresses, Madison continually ups the ante to make Ben go with her, and this leads to many unpleasant scenarios.

If you know the genre, you’ll not find a single surprise in SwimFan. Predictable to the extreme, the movie actually progresses reasonably well during its early moments. That’s largely due to the presence of the more than competent young actors. Bradford lacks the spark he brought to 2000’s Bring It On, and his spooky resemblance to Donny Osmond still gives me the creeps, but he offers decent charm as Jesse.

Christensen brings the most to her role, at least in the earlier scenes. She lends a nicely understated lack of balance to Madison. We feel that something ain’t right with the girl, but she doesn’t make her future psychotic behavior totally obvious.

Unfortunately, director John Polson does telegraph pretty much every other element of the movie. Admittedly, anyone who saw the trailer or knows anything about the flick will see where the story will go, but Polson doesn’t have to make everything quite so obvious. To ensure we’ll become aware of potential menace, he zooms in on elements that will later become important. For example, as soon as we get a shot of Ben’s missing car keys, we feel very sure what will soon occur. All these plot points appear far too obvious.

Add to that some weak editing choices – Polson uses jump cuts whenever Madison becomes confronted in a failed attempt to make these scenes more edgy – and a third act that turns way too absurd. Swimfan doesn’t offer the worst thriller I’ve seen, but it doesn’t provide anything new. Warmed-over stories can work fine, but they need some real panache, and Swimfan lacks anything positive to make it stand out from the crowd.


The DVD Grades: Picture B / Audio B / Bonus B

Swimfan appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 and in a fullscreen version on this double-sided, single-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. Overall, the image seemed satisfying, but a few issues knocked it down from the level of greatness.

Sharpness consistently appeared positive. I noticed no concerns related to softness at any time. Instead, the flick remained distinct and detailed from start to finish. Jagged edges presented no problems, but I noticed more shimmering than normal, and I also saw a smidgen of light edge enhancement. As for other flaws, I witnessed a few specks along with a couple marks and at least one small streak. I also felt some scenes demonstrated a little artifacting.

Most of Swimfan featured a fairly stylized palette. Especially as it progressed, the image became more desaturated, and a cool blue appearance showed up much of the time. For what it attempted, the DVD demonstrated nicely clean and accurate hues. They never jumped off the screen, but they remained solid and precise. Black levels looked dark and deep, while shadow detail was well rendered. Low-light sequences showed good delineation and accuracy. Ultimately, the picture of Swimfan mostly looked very positive.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Swimfan did little wrong, but it earned a “B” due to its general lack of ambition. The mix presented a fairly subdued piece that emphasized the forward domain. Music showed positive stereo imaging and created a reasonably smooth and accurate sense of atmosphere. Not much occurred, but the feeling of environment was fine across the board. Surround usage tended to generally reinforce the forward channels, which it did adequately.

Audio quality appeared good. Speech came across as natural and crisp, as I noticed no issues related to edginess or intelligibility. Music generally appeared clear and bright. Some of the track’s loud rock songs sounded a bit rough at times, though. They demonstrated good bass but seemed over-amped and too prominent. Effects were clean and accurate, and they showed appropriate low-end response. In the end, the audio of Swimfan didn’t wow me, but it worked fine for the material.

The DVD’s supplements start with an audio commentary from director John Polson and actors Jesse Bradford and Erika Christensen. All three sat together for this running, screen-specific affair. Why do lame movies elicit so much praise from their participants? I don’t know, but that trend holds true for SwimFan.

On the positive side, the commentary includes a fair number of moderately interesting details about the production. The speakers discuss excised material as well as locations, editing, cinematography and other nuts and bolts pieces. The actors relate some information about their preparation for their roles, and the piece boasts a peppy energy. Unfortunately, all of this comes with scads of praise for the flick and everything about it. The word “genius” appears many more times than it should, especially since “genius” and SwimFan bear no relationship to each other. Despite some useful material at times, the track as a whole seems too gushy to be a success.

Next we find a collection of 10 deleted and extended scenes. Viewable individually or together via the “Play All” option, they run a total of 12 minutes and 20 seconds. Don’t expect anything major here, as most of the clips simply reinforce notions already strongly present in the final film. We can also examine the excised material along with commentary from director Polson. While he pours on gobs of praise, he also gives us the reasons behind the cuts along with some other decent notes.

In addition to a trailer for 28 Days Later, Swimfan finishes with a featurette called The Girlfriend From Hell. This 10-minute and 22-second piece provides the standard combination of movie clips and interviews. We hear from actors Shiri Appleby, Jesse Bradford and Erika Christensen, director John Polson, producer John Penotti, and co-producer Marcy Drogin. Though clearly promotional in nature, “Girlfriend” comes across as a little more useful than most of these featurettes. We get a decent emphasis on character, as the actors briefly discuss their roles and issues related to them. Much of the program just touts the flick and relates the plot, but I still think “Girlfriend” seems somewhat better than average for this sort of show.

(Note: while the commentary appears alongside both the widescreen and fullscreen versions of the film, the deleted scenes show up only on the widescreen side of the DVD. The featurette and the trailer accompany the fullscreen cut on the other side.)

A fairly lifeless and ludicrous attempt at a thriller, Swimfan offers a few sparks from its actors. Otherwise, it simply rehashes the same old Fatal Attraction theme but without much flair or creativity. The DVD provides generally positive picture and sound plus a fairly nice little roster of extras. If you liked Swimfan, you should enjoy this DVD, but I can’t recommend it to others.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5714 Stars Number of Votes: 21
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