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Rated: R (Violence, A Scene Of Strong Sexuality, Language and Drug Use)
Running Time: 94 minutes
Starring: Mekhi Phifer, Josh Hartnett, Julia Stiles, Elden Hanson, Andrew Keegan, Rain Phoenix, Anthony "A.J." Johnson with John Heard and Martin Sheen
Screenplay by: Brad Kaaya
Directed by: Tim Blake Nelson
Studio: Lions Gate Entertainment/Trimark
Retail Price: $24.99
Specs: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, 1.33:1 Pan and Scan, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Chapter Index (24 Chapters)
Released: February 19th, 2002
On the first disc, we have "O" presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 pan and scan. Choose your preference, but like always I go with the widescreen... it's just better as Nelson's true vision is not completley butchered. In any case, we have fine, though flawed transfers here. Colors are pretty strong and solid, but sometimes I felt they were a bit undersaturated or that they didn't quite light up the image as I hoped they would. Detail and black levels here bring a nice thickness to things. I noticed some of the "halo" effect at times during the movie around characters. It isn't much, but it's still there, and that effect always annoys me to death for some reason. There was also some noticeable grain, not to mention a decent deal of blemishes and dirt. Still, I found the transfers to get better as the film moved along, and in the end, despite the flaws, each are pretty sharp.
For the most part, "O" is a dialogue driven tale. The only track available is a Dolby Digital 5.1 in English, and it can be intense when it needs to be. The film's climax and ending show off its power really well. The noises of the weapons and with things that cause noise are mixed incredibly well, making you feel like you're there watching all of this in real life. They have a certain pizzaz and zing to them that use great, effective surround use and .1 LFE. The basketball scenes were also great. The crowds roaring and cheering are really loud and come at you from all directions making for quite a great experience. The basketball games themselves are also nice with the ball dribbling, shots and sounds from the players themselves. It brought some pretty sweet effects out. Other than that, this mix is rather straightfoward since there is a lot of talking. But dialogue is clear and nothing overlaps or overpowers it thankfully as you can perfectly make out what the characters are saying. Overall, a rather nice mix considering the elements. English closed captions, Spanish subtitles and English subtitles are included.
A two disc set, "O" does pack a very good deal of supplementary materials that explore the film even further, but perhaps not in ways people exactly expect. On the first disc, we are only treated to an Audio Commentary with Director Tim Blake Nelson (despite what the box says, the trailer is on the second disc). Nelson compares the film with the original play, motifs within the film, offers praise for the actors, has interesting notes on the music in the movie and offers a lot of details on the South Carolina shooting locations. He does bring up the controversies involving the movie and high school violence in general, but those do not overwhelm the track. This is a solid commentary that shouldn't be missed if you liked the film.
The main extra on the second disc, with no doubt, is the inclusion of the 1922 version of the film Othello. That means if you've never read the play, you can watch it and then compare it with the film version "O." This is quite a great supplement, as you now get two movies for one price: a modern classic and an old classic. I'm not sure if mainstream audiences will dig this version, but true film buffs will for sure. It's a silent film, but has music cues and all. Also, it must be given that this movie is now eighty years old. It's been restored, but the transfer isn't that great. Some may also think the film is a bit cheesy, but again, it tells the story of "Othello" quite nicely in case you need to brush up. Eight chapter stops are included. On the rating scale, I give the film a 3.5/5.
Under Interviews, we are treated to four interview segments: one with Julia Stiles, one with Mekhi Phifer, one with Josh Hartnett and one with Tim Blake Nelson. These are somewhat promotional seeing how they were recorded at the press junket it appears, but the actors talk about their characters, the production, drug use in the film and the themes of the film. Nelson talks about the message of the film and certain aspects of it as well. They can be short, but worth a watch for sure.
Under Deleted Scenes, we have four of them with optional commentary from Tim Blake Nelson. The scenes are in pretty high quality non-anamorphic widescreen, and fully edited. Nelson offers praise for these scenes, but explains the cuts. I think a majority of them could fit back into the film nicely, but Nelson differs. Do check these out.
Director of Photography Russell Lee Fine (a buddy of Nelson's from college and who's shot all his films) and Tim Blake Nelson give the finer points of staging basektball scenes in the Basketball Scene Analysis. We see three clips from the film in anamorphic widescreen and we hear their commentary. It's more or less like a scene-specific commentary. Fine talks technical here... something I loved and ate up, but something those not really into film won't get. But you really get a feel on the dos and don'ts when making sports scenes like this, and how it all works. This is a great feature for sure that does not disappoint so if you're into film, watch this.
Finally... Trailers. We have "O," but we also have "The Wash," "Cube 2," "Rose Red," "American Psycho 2," "The Rules Of Attraction" and "State Property." Go nuts.
"O" is a fantastic film that everyone should check out. With its great script, excellent direction and incredible performers, "O" has a lot of depth that more films should aspire to. This DVD set is quite nice, especially since you get two films for the price of one. Some might wish for more extras pertaining to the controversy the film received, it's understandable while that was excluded. (Still, director Tim Blake Nelson addresses it in his commentary.) The movie sports a good presentation to boot, making "O" a worthwhile purchase.