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    DVD Video - Reviews [What Lies Beneath (Special Edition)]


    What Lies Beneath (Special Edition)

    Release Date:

    Studio: DreamWorks
    Year: 2000
    Run Time: 130 minutes
    Rating: PG-13
    Starring: James Remar, Harrison Ford, Michelle Pfeiffer, Miranda Otto, Joe Morton, Diana Scarwid
    Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
    Produced by: Steve Starkey, Jack Rapke and Robert Zemeckis
    Written by: Clark Gregg
      Movie Summary: [Horror]

        A year ago, Dr. Norman Spencer betrayed his beautiful wife Claire. But the affair is over and Claire's oblivious to the truth; Norman's life and marriage seem perfect--so perfect that when Claire tells him she's hearing mysterious voices and seeing a young woman's wraithlike image in their home, he dismisses her mounting terror as delusion. However, as Claire moves closer to the truth, it becomes clear that this apparition will not be dismissed, and has come back for Dr. Norman Spencer--and his beautiful wife.

    DVD Details
    • Widescreen: 2.35:1, Enhanced for 16X9 TVs, Color, Region 1, Parental Lock
    • Audio Commentary by director Robert Zemeckis, Trailer, Production Info, Production Stills, Cast/Crew Biographies, "HBO First Look" Making Of
    See Full Disc Details...

    Reviewer: Marc Flemming [Staff]

    An Open Rant to the Public, Re: DreamWorks and DVD

            S ome of you might find yourselves wishing to hit me upside the head as I drag you through my opening to this review, but I wanted to get a few things out of the way about DreamWorks and DVD while I still had an audience. If you don’t care to listen - skip ahead to the next paragraph that I promise will only be slightly tainted by the opinion I will explain here. I’ve got a slight bone to pick with them and their recent practices - and then I promise I’ll get on to the DVD at hand - What Lies Beneath. DreamWorks sent out a phase of movies on DVD to the reviewers of the world and decided, on a paranoid whim I imagine, that they would place an unsightly “Property of DreamWorks” message (that gets even uglier than that) at the bottom of the screen throughout the film. The brightness of the message impacts the lower portion of my screen effectively destroying the full impact of the presentation particularly during dark segments of these movies (RPTV). In this regard, I can't hope to accurately review a product that is altered and doesn't precisely represent what the consumer will be getting for their hard-earned dollars. That’s only one of the many negative ramifications of this decision. Their reasoning is of course based on the notion to deter early pirating prior to the product’s release to the public. I’ve fallen just short of sending them edited screen shots of these movies with the text removed to show them how easy it is, with a little sweat and tears, to bypass their efforts. Really, anyone with a half-a-brain and the true desire to commit piracy at this level could see there’s no mystery to digital editing (and those pirating DVD, sorry to say, are functioning on only half-a-brain). Other reviewers have voiced their lack of satisfaction for DreamWorks’ actions. Their answer with the next round of titles was to display this bothersome text every 15 minutes or so instead. Honestly, this is even MORE distracting. At least before I could numb that part of my brain that realized the text was there to begin with. Now I’m reminded by that part of my brain that acknowledges the telephone ringing, a knock at the door, random loud obnoxious noises, or any other most unwelcome distraction .. that I’m seeing this message every 15 minutes. The silliness aside, these DVDs are absolutely worthless, yet DreamWorks gets their review - for now. Suffice to say - my reviewers don’t get paid. They do reviews and in turn they get to keep the product. But who on God’s earth will want a movie with an incredibly annoying message at the bottom of the screen - at all? My reviewers don’t want these DVDs. So they go to the bottom of the priority list until I can find the time to look at them myself. Does this sound like the DreamWorks you know? We promote the thinking that DreamWorks is one of the classiest joints around Hollywood. We also really like the product DreamWorks puts out. But, c’mon guys, you’re hurting the public voice ... and ours is desperately in need of a few throat lozenges. *sigh* On with the show...

    The Review

    A lot of gals showed up to see Mr. Ford. A lot of guys showed up to see Mr. Ford. I’d say a fair share of both gals and guys showed up to see Mrs. Pfeiffer. A lot of movie-buffs surely showed up to see what Zemeckis filmed as a side-project while Tom Hanks was back home losing a load of weight and growing a lengthy beard in preparation for the second half of filming for Cast Away. But I’d bet that it was the cheap thrill seekers who got the biggest kick out of What Lies Beneath. No debating it - the movie made a decent sum at the boxoffice, but I’d like to think that the majority of people contributing to this sum were the ones that like to jump and scream at what they see on the screen with no care beyond obtaining that surface level compensation. In my mind, there were two high-points in this film: 1) Watching Harrison Ford demonstrate his ability to take a powerful position on the screen with the fist of a veteran. 2) Witnessing Robert Zemeckis’ film mastery as he meticulously blends live action cinema with state-of-the-art computer graphics imagery to the point that it is initially undetectable. These alone make What Lies Beneath a “fun” film to watch. Short of that - the movie punches you in the face with predictability and does a fair share of dealing its own cards face up.

    Clearly a thriller spawned by the influence of the infamous Hitchcock, this movie wanders the trying times of Pfeiffer’s character as she teeters on the edge of insanity. Is she the victim of her husband’s dead mistress’ ghost or has she merely forgotten to pop her Prozac? If the dialogue were to be removed or replaced with sentiments of Beavis and Butthead - it wouldn’t matter. The true joy comes from watching the visuals themselves. In all fairness, I must say that the film provided a certain level of tension and suspense at many points during the film, but the circumstances of these segments were often silly. Case in point, “No - don’t go in there AGAIN!” I found the script walking down paths that would otherwise prove useless to the central story line. At times, the most amusing part of the experience were the dozens of people screaming relentlessly around me in the theater. That alone was enough to scare me.

    I’m impressed with how the video came out. There are several upon several dark scenes in this film that come across in as stunning detail as their brighter counterparts. Dark images take shape and form considering their low light levels and subtle shadows. The visual lucidity allows us to even see the veins in Michelle Pfeiffer’s temples covered by a layer of foundation. Audibly I’m also impressed with the solid soundtrack that relies on little surround effect, yet manages to make a big impact. The majority of the experience is feeling presence manifested by the pounding and haunting score and the faint accompaniment of atmospheric effects in the form of rain and thunder. The most dynamic section of the audio presentation arrives in the end of the film when the DTS or Dolby Digital tracks strut their stuff.

    No surprises here. The menu presentation on this disc is just short of awesome. “Awesome” being some of the other titles they’ve done. I’ve said it before, DreamWorks leaves no stone unturned when designing the look and feel of the navigation of the disc with the cool layouts, timely background music and the slick transitions. My only concern on this note is the feeling I’m looking at something “blurry” when I peruse the screens. It was blurry enough that I experienced difficulty in reading the text features like the production notes. No - my eyes are fine, thank you. The special features here are mostly standard fare. We have typical Cast and Crew bio/filmographies and then a shot of production notes (that teaches us that the house featured in the film was built just for it), topped with the theatrical trailer which spills just short of all the beans in terms of what this film is about. If you have no clue - skip the trailer until the end. The fifteen minute featurette, Constructing a Thriller is pretty darn cool in its own right. About a quarter of the segment is about What Lies Beneath, the rest looks at some of Zemeckis’ previous films including Back to the Future, Forrest Gump and Contact. Finally, the DVD houses an audio commentary with a couple producers on the film and the director himself. The commentary bares no special structure and simply offers all three men sitting in the room sharing their thoughts about the film. The three keep the conversation going offering wise and interesting knowledge on the many facets of creating a film. Zemeckis of course offers limited insight to how he did some of the trick shots throughout the film. If the DVD could have offered anything more, it would have been nice to see more on the special effects.

    When all is said and done, What Lies Beneath is a decent to good movie. When you involve a large number of very talented individuals, it’s usually pretty tough to go wrong. While I certainly wouldn’t rate this film as one of Zemeckis’ best, I definitely give him kudos in creativity. He’s taken a script with holes and made it fun for a lot of people. He’s pressed the envelope by inserting special effects technology in an unsuspecting film to further develop the feel of the presentation. In the end, What Lies Beneath will satisfy the tastes of most and the DVD offers the Zemeckis experience in unparalleled form.

    Also See: DCN's Full Movie Review.


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