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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 6/20/02

Five Star Collection - 1994 (2002) - 20th Century Fox

review by Bill Hunt of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVsEncoded with DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1 Digital Surround

Speed: Five Star Collection Film Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Extras): B/A

Audio Ratings (DD/DTS): A/A+

Specs and Features

Disc One: The Film
115 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, THX-certified, dual-disc Amaray keep case packaging, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 55:08 in chapter 15), audio commentary (with director Jan de Bont), audio commentary (with screenwriter Graham Yost and producer Mark Gordon), THX Optimizer, animated film-themed menu screens with sound and music, scene access (33 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & DTS 5.1) and French (DD 2.0 Surround), subtitles: English & Spanish, Closed Captioned

Disc Two: Special Edition Content
Single-sided, dual-layered, On Location featurette (7:22), Stunts featurette (12:08), Visual Effects featurette (9:14), original screenplay text, production design notes (text with interactive images), Bus Jump featurette (9:37), Metrorail Crash featurette (6:17), multi-stream storyboards (for Bomb on Bus, Bus Jump, Metrorail Fight & Crash and unfilmed Baker Sequence - multi-angle, Baker Sequence features optional audio commentary by director Jan de Bont), multi-angle stunt footage (for Bus Jump, Cargo Jet Explosion, Jack vs. Payne and Metrorail Crash), video interview footage with Keanu Reeves (6:00), Sandra Bullock (9:00), Jeff Daniels (6:45), Dennis Hopper (4:40) and Jan de Bont (4:40), 5 extended scenes (Jack Shoots Payne in the Neck, Payne Lives/Cops Party, Annie's Job, After Helen's Death and Ray's Crime), image gallery (broken into numerous segments by subject), theatrical trailer, 11 TV spots, HBO First Look: The Making of Speed documentary (24:10), Speed music video by Billy Idol (4:40), press kit/production notes text, Easter egg (DVD credits plus edited "airline version" of Cargo Jet Explosion), animated film-themed menu screens with sound and music, languages: English (DD 2.0)

"Fuck! You're fired! Everybody's fuckin' fired!"

Sorry - that's just my favorite line in this film, and I couldn't resist. So okay... what drives 50 miles an hour along the Los Angeles freeway system, threatening to go off at any moment? No... not O.J. in his white Bronco, but that's a good guess. It's Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock in a Santa Monica bus! Now, I know that exploding buses don't have quite the same minty after dinner flavor these days that they did back in the early 1990's, but hang in there with me if you can.

Speed opens as a pair of Los Angeles SWAT cops, Jack and Harry (played with a certain 'joie de vivre' - I mean that sarcastically in case you couldn't tell - by Keanu Reeves and Jeff Daniels), foil the multi-million dollar ransom demands of a bomb-making lunatic (Dennis Hopper). They think the lunatic died in an explosion during the incident, but - SURPRISE! - a few days later, a Santa Monica bus explodes, getting Jack's attention. Seems our favorite lunatic is not only still alive, but he still wants his money. And now he also wants revenge against Jack and Harry. The lunatic tells Jack that he's rigged another bus with explosives - when it goes above 50 miles an hour, the bomb will be armed. And if it drops back under 50 again... BOOM! So Jack races after the bus in a desperate effort to save the passengers, who include the plucky Annie (Sandra Bullock) and a geeky tourist (Alan Ruck).

Bottom line, Speed is a helluva fun little action flick. Of course it's campy, but in a really good way. The action is almost completely implausible, but damned if it doesn't work, driven by Jan de Bont's particular brand of adrenaline-charged direction. Bullock's goofy, grinning charm is the perfect foil to Reeves' one-note, straight man delivery. An entertaining supporting cast keeps things interesting all the way. And Hopper is deliciously over-the-top as the mad bomber - he's tons of fun to watch here. Speed is a film you need to consume with zeal, like cheap chocolate and stale movie popcorn. Sure, it's all empty calories. But it's undeniably fun.

And this DVD special edition - Fox's latest Five Star Collection title - delivers just about everything you'd want and then some. Let's start with the film. Disc One gives you the movie in a remastered anamorphic widescreen version, and I think it looks about as good as it ever will on disc. It's a little bit on the soft side, but the colors are subtle and accurate and the contrast is rock solid. Lots of irritating little bits of dust and dirt have been cleaned away too. This isn't reference quality or anything, but most fans should be very happy.

The audio, on the other hand, is outstanding. You get your choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mixes, and you'll be very happy whichever one you choose. Both are extremely active and dynamic - perfect for cranking up the volume and stress testing your audio system with - and yet there's great subtlety in each mix. That's especially true of the DTS track (my slight favorite of the two), which sounds a bit smoother and more natural. Listen to the action play out right at the start of the film. As you descend down the elevator shaft, you hear very subtle machine noise and the clanking of cables all around you. The surrounds in this mix are as active as I've ever heard them. Very nice. Note that there's also a French Dolby Surround version for those who care.

Disc One also gives you a nice pair of bonuses - dual audio commentaries by director Jan de Bont (on one track) and screenwriter Graham Yost and producer Mark Gordon (on the other). Now, I'm all for director's commentaries, and this one is no exception. Jan gives his best and he's fascinating to listen to. But the real treat here - and I mean by far - is Yost and Gordon. They cut up through this film like Statler and Waldorf from the old Muppet Show, riffing on each other, the film, the story, De Bont - you name it. It's very funny. And at the same time, they offer lots of interesting bits of information and even get serious occasionally. The perfect example of this can be found in chapters 17 and 18, which starts with the pair heatedly debating the responsibility of filmmakers in depicting violence on screen - particularly in the post 9/11 world - and ends with them imitating Jan de Bont's accent as they make fun of the bus jump scene (which they rightly claim defies all the known laws of physics). They're just a real treat to listen to, delivering one of the great DVD commentaries thus far.

Then we get to Disc Two, as assembled by DVD producer Charles de Lauzirika. And when you get through with this disc, what more you could want I don't know. You get featurettes on the special effects, the stunts, the locations and the general "making of" the film (including an HBO: First Look). You get video interviews with virtually every important cast member as well as the director. You get five extended scenes. You get the film's original screenplay as a set-top feature (no ROM required, thank you very much). You get trailers and TV spots, jam-packed photo galleries and even Billy Idol's music video. And if all that's not enough for you, you get an easy to find Easter egg too (hint: it's on the first page of Disc Two) that features DVD credits and a funny, "edited" version of the cargo jet explosion that was done for airline showings of the film. Good stuff all around.

But, perhaps best of all, you get some very cool uses of the multi-angle feature. Now, we've seen a lot of DVDs here at The Bits. And NOBODY does multi-angle on DVD as well as Lauzirika. If you've seen his Hannibal DVD, you'll know what we're talking about. First up, you get "multi-stream" storyboards for four scenes in the film, including a scene that was never shot. One angle gives you the storyboard full screen, while the other gives you the storyboard compared to the final shot in the film. Then you get multi-angle stunt footage for four more scenes. Get this - some of this footage uses NINE CAMERA ANGLES, which I believe is the max you can do on DVD. The way it works is, each of the first eight angles is its own individual camera view of the action. The ninth is a composite of all eight angles together, all running in sync. The result is very easy to use (with its own explanation) and actually manages to make the use of nine camera angles look like child's play. VERY nicely done.

Speed is a perfectly fun little B-grade action flick. It knows exactly what it is, and stays true to itself all the way through. It's a heck of a good 115-minute ride, and this DVD delivers the experience just fine. Better still, if you want more - if you've just gotta have tons of DVD extras - you'll get 'em here. They're thorough, entertaining and very well presented. All in all, this is a great addition to Fox's Five Star Collection and it's a DVD worth having in your own collection as well.

Bill Hunt

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