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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital Mono
  • French: Dolby Digital Mono
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital Mono
  • German: Dolby Digital Mono
  • Italian: Dolby Digital Mono
  Subtitles
    English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Hebrew, Czech, Greek, Polish, Hungarian, Dutch, Arabic, Portuguese, Turkish, Icelandic, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Hindi, Bulgarian
  Extras
  • 2 Theatrical trailer

California Suite

Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 98 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

New York playwright Neil Simon is no stranger to stage successes, and has probably lost count of the number of his plays that have made the transition to the big screen. The successes include Barefoot in the Park, The Odd Couple, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues, Lost in Yonkers, and of course California Suite.

Set in Los Angeles naturally enough, California Suite is the story of five couples who have come to The Beverly Hills Hotel during Academy Award week, though only one couple is there for that reason. There is the divorced couple reunited after nine years to discuss the future of their teenage daughter, the English couple who will be attending the Academy Awards as nominee and partner, the couple attending their nephew's bar mitzvah (but how does he explain the hooker in his bed?), and the two couples on vacation who could have saved money by staying home trying to outdo each other.

The four stories are not intertwined as in Pulp Fiction or Go, and are tied only by the fact that they are all guests at the hotel. The action regularly switches between the four stories, which mostly works well. The five couples are in vastly different circumstances, and at times the jump from the slapstick comedy of the competitive couple to the emotionally charged verbal insults of the Award nominee and husband can be a little jarring. This is a minor irritation, for the script is both well paced and amusing, and there are some great laughs to be had, even when the characters are at their most caustic.

Released in 1978, the film boasts a very impressive cast including Michael Caine, Maggie Smith (who won the 'Best Supporting Actress' gong for her efforts), Richard Pryor, Bill Cosby, Walter Matthau, Elaine May, Alan Alda, Jane Fonda, and several other lesser known, but familiar, faces in cameos and bit parts.

It was also very successful at the box-office, and is standard Neil Simon stuff; a collection of fractured and emotionally fragile characters hiding behind a series of comedic one-liners and rapid-fire dialogue. It works well, and even while you are laughing at the antics, there is a part of you that is also feeling sympathy for most of the characters.

For a film that is almost 25 years old, it has aged well. The characters are as recognisable now as they would have been then, as are their stories and situations. The acting, as you would expect, is first rate, and the action is well paced and well directed by Herbert Ross. This is guaranteed to raise more than a chuckle or two.

  Video
Contract

Presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and 16x9 enhanced, this film scrubs up very well for its age. It does have that '70s look with lots of pastel colours and a slightly soft image, but only the truly picky would not concede that this is a clean and fresh transfer. Colours are very natural and are free of problems such as colour bleeding and cross-colouration. Black levels are fine, though occasionally they are a little on the grey side, but this is being picky as overall they look good.

Shadow detail is very good, and there is only very slight evidence of occasional grain. Film artefacts are limited to a few white specks and black marks that will distract no one but the very fussy. There is no evidence of film to video artefacts such as shimmer, and no layer change on this single sided, single layer disc.

  Audio
Contract

There is a choice of five, yes five, Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtracks (English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish) and they are as unremarkable as mono transfers can be. That's not to say they are bad, for they are quite adequate, but they do not impress in the least. The English track is clear enough, and there are no audio-synch problems, but as it is pumped equally to both front speakers, there is no panning or separation of sound, and no depth or warmth to it. It does what it has to do.

Needless to say, there is no sound surround action from the supporting speakers or subwoofer, and the low-level sounds are not going to annoy the neighbours. All dialogue is clear and the volume is adequate and consistent which is about as much as can be said about a very bland audio experience.

  Extras
Contract

The cover may boast special features such as Widescreen Presentation, but I dismiss this. The only real extra is two Bonus Movie Trailers for Woody Allen's Manhattan Murder Mystery, and Jerry Maguire. Both are presented as full frame trailers sourced from VHS and they're rather dark in appearance. Lasting 1:43 and 2:30 minutes respectively, they are just advertisements for other releases.

  Overall  
Contract

California Suite looks good on DVD, and has aged well. The big name cast is a plus, the laughs are frequent, and the script is well paced and solid. Lovers of traditional comedy will be well satisfied, and fans of the actors can list this film in their respective 'success' ledger – and considering the filmographies of some of them, this is something to be proud of.


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      And I quote...
    "Those who love traditional comedy will be well satisfied by the movie, but dismayed at the lacklustre audio and feeble extras…"
    - Terry Kemp
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Akai
    • TV:
          TEAC CT-F803 80cm Super Flat Screen
    • Receiver:
          Pioneer VSX-D409
    • Speakers:
          Wellings
    • Centre Speaker:
          Wellings
    • Surrounds:
          Wellings
    • Subwoofer:
          Sherwood SP 210W
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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