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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.78:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL 74.55)
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • Additional footage
  • 8 Deleted scenes
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Production notes
  • Filmographies
  • Dolby Digital trailer - "Rain"

The Majestic

Warner Bros./Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 147 mins . PG . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Having impressed the hell out of just about everyone with The Shawshank Redemption and then The Green Mile, director Frank Darabont could have been excused for feeling under a little pressure to deliver his third audience-and-critic-pleaser in a row. Perhaps understandably, The Majestic came under tighter scrutiny that it might have if it had been a debut from a little-known director. But it also had the misfortune of being an optimistic, humanity-affirming story that got released right in the middle of a time when people were feeling like anything except being fuzzy and life-affirming. As Darabont’s main character waxed lyrical about civil liberties and the constitutional right to freedom from oppression, outside the cinema walls laws were already being drafted that had the potential to make the McCarthy era seem like small change by comparison. In some ways the timing of the film as a statement was almost perfect, but the fact that many saw it as being mawkish says a lot about where people’s minds have been at lately.

Peter Appleton (Jim Carrey) is a fast-rising star in the Hollywood of 1951, a screenwriter who’s going places fast. But all that is about to change; the second wave of Congressional witch-hunts is under way, and once again the government is looking to purge Hollywood of a perceived “communist menace”. And Peter Appleton, who attended a political meeting back in his university days solely to impress a girl, is on their list. Overnight, Appleton is a pariah - his colleagues desert him, the studio drops his latest picture, his actress girlfriend drops him in fear of her own career, and his life is effectively ruined. Nobody could blame him, then, for getting written off on booze and accidentally driving his car off a bridge and into a river. It’s the logical end to a decidedly crap day. Appleton escapes from the wreck only to get knocked unconscious by a large bridge pylon; he washes up the next day on a small coastal town’s beach with no memory of his name or his life, and it’s not long before the townspeople of Lawson recognise him. He’s Luke Trimble, one of 62 young men from the town who went off to fight in World War 2 and never returned. They’re certain of it, and, just possibly, they might be right.

Darabont plays out this gentle story (written by Michael Sloane, whose only previous screen credit was Hollywood Boulevard 2!) with his now-renowned sense of depth and pacing, letting the characters develop naturally and never rushing things. The story may be a straightforward one, but it unfolds like a good book and feels like an old-fashioned Hollywood movie (which, of course, is the point; the spirit of Frank Capra is alive and well here). At two and a half hours it’s long, but never once feels like it’s dragging. Sure, there’s a big layer of sugar coating here that some might find a little overdone, but the moments of over-the-top sentimentality are actually kept to a reasonable minimum and are used largely to reinforce the story’s central theme, that of the absolute need for freedom of speech. Performances across the board are excellent, particularly the ever-reliable Martin Landau as Luke’s father, cinema owner Harry (in case you’re wondering why the rarely-seen Bob Balaban gets billing over Landau, by the way, it’s simply because the principal cast is billed in alphabetical order).

It won’t be to everyone’s taste, sure, but there’s always room for a film with warm-hearted intentions in the midst of an increasingly cynical world. It’s a tough job for a director to attempt something as wide-eyed as this and get away with it, but Frank Darabont knows how to reach an audience - as long as they’re willing to come along for the ride.

  Video
Contract

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again (and again and again): is Roadshow, is good. This is actually a case, though, of WAMO coming to the party with a spectacular looking DVD, as this is essentially a PAL rendering of Warner’s US release, right down to the copyright notices (the film was one of many co-productions between Village Roadshow Pictures and Warner Bros). WAMO has long ago perfected the art of delivering superb quality encoding at modest bitrates, and they do it again on this disc with a flawless, transparent encoding job that lets the transfer do the talking.

The anamorphic video transfer itself is presented at 1.78:1 and captures the film’s warm tones and rich colours impeccably. Blacks are never quite black in many of the darker scenes, which appears to have been an intentional decision; indeed, this is generally a fairly bright transfer, in keeping with the mood and setting of the story. The film is blemish-free and there aren’t any problems introduced by the transfer process at all. It’s a stunning transfer.

The film is spread over a dual-layered disc with the layer switch superbly placed almost exactly half way through, during a natural fade to black where the sound also fades out. It’s so well done that you simply will not notice it unless you’re looking for it.

  Audio
Contract

The sole soundtrack supplied here is the Dolby Digital 5.1 theatrical mix, and while the film is very heavily dialogue-based, this audio mix takes many opportunities to make use of the immersive surround soundstage in extremely realistic fashion. It’s by no means a “showy” soundtrack, but it’s a very intelligent one that really serves the film well; the surrounds are used in an obvious way only when there’s a point to them being used. The music score (by brilliant composer Mark Isham) is seamlessly interwoven with the dialogue and effects and never calls undue attention to itself. Fidelity is excellent, and special mention must go to the centre channel dialogue, which is EQ’d and mixed absolutely perfectly; even at low listening levels, every single word is perfectly intelligible. This one’s a model for how it should be done.

  Extras
Contract

A fairly modest bunch of extras is supplied here; the thing that will disappoint many is that there’s no Frank Darabont commentary included. Unlike the vast majority of Roadshow titles, by the way, the menus are static and uninteresting, and the scene selection menus restricting, unhelpful and counter-intuitive. For this you can blame Warner, not Roadshow.

Additional Scenes: Eight deleted scenes (in a very finished state, and topped and tailed by the preceding and following scenes from the final edit so you can figure out where they went) which can be played either separately or all at once. Presented in letterboxed 4:3 they look reasonably good, though their NTSC origins are clear. The scenes themselves are a mixed bag; some illuminate the story, others are superfluous to it. These look like they were removed at a very late stage in the production process. Audio is Dolby Digital 1.0 mono.

Movie Within the Movie: The Sand Pirates of the Sahara sequence shot for use in the film as Peter Appleton’s early success, running to nearly five minutes and reasonably authentically done right down to the scratchy Korngold music score, though the 1.85:1 aspect ratio is hardly the stuff of 1951 Hollywood! Keep an eye out for Bruce Evil Dead Campbell here, and also for the idol from the opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark - yes, it’s the actual prop, lent to Darabont by friend Steven Spielberg. Audio is authentically ‘50s as well, presented in DTS-ES Discrete 6.1. Only kidding. It’s in mono.

Trailer: The theatrical trailer, in 16:9 widescreen with unflagged matrixed surround audio. Notable for the way it completely ignores the entire blacklist plot.

The Hollywood Blacklist: Six text screens giving a cursory overview of the Blacklist disgrace.

Cast and Crew: In true Warner style, text screens with only three links to filmographies - Carrey, Darabont and writer Sloane. Don’t waste your time, use the IMDB instead.

Dolby Digital Rain Trailer: Dolby needs to fork out for some new trailers, stat. Meanwhile, if the person at WAMO who authored this and a few other recent Roadshow titles is reading, a message: please, PLEASE don’t prohibit use of the “next chapter” button during the Dolby trailer. Cheers.

  Overall  
Contract

A film that won’t be to everyone’s taste - if you’re a cynic, stay well away - The Majestic is not the cornball syrup that some critics made it out to be. It’s a warm-hearted, well written and exquisitely filmed human story done in a style that’s almost extinct, which will please anyone who’s after a bit of uplifting escapism with good story depth and a spot-on sense of how to tell a tale.

Roadshow’s DVD is a PAL version of the US release of six months ago; it’s technically superb, and only let down by a cursory approach to extras.


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      And I quote...
    "...uplifting escapism with good story depth and a spot-on sense of how to tell a tale"
    - Anthony Horan
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Sony DVP-NS300
    • TV:
          Panasonic - The One
    • Receiver:
          Sony STR-DB870
    • Speakers:
          Klipsch Tangent 500
    • Centre Speaker:
          Panasonic
    • Surrounds:
          Jamo
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Monster s-video
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