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  Directed by
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
    English, Spanish, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish

    The Ref

    Buena Vista/Buena Vista . R4 . COLOR . 93 mins . M . PAL


    Note: The Ref is an interesting film that can give out so many "dos" and "do nots" when dealing with families, relationships, Christmas and so on. This is the product of a night of contemplating these "dos" and "do nots". Plus it's really annoying to read. "Do not" repeat this I can hear our editor saying...

    Do: What a way to spend a quiet evening at home. A beverage of choice in one hand, a DVD remote in the other. Yes, let’s press 'play' now. Ah... The Ref - Kevin Spacey, Judy Davis, Christine Baranski – how good is this?! Oh look, the opening credits are on the screen. Wait... At this point in time you are cued to give out a big sad “sigh” as you see Jerry Bruckheimer’s name appear on the screen.
    Do not: Do not appreciate this.
    Do: Great. Hopefully these characters are a little deeper than those credited to be great in Gone in 60 Seconds.
    Do not: Repeat, do not jump for joy when you see this name. This name means bad things. Oh wait...
    Do: ...now give a sigh of relief as Judy Davis and Kevin Spacey appear on screen. Ooh. That’s better now. Ooh – it gets better – is that a Delerium sound-a-like song over the opening credits? Why yes it is. Ah, just what we need. Hmm, grins cheerfully. With the festive season fast approaching, this is the sort of film you should be watching now as it will give you an excuse to get out of a family dinner for fear of hostage situations. So what did you want for Christmas then?

    Do: Starting out as a fairly black comedy, The Ref turns midway into a relationship drama carrying black threads which creates reasonably solid characters, a unique plot and a good giggle for those inclined to a bit of alternative humour. We can learn so many things from the issues created in this film. Such as...
    Do not: ...do not get married, such as Caroline (Davis) and Lloyd (Spacey). Therefore you won’t need to go to see Dr. Wong, your marriage therapist. Then, on the way home, don’t throw temper tantrums and sulk in the car, therefore allowing your wife to enter a store alone and be kidnapped by a burglar, Gus (Denis Leary), who then returns with her to the car to try to escape from a bungled burglary, therefore turning your predictable Christmas Eve into a hostage situation. But then…
    Do: ...if a hostage situation gets you out of a date with your irritating rellies then maybe that’s a good idea. Don’t forget to remind your evil entrepreneur teenage son to come home to the family dinner and break into this hostage situation. But it’s Christmas Eve, with a family driving to meet them for the annual Christmas meal. Then, Christmas Eve is always an event, as Caroline and Lloyd have a marriage from hell and drive everyone, including Gus, totally crazy with their constant bickering. So maybe this is a message to argue with your partner? Wait...
    Do not: ...do not argue with your partner. That’s not fun, especially on Christmas Eve. Do not have an affair like Caroline either – that just creates tension. Do not be traditional either...
    Do: ...create a bizarre (or Scandinavian) feast for dinner with candle-lit head pieces and tell the graphic story of how this feast came to be just to build everyone’s appetite. For Caroline and Lloyd, here comes the fight.
    Do not: Repeat, do not try this at home.
    Do: For the Chasseur family, this is one Christmas they will never forget. They’re hostages. Their Christmas feast gathering don’t want to be there. Their son is in trouble with the military school he’s attending. And let’s not forget their marriage problems. This concoction is just sure to guarantee laughs. It’s kooky, it’s odd, it’s slightly black and it’s just what the doctor ordered.
    Do: Grab this one – it’s a bargain film so give it a go.


    Do: This transfer is proof that a 1994 film can look decent on DVD. Note the keyword is “decent”, because you should not...
    Do not: ...give us an un-enhanced transfer. However, saying this...
    Do: ...make a 4:3 transfer look as nice as this. Framed at The Ref’s theatrical aspect of 1.85:1, this transfer looks mighty fine given its lack of 16:9 enhancement.
    Do not: The usual DVD nigglies are here, including a persistent wash of grain, and the odd small fleck of a film artefact whipping through. The rather dark palette for the film really doesn’t aid in the grain issue, but...
    Do: ...the colours are just bulging with life and vitality – just what the festive season can represent. Shadow detail is nice and bold, without getting murky, and adds definition to the characters. The lower tones show no sign of low-level noise, and the general colour palette offers nothing in the way of posterisation or compression-related issues. Saying this...
    Do not: ...the image is consistently soft, with all edges slightly squishy and not so clearly defined. This softness lends itself to a reduced clarity, giving the image a rather dirty look. Adding to the lack of clarity is the rather clumsy look of some digital noise reduction, specifically during the more detailed scenes, such as the opening credits. Yet...
    Do: ...for a 4:3 transfer, things do look mighty fine. Subtitles have been included in a host of languages, including English, and are nicely placed in the action of the picture, reducing eye movement, allowing you to watch and read at the same time.


    Do: Released with a stereo soundtrack in 1994, The Ref has been remastered to a 5.1 soundstage. However...
    Do not: ...like the Sister Act movies, also released through Buena Vista, rather than giving a decent 5.1 mix, they have slapped a stereo track in a 5.1 layout, and provided a basic enveloping ambience to the soundtrack, and a faint one at that.
    Do: Dialogue comes crisply from the front end of the soundstage, solidly built from the centre speaker. The front left and right channels provide the bulk of the effects with the centre sharing the similarities.
    Do not: The subwoofer kicks up a fuss every now and then, rearing its head, but providing little more than a poke here and there. There are so many opportunities for a good 5.1 mix to shine, but this transfer doesn’t utilise even 20% of them.

    Do: David A. Stewart’s score is appropriate, but nothing terribly memorable, however this is shared solidly around the soundstage, creating a faint enveloping effect through the rear channels. The film opens with a Delerium-type piece over the opening credits which, in this reviewer’s opinion, sets the mood, but...
    Do not: ...it’s a real pity that this is the only occurrence of this type of music.


    Do not: Nothing.
    Do not: Zippo.
    Do not: Zilch.


    Wow you actually read this far?

    'Do' count: 15
    'Do not' count: 14

    As you can see, the “Do’s” outweigh the “Do not’s” and therefore you have to grab this movie one night. It’s a bit of fun, a splash of family issues not to mention a hint of Christmassy. And look, we’re only a few short weeks away from Christmas now. You ever know, this film may give you some ideas about your gathering this December, as well as illustrating the “dos” and “do nots” for your life...

  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=3209
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      And I quote...
    "It’s up to The Ref to separate the “dos” from the “do nots”..."
    - Martin Friedel
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Philips DVD 736K
    • TV:
          TEAC EU68-ST
    • Receiver:
          Sony HT-SL5
    • Speakers:
          Sony SS-MSP2
    • Centre Speaker:
          Sony SS-CNP2
    • Surrounds:
          Sony SS-MSP2
    • Subwoofer:
          Sony SA-WMSP3
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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