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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • English DTS-HD 2.0 Surround
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Audio commentary featuring Lee and producer-screenwriter James Schamus
  • Documentary featuring interviews with actors Joan Allen, Kevin Kline, Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Sigourney Weaver, and Elijah Wood
  • Interview with novelist Rick Moody
  • Deleted scenes
  • Footage from a 2007 event honoring Lee and Schamus at New York's Museum of the Moving Image
  • Illustrated audio interviews with Elmes, production designer Mark Friedberg, and costume designer Carol Oditz
  • Trailer

The Ice Storm

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Ang Lee
Starring: Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Jamey Sheridan, Sigourney Weaver, Elijah Wood, Adam Hann-Byrd, Katie Holmes, David Krumholtz, Michael Cumpsty, Henry Czerny, Allison Janney, Glenn Fitzgerald
1997 | 113 Minutes | Licensor: 20th Century Fox

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #426
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: July 23, 2013
Review Date: July 20, 2013

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SYNOPSIS

Suburban Connecticut, 1973. While Richard Nixon's "I am not a crook" speech drones from the TV, the Hood and Carver families try to navigate a Thanksgiving break simmering with unspoken resentment, sexual tension, and cultural confusion. With clarity, subtlety, and a dose of wicked humor, Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee renders Rick Moody's acclaimed novel of upper-middle-class American malaise as a trenchant, tragic cinematic portrait of lost souls. Featuring a tremendous cast of established actors (Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Sigourney Weaver) and rising stars (Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Elijah Wood, Katie Holmes) The Ice Storm is among the finest films of the 1990s.

Forum members rate this film 8/10

 

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

Criterionís DVD edition of Ang Leeís The Ice Storm receives a Blu-ray upgrade, presenting the film on a dual-layer disc in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The high-definition transfer is presented in 1080p/24hz.

Criterionís previous DVD did change the look of the film drastically in comparison to Foxís own DVD edition, giving it a colder, darker look (which is intended and how it looked theatrically as a feature on the disc points out.) The same high-definition transfer used for that DVD has been used here, so for those that didnít like the change itís no different here.

I was happy with how the DVD looked, and was also pleased with the transfer which I thought was better than Foxís DVD. I was anticipating how this would carry over to Blu-ray and for me itís a bit of a disappointment. The image is certainly sharper than the DVDís presentation, delivering more detail (though not as much as I would have expected) and fewer compression issues. But itís a surprisingly flat image, with little depth. Long shots are fairly weak and close-ups donít deliver the detail one may expect; the image overall is a bit muddy. It also looks a little noisy, presents a some jittering effects in some panning shots, and edge-enhancement is there early on.

Colours are decent, though the darker, colder colour scheme stops them from popping, yet saturation is fine and black levels are fairly rich. The print is in excellent condition without a flaw in sight, or at the very least I donít recall any flaws. Film grain is there but faint.

It looks okay, but the transfer is open to improvement and gives the feeling it was made with only DVD in mind.

7/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

Criterion again forgoes Foxís 5.1 upgrade and sticks with the original 2.0 surround track, delivered here in lossless DTS-HD MA. Itís a crisp presentation, the filmís fantastic score sounding absolutely incredible with rich depth and range. Dialogue is clear, never muffled, and the sound effects during the filmís ice storm (crackles of ice, the wind, rain hitting the ground) are life like and crisp. Dialogue is limited to the front while music and effects do spread wonderfully to the surrounds.

In comparison to the DVDís Dolby 2.0 presentation I did actually find this one to be a richer, crisper presentation, delivering a more enveloping experience.

8/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion ports everything over from their DVD release.

The supplements start with an audio commentary featuring director Ang Lee and producer/screenwriter James Schamus Within a few minutes we get the idea this is going to be a fairly light, though amusing commentary track with the two immediately commenting that the Fox logo theme music is their favourite of all of the studios, and then Lee giving a good olí ďF--- youĒ to Schamus a little bit further in after Schamus jokingly asks how could Lee make a movie about American. The tone of the commentary is more reflective on making the film rather than really looking at the themes of the movie or the novel on which its based, though they do get into those themes every once in a while. Itís mostly anecdotal, with discussion on Lee using his bad English at the time to be more direct (rude) with his actors, and even little tricks that were used on the look of the film (a gel, that Schamus says was ďprobablyĒ not toxic, was used to cover the scenery to give the impression of ice during the final act of the film.) Thereís amusing little bits where Lee, seeming to be unsure of the English dialogue being spoken during moments of the film, questions Schamus (ďDid I direct that right,Ē heíll ask here and there, wondering if he got the context of the scene correct) and he also plays favourites with the actors: While he obviously loves all of the actors he has no issue with anybody knowing Joan Allen was his favourite actor to work with. They also touch on Foxís handling of the marketing (they messed up pretty much, hoping the film would garner some Oscar nods but it was so under the radar it missed out) and by the sounds of it they pitched the film as a comedy, and even intended on making a comedy (a satire of sorts) but the film turned into something different as they were making it and then editing it. It may not look as deep into the film as I may have liked but itís an entertaining commentary with some interesting bits, and more than makes up for it.

The remaining supplements are primarily a series of interviews. The first one is called Weathering the Storm. Running over 36-minutes it presents interviews with members of the cast including Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Joan Allen, Tobey Maguire, Elijah Wood, and Christina Ricci. The feature alternates between them as they discuss what interested them about the project, themes in the film, as well as describe who they thought their characters were. They discuss working with Ang and his attention to detail, which included giving each of the actors a kit that included ďsamplesĒ of the 70ís (items from the era including ads, albums and so on) and also having them write out bios. There is some discussion on things that were also mentioned on the commentary, including Lee pretending his English was rougher than it actually was so he could be blunt with the actors, and they also discuss the use of gel for recreating the ice storm. And everyone mentions their disappointment as to how overlooked the film was. Itís a quick yet fairly informative interview. I had sort of hoped maybe for a commentary from members of the cast but this will do.

The next interview is with Rick Moody. Running about 21-minutes Moody discusses the film, which he obviously has a very high opinion of. I usually hear nothing but statements from authors bashing the movies based on their books, but Moody certainly doesnít feel that way and even goes as far as saying the film actually improves on his book. He also reflects on the time on which the film is based and does make comparisons between the book and film. Overall an informative and surprisingly entertaining supplement that gives a decent perspective from an author on adapting novels for film.

Lee and Schamus at MOMI is a 32-minute interview with Lee and Schamus at The Museum of Moving Image. This looks to have been conducted around the time of Lust, Cautionís release. This was actually a fairly humourous segment, and really expands on the commentary track, as they go through Leeís career from acting and then to directing his first film, Pushing Hands and all the way through Lust, Caution. There are some funny anecdotes, such as where Schamus describes Leeís pitch for his first film as the most boring pitch he ever sat through. They discuss how Sense and Sensibility came about, go over Hulkís disappointing reception and, yes, talk about The Ice Storm (but skip Ride with the Devil, which would also get a Criterion release.) Overall itís a nice little look back through Leeís career and the working relationship between Lee and Schamus.

The next section is titles Look of The Ice Storm, which is comprised of three audio interviews, one each with cinematographer Frederick Elmes, production designer Mark Friedberg, and costume designer Carol Oditz. All together they total about 35-minutes and are presented in anamorphic widescreen. All three are, as mentioned, audio interviews played over clips, stills, or designs. Elmes talks about the overall look of the film, basing it on photorealist paintings from the time. He discusses the use of light, and also talks specifically about transferring the film for this Criterion release, stating that they were going for a colder look like the theatrical prints. Friedberg talks about setting up the ice storm itself and getting the gel that was sprayed all over town, much to the dismay of the community. He also talks about ďcastingĒ the houses used and building the sets for the interiors. Oditz has the shortest segment, and she discusses the costumes of the film and how she was really trying not to do a ďBrady BunchĒ like mocking of the style at the time (and I agree with her that the 80ís was far worse.) Theyíre all rather fascinating but of the three I think the bit with Friedberg may be the best, just because of my fascination with how they created the ice storm.

And the last little piece, running 7-minutes in total, is a collection of four deleted scenes. The scenes are presented separate or can be played altogether with or without the commentary. These are actually good scenes, though I can see why they were cut, despite the fact a couple of sequences look at the economic issues at the time (stagflation and one sequence where cars are lined up for gas in the background.) The optional commentary only features Schamus and he explains why the scenes were cut, and talks about the regret of doing so with a couple (one, which was mentioned in the commentary, was cut because they felt it was ďtoo funny.Ē) According to the notes the original cut was two and half hours so Iím assuming thereís more, but these few scenes more than likely round it up nicely.

Closing off the supplements is the theatrical trailer. This is an interesting trailer that was also available on the Fox DVD. The trailer completely misrepresents the film, presenting it almost like it was some goofy family comedy (it actually reminds me of that parody trailer put online a few years ago for KubrickísThe Shining, which presented the horror film as if it were some romantic comedy directed by Cameron Crowe.) I never saw this trailer before seeing it on the Fox DVD, and I remember watching it after seeing the film and being taken aback by it. Itís completely off. Itís interesting to view if only for evidence as to how Fox had absolutely no clue how to handle the marketing of the film.

Still missing is the featurette found on Foxís original DVD. This isnít a big deal since it was more a PR piece and the other supplements on this set more than cover the making of the film.

We then get a booklet with an essay by Bill Krohn who goes on to explain why The Ice Storm is one of the best films of the 90ís. It has some things that expand on the rest of the features (like more detail about how the film was planned more as a comedy) and shares statements made by Lee. Like most of Criterionís booklets itís an excellent read.

It was an excellent set when it was originally released in 2007 and itís still an excellent number of supplements now. They go over the filmís productions and its themes beautifully through some entertaining and informative special features, giving the film its due all these years later.

9/10

CLOSING

The image, though better than the DVDís, comes off a bit muddy and presents a few noticeable artifacts. The audio, though, is a bit richer, and the supplements still offer a fascinating look into the film and its origins.


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