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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English DTS 5.1 Surround
  • English subtitles
  • French subtitles
  • Spanish subtitles
  • 2 Discs
FEATURES
  • Commentary by Wes Anderson and co-writer Noah Baumbach
  • Ten deleted scenes
  • "Starz on the Set": behind-the-scenes featurette
  • Theatrical trailer
  • This Is an Adventure, a documentary by Antonio Ferrera, Albert Maysles, and Matthew Prinzing chronicling the production of the movie
  • Mondo Monda, an Italian talk show featuring an interview with Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach, with host Antonio Monda
  • New video interview with composer and Devo member Mark Mothersbaugh
  • Ten complete video performances of David Bowie songs in Portuguese by Brazilian recording artist and actor Seu Jorge (Peleī dos Santos)
  • Intern video journal by actor and real-life intern Matthew Gray Gubler (Intern #1)
  • Multiple interviews with the cast and crew with behind-the-scenes footage
  • Behind-the-scenes photos and original artwork from the film
  • A fold-out insert featuring a cutaway of the Belafonte, with Eric Anderson's original illustrations, and a conversation between Wes and Eric conducted in 2005

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

2 Disc Special Edition
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Wes Anderson
Starring: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Anjelica Huston, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Michael Gambon, Noah Taylor, Bud Cort, Seymour Cassel, Seu Jorge
2004 | 118 Minutes | Licensor: Buena Vista Home Entertainment

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $32.99 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #300
Buena Vista Home Entertainment

Release Date: May 10, 2005
Review Date: June 28, 2008

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SYNOPSIS

Internationally famous oceanographer Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) and his crew-Team Zissou-set sail on an expedition to hunt down the mysterious, elusive, possibly nonexistent Jaguar Shark that killed Zissou's partner during the documentary filming of their latest adventure. They are joined on their voyage by a young airline co-pilot, who may or may not be Zissou's son (Owen Wilson), a beautiful journalist (Cate Blanchett) assigned to write a profile of Zissou, and his estranged wife and co-producer, Eleanor (Anjelica Huston). They face overwhelming complications, including pirates, kidnapping, and bankruptcy. Oscar-nominated writer-director Wes Anderson (2001, The Royal Tenenbaums, Best Original Screenplay) has assembled an all-star cast that also includes Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Michael Gambon, Noah Taylor, and Bud Cort for this wildly original adventure-comedy.

Forum members rate this film 7.1/10

 

Discuss the film and DVD here   


PICTURE

Disney and Criterion present The Life Aquatic in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on the first dual-layered disc of this 2-disc set. The image has been enhanced for widescreen televisions. Oddly, though, they have released two different DVDs, a single-disc release and a 2-disc release (which I am reviewing here,) though this is more than likely Disney's decision and not Criterion's.

I'm confused as to who actually does the transfers on these Disney/Criterion releases, whether it's Criterion's team or Disneyís. While both Armageddon and Rushmore present very nice, sharp pictures that are better than the standard releases, the rest (The Rock, Chasing Amy, and The Royal Tenenbaums) always seem to be closer to Disney's standards, which isn't bad, but I guess I expected better for newer films.

Generally the image is quite good. Anderson's film is colourful and the DVD brings this aspect of it out quite well. The colours are bright and bold and jump off the screen. Skin tones are accurate and the red hats (though they can sometimes verge on bleeding) look wonderful. Blacks are deep and bold (best displayed in night sequences) and whites are bright but not overbearing.

The key problem is the image is just never really as sharp as it could be. Long shots can look a tad fuzzy with slight edge-enhancement and close-ups do present some decent detail. One of Anderson's surreal little touches, which involves Murray getting "Crazy Eye" (a close up shows red rings all through his eyes) is sort of lost here. You can still make out the rings, but I still found them soft.

It still looks very good and Andersonís look is still well presented. But I have to admit I was expecting a little more.

7/10

All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The DVD presents two audio tracks: A Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track and a DTS 5.1 surround track. They both sound pretty good but the DTS track is the better of the two.

The film isnít an action packed spectacle, and despite its more adventurous spirit when compared to Andersonís other films itís still a relatively quiet movie. Even the few action sequences there are still present a mild environment when compared to more generic action sequences (gun shots have more of a popping noise rather than an explosion, which we have probably become accustomed to.)

Both tracks are really front heavy, with music, either from the score or the Bowie soundtrack, moving to the backs and filling out the environment nicely. Sound effects sneak back there as well and are crystal clear (I always get a kick from one scene in Zissouís compound where his love birds are chirping in the background to which my own lovebird responds in a very excited, maybe too excited, manner.) Dialogue is distinct and crisp, easy to hear. The ending is where the film gets more lively and the surrounds get a decent amount to do, with sounds moving distinctly through the speakers.

And while the Dolby Digital track is decent, the DTS track is much better. Just comparing some of the filmís ďlouderĒ moments shows some distinct differences. The track is louder, clearer, and has better Bass. Comparing moments where music is more prominent presents the clearest differences.

Two very good tracks but if you can I would recommend sticking with the DTS track.

8/10

SUPPLEMENTS

As mentioned before Criterion (or more likely, Disney) has released 2 DVD editions of the film. Instead of releasing a regular Disney version and a Criterion version (as they would normally do) it's been decided to release two Criterion versions, one a single disc, the other a double-disc. I am reviewing the double-disc edition here. The single-disc is aimed more for the rental market and the Wal-Mart-type stores. The first disc of this release is the same disc you get in that single-disc release, but for a few bucks more you get the extra disc found in this release.

On the first disc you get an assortment of extras. Usually Criterion devotes the first disc to the film and then devotes the second disc to the supplements. Iím assuming they didnít do that here because they were planning on the single-disc release, placing more generic extras on the first disc along with the film.

The first supplement is an audio commentary by Wes Anderson and co-writer Noah Baumbach. This is an odd commentary track in the fact that's being recorded in a bar/restaurant (the one they wrote the film in) during business hours so there's all sorts of noise in the background. It's an interesting idea, but I don't think it was too necessary as I sometimes got distracted by what was going on in the background.

I loved the commentary on Criterion's Rushmore DVD, but that was probably because Anderson also had Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman sharing the time. I liked Anderson's solo commentary on Tenenbaums, but I couldn't help but feel maybe less Anderson may be better. Here we get him partnered with Baumbach and this works out better, but I have to admit in missing Wilson. Still the two have a lot to talk about. Anderson loves little details, loves talking about them, and the two also like talking about working on the script, inspirations and general story ideas. A few anecdotes are shared, and in the end the track comes off enjoyable and informative. One interesting note is that whenever the name Jacques Cousteau is mentioned it's bleeped out. It's obvious who they are talking about, so it's not frustrating, but it is rather bizarre, especially since the film is dedicated to Cousteau at the end. And also further showing that this is probably more of a Disney effort, this is the first Criterion effort where the commentary comes with a disclaimer (referring to Buena Vista and not Criterion.) At least we donít get ads at the beginning.

Moving on we also get 10 deleted scenes running about 4 and a half minutes. These are worth checking out as most of them are fairly amusing, especially an extended leech bit which has the best deadpan delivery (not) in the movie, and an extra second after the hotel blows up gives a decent chuckle. These are in somewhat rough shape and have unfortunately not been enhanced for widescreen televisions.

There is also a fluff piece, presented in 1.33:1 standard, that is a shame to see on a Criterion release, though I'm assuming stuff like this is more general audience friendly than the stuff found on disc 2 of the 2-disc edition. "Starz on Set" takes a look at The Life Aquatic, giving interviews with various members of the cast, director Anderson and animator Henry Selik. The stuff is all fluff mostly, feeling like everyone is trying to sell the movie, but you can find some good comments from Murray, Wilson, Dafoe, and Anderson. It lasts only 15 minutes, but it can easily be skipped.

The first disc closes off with the original theatrical trailer presented in anamorphic widescreen.

Different from other Criterion releases you not only have English subtitles included, but French and Spanish subtitles as well. I'm assuming this was a cost saving measure, as the Tenenbaums release by Criterion only had English subs and an English track, meaning Disney had to put out a separate version in Quebec with a French track (though none of the Criterion extras.) This way they don't have to print separate versions.

And that closes off the first disc.

The second dual-layered disc contains a wealth of materials aimed more at the hardcore moviebuff/Anderson fan (other than the commentary the rest of the supplements on the first disc were aimed at general audiences.) They're scattered all about so I'll go in the order they appear on the menu. I will state this, though: While the supplements aren't really up to Criterion's highest level (the movie is way too new) the supplements are still quite good and the release is a step above other releases.

When the disc starts the menu arrow is pointing at the Criterion banner at the top. When you select the banner you get a welcome from Antonio Monda. This is similar to the intro from Ben Stiller on the Criterion Tenenbaums DVD. If you choose to skip it youíre not missing much, though it only runs a few seconds so itís at least not a huge waste of time.

Other than one supplement, the interview with Mark Motherbaugh, everything is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1.

First up is a section called "Photos", which is what you expect, a collection of photos. There's a lot of behind the scene shots, publicity photos and some nice scenery shots, and quite a few of Anderson either directing or ďcontemplatingĒ I guess. Youíll also find a collection of polaroids. It's a good sized collection. You navigate using the left/right arrows on your remote.

Next up you'll find "Seu Jorge Performs David Bowie", a collection of ten performances running about 40 minutes in total, where Jorge performs Bowie's songs in Portuguese. This includes performances like "Rebel, Rebel", "Ziggy Stardust", "Starman", "Changes" and the other ones in the films, except for "Queen Bitch", which is played in whole during the closing credits anyways. Some of them are actually quite good, while others are "meh." Your reaction to this depends on your reaction to this addition in the film. I, personally, got a kick out of it.

"The Look Aquatic" is a short little bit (about 7 minutes) on the production design and overall look of the film. It's main focus is the recreation of the Belafonte used for a couple scenes in the film. I found it fairly interesting, though brief.

"Aquatic Life" is an excellent 7 minute featurette on the sea life created for the film, interviewing Henry Selik and some of the effects and design crew. It looks at most of stop-motion puppets and shows how they work, including the blowfish and the Jaguar Shark of course. For a short featurette it manages to pack in quite a bit. It was also neat seeing the old school ways everyone did the effects.

"Designs" is another still gallery, though very short, looking at various concepts and drawings (some by Eric Chase Anderson) for the film. I usually always like the artwork and designs in Andersonís films so I always enjoy when we get galleries of the artwork, also found on the other Criterion releases for Andersonís films.

"Creating a Scene", lasts about 4 minutes and takes a look at the party scene at the beginning where Murray and Goldblum's characters meet for the first time. You also get to see Goldblum give some input and only continues to help me believe he may be one of the oddest actors working in.

"Esteban" is a wonderful interview segment with Seymour Cassel. He travels around looking for a cigar shop. When they finally come across one and enter he takes a moment to go over some of the cigars he is fond of. The owner even starts talking to him about John Cassavetes and his work with him, and Seymour recalls, fondly, the man and his work. It then continues on showing Anderson direct Cassel in his underwater sequences. One of my favourite supplements on this DVD.

"Ned" focusses on Owen Wilson. He actually doesn't participate much on this DVD, which is disappointing, and even this segment only lasts less than 3-minutes, and half of it is interviewing Wilson, who talks about his character. The rest is Blanchett and Murray talking about him. This feature isnít a must and does sort of feel like a fluff piece.

"Mark Mothersbaugh" presents an interview with the composer/ex-Devo member as he talks about not only the score to this film, but the score to all of Anderson's films. He talks about working in the industry, moving from a band to composer and his relationship with Wes as well. He even points out a neat trick to how he used a bit from Tenenbaums for a piece in Aquatic. This segment mixes in clips from the film and Andersonís other films, as well as some ďbehind-the-scenesĒ stuff and still shots. It lasts about 20-minutes and has also been enhanced for widescreen televisions, the only extra on the disc to do so. I assume this might be the only piece exclusively shot by Criterion.

"This is An Adventure" is a decent, 50-minute documentary from veteran documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles, as well as Antonio Ferrera and Matthew Prinzing. Itís loosely filmed, sort of hanging back and just capturing the action on set. It's actually a very well done documentary and if you feel the DVD is lacking in covering any areas on the making of the film, this should close the gap. You get to watch Murray hang out and joke around, and you get to watch a little more carefully as Anderson works. Maysles was also involved in the documentary on the Criterion Tenenbaums DVD, and I found that one a tad disappointing (probably because it was so short) but this one works better and definitely covers more. Worth watching.

"Costumes" looks at the costumes and Anderson's attention to detail. It has interviews members of the cast and their opinions on the costumes. You also get a nice chunk of it with Bud Cort talking about how his costume looked like diarrhea.

"Mondo Monda" is a joke, like the interview on the Tenenbaums DVD. I think Anderson likes doing these after doing the Charlie Rose interview seen on the Rushmore DVD, which was real and sort of funny in itself. This one has the same sort of dry humour one would expect from Wes, as Antonio Monda interviews Anderson and co-writer Baumbach, and asks him some ridiculous questions about the film, how it will change the world and so on and so forth. It is pretty funny (even some bits with the faulty interpreter as Monda talks in Italian) and some of the answers and reactions are funny, but it is a put-on (or at least, I sincerely hope it is!) Light and fun little extra.

Another nice little feature is "Intern Video Journal", which runs about 15 minutes and is nice light and fun, catching the atmosphere of the work environment. It's filmed by Intern #1, Matthew Gray Gubler and he goes around getting little bits with some of his co-stars (Gambon amusingly gives him a rough time) and some of the goofs and pranks being played. The best bit is probably when the cast is in the submarine chatting it up as they wait for filming to begin, and hoping the set doesn't catch fire. Nicely put together and worth a look.

And finally we come to "Jane", which runs about 3 minutes. This is a conversation with Cate Blanchett on working with Wes and having to go through the process of getting a fake pregnant-belly prosthetic only to find out she was actually pregnant at the time. It's actually a good interview but it's pretty short and some of the stuff (like with the "Ned" interview segment) shows up in the "Starz On Set" bit found on the first disc.

And that wraps the discs. This set also comes with an insert (missing from the single-disc version) that has an interview between Criterion and Wes and Eric Anderson on Eric's artwork. There's also a drawing of the Belafonte. Other than Chasing Amy this is the only Criterion release Iím aware of where the insert doesnít include some sort of essay analyzing the film. Sadly, even Armageddon has one.

The packaging also differs from the single-disc release, which is just a standard package with a reversible cover. This one comes in a single width double-disc amaray case (with the flipper inside), which has the Anderson/Criterion artwork (it is not reversible.) It then comes with a cardboard slip that contains the poster art with the Criterion banner. It also has the director-approved graphic printed right on the case instead of as a sticker like other Criterion releases have. The packaging is disappointing (especially with the streak Criterion had had at the time like with the packaging for Short Cuts and Videodrome) but it probably has more to do with Disney than Criterion. (Side Note: The Canadian release also has the Canadian rating as well as the Canadian flag on the back, like all other Buena Vista packages from Canada.)

This closes the supplements.

7/10

CLOSING

For a Criterion release it is lacking. The supplements for the most part are nothing different from what you would find on DVD releases from other studios. But there are some decent ones, like the Mothersbaugh interview, the Cassel segment, and the documentary by Maysles. The rest, while decent, isnít up to their usual standards. The audio is excellent, but the video transfer isnít as good as one might expect from Criterion, especially on a newer film. As for which release to go with, this two-disc release or the single-disc release, I still prefer the two-disc release, especially since itís not much more in price compared to the single-disc release.


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