Anaconda (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
May 29, 2009 by Dennis Amith
“‘Anaconda’ features a lot of today’s top talents earlier in their careers and its High Definition transfer definitely brings the sounds of the Amazon to your living room quite effectively. But it doesn’t hold up as well, over 12 years later, especially now when ‘snake’ films are common place on cable TV. But fans of the film may want to consider the double dip for its pretty solid audio track!”
DURATION: 89 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1), English, French and Portuguese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (Spanish 5.1), Subtitles: English (US), French (Parisian), Portuguese (Brazil), Spanish (Latin Am)
COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Home Pictures Entertainment
RELEASE DATE: June 2, 2009
Directed by Luis Losa
Screenplay by Hans Bauer, Jim Cash and Jack Epps. Jr.
Executive Producer: Susan Ruskin
Produced by: Verna Harrah, Carole Little, Leonard Rabinowitz
Line Producer: Stelvio Rossi
Music by Randy Edelman
Director of Photography: Bill Butler
Edited by Michael R. Miller
Casting by Mindy Marin
Production Design by Kirk M. Petruccelli
Art Direction by Barry Chusid
Set Decoration by Daniel Loren May
Costume Design by Kathy Monderine
Jennifer Lopez as Terri Flores
Ice Cube as Danny Rich
John Voight as Paul Sarone
Eric Stoltz as Dr. Steven Cale
Jonathan Hyde as Warren Westridge
Owen Wilson as Gary Dixon
Kari Wuhrer as Denise Kalberg
Vincent Castellanos as Mateo
Danny Trejo as Poacher
Anaconda is an action-packed thriller starring JENNIFER LOPEZ (The Wedding Planner), rap superstar ICE CUBE (XXX: State of the Union), Academy Award®-winner JON VOIGHT (1978 Best Actor, Coming Home) and ERIC STOLZ (Almost Famous). A documentary film crew, headed by anthropologist Steve Cale (Stoltz) and director Terri Flores (Lopez), ventures into the world’s most isolated jungle – the Amazon – in search of a lost and forgotten civilization. Early in their journey, they come to the aid of Paul Serone, a Paraguayan guide (Voight), who joins their expedition. But Serone is actually a poacher on the trail of a legendary snake. When Serone hijacks the boat and its crew on his quest to track and kill the giant snake, he steers the expedition right into the path of the deadly monster. Ger ready for a wild, scare-a-minute thrill ride because ANACONDA will grab you and take your breath away.
In 1997, a film based on one of the largest snakes in the world was made to a horror film. Directed by Luis Llosa who has shot many films in Peru, ‘Anaconda’ was a film that was written by Hans Bauer (“Titan A.E”) and Jim Cash (“Dick Tracy”, “Top Gun” and “Turner & Hooch”) and the film despite having many negative reviews, did pretty well in box office receipts, taking in over a $136 million worldwide.
The film would also star talent which would be considered today as top tier names, at the time the film would star singer/actress Jennifer Lopez (“Jersey Girl”, “The Wedding Planner”, “Maid in Manhattan”), hip hop artist and actor Ice Cube (“xXx: State of the Union”, “Menace II Society”, “New Jack City”), Jon Voight (“Transformers”, “24″, “Ali”, “Pearl Harbor”), Eric Stoltz (“The Rules of Attraction”, “Medium”, “Grey’s Anatomy”), Jonathan Hyde (“Titanic”, “The Mummy”), Owen Wilson (“Cars”, “Marley & Me”, “Shanghai Knights”) and Kahri Wuhrer (“The Air I Breathe”, “Spider’s Web”).
The film starts off with a man in the Amazon river who seems to be hunted by something or someone and instead of facing the hunter, the man commits suicide.
The film then features film crew who has went to the Amazon to shoot a documentary on an Indian tribe. The crew which consists of director Terri Flores (Jennifer Lopez), Cameraman Danny Rich (Ice Cube), Professor Steven Cale (Eric Stoltz) who is romantic with Terri, Warren Westridge (Jonathan Hyde), Gary Dixon (Owen Wilson), Denise Kalberg (Kari Wuhrer) and a few others.
During their trip through the Amazon River, they rescue a man named Paul Sarone (Jon Voight) who is a former priest that has chosen to live in the Amazon and has seen the Indian tribe that the crew have been looking for. So, the crew allow Sarone to join them if he helps them find the Indian tribe.
Meanwhile the crew has some major close calls with death from the wild. As young lovers Gary and Denise try to share a passionate moment, they are attacked by a wild boar and Sarone manages to save their lives.
While Professor Cale is swimming underwater, a deadly wasp had enter his mouth and immediately the crew try to resuscitate him but only Sarone knows how to help him (mainly slitting his throat and putting a tube to allow him to breath). With Cale now having to stay in bed to recover, the crew then grow suspicious of Sarone because he appears to have very good hunting skills and he has been exhibiting some weird behavior and wonder if this man is safe to be with.
While on the river, the crew desperately need more fuel and with Sarone the only person who knows the Amazon well, the crew is split on who to follow. While searching for fuel, one of the crew members is killed by a giant anaconda which literally wraps themselves around the bodies and crushes them and then eats them.
Sarone then convinces some crew members that while they try to find the Indian tribe, they can also make a lot of money by trying to shoot one of the largest Anaconda. Gary is the first to be supportive as he is feel antsy about not working but Terri and Danny are very much against it. It’s until they run into one of the anaconda that shocks everyone. The anaconda is huge and puts everyone at danger and during the fight against it, Gary who tried to save a crew member who had fallen in the water gets killed by it.
Immediately, the crew shows disdain towards Sarone when they find a newspaper article and he is revealed to be a snake hunter that has been trying to catch the anaconda for years. Unfortunately, Sarone who now has the weapons and is a skilled fighter has taken everyone hostage and now assumes command of the boat.
Will the film crew survive with this mad man in command or will they fight back and take their boat back?
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“Anaconda” is presented in 1080p High Definition (with an aspect ratio of 2:40:1). The film looks good at times (sunlight, outdoor scenes) but then starts to have this soft look in many other areas. Because they are in the middle of the Amazon, I was expecting to see skin pores, grime but it appears this film exhibits some major DNR (Digital Noise Reduction) that prevents the film from being vibrant or alive. The faces look waxy and the film looks to clean and soft for its own good. Overall, picture quality is still much better than the original DVD. There is details you can see from the trees and the boat and the crew’s surroundings.
As for the audio, audio for “Anaconda” is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and I have to say that I was very impressed by the amount of audio being utilized during the anaconda and action scenes. Also, a few times where the subwoofer is utilized for the low frequency bass. Great use of panning of audio swishing from left to right and awesome use of ambient sounds from the Amazon forest as I saw a lot of use on my rear (centers) and my front channels. The Amazon forest really does come alive through the soundtrack but I will say that I didn’t really hear much coming from my rear (surrounds) via my 7.2 setup. Dialogue is clear and overall, “Anaconda” on Blu-ray’s highlight is its audio soundtrack.
As for subtitles, the film is presented in English, English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish.
“Anaconda” has no special features but Sony Home Entertainment trailers.
Watching “Anaconda” again, 12 years later, it’s surprising to see how many well-known talents were involved in this film (of course, this is earlier work for many of them) and also surprising it was to see John Voight in an action role as hunter and doing a great job playing a villain sporting some major action scenes.
Unfortunately, what the film is lacking is a strong story where characters are not used effectively. Eric Stoltz who I thought would have a big role in the film is pretty much incapacitated throughout the film. And John Voight was like a super soldier who just gets away with too much.
Other talents, especially Ice Cube is not utilized all that well. And of course, the acting was OK. Granted, this film was released back in 1997 and considered early work for a lot of these talents who tend to have found their acting groove years later.
But “Anaconda” is a decent popcorn action/horror flick that does its job of entertaining the viewer. As long as one doesn’t come with high expectations, the film does its job to entertain and the Blu-ray release definitely does a great job in bringing the sounds of the Amazon and the anaconda right to your living room. But I do find the barebones release on Blu-ray without any special features to be quite disappointing. It would have been great to hear an audio commentary track or even behind-the-scenes of the making of the film.
Overall, “Anaconda” definitely is much better than its DVD counterpart and for fans of the film, the High Definition transfer may be worth the double dip.
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