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Phenomenon (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 1, 2012 by  



“Phenomenon” could have been a different film.  I suppose focusing on George’s supernatural abilities would make this almost to a superhero film and this is not what the film is all about.  For those wanting a simple storyline without the complexities of other sci-fi films, “Phenomenon” may be for you!

Images courtesy of © 2012 Buena Vista Home Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Phenomenon

FILM RELEASE: 1996

DURATION: 123 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish 2.0 Dolby Digital, Subtitles:English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: Touchstone Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (For Languge and Mild Sensuality)

Release Date: July 3, 2012

Directed by Jon Turteltaub

Written by Gerald Di Pego

Produced by Barbara Boyle, Michael Taylor

Executive Producer: Jonathan D. Krane, Charles Newirth

Music by Thomas Newman

Cinematography by Phedon Papamichael

Edited by Bruce Green

Casting by Renee Rousselot

Production Design by Garreth Stover

Art Direction by Bruce Alan Miller

Set Decoration by Jay Hart

Costume Design by Betsy Cox

Starring:

John Travolta as George Malley

Kyra Sedgwick as Lace Pennamin

Forest Whitaker as Nate Pope

Robert Duvall as Doc Brunder

Jeffrey DeMunn as Prof. John Ringold

Richard Kiley as Dr. Wellin

David Gallagher as Al Pennamin

Ashley Buccille as Glory Pennamin

Tony Genaro as Tito

Sean O’Bryan as Banes

Michael Milhoan as Jimmy

Troy Evans as Roger

Experience the critically-acclaimed film, Phenomenon – available on Blu-ray for the first time, featuring an incredible new digital restoration with enhanced picture and sound. Academy Award nominee John Travolta (Best Actor, 1994, Pulp Fiction) leads a stellar cast, including Kyra Sedgwick, Forest Whitaker, and Robert Duvall, in this uplifting story of an ordinary man transformed by extraordinary events.

On the night of his 37th birthday, George Malley (Travolta) is knocked to the ground by a mysterious, blinding light and develops amazing mental abilities. With his newfound knowledge, George astounds everyone in town, but comes to realize that his wondrous experience has changed him and all those around him forever.

Back in 1996, filmmaker Jon Turteltaub would go on to work on his latest film “Phenomenon” after coming off two successful films, “While You Were Sleeping” (1995) and “Cool Runnings” (1993).

With a story written by Gerald Di Pego (“Message in a Bottle”, “Instinct”), the film would star John Travolta (“Get Shorty”, “Pulp Fiction”, “Saturday Night Fever”, “Grease”), Kyra Sedgwick (“The Closer”, “Gamer”), Forest Whitaker (“Platoon”, “The Last King of Scotland”, “Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai”) and Robert Duvall (“The Godfather” films, “Apocalypse Now”, “Deep Impact”).

The film was a success in the box office.  Budgeted at $32 million, “Phenomenon” would earn over $152 million in the box office.  And having been released on VHS and DVD in the past, “Phenomenon” will now be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Touchstone Entertainment.

“Phenomenon” revolves around a man named George Malley (as portrayed by John Travolta).  A normal man who is an auto mechanic, owns a house, waters his garden and happens to like a widow named Lace Pennamin (as portrayed by Kyra Sedgwick), who comes by the shop in hopes that George can sell the chairs that she has designed.

One night after his friends had thrown a 37th birthday party for George, as he walked outside the local bar, he notices a bright light coming from the sky.  Is it a plane going down?  Next thing you know, the light knocks him off his feet and falls to the ground.

The morning after, George realizes that his life has changed as he has developed supernatural skills.  Learning a new language, studying and developing new ways to grow vegetables and also having telekinetic abilities.  At work, he shocks his employees when he is able to read a book on Spanish and immediately becomes fluent.

And his friends starts to take notice, especially his best friend Nate Pope (as portrayed by Forest Whitaker) and the local physician Doc Brunder (as portrayed by Robert Duvall).  Including Lace and her two children.

One day, he starts to show remarkable and keen abilities to sense an earthquake coming to the town.  When he calls to warn seismologist Dr. Ringold (as portrayed by Jeffrey DeMunn) at UC Berkeley, no one believes him until it happens.

Surprised by the way George was able to detect the earthquake, Dr. Ringold pays George a visit.  And at the same time, a Portuguese man (who can’t speak English) is deathly sick and his grandson has gone sick and is missing.  Needing immediate help for the sick child, Doc Brunder asks the people in the village to bring George Malley to the man, but first, to give him a book on how to learn Portuguese.

And sure enough, by reading the book, George is able to help the man by speaking in Portuguese and the boy is found.

Not only is Doc Brunder shocked about seeing the abilities of George Malley firsthand, now everyone in the village are surprised.

But as George, a good-natured man wanting to help people with his abilities, the people in the area, including his friends start to fear him or simply feel is faking his abilities.

As George is shocked by how people begin to look at him, how will George win over the people in town, including his friends who have become afraid of him.  And what happens when his abilities get the attention of the US government?

VIDEO:

“Phenomenon” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1).  Video quality is very good and features an all-new digital restoration.  There are detail and more clarity when closeups of the characters are seen, from the stubble on John Travolta to clothing.  Vibrant colors are much more evident than the previous DVD release which looked softer, so this Blu-ray release is an upgrade over the original DVD.    Skin tones are natural, black levels are nice and deep and I didn’t notice any edge enhancement, artifacts, banding or any video problems during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Phenomenon” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and Spanish 2.0 Dolby Digital.   The soundtrack is primarily dialogue with the occasional music that can be heard through the surround channels.  But the most where you do hear surround channels being utilized is for ambiance during crowd scenes or when George is being struck by the light.  But for a film such as “Phenomenon”, lossless audio is appropriate, dialogue is crystal clear as with the music for the film.

Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Phenomenon” comes with the original theatrical trailer.

One day you are a normal man.  The next day, you realize you have special abilities.

“Phenomenon” was a film that rather intriguing when it first came out.  A sci-fi film that captivated viewers for its take on one man’s special ability and enhanced intelligence due to being struck by light.  Is it a supernatural phenomenon or something health related?   And despite using his abilities for good, it starts to make friends and residents of the town scared of him.

This is the premise of “Phenomenon”.  And while there have been a few films that have similar storylines, one thing that people have felt about “Phenomenon” is its correlation to Travolta’s dedication to the Church of Scientology (which he would followup several years later in the film “Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000”).

But the correlation is the belief that all people have special abilities but must go through steps or changes in one’s life in wanting to achieve clarity, free of the past and knowing that you are part of something much bigger than humanity.

The religious correlation was discussed a lot back in the mid-’90s but in the case of this film, it’s a film that tries to stay safe without being polemic.  The character of George Malley is a good guy who wants his abilities to help people, but because people are not sure how to react to his new abilities, many wonder if he is an extra-terrestrial, faking his abilities or what.  There is no explanation.  And so the film tries to play things quite safe with George being worried about how others think about him.

Sure, we get the U.S. government storyline included (and I can’t mention any more than that without spoiling the storyline) but if anything, the film tries to focus on the positive.  May it be his relationship to his friends, the people in the village to the one woman that George has liked.  The film doesn’t stray away from the good nature of its character, so for those hoping for something drastic or even integration of action sequences, this is not that type of film.

It’s a straightforward sci-fi film with an interesting concept of what is causing George’s abilities, but other than that, writer Gerald Di Pego plays it safe with the screenplay.  And to the benefit of “Phenomenon”, it’s a film that has a stellar cast and a filmmaker who just came off directing the successful romantic comedy, “While You Were Sleeping”.  But the film was too simple for me and I felt it could have been much better.

The Blu-ray release does look very good on Blu-ray thanks to its new digital restoration and the lossless soundtrack sounds very good as well.  But unfortunately, aside from the theatrical trailer, there are no special features included.

Overall, “Phenomenon” could have been a different film.  I suppose focusing on George’s supernatural abilities would make this almost to a superhero film and this is not what the film is all about.  For those wanting a simple storyline without the complexities of other sci-fi films, “Phenomenon” may be for you!






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