The Ice Storm – The Criterion Collection #426 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
July 26, 2013 by Dennis Amith
One of my favorite films of the ’90s, Ang Lee’s “Ice Storm” features magnificent performances from its all-star cast and a unique storyline that is unpredictable but yet I find sinfully delightful. Worthy of an upgrade from the original Criterion Collection DVD, “The Ice Storm” is a film and Blu-ray release that is worth recommending!
Image are courtesy of © 1997 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: The Ice Storm – The Criterion Collection #426
YEAR OF FILM: 1997
DURATION: 113 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:85:1 aspect ratio, English DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English SDH
COMPANY: Twentieth Century Fox/THE CRITERION COLLECTION
RELEASE DATE: July 23, 2013
Based on the Novel by Rick Moody
Directed by Ang Lee
Produced by Ted Hope, Ang Lee, James Schamus
Associate Producer: Alysse Bezahler, Anthony Bregman
Music by Mychael Danna
Cinematography by Frederick Elmes
Edited by Tim Squyres
Casting by Avy Kaufman
Production Design by Mark Friedberg
Art Direction by Bob Shaw
Set Decoration by Stephanie Carroll
Costume Desgin by Carol Oditz
Kevin Kline as Ben Hood
Joan Allen as Elena Hood
Sigourney Weaver as Janey Carver
Henry Czerny as George Clair
Tobey Maguire as Paul Hood
Christina Ricci as Wendy Hood
Elijah Wood as Mikey Carver
Adam Hann-Byrd as Sandy Carver
David Krumholtz as Francis Davenport
Jamey Sheridan as Jim Carver
Kate Burton as Dorothy Franklin
William Cain as Ted Shackley
Katie Holmes as Libbets Casey
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.
Before Ang Lee would be known for films such as “Life of Pi”, “Lust, Caution”, “Brokeback Mountain” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and becoming an international renown director, in the early ’90s, Lee was known as a Taiwanese director receiving recognition for “The Wedding Banquet” and “Eat Drink Man Woman”.
These two films would lead to Ang Lee directing the film adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel “Sense and Sensibility” and it would be his first British film that would earn the director a Golden Bear but also multiple Academy Award nominations.
But his first entry to directing Hollywood cinema would begin with his 1997 film “The Ice Storm”, an adaptation of Rick Moody’s 1994 novel that would receive acclaim and also becoming a bestseller.
Unfortunately, “The Ice Storm” did not do well in the box office, its limited release would only earn $8 million (the film cost $18 million to make) and it featured an all-star cast which included Kevin Cline (“Wild Wild West”, “The Big Chill”,”A Fish Called Wanda”), Joan Allen (“Face/Off”, “The Bourne Ultimatum”, “The Bourne Supremacy”), Sigourney Weaver (“Alien” films, “Avatar”), Henry Czerny (“The A-Team”, “Clear and Present Danger”, “Mission: Impossible”) and up-and-coming young actors at the time: Tobey Maguire (“Spider-Man” films, “Pleasantville”), Christina Ricci (“Monster”, “Sleepy Hollow”, “Mermaids”), Elijah Wood (“The Lord of the Rings” films, “Deep Impact”, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) and Katie Holmes (“Batman Begins”, “Dawson’s Creek”, “Go”).
But the film was praised for its cinematic quality and screenwriter James Schamus would win an award for “Best Screenplay” at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival.
In 2008, “The Ice Storm” was released on DVD and in July 2013, the film will be released on Blu-ray for the very first time.
“The Ice Storm” is a film that focuses on two dysfunctional families in New Canaan, Connecticut and is set during the early 1970’s during the Watergate scandal, the end of the sexual revolution and buzz around the pornographic film “Deep Throat”.
The Hood family features Ben (portrayed by Kevin Kline), his wife Elena (portrayed by Joan Allen) and his two teenage children, Paul (portrayed by Tobey Maguire) and Wendy (portrayed by Christina Ricci).
Ben is dissatisfied with his marriage and career, so he begins having an affair with Janey Carver (portrayed by Sigourney Weaver). His wife Elena has a sense that her husband is having an affair with Janey and is so frustrated with their affair and her life that she begins acting out and starts shoplifting.
Their son Paul is a student who has fallen for Libbets Casey (portrayed by Katie Holmes) and is not very good at girls. He wants to get to know Libbets much more but is to shy to go for her. Meanwhile, Wendy is a mature 14-year-old who is starting to discover her own sexuality and likes to partake in sexual games.
One of those people she likes to tease are the sons of Janey Carver.
Janey is married to Jim (portrayed by Jamey Sheridan), a man who is often busy traveling and he has no connection with his wife and his two children. His son Mikey (portrayed by Elijah Wood) is a teenager who tends to partake in sexual games with his neighbor Wendy but is bothered when he finds out that Wendy has been offering her sexual games to his younger brother Sandy (portrayed by Adam Hann-Byrd), a boy who is just starting to learn about his own sexuality. But Sandy also shows a side of destructiveness as he is often wanting to blow things up.
But an ice storm is about to hit New Canaan and rather stay inside, for a few adults in the town, they take part in a “Key Party” (a swinger party) where married couples swap spouses for a day, by a wife picking a key inside a glass bowl and having to sleep with the man who owns the key.
Through the troubles featured for each character, eventually Elena confronts her husband about his affairs with Janey but also discussing their daughter’s sexual behavior. Upset at her husband, the two end up going to a party, with her not knowing it’s a swinger party, she thinks he is using the party as a way to have another sexual encounter with Janey. But because she is so upset with her husband’s actions, she wants to attend the party and participate.
But for all these individuals, the day after the ice storm, their lives will never be the same.
“The Ice Storm – The Criterion Collection #426” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). Having owned the previous Criterion Collection DVD release, the biggest difference is the HD version features much better contrast and detail. I didn’t detect any white specks, dirt or any problems with the film. There is a good amount of grain and fans of the film will be pleased with the HD version of “The Ice Storm”.
According to the Criterion Collection, the Blu-ray release was “supervised by director Ang Lee and director of photography Frederick Elmes, this digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on a Spirit 4K DataCine from a 35mm interpositive, and color-corrected on Autodesk’s Lustre system. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI’s DRS and Pixel Farm’s PFClean, while Image Systems’ Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction.”
“The Ice Storm – The Criterion Collection #426” is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. Dialogue and musical soundtrack is crystal clear. According to the Criterion Collection, “The original 2.0 surround soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the 35 mm LT/RT magnetic track. Clicks, thumps, hiss and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube’s integrated workstation.
“The Ice Storm – The Criterion Collection #426” comes with the following special features:
- Audio commentary – Featuring an audio commentary by Ang Lee and producer-screenwriter James Schamus
- Weathering the Storm – (36:08) The cast talk about working in the film and working with Ang Lee and also working with the other cast members.
- Rick Moody Interview- (21:20) Featuring an exclusive interview with author Rick Moody about how he came up with “The Ice Storm”, his feelings about the film and his feelings of his story now being called Ang Lee’s story.
- Deleted Scenes – (6:47) Featuring a total of four deleted scenes with optional commentary by producer and screenwriter James Schamus.
- Lee and Schamus at MoMI – (32:05) A 2007 interview between director Ang Lee and producer/screenwriter James Schamus along with David Schwartz of the New York Museum of the Moving Image.
- The Look at the Ice Storm – A total of three audio interviews with behind-the-scenes clips and stills. Featuring cinematographer Frederick Elmes, production designer Mark Friedberg and costume designer Carol Oditz.
“The Ice Storm – The Criterion Collection #426” comes with a 20-page booklet featuring the essay “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” by Bill Krohn.
“The Ice Storm” was one of my favorite American films from the ’90s.
As a fan of Ang Lee’s earlier films at the time, what struck me about “The Ice Storm” is that each character is truly flawed. The families are indeed dysfunctional but instead of being too bleak, the film has its moments of humor and memorable lines.
But what I loved about the film is the performance of each character who all seem lost in someway.
Because the film is set in the ’70’s, despite being a child from that era, I was not privy to waning years of the sexual revolution but the film captures the ’70s from the decision making of each character and how lost some of these characters are.
Looking at the character of Ben Hood (Kevin Kline), his actions are immoral. He is dissatisfied with his marriage and career, so he turns to a family friend and neighbor, Janey (portrayed by Sigourney Weaver) who is dissatisfied as a mother and a wife who’s husband is never home. Both act out on their impulses but not once do they seem to care about their families. As parents, they care to a point but at the same time, they are just to dissatisfied with how their lives are going.
But it doesn’t stop there. Ben’s wife Elena is not sure how to make of her life, she has a sense that her husband is up to no good and like how her daughter tends to act out and do bad things, part of her wants to rebel like her daughter and do bad things, such as shoplifting and then her dissatisfaction begins to intensify.
The children of both families are also dissatisfied. For the Hood family, possibly the normal character of the film is Paul (Tobey Maguire) who is attracted to a classmate but since he told his friend about it, he begins to worry because his friend tends to find a way to have a sexual encounter with any woman and in this case, worried that his friend may make the move on Libbets Casey (Katie Holmes). But wanting to sleep with her, how far will Paul go?
The other child in the hood family is daughter Wendy. For a teenager, she seems to behave like an activist who wants to make a difference. Very smart, often blunt but behind-the-scenes, she has a thing about wanting to provide certain sexual requests. She acts out by shoplifting and going to boys, wanting to show her private area if the boy will show her his. But just when you think she is wanting to sleep with Mikey Carver (Elijah Wood), she ends up targeting his younger brother Sandy.
Each of these characters are deeply flawed and there is no sense of moralistic behavior. Everyone seems to be miserable or acting out and while in today’s society, one can see these characters receiving some counseling or a trip to the psychiatrist.
But this film was set in the ’70s, a time in which divorces were not up as a staggering rate as they are today. A time where women were still expected to be housewives and obviously, we start to see a disconnect with the world for these characters and instead of thinking about ramifications, each act out on impulse behavior.
For the most part, the cast members who performed their roles, did so, with amazing efficacy and I tend to connect that with how Ang Lee works with his cast and crew, he is able to bring out certain dynamic especially when it comes to preparation and what he wants to achieve onscreen.
As for the Blu-ray release, this is a pretty solid upgrade from the original DVD. While nothing new is added in terms of special features, for fans of this film they will certainly enjoy the overall improved picture quality and upgraded lossless audio of this Ang Lee masterpiece.
Overall, one of my favorite American films from the ’90s, Ang Lee’s “Ice Storm” features magnificent performances from its all-star cast and a unique storyline that is unpredictable but yet I find sinfully delightful. Worthy of an upgrade from the original Criterion Collection DVD, “The Ice Storm” is a film and Blu-ray release that is worth recommending!
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