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The Ice Storm(1997)
1973, suburban Connecticut: middle class families experimenting with casual sex, drink, etc., find their lives out of control.
For more about The Ice Storm and the The Ice Storm Blu-ray release, see the The Ice Storm Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on June 28, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Ang Lee
Writer: James Schamus
Starring: Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Christina Ricci, Henry Czerny, Tobey Maguire
» See full cast & crew
The Ice Storm Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, June 28, 2013
Ang Lee's "The Ice Storm" (1997) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include an original trailer for the film; video interview with author Rick Moody; deleted scenes with optional audio commentary by producer and screenwriter James Schamus; three audio interviews with cinematographer Frederick Elmes, production designer Mark Friedberg, and costume designer Carol Oditz; filmed audio conversation with Ang Lee and James Schamus; and more. The release also arrives with an an illustrated booklet featuring an essay by film critic Bill Krohn. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
There are a couple of things that make Taiwanese director Ang Lee's The Ice Storm a very unique film. First, it is the sense of uncertainty that permeates it. On one hand, large parts of the film are irresistibly funny – the funny comes from the openness and directness that exists in the exchanges between the different characters. The same openness and directness, however, also expose the many weaknesses of these characters in a manner that very quickly kills off the humor. These rapid mood swings create and sustain a very unique atmosphere, one that cannot be discovered in other similarly themed films.
The manner in which Lee welcomes the viewer into the '70s, which is where The Ice Storm takes place, is also unusual. In the beginning it feels like the town of New Canaan, Connecticut exists in a large bubble that has been completely detached from reality. Life has a certain rhythm there that works for everyone. Or everyone but the kids – they pay attention to the news reports which their parents ignore, make 'mistakes' that force their parents to act like parents and unsuccessfully question them, and try to connect with each other and understand what no one is helping them understand. All of this looks and feels quite bizarre because the kids essentially act like adults while their parents act like clueless kids. While observing their behavior, the viewer also learns about life outside of the bubble and the uncertain future a country in transition faces.
What is most impressive about The Ice Storm, however, is how it allows the viewer to become intimately acquainted with each character. This is done in a very convincing way despite the fact that these characters spend a different amount of time in front of the camera. Lee understands their dilemmas and treats them with the same respect, never exploiting their weaknesses or humiliating them for the sake of entertainment.
Based on a brilliant script by James Schamus, the film is loaded with talent of the highest caliber. Kevin Kline and Joan Allen are superb as the depressed parents looking for something to reinvigorate their lives. Equally spectacular is Sigourney Weaver as the bored housewife who cheats on her husband to feel alive. Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, and Elijah Wood could not be any more convincing. A very young Adam Hann-Byrd also appears in a couple of the most delicate scenes in the entire film. Also very young Katie Holmes plays an attractive student who is as fascinated with Dostoyevsky as she is with pills. (The Ice Storm was her acting debut).
The cinematography and the special effects, in particular, are also top-notch. The Ice Storm was lensed by Frederick Elmes, who is probably best known for his terrific work on David Lynch's Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, and Wild at Heart. The film is also complimented by an unusually beautiful and calming soundtrack courtesy of Oscar winning Canadian composer Mychael Danna (Atom Egoyan's Exotica, The Sweet Hereafter).
Note: In 1997, The Ice Storm won Best Screenplay Award at the Cannes Film Festival (James Schamus).
The Ice Storm Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Ang Lee's The Ice Storm arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"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.
Transfer supervisors: Frederick Elmes, Lee Kline, Ang Lee.
Colorist: Joe Gawler/Technicolor, New York.
Additional footage correction: Gregg Garvin/Modern Videofilm, Los Angeles.
Additional color correction supervised by: Maria Palazzola."
The high-definition transfer appears to have been struck from the same source Criterion worked with when they prepared their DVD release of The Ice Storm in 2008. However, additional work has been done to improve various areas. The result is a somewhat pleasing but often quite inconsistent presentation.
There are traces of light sharpening corrections that make select portions of the film look rather harsh. Light halo effects are often easy to spot. Contrast levels appear to have been toned down to soften them and in certain areas this is indeed a solution that works well, but elsewhere the film can look quite flat (see screencapture #4). Colors are stable, but they could and should look healthier. The good news is that there are no traces of excessive degraining corrections. Naturally, there are obvious improvements in detail and clarity in areas where the DVD release struggled (screencapture #19 comes from one such area). Lastly, there are no large damage marks, debris, cuts, or stains to address in this review. All in all, Criterion's Blu-ray release clearly represents an upgrade in quality over the label's DVD release, but, to me, it is also obvious that The Ice Storm could look a lot better. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray release. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
The Ice Storm Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray release: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
The lossless audio track alone is a good enough reason to recommend upgrading your DVD release of The Ice Storm. It will not test the muscles of your system, but it will greatly enhance your viewing experience. Indeed, Mychael Danna's soundtrack has a very important role in the film which is a lot easier to appreciate now. I also feel that the dialog is crisper and clearer than it is on the DVD release.
The Ice Storm Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Ice Storm Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Inspired by Rick Moody's acclaimed novel, The Ice Storm is without a shadow of a doubt director Ang Lee's best film. It is funny, it is sad, it is depressing, it is indescribably elegant. The film's transition to Blu-ray is somewhat underwhelming. Criterion's Blu-ray release clearly represents an upgrade in quality over the label's R1 DVD release, but I feel that the film could have looked a lot better. Still, I think that this is a release well worth owning. RECOMMENDED.
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The Ice Storm Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: July 23-30 - July 21, 2013
For the week of July 23rd, Criterion is bringing The Ice Storm to Blu-ray; Ang Lee's darkly funny and very subtle drama remains a lacerating portrait of suburban America. Other releases include two from James McAvoy - the actioner Welcome to the Punch and the ...
• Criterion Announces July Titles - April 15, 2013
The Criterion Collection has announced five titles for Blu-ray release in July. On July 9th, the studio will release Kenji Mizoguchi's The Life of Oharu. On July 16th, it will release Peter Brook's Lord of the Flies. On July 23rd, it will release Gabriel Axel's ...
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