Latest Software Reviews

DVD: The Cat in the Hat—Universal
Video: 5
Audio: 5
Extras: 2
It's always dangerous to remake a classic, yet director Bo Welch and company evidently had little fear of (or much respect for) the original Dr. Seuss tale in which a mischievous cat with a mysterious-but-colorful hat magically enters the lives of a brother and sister who need a lesson about balance in their lives. Although the DVD case claims that "the Classic Book Comes to Life," sadly, the childlike wonder and simple beauty of Suess' well-hewn prose and intriguingly alluring drawings are regularly shortchanged in favor of Mike Myers' antics and strangely out-of-place, off-color humor.

On the plus side, the movie is technically brilliant, as is the transfer on this 1.85:1 anamorphic DVD (a 1.33:1 disc is also available). The candy-coated colors of the Seussian siblings' hometown are beautifully rendered—not comic book and yet not real life, either—in a near-flawless presentation. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack (with Spanish and French language versions) is an aural treat, with a wide soundstage, a clear dialogue channel, and well-balanced surround effects.

The menu screens are the disc's truest homage to the book, leading one to expect great things from the extras. Unfortunately, the included extras, including a commentary track featuring Welch and Alec Baldwin, are mediocre at best. Two extras are actually sponsored ads courtesy of the U.S. Postal Service and Procter & Gamble. In all, it's a great demo disc but not the classic worthy of multiple viewings that Seuss fans (of all ages) had wished for.—Darryl Wilkinson

DVD: Ripley's Game—New Line
Video: 2
Audio: 3
Extras: 1
Tom Ripley admits he has no conscience. Nonetheless, or maybe because of that, he's a lot of fun to watch. The film character most associated with Matt Damon, in The Talented Mr. Ripley, is now in middle age, looks just like John Malkovich, and is living the good life in Italy as a dealer of fraudulent art. When an associate needs a contract killing committed, Ripley suggests sending "a complete innocent" and selects a terminally ill neighbor. Thus the game begins, as one murder turns into several, and things begin to spiral downward.

Although this is based on another novel by Patricia Highsmith, Ripley's Game isn't, strictly speaking, a sequel to the 1999 film with Damon. As a result, the producers have toyed with the character, and Malkovich slides into the skin of Ripley with a mix of stoicism and sardonic wit. He delivers a terrific performance that will have you pulling for him despite his propensity for jarring violence.

Unfortunately, this is a poor DVD presentation. Graininess and digital artifacts, especially noticeable in dark scenes, mar the 1.85:1 anamorphic picture. Thankfully, audio performs better; the DTS soundtrack gives great depth to the music and adds menace to mundane sounds like cell phones ringing and bear traps clapping shut. The disc is also devoid of extras, save for a few trailers.

A moderate success overseas, this was never released theatrically in the U.S. That's a shame, but it's good to see what old Ripley's been up. Give it a try.—Gary Frisch

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