Software Reviews

DVD: Ghost Ship—Warner Brothers
Audio: 3
Video: 3
Extras: 2
A horror movie just isn't as terrifying without the presence of a ghost girl. While Ghost Ship's little moppet goes against the malevolent stereotype, she's no less creepy in this tale of an unsuspecting salvage crew attempting to recover a 40-year-old Titanic-like ocean liner.

The rich, layered Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack delivers bone-chilling effects and active surround use from beginning to end. The slaughter sequence on the ship's deck is particularly fun to hear, as a deadly cable cuts back and forth across the speakers. The vibrant, detailed 1.85:1 anamorphic picture also handles the film's many low-light scenes well.

Unfortunately, the extras on the disc are, for the most part, all flash and no substance. There's a well-produced making-of documentary that is, nevertheless, a poor substitute for director commentary, as well as cast bios and featurettes on the visual effects and makeup. All of the footage appears to have been shot during production, which gives it a stale feeling—behind-the-scenes material seems to benefit when the filmmakers have the necessary perspective. The only meaty inclusion is "Secrets of the Antonia Graza," which provides some history about a few of the characters on the ill-fated ship.—Christy Grosz

DVD: The Four Feathers—Paramount
Audio: 4
Video: 4
Extras: 4
A major disappointment at the box office, The Four Feathers is a proudly accurate but highly melodramatic tale of a love triangle set amid the British campaign in the Sudan, circa 1903. Charismatic Heath Ledger is Henry, an elite British soldier who resigns his commission just before being sent to fight in favor of building a life with his fiance Ethne (Kate Hudson). This perceived act of cowardice earns him the symbolic four feathers and sends his bride-to-be into the arms of his best friend (Wes Bentley). The rest of the movie plays as a story of redemption, as Henry goes to war incognito to regain the respect of his comrades and his woman. Although it has all the trappings of an epic—including grand, well-staged battle scenes—the story plods through much of its bloated 130-minute running time.

Fortunately, the DVD presentation is more impressive, boasting a 1.85:1 anamorphic image that fully flaunts the stark, Ansel Adams–esque desert cinematography. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is also first-rate, with well-defined surround use and a few sonic surprises.

A collection of featurettes and one longer making-of documentary shed light on everything from the weaponry and battle tactics of the time to the rigid social structure in Victorian England to the distinctive East-versus-West James Horner soundtrack. There's also a commentary track by Indian director Shekhar Kapur, who knows a few things about the British oppression of the period. Taken together, these extras do what good supplements should: foster a greater appreciation of the film.—Gary Frisch

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