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(Widescreen Edition)

As Wichita falls...
so falls Wichita Falls

THE ICE HARVEST ($30) is a highly enjoyable and very, very black comic heist movie that is certain to tickle the dark side of one’s funny bone with its twists on the noir-ish conventions of the story. Set on rainy, cold Christmas Eve in Wichita Falls, Kansas, THE ICE HARVEST tells the story of lawyer Charlie Arglist (John Cusack) who decides to make off with two million dollars of mob money, with the aid of partner-in-crime Vic Cavanaugh (Billy Bob Thornton). Thinking that the holiday offers the perfect cover to take the money and run, before it can be discovered missing, Charlie makes a few good will holiday gestures that attracts the attention of strip club owner Renata (Connie Nielsen), who decides she wants to leave town with our lawyer and his stash of loot. Further complicating Charlie’s evening is his drunken old friend Pete Van Heuten (Oliver Platt), who suffers from buyer’s remorse after marrying Charlie’s icy ex-wife, not to mention the arrival of mobster Bill Guerrard (Randy Quaid), who has become very aware of his missing money, way ahead of schedule.

Universal Studios Home Entertainment has made THE ICE HARVEST available on DVD in a 1.85:1 widescreen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. This is a really neat little transfer that produces a sharp image and good levels of detail. Sure much of the film plays out under dark or dimly lit conditions, but it all holds up quite well. Colors are nicely rendered and occasionally pop rather nicely in contrast to the noir stylings of the film’s cinematography. Blacks are deep, whites are crisp and the contrast is pretty smooth. Shadow detail is a bit variable, but considering the shadowy, film noir styled photography, the sometimes-nondescript darkness has to be expected. The film elements utilized for the transfer are very clean. Modest film grain creeps in, in places, but is never objectionable. Digital compression artifacts are never a cause for concern.

THE ICE HARVEST comes with a competent Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. As the film is primarily dialogue driven, there isn’t too much activity in the outlying channels. Occasional mild effects and some ambience fill out the rears, while the forward soundstage sees a bit more activity. Fidelity is strong, with the music coming across nicely and natural sounding effects and foley work. Voices have a warm, natural quality, plus the film’s dialogue is always completely understandable. A French 5.1 channel track is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some nice extras. Director Harold Ramis is on hand for a running audio commentary. 2 Alternate Endings have been provided, and while they are more appropriate to the material, I think the theatrical ending is actually far more satisfying. Next come the featurettes. Cracking The Story is a seventeen-minute program that examines the changes made to the story, going from novel to the screen. Beneath The Harvest clocks in at thirteen minutes and is your average, "fluffy" look behind-the-scenes featuring interviews with the cast and crew. Ice Cracking: Analysis Of A Scene runs six minutes and offers a breakdown of one of the film’s climatic scenes. A fairly funny Outtake featuring Billy Bob Thornton breaking into his best-known character closes out the extras.

As someone who really likes black comedies, let me just say that I found THE ICE HARVEST to a completely enjoyable offering in this genre. Universal’s DVD delivers the goods in the regards to solid image and sound quality, as well as a few nice extras. If you like your comedies black, or are a fan of the film’s stars, then you’ll want to abscond with a copy of THE ICE HARVEST.



The Ice Harvest (Widescreen Edition) (2005)



DVD reviews are Copyright © 2006 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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