LADY IN THE WATER
I have to say that I am very much enamored with LADY IN THE WATER ($29). It’s just marvelous to see a mainstream filmmaker break with Hollywood’s cookie cutter mentality and deliver a slightly more art house type of film that allows him to be true to his personal vision. Writer/director M. Night Shyamalan bills LADY IN THE WATER as a classic bedtime story for a new generation and that’s exactly what he delivers. LADY IN THE WATER is a gentle fantasy film that doesn’t display any other ambitions other than to tell its slight tale in a straightforward, yet charming manner. Sure, LADY IN THE WATER suffered a critical lambasting, but I don’t feel was deserved- especially not to the level this particular film was derided by the critics.
Paul Giamatti stars in LADY IN THE WATER as Cleveland Heep, a lonely apartment building superintendent, who begins having trouble with the complex’s pool, due to an unknown party that’s been swimming after hours. Cleveland eventually encounters the culprit, a young woman named Story (Bryce Dallas Howard), who turns out to be something more than a common trespasser. It seems that Story is mythical aquatic creature called a Narf that has come into our world to inspire someone to a greatness, an individual whose greatness will have far reaching for all of mankind.
However, when our Narf completes her task and is abut to make her way back to her own world, she finds herself facing another creature from her realm- one that has lethal intentions for our lady from the water. Of course, this leaves Cleveland with a dilemma that can only be solved with the help of an elderly Asian woman, who just happens to be familiar with a bedtime story involving a Narf, as well as some of the other residents of the apartment complex who just happen to fit into this particular legend. The cast of LADY IN THE WATER also features Bob Balaban, Jeffrey Wright, Sarita Choudhury, Cindy Cheung, M. Night Shyamalan, Freddy Rodríguez, Bill Irwin, Mary Beth Hurt, Noah Gray-Cabey, Joseph D. Reitman, Jared Harris, Grant Monohon, John Boyd, Ethan Cohn, June Kyoto Lu, Tovah Feldshuh and Tom Mardirosian.
Warner Home Video has made LADY IN THE WATER available on DVD in a 1.78:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. LADY IN THE WATER comes with a very solid transfer that holds up very well considering that much of the film is dark and intentionally dingy. The levels of sharpness and image detail are both very good. Colors generally rendered at a natural level of saturation. Blacks are accurate, whites are stable, plus the picture has fairly smooth contrast and respectable shadow detail. The film elements are free from blemishes, but display modest grain. Digital compression artifacts are nicely concealed.
LADY IN THE WATER comes with a very pleasing Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. As the film is primarily dialogue driven, there isn’t too much activity in the outlying channels, except for a few key sequences. At other times, 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, plus the sound effects are convincing. Voices are natural sounding and the film’s dialogue is always completely understandable. French and Spanish 5.1 channel soundtracks are 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. Reflections Of Lady In The Water is a six-part program running nearly thirty-five minutes, which offers a detailed look at the film from inception to post production. Lady In The Water: A Bedtime Story is a five-minute look at the book form of the story with M. Night Shyamalan. Auditions clocks in at two minutes and provides a look at some of the actors in supporting roles. A Gag Reel, Deleted Scenes, a Theatrical Trailer and Teaser Trailer close out the extras.
LADY IN THE WATER is a genuine charmer of a movie that succeeds because it isn’t a typical Hollywood offering. Warner’s DVD looks and sounds very nice, plus it offers some nice extras. If you like movies that are off the beaten path, LADY IN THE WATER is something you should check out. Recommended.
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