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For those who doubted Nicole Kidman's talent as an actress, I recommend they see her strut her stuff in the caustic black comedy TO DIE FOR ($30). In TO DIE FOR Kidman brilliantly portrays Suzanne Stone Maretto, an ambitious cable TV newswoman who will let nothing stop her from furthering her career (including a lack of talent). When her husband Larry (Matt Dillon) becomes a hindrance to her professional life, Suzanne seduces Jimmy Emmett (Joaquin Phoenix), a gullible high school student, so she can manipulate him into murdering Larry. If the plot resembles the fodder that tabloid television is built upon- well, that's the point of TO DIE FOR. Buck Henry's screenplay has a field day skewering the trailer trash mentality that has turned the media into muckraking joke. Director Gus Van Sant nimbly steers his actors through the material, while squeezing every bit of irony from even the darkest situations. The cast of TO DIE FOR also features Casey Affleck, Illeana Douglas, Alison Folland, Dan Hedaya, Wayne Knight, Kurtwood Smith, Holland Taylor, Buck Henry and David Cronenberg.

Columbia TriStar Home Video offers TO DIE FOR in both wide screen and full screen presentations on opposite sides of the DVD. While there is nothing terribly wrong with the image quality of the full screen presentation, the wide screen version is definitely the way to go. The Letterboxed transfer of TO DIE FOR properly frames the film to its proper 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio, while the DVD offers the 16:9 anamorphic enhancement for wide screen televisions. TO DIE FOR looks just terrific in wide screen, the image is crisp and nicely detailed. Color reproduction offers natural looking flesh tones, while strong colors are totally problem free. Digital compression artifacts were virtually absent from this DVD.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack features an open, natural sound field in place of gimmicky sound effects- totally appropriate to the film's mockumentary environment. Danny Elfman's entertaining score is effectively blended into the soundtrack. A matrixed Dolby Surround soundtrack, plus a French language track have also been encoded into the DVD. Subtitles are available in English and French. The simple interactive menus offer access to a theatrical trailer, plus the standard scene and language selection features.

TO DIE FOR offers film fans moments of utter brilliance that totally rips apart the destructive nature of the media and the way it panders to the lowest common denominator. Additionally, the DVD looks and sounds just terrific. Recommended.




DVD reviews are Copyright 1999 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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