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Artisan Home Entertainment presents
Judgment Day (1999)

"Take heed that you are not led astray, for many false prophets shall come in my name, saying that I am He, and the time is at hand."
- Dr. David Corbett (Linden Ashby)

Review By: Dale Dobson   
Published: May 14, 2000

Stars: Ice T, Suzy Amis, Mario Van Peebles
Other Stars: Max Gail, Linden Ashby, Tommy "Tiny" Lister Jr., Coolio
Director: John Terlesky

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: R for strong language, graphic violence
Run Time: 01h:29m:27s
Release Date: April 11, 2000
UPC: 012236109440
Genre: action


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B BA-C C

DVD Review

Judgment Day is another movie in the "Asteroid Threatens Earth" genre pioneered by American International Pictures' 1979 film Meteor and recently continued by Hollywood blockbusters Deep Impact and Armageddon.

A small asteroid strike in Peru alerts the US Government to a much larger asteroid on a direct collision path with Earth. Fortunately, two anti-asteroid weapons exist, one of which has been officially approved and funded and one that fell out of favor after construction. The government decides to take no chances and tracks down Dr. David Corbett (Linden Ashby), creator of the abandoned Thor system, only to have him kidnapped by religious cult leader Thomas Payne (Mario Van Peebles) who wants nothing to interfere with the end of the world. To keep the whole situation quiet, the FBI sends a single agent (Suzy Amis) and frees convicted killer Matthew Reese (Ice T), archenemy of Payne, to assist her in rescuing Corbett before time runs out.

The plot here is nothing new, and in fact doesn't bear examination too closely. But Judgment Day works very well, thanks in no small part to the well-developed characters and William Carson's naturalistic, largely cliché-free dialogue, aided by a talented, experienced cast. Mario Van Peebles' cult leader is a family man, charismatic and reassuring; he sincerely believes he's right, and one can see why some people would follow him, making him much scarier than a mere madman would be. Suzy Amis as FBI Agent Tyrell is down-to-earth and intelligent—she's the most quietly credible character in the film and anchors the more outlandish elements. Ice T carries himself well in a typical Ice T role, and the friendship developed between Reese and Tyrell is entirely believable—it's based on mutual respect, not sexual attraction or convenience-under-fire. The script admirably resists the temptation to turn handsome Linden Ashby (as Dr. Corbett) into an action hero at the last moment, and minor characters played by Max Gail and Tommy "Tiny" Lister Jr. are fleshed-out and thoroughly convincing.

Director John Terlesky plays it straight here, recognizing the limitations of his budget and wisely focusing on the story, giving his actors room to work onscreen. Most of the effects shots last very briefly, cutting away as soon as the action is established and presumably saving money on CGI-rendered footage and model detail while still looking impressive. The film maximizes dramatic use of camera angles, human faces and composition in lieu of big effects—the opening scene in Peru gets the story off to a great start, perfectly pitched with almost no dialogue. The film's pacing is solid, with time for character interaction and development and several memorable moments aided by Joseph Stanley Williams' energetic score. There are a few rough camera moves, but Terlesky's direction comes through where it counts.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Rationo
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Judgment Day features a solid, anamorphic 1.85:1 aspect ratio transfer. It appears that this direct-to-video film was originally shot "open-matte" in 1.33:1 (based on comparison with the trailer) but composed with widescreen in mind -there's no awkward cropping visible. Despite the film's recent origin, the print has some dirt flecking. The DVD image is slightly soft and black level is a bit light, but the transfer is otherwise solid with appropriately subdued color and no distracting artifacts (it even survives 4:3 downconversion nicely).

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Spanishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Artisan presents Judgment Day in Dolby 2.0 Surround format, with English and Spanish language tracks (the Spanish track also reads critical English text aloud in Spanish, rather than using subtitles or alternate video). The soundtrack is far from reference quality, but it's competent, on the level of a good broadcast television DS 2.0 track. The score and most sound effects use stereo well and often expand into the rear channel. Dialogue sounds thin and clipped in some scenes, and bass is often weak when it's needed most. The soundtrack supports the film well enough, but sounds dated for a 1999 film.

As a rule, I prefer subtitles to dubbing, but this disc gets a few bonus points for its well-executed Spanish track, featuring decent lip-synch, appropriate voice casting and solid performances.

Audio Transfer Grade: C

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 25 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Asteroid Information
Extras Review: Judgment Day is a well-designed disc, but a little short on supplements. Menus feature full-motion video (the bottom-level scene selection menu reverts to stills), with brief music clips in the background and clear navigation. Supplements include:

Cast and Crew Biographies/Filmographies

Well-written bios and comprehensive filmographies cover 7 cast members, the film's director and 2 producers.

Trailer

This item presents the original video trailer, promoting the movie as "Also available on DVD! With Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Sound!" in a 1.33:1 open-matte aspect ratio with Dolby 2.0 audio.

Asteroid Information

A series of rather dry educational text screens discussing historical Earth/asteroid collisions, current asteroid monitoring efforts and the likelihood of a strike in the near future. Better than nothing, but a real documentary would have been much more entertaining and informative.

Extras Grade: C

 

Final Comments

I went into this disc fully expecting a lame imitation of recent Hollywood product. But Judgment Day manages to be a better movie than its predecessors in some important ways, forgoing overblown special effects in favor of down-to-earth action and characters. It takes its shortcuts in the right places and is ultimately more intelligent and genuinely dramatic than many big-budget action movies. The DVD is not a home theatre demo disc by any means, but this worthwhile little film deserves a viewing.

 


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