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Lions Gate presents
5ive Days To Midnight (2004)

"Of course it's a hoax. What else can it be?"
- Irwin Sikorski (Randy Quaid)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: November 07, 2004

Stars: Timothy Hutton, Randy Quaid
Other Stars: Kari Matchett, Hamish Linklater, Angus MacFadyen, Gage Golightly, Giancarlo Esposito
Director: Michael Watkins

Manufacturer: Cinram
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 04h:25m:00s
Release Date: October 12, 2004
UPC: 031398164135
Genre: sci-fi

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- C+BB B-

DVD Review

My mantra, when it comes to the venerable television miniseries, is to avoid 'em like the plague.

The big beef I have is the padding required to expand a story out over four or five nights, and it is often the padding for a plot that doesn't have the sea legs to make it half that long. 5ive Days To Midnight is a made-for-the-Sci-Fi-Channel exclusive, originally airing in early 2004, starring Timothy Hutton as a brainy physics professor who has to solve his own impending murder when he stumbles across a hi-tech briefcase containing explicit details and photos of his own death, set to happen in just the five titular days.

Casual surface similarities to Minority Report aside, the pre-crime bent of 5ive Days To Midnight has the non-believing Professor J.T. Neumeyer having to accept the apparent truths of the all-knowing briefcase, especially when events that are documented in the soon-to-be police report start coming true. A big, grumpy police detective (played by big, grumpy Randy Quaid) ends up being an ally (or is he?), and Neumeyer has to enlist the help of an eccentric physics student, a mysterious girlfriend, and his young Drew Barrymore-ish daughter to save himself from ending up with a bullet right between the eyes, which, according to the photos in the briefcase, is how he meets his end.

This did not need to be spread over four and a half hours, so right out of the box we're dealing with a story that is unnecessarily enhanced. This is where the whole miniseries concept falls flat for me, and 5ive Days To Midnight is sadly no exception. While the first episode delivers a fair amount of tolerable suspense, it has the distinct advantage of being the one that sets up the briefcase-from-the-future premise, so director Michael Watkins has something marginally engaging to work with. Not so with the middle two-thirds, which is where the real fluff between the bookends of parts one and four occurs. Plus, the added weight only makes the questionable conclusion even more of a cross to bear.

I'm a firm believer that the minimal enjoyment one can mine from a miniseries can only occur by watching it in real time, over four or five nights in 90-minute chunks. If that's your bag, that is. It's really not mine. Watching one of these in one long block reveals the meandering subplots and protracted exposition that only serve to run out the clock in between the occasional fragments that move the story forward, and in 5ive To Midnight the overdone runtime (and its corresponding fluff) only dilutes the entertainment value when presented on DVD.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: 5ive Days To Midnight has been issued in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, and while I can't vouch for how it was shown on the Sci-Fi Channel, the presentation here looks fairly nice overall. The transfer is devoid of any nicks or scratches, no surprise considering how new it is, and the color reproduction (even when director Watkins employs off-kilter color saturation) often has a theatrical feel to it.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Audio comes in two flavors: 5.1 Dolby Digital or 2.0 stereo. The 5.1 mix is fairly lively for a made-for-cable product, and the use of rear channels cues (even minor ones like a distant barking dog) add an appreciable amount of spatial ambience, something that the stereo track lacks. Dialogue on both, however, is cleanly mixed and quite clear at all times.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 50 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
4 Featurette(s)
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by Michael Watkins, Joel Ransom
Packaging: Gladiator style 2-pack
Picture Disc
2 Discs
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: There are a pair of commentaries here, one on the first episode, and one on the last, with both provided by director Michael Watkins and cinematographer Joel Ransom. The tracks are adequate without being overwhelmingly fascinating, with plenty of talk about color saturation and fudging with frame rates to achieve a certain look. My unofficial rule of no commentary necessary for a film I only moderately like applies here.

Disc 2 contains a quartet of behind-the-scenes featurettes that appear to have been all cut from the same block, all of which essentially deal with some aspect of the visual look of the finished product, whether it be props, special effects or a specific analysis of key sequence. The four segments are:
The Formula for Design (12m:51s)
Fracture of Time (11m:08s)
Remixing Reality (10m:20s)
Proving Destiny: The Weatherby Oak Tree Stunt (10m:00s)

There are a total of 50 chapter stops spread across four episodes on two discs, with optional subtitles in English or Spanish.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

As with most made-for-cable miniseries, 5ive Days To Midnight has a decent sci-fi themed story, but there is too much fluffy padding required to fill out the four-and-a-half-hour runtime.

Padding notwithstanding, this two-disc set sports a solid anamorphic widescreen transfer and a fairly active 5.1 mix, so at least it looks and sounds good when the story drags in spots.


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