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Warner Home Video presents
Space Cowboys HD-DVD (2000)

Gerson: How old are you, Frank?
Frank Corvin: Old enough to know your ass is in a sling.

- James Cromwell, Clint Eastwood

Review By: Mark Zimmer  
Published: January 05, 2007

Stars: Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, James Garner
Other Stars: James Cromwell, Marcia Gay Harden, William Devane, Loren Dean, Courtney B. Vance, Jay Leno
Director: Clint Eastwood

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some language
Run Time: 02h:10m:43s
Release Date: September 12, 2006
UPC: 085391102113
Genre: sci-fi

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B+CB+ C+

DVD Review

When senior citizen Senators Jake Garn and John Glenn went into space aboard the Space Shuttle, it became clear that being an astronaut didn't necessarily require youth, at least if one managed to become a Senator. For those of us who remember the space race of the 1960s, that notion gave us hope that we could still fulfill that fantasy. This idea was given wings in this memorable picture helmed by Clint Eastwood.

Team Daedalus was a group of test pilots in the 1950s, including captian Frank Corvin (Eastwood), pilot Hawk Hawkins (Tommy Lee Jones), engineer Jerry O'Neill (Donald Sutherland) and Tank Sullivan (James Garner). Pushed out of the program as NASA took over, the team never was able to make it into space. But in the present day, a Russian communications satellite, Icon, is about to fail and crash to earth. For reasons about which the Russians are evasive, Icon cannot be allowed to crash to Earth. Since its guidance system, swiped by the KGB, was originally designed by Corvin for Skylab, a mission to the satellite will be necessary. Only Corvin knows how to fix his antiquated system, so he demands that he and Team Daedalus be sent into space to do so, forty years late. Given little choice, NASA concedes, but they may be in for much more than they bargained for.

Although the outline of the story has some serious credibility problems, the presentation of the politics of the situation and the winning portrayals of the astronauts helps make the story pretty convincing. It does get to be a little much as the problems accumulate once the team is into space, but on the whole it's an incredibly fun little ride. There is a certain amount of smugness of age that will be annoying to younger viewers, especially since the younger characters are uniformly portrayed as one-dimensional morons, dupes and thugs. A couple of intergenerational romances also strain the credulity more than a little, especially in the person of womanizing Jerry O'Neill.

But all of those misgivings are brushed aside in two ways. The first is the superb cast that's assembled, with four outstanding actors as Team Daedalus. James Cromwell as Bob Gerson, the project head who has a long and frictional history with Corvin, makes for an excellent counterpoint to them. Their characters work exceedingly well together, and are clearly having a great time, making this a fun character piece even without getting to the action and sci-fi sequences. But those are also well-handled, with Eastwood providing a sure hand at pacing of the extended suspense sequences that form the climax in space. The effects support the story well, without taking center stage and for the most part the practical and CG effects are completely seamless.

The result is over two hours of first-class entertainment, with plenty of appeal to general audiences as well as providing sufficient authenticity (thanks to NASA consultants) for space buffs to enjoy. The sequences with Eastwood in the untethered Manned Maneuvering Unit are in particular quite enjoyable, making one feel as if you're out there with Bruce McCandless. There's a certain wistfulness and heart to the picture as well, with a healthy dollop of sentimentality. It's not overdone, though, and the result is wholly enjoyable.

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


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.40:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The HD disc surpasses the standard DVD in color definition and fine detail, as one would expect, and fine patterns are relatively stable. On the other hand, there's altogether too much processing visible on the screen, with edge enhancement polluting the visuals throughout. As a result the picture has an unpleasant digital appearance that doesn't do justice to the subject matter. The blackness of space does come across beautifully, however, and there's a ton of fine detail visible on the Shuttle and on the Icon.

Image Transfer Grade: C


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Spanishyes
Dolby Digital
English, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: English and French DD+ 5.1 tracks are provided, while Spanish speakers only get a 2.0 stereo track. The 5.1 track has excellent directionality, from the roller coaster that Sutherland rides to the chaos aboard the Shuttle as things go wrong with the Icon. Deep bass is reasonably good, though the liftoff sequences don't have the deep gut-busting rumble one might expect. Hiss and noise are nonexistent, providing a very clean track.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Animated menu
Scene Access with 36 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Documentaries
2 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Elite
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Extended Tonight Show sequence
Extras Review: The disc carries over the extras from the standard version, none of which have been upgraded to HD. Foremost is a rather bland Back at the Ranch (28m:08s) that includes random chatter with the cast and crew, as well as the NASA consultants. It's pretty much all puffery and skippable. More substantive is a featurette on the effects (7m:08s), which demonstrates the effects process and clarifies which segments were CG and which were achieved through other effect means. Up Close with the Editor (7m:03s) features a chat with editor Joel Cox, although it actually spends much of its running time going into the effects as well. A much-longer segment of the ad-libbed Jay Leno sequence where he interviews Team Daedalus is also included, along with a short clip of Leno talking about the process. The package is wrapped up with an anamorphic widescreen trailer.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Another excellent movie from Clint Eastwood brings the space program to life and gives senior citizens a massive morale boost. Unfortunately the HD transfer suffers from too much processing to be wholly satisfactory.


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