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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Avalon
Avalon
Columbia/Tri-Star
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted March 10, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

I've always been so-so on some of director Barry Levinson's work. I still feel his best effort was 1997's "Wag The Dog", a wonderfully funny and smart satire of politics and Hollywood. Unfortunately, that was done around a delay in one of the director's worst efforts, the sci-fi picture "Sphere", a clunker that the director really wasn't well-suited for, as he remains a director who is able to do well with character-driven pieces.

And, mainly character-driven pieces that focus on his Baltimore neighborhood. "Avalon" focuses on a group of houses in a quiet Baltimore neighborhood, and the inhabitants of one of the houses. Sam (Armin Mueller-Stahl) and wife Eva (Joan Plowright), two immigrants who joyfully argue and discuss their stories to anyone who is willing to listen. The family includes Jules (Aidan Quinn), Izzy (Kevin Pollak), Jules' wife Ann (Elizabeth Perkins), and grandson Michael (Elijah Wood).

The story revolves around the older generation and the younger generation going through the changes that happened at the time. Television is coming in, and instead of story-telling and family discussion, people sit around the television and let it do the entertaining. Minor events circle around the center, such as Izzy and Jules trying to open a business and other small, fairly realistic events. The problem is that few of these sequences really give us a great deal of insight into the characters. Levinson's dialogue does occasionally succeed in being entertaining (such as a bit where a character tries to recall that "name of the movie with the stage coach"), but scenes don't often forward the plot and as an effect, the movie becomes rather slow at times.

Still, the acting is generally excellent and the material really never becomes too melodramatic or sappy, although it does step over that line a few times, if not for too long. Adian Quinn, Armin Muller-Stahl and the rest of the cast do make these characters engaging, if Levinson doesn't always provide much depth to some of them.


The DVD

VIDEO: Although the Tristar trailer before the movie looks pretty darn worn out, don't let that scare you as the movie itself looks suprisingly good. Tristar has a reputation for excellent work on both new and older films and they definitely continue that here. Although sharpness is not consistent (some of the film has a bit of a soft look), the movie does remain at least pleasantly well-defined, not becoming hazy or blurry.

The picture remains largely free of flaws. As a film that's now 11 years old, some print flaws can be expected, but I actually expected more than I found here - there are a few speckles and minor marks, but the film remains largely crisp and clear. A couple of slight traces of pixelation appear, but these are certainly not cause for much concern as I didn't find them distracting. Some scenes appear slightly grainy, but this was also barely noticable and definitely didn't effect the viewing experience.

Colors vary a bit. Although much of the picture offers the warm colors of the inviting interior house scenes, some outdoor scenes offer slightly more subdued colors. Still, colors largely seemed accurate and natural, with no concerns. Although not a stunning looking presentation, Tristar still does a fine jobw ith "Avalon". Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Thai, Portuguese

SOUND: "Avalon" really doesn't have to rely much on audio at all to tell the story. The Dolby 2.0 presentation remains very subtle, very quiet and very dialogue-driven throughout the picture. General ambient sounds are clear and easily heard, although nearly all of the sound comes fronm the front. Dialogue remains clear and easily understood, with no problems. Not a great deal to discuss, as the material doesn't really call for too much activity.

MENUS:: Although menus are not animated, they still use film-themed images well as backgrounds.

EXTRAS: Trailers for "Avalon", "Bugsy", "A River Runs Through It" and "Legends Of The Fall", as well as talent files.

Final Thoughts: Although I didn't think "Avalon" was fantastic, I still found it to be a mostly enjoyable film from Levinson that provides some good performances. Tristar's DVD offers respectable audio/video quality, but overall, it isn't one of their more impressive DVD efforts.

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