Ever felt as if you've been left "out of the group" when it comes to something dealing with entertainment? That's how I felt when I first recieved "Left Behind", a movie whose popularity as a book seems to have missed me. I've seen the DVD version go as high as in the top 10 of amazon.com's most popular DVDs list, and even further, this movie version will go to theaters in Feb. of 2001.
Although with Kirk Cameron of TV's "Growing Pains" as the lead, one might not expect much, but he's actually not as bad as I'd expected. Cameron plays a TV reporter who's covering an experimental wheat-growing event in the Middle East when he and the rest of the group are attacked; suddenly, the planes explode and fall from the sky without explanation. Later, during a flight, many of the passengers dissapear without warning. As the remaining people land once again, they find out that more are missing and set out to find out the what, or who, is behind what becomes a more and more world-wide event that looks to be "the end".
Although I haven't read the book behind the movie, I found myself rather entertained by the movie. Made on what looks to be a decent budget (17 million), the film provides a few okay special effects and some good performances along with an engaging story that does a decent job at bringing up the tension to cover some of its faults. I'm still a little bit skeptical about whether this will do that well in theaters since the production values do look much like many TV movies. I think it works mildly as a small-screen film.
VIDEO: I was suprised that, for a movie that's apparently going into theaters, the DVD is presented full frame and the picture quality is fair. Sharpness and detail are mildly pleasing, but could stand to be improved. Problems arose with a number of instances of shimmering that were either minor or fairly irritating. I didn't see any instances of print flaws or pixelation, but there were times when the movie looked a bit grainy or edgy. The picture shakes very slightly a couple of times towards the end of the film, as well. Colors are enjoyable, looking natural and without problems, although never really bold in any way. A decent full-frame presentation.
SOUND: Although the look of the movie is occasionally a bit "TV-ish", the 2.0 audio is really not a "theatrical" sounding presentation, and it sounds much like a TV presentation would. Almost everything in terms of audio comes from the front of the room, and the sound is rather flat and unexciting. Dialogue, which is the focus for much of the film, sounds a bit on the thin side. All-in-all a decent presentation, but there isn't much to it.
MENUS:: The main menus offer the music and some scenes; although the sub-menus aren't animated, the music is still int he background.
Making Of: This is a 30 minute documentary on the making of the film, hosted by one of the actresses in the picture. It provides a look at the making of "Left Behind", as well as some looks at the other "religious" films that the studio has brought out. Some of the interviews are rather informative as they talk about their ideas and viewpoint on bringing this film to audiences. The documentary becomes a little more informative as it goes on, as we're shown a short look at how an explosion was filmed, as well as a discussion about how the film was written and the cast was chosen.
Actors Message: A message from Kirk Cameron about the film's theatrical release.
Also: Cast and crew bios; music videos; previews for "Revelation", "Tribulation" (which stars Gary Busey and Howie Mandel!) and "Judgment"; web-links.
Final Thoughts: For fans of the books, which there sure seems to be a lot of, the DVD is recommended. Picture and sound quality are sort of mediocre, but I thought the extra features proved to be interesting. Otherwise, I found it to be an mildly interesting film that was taken down somewhat by the short running time and small budget, as well as a sometimes "TV-ish" look. I found the film somewhat enjoyable film once, but I don't think I'm going to be watching it again that often. Although I haven't read the popular book, it probably tells this tale better than the film does.
The Film C+
Video 79/C+ = (316/400 possible points)
Audio: 79/C+ = (316/400 possible points)
Extras: 83/B = (249/300 possible points)
Menus: 80/B- = (150/200 possible points)
Value: 82/B = (246/300 possible points)
FILM GRADE: C+
DVD GRADE: B-