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A Civil Action

A Civil Action
A Touchstone Home Video Release
1998, 115 Minutes, Color, Rated PG-13 (14A in Canada)

Starring:  John Travolta, Robert Duvall, Stephen Fry, James Gandolfini, Dan Hedaya, Zeljko Ivanek
List Price:  $29.99 USD, released 07/13/99
Packaging:  Keepcase, Region 1 NTSC
Disc Format:  Single Sided, Single Layered (DVD-5)
Aspect Ratio:  1.85:1 Widescreen
Audio Formats:  English 5.1, French 2.0
Subtitles:  English
Closed Captioning:  English
Features:  Interactive Menus, Scene Selection, Featurette, Theatrical Trailer

John Travolta stars as Jan Schlichtmann, an attorney who with three colleagues in his small Boston law firm agree to take on the seemingly no-profit case of a group of families who blame the strange illnesses and deaths of their children on polluted water. The possible culprit? A leather tannery owned by a major corporation which also happens to be the primary employer in the small Massachusetts town of Woburn. As the case grows in size so do the research costs, skyrocketing into millions of dollars beyond the small firmís means. As the lawyers become desperate the gritty details become more and more sinister. This slick courtroom drama based on a true story is well acted with tense moments but has a somewhat unsatisfying conclusion that left me wanting more.

Similar to almost all Touchscreen releases, A Civil Action has a pretty good video transfer. Presented in the theatrical widescreen ratio of 1.85:1, brightness levels are very good as is black calibration and color saturation. Unfortunately the original print used as the discís master was fairly dirty with noticeable amounts of white and black lint. Some film grain can be seen on certain scenes, however overall itís a faithful reproduction without any visible artifacting or jagged edges. The disc is single layered and features 25 chapter stops.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track contains minimal usage of the rear speakers, but considering the drama genre much more couldnít be asked for. Deep bass is limited to dramatic thunder claps, though dynamic range seems to be good. Vocals are easy to make out over other elements, but constant background hiss mar this otherwise problem free mix. In addition to the 5.1 soundtrack, a French 2.0 track is included along with English subtitles and closed captioning.

Disney seems to have standardized on a specific feature set during the past few months. A Civil Action includes a theatrical trailer in 1.85:1 widescreen and 2.0 audio, plus a 4 minute featurette and scene selection screens. Not much, but certainly better than earlier releases.

This DVD doesnít excel in any particular area but still presents a great version of this movie. Recommended to anyone who enjoyed this film and a definite rental for those who havenít yet seen it.

- Reviewed by Daniel Tonks on July 19, 1999.

Video Quality:
Audio Quality:
1-Poor 2-Fair 3-Good 4-Excellent
System Equipment
Sony DVP-S500D DVD Player
Sony STR-GA8ES 5.1 Receiver
Sony KV-27V65 27" Television using S-Video
Nuance Spatial & Star Series Speakers

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