In 1958, the members of Team Daedalus were Air Force pilots training specifically for America's leap into space. But when the moment came, the four hopeful flyboys were boldly replaced by… a monkey. Now, forty years later, an old Russian communications satellite has started to deorbit, threatening to crash into the Earth. The guidance system, which predates anything the current group of NASA engineers can even hope to understand, turns out to have been designed by one of Team Daedalus' members, the now-retired electrical engineer Frank Corvin (Clint Eastwood). But when approached to help NASA solve the Russian's problem, Frank learns that the whole project is being headed up by the very person who backstabbed his team forty years ago - and so he sets a condition: his original (and now senior citizen) team must be the ones to go up and make the repairs. The only catch? They've got to pass the same physical requirements as current Astronauts!
Featuring a great cast which also includes James Garner, Donald Sutherland and Tommy Lee Jones, Space Cowboys packs in enough comedy, action and adventure to make it an enjoyable watch for a surprisingly wide audience, marred only by a somewhat unsatisfying ending.
Warner's DVD release of Space Cowboys shows the same attention to detail that most of the movie studio's films. The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is flawless without visible grain, chroma noise, lint or artifacts. The transfer is bright with vivid colors, although black levels are deep and solid I noticed a decided lack of shadow detail on many scenes. The video image isn't over-sharpened, producing a nice film-like image. The 130-minute movie is subdivided into 36 chapters complete with static preview screens. The dual-layered disc includes 7.9 gigabytes of data and places the layer change during a conversation at 0:03.21 into chapter 22, or 1:10.49 into the entire movie.
For the first half of the film, Space Cowboy's soundtrack is positively sedate - it's the second half, in space, when things really begin to heat up. Bass levels and surround usage are very even-handedly mixed - up until the sound engineer decides that it's time for you to notice them, at which point your subwoofer will be rearranging the curiosity cabinet and you'll be ducking from sounds coming from all around. Dialogue levels are a bit on the soft side, although everything important in this regard was clear and distinguishable without background hiss or other unwanted distractions. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is paired up with a French 5.1 soundtrack, but no others. Also included on the DVD are English and French subtitles plus English Closed Captioning data.
Considering that this is a "regular" Warner release, the complement of extras on Space Cowboy is generous. The main attractions are four behind-the-scenes documentaries, starting with the 28-minute long "Back at the Ranch", a glimpse on-location with cast, crew and NASA consultants. The secondary documentary is "The Effects", a brief 7-minute look with Visual Effects Supervisor Michael Owens at some of the special effects techniques used in the movie. The collection continues with "Tonight with Leno", an 11-minute expanded version of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno sequence from the film. The final documentary is "Up Close with the Editor", a 7-minute conversation with Joel Cox.
Also on the disc are full cast filmographies (but strangely no biographies) and the original theatrical trailer in anamorphic widescreen and 2-channel sound. If you've got a DVD-ROM equipped PC, you can also access the original theatrical web site, a sampler of other Warner movie theatrical trailers (in low quality), plus "Space Shuttle Challenge", a time-oriented Flash-based game where you control your own orbital mission for five days.
Warner's list price of $27 is reasonable for Space Cowboys. You get a great cast, a good transfer and decent extras, making this disc a worthy addition to most DVD collections.
- Reviewed by Daniel Tonks on April 21, 2001.
1-Poor 2-Fair 3-Good 4-Excellent
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