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November 8, 2007
Cruel Intentions - Blu-Ray Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
1/4/199914/11/2007Sony PicturesRoger Kumble
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4Dolby Digital 5.1 448kbps
PCM 5.1 4.6Mbps
MA15+Sarah Michelle Gellar

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Anyone for a little inceset?
Many of you may not be aware but Cruel Intentions is actually based on the novel Les liaisons dangereuses by Choderlos de Laclos which was first published in 1782. In 1988 the book was turned into the brilliant movie Dangerous Liaisons starring Glenn Close, John Malkovich, Michelle Pfeiffer and Keanu Reeves among others and even managed to collect 3 Academy Awards along the way. Cruel Intentions is yet another remake, however this movie has been updated for modern times, with modern themes and locations. So what's it all about you ask?

Kathryn (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Sebastian (Ryan Phillippe) are a pair of unscrupulous siblings in a deliciously sexy tale of seduction, revenge and conquest. After cleverly seducing and ruining the reputation of an unsuspecting classmate the sparks fly when Kathryn poses the ultimate challenge to her insatiable stepbrother Sebastian: deflower the Headmaster's beautiful, virgin daughter Annette (Reece Witherspoon). If he fails, Kathryn gets his most prized possession - his Jaguar, but if he succeeds, Sebastian get to possess and bed Kathryn. The stakes are high, but for Sebastian, the payoff is feverishly irresistible and before the Summer's over, no one will escape their relentless game of cat and mouse... until one of them is bitten by the most unlikely sensation of all... love.

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Remember, this will launch our careers!
Often seen, and indeed marketed, as a teen-flick this movie actually disturbed me a little due to the storyline and themes throughout. Indeed there is a strong incest theme running through the movie (even if it is between a step-brother and sister) as well as the fact that these high school kids are playing such a manipulative and deprived sexual game to fulfill their fantasy. Granted all the actors were over 20 when the film was made, but it still doesn't change the idea that they are portraying high school kids in the movie.

Having been released in 1999, and filmed the year before this movie really does have an extremely impressive cast - a cast which has gone on to much bigger and better things, including a couple of Oscars. The cast includes Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Reese Witherspoon, Selma Blair, Joshua Jackson, Eric Mabius and Tara Reid. Ryan Phillippe really holds the movie together with his unique charms (actually he reminded me of Hayden Christensen a bit for some reason) while all of the leading ladies manage a sultry, seductive performance throughout - with the exception of the virginal Reece Witherspoon. The movie maintains a pretty fast pace from start to end, and it's an ending that while a little bit cheap, still manages to satisfy on most levels.

While I didn't see Cruel Intentions at the cinemas I must say that this Blu-Ray disc, while certainly a vast improvement over the DVD release (which we had here for direct comparison) isn't one which will be used to show off the benefits of the Blu-Ray format to friends and family. This AVC MPEG-4 transfer often sits around the 20Mbps mark. Not too bad, but certainly not as high as we have seen in the past and as a result (or maybe not directly as a result, but anyway) there are some issues.

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Someone wants to be seduced!
The quality of the video really does changed from scene to scene with some looking rather soft, others having overly red flesh tones, some demonstrating some slight edge enhancement and other scenes just looking flat. The first concern was the opening Colombia logo which had some telecine wobble evident. Fortunately this is the only occurrence of this (why does this seem to happen on the logos so much!?). In terms of softness have a look at Sarah Michelle Gellar - and in particular her hair - at 23:31, and then have a look at 23:35. There is a marked difference in the sharpness of the image even though it is the same scene. Perhaps it was the way it was shot, however I am not so sure that it's not something to do with the transfer.

There are two English audio options on this disc. The first is a PCM track encoded at 4.6Mbps while the second is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track at 448kbps. The former is certainly the audio track of choice with a slightly more lively sound field. Having said that this isn't exactly a movie which has many big audio effects and is primarily dialogue driven. Dialogue is always clear and easy to understand. We also have to commend the filmmakers for the selection of music throughout the movie - it's certainly helps to push the story along further.

The disc also includes a 448kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 French track which is equal in quality to the English track while the disc also includes English and English SDH subtitles as well as subtitles in over 20 other languages.

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Lovebirds, on and off screen - for a while.
I didn't really have any big expectations for the extras on this disc, but I was surprised to find a couple of decent things to keep you occupied including a great audio commentary an documentary. So let's get into the details...

Filmmakers Commentary:

    A tonne of participants make this commentary the best extra on this disc by a long shot. It can get a little busy, and there's a bit too much laughter and people talking over others, but on the whole this is a very informative, and often entertaining commentary. I would actually really love it if people creating these discs could put up a little window showing who is talking as it becomes pretty confusing - still that's not a mark against this disc, just all commentaries in general.

Deleted Scenes (17:43):

    A series of deleted scenes. Many of these are extended from the movie, but actually quite interesting to watch as there are some scenes that add quite a bit more detail, including why Ronald was so upset. The director also adds an intro to some of the scenes which gives us the reason for cutting scenes. Sadly the scenes are only presented in pretty poor MPEG-2 Standard Definition.

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The sexy Sarah Michelle Gellar.
The Making of Cruel Intentions (5:55):

    A very poor excuse for a Making of featurette. This plays like one of those extended ads for the movie. Mostly just random scenes from the movie, with a bit of voiceover and some of the principal cast and crew glowing over the movie. Nothing in any detail or of any significance.

Creative Intentions: Finding a Visual Style (21:38):

    Certainly a much better documentary then the previous one this looks at creating the look of the movie in the modern era. As well as the costumes much time was spent on the sets for the movie, the makeup for the actors, the colouring of the rooms and the furniture. It's a shame there wasn't more documentaries like this about other aspects of the movie as there is quite a bit of attention to detail.

Music Videos (7:28):

    Coming Up From Behind" by Marcy Playground and "Every you Every me" by Placebo. Both presented in Standard Definition with 192kbps audio.

Now this certainly isn't a movie for younger audiences, the theme of incest is present throughout, and there is quite a bit of sexual suggestiveness. Having said that, Cruel Intentions is a pretty engrossing movie with some solid acting, directing and a satisfying enough ending. The video and audio quality on this disc is passable and there are a couple of decent extras to keep you busy. Fans of this movie would do well to check out this Blu-Ray version, just don't expect it to set any benchmarks.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Sony Pictures. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.