MCN Columnists
Douglas Pratt

By Douglas Pratt


Nothing like a good snowbound suspense thriller for a cozy mid-winter evening’s entertainment, and Warner Home Video has provided just thing with the 2009 production, Whiteout, which has nothing to do with secretaries trying to fix mistakes on requisition orders and everything to do with triple homicides and inclement weather in Antarctica. Kate Beckinsale is a United States Marshall who has South Pole duty, in charge of policing the scientists working in American research stations on the continent. Just before her tour of duty is up, however, a pilot spots a body in the snow in the middle of nowhere, and so the action begins. If you know anything about casting Hollywood movies, then you’ll spot the villain immediately, and on the whole the movie is really badly cast anyway-Beckinsale’s part ought to be filled by somebody funkier, and there is a major guy part that requires somebody more famous or more personable thanGabriel Macht-but the filmmakers clearly felt they could get away cheap on stars because the setting and concept are enough to make the film work, and for the most part, that is true. With the cold wind whipping around all five speakers and the heroine having no idea who is trustworthy and who wants to stick the ice axe in her back, the only thing you need to do is make sure that the popcorn is hot and the person next to you likes to snuggle.

The picture is presented in letterboxed format only, with an aspect ratio of about 2.35:1 and an accommodation for enhanced 16:9 playback. The whole concept of the film’s title is that at one key moment of excitement, so much snow is blowing around that the heroine can’t see where the bad guy is, and hence, the picture is sometimes no more than a vague blur of dark figures, but the delivery of those blurs is relatively stable and understandable, and when not beset by the elements, the image is sharp and glossy. The 5.1-channel Dolby Digital sound has some nice bass effects and a reasonably good punch. The surround definitions are less specific than the front separations, but they deliver the atmosphere effectively. The 101-minute program comes with alternate French and Spanish tracks in 5.1 Dolby, optional English, French and Spanish subtitles, and 4 minutes of really nice deleted scenes that don’t match the overriding tone of the film, but are definitely worth seeing.

The Dolby sound is even punchier and crisper on the Blu-ray, and you can also make out a little bit more of what is happening in the snow, though generally, the image quality is indistinguishable from the DVD. The audio options are the same as the DVD’s and the deleted scenes are carried over, but there are also 24 minutes of good production featurettes that show how the film was staged near a lake in Manitoba where the temperatures were actually lower than those at the South Pole. It is also worth noting that much of the impressive scientific station where a lot of the action takes place was actually constructed on location, and while the design is striking, you don’t have to be a South Pole scientist to know that if the passageways really were up in the air like that instead of hugging the ground, the cold winds would cripple them in no time.

– by Douglas Pratt

Douglas Pratt’s DVD-Laser Disc Newsletter is published monthly.
For a free sample, call (516)594-9304 or go to his website at

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon