Plot: What’s it about?
On the surface it seems like Simon Harris seems to have it all, he has a father who encourages him and a girlfriend that likes him, both of whom seem to be supportive of his wishes. He also has a clean discipline record, studied hard and good grades, and in short, he’s a good kid. His high school graduation has come and gone, and now Simon is leaving for a fine university where he will get an education as well as play football. After he arrives at college things seem to be going well, until one his college mates, Andrew (Eric Mabius) asks Simon to join him in attending a concert. Simon agrees and ventures off to an event that will change his life forever. He discovers that there’s more to the concert than music when he finds an entire lifestyle within the grounds, one that intrigues him. He sees some new practices and even meets some new friends, including lovely Jennifer (Tara Reid), who seems to have Simon’s attention right away. Simon soon decides that this lifestyle is just what he needs and despite his father’s warnings, he leaves school to join his new friends and follow the music. Simon’s new lifestyle offers him some new chances to have a good time, such as sex, drugs, and freedom from responsibility. While these things can be fun when done in moderation, Simon soon learns the consequences involved when he gets out of control.
This is a film I had never even heard of before this review disc arrived, so I was unsure what to expect. As I browsed the cover art and information sheet, it seemed as though the movie was going to more about music than a storyline, which worried me. Now that I’ve seen the movie though, I am pleased to say that the music serves as a backdrop more than anything and never hinders the flow of the movie. While I’m sure fans of the musical stylings featured will appreciate those sequences more than most, they shouldn’t keep anyone from enjoying the movie as a whole. In other words, you don’t have to wear tie-dye and have long hair to understand the storyline and appreciate the movie. The movie presents the whole lifestyle of following a band pretty realistically, or at least in my experiences with folks like those shown here. The movie handles the lifestyle without passing judgment, which was a pleasant surprise. The movie also deals with drug use and again it never becomes preachy, it just shows cause and effect situations and lets the audience draw their own conclusions. I recommend this terrific film to those interested in the storyline or genre, and should you decide to own this release, the disc is more than worth your money.
This film was directed by John Jacobsen, who turns in an impressive directorial debut with this movie. I hadn’t heard much about Jacobsen before this movie, but I am sure I will seek out his future projects, if he continues on as a director. In this film Jacobsen combines effective visual compositions and camera angles very well, and I hope his visual style advances and expands with his future endeavors. First time writers/producers John Comerford and Tommy Rosen also have a lot to do with the film’s success. Despite some predictability within the basic storyline, these two have created some fresh characters and backdrops which make this a rather unique entry into the genre. The lead role in this film is played by Devon Sawa, who manages to give an adequate turn, but still doesn’t live up to the material. Sawa has some potential in there somewhere, but he needs to work on his depth and complexity, I know this role could have been acted in a more expanded fashion. Picking up his slack with solid and substantial roles are Eric Mabius (Black Circle Boys, The Minus Man), Tara Reid (Body Shots, American Pie), and Bill Smitrovich (The Trigger Effect, Nick of Time), who make sure the smaller roles make up for the less than stellar lead performer.
Video: How does it look?
Around The Fire is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This might have been an independent film, but you’d never know by watching this release. I was expecting some grain and print damage to emerge, but this is on par with some of the best transfers out there. The source print is clean and shows no wear signs, and the compression is flawless, with no artifacts to be seen. The colors seem bright and vivid with no smearing, and the flesh tones appear normal at all times. The contrast is accurate and sharp, you’ll find high visible detail level and complex shadows here. This is a fantastic visual presentation, let’s hope future Unapix releases look this good.
Audio: How does it sound?
This release contains a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track, which provides a fantastic atmosphere for the film. While the surrounds see plenty of action, the speakers never pulse as much as when the music is playing. The music is a vital piece of this film, so I am glad such a rich and expansive mix was included on this disc. You’ll also note some effective directional use at times, but this is always subtle and in the background, so don’t expect to be overpowered. This is still a dialogue driven film though, so if the words don’t sound good, the whole thing goes down. But this mix has no trouble in this area either, with all the vocals retaining clean and consistent volume and tone.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This isn’t a full blown special edition, but you’ll still find some nice supplements on this disc. The theatrical trailer for this film is included, as well as bonus trailers for other Unapix feature films. Also included is a five minute reel of out-takes, which are always interesting to watch. The main supplements are a series of interviews with various cast and crew members. The pieces vary in duration, but most run from five to eight minutes, and cover several aspects of that member’s role in the film. The interviews include the director John Jacobsen, actors Devon Sawa, Tara Reid, and Eric Mabius, as well as five other actors from the movie.