(Original VCD)

Starring: Al Pacino, Benjamin Salisbury, Winona Ryder, Darnell Williams
MPAA Rating: PG

Movie: * * ½  
* * *  

A Hollywood director tries to hide the fact that Simone, his sensational new leading lady, is in fact a computer simulation. Why he would want to do this is a bit of a mystery because she isn’t particularly talented. It is difficult to see how she becomes the media sensation she does in the movie without revealing her status as CGI doctored construct.

Maybe he felt that the computer-generated Gollum character in the recent Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is a better actor than she’d ever be. He’d be right in that case – the female character in the computer-generated Final Fantasy movie is more interesting and sexy than the bland Revlon model that plays Simone . . .

By the way, while we’re on the topic of talent: the director’s ex-wife is played by the excellent Catherine Keener. Keener was the object of John Cusack’s obsession in Being John Malkovich and was recently seen in the understated (but worthwhile) drama, Lovely & Amazing. Here she isn’t given too much to do, which is a pity really.

Written and directed by Andrew Niccol (whose previous screenwriting credits include the excellent  Gattaca and Truman Show), Simone stars Al Pacino as the Hollywood director.

Simone is watchable sitcom stuff and would make for a worthwhile rental, but considering director Niccol’s previous output, it remains a bit of a disappointment though.

THE DISCS: Unlike most VCDs, Simone comes in a standard plastic DVD keep case. Strange that. The movie itself has no extras except for a few trailers: the feature itself, Ballistic: Sever vs. Ecks and a made-for-video cheapie titled Cabin Pressure. Bizarrely the Cabin Pressure trailer gives away the entire movie’s plot and ending! Not that one would want to see it (it looks very bad), but still! Luckily one can skip over these trailers using the next button on your remote to get to the feature presentation itself.

The movie is presented in full-screen mode with Mandarin and Malay subtitles. Unfortunately you can’t switch off the subtitles, but they don’t present as much as a distraction as one might think since the chances are that you won’t understand either language. Also, the subtitles are quite small and don’t take up too much screen space. I found myself ignoring them entirely as the movie progressed.

I want to betray my geographic and historic ignorance here by expressing my surprise that Malay doesn’t resemble Japanese or Chinese at all, but reminded me instead of Swedish or even Turkish. One day I’ll do some seriously swotting up on the country where all my review VCDs come from! (Review copies were supplied by

Image quality is quite good and one seldom (if ever) sees any of the artefacting caused by the computer compression used by VCDs. Sound is quite adequate as well.

WORTH IT? Once again VCDs win out when it comes to pricing: Simone on VCD costs US$7.97 at on-line retailer compared to US$26.98 for the DVD and US$16.07 for the VHS tape. Cheap.

RECOMMENDATION: Some of the users’ reviews at are a lot more enthusiastic about Simone than my own. I guess I probably expected too much, but if you’re keen on giving the movie a shot, then not spending too much on the VCDs would be the way to go.  Is there anyone from the States who tell me how much a movie ticket costs over there nowadays? E-mail me at . . .




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