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    Rush Blu-ray Review - Recommended

    Blu-ray Universal

    Jan 23 2014 06:33 PM | Kevin EK in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    Rush races onto Blu-ray in an edition that offers roaringly good high definition picture and sound. The movie itself is an effective, if simplistic, retelling of the Formula 1 rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda in 1976. There’s a quiet sense of the period, and a fairly strong performance by Daniel Bruhl as Lauda which gives the movie its teeth. The Blu-ray offers some deleted scenes and about 50 minutes worth of featurettes to balance out the package. Formula 1 fans and Ron Howard enthusiasts will certainly enjoy this movie. Based on the strength of Bruhl’s performance and the overall effectiveness of the movie, this Blu-ray is Recommended for purchase or rental.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: Anchor Bay
    • Distributed By: N/A
    • Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
    • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
    • Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, English DVS 2.0, Spanish 5.1 DTS
    • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
    • Rating: R
    • Run Time: 2 Hrs 3 Min
    • Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy, UltraViolet
    • Case Type:
    • Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    • Region: ABC
    • Release Date: 01/28/2014
    • MSRP: $34.98

    The Production Rating: 3.5/5

    Rush may well be the strongest dramatic movie Ron Howard has ever made. It’s an effective dramatization of the 1976 Formula 1 track rivalry between racers James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl). Working in various European locations, mostly in England, Howard has distilled the Hunt/Lauda story into something fairly easy to understand, with a series of thrilling racing sequences sprinkled throughout the movie. Watching the movie, there’s a quiet but steady sense of Ron Howard and writer Peter Morgan’s take on this material. For a change for Ron Howard, they embrace some of the more difficult aspects of these men, and they don’t shy away from the consequences of the various actions we see onscreen. Things still wind up with a bit of a pat ending, but the movie shows some teeth along the way. When coupled with Howard’s clear staging and Hans Zimmer’s generic but propulsive score, Rush presents a solid enough package to warrant that it be Recommended for purchase or rental. Fans of Ron Howard’s work will likely enjoy this, as will auto racing enthusiasts. More casual fans are simply in for a good story, fairly well told.

    SPOILERS: I have to admit being surprised at how far Ron Howard has been willing to go with the candid exploration of the characters here. Chris Hemsworth’s James Hunt is presented as a completely unrepentant womanizer and playboy, even while he is the favored rising star in Formula 3 racing and later Formula 1 racing. The movie thankfully shows his behavior without trying to sanitize or explain it. Hunt simply is who he is, and for the first hour or so of the movie, he’s still quite an appealing protagonist. In contrast, Daniel Bruhl’s Niki Lauda is presented as a fairly arrogant and unpleasant piece of work – an expert in the mechanics of car racing and a disaster in the mechanics of human relationships. (And it’s to the movie’s credit that the real Niki Lauda has said he finds this portrayal of himself to be accurate for who he was 35+ years ago.) And the movie repeatedly shows off some beautiful F1 cars locked in mortal combat, using some of the most cutting edge camera technology available to put the viewers on the track and inside the cars. There are some moments where things get a little confusing, but I get the strong sense that this is an intentional effect from Ron Howard. We should note that Ron Howard is one of the most effective directors working today, purely in terms of staging and coherence. With a Ron Howard movie, you will almost always have a good idea of what is going on at any time – he stages scenes with a simplicity and effectiveness that makes his movies very easy to watch. That’s a strength that many other current directors could do well to emulate. It’s very rare that you see any scene in a Ron Howard movie resort to shaky cam tricks or anything like that. And yet, when he needs you to understand the urgency of a scene, Howard can find ways to punctuate things without battering anyone over the head.

    MORE SPOILERS: All that said, there’s still an issue with the main characters being a bit two-dimensional. We are presented with two men who have a myriad of potential complexities to them, and yet the story remains at the surface level pretty much throughout. And Hunt and Lauda are the only characters to get even that much examination. Other characters come in and out of their lives without registering very much. Olivia Wilde is third-billed in the movie but really has very little to do in her few scenes. Natalie Dormer actually makes a more striking impression in a few scenes at the movie’s opening, and not just because she takes her clothes off. Alexandra Maria Lara registers a little more as Lauda’s eventual wife, but even she has very little to work with here. Past that problem, the movie has a frustrating habit of raising a potentially interesting conflict but then finding the easiest resolution. We are presented with the real situation of Niki Lauda’s devastating accident, a fire that left him permanently disfigured. The movie is fairly merciless in showing the agonies endured by Lauda in the hospital, and effective in showing how Lauda is surviving by keeping his mind on the continuing F1 races he is missing. But as soon as Lauda gets back to the track, the movie settles for a disappointingly pat scene of reconciliation between Lauda and Hunt, with dialogue that’s sadly on the nose. Of course, the movie follows that up with a stronger, but completely invented scene wherein Hunt deals with a reporter asking offensive questions of Lauda – and while this is total fiction, it’s still a good dramatic moment and one that works as consistent with the real details. (Hunt punching out that reporter is not all that unbelievable, considering the situation. This is in stark contrast to the invented scenes in Frost/Nixon, where any believability was regularly tossed out the window.)

    EVEN MORE SPOILERS: Coming down to the climactic final race, the movie generates a fair amount of excitement, even if the details about the competition throughout have been a bit vague. Things develop so that we see the choices made by Hunt and Lauda in terms of their individual perspectives. The movie makes a point of Niki Lauda choosing to effectively drop out of the rainy mess – as a gesture that he’s perhaps learned to value his life and his family over the one race. At the same time, the movie makes the point that Hunt is driven to stay in it and try to win, even at the potential cost of his life. The filmmakers are clear on the idea that after Hunt wins F1, he’s effectively climbed his highest hill and has nothing left to prove to himself. Some footage is shown of the real Hunt and Lauda, particularly in the last years of Hunt’s life (he died young) as he enjoyed the fruits of his various victories. The movie unfortunately also includes another pat reconciliation between the two men, and a perfunctory voiceover from Lauda to wrap it all up. But if you look past the easy answers being offered, there are more interesting moments included all along the way. Daniel Bruhl in particular offers an unapologetic portrait of Lauda as a brilliant but ruthless man, even as he fights his own body and pain after his disfigurement. His performance offers a stronger statement than one normally sees in a Ron Howard film, and in turn, in many of the scenes, Howard’s direction tries to embrace it. As noted, there are some major moments that take the easy way out – but it would be unfair to say that there are not also some major moments that don’t. It is for this reason, coupled with Howard’s always-strong production values, that this Blu-ray is Recommended for purchase or rental.

    Rush will be released on Blu-ray and standard definition on January 28th. The Blu-ray includes the movie and about an hour’s worth of special features in high definition. The DVD, which is included in the Blu-ray packaging, holds the movie, the deleted scenes and one 7 ½ minute featurette.

    Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: NA

    Rush is presented in a 1080p AVC 2.40:1 transfer (@ an average 32 mbps) that presents the movie in solid high definition detail. A variety of environments are presented, including multiple racetracks in multiple weather conditions. A fleet of F1 cars are presented, including some with intentional and appropriate tire damage that can easily be spotted on the transfer. The helmet cams used for some of the racing shots provide some extreme close-ups of Hemsworth and Bruhl, with the background speeding by in real time. In short, this is a well-shot movie that gets an excellent transfer onto Blu-ray.

    Audio Rating: 5/5

    Rush is presented in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix in English (@ an average 5.0 mbps, up to 5.6 mbps), which blasts through the speakers of the home theater. This is one heck of a mix, to put it mildly. Just don’t listen to this movie at full volume late at night in any room with common walls… The Blu-ray also includes a Spanish DTS 5.1 track, and an English DVS track.

    Special Features: 3/5

    The Blu-Ray presentation of Rush comes with about an hour’s worth of special features, including 11 minutes of deleted scenes and about 50 minutes of featurettes. The Blu-ray packaging also includes the DVD of the movie, which holds the movie, the deleted scenes and a single featurette.


    Deleted Scenes – (10:49 Total, 1080p) (AVAILABLE ON DVD & BLU-RAY) – Ten short deleted scenes are included here, mostly just fleshing out a little more of Hunt and Lauda’s journeys along the way. One scene includes a detail mentioned by Ron Howard elsewhere in the special features – that Lauda had a masseuse travel with him as part of his entourage
    .
    Race for the Checkered Flag: The Making of Rush – (31:39 Total, 1080p) (FIVE PARTS EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY, ONE PART INCLUDED ON THE DVD) – This is an assembly of 6 smaller featurettes about the making of the movie, starting with Peter Morgan’s thoughts on the creation of the script, and ending with a 7:25 featurette on Ron Howard’s work. There’s a lot of material covered here regarding period details and what it took to recreate all these F1 races. In a very clever move, it turns out that Ron Howard’s production team staged all the pit-stop and stands-area scenework at a single location in England, redressing the decorations each time to be a different racetrack. For the actual racing footage away from the stands, THAT would be shot at a new location. But the finish line area, and anything that was generic, they were smart enough to stay in one location. As Howard notes in his featurette, this gave each day an interesting difference – that they would have one day to do the German racetrack or the Brazilian racetrack, before they would need to redress the whole thing to be a completely separate place the next day. The Ron Howard-centered featurette, Ron Howard: A Director’s Approach (7:25), is the only one to be included on the DVD.

    The Real Story of Rush – (18:33 Total, 1080p) (EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY) – This is an assembly of 3 short featurettes, each dealing with either the reality of the F1 races, or with the efforts of the filmmakers to capture it. One featurette includes some good interview material with the real Niki Lauda, conducted at some point during the movie’s filming. The final featurette, The Rock and Roll Circus, includes some amusing comments from Ron Howard about his recollections of the 1970s while he was an actor on “Happy Days”.

    DVD Copy – A second disc is included in the package, holding the standard DVD of the theatrical cut, presented in standard definition in an anamorphic 2.40:1 picture with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound in English and Spanish. (448 kbps). The DVS track is also included. The special features on the DVD are the ten deleted scenes and the Ron Howard: A Director’s Approach featurette.

    Digital Copy – Instructions are included in the packaging for downloading a digital copy of the movie to your laptop or portable device.

    Subtitles are available for the film and the special features, in English and Spanish. A full chapter menu is available for the film.

    Overall Rating: 3.5/5

    Rush is an entertaining movie and a solid dramatic presentation of 1970s auto racing from director Ron Howard and writer Peter Morgan. It takes a few easy outs, but there are some very strong moments along the way, particularly regarding the unapologetic presentation of the rough edges of the main characters and a bracing performance by Daniel Bruhl as Niki Lauda. The Blu-ray offers top-notch high definition picture and sound, and about an hour’s worth of special features. It’s a great Blu-ray that will please fans of Ron Howard and auto racing in general. I am pleased to Recommend this title for purchase or rental.

    Reviewed by: Kevin EK
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