Blu-ray Review HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Thomas Crown Affair (1999) (Combo Pack)

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Matt Hough, Apr 7, 2010.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    The Thomas Crown Affair (1999) (Blu-ray Combo Pack)

    Directed by John McTiernan

    Studio: MGM
    Year: 1999
    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1   1080p   AVC codec
    Running Time: 113 minutes
    Rating: R
    Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, DTS 5.1 Spanish, French, many others
    Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, French, many others
    Region: A
    MSRP: $ 24.99

    Release Date: April 6, 2010
    Review Date: April 7, 2010
     
     
    The Film
    4/5
     
    While most remakes of films don’t match the quality of the original effort, there have been exceptions: John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon, for example, far surpassed the two previous attempts at filming the original novel. John McTiernan’s The Thomas Crown Affair, a remake of the 1968 original directed by Norman Jewison and starring Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway, is another remake which leaves its progenitor in the dust. Where the original movie was all about chic style and cool suavity, the 1999 version trades that surface style for real feelings and characters who seem flesh and blood and not glamorous ciphers. What’s more, it takes the caper genre and turns it into a cat and mouse escapade involving human emotions rather than being just about a heist or a con job.
     
    Bored billionaire Thomas Crown (Pierce Brosnan) sets up an elaborate heist of a prized Monet original from a museum and gets away with it with the same impeccable ease that he seals deals with businessmen while taking them to the cleaners. Investigating the theft is insurance investigator Catherine Banning (Rene Russo) who in no time at all finds enough clues to suspect Crown’s guilt but no evidence on which to arrest him. As she circles him using every ounce of her sexual prowess to lower his guard, she finds herself deeply attracted to him thus posing the dilemma of whether to ditch the investigation and live a pampered life with him or continue to do her job for her company. But is Crown, a master manipulator himself, actually falling for her or does he have his own plan at work?
     
    The script, a reworking of the original story by Alan R. Trustman, finds writers Leslie Dixon and Kurt Wimmer investing much more time in the character interaction between the two protagonists thus making the viewer care tremendously about the deepening emotions both of them are undergoing. There are depths to the characters that still aren’t touched on, but what we are given is so much more than the 1968 caper provided that the audience’s emotional investment in the story is tripled. Rather than relying on the flashy split screen storytelling of the original movie, director John McTiernan instead keeps the cameras in the faces of Brosnan and Russo as well as police detective Michael McCann (Denis Leary) who’s wary that Catherine will let her emotions outweigh her common sense and let Crown escape. He’s also fond of pulling the camera up and over the heads of the actors giving us bird’s eye views of their movements at pertinent plot points in the movie. The running time seems padded a bit to give us a super-sexy dance between Brosnan and Russo and seemingly gratuitous and undoubtedly generous views of both of their beautifully sculpted physiques in various states of undress, as gorgeous as the sculptures that adorn Crown’s palatial home. And, in retrospect, we realize the heist plot and its investigation and ultimate resolution is a fairly thin story; these two beautiful people who should have the world at their feet but who are each achingly lonely until they discover one another is actually the real show.
     
    Pierce Brosnan’s Bond stardom at the time of this film’s production forced him to come up with a completely different characterization for Thomas Crown, and he’s more than adequate at squelching those Bond mannerisms in crafting this new character, confident but a bit detached from the rest of the world. Rene Russo has the harder of the two leading roles as she must tightrope walk being the utter professional and balance that with that inner yearning for this charming and completely disarming man who’s as equally clever and cunning as she. Denis Leary makes a solid impression as the all business police detective abetted by Frankie Faison’s equally dedicated but slightly less rigid detective. Sadly, Ben Gazarra as Crown’s lawyer is wasted in a nothing role. Popping in for a fun cameo is the original film’s Faye Dunaway here playing Crown’s psychiatrist with whom he shares his mistrust of women and love.
     
     
    Video Quality
    4.5/5
     
    The film’s Panavision theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is presented in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Color is beguilingly natural in this transfer with equally accurate and appealing flesh tones. While there are occasional soft shots and shots where lowered contrast flattens out the image, most of the video quality meets expectations for sharpness and detail. Black levels are also very good. The film has been divided into 36 chapters.
     
     
    Audio Quality
    4.5/5
     
    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix does an excellent job placing Bill Conti’s bouncy score (and various versions of the original’s Oscar-winning song “The Windmills of Your Mind”) around the soundfield along with a host of split sounds to fill in the front and rear channels including front to back pans of helicopters and gliders flying over and other traffic noises and sounds while sailing that add ambiance to the transfer’s audio quality. If it isn’t as immersive or as expansive as more up-to-date soundtracks, it’s still an impressive effort that home viewers should enjoy.
     
     
    Special Features
    1.5/5
     
    There are no bonus features at all on the Blu-ray disc, not even trailers of upcoming or previous releases.
     
    However, also contained in the package is a double-sided DVD version of the movie (with anamorphic widescreen and full frame versions offered). On this disc are the bonus features for the package.
     
    Director John McTiernan contributes a patchy audio commentary which starts and stops but which has some good information about the film’s production and working with the stars. It’s a shame the commentary couldn’t have been attached to the Blu-ray version of the movie, but it is at least in the package.
     
    The original theatrical trailers for the 1999 and the 1968 versions of the movie are also provided on the disc. They each run a little over 2 minutes.
     
     
    In Conclusion
    3.5/5 (not an average)
     
    While the film is deserving of a more comprehensive handling than it receives in this minimal Blu-ray release (though the pricing is reflective of the barebones nature of the package), The Thomas Crown Affair is at least now available in high definition. It’s an engaging, adult love story contained within a caper scenario which adds an extra layer of fun to the proceedings. Recommended!
     
     
     
    Matt Hough
    Charlotte, NC
     
  2. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    How odd that a Blu-ray release of this title would contain--on a "bonus" DVD--a pan-and-scan version of the film. It seems contrary to the spirit of the whole thing.
     
  3. Adam Gregorich

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    I see your point, but that is the way the original DVD release was. Its the same disc from that release.
     
  4. Adam Gregorich

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    This is one of the few films where I like the remake better. I haven't watched in in a few years. It looks like the next time I do watch it will have to be in Blu-ray.

    The heist scenes are great and I love the scene where the poker playing dogs make an appearance.
     
  5. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    I'm going to have to give this one a try.

    Do you think I'll be able to convince my wife it isn't a heist movie...but a:


     
  6. Nelson Au

    Nelson Au Executive Producer

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    Thanks for the review. I liked this movie, McTiernan has fun with it and the leads are very engaging.

    And at $11.99 at Amazon, it's a deal!
     
  7. Terry Hickey

    Terry Hickey Second Unit

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    I just finished watching the disc and the presentation was very good. My favorite part of the movie was at the museum towards the end of the film.
     
  8. Phil Carter

    Phil Carter Second Unit

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    I'm looking forward to picking this one up but I have the same complaint that I have with a TON of new Blu releases: being forced to accept a 2-disc "combo pack" when all I want is the Blu-Ray. I already own the DVD, I don't need yet another copy of it.
     
  9. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    I understand your feelings about this policy in general, but in the case of The Thomas Crown Affair, I really got the feeling the DVD was thrown into the package for the few available bonus features it has (since the Blu-ray had none). I really don't think you're paying any more for the disc with or without that additional DVD. (Amazon's price right now on this title is amazingly low.)
     
  10. Phil Carter

    Phil Carter Second Unit

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    A fine point -- for those films that are already rock-bottom price, I can't say I object all that much. What I object to is stuff like Disney / Pixar's current policy of forcing me to get not one, but TWO discs I don't care about, at higher prices than a regular Blu set would be ("Up", "Monsters, Inc.", and the "Toy Story" films are egregious examples). I don't need a DVD and I don't need a digital copy. Quit forcing me to buy 'em!

    I have no problem with studios OFFERING a combo pack for those who want them. But what's so difficult about making a basic release available as well?
     
  11. cineMANIAC

    cineMANIAC Cinematographer
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    I don't doubt that including "bonus" DVDs and digital copies jacks up prices. Nobody needs these knick-knacks - Why don't they throw in UMDs while they're at it? Now a dying studio (MGM) is including 10-year-old DVDs on Blu-ray titles because they're too lazy to port the extras over to the BD. I guess they don't want people to feel like they're getting ripped off. I would definitely feel ripped off if I bought one of these 'combo packs' that includes a DVD i already own.
     
  12. ScottJH

    ScottJH Supporting Actor

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    Featurettes/documentaries not ported over to the Blu-ray isn't a dealbreaker for me. My issue is with the commentary tracks not ported over e.g. Misery, Roadhouse & To Live and Die In LA.
     
  13. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

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    I paid $20 or less for all of those titles. If there was no DVD or digital copy included, they still would have been about $20.
     
  14. Nelson Au

    Nelson Au Executive Producer

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    While I already have a DVD copy of TCA, I don't mind companies including the DVD. It's a nice thing. For me, I have the main BD player in the home theater. But I have a DVD player in my home office and it's great to play a disc there. Or bedroom whenever I get that set-up!

    For Disney, it makes perfect sense, parents won't want to give the kids a blu ray and they won't appreciate it. So for the kids, they can use the DVD.
     
  15. Adam Gregorich

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    I agree. I have kids, a few rooms w/o BD players, and the van, so I still need that DVD.
     
  16. anime-fan

    anime-fan Auditioning

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    Also, I just discovered that a sequel to this movie is in development ... it's called "The Thomas Crown Affair 2."
     
  17. Nelson Au

    Nelson Au Executive Producer

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    I finally watched this blu ray last night. I thought it looked great on BD. I know this is not a big title, so there hasn't been the kind of discussion like for Apollo 13 about the digital tinkering done. To me, this film looked great, the flesh tones and close-ups on Rene Russo's face looked great.

    I've seen this movie several times and I also enjoy it a lot more then the original. Inspite of McQueen. Perhaps that was the issue, it wasn't a McQueen kind of movie.

    Of all the times I've seen this film, it never occurred to me that how it ends is in fact, Crown is packing up and leaving everything. He knew Catherine would betray him, but he also knew she loved him. So he set-up the end game and got on the same flight with her. But what I also imagined is they'd live happily together and he'd go back to Crown Enterprises. But I guess he is essentially an outlaw now given that he's admitted to the cops he stole the painting by leaving the Crown Enterprises pencils. In the world of movies, I would suppose they'd be let him go since he returned the painting right away and he's probably so connected and had donated lots of money to the good causes and the museum, they'd let him go with a slap. The film did portray him as a rich and bored man, so he did this for the thrill.

    It will be interesting to see where the sequel goes. It's been in development for ages. And I bet no Rene Russo.
     
  18. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    While I prefer the original, I forgot how much of herself that Rene Russo revealed in this film.







    Crawdaddy
     

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