DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Children of Men - Highly Recommended

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Kevin EK, Apr 15, 2007.

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  1. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Producer
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    Children of Men
    ________________________________________




    CHILDREN OF MEN

    Studio: Universal
    Film Year: 2006
    Film Length: 110 minutes
    Genre: Science Fiction/Action/Drama

    Aspect Ratio:

    • Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1

    Colour/B&W: Colour

    Audio:
    • English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
    • French Dolby Digital 5.1
    • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1



    Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
    Film Rating: R





    Release Date: March 27, 2007.


    Rating: 4/5

    With: Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Charlie Hunnam & Clare-Hope Ashitey

    Written by: Alfonso Cuarón, Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergis & Hawk Ostby From the Novel by P.D. James

    Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón

    CHILDREN OF MEN is a bleak story about a future England in which no children have been born for a generation’s time. This, coupled with the continuing environmental and economic problems creates effectively a world without hope, a world where random acts of violence are commonplace. A billboard seen early in the film is telling: “Last one to die, turn out the light.” We encounter this world through the eyes of Theo (well-played by Clive Owen), a cynical and detached former activist sleepwalking his way through the wreckage. As the plot kicks in, Theo is forced to wake up a bit and become actively involved again. And in his actions, and the story surrounding them, we may find a little glimmer of hope if we look hard enough for it.

    It’s a good movie, although an odd choice to have premiered around Christmas. (On the other hand, don’t get me started about “Black Christmas”…) Universal has released a solid DVD presentation of the film on both standard DVD and on a hybrid HD-DVD/SD DVD disc. This review covers the standard release. If you haven’t seen the film, it’s worth your time to do so. This is not only for the performances of Owen, Julianne Moore and Michael Caine, but for the way Alfonso Cuarón immerses the viewer into this world with seemingly endless shots while the action rages around the camera. In a sense, this film is the current version of the kind of apocalyptic future movies we used to see in the 1970s (like “Logan’s Run” or “Soylent Green”) only played for as much realism as possible. It’s the realism and the performances that keep us in the story – and it’s a tribute to their power that the viewer stays in it throughout.


    VIDEO QUALITY: 4/5

    CHILDREN OF MEN gets a great anamorphic transfer here. I imagine the HD transfer is finer, but once again we have an example of a film with a little grain and a little grit to it. For myself, I found the SD transfer upconverted to 1080i to look terrific. This isn’t a bright or colorful movie – much of this world is gray or drab or dirty. Even the flesh tones are a bit drab, but this is clearly a part of the look of the film. (The look flashes back in many ways to Michael Radford’s “1984”.)


    AUDIO QUALITY: 4/5

    CHILDREN OF MEN gets a fine 5.1 surround mix. The environmental sounds are distributed throughout the theater space, and the surround channels get a good workout throughout – from simple street or forest ambience to the explosions and pounding music that get interjected throughout the film. The one thing to watch out for here is the old trick of lulling the viewer off guard with some quiet dialogue and a quiet scene. I got fooled by an early scene of Clive Owen and Michael Caine just talking and raised the volume – only to nearly have my windows broken by the explosion of sound that suddenly followed. In all seriousness, this is a solid sound mix – just be careful with the volume…


    SPECIAL FEATURES: 5/5

    The SD disc of CHILDREN OF MEN includes roughly 1 hour of non-anamorphic featurettes and deleted scenes. All of it is interesting, but only the ironically titled documentary “The Possibility of Hope” really scratches below the surface. On the other hand, there are English subtitles available for the scenes and featurettes, which is particularly helpful in the documentary.

    • Deleted Scenes – (2:22 total) Three brief deleted scenes are included on the disc. Each contains an observation that is interesting but not crucial to the final film.

    • The Possibility of Hope – (27:14) This documentary, assembled by Alfonso Cuarón, is a collection of philosophers and activists speaking both to camera and over a succession of stock footage and clips from the film. The basic point of the documentary is to indicate the ways in which the present world is threatened with a fate of the sort indicated in the film. All of the speakers, from Naomi Klein to Slavoj Zizek, are earnest and serious. I say the documentary has an ironic title because where the film at least allows for a glimmer of hope among the ruins, this documentary allows for none. Also – be warned that this documentary spoils the end of the movie. DON’T WATCH THIS UNTIL YOU HAVE WATCHED THE MOVIE, or you will not be happy.

    • Comments by Slavoj Zizek – (5:44) Slavoj Zizek’s comments are extracted from the earlier documentary and added to further comments by him about the film and the source book. At one point, he refers to the film as a sequel of sorts to “Y Tu Mamá También”. Once again, be warned that this featurette spoils the plot and ending of the movie. See my earlier warning on the documentary…

    • Under Attack (7:35) This is a brief but fun look at the mounting of two major action sequences in the film – a street bombing and a country road driving scene. In both cases, the need for long uninterrupted takes caused the filmmakers to come up with some interesting solutions. The car sequence alone is worth the price of admission here – the actual vehicle used looks like some kind of 2-level tank, with the actors and picture area folded into the very center. Of course, the dissection of these scenes spoils a major plot point, so I would again recommend waiting to watch this until after seeing the film.

    • Theo & Julian – (4:39) This is a very brief collection of soundbites from Clive Owen, Julianne Moore and Alfonso Cuarón. There’s a little information about the characters (which spoils the movie, if you have not already watched it), but most of the material here is a series of mutual compliments.

    • Futuristic Design – (8:37) This is a brief look at the design work which went into the film between Cuarón and the production designers. The title of the featurette is ironic, as the point of the design work was NOT to do something which looked futuristic or “Blade Runner”-esque. Instead, Cuarón had them assemble a plausible reality built from today’s materials, with the idea of showing 20 years of neglect rather than buildup. One more amusing argument is mentioned – where Cuarón had hoped for a bit more color in the refugee shantytowns, only to be colorful shantytowns exist in warmer climates and the film is set in a very cold London.

    • Visual Effects – (3:06) This is a brief look at the work done by Framestore CFC to accomplish a crucial scene late in the film. I will refrain from discussing the content of the featurette, as it would spoil a major plot point. However, I can say that the examination of the footage is almost identical to that done for the addition of Marlon Brando to “Superman Returns”.

    A scene index is provided with 20 chapter stops. No trailers for the film are included, but when you put the disc in the player, several other trailers will automatically play unless you hit the right button…

    IN THE END...

    CHILDREN OF MEN is a fascinating and moving film that will probably stay in the public consciousness for a bit longer than the usual film. It’s worth your time to see it if you haven’t. If you have seen it, the disc is worth your time just for the philosophical discussion that follows the film. The only caveat I would give here is that there really isn’t much about the actual making of the film on the disc. If this disc is the only to be released for this film, then it’s definitely a keeper. If there’s a special edition lurking in the wings for release in another few months, you might want to investigate it.


    Kevin Koster
    April 15, 2007.
     
  2. Peter Overduin

    Peter Overduin Supporting Actor

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    Thanks for the review. I didnt need it to buy this film, to be sure, however, your remarks regarding the commentary on Possibility of Hope are dead on and give the film added punch and meaning.

    This isnt a thread about the film, but hyou are right to give the extrasa high marks; it's one of the few films that truly merit so many high quality extras. I would have bought this film in HD had it not been for the insane price, but whether on HD or SD, this is a quality DVD and a compelling film. A must own.
     

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