DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Cinderella Man (RECOMMENDED)

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Steve Tannehill, Dec 3, 2005.

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  1. Steve Tannehill

    Steve Tannehill Ambassador

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    Cinderella Man
    Studio: Universal Studios Home Video
    Year: 2005 (2005 Release)
    Rated: PG-13 (intense boxing violence and some language)
    Aspect Ratio: 2.35x1, enhanced for 16x9 displays
    Audio: English DD 5.1; French DD 5.1; DVS Descriptive Video Services; Feature Commentaries
    Captions/Subtitles: English SDH; French and Spanish Subtitles
    Time: 2:25
    Disc Format: DS/DL (DVD-18); Additional DVD-9 for Collector's Edition
    Case Style: Keep Case/slip Sleeve (Single Disc); Digipak (Collector's Edition)

    "In all the history of the boxing game you find no human interest story to compare with the life narrative of James J. Braddock..."
    ~Damon Runyon


    The Feature:
    Jim Braddock (Russell Crowe) was a rising star in the boxing ring. He was well on his way to being the championship contender in 1928. Then he lost a fight in 1929--and he lost his shirt in the stock market. By 1932, Braddock was living with his wife Mae (Renee Zellweger) and three children in a ramshackle apartment, doing what he could to pay the bills and keep the bologna and watered-down milk at the table. His body was beaten from too much boxing--his lead right hand was almost broken--and thus he could barely even box the occasional bout arranged by loyal manager Joe Gould (Paul Giamatti).

    But Braddock was a fighter in the literal and figurative sense. Above all boxing titles, above all goals, above freezing and starvation itself, he wanted to keep his family together--it is a promise he made to his children and intended to keep. This is where Cinderella Man draws its strongest themes and performances.

    Early in the movie, Braddock receives what would normally be a career-ending blow: after a bad fight in which he breaks his right hand, his boxing license is revoked. He patches himself up as best he can, and tries to get occasional work doing manual heavy labor at the docks. But it is still not enough to pay for electricity. Mae, in an act of desperation to protect her children, sends them off to relatives. Jim, in his own act of desperation, goes on public relief then begs the boxing promoters to fill in the gap. In lesser hands, this would be movie-of-the-week material, but with acting the caliber of Crowe, Zellweger, and Giamatti, not to mention the skilled direction of Ron Howard, it works. (I think it is going to work at Oscar time, too.)

    Oh, and I have not even started to talk about the comeback. Cinderella Man is the story of a boxer who goes from near-absolute bottom to near-total peak. As Ron Howard has pointed out, Cinderella Man is not so much a story about the Great Depression as it is about a great man. The movie worked well for me because I did not know the story, so I will try not to spoil it here. Suffice it to say that after Braddock has recovered from his injuries, Gould is able to convince the boxing commission to allow Braddock one more fight... with unexpected results!

    The boxing action in Cinderella Man is a sight to behold. It is like you are in the ring with the boxers. The camerawork is dizzying (and, like the acting and direction, if it does not get nominated for an Oscar along with editing, we are talking robbery.) For me, the boxing movie benchmark has always been Raging Bull. Cinderella Man is in that league.

    The movie veers a bit with some political doings regarding "Hooverville" (the shanty town set up in Central Park) although Paddy Considine (In America) puts in a fine performance as Braddock's socially conscious coworker and friend.

    In the end, Cinderella Man is about family. It is no coincidence that, as with his other movies, Ron Howard's father and brother have featured roles. The success of Jim Braddock is a metaphor for rise of the downtrodden during the Depression. Braddock gave a lot of people hope--that if someone could lift himself up from the depths, and travel the path leading to boxing's highest prize, that maybe they could succeed in life, as well.

    A note of trivia: heavyweight champion Max Baer is, as you might expect, the father of Max Baer Jr.--who is indeed the one and only Jethro from The Beverly Hillbillies. Baer Jr. was not pleased about how his father was represented in this movie. But this is, after all, a movie. Perhaps after we've all had a chance to experience Cinderella Man, we can have a discuss the concepts of artistic license, and heroes vs. villains.

    Cinderella Man is one of the best pictures of the year.

    The Feature: 5 / 5



    Note:
    Cinderella Man was graciously provided by Universal as a pre-release screener. It was not, however, finished product. For that reason, I could not give final ratings for video or sound quality, or review the commentary tracks. There are also some indications that the Collector's Edition may not be available on street date, which I am attempting to confirm through Universal. When finished product is available (after I hopefully pick up the gift set at Best Buy on Tuesday ), I will revise the review accordingly.

    And here we are! At Tuesday lunchtime, my Best Buy had a number of copies of the collector's edition on the shelves, as well as numerous copies of the standard widescreen and full-frame editions. Best Buy had a cool addition for Reward Zone members: a portfolio of 12 production sketches from Peter Jackson's King Kong. This portfolio also came with a $3 coupon for Reward Zone members off next week's release of King Kong: Peter Jackson's Production Diaries. With any luck, I'll have this one to review in the next couple of days--it looks awesome.

    But enough of Kong! When you spin up the Cinderella Man DVD, there are trailers for the extended edition of Gladiator, Law & Order on NBC, Pride & Prejudice (which I am told is extremely good), and the cute little Curious George Dolby Digital trailer. You can go to the menu at any time during the trailers (thanks, Universal).


    Video:
    Cinderella Man has the look of muted colors natural lighting, especially in the dimly lit apartment where the Braddock's live, and in the inner sanctum of the boxing promoters. The boxing sequences have the appearance of being lit from above, but there is frequent flashing due to flash bulbs going off. There are also quite a few tricks of the camera--spinning, turning, taking a fist in the lens--and there is nary a motion artifact to be seen. I did not notice significant edge enhancement. Black level was fine. The color palate was diminished, apart from an apparent CGI shot of the front of Madison Square Garden done up in lights.

    Video: 4 / 5



    Sound:
    The screener offered an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Final product will offer English Descriptive Video Service, and French DD 5.1, as well as subtitles in English, French, and Spanish. The DD 5.1 track was largely focused on the front, with directional effects from side to side, and dialogue firmly anchored in the center. Even the fight sequences, in which audience noise did spill over into the surrounds, were more ambient in the surround channels than active. This is fine. But if you are looking for something where you can say "Look, Ma, I've got surround sound" this is not the movie. LFE was indistinct. The sound of the bell was startling (almost every time it rang). The DVS track is excellent.

    Sound: 3.5 / 5



    Extras:
    There are two configurations of Cinderella Man: a standard edition (which still has a ton of special features), and a collector's edition (which adds another disc, and some printed material--a 38-page book and four postcards--to go with it).

    Both editions include a dual-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-18). Side A includes the movie and commentary tracks with director Ron Howard, writer Akiva Goldman, and writer Cliff Hollingsworth.

    Side B of the first disc contains 88 minutes of supplemental videos, as follows:
  2. Deleted Scenes with commentary by Ron Howard (21:00) - some of these scenes surprise me, because they might even turn Oscar-caliber performances into Oscar wins. Before the menu is enabled, Howard (in a forced audio introduction) explains that there are scenes that had to be cut, then the menu becomes active and we are given the option of watching the deleted scenes with commentary or without. These are non-enhanced, 1.85x1 widescreen.
  3. The Fight Card: Casting Cinderella Man (22:58) - Ron Howard, Bryan Grazer, casting director Jane Jenkins, and the cast discuss the casting of Cinderella Man. There is some minor redundancy with interviews in the "Pre Fight Preparations" segment of the Collector's Edition, but by and large, this stands alone as a unique feature.
  4. The Man, The Movie, The Legend: A Filmmaker's Journey (14:02) - yet another making-of piece, with plenty of interviews with Ron Howard, Bryan Grazer, Russell Crowe, and even Penny Marshall. There is some overlap with other interview comments. This is pretty much EPK material.
  5. For the Record: The History of Boxing (6:40) - The film's boxing consultant, Angelo Dundee, talks of his experiences in the ring with newcomer Russell Crowe.
  6. Ringside Seats (9:011) - clips from the actual climactic fight are watched and discussed by Ron Howard, Bryan Grazer, Akiva Goldman, and Norman Mailer. With the fight on the screen, a little window pops up occasionally focused on the discussion panel and their comments. You can see more of the fight, sans this commentary, in the collector's edition DVD.
  7. Jim Braddock: The Friends and Family Behind the Legend (11:12) - Ron Howard talks about the involvement of Jim Braddock's family, and we see Braddock's son and grandchildren interviewed. Then as a special treat, we actually hear and see Jim and Mae Braddock interviewed.
  8. Kodak Cinderella Man Gallery (2:00) - a commercial

    The Cinderella Man Collector's Edition contains an additional DVD, along with a booklet and photo cards.
  9. Additional Deleted Scenes (15:20) - once again, we see even more deleted scenes, character moments, and situations that add depth and clarity to the story. It's a shame that they are not included in the final movie. Honestly, I think some of these moments would have been the difference in an Oscar nomination vs. an Oscar win. Once again, that non-interruptible introduction by Ron Howard leads before you can actually play the scenes, either with or without commentary. They are non-enhanced, 1.85x1 widescreen.
  10. Russell Crowe's Personal Journey: Becoming Jim Braddock (27:49) - a.k.a. "Jimmie the Boxer" is a thorough documentary, narrated by Crowe himself, on the rigorous training regimen Crowe undertook from his home in the land Down Under to transform himself from a... ahem... slightly overweight leading man, to a lean mean fighting machine. We see lead trainer Angelo Dundee, fighting choreographer Nick Powell, stunt coordinators, and actual boxers, one of whom was hilariously afraid of crocodiles and snakes. There is no hilarity when Crowe dislocates his shoulder and has emergency arthroscopic surgery--this is certainly going to help when it comes to the award season (and deservedly so).
  11. Pre-Fight Preparations - these four featurettes (25:05) focus on everything from the script to the inflatable "extras" used in the arenas to simulate an audience.
  12. Lights, Camera, Action: The Fight From Every Angle (21:23) - we see how Ron Howard and his DP Salvatore Totino used a variety of cameras, sometimes as many as five at a time, to show the action in the ring. The most fascinating camera was the "tire ring," a padded punching bag with an embedded 35mm camera that allowed the fighter to send realistic punches into the lens, i.e., our faces. With the fast-paced editing and lighting design, it absolutely puts you in the middle of the fight. Totino also gets a blue ribbon for going into the ring, with head and chest padded and camera in-hand, and allowing the boxers to spar with him in order to get the shots. This feature explores all of the major fights portrayed on-screen.
  13. Braddock vs. Baer Fight Footage (31:58) - This is a large portion of the actual James J. Braddock vs. Max Baer fight from 1935. It is fascinating to see the real boxers go at it.
  14. Photo Montage (3:11) - production and behind-the-scenes stills set to music, interspersed with the occasional snippet of dialogue, sound effects, and clips from the movie. One of the most creative uses of a montage feature I've ever seen on a DVD.
  15. The Sound of the Bell (6:21) - this featurette includes interviews with Ron Howard and composer Thomas Newman (Shawshank Redemption) and gives some insight into Howard's needs and Newman's process.
  16. Music Featurette (2:12) - This is an extension of the "Sound of the Bell" featurette, although it turns slightly into an ad for the soundtrack CD.
  17. Human Face of the Depression (6:00) - Ron Howard discusses his fascination with the Great Depression. Howard makes the point that Cinderella Man is not the story of the Great Depression. It is a story of a great man.

    Now... which set should you get, the collector's edition or the standard edition? Is the extra disc and the printed swag worth it? It is to me, but I like that kind of thing. It will also make a good present this time of year.

    Note: none of the supplements had subtitles.

    Extras: 5 / 5



    In Conclusion:
    The year is not done yet, so I can't say for certain that this will be my favorite film of 2005 (I think a big hairy ape might hold that distinction), but Cinderella Man certainly ranks high. Regardless of which edition you select, it is a great DVD.


    Overall Rating: 4.5 / 5



    Recommended

    Release Date: December 6, 2005




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  19. Travis Brashear

    Travis Brashear Screenwriter

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    Great review, but I want to go on record and say that, by default, NO DVD missing the trailer should be allowed a 5/5 extras rating, no matter what is included in its place. Take that for whatever you find it to be worth.
     
  20. Matthew Clayton

    Matthew Clayton Stunt Coordinator

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    I was initially swaying towards the single-disc edition, but it seems that the bonus materials for the Collector's Edition is definitely worth paying extra for (if it does comes out on Tuesday). BTW, how many chapters is the movie divided up into, and do the video extras have optional subtitles?
     
  21. Shane Martin

    Shane Martin Producer

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    Steve,
    How is the rewatch factor on this?
     
  22. Steve Tannehill

    Steve Tannehill Ambassador

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    Well, Shane, I won't mind rewatching the finished product (once it arrives) to answer Matthew's questions. [​IMG] Matthew, I'll have to get back to you--but in the recent past, Universal has been good about subtitles on supplements.

    Cinderella Man is the kind of movie that I can show to my friends who like boxing, and to my parents who grew up in the Depression. My friends and I might have actually watched it last night had I not forgotten the disc at home.

    In comparison, I've watched Rocky once on DVD. I keep it on the shelf because it is a best picture, but frankly I think it would have made a great MST3K movie.

    I've watched Million Dollar Baby twice (if you include the theatrical screening) and have not seen it since because it upsets me. My friends won't watch it, because they generally want light and fluffy on Friday nights (Mr. and Mrs. Smith was a huge success last night).

    I've read that Cinderella Man was the best reviewed movie this year that did not find an audience. It certainly deserves a second chance on DVD, and I'm positive there will be at least a second and third viewing for me.

    Oh, Travis, I don't begrudge trailers from overall ratings, but I should separate the standard edition from the collector's edition. Clearly, the collector's edition drives the 5/5 rating out of sheer volume alone. But if one is being budget conscious (and this time of year, who isn't) there is still a good set of supplements on the standard edition.

    - Steve
     
  23. Dane Marvin

    Dane Marvin Screenwriter

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    Steve, my biopic won't be coming out until next year. [​IMG]



    All kidding aside, another great review. I picked up the CE and just haven't had the time to pop it in the player yet, but I enjoy reading about the extras especially. It's always hard to tell exactly what's on the DVDs extras-wise and what's worth my time, so the extras breakdowns in your reviews are awesome (the running times are very helpful).
     
  24. dailW

    dailW Stunt Coordinator

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    rented it. great movie.i'm disappointed that universal couldn't give it a movie on one disk then another disk of bonus material on another disk and not use DVD-18.
     
  25. Steve Tannehill

    Steve Tannehill Ambassador

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    I tweaked the review now that I have final product. Yes, as you may have read elsewhere, some retailers indeed got a supply of the collector's edition. I never heard back an official reason as to why the supply was short, but I have to believe it is because replication facilities are just too busy this time of year.

    Matthew, there were 20 chapters and no subtitles on the supplements.

    Speaking of big hairy apes, I just got a big hairy box of production diaries from that certain movie. As soon as I've had a chance to digest it, I'll put something up. But first, I have to pop... er... review a movie about a certain 40-year-old. [​IMG]

    - Steve
     
  26. Harold Wazzu

    Harold Wazzu Supporting Actor

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    Bought the Collector's Ed as a blind buy and was well worth it. Will go down as one of the best boxing movies ever, right up there with Raging Bull and Rocky.
     
  27. Kain_C

    Kain_C Screenwriter

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    Just saw this. Amazing film. I think Howard has matured as a director and this is one of his best. It doesn't even feel like a 145 min movie at all. I honestly didn't think I would like this and was even a little surprised at the lump in my throat for the last 20 or so minutes.

    One of the best of the year.
     

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