DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Good Night, and Good Luck (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED).

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Herb Kane, Mar 4, 2006.

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  1. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    [​IMG]
    Good Night, and Good Luck.





    Studio: Warner Brothers
    Year: 2005
    Rated: PG
    Film Length: 93 Minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Enhanced Widescreen
    Audio: DD 5.1
    Color/B&W: B&W
    Languages: English
    Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
    MSRP: $28.98
    Package: Single Disc/Keepcase




    "We will not walk in fear of one another."

    The Feature:
    On the heels of last year's Academy Award winning Best Picture, Million Dollar Baby, Warner Brothers once again has high hopes for this year's biggest studio contender, Good Night, and Good Luck. The film has been nominated for the coveted, Best Picture statue as well as Best Director (George Clooney), Best Actor (David Strathairn), Art Direction (Jan Pascale & James Bissell), Cinematography (Robert Elswit) and Best Screenplay (George Clooney & Grant Heslov) - six nominations in total.

    Good Night, and Good Luck, a dramatized account of the public struggle between revered CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow (played by David Strathairn) and Sen. Joseph McCarthy, unfolds against the tapestry of the turbulent 1950s. With bookend scenes taking place at an October 1958 "Salute to Edward R. Murrow," the bulk of the narrative transpires between October 1953 and April 1954. During those months, Murrow devoted a number of episodes of his TV show "See It Now" to discrediting McCarthy's persecution of men believed by the Senator to be un-American. After McCarthy targeted Murrow and the newsman was able to disprove the most damning allegations, the Senate elected to investigate McCarthy, and the witch-hunts were over. The title, Good Night, and Good Luck, echoes Murrow's weekly sign-off.

    Most historically based motion pictures stray from the facts or portray them loosely in an attempt increase the level of drama, but the struggle between Murrow and McCarthy is so intense that there is no need for director/co-writer George Clooney to deviate from the record. Events in the movie unfold as they did in real life. Interestingly, instead of hiring an actor to play McCarthy, Clooney relies on newsreel footage of the Senator. This adds to the production's sense of authenticity, and the decisions to utilize black-and-white and not use an instrumental score, give Good Night, and Good Luck a strong and realistic documentary feel. This is not a movie of grand melodrama, but of quiet, understated moments. Its power is in the absence of manipulation.

    In addition to chronicling the Murrow/McCarthy struggle, Clooney's movie makes a statement about the "dumbing down" of the mainstream news media. The responsibility of CBS to hard news was being warped by the need to entertain. At one point, Murrow states: "We have a built in allergy to unpleasant information, and our media reflects that." TV news is no longer about providing information, but is akin to a quick sugar fix; it quickly grabs the attention but is immediately forgotten. Murrow was a visionary, not only in the way he stood up for what he believed in, but in how he saw the future unfolding.

    Of all the newsmen to work at the three major American networks over the years, none (perhaps not even Walter Cronkite) has commanded the respect accorded to Murrow. In re-creating Murrow, actor David Strathairn made a careful study of his subject, and has reproduced Murrow's style down to the smallest gesture. Yet Strathairn's work goes beyond imitation and impersonation; he creates an intensely passionate individual who is driven by an inflexible code of ethics. Like other actors who successfully create a cinematic impression of an actual person, Strathairn all but has you forget you're witnessing a performance.

    The supporting cast was selected not with star power in mind, but with an eye toward actors who could do the best job fielding these roles. Although Clooney carries "star power", he takes a back seat by playing Murrow's assistant, Fred Friendly. Robert Downey Jr. and Patricia Clarkson are the unofficial husband-and-wife team of Joe and Shirley Wershba, who work together in a newsroom where colleagues are not supposed to be married. Frank Langella is William Paley, the founder and chair of CBS. And Ray Wise, possibly best known for his appearance on TV's, Twin Peaks, plays the tragic figure of Don Hollenbeck.

    There are movies that appeal primarily to the intellect and there are those that tug at the heartstrings. Good Night, and Good Luck clearly falls in the former category. In the way it looks back at events, the film offers a realistic glimpse of times gone by. We can only hope it is not also peering into the future. This is a fascinating and compelling piece of filmmaking, and its impact is enhanced by the retro style in which it is presented. Part docu-drama, part thriller, and part cautionary tale, the movie offers something to everyone who craves more than typical entertainment from the cinema. By releasing Good Night, and Good Luck at this time, Clooney seems to be using history as a reminder. During the documentary, Clooney states that he hopes the film will elicit an "open discussion about responsibility".

    The Feature: 4.5/5
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    Video:
    Gorgeous - lush - textured. If I needed just three words to sum up the video portion of this transfer, those would be my chosen words. Presented in it's correct AR of 1.85:1, this enhanced widescreen transfer is excellent, in fact it is almost perfect. Rarely do we get the chance to see modern day films presented in B&W so I see this as a bit of a treat - a unique treat. As someone who watches a great deal of oldies, it's interesting to see modern day players in grayscale and certainly adds a different dimension to one's viewing. I can only imagine how our parents felt some 50 years ago when the reverse was true and them seeing their favorite modern day actors in color - okay, enough with the nostalgia...

    What struck me with this transfer was the depth and textured appearance - very impressive. With a film centered on a time during the early 50's, we'd expect plenty of cigarette smoke - in this case, there are plumes of it and seeing the dimensionality was pleasing. Blacks were exceptionally deep and inky. If I had any complaint - and it would be minor - it would be that on the contrast side of things, lights/whites seemed slightly weak and poorly defined (slightly washed out). In terms of image definition, plenty of "big heads" here with lot's of tight shooting and there are times when you can count whiskers or facial pores, if you're so inclined.

    There seems to have been a great deal of effort in making this film look and feel like a period piece and they succeeded. There is a moderate amount of fine film-grain present throughout which also adds to the mood of the film. Even the stock footage of the senate hearings and various McCarthy clips that were used to incorporate his side of the story, looked better than you might expect - obviously you'll know them when you see them, but they did an admirable job at blending these.

    As we would expect, the print was immaculate and free of any dust or dirt or any other distractions and the overall image was rock solid. Authoring seems to have been handled to perfection as I could detect no signs of any compression errors, nor was edge enhancement ever an issue.

    A near perfect video presentation for a near perfect film.

    Video: 4.5/5
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    Audio:
    Similar to the video presentation, the DD 5.1 track is almost as impressive, although it is much more laid back in attempt to stay in theme with the period feel of the film. The track was perfectly clean and free of any hiss or other noisy distractions. The entire film is dialogue driven which was always bold and intelligible. In fact, other than the opening credit sequence and a few jazzy numbers, there's not much else here other than dialogue.

    Even the music (at least a few of the tunes that appeared throughout the film), were pretty much anchored front and center with only the slightest bit of separation. With the opening and closing credit sequences, the spread was greater, but keep in mind this is a very low key audio presentation. Not much to discuss in terms of heft or dynamics. I made no notes whatsoever with regards to surround usage or LFE which was basically non-existent, as we might expect for such a film.

    Not a transfer that'll woo your friends, but one that does pretty much everything right.

    Audio: 3.5/5
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    Special Features:
    Not a lot of features here in terms of numbers but what is present is substantive. The group is comprised of the following features:
    [*] A Commentary with George Clooney and Grant Heslov starts of the group of special features and by and large, it's a good one. The pair discuss a number of topics relating to the film including the set creation, cinematography and their research for the project as well as a number of other issues relating to the project. While there is a little dead time here and there, they do a good job at keeping this mostly screen specific commentary, informative and interesting. The charismatic Mr. Clooney also does a good job at infusing this with a light dose of humor. Overall, an informative piece.
    [*] Good Night, and Good Luck Companion Piece is an informative little documentary where George Clooney takes the lead however, a number of the film's participants appear here as well as several individuals who actually worked with Murrow and various family members. Others who appear include Grant Heslov and David Strathairn. Each of the participants discuss Murrow and their past experiences with the newsman, while those involved with the production offer some insight to the project and what they hoped to accomplish. The piece is relatively short but does an excellent job at offering up a lot of information in a short time period. The participants aren't named on-screen which seems odd, but still worthwhile nonetheless. Duration: 15:04 minutes.
    [*] And finally, the Theatrical Trailer is included and is fantastic. The trailer does a superb job at setting the exact tone of this film - it is just perfect and is in great condition. Duration: 2:25 minutes.

    Special Features: 4/5
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    **Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**



    Final Thoughts:
    It's pretty remarkable that a series of events, from some fifty years ago, still resonate with such power today. Interestingly, today's climate of escalating paranoia isn't all that different from what we endured in the 1950s, when the Cold War gave birth to a fear monger named Joseph McCarthy. And while present day has not yet generated a demagogue of McCarthy's stature, the sense of déjà vu is indisputable; all one needs to do is replace the "Communism" of the '50s with "Terrorism" today. To be clear, there should be no mistake that terrorism is indeed a serious threat, but this should serve as a constant reminder that there are those who will exploit it as a means of financial and political gain.

    While this reviewer has his doubts about Warner celebrating a similar repeat of last year's success, Good Night, and Good Luck is an engaging film that offers solid performances and an outstanding directorial effort by George Clooney - it is indeed one of the finest films of the year (2005). The presentation is top notch and the disc contains a few worthwhile extras - all of which add up to a very easy recommendation.

    Overall Rating: 4.5/5 (not an average)
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    Highly Recommended...!!!





    Release Date: March 14th, 2006
     
  2. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

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    REALLY dry movie.

    I am not a crazy about Strathairn's performance, as frankly it didn't require a whole lot of range. Playing the professional, somewhat stiff Murrow can't have been that difficult.

    Definitely one of the best of 2005 in any case.

    I've looking for the opening speech without success. I found the actual speech online, and the closing speech is definitely part of it, but I prefer the opening, which I cannot seem to find in the text.

    BTW, is that really a Twin Peaks spoiler in the review? I am about to give this series a try and sincerly hope I am wrong!

    --
    H
     
  3. Paul McElligott

    Paul McElligott Cinematographer

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    Getting every nuance of a very distinctive, very recognizable voice just right couldn't have been that easy. Very impressed with Straithairn here.
     
  4. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Bought this blindly based on Oscar buzz.

    Looking forward to watching it -- especially
    after your very positive review.
     
  5. Simon Massey

    Simon Massey Cinematographer
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    Herb

    I'd remove the Twin Peaks reference especially since the second season hasnt been released. I knew the spoiler even though I haven't seen Season 2 but I know many haven't.

    Great review by the way of a great film. Best I have seen out of the Best Picture nominees and I would say Straithairn's performance is one of the best this year. Not necessarily just in the way he captures Murrow but in the little moments between the news programs is where he was great.
     
  6. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    A very good review, but just to set the record straight for some of the younger HTF members. Fred Friendly, who was played by Clooney was more than just Murrow's assistant. He was his partner and producer, who later on became President of CBS News. Though, Murrow was the front man in their collobration, Friendly's contributions and innovations to television news programming should not be underestimated and he's considered a legend in his own right as a television news contributer and executive. Even, Friendly's resignation from CBS was noteworthy for his reasoning in doing so, stood for what he believed in and what television news journalism should be all about.







    Crawdaddy
     
  7. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    Done guys - thanks.
     
  8. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

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    Thanks Herb. Great review btw.

    You're probably correct, I spoke too soon, I am not at all familiar with Mr Murrow and thus have no way of judging the accuracy of the performance.

    --
    H
     
  9. Ollie Gatehouse

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    Saw this at the Closing Night gala of the London Film Festival (and got to schmooze with the cast and crew in attendance at the reception afterwards [​IMG] ) I loved this film and look foward to seeing it again on DVD.
     
  10. Justin W

    Justin W Stunt Coordinator

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    great review. i was picking this up next tuesday regardless, but it's nice to know i'm buying a quality product.
     
  11. Shawn.F

    Shawn.F Supporting Actor

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    Great review and great movie. Fingers crossed it gets some Oscar love tonight!
     
  12. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

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    saw this last week and thought it was fantastic in B&W.

    It certainly made me more intrigued about the Mccarthy era.

    Why did nobody stand up to him before ?
     
  13. Dan Hitchman

    Dan Hitchman Cinematographer

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    A fantastic film! It plays like a documentary and doesn't lay the drama on thick, as Hollywood script writers are usually inclined to do, which elevated the picture above most of the nominated Best Picture nominees IMHO.

    It is a thinking man's movie. Clooney deserves to be applauded for taking on current events like he has... with realism and class. I'll get it in HD.

    Dan
     
  14. ChrisBEA

    ChrisBEA Screenwriter

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    Wonderful movie,thanks for the review!
    Looking forward to seeing it again.
     
  15. Jeffrey Nelson

    Jeffrey Nelson Screenwriter

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    Looks like this excellent film was shut out tonight. [​IMG]

    Oh well, Oscars Shmoscars. I can't wait to pick up this DVD.
     
  16. Antonio S

    Antonio S Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks for a great review.
    Its going on my list.
     
  17. Shawn.F

    Shawn.F Supporting Actor

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    The clips the Oscars used from this film looked stunning in HD. This will definitely be a title that I will double dip on (SD to hold me over, then the HD or BD when I pick a player up at the end of the year).
     
  18. John Stell

    John Stell Supporting Actor

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    This was my favorite film of the year. A must-buy for me.
     
  19. Michael Harris

    Michael Harris Screenwriter

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    In one word, fear. Murrow opened the floodgates and gave cover to those who were afraid to be first.

    Looking forward to buying this one.
     
  20. DonRoeber

    DonRoeber Screenwriter

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    Loved this in the theaters. Will be buying this on release date. When is that exactly?
     

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