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Review Test


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#1 of 1 OFFLINE   Matt Stone

Matt Stone

    Lead Actor



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  • Join Date: Jun 21 2000

Posted May 25 2005 - 11:24 AM

Black Cloud
Directed By: Rick Schroder

Studio: New Line
Year: 2004
Rating: R
Aspect Ratio: 16x9 (Anamorphic)
Running Time: 97 minutes
Rating: PG-13 (Violence and language including sexual innuendo)
Audio: 5.1 Dolby Digital (English), 5.1 DTS (English), 2.0 Dolby Digital (English)
Subtitles: English and Spanish
MSRP: $19.98
Street Date: 7 June, 2005

Review Date: 25 May, 2005

Summary
Rick Schroder’s (Silver Spoons, NYPD Blue) directorial debut, Black Cloud, tells the story of a young Navajo boxer faced with numerous personal hurtles on his way to fighting in the Olympics. The film features every cookie cutter character required: the brash fighter, the racist villain, the conflicted cop, the drunken father, the wise mentor, etc. Don’t get the idea that only the characters are generic, Schroder’s style, or lack thereof, abuses virtually every melodramatic story contrivance ever conceived. By making a Native American sports film, he’s able to steal from a endless supply of cheap devices: Native Americans fighting for their heritage, oppression from the White Man, various Native American stereotypes, a visit to the spirit world, etc. I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

From a technical perspective, the film looks good. Shots of the expansive Canyon de Chelly are beautiful, but usually serve no other purpose than aesthetic. The editing pace is all over the map. The cuts are way to quick during most of the dialog/fight-heavy sequences. On the other hand, when story isn’t being explored, Schroder likes to over-use long slo-mo shots. Regardless of the problems, the production value is very strong for a film that only cost a million dollars to make.

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Video
Black Cloud is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement. The film looked very good. Flesh tones were accurate and no haloing was visible. Edges were very sharp while still maintaining a film-like appearance. There were a few moments of grain, but it was only prevalent in shots of the outdoors.

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Audio
Much like the video, New Line has done a wonderful job presenting the audio on Black Cloud. There were both DD and DTS tracks on the DVD. I primarily listened to the DTS track, but flipped back and forth on various sequences to do some comparisons. Both soundtracks were similar, but the DTS version added a little punch in the low end that the DD just didn’t have. I also noticed the soundstage was much broader on score-heavy sequences (like the opening credits). The majority of the film is dialog heavy, so surround usage wasn’t too high, but it was strong when it was needed. Voices sounded crisp and natural and the ambient score was effective. Whichever track you decide to go with, you’ll be pleased.

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Extras
The only substantial extra on the DVD is a commentary with Schroder, Tim McGraw, and boxing choreographer Jimmy Gambia. I didn’t listen to the entire track, but I sampled bits around every 10 minutes. Schroder and Gambia provide most of the discussion, which I found to be very bland and uninteresting. Gambia goes on and on about the boxing business in regards to filmmaking, while Schroder comes in with rarely insightful commentary on the actual process of getting the film made. Neither struck me as particularly intelligent people, but then again, I’m no filmmaker. I would only recommend listening to this if you are already a big fan of the film.

The DVD also features the theatrical trailer, which is presented in anamorphic widescreen with a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack.

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In Closing…
Black Cloud is a boring film that features many stereotypes about Native American cultures and athletes. As a director, Schroder can’t decide what he wants to accomplish with individual scenes, which leaves the story feeling episodic and disconnected. The only saving grace of the film is the sometimes-beautiful cinematography and the strong soundtrack. Unless you’ve already seen the film and like it, I can’t even recommend this for a rental. The DVD provides some solid audio and video content, but being a primarily talking heads flick, I can’t recommend the DVD as demo material. Save yourself some trouble and watch Rocky or Million Dollar Baby if you’re looking for a boxing movie.

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Matt Stone
19 May, 2005
In Heaven, everything is fine.
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