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Blu-ray Reviews


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#1 of 4 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted October 05 2008 - 12:22 PM


Release Date: Available now (original release date September 23, 2008)
Studio: Warner Home Video
Packaging/Materials: Single-disc Blu-Ray case
Year: 2001
Rating: R
Running Time: 2h03m
MSRP: $28.99

Video1080p high definition 16x9 2.40:1480i or 480p standard definition (mislabeled?)
AudioDolby TrueHD: English 5.1, Dolby Digital: English 5.1 (packaging only lists the Dolby Digital track)Stereo
SubtitlesEnglish SDHNone

The Feature: 2.5/5
Between 1977 and 1984 85% of the cocaine in the United States came in through one man - George Jung. He actually started in the drug business by selling marijuana but, dissastisfied with playing the middle man, he eventually turned to smuggling. By going direct to the Mexican pot farms, Jung was able to sit at the top of the supply chain. And though he eventually was caught and imprisoned for the offense, it didn't deter him from applying his smuggling experience to cocaine, a drug that at the time had little to no play in American society. It was a market waiting to be tapped and Jung essentially created the business that provided the supply, working directly with Columbian drug lord Pablo Escobar and amassing millions in the process.

As reprehensible as the man sounds, there was something in the tale that screenwriter Nick Cassavetes and director Ted Demme found sympathetic, if not at the height of Jung's business than certainly at the end when he was ultimately imprisoned for 60 years with no chance for parole. And it's only at the end of the film that there's any real ounce of sympathy for the man, when Jung (as played by Johnny Depp) regrets the choices he's made because they destroy his family. Even then it's hard not to harden your heart against such sentiments - a life driven by greed and selfishness is getting its due after all. With that kind of roadblock, the film is ultimately more of an interesting chronicle of one (ultimately small) aspect of a persistent societal problem than the sympathetic anti-hero biopic it was meant to be.

Video Quality: 4/5
Accurately framed at 2.40:1, the VC-1-encoded image is free of physical blemishes. The early part of the film showing Jung's childhood in the 1950s was shot to resemble old Ektachrome slide film, so contrast and colors are noticeably stylized with blown highlights, crushed blacks and strange looking reds and greens. The rest of the film's color scheme is more natural looking, with deep blacks, full contrast and nicely saturated colors. Fine object detail is very good, though overall sharpness drops a few times in wide shots. The transfer also exhibits some problems with tight parallel patterns like automobile grills and roof shingles. Grain structure seems adequately preserved, though there are some instances of minor noise and a touch of edge enhancement in certain scenes.

Audio Quality: 4/5
The Dolby TrueHD audio mix is nicely expansive and enveloping, largely due to the surround channels' balanced and immersive support for the soundtrack and ambient effects. Center channel dialogue is consistently clear but I struggled a bit with some of the South American accents. There aren't any scenes necessitating LFE, but audio sounded consistently full in the bottom end.

The 640 kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 track in comparison sounds less expansive and flatter in its dynamic range, making the lossless track preferable.

Special Features: 4.5/5

The special features package carries over the pieces from the 2001 "Infinifilm" DVD release. It appears that all the video is in 1080p, but the only items that look the part are the music videos, trailers and deleted scenes. Though the features are plentiful, only a few have much replay value.

Focus Points: For those who don't mind taking diversions during their viewing, the branching feature makes accessible the special features videos at select points during the film. This is the Infinifilm feature under a different name.

Commentary with Ted Demme and George Jung: Demme provides an informative track, covering the requisite bases. Intercut are separately recorded audio interviews with Jung.

George Jung Interviews (16m06s): Eight clips, taped by Demme at the Otisville Federal Prison, where Jung shares his thoughts on the film from conception to completion.

"Lost Paradise - Cocaine's Impact on Columbia" (23m41s): Documentary tracks the growth of Columbia's drug trade, in particular the influence of Pablo Escobar and his cartel on the country's politics, economics and citizenry. In Spanish with English subtitles.

Addiction: Body and Soul (6m29s): Physicians, counselors and recovering addicts talk about the science and experience of addiction.

Fact Track: Subtitle feature provides historical context to the events portrayed.

"Push and Pull" Music Video (4m26s): Film soundtrack tie-in performed by Nikka Costa.

Production Diary (17m31s): Twelve clips from the 63-day production chronicle the making of the film. Shot on video tape (and I suspect formatted for web streaming given the amount of jaggies) the quality is particularly poor. Still, it gives a nice behind-the-scenes glimpse of the production.

Trailers (3m28s): Theatrical teaser trailer (formatted 2.40:1) and theatrical trailer (formatted 1.85:1).

Deleted Scenes (26m28s): Clips that were excised due to time or because they hampered narrative flow. The most intriguing is the last clip where Jung has a chance to get back at a former partner. Includes optional director commentary.

Character Outtakes (9m24s): Six clips of the film's various characters talking about Jung. It's another piece I suspect was created for the film's promotional website.

Digital Copy: Download a digital copy for playback on computer or portable video device. Compatible with both Mac and Windows.


The Feature: 2.5/5
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 4.5/5
Overall Score (not an average): 3.5/5

An anti-hero biopic that can't generate the necessary sympathy gets very good treatment on all fronts.

#2 of 4 OFFLINE   Dave H

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Posted October 05 2008 - 03:25 PM

Nice review. I'll definitely be picking this title up (waiting for a good price).

#3 of 4 OFFLINE   JonZ


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Posted January 14 2009 - 01:15 PM

Suprised no one is talking about this title. I just picked it up myself and will be checking it out tomorrow night.

#4 of 4 OFFLINE   Ethan Riley

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Posted January 19 2009 - 11:21 AM

Maybe no one's talking about it because it's hard to find. In fact, I've never seen a copy--didn't even realize it was available until I saw this thread.


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