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Blu-ray Reviews

Atlas Shrugged: Part One Blu-ray Review



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#1 of 73 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted November 08 2011 - 09:51 AM

Ayn Rand’s apocalyptic social critique Atlas Shrugged comes whimpering to the screen in what was to be the first of a three-part saga. With the film’s dismal box-office performance, the idea that the second and third parts will ever be completed seems a pipe dream at this point, but on the basis of part one that we do have on view, that’s probably for the best. Dramatically inert and indifferently acted by its leading players, the title Atlas Shrugged: Part One pretty much exemplifies its audience’s reaction to the film: meh.


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Atlas Shrugged: Part One (Blu-ray)
Directed by Paul Johansson

Studio: 20th Century Fox
Year: 2011


Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1   1080p   AVC codec Running Time: 97 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish


Region: A

MSRP: $29.99


Release Date: November 8, 2011

Review Date: November 8, 2011



The Film

2.5/5


In 2016 America, the economy is in the toilet and the downturn shows no signs of a turnaround. Due to the high cost of fuel (close to $40 a gallon), rail transportation has become the most economic means of travel, and Taggert Transcontinental Railway has the opportunity to lead the business if some of its terribly rundown lines can be replaced with new steel rails. Co-CEOs of Taggert, Dagny (Taylor Schilling) and James (Matthew Marsden) Taggert, have different ideas about how to replace those old lines. James already has deals in place with U.S. government-approved foundries who have been promising to supply the rails for months but have not yet delivered on their promises. Dagny takes the bull by the horns and seeks out Henry Rearden (Grant Bowler) whose Rearden Steel has developed a new steel alloy that’s stronger, lighter, and more economical than regular steel and makes a deal to replace a three hundred-mile stretch of track with the new steel only to do it, she has to leave the company and start her own line which she christens the “John Galt Line.” Due to James’ strong connections to the government, he and other big shots like Orren Boyle (Jon Polito) and Wesley Mouch (Michael Lerner) can’t afford to see Dagny succeed, but succeed she does, after which new laws begin to come forward which will prevent Dagny from making the most of her new-found success.


Rand’s epic is a scathing indictment of big government becoming too entrenched into the lives of its citizenry calling all of the economic shots without offering the opportunity for the little man to be given a fighting chance to earn an honest living.  It’s a call to arms for the thinkers and industry shakers to come together to fight takeover and not allow enterprise, invention, and originality to be controlled, manipulated, and discouraged by the Washington power brokers looking out for only the interests of a meager few. Brian Patrick O'Toole and John Aglialoro’s screenplay, however, muddles the intent and saps the story of any intrinsic drama. Director Paul Johansson can’t seem to inspire much life in his leading actors whose professional and personal stories never combust into anything remotely interesting. When Dagny and Henry inevitably find themselves in bed, it’s one of the most perfunctory sex scenes seen in movies in many a year. The plot is choppy and poorly sustained, and the sudden disappearances of the country’s thinkers who abruptly disappear and claim they’re “on strike” seems ludicrous and is not satisfyingly dealt with in this section of the story to keep an audience on edge for a part two. There are some decent special effects sequences where we see the rather thrilling maiden voyage of the John Galt Line traveling over the new shiny metal rails supplied by Rearden and a climactic view of a burning oil field whose impact could have been exploited for greater drama. Overall, however, the film has a flat, lifeless tone that never gains much momentum, the opposite of what one would need if he plans to produce two additional legs of the story.


Neither Taylor Schilling nor Grant Bowler seem to capture one’s imagination in their respective leading roles though she has greater opportunities coming into contact with an array of contentious obstacles: her brother (a decent performance by Matthew Marsden), the wife of Henry Rearden (Rebecca Wisocky - dryly bitchy), and former lover Francisco D'Anconia (Jsu Garcia) whose backstory might have given the film a little more emotional pizzazz as Garcia and Schilling do exhibit some sexual chemistry. Both Jon Polito and Michael Lerner might as well be twirling mustaches in their obviously conniving evil character parts which seem drearily one dimensional.



Video Quality

4.5/5


The film’s Panavision 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Color is nicely controlled and suitably rich with accurate flesh tones throughout. Contrast is nicely dialed in to assure excellent sharpness with good details seen in facial features and in clothes and other objects (a rusty old bridge seems very lifelike). Black levels aren’t the strongest, however, and there is some crush in shadow details during darker scenes. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.



Audio Quality

4.5/5


The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix does a mostly fine job with extending the soundstage with impressive aural design. Dialogue is usually easily discernible though a couple of the actors have the habit of mumbling making understanding them sometimes difficult if music is simultaneously playing. Elia Cmiral’s score gets excellent spread through the fronts and rears continuously during the movie. Split sound effects are also usually quite well done with panning through the soundstage frequent as the trains go to and from their destinations. Occasionally, however, the pans don’t occur even with the trains moving across the screen making the use of the effects somewhat erratic. Bass is used well throughout giving the LFE channel something to do at frequent intervals.



Special Features

2/5


The audio commentary is by producer Harmon Kaslow, producer/co-writer John Aglialoro, and co-writer Brian Patrick O'Toole. Aglialoro who worked eighteen years to bring this story to the screen does most of the talking through the track though each of the men ask questions or suggest topics for discussion at regular intervals. They rely too much in describing the on-screen action when they exhaust conversation topics making it not the most exciting commentary track to listen to.


“The Road to Atlas Shrugged features John Aglialoro once again detailing his almost twenty year journey to bring the story to the screen in this 5 ¼-minute, 1080p vignette.


“I Am John Galt” is a needless 35 ¼-minute procession of internet videos by the movie’s on-line supporters stating the movie’s watchword “I am John Galt” into their cameras. It’s in 480i.


A slideshow montage of stills from the movie is set to music from the movie’s main theme. It runs 3 ¼ minutes in 480i.


The disc contains promo trailers for the Fox World Cinema series, Another Earth, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, and The Whistleblower.



In Conclusion

2.5/5 (not an average)


Dramatically lacking and rudimentarily directed, Atlas Shrugged: Part One doesn’t instill in one much hope that the planned second and third parts will actually be made. Fans of the novel will likely be vastly disappointed by the muddled storytelling and erratic performances, but the Blu-ray does offer a sterling picture and sound transfer for those who are curious.



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#2 of 73 OFFLINE   FrancisP

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Posted November 08 2011 - 05:04 PM

We must have seen two films. I do think the movie was well acted. Schilling and Bowler do make a good team. Some of the protagonist roles are compelling. The movie has a good look to it. Part of the problem is that sometimes the plot becomes a little wonky and it clearly is not a action picture. However making a movie that requires people to actually think can be tricky because that is not a quality that many current moviegoers possess. Maybe that's why I go to so few movies and I have never read the book.

#3 of 73 OFFLINE   Colin Jacobson

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Posted November 08 2011 - 11:54 PM

I saw the same movie as Matt.  I guess Francis saw the Special Secret Cut in which we find good acting and competent direction.  The one I saw boasted stiff acting, drab direction, clunky editing and some of the worst dialogue committed to film.


And "Shrugged" is not a film that requires people to think,  It's as one-sided a black and white rant as one could find.  It TELLS you what to think and won't entertain any other ideas...


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#4 of 73 OFFLINE   Robert George

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Posted November 09 2011 - 01:12 AM



Originally Posted by Colin Jacobson 


And "Shrugged" is not a film that requires people to think,  It's as one-sided a black and white rant as one could find.  It TELLS you what to think and won't entertain any other ideas...



And tells it badly.  The problem with Rand's story is that it is based on circumstances that have become even less likely in modern America.  Greece, or maybe Italy, maybe, but not here.  Our democratic republic is alive and well.  Labor unions are a mere shadow of what they were in the 50's, and the corporate culture is increasingly seen as more oppressive than government, not the "savior" of America that Rand believed.


No, IMO, Atlas Shrugged is a throwback to a time in America's history that has not existed for a long time, and may not have ever existed.  This is a film that is about 40 years too late.



#5 of 73 ONLINE   David_B_K

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Posted November 09 2011 - 01:33 AM

And tells it badly.  The problem with Rand's story is that it is based on circumstances that have become even less likely in modern America.  Greece, or maybe Italy, maybe, but not here.  Our democratic republic is alive and well.  Labor unions are a mere shadow of what they were in the 50's, and the corporate culture is increasingly seen as more oppressive than government, not the "savior" of America that Rand believed. No, IMO, Atlas Shrugged is a throwback to a time in America's history that has not existed for a long time, and may not have ever existed.  This is a film that is about 40 years too late.

I think you are missing the point of books like Atlas Shrugged. They don't have to literally come true in every detail to have merit in their message. Does everything in, say 1984 have to be a reality? Yet, we say a given situation is "Orwellian" because it reminds us of the climate of 1984. These sorts of books are cautionary tales. One would hope they never come to pass in reality. Your example of European countries on the verge of default is a good example of the timeliness of the book. Just because it is set in the USA does not diminish its message. The message was always only going to appeal to certain people. "Corporate culture" was seen as "more oppressive that government" by many in Rand's time as well, which is kind of why the story in the book happens. I doubt I will watch this film. The book was too long already; and I'm not keen on seeing part one of a trilogy that will likely never be completed.

#6 of 73 OFFLINE   Robert George

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Posted November 09 2011 - 02:03 AM



Originally Posted by David_B_K 

I doubt I will watch this film. The book was too long already; and I'm not keen on seeing part one of a trilogy that will likely never be completed.


This was definitely a difficult watch for me.  The only reason I stuck it out to the end was I was hoping something redeeming would happen.


It didn't.




#7 of 73 OFFLINE   Colin Jacobson

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Posted November 09 2011 - 10:03 AM

I liked the commentary more than Matt did - yeah, there's some narration, but it's not dominant.


I think it reveals hypocrisy on the part of the producers, though.  Aglialoro rants about how critics hated the movie due to its politics - maybe true for some, but I suspect most critics panned it because it's incompetently made.


Anyway, Aglialoro comes up with all sorts of excuses for the movie's commercial failure, all of which concentrate on external forces.  If he believes in Rand's teachings, shouldn't he just accept that the free market spoke and it rejected his film?  He made a poor movie that almost no one wanted to see - one doesn't need to find a conspiracy to understand why it flopped...


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#8 of 73 OFFLINE   Douglas Monce

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Posted November 12 2011 - 01:51 AM

I liked the commentary more than Matt did - yeah, there's some narration, but it's not dominant. I think it reveals hypocrisy on the part of the producers, though.  Aglialoro rants about how critics hated the movie due to its politics - maybe true for some, but I suspect most critics panned it because it's incompetently made. Anyway, Aglialoro comes up with all sorts of excuses for the movie's commercial failure, all of which concentrate on external forces.  If he believes in Rand's teachings, shouldn't he just accept that the free market spoke and it rejected his film?  He made a poor movie that almost no one wanted to see - one doesn't need to find a conspiracy to understand why it flopped...

Well it may or may not have flopped yet. It just may do quite well on home video, and home video is where the vast majority of a films profit comes from these days. I have not seen the film yet, so I can't speak to its quality or lack there of, however I think part of the problem with the film's theatrical run, was that no one knew it was out there. I can't tell you how many people I've talked to who didn't even know that the film existed, much less that it was in theaters. The film just might find its audience on home video. Also according to what I read this morning, they are still planning to release part 2 in 2012. Doug
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#9 of 73 OFFLINE   Colin Jacobson

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Posted November 12 2011 - 02:14 AM



Originally Posted by Douglas Monce 


Well it may or may not have flopped yet. It just may do quite well on home video, and home video is where the vast majority of a films profit comes from these days. I have not seen the film yet, so I can't speak to its quality or lack there of, however I think part of the problem with the film's theatrical run, was that no one knew it was out there. I can't tell you how many people I've talked to who didn't even know that the film existed, much less that it was in theaters. The film just might find its audience on home video.
Also according to what I read this morning, they are still planning to release part 2 in 2012.
Doug



"Vast majority"?  Where do you get that idea?  It's not right - at least not universally.  Some movies make more on video than in theaters - which will probably be true for "Shrugged" - but it's not true in general...


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#10 of 73 OFFLINE   Douglas Monce

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Posted November 12 2011 - 02:30 AM

"Vast majority"?  Where do you get that idea?  It's not right - at least not universally.  Some movies make more on video than in theaters - which will probably be true for "Shrugged" - but it's not true in general...

In 1997 it was reported that it was the first year that theatrical movies make more money on home video than they do in the theaters. That number has only grown. Movies make far more money from home video, IE DVD, Pay TV service, Network TV, video on demand, and now streaming, than they do theatrically. Of course it can vary from film to film, but on average, the theatrical take is about 1/3 of the revenue over the life of a film. Interestingly home video revenue is not reported as box office take for a movie. Doug
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#11 of 73 OFFLINE   FrancisP

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Posted November 12 2011 - 04:38 AM

I liked the commentary more than Matt did - yeah, there's some narration, but it's not dominant. I think it reveals hypocrisy on the part of the producers, though.  Aglialoro rants about how critics hated the movie due to its politics - maybe true for some, but I suspect most critics panned it because it's incompetently made. Anyway, Aglialoro comes up with all sorts of excuses for the movie's commercial failure, all of which concentrate on external forces.  If he believes in Rand's teachings, shouldn't he just accept that the free market spoke and it rejected his film?  He made a poor movie that almost no one wanted to see - one doesn't need to find a conspiracy to understand why it flopped...

I have to disagree. Critics are generally left wing and have a predeliction for that. The Green Berets was a film that was ripped apart by the critics because it went against the anti-Vietnam sentiment at the time.

#12 of 73 OFFLINE   FrancisP

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Posted November 12 2011 - 04:49 AM

And tells it badly.  The problem with Rand's story is that it is based on circumstances that have become even less likely in modern America.  Greece, or maybe Italy, maybe, but not here.  Our democratic republic is alive and well.  Labor unions are a mere shadow of what they were in the 50's, and the corporate culture is increasingly seen as more oppressive than government, not the "savior" of America that Rand believed. No, IMO, Atlas Shrugged is a throwback to a time in America's history that has not existed for a long time, and may not have ever existed.  This is a film that is about 40 years too late.

Worth noting that our unfunded liabilities will eventually reach multiples of our entire economic output. What Rand did not see was corporations and government getting into bed with each other through loopholes or direct subsidies. Most of the money that goes into agriculture subsidies goes to big corporations. GE used tax loopholes to pay nothing in taxes. Atlas Shrugged may be a furture world that may be coming.

#13 of 73 OFFLINE   FrancisP

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Posted November 12 2011 - 04:51 AM

I saw the same movie as Matt.  I guess Francis saw the Special Secret Cut in which we find good acting and competent direction.  The one I saw boasted stiff acting, drab direction, clunky editing and some of the worst dialogue committed to film. And "Shrugged" is not a film that requires people to think,  It's as one-sided a black and white rant as one could find.  It TELLS you what to think and won't entertain any other ideas...

Part of that seems to be a political rant. All films are black and white and TELLS you what to think. The fact is that this is not a action film as such and much more of a concept film. That is certainly one issue that the fil has commercially. I do like the acting and the film looks a lot better than it's budget imdicates.

#14 of 73 OFFLINE   RobertR

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Posted November 12 2011 - 06:12 AM

And tells it badly.  The problem with Rand's story is that it is based on circumstances that have become even less likely in modern America.  Greece, or maybe Italy, maybe, but not here.  Our democratic republic is alive and well.  Labor unions are a mere shadow of what they were in the 50's, and the corporate culture is increasingly seen as more oppressive than government, not the "savior" of America that Rand believed. No, IMO, Atlas Shrugged is a throwback to a time in America's history that has not existed for a long time, and may not have ever existed.  This is a film that is about 40 years too late.

No, they're more likely. We are, and have been, going through an unprecedented period of corporate bailouts, in other words a corporate/government "partnership", and the James Taggart character in Atlas Shrugged fits very much in that mold. Unions don't oppose bailouts (just look at General Motors) on principle. Government debt is at an all time high, and no one in power is serious about eliminating it. There is nothing "well" about this situation.

#15 of 73 OFFLINE   Colin Jacobson

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Posted November 12 2011 - 07:10 AM



Originally Posted by FrancisP 


I have to disagree. Critics are generally left wing and have a predeliction for that. The Green Berets was a film that was ripped apart by the critics because it went against the anti-Vietnam sentiment at the time.


I'm not saying some critics - heck, maybe even MOST critics - didn't care for the film's political message. I AM saying that it's incorrect to state that it received such bad reviews just because of its politics.  It's a badly-made movie, and an equally incompetent movie with a more politically appealing movie would've been panned as well...




Originally Posted by FrancisP 


Part of that seems to be a political rant. All films are black and white and TELLS you what to think. The fact is that this is not a action film as such and much more of a concept film. That is certainly one issue that the fil has commercially. I do like the acting and the film looks a lot better than it's budget imdicates.


Due to your awkward writing skills, I'm not sure what you're trying to say - do you claim my comments are a "political rant"?  Because I can recognize bad filmmaking?


No, all films aren't black and white.  I don't know what movies you see, but many of them remain up for interpretation.  This one doesn't - it's one-sided filmmaking at its worst...


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#16 of 73 OFFLINE   Colin Jacobson

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Posted November 12 2011 - 07:13 AM

BTW, if one acknowledges that some people dislike "Shrugged" because they don't agree with its politics, one must acknowledge the opposite: that some people defend/like the flick because they find themselves so invested in its message.  That sure seems to be the case of its defenders: they seem so taken with the tale that they can't recognize its flaws...


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#17 of 73 OFFLINE   mattCR

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Posted November 12 2011 - 07:24 AM

My personal opinion.   First, I loved the book "Atlas Shrugged", though maybe not as much as "Fountainhead".   I've followed Rand and read a good deal of her work, and I find that a lot of times, her basic political message is mixed.   Rand asserts through her writing - especially in "Shrugged" how large businesses intertwine with the government so tightly as to quash innovation.  But sometimes, I see her work read back or summarized in a way that I feel as though that person has never read her work or really seemingly discussed it.


That having been said, I can't really defend the FILM "Atlas Shrugged Part 1"   Rand's strength in writing is really in using a series of repetitions and turns to establish a feeling that some things cannot be changed, or are generally accepted when they should be questioned.


As a literary effort, I find it at times annoying but I also grasp that it works very effectively as well.   To me, Rand as a writer is a taste that may appeal to you based on politics, but the people most likely to really "get" her work are those who appreciate far more classical dramatic structure.


The problem with "Atlas Shrugged Part 1" is that the real strengths of the book are condensed into more soundbytes rather then the real discussion and feeling that the books make an effort to convey.


There are some books that may never make a great film, and that's not at all a fault of the book.   There are numerous books I hope NEVER get made into a movie, because I don't think they can be done in a way that does them any justice.


Atlas Shrugged is a movie that to me -felt- cheap.   But it didn't feel cheap because of the actors and performances.. it felt cheap because the core of the story seemed to be moved in a direction that I felt cheapened the literary effort.


Fountainhead is a book that is far easier to make into a suitable film.   It has a more open dramatic structure, a straight forward narrative.   The point of Atlas Shrugged is very difficult to discuss in snippets in a film.


Besides that, no way at $18.   I will bet money I can find this in a bin at Walmart in the spring for $5.


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#18 of 73 OFFLINE   RobertR

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Posted November 12 2011 - 08:00 AM

The movie had a lot of obstacles to overcome. Everyone knows that Big Hollywood Money would have never bankrolled it, so the producers had to make do with what they had.

#19 of 73 OFFLINE   Colin Jacobson

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Posted November 12 2011 - 08:19 AM



Originally Posted by RobertR 

The movie had a lot of obstacles to overcome. Everyone knows that Big Hollywood Money would have never bankrolled it, so the producers had to make do with what they had.



This seems to be the common excuse, but it's wrong.  The movie's problems have nothing to do with money.  It's not sabotaged by poor production values or effects - indeed, those are its STRENGTHS.


Its problems come from basic filmmaking incompetence: poor acting, poor editing, poor script.  Throwing money at those wouldn't fix anything - unless you want to claim more money could've bought better actors, writers, editors and director...


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#20 of 73 OFFLINE   RobertR

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Posted November 12 2011 - 08:24 AM

unless you want to claim more money could've bought better actors, writers, editors and director...

And how would such a claim be wrong?