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HTF REVIEW: "The Royal Tenenbaums" (CRITERION) (with screenshots)


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#1 of 93 Ronald Epstein

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Posted June 26 2002 - 12:19 AM

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The Royal Tenenbaums







Studio: Touchstone
Year: 2001
Rated: R
Film Length: 110 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.40:1)




You Are Invited To A Remarkable Family Gathering


This is perhaps one of the hardest reviews I
have ever written because as I sit here typing
these words, I still don't quite know if I really
enjoyed The Royal Tenenbaums or not.

I have to admit, there were several times during
the first 30 minutes of this movie that I wanted
to turn it off. I was forming letters of apology
to Disney within my head for not reviewing the DVD
they sent me. But remarkably, the more I stayed
with this film, the more I slowly got into the
absurdity of it all.

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From Director Wes Anderson (Rushmore) comes the
story of The Tenenbaum family who has inhabited
a beautiful three-story brownstone on the Upper
West Side since their three "genius children,"
Chas (Ben Stiller), Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow), and
Richie (Luke Wilson) were born approximately 30
years ago. Gene Hackman (in a performance that
is nothing short of amazing), is a mustachioed
chain smoker and unattentive a father who is
separated from his level-headed wife, Ethel
(Anjelica Huston).

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The kids grow up to be very strange in the
Tenenbaum household. One becomes a business
genius, another a famous playwright and the
other a world famous tennis pro. There is
also the boy next door Eli (Owen Wilson), who
forever wants to be a Tenenbaum.

Royal decides late in life that he'd like to
reunite with his family, and therefore concocts
a scheme that results in him moving back home
with the children and ex-wife even though she's
about to remarry, to her longtime accountant
(Danny Glover).

I suppose the reason this film placed on many
of the critic's top 10 lists of last year was
simply because The Royal Tenenbaums is
rich in original, fascinating and hilarious
characters. This stellar cast of actors are
seen in ways you have never before imagined.
Watch Gwyneth Paltrow in a very untypical
role for that may be her best performance yet.

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So, I sit here typing these words and wondering
what I really thought of the film. I was captivated
by the highly entertaining visual style of this
film which is told in storybook fashion (narrated
by Alec Baldwin) where almost every frame of the
film looks like something out of a comic book.
Even more impressing was the diverse rock soundtrack
that helps set the mood for both humorous and
forewarned moments.


How is the transfer?


The overall transfer of this film looks simply
terrific. I was rather amazed at how vivid colors
could get on a transfer like this before becoming
oversaturated. Filled with vibrant yellows and
reds (especially the red jump suits), the color
levels peak higher than most any other movie I
have seen before, yet just barely stay out of the
oversaturation zone. The print is flawless, and
the only problem I had was the smallest evidence
of video noise throughout.

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Though this DVD contains an additional DTS 5.1
track, I found it to be completely wasted on a
film that really doesn't make use of it. As I
sat watching this film, I rarely heard any noise
come from the rear channels. In fact, not until
halfway through the film as Hackman and Huston
walk through Central Park, did I heard the very
first sounds of the background city in the rears.
From that point on, it was the few outdoor scenes
that followed that contained hints of ambient noise.

The lack of rear channel output can be easily be
forgiven by the strong and robust front channels
that give off superior stereo separation. The
film's rock soundtrack comes across with such
deep resounding bass that you will find your feet
tapping along in no time.


Special Features


The Royal Tenenbaums has been released
in a deluxe 2-disc CRITERION edition. As
anyone knows, Criterion sets the standard in
providing superior transfers and supplements in
all their releases. This is no exception.

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I must first talk about the packaging. Arriving
in a cardboard slipcase that mimics a book, the
inner plastic housing slips out to reveal a cover
adorned with artwork by Eric Anderson.

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Inside the cover you immediately find two small
pamphlets, one of is Kent Jone's insight into
Director Wes Anderson's film, and the other
containing interesting artwork by Eric Anderson
of the Tenenbaum house, which maps out every floor
and room, pointing out the most intricate details
and objects of each.

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Disc One contains the movie that contains
both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 soundtracks.

The film also features a full-length commentary
by writer/director Wes Anderson.

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Disc Two houses the bulk of supplemental
features that are divided into eight specific
chapters.

Let's begin with The Scrapbook

This entire section is devoted to the many
paintings and images found in the film.

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Photographer James Hamilton presented a slide
show of for the wrap party of the film. You can't
help but be highly amused by these beautifully
photographed images that show the cast and
filmmakers in some very candid moments.

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One of the most absurd and hilarious images
from the film are the paintings that hang in
Eli Cash's apartment. Here, we get a close-up
look at the two paintings by artist Miguel
Calderon. A public radio broadcast is included
for your listening pleasure that explains how
these paintings ended up in the film.

Eric Chase Anderson provided the many portraits
of Richie Tenenbaums's sister, Margot, that
appeared in the film. Using your remote, you can
step through each of these portraits for a closer
look.

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Storyboards features excerpts from Wes
Anderson's annoted script pages that you can
thumb through. Smaller televisions may provide
more difficulty reading the script's small print.

A whole area is dedicated to the murals that
adorn the bedroom of Richie Tenenbaum. Detailed
illustrations are provided by Eric Chase Anderson.

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The Tenenbaums certainly enjoyed a lot of media
publicity either by the books they wrote, or the
articles that were published about them. This
section shows us all the book and magazine covers
that appear throughout the film.

Two very easy to find EASTER EGGS (boy I love
having these put in plain sight) shows some plate
spinning by Kumar Pallana at the film's wrap party
and Anjelica Huston blowing out a birthday cake
that sets her hair on fire.

The next section is The Peter Bradley Show

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Designed as being a farce, this interview never
takes itself too seriously as we are introduced to
actors that have played small parts in Wes Anderson
films. Thought its meant to be a joke, I found
myself skimming through it due to overall boredom.
Much too long for its own good.
(length: approx. 14 minutes)


The next section is dedicated to Trailers

Two of the film's original theatrical trailers
are included. Simply press PLAY and both trailers
play against each other. You cannot individually
select each one you wish to play.


The next section is With The Filmmaker

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An excellent documentary (a portrait by Albert
Maysles) that plays as a film diary. Shot with
no narration, we are taken on very candid tours
of the principal set of the Tenenbaum house and
its inner construction; the trainer discussing
how he is going to bring his bird into the shot;
storyboard drawing; Wes Anderson directing Luke
Wilson making an entry into a house window at
night; at the editing consoles; decorating the
walls of Richie's room. This is a fascinating
look at putting the film together, done in a
style that sets the viewer free of any narrative
boundaries.
(length: approx. 26 minutes)


Let us take a look at Cut Scenes


I was surprised with a film of this magnitude,
that there are only two deleted scenes
included. Even more sad is the fact that both
are very short, with the longer cut involving a
dinner scene between Glover and Huston. There
is absolutely nothing of added value here.


Finally, we come to Interviews

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Nine personal interviews of the personal cast
that includes Gene Hackman, Gwenyth Paltrow, Bill
Murray and Anjelica Huston can be selected with
your remote by clicking on the corresponding
painting. The actors basically talk about their
individual characters. What is sort of frustrating
here is that each of these interviews contain a
considerable amount of video noise.


Final Thoughts


As I end this interview, I find myself still
unsure of The Royal Tenenbaums. While I
can truly understand its brilliance, I find it
very difficult to outright recommend this film
to everyone, as it won't be everyone's cup of tea.

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At the very least, I must confess that this
movie restores my faith in Hollywood for producing
a film that is totally original, filled with
quirky, offbeat yet intellectual humor. It has
forever burned images in my mind and carried
thoughts with me even days later. That should
give you an encouraging sign that the movie is
growing on me favorably.

Those who have seen this film and enjoyed it,
owe it to themselves to purchase this Criterion
edition that is chock-full of great supplements.
Those who have never seen the film should not
buy it blindly, but rather test the waters first
with a rental.

Release Date: July 9, 2002

Ronald J Epstein
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#2 of 93 HenrikTull

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Posted June 26 2002 - 12:21 AM

This is so mine... anyone know if there's any differences between the US and the Canadian release? Thanks.
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#3 of 93 Paul_D

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Posted June 26 2002 - 12:23 AM

Quote:
The print is flawless, and the only problem I had was the smallest evidence of video noise throughout.

I think we can definitively say that the first internet reviewer reporting excessive artifacting didn't have a clue what he was talking about. Good!

Great review. I'm especially pleased that you loved the transfer and extras. An amazing film, and I'm glad they've done it justice. I assume this means you're now on the Criterion mailing list. Good stuff. More Criterion reviews to come in the future then?
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#4 of 93 Ronald Epstein

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Posted June 26 2002 - 12:45 AM

Hi, Paul!

I am not on Criterion's list. I was actually
sent this screener because I am on Disney's list.

I would like to be on Criterion's list, but
to be honest, I receive more than 10 DVDs a
week to screen from all the various studios
and I had to cut back somewhere. Though I
love what Criterion does, their titles are
often a bit obscure for my taste, though I
own several of their more mainstream titles.

I would certainly welcome Criterion to add
me to their list, though I am not going out
of my way to request so at this time, as I
am the sole DVD reviewer for this forum (as
it will remain) and I have so much on my plate
already.

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#5 of 93 SteveGon

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Posted June 26 2002 - 12:49 AM

Can I get on the Criterion mailing list? Posted Image

Nice review, Ron. Personally, I loved The Royal Tenenbaums and will be first in line to pick up a copy.

#6 of 93 Marc Colella

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Posted June 26 2002 - 12:56 AM

Quote:
I think we can definitively say that the first internet reviewer reporting excessive artifacting didn't have a clue what he was talking about. Good!

The review at DVDAuthority also noticed some (as he puts it) "blips here and there that really stood out".

#7 of 93 Nick Sievers

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Posted June 26 2002 - 01:19 AM

This one is a keeper for me, it was part of my Top 10 of last year. A great quirky and genuinely funny film.

What I want to know is, why isn't Owen Wilson on the commentary track? Apart from being Co-Writer and Actor the guy is one of the funniest people around at the moment. Is he to busy at the moment for a commentary?
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#8 of 93 ChrisMatson

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Posted June 26 2002 - 01:33 AM

I will definitely be bringing this one home. Thanks for the review.

#9 of 93 John Bryant

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Posted June 26 2002 - 02:07 AM

Can tomorrow be 7/9 please?

#10 of 93 Rich Malloy

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Posted June 26 2002 - 03:09 AM

Quote:
One of the most absurd and hilarious images from the film are the paintings that hang in Eli Cash's apartment.

This scene was the first in a long, long time where I actually hurt myself from laughing so hard!
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#11 of 93 Damin J Toell

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Posted June 26 2002 - 03:13 AM

My copy was shipped from a Canadian e-tailer (who I will not name) yesterday, and I'm quite psyched. Thanks for the review, Ron.

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#12 of 93 Adam_S

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Posted June 26 2002 - 04:30 AM

I have one question about the packaging, is it a fat double alpha like most two disc criterion sets, or is it the slim double size like gladiator and AI?

I can't wait to get this film, the 9th can't come soon enough!!

Adam
 

#13 of 93 Sean Moon

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Posted June 26 2002 - 04:40 AM

Cant wait to get this either. Have been waiting to see the transfer. The cinematography in this film is to die for. THe framing of every shot is perfect, just look at the screen shots!
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#14 of 93 Wes C

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Posted June 26 2002 - 05:05 AM

I have had my copy pre-ordered for about two months. After reading this i really cannot wait any longer. Goor review Ron, did you ever see Rushmore or Bottle Rocket?

#15 of 93 Ronald Epstein

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Posted June 26 2002 - 07:14 AM

I saw no unusual artifacts in the transfer.

Overall, it looked very smooth on my
Panasonic RP91.

No, I have never seen any of Wes's former
films. Don't know if I want to as The
Royal Tenenbaums
took some getting
used to.

You know, the more I think of this movie
the more I like it. It really needs to
grow on you for a few days.

Enjoy, guys!

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#16 of 93 Jon Robertson

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Posted June 26 2002 - 07:16 AM

I'm almost embarrassed to ask this as, but what kind of case does it come in?

I'd have thought double Alpha, as that's much more book-like proportions (given the design of the slipcase).

#17 of 93 Carlo Medina

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Posted June 26 2002 - 07:21 AM

Quote:
You know, the more I think of this movie the more I like it. It really needs to grow on you for a few days.
This is exactly how I felt about Rushmore. Given my experience with that film, and the dynamite job Criterion did with this release, I can safely say this is a release date purchase for me.

Thanks for the great review, Ron!

#18 of 93 Michael St. Clair

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Posted June 26 2002 - 07:45 AM

Ron,

You are spending too much time reviewing crap like 'Thirteen Ghosts' and 'Pearl Harbor' and not enough time in the movie theater! 'The Royal Tenenbaums' on film was a sight to behold.

'Rushmore' is a must see. It's also probably a little more accessible for the mainstream crowd.

#19 of 93 Tim RH

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Posted June 26 2002 - 07:58 AM

I personally thought The Royal Tenenbaums was one of last year's very best films, though apparently most critics didn't agree with me for some reason. Most comedies don't make me laugh anymore, but this one sure did! Posted Image

And I agree, the cinematography is perfection.


#20 of 93 Adam Lenhardt

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Posted June 26 2002 - 08:09 AM

Quote:
'Rushmore' is a must see. It's also probably a little more accessible for the mainstream crowd.
I dunno, I hated Rushmore, but loved Royal Tenembaums. Take that as you will.