Blu-ray Review HTF Blu-ray Review: FALLING DOWN

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Michael Reuben, May 21, 2009.

  1. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

    Feb 12, 1998
    Likes Received:
    Falling Down (Blu-ray)
    Studio: Warner
    Rated: R
    Film Length: 112 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
    HD Encoding: 1080p
    HD Codec: VC-1
    Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 2.0; English DD 2.0; French DD 2.0 Spanish DD 2.0; Portugese
    DD 2.0
    Subtitles: English; Portugese; Spanish; French; Danish; Dutch; Finnish; Italian; Norwegian;
    MSRP: $34.99
    Disc Format: 1 25GB
    Package: Digicase
    Theatrical Release Date: February 26, 1993
    Blu-ray Release Date: May 26, 2009


    In addition to a new "Deluxe Edition" on DVD, Warner is releasing Falling Down as part of its
    Blu-ray Book series with the same extras. Since we are already graced with a first-rate review of
    the DVD by Ken McAlinden, I see no reason to reinvent the wheel. I refer everyone to Ken's
    insightful overview of the film and thorough description of the extras. I will limit this review to
    those elements peculiar to the Blu-ray.


    I never saw Falling Down in a theater, but it's hard to imagine that it ever looked better than this.
    Much of the film takes place outdoors on a hot, bright day, but the sunlight is filtered through a
    dense coating of pollution (there's a telling shot in which Michael Douglas' D-Fens holds up one
    of his shoes and looks through a huge hole in the sole at downtown L.A. shrouded in smog). This
    softens the light and gives it density; it also shifts the color pallette toward yellow, brown and
    red. The Blu-ray reproduces all of this faithfully while maintaining excellent detail and without
    any artificial sharpening that I could detect.

    (As an aside: The cinematographer of Falling Down was Andrzej Bartkowiak, whose gift for
    cinematically "painting" cityscapes in different moods would be showcased once again the
    following year when he showed a different side of L.A. in Speed.)

    Indoor scenes are also well-lit, and there is plenty of detail to be seen everywhere. D-Fens may
    feel that he's living in a nightmare, but this is not the kind of dream where things are indistinct.
    On the contrary, it's all too vivid and impossible to ignore. Perhaps one of the most painful
    scenes in the film is the one where Dets. Prendergast and Torres (Robert Duvall and Rachel
    Ticotin) visit the home of D-Fens' mother (Lois Smith), with whom he's been staying. The drab
    and threadbare circumstances of his existence there contrast so sharply with the sunny and
    cheerful surroundings of his estranged wife and daughter at their Venice, CA home that the
    scenery alone conveys the depth of the character's despair. To get the full impact, you need to be
    able to see the details of the dilapidated furniture and the worn walls, and on this Blu-ray you do.

    As best as I could tell, the few shortcomings that Ken noted on the DVD are overcome with the
    higher resolution of Blu-ray. Highest marks.


    This is the first time I listened to a TrueHD track with just left and right channels, and I decided
    not to run it through any surround processing, because, in my current setup, that would have
    added several additional layers of conversion. Instead, I simply played the track through my two
    main front speakers, and the results were astonishingly good. Dialogue was clear and always
    intelligible. The multi-layered sound effects worked wonderfully, especially in those moments of
    subjective editing where they drop out or come roaring back. James Newton Howard's score had
    a presence and a smoothness that made it sound better than I ever remember hearing it, especially
    in those portions of the film where it is deftly woven into the aural texture so that it enters the
    mix before you're quite aware of it.

    One item of particular note to those of you without TrueHD capability: Ken found the DD bit
    rate of 192kp/ps on the DVD insufficient to deliver good fidelity, particularly for the music.
    Since Dolby Digital tracks on Blu-ray frequently use higher bit rates than on DVD, I made a
    point of checking the one on this disc and was disappointed to find that it is also 192kp/ps, and
    probably the same track as the DVD. You will need TrueHD decoding to hear any improvement.

    Special Features:

    The Blu-ray's only additional feature is the digibook packaging. The digibook's content follows
    the pattern of previous entries in this Warner series. It contains brief biographies and selected
    filmographies of actors Michael Douglas, Robert Duvall, Barbara Hershey, Tuesday Weld and
    director Joel Schumacher, as well as a mini-essay on the film of the kind that Warner DVDs used
    to list as "Production Notes". There are various quotations from critics, a page of trivia items and
    an uncredited essay entitled "Standing Up or Falling Down: An Examination of the 'Bad Guy'".
    The book is illustrated with images from the film, the occasional production photo and the film's
    one-sheet featuring the iconic image of D-Fens atop a pile of graffiti-covered cement slabs,
    briefcase in one hand and shotgun in the other.

    In Conclusion:

    Douglas may have won the Oscar for Wall Street's Gordon Gekko, but for my money D-Fens is
    his single greatest screen performance. Considering how many ways the portrayal could have
    gone wrong, it's a minor miracle that Douglas managed to keep the character believable, life-size,
    intimidating, but just interesting and even sympathetic enough to hold the audience's
    attention until the climactic moment on the Venice Pier when D-Fens exclaims in disbelief, "I'm
    the bad guy?" Even after you've watched him do a lot of damage and terrorize his ex-wife and
    daughter, and even after you've met his petrified mother, Douglas makes you believe that D-Fens
    is genuinely shocked at the realization that he's done anything wrong. I have always found the
    remainder of the scene, where D-Fens says he doesn't know what he intended to do and
    Prendergast tells him in effect, "Yes you do", and then spells it out almost casually, to be the
    most chilling part of the film.

    When the film was first released, some critics made the mistake of seeing it as an ideological
    statement, but D-Fens resists being reduced to a bumper sticker like the ones featured so
    prominently in the film’s opening sequence. Indeed, that’s the very mistake many characters
    make throughout the film, the biggest offender being Frederic Forrest’s neo-Nazi surplus store
    owner (who also gets the harshest treatment). D-Fens may not be a complicated person, but he
    remains a person, not a slogan.

    It's because Douglas makes D-Fens such a credible human being that Falling Down hasn't aged
    a day. We still have huge economic forces sweeping across the landscape, and they still leave
    thousands of people stranded in their wake, even if defense contractors aren't currently a primary
    source of such layoffs. While most people manage to roll with life's setbacks, as Det. Prendergast
    has done, there will always those like D-Fens, who, for whatever reasons, crack under the strain
    and respond violently in a way that makes perfect sense to them but to no one else. Local
    reporters (and, if the body count is high enough, national news) will swarm to the location,
    interviewing anyone eager for the spotlight, and everyone will ask why. Anyone who really wants
    to know should start by watching Falling Down.

    Equipment used for this review:

    Panasonic BDP-BD50 Blu-ray player (Dolby TrueHD decoded internally and output as analog)
    Samsung HL-T7288W DLP display (connected via HDMI)
    Lexicon MC-8 connected via 5.1 passthrough
    Sunfire Cinema Grand amplifier
    Monitor Audio floor-standing fronts and MA FX-2 rears
    Boston Accoustics VR-MC center
    Velodyne HGS-10 sub

    Edited by Michael Reuben - 7/22/2009 at 02:51 pm GMT
  2. Cees Alons

    Cees Alons Moderator

    Jul 31, 1997
    Likes Received:
    Real Name:
    Cees Alons
    I'm afraid you did it again. [​IMG]

    Like you, I never saw this movie in a theatre. But I also never saw it otherwise.

    At the time I first noticed it at all, it was on a VHS tape, and after giving it some thought, I put it back, assuming (1) it would be typically too "American" to the point I wouldn't be able to relate to it, and (2) I would find the plot implausible anyway.

    To give credit where it's due: after reading Ken's review I began to hesitate already. I've been in LA several times in my life and the description of the excellent photography whetted my interest.

    But after reading this review I give in: a beautiful HD version simply is too attractive, and if one wants to give this film a 'personal chance'.... this seems to be an excellent opportunity.

  3. Nicholas Martin

    Nicholas Martin Cinematographer

    Mar 18, 2003
    Likes Received:
    I hope this isn't too pricey because I MUST pick this up. I love this film.
    Last time I saw it was several months ago on HDNet and this disc must be a great deal more detailed and sharper than the broadcast I saw, going by the descriptions here.
  4. WillG

    WillG Producer

    Jan 30, 2003
    Likes Received:
    I'll pick it up because I do enjoy the film, even though I am always dissapointed when it turns out that the D-Fens character is legitamately crazy. I think I would have liked it better if the story somehow stuck with him being a "pushed too far" antihero.

    Spoiler tags added. As I said (post #2): I never saw the movie. Not happy. - CA
  5. Dave Moritz

    Dave Moritz Producer

    Jul 7, 2001
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    Real Name:
    Dave Moritz
    Hey Michael thanks for the review, as usual a very good review. I am not to crazy about this release only offering a two channel mix. Since this title is not old enough why would they release this in stereo only? I enjoyed this movie but I am not sure at this point if I want to spend the money on this title with no surround mix?
  6. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

    Feb 12, 1998
    Likes Received:
    The disc does offer a surround mix, but it's matrixed surround, which was the original format. I'm a big fan of not messing with the original soundtrack, especially when it sounds as good as this one does.
  7. Dave Moritz

    Dave Moritz Producer

    Jul 7, 2001
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    Real Name:
    Dave Moritz
    Thanks for the reply Mchael, much appreciated. I will put this title back on my list.

    Just one question though, how good is the video transfer? I have never gotten around to buying this title so its nice that I do not have to buy it more than once. I very much enjoyed this movie so if the transfers good I would love to own it on Bluray.
  8. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator

    Mar 4, 2001
    Likes Received:
    One Loudoun, Ashburn, VA
    Real Name:
    David Fischer
    Rewatched "Falling Down" (Michael Douglas) (on original flipper DVD) for the first time since I saw it in college. I'd forgotten how unsettling this movie is. It's billed as a tragic tale of an ordinary man overwhelmed by our changing world. It's not. It's a thriller from the perspective of the sociopath. The ubiquity of cellphones today make the story impossible now, but the tone and ironic social commentary feels contemporaneous. What to make of it? Am I to relate to the prejudices of Douglas' character? Or is it an ironic (and oblique) critique of the same from the opposite perspective? Engaging, strange, unhappy movie.

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