DVD Review HTF Review: Elizabethtown

Discussion in 'DVD' started by PatWahlquist, Feb 3, 2006.

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  1. PatWahlquist

    PatWahlquist Supporting Actor

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    [​IMG]
    Elizabethtown

    Studio: Paramount Home Video
    Year: 2006 (2005 Release)
    Rated: PG-13
    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 enhanced for 16x9 displays
    Audio: English DD 5.1; English DD 2.0 surround; French 5.1 surround
    Subtitles: English; Spanish
    Time: 123 minutes
    Disc Format: DVD-9
    Case Style: Keep case


    When I got done watching Cameron Crowe’s “Elizabethtown”, I found myself sitting there scratching my head. Having spent 123 minutes with Drew (Orlando Bloom), Claire (Kirsten Dunst) and the rest of the players, I thought I might have missed something. The picture seems to carry a heavy weight: Drew works for a Nike-like shoe company and, because of a problem with a shoe he designed, the company is going to lose almost a billion dollars. Due to this failure, Drew decides to kill himself by retrofitting his stationary bike with a large knife. Just as he’s about to hit the start button, his cell rings and he reluctantly picks it up. On the other end is Drew’s sister who tells him their father has just died and he needs to go to Elizabethtown, Kentucky to finalize the funeral arrangements.

    On the empty flight back to Elizabethtown, Drew meets Claire: a bored and bouncy flight attendant who engages him in conversation. Claire is what could be referred to as the stereotypical movie female arch-type for the new millennium: a young, cute girl whose life is a mess, but she has the innate ability to look into the souls of the troubled male and see who they really are even if they don’t. They also speak in non-sequiter laden dialogues that wrap up theology, politics, love and entertainment into a nice, neat, message heavy box. I almost blame Crowe for fueling this type, since Kate Hudson’s Penny Lane was one of the founding mothers of this kind of character (see also Natalie Portman in “Garden State”).

    When Drew gets to Elizabethtown, he learns how loved his father was in the town, so much so the townsfolk have reserved a burial plot for him. Drew is overwhelmed by the numerous twists has life has taken, so he winds up calling Claire for solace. They proceed to have an overnight cell phone conversation about anything and everything. Once they meet face to face, Claire decides they may just be better as friends. We, being savvy viewers, know this won’t be the case, so it now simply becomes and exercise in watching to see how we get there.

    As Drew’s father’s memorial banquet and funeral arrive, Drew and Claire realize their roles in each other’s lives. Claire, upholding her psy-chik type, sends Drew on a road trip of self-discovery (musical soundtrack and oh-so-cute road maps included) as a way of clearing the road to what will probably be a tremendous love affair. Throw in a sub-plot about how Drew’s mom is dealing with the death, and you have “Elizabethtown”.

    Now that you have a sense of the story, you may see why I was scratching my head. Crowe is a storyteller of similar relationship type pictures that arguably peaked with “Jerry Maguire”. He expanded several of those themes into the group setting in the semi-autobiographical “Almost Famous”, and then he took a left turn with the trippy “Vanilla Sky”. “Elizabethtown” takes some of the best elements of all of those previous pictures (the love affair of “Jerry Maguire”, Penny Lane, and the abstractness of “Vanilla Sky”), mixes them together and spits out a watered down version of those three pictures. While I found myself liking the story and characters on the surface, I kept thinking I was missing something in their deep dialogues or in the music video-like montages. I also thought there may be a payoff to all of this at the end of the picture, but there wasn’t. Instead, I am left with a re-used story that was odd for its own sake and it provided me with nothing more to think about after it was over except who was cuter, Orlando or Kirsten.

    Video
    The film is presented in a 1.85:1, and it is anamorphic. It is a very sharp image that shows a lot of detail in both the foreground and background. I noticed no edge enhancement during the feature and it was free of any compression artifacts or video noise. Blacks are suitably dark and show good detail. Color fidelity is well balanced and rich providing us with a very warm image that welcomes us into the story. Flesh tones were accurate and showed subtle differences between each of the actors.

    Audio
    I watched the feature with the Dolby Digital 5.1 track engaged. The soundtrack utilized the fronts for the most part with the surrounds perking up for atmospheric effects. Voices are firmly planted in the center channel and I thought it was mono at times. LFE effects come out during the musical montages, but otherwise remain subdued. Crowe is well known for adding in music to enhance the story or make a point, and this picture is no different. I tried to imagine the picture without the music and I found it would have been a pretty minimal listening experience. Crowe is a decent enough storyteller that he needs to rely less on music to convey the emotion and allow his story and actors to do so. Regardless, the music is accurately presented in stereo without utilizing the surrounds thus maintaining the intent of the original artist.

    Bonus material
    The extras are minimal on this release. I would liked to have had a director’s commentary from Crowe to shed some light on what he was thinking on certain plot points. Since there are so few extras, I’m wondering if there will be a secondary release in the future.

    Training Wheels (2:18):Behind the scenes video of the shoot with music background.

    Meet the Crew (2:36): Video of the crewmembers, identifying them and their jobs. Again, it has a music background.

    Extended Scenes: Two extended scenes: Rusty’s Learning to Listen Part 8 (a borderline creepy version of another oddity of the main feature) and Hanging with Russell in Memphis (bonus video footage with more and expanded stories from Russell)

    Photo Gallery by Neal Preston: numerous photos listed as: Behind the Scenes; Mercury; Drew Baylor; Mitch, Hollie, Drew, and Heather: The Baylors; Claire Colburn; Drew & Claire; Kentucky; The Memorial; The Funeral; The Road Trip.


    2 Theatrical Trailers of “Elizabethtown”, labeled “Bad Day” and “Drew”, that emphasizes the various plots of the picture.

    Conclusions
    While “Elizabethtown” is not a bad picture, it does leave you wanting a bit more, at least creatively. Crowe continues his string of music-dominated pictures providing us with a “seen that already” feeling coupled with a mild case of confusion at the end. The DVD, however, gives us a beautiful transfer with great detail even if the extras are lacking. And for the record, I find Kirsten to be cuter.
     
  2. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

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    I'll be picking this up since I love Cameron Crowe's other stuff but based on what I've heard, I'm not getting my hopes up. At the very least, I guess it can be part of my Cameron Crowe filmography. [​IMG]

    By the way, didn't this title just get announced a few weeks ago? I remember when I saw the announcement and thinking how it was only a month away. I guess they want to hit Valentine's Day.
     
  3. Nate Anderson

    Nate Anderson Screenwriter

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    I'll be picking this up too...although, I'm such a hopeless Cameron Crowe fan, I probably enjoyed it more than most.
     
  4. PatWahlquist

    PatWahlquist Supporting Actor

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    Yep. Well, actually, the bike is doing the stabbing since it is a multi-purpose stationary bike that works other muscle groups in the upper body while you pedal. It looks like the Swiss Army Knife of stationary bikes.
     
  5. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    I finally escaped Elizabethtown (the real city) a couple days ago. Hated this film with a passion, which was a shock because I've enjoyed every other Crowe film. The longer cut was shown in E'town before the film opened theatrically. I've got some friends who saw that version and said it was even worse than what was eventually released. I think it says a lot when a director still hasn't got an "idea" of the film he's putting together and the release date is only a few weeks away.
     
  6. ZacharyTait

    ZacharyTait Cinematographer

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    I'll be picking this up sometime, just not right away. For me, it was the most disappointing film of last year. I enjoyed it, but it just wasn't anywhere near as good as Vanilla Sky, let alone Almost Famous.

    It wouldn't surprise me to see this get a 2-disc SE before the holidays.
     
  7. Marc Colella

    Marc Colella Cinematographer

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    I thought the same thing at the beginning of the film, but as the film went on I was ready to try it myself.

    I don't know what happened after Crowe made Almost Famous, but Vanilla Sky was a horrible remake and then (somehow) Elizabethtown was even worse.

    This way really painful to get through. The characters and story wasn't interesting, the chemistry between the two leads was non-existant and the acting was horrible. It felt like Crowe put together a bunch of songs and then filmed a movie around them. Then he decided that we didn't have enough pain and gave us the torturous last 15 minutes.

    Can someone explain how a shoe company (a successful one at that) could wind up losing 1 Billion dollars by releasing a bad shoe?
     
  8. Dave Vaughn

    Dave Vaughn Stunt Coordinator

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    Well, my wife and I are in the minority on this one. We both actually enjoyed it. It doesn't hurt that she loves Bloom and I think Kirsten Dunst is a hottie, but that aside, it had its moments and the music was good [​IMG]
     
  9. ZacharyTait

    ZacharyTait Cinematographer

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    That was what I was thinking when I walked out the theater. Wouldn't focus testing and market research be able to find out if the shoe is going to be sucessful or not? I don't think I would have questioned the amount if it had been smaller, say $100 million or less.
     
  10. Elijah Sullivan

    Elijah Sullivan Supporting Actor

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    *raises hand*

    I also liked this movie.

    Orlando Bloom - I'm totally neutral on him. I neither like him or dislike him, although I often defend him against those who think he completely talentless. Honestly, I thought he fit the part aside from his voice (he doesn't do an American accent very well at all).

    I think Cameron Crowe went out on a limb making a film where the main character is passive (big Screenwriting 101 no-no) and most of the character development occurs internally.

    The film is not bad.

    It certainly is not cliche... when the rulebook says it's impossible for a film like this to even work, you must give him some credit for trying anyway. Crowe is an ace screenwriter and knew he was doing something nutty.

    It's also more personal than Almost Famous... he said so himself and I can feel it, even if there isn't a lot of surface emotion occuring. The film is the result of a personal wound and deep contemplation.

    That said, he does rely too heavily on music.

    I'd give it 3 out of 4.
     
  11. Eric Peterson

    Eric Peterson Cinematographer

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    This film had moments of greatness and moments of utter absurdity. I'm really split on whether to pick this up or not. I have loved all of Crowe's films to this point and his commentaries are some of the best that I've ever heard. With a commentary, this would have been a no-brainer, but the exclusion of said commentary has now left me very much on the fence.

    I think that I'll probably hold out for an SE, and if nothing shows up, I'll pick this up on sale or used at a later date.
     
  12. Paul Anthony

    Paul Anthony Stunt Coordinator

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    I never understood the dissing of Orlando Bloom, I think he's a decent actor, it's just that he hasn't found his nitch yet (except for "Lord of the Rings"). Btw, terrible DVD cover, Paramount should have stuck with the original poster (Dunst and Bloom sitting on a couch), this new cover has too many photos crammed in. [​IMG]
     
  13. Harold Wazzu

    Harold Wazzu Supporting Actor

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    I liked it quite a bit. But it didn't hurt that it had one helluva sound track, just plain awesome IMO.

    Will probably picked it up used some where.
     
  14. Joel C

    Joel C Screenwriter

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    I finally watched it, and enjoyed it, even though it was pretty much an extreme example of a soundtrack subbing in for well-rounded characters. The climax at the wake, with Sarandon's speech and the band's performance, was great, but totally unearned. The subsequent road trip was fun only because the music was good and I could imagine doing that would be fun. I wasn't actually invested in the romance.

    Still, I did like it. Not as much as Almost Famous, but it was better than Singles, maybe, which I just saw for the first time last night.
     
  15. Greg Thomas

    Greg Thomas Second Unit

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    Rented Elizabethtown last night. Didn't enjoy much at all. I'd give it 2 of 5 stars. Maybe I had high expectations because I've loved other Crowe films like Say Anything, Almost Famous and Jerry Maguire. Vanilla Sky was a miss also, but not as badly as this flick.

    I kept looking at my watch. Kirsten Dunst was annoying and Orlando Bloom was mediocre. The only parts I enjoyed were Susan Sarandon's speech and the Lynard Skynard tribute band. The road trip sounds like a cool idea that I might do one day, but this movie was so disjointed that I couldn't really follow it, or care about it.

    And how do you lose $1 billion on a shoe?
     
  16. Colton

    Colton Supporting Actor

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    From what I read the shoe made "farting sounds" which caused it to become very unpopular and recalled. Too bad they cut that reason from the movie because it would have been comedy relief to hear those shoes fart.

    - Colton
     
  17. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?
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    roger ebert's review says it whistled when you walked.
    he saw the longer cut at a festival, may have been cannes'.nope totonto.
    (did i spell that right?)

    "The new version is 18 minutes shorter, and more than 18 percent better, and wisely eliminates the question of why anyone would want to wear a pair of shoes that whistled."
     

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