DVD Review HTF Review: Kicking and Screaming

Discussion in 'DVD' started by PatWahlquist, Aug 19, 2006.

  1. PatWahlquist

    PatWahlquist Supporting Actor

    Jun 13, 2002
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    Kicking and Screaming

    Studio: The Criterion Collection #349
    Rated: R (strong language, and some sexuality)
    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 enhanced for 16x9 displays
    Audio: English DD 5.1
    Subtitles: English
    Time: 96 minutes
    Disc Format: 1 DVD-9
    Case Style: Keep case
    Theatrical Release Date: 1995
    DVD Release Date: August 22, 2006

    Putting Kicking and Screaming in the context of 1995 helped me to get into this picture a lot better. Sometimes films can take their subject matter and make it applicable to any time. For me, however, I had a tough time relating to the picture now except through nostalgic glasses. I placed myself back in time when I was 22 and just out of college and while I had an idea of what I was going to do, I had little idea of where I was going.

    Kicking and Screaming is writer (along with Oliver Berkman) and director Noah Baumbach’s semi auto biographical story of what a group of college kids are going to do now that they have graduated. The story is anchored by the friendship of five guys: Grover (Josh Hamilton), Otis (Carlos Jacott), Skippy (Jason Wiles), Max (Chris Eigeman), and Chet (Eric Stoltz). Each of the guys has graduated and they are faced with uncertain futures that are complicated by girls and girlfriends, parents and the fact their lives are being forced to begin. As the circle of friends meets for drinks, they discuss what to do while retreating to the past in the form of trivia games and never ending academia. Chet takes it to the extreme by becoming a professional student and he assumes a role as mentor and worst case scenario for the guys if they don’t move on. As the real world begins to take over their lives, they are compelled to make decisions and eventually move on. The punch line to the joke offered up by Chet, “How do you make God laugh?” draws the movie together and sends it moving on.

    Baumbach’s picture is both an ancestor and descendant of several films and shows that we’ve been presented with. I immediately thought of TV’s Friends, The Breakfast Club, Swingers and even Resevoir Dogs. The characters also remind me of some old favorites: Cameron from Ferris Bueller, Chandler and Ross from Friends are two such examples. Baumbach places his characters together to weigh in on their views of their young lives while they throw out pop culture literature references and questions about daily masturbation habits. The picture centers on relationships in general, and Grover and Jane’s (Olivia D’Abo) in particular. I could see aspects of myself and my friends in each of the characters and we had several similar conversations while sitting in seedy bars. When you watch this movie, I expect you will do the same. Baumbach directed this picture when he was 25 and it shows, but that’s not a bad thing: in this case, the introduction of an older director would have skewed the mentality of the characters out of their ages and made them more self aware, like 40 year olds reminiscing about their college days.

    The picture is correctly framed at 1.85:1 and it is an anamorphic transfer. Criterion is good enough to provide us with more information about the transfer itself, so I will pass this along: “…Baumbach supervised and approved this new high definition transfer, which was created on a Spirit 4k Datacine from a 35mm interpositive. Baumbach also chose a new font for the credits and intertitles, which were digitally inserted into Criterion’s master.” The picture was also cleaned of dirt and debris, and it is virtually flawless. This is good looking picture, with good contrast and nice saturation in the flesh tones. Foreground detail is good, but background and fine detail can be murky at times. Black levels are good and there is a noticeable detail in the shadows. Edge enhancement was not noticed, nor were there any compression artifacts or video noise. Although this is a great looking transfer, the image itself looks a little dated as one may expect for a film that is eleven years old.

    I watched the disc with the Dolby Digital 5.1 track engaged. This is the only audio option. As was expected, there was not a lot of activity in the surround mix, with the surrounds opening up only a couple times when there were music cues or environmental effects. When the surrounds did engage they combined to produce and enveloping sound field. LFE’s were minimal. ADR was noticed, and the voices had a natural sound to them.

    Bonus Material:
    Noah Baumbach interview (12:18): Baumbach talks about the autobiographical aspects of his life that led to the picture.

    Conversations (25:57): Conversations between Baumbach, Eigeman, Hamilton, and Jacott that were recorded exclusively for Criterion in 2006. There is some pretty good analysis of the characters both by the director and the actors.

    Deleted Scenes (9:34): Jane and Grover (Jane makes a revelation ), Charlotte and Grover (an expanded scene with more monkey!), Skippy and Louis (How Chet’s presence affected the story).

    Conrad and Butler in Conrad and Butler Take a Vacation,” (30:00): This is a short film by Baumbach that was done in 2000 and featured Jacott and John Lehr. This was designed to be a comedy team that would take over every form of multimedia. It never got off the ground outside of this short.

    1995 Interviews (8:41): These are some brief interviews with the director and cast originally broadcast on IFC when the film opened at the New York Film Festival in 1995

    Theatrical Trailer Anamorphic and as clean as the feature.

    Also included in the package is a new essay by Jonathan Rosenbaum.

    Kicking and Screaming is a nice portrayal of a group on Gen-X’ers who just aren’t ready to face the life in front of them. Baumbach captures the essence of these characters with his subtle and sometimes art-y direction. Criterion has provided us with a great new transfer and a good amount of extras.
  2. Jon Martin

    Jon Martin Cinematographer

    Sep 19, 2002
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    Thanks for the review!

    This is one of the biggest DVD releases of the year for me (along with last weeks Rohmer set). Even had a big part of my podcast this week on it. One of my all time favorite films. I've been waiting for a DVD for years. And now, this looks to be a great set.

    The film does have a pretty big cult following. That cover art will mean a lot if you are a fan of the film, all very quotable lines from it.

    I was just out of college when it came out in 1995 and when I saw it theatrically it immediately became a favorite. It is in my top ten of all time.

    It may take multiple viewings to realize just how great a film it is. Especially structurally.
  3. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

    Jan 22, 1999
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    Real Name:
    Aaron Silverman
    Nice review, Pat!

    I graduated college around that time as well ('92; grad school in '94) but never saw this one -- I'm really looking forward to checking it out. I enjoyed Baumbach's latest flick, The Squid & The Whale (click the link to read my review of that one! [​IMG] ).
  4. Brian.L

    Brian.L Supporting Actor

    Feb 5, 2004
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    This is pretty much one of my favorite movies of all time, probably because I saw it at 22 while going through a disturbingly similar situation as the characters. Finally I can get rid of my bootleg laserdisc-to-DVD full screen copy. And the fact that it's Criterion (and after Squid and the Whale) means that hopefully some folks will check it out who otherwise wouldn't have.

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