DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Monster

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Michael Osadciw, May 9, 2004.

  1. Michael Osadciw

    Michael Osadciw Screenwriter

    Jun 24, 2003
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    Real Name:
    Michael Osadciw


    Studio: Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment
    Film Year: 2003

    U.S. Rating: R
    Canadian Rating: 18A
    Rated for: strong violence and sexual content, and for pervasive language

    Film Length: 109 minutes
    Genre: Bio-Thriller

    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (anamorphic)
    Audio: English DTS 5.1 Surround, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
    Subtitles: Spanish
    Closed Captioned: Yes

    Release Date: June 1, 2004

    Film Rating: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] / [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Starring: Charlize Theron (Aileen), Christina Ricci (Selby), Bruce Dern (Thomas), Lee Tergesen (Vincent)

    Also starring: Marco St. John, Marc Macaulay, Scott Wilson, Pruitt Taylor Vince

    Directed By: Patty Jenkins
    Writer: Patty Jenkins

    Based on a True Story

    Monster is one of those films that presents a flip side of a story of a person whom many remember as America’s first female serial killer. Aileen Wuornos sat on Florida’s death row for twelve years until she was finally executed in 2002 for killing seven men in Florida. As a highway prostitute, few people had any respect for her ragged appearance and her trashy talk. She’d spend the day doing tricks for johns to get some extra cash just to survive. This is all she did because it was all she knew. She’s been doing it since she was thirteen. As girl with no direction, no love from her abusive home, and no friends from her teasing classmates, she thought that someday one of the boys she’d flash or do a dirty deed for would notice her – and maybe love her too.

    All dreams. That is all they ever were. Her tricks became her profession and her life spiraled further downward. As a young girl her life was about drugs, johns, and the law. Man after man, many with wives and kids, she’d keep servicing them for their needs in exchange for a little green paper. A lot of tricks could mean a lot of dough. After all – she was a dreamer. As a thirty-somethings woman, enough money could finally get her a lovely house on the beach away from her trashy life – and even dream as much to be President of the United States. She thought the money she received could get her anywhere, but unfortunately, being a highway prostitute isn’t what it’s all cracked up to be. The job has its dangers and its series of creepy people, all of whom are complete strangers as she is driven away into the dark trees beyond civilization just to get a little privacy. It’s the danger that makes Aileen reach her breaking point and the beginning of the string of murders she commits to the johns who hire her for her time.

    The film opens giving a little background on Aileen as a self-narrative. Not long after, we see Aileen meet up with Selby, a young teenaged homosexual girl looking for a friend in her lonely castaway life. Her parents shipped her out of state to live with her religious relatives in hopes to get her straight. Aileen is first appalled by Selby’s sexuality, but is assured that she only wants friendship. In Aileen’s world of abusive and unappreciative men, she quickly falls for Selby’s innocent love to her. They two of them find themselves in love and running off together. Aileen has new hopes and dreams of cleaning herself up and getting more money so the two of them can live a happy life. Selby is naïvely swept up by Aileen’s talk of the dreams she has. Of course, as mentioned before…they are just dreams.

    Nothing can seem to keep Aileen from breaking the law. She goes back to doing her dirty tricks again to support the two of them. This time, it’s her job that breaks her. One of her johns seems to have his plans with Aileen. He is one of those guys who loves whores for who they are as much as he hates them for the same reasons. Unexpectedly Aileen is beaten, stripped, tied up, and tortured in this remote location. Luckily for her she frees herself and reaches for the man’s pistol in his car and shoots him to death. She is left crying and scarred for what was done to her and for what she has done to him. Her hatred for the men who treat her like the whore they hire her for grows rapidly.

    Some people claim her first murder, as well as her successive murders were in protest to men. The monster growing out of her was her channel to vent out her hatred for what men have done to her – or more plainly put – what she’s allowed them to do to her for most of her life in the sex trade. Other people, such as director/writer Patty Jenkins, portray Aileen more as a victim of her trade. Based on the trials, the media painted Aileen as a vicious man-hating lesbian who clearly lost her mind and whose actions are as guilty as the bullet she put in each body. She clearly lost any sense of right and wrong. Jenkins does not take the same approval of her. Based on her research, the flip side of the loon shows a more sensitive Aileen who very few knew of. Aileen was a woman who found a last attempt to love and to be loved. Monster is a love story for Aileen, who found the love she was missing and ran with it in her world of darkness and hatred.

    Because she lost all respect for men, Aileen murdered more johns for who they were and to take their money to attain her dreams. While Aileen thought what she was doing was for the good (cleaning up the johns prowling the streets), the truth of the matter is by our laws and society murder is clearly wrong. Whatever justification she thought she had for her actions is not going to be accepted by the public or the state. Yes, she was an abused woman, and yes she was raped. Those actions by men are not tolerated in our society either and have their punishments. After her conviction she still believed that the state was wrong sentencing her because she was a victim. But even victims can do wrong in their flurry of reactions. If each of us were to kill off whom we believed shouldn’t live because of who they are and what they do then we wouldn’t have the state to protect us because the state would be giving back our natural freedoms. Thankfully that will never happen as history has shown how unkind people can be to others. I guess I had a difficult time with this film because I was unsure of just how far the director was going with treating Aileen as a victim. There is no doubt that she was victimized and the actions of some johns are unacceptable, but how far can she go before she can submit her title as “victim” in exchange for “murderer”? I think after murder number one. What do you think? I think you should watch the movie to decide for yourself.

    The movie is full or great performances from the two female leads. This film awarded Charlize Theron her first Academy Award, won for Best Actress in 2003. She deserved it too. Her performance is outstanding, as she seemed to put in 110% each and every time the film rolled. Her grimy mannerisms, her foul speech, and that run down of a woman look certainly made me feel like I was watching the serial killer herself player her part. Christina Ricci was equally impressive in her acting skills playing the naïve lesbian girl. There is always a sense of realism to the film making it an unsettling 109 minutes that is bound to be full of tragedy. Thus, I recommend a solo viewing of this film; I think you’ll enjoy it more that way. Because of the raw subject matter, some people might not be entirely comfortable watching it with a partner or with friends.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] / [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and mastered in High Definition, the imagery is clear from most film artifacts except for minor dirt and grain. Fleshtones and colours always look fantastic, but there is nothing eye-popping about the imagery anyways. Many of the scenes are at night in desolate areas and offer excellent shadow detail. The detail – while always showing every little freckle on Theron’s new face, is not as good as I’ve seen with other DVDs. The image is a little softer and some scenes are slightly out of focus. It appears to be the original photography rather than the transfer itself. There are only a few traces of MPEG noise and there is no distracting edge enhancement to take note of.

    AUDIO QUALITY [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] / [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    With a welcomed DTS 5.1 surround soundtrack for a non-superbit title, the soundstage is primarily upfront (default is Dolby Digital 5.1 for film, DTS 5.1 for some special features). Surround activity is always present scene to scene and is offered as an extension of the main channels to wrap a 360-degree environment around the viewer. I’m happy to hear that the surround levels are actually presented at the same volume level (when needed) as the front channels. Too often I hear the surrounds sounding lower than the mains when all channels are engaged resulting in a less-than-perfect surround presentation.

    The recording quality is excellent as all sounds are spatially integrated in their environments. The narrated dialogue sounds just a tad too forward for my liking, with the Dolby Digital version sounding a little chestier and flatter. Both encodings do an excellent job in presenting the soundtrack in our homes. After flipping between the two encodings at several parts of the film, the DTS encoding did edge out slightly in terms of spatiality and soundstage width. While I don’t have a Dolby Digital Dialnorm indicator, the playback levels of both encodings appeared to be identical.

    SPECIAL FEATURES [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] / [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    There are a few special features on this disc. A fifteen-minute featurette on Aileen, featuring interviews with Jenkins and Theron is included. This will give you a little insight on how they obtained the information for the film and how they’ve managed to get an accurate feel for the film by filming it in Florida where Aileen hung out. They’ve even used friends from the bars as extras in the film. There is a domestic theatrical trailer as well as an international trailer, both in widescreen 1.85:1 but not anamorphically enhanced (and in DD2.0).

    A promo spot for DTS Entertainment’s release of the soundtrack clocks in at 31 seconds and is called Monster Surrounded. DTS has a second feature called Interview with Patty Jenkins and BT (15.43, 16:9, DTS 5.1). The director and composer discuss how music was used in this film to heighten the actions and the feelings of the characters. BT mentions how the music soundtrack was contrived from the start in 5.1 surround sound. Unfortunately, the discussion in this area is very slim as there is no examples of him showing his work, nor is there any mention of DTS’s involvement in this release. C’mon DTS, don’t be shy - Dolby Digital never seems embarrassed to flaunt their work and success on DVD releases.

    Lastly mentioned is a Film Mixing Demo where you can put together your own soundtrack for a two minute section of the film using different combinations of three audio stems: dialogue, music, and effects.


    While most people didn’t get to see this film during its theatrical run, my guess is this film will enjoy most of its success on the DVD release. With Theron winning the Award for best actress, I can only imagine it rose this film’s popularity through the roof. The DVD is released on June 1st, so that gives you enough time to check out Wuornos’s story before the film. Also available from Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment is the documentary AILEEN: LIFE AND DEATH OF A SERIAL KILLER from acclaimed director Nick Broomfield. This in-depth, up close and personal documentary is a film on the life and final days on Aileen Wuornos, so that would be another title you'd want to check out. It will be available with this film as a two-pack release. Knowing what I know, I would’ve liked to have seen the film show slightly better balance in portraying Wuornos as both victim and murderer rather than promoting her more as a victim of her trade. But the excellent performances and my own opinions on the matter kept me enjoying this film for what it is no matter how disturbing it got. This is one excellent bio-thriller portrayed real enough for complete believability and I give it my full recommendation.

    Michael Osadciw
  2. Nick Sievers

    Nick Sievers Producer

    Jul 1, 2000
    Likes Received:

    I just finished watching this Doco about 30mins ago, it is definitely worth checking out. While it sags a little when they talk to some of the people who knew her, whenever Aileen is on camera it is absolutely captivating. I haven't had a chance to see Monster yet but after watching this it is a high priority.

    Oh and great review. [​IMG]
  3. KamyarB

    KamyarB Agent

    Oct 12, 2000
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    Thanks for your review Michael!
    I missed this at the Theatre, but i look forward to seeing it on DVD.
  4. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

    Feb 12, 1998
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    I reviewed this in the Movies forum during its brief theatrical release. If anything, it presents Wuornos as more of a victim than does Monster. And IMO Broomfield is just another of the victimizers.

  5. Felix Martinez

    Felix Martinez Screenwriter

    Aug 27, 2001
    Likes Received:
    South Florida
    Great review, Michael! Looking forward to this release.

    I just interviewed composer BT and have had the 2-disc DTS DVD-V/CD soundtrack since March, when it was originally going to be released before the delay to coincide it with the movie DVD. I think this coordination/cross-promotion could have been handled better. That docu sounds like the same one that's included in the DTSE DVD/CD soundtrack release.

    The expanded soundtrack (2 hours!) in DTS 5.1 is quite amazing. One of my favorites since Peter Gabriel's "Passion" (the score to "Last Temptation of Christ") and Daniel Lanois' score for "Sling Blade."

  6. Richard Schultz

    Jun 28, 2002
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    is this the first DVD to have a default DTS track rather than dolby digital? if so what about consumers that only have dolby digital? do they have to select it as an option?[​IMG]
  7. Darren Haycock

    Darren Haycock Second Unit

    Nov 13, 2002
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    Columbia Tristar with DTS on a non-superbit? Can it be?!
  8. DonRoeber

    DonRoeber Screenwriter

    Feb 11, 2001
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    Thanks for your review. I saw this at the theaters, and while I'm glad I saw it, I don't think I need to watch this movie again. I'm glad that the DVD is good for those who'll be seeing it for the first time.

    It was a fantastic film, just one that you'll want to watch many times, in my opinion.
  9. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?

    Dec 1, 1999
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    Disney World and Universal Florida
    Real Name:
    Tony D.
    watched it yesterday.
    i thought it was an ok movie with a terrific performance by theron.

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