HTF REVIEW: "The Emperor's Club" (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Ronald Epstein, Apr 29, 2003.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Real Name:
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    [​IMG]

    The Emperor's Club





    Studio: Universal
    Year: 2002
    Rated: PG-13
    Film Length: 102 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1)
    Subtitles: English, French & Spanish




    In everyone's life there's that one person
    who makes all the difference.



    There doesn't seem to be anything fresh about
    The Emperor's Club. It's theme about a
    teacher and his students are very familiar to
    film. I'm sure all of you remember films like
    Mr. Holland’s Opus, Stand and Deliver, Good Will
    Hunting, Goodbye Mr. Chips
    and The Dead Poet’s
    Society
    -- all of which examined the problems
    of leading students to higher education.

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    Set at the St. Benedictus School for Boys, this is
    the story of William Hundert (Kevin Kline), a classics
    history teacher who greets his first-year students
    with phrases like "Walk where the great men before
    you have walked."
    . He is a teacher who has the
    ability to open the minds of young men by dwelling on
    the conquests of various Greeks and Romans. His
    students tend to be well disciplined and very eager
    to learn.

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    Something happens, however, during the Fall of
    1972. Introduced into his class is a new student
    by the name of Sedgewick Bell (Emile Hirsch), an
    overly confident and cocky son of a West Virginia
    Senator (Harris Yulin). Sedgewick quickly becomes
    a thorn in Hundert's side, playing pranks and getting
    himself and other students in trouble in the process.

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    Obviously this situation presents an unusual
    challenge to the teacher who tries to appeal to
    Sedgewick's competitive nature by encouraging him
    to better himself and enter the school's annual
    Julius Caesar contest. Though Sedgewick begins to
    blossom under Mr. Hundert's care, a situation
    arises that I will not divulge here. Let's just
    say that there is a point in the film where choices
    are made by both men which will mold them for the
    rest of their lives.

    Kevin Kline delivers a subtle performance that
    is quite good. He is an actor that knows how
    to touch our hearts through his reactions -- and
    most of the time he need not say a single word. I
    would be lying if I didn't say that my eyes teared
    up towards the end of the film.


    How is the transfer?


    This transfer does justice to Lajos Koltai's wonderful
    cinematography that shows school grounds filled with
    lush greens and sparkling water. The film has a
    very distinguished look and feel to it, with
    images that are sharp and well detailed and colors
    that are bold, vivid and well saturated. There is
    a hint of background grain to be seen here, and at
    two points in the film there are quick close-up shots
    that look oddly unfocused. Other than that, this is
    a highly acceptable transfer.

    [​IMG]

    This is another case where I am confused by the
    presence of a DTS track. The Emperor's Club
    is a dialogue-driven film -- not the sort of
    candidate that would beg for a DTS release --
    especially since I could detect very little
    difference between the DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1
    tracks. In any event, audio is very robust with
    emphasis given to James Newton Howard's expertly
    orchestrated score. Though the mix favors the
    front three channels, the surrounds nicely support
    the film's score.


    Special Features

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    First up is the full length commentary by
    director Michael Hoffman. It begins by talking
    about a reshoot that changed the entire opening
    of the film. Hoffman is a great fan of Kevin
    Kline, having worked with the actor before on
    many occasions. In fact, it was Kevin Kline who
    was responsible for bringing this film to the
    director. Hoffman talks about the importance of
    shooting the film at the right location and
    trying to persuade the studio to fork up the
    necessary money that would enable him to film
    at the Emma Willard School. Then there was the
    problem of casting the part of underachiever
    Sedgewick Bell. Hoffman was looking for a boy
    who would be a cross between Leonardo DeCaprio
    and River Phoenix. They found those qualities in
    actor Emile Hirsch, but would he have the talent
    to act alongside a veteran like Kevin Kline? This
    is an interesting story that is worth hearing.
    The director talks fondly about his cast, and even
    the fact that one of his cast members used this
    experience as a sort of film school to further his
    own interests in filmmaking. Throughout this
    dialogue the director gives us terrific insight
    into the changes in characters and their relationship
    with each other. Not a bad listen.

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    The making of The Emperor's Club is a
    22-minute featurette that rises above the standard
    marketing fare by posing the question, "how
    important is our personal character, morals and
    ethics to everything that we do?" Throughout this
    featurette, we hear from various individuals
    (including director Michael Hoffman and author
    Ethan Canin) who give examples of how the characters
    in this film compromise their ethical principles.
    Are we capable of change or are we capable of
    modifying our behavior, and is that enough? This
    becomes an interesting point of discussion
    throughout this feature and I am happy to see that
    it inspired many of the students at Pepperdine
    University who had the opportunity to screen the
    film and take part in a discussion of its merits.

    There are 20 minutes worth of deleted scenes
    that are mostly extensions of existing scenes.
    The only worthy additions I saw here was a scene
    that shows a flaw in James Ellerby's (Rob Morrow)
    character; Sedgewick returning the promised book
    to the library; A phone call from the Senator who
    challenges Hundert on the outcome of the Julius
    Ceasar contest. Presented non-anamorphic, the video
    and audio is slightly under par. You can play
    these deleted scenes with optional commentary by
    director Michael Hoffman.

    In addition to the film's original theatrical
    trailer
    , there is a very nice cast and
    filmmakers
    page that gives an interesting
    text biography of each individual in addition to
    their film resume. DVD-ROM content gives
    access to website bonus material.

    Also included here is a trailer for The Pianist
    as well as for this Summer's SeaBiscuit starring
    Tobey Maquire and Chris Cooper.


    Final Thoughts

    [​IMG]

    At the heart of The Emperor's Club is a
    wonderful story about the choices we make in life.
    Though this film may seem somewhat familiar to
    those that came before it with similar themes,
    The Emperor's Club still manages to retain
    its own identity, making this a recommended watch.


    Release Date: May 6, 2003


    All screen captures have been further compressed.
    They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
    represent actual picture quality
     
  2. Xenia Stathakopoulou

    Xenia Stathakopoulou Cinematographer

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    Great review Ron, looks like a definite rental. I must say even though im a newbie to these boards , ive been reading your reviews for a while, it helps my buying decisions. Keep up the good work. [​IMG]
     
  3. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

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    Spoilers ahoy.

    I liked it quite a bit. In my opinion, what sets it apart from the "Mr. Holland/Dead Poets" crowd is the teacher character himself. He is flawed and knows he's flawed but wishes he weren't. The fact that he nudged up the troublemaker's score because, after all, everyone likes the troublemaker whether they'll admit it or not, and then the way he's taken advantage of. The fact that he empathizes so strongly with the student he screwed over is what sold this movie for me. Very good performances, and the ending just moved me, in the classroom.
     
  4. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    Sounds like something I'll definitely try to rent if I get the chance.

    In the meantime, what I'd *really* like is a 16x9 Dead Poet's Society...extended cut!!!

    dave [​IMG]
     

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