HTF REVIEW: "The Last Castle" (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Feb 23, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    The Last Castle

    "This castle is built to keep people in"
    I apologize that this review comes so late.
    I had expected that DreamWorks would have sent
    out advance review copies of this DVD, but alas,
    I managed instead to have someone slip me an early
    copy so that I could at least have something for
    all of you to read, as I am certain this title is
    on many of your preorder lists.
    The Last Castle opened up late last year
    with high expectations with its stellar cast, but
    unfortunately, garnered lukewarm reviews from the
    majority of critics who saw it. It was hard to
    understand how a potentially great story that
    starred veteran Robert Redford and everyone's
    favorite Soprano, James Gandolfini ended up
    towards the bottom of the critics yearly list.
    Despite the expectations that this might not be
    as great of a movie as I hoped, I ended up actually
    enjoying this film far more than I expected.
    Let's first talk a little about the story....
    The "castle" is a a maximum security military prison.
    It's run by a ruthless warden, Colonel Winter
    (James Gandolfini). The warden perches himself
    high above his castle, leading what seems to be a
    solitary life amongst his display cases filled with
    artifacts of war.
    Colonel Winter's worst nightmare is about to begin.
    A phone call tells him he is about to receive a
    "category 'A' transfer" to his prison. That transfer
    is highly decorated General Eugene Irwin (Robert
    Redford), whose one mistake has made him a prisoner.
    Irwin has been stripped of his rank, but not his fame.
    In fact, when first brought to the warden, Winter can't
    help but hide his admiration for the General.
    The tides soon begin to change as Irwin sees
    fellow inmates being mistreated and murdered.
    As Irwin confronts the warden about his methods,
    Winter turns to hostility. A confrontation turns
    into war as Irwin and the inmates take over the castle.
    How is the transfer?
    This is another quality transfer that you
    would expect from DreamWorks. It is nearly flawless.
    The anamorphic (2.40:1) transfer itself is very
    soft, giving it a very warm look which is important
    for a film like this. There is no noticeable grain
    in the transfer, and colors are dead-on accurate.
    What really outshines most everything else, was
    the 5.1 DTS surround mix which is just incredible.
    What this film actually does is turn your viewing
    area into a prison. You are sitting smack in the
    middle of building lined with noisy celled inmates.
    Each of the speakers play a pivotal role to your
    own personal safety as voices talk to you from every
    corner. When you are in the prison's courtyard, be
    on the lookout as sounds are coming from every
    direction. It's so nice to sit back and watch a
    film that has such a lively and accurate sound mix.
    It makes watching this film as if you were part of it.
    Sound is very crisp, clean, and had my SV Subwoofer
    pounding the floor with deep bass that at times
    shook my coffee table.
    Special Features
    Dreamworks is very consistent with putting out
    not only quality transfers, but well produced DVDs
    that add a certain ambience to the feature itself.
    There is a very nice menu that greets us that
    gives us Redford's infamous castle dialogue set
    against exterior shots of the castle prison.
    In addition to a feature-length commentary
    with Director Rod Lurie....
    Inside the walls of the Last Castle is
    another one of those HBO specials that take you
    into the making of the film. Director Rod Lurie
    gives us an overview of the film's story, as
    Gandolfini and Redford talk about their own
    individual characters. Gandolfini talks about
    how he was attracted to the film because of
    Redford and how honored he was to play in this
    movie opposite him. We get some brief shots of
    behind-the-camera filming in the prison's courtyard,
    including the filming of the helicopter sequence
    near the film's end. Talking to the film's
    Production Designer, we learn a little about the
    prison itself, including some words from the
    real warden of the prison. This 14-minute HBO
    special is fairly interesting, despite being the
    fluff promotional piece that it was meant to be.
    There are 9 Deleted Scenes that can be
    played back with or without the Director's
    commentary. Here is an overview...
    * Colonel Winter has the warden walking
    into his office first thing in the morning, being
    greeted by his staff and briefed on the latest
    activities. In what turns out to be a funny
    turn to the scene, he shows his staff one of the
    biggest injustices known to mankind. Must be seen!
    * The Bookie shows Yates in action as the
    prison's most renowned bookie.
    * We're Square is another sequence with
    bookie Yates who receives an unusual payment.
    * Colonel's Workout is an interesting
    ommission that has warden Winter in the courtyard
    enjoying a workout as he lifts weights, plays
    basketball, and then retires to his office.
    * DOD Investigation has a female government
    inspector briefing one of the guards about the
    mysterious accident involving Aguilar.
    * Shadows of Soldiers is an extension
    to the speech that Warden Winter gave to the inmates
    in order to discredit General Irwin. Winter tells
    the men they are not real soldiers anymore - just
    * Pruno is something that SHOULD have
    been included in the final cut of the film. It
    gives more background on preparing weaponry for
    the final assault.
    * Triage takes us into the medical room
    where the wounded are taken during the assault.
    We see prisoners attempting to save their fellow
    inmates who are bleeding to death.
    * Makeshift Defibrillator adds to the
    Triage sequence as this makeshift device is used
    to save a man's life.
    Overall, these are all excellent outtakes that
    can be easily argued should have remained in the
    film. Seeing that the quality of these outtakes
    are top-notch, it is my guess they were last-minute
    In addition to the film's Theatrical Trailer,
    There is also the usual bio's of the cast (which
    is quite lengthy) and the filmmakers, as well as
    Production Notes.
    Final Thoughts
    I can see why the critics had a field day criticizing
    The Last Castle. The film has its shares
    of flaws. For one, the film deals more with the
    personal rhetoric between the two soldiers than the
    actual assault which takes up a mere 30 minutes of
    the film. The final assault is also played too far
    over the top, with no explanation of how the
    weaponry was all prepared. It was as if someone
    pulled off a sheet and said, "here we are!"
    Still, I reserve my final judgement to how
    entertaining the film actually was. In that
    department, The Last Castle won with flying
    colors. It was a well-paced 2 hour 13 minute film
    that I really enjoyed. I think this movie is going
    to play better in homes than it did in theaters.
    I would not hesitate to recommend the film for
    Release Date: March 5, 2002
  2. Talal

    Talal Stunt Coordinator

    Feb 6, 2002
    Likes Received:
    i think your screenshots are a bit squished..

    are you using powerDVD? don't choose the "use original source" in the capture properties.
  3. Jon_B

    Jon_B Screenwriter

    Nov 27, 2000
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    Thanks for the review. The screenshots really add to the "usefulness" of your reviews. I was not going to rent this one, but I guess I'll give it a try. It's by Dreamworks, so it can't be too bad.

  4. cafink

    cafink Producer

    Apr 19, 1999
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    Real Name:
    Carl Fink
    Ron, as Talal alluded to above, your screenshots are in the wrong aspect ratio. A DVD image is 720 pixels wide by 480 pixels tall — an aspect ratio of 1.5:1 — but is meant to be seen at an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 or 1.78:1 (for anamorphic transfers). You can't just take a screen capture and post it (well, you CAN, but it won't look right), you have to resize it to the proper dimensions for the proportions to be accurate.
  5. Nick Graham

    Nick Graham Screenwriter

    Oct 16, 2001
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    This was one of those flicks I loved but nobody else seemed to care about. If you are in the mood for a good dose of patriotism and some great performances, definitely give this disc a shot. I'll admit, seeing as I saw the film shortly after 9/11, the ending made me a little misty-eyed.

    One of the more underrated films of last year.
  6. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator

    Jul 3, 1997
    Likes Received:
    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    Still experimenting with Power DVD and

    I appreciate your comments.

    If anyone familiar with this program wishes

    to send me a PRIVATE email as to how to properly

    set up the capture, and more importantly, what

    the proper pixel size for each ratio should be

    (taking account a smaller picture size for webpages).

    In the meantime let's concentrate on discussing

    the film.

    Thanks again
  7. Quint van der Vaart

    Quint van der Vaart Second Unit

    May 25, 2001
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    Thanks for the review Ron , I was looking forward to having this movie on dvd and now I am even more excited.

    I didn't have a chance to see it in theaters and I realy could not believe this movie was as bad as the critics said so thanx again.

  8. T r o y

    T r o y Supporting Actor

    Jun 7, 1999
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    Hey Ron great review. I wanted to see this one on the big screen but never got around to do it. I'll definately consider this one for purchase now. Can't wait to hear how this DTS track sounds ! [​IMG]
  9. Dave Scarpa

    Dave Scarpa Producer

    Apr 8, 1999
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    Real Name:
    David Scarpa
    I was on the fence onthis one. Still think I'll rent it and later a Previously viewed purchase if I liked it and it's cheap enough.
  10. Philip Verdieck

    Philip Verdieck Second Unit

    Jan 23, 1999
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    Thanks for the review. I will pick this up sooner of later, when I like its pricepoint.

    1) Since the scenes are there, obviously the director didn't have an issue with them.

    2) Since the scenes are fully produced, etc, they wouldn't detract when reintegrated.

    So whey the @#$@#$ can't they use seemless branching to preset them in the film???

    Come on Dreamworks!
  11. Jens Raethel

    Jens Raethel Second Unit

    Oct 27, 1998
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    Real Name:
    Thanks for the review!
    It´s allready on it´s way to sweden[​IMG]
  12. Joseph J.D

    Joseph J.D Cinematographer

    Dec 4, 2001
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    Great review Ron! I just might pick this one up after all.[​IMG]
  13. Bruce Hedtke

    Bruce Hedtke Cinematographer

    Jul 11, 1999
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    Nice review and the screenshots are a very welcome addition. But, this title looks to be a strictly rental for me. But, it's usually titles such as this, that seem to get lost under the radar, that end up being keepers.

  14. Jason Merrick

    Jason Merrick Supporting Actor

    Mar 2, 2000
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    Simi Valley, CA (Los Angeles)
    Real Name:
    Jason Merrick
    Thanks for another excellent review. I was puzzled by the lack of press - and theatrical longevity - this film received. Definitely a buy as far as I am concerned!
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
  15. Yumbo

    Yumbo Cinematographer

    Sep 13, 1999
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    watched this last night.

    Picture is very good.

    Sound is outstanding - 2 places - opening music and helicoptor climax. Very CLEAN.

    Movie is entertaining, but a tad patriotic rah rah.
  16. Denton

    Denton Stunt Coordinator

    Aug 1, 2001
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    Real Name:
    You've got this one pegged about right, Ron. I found it entertaining in spite of the flaws. A welcome rental (at least) during an especially slow period for DVD's.
    For the record, I REALLY liked "The Contender". [​IMG]
  17. EricK

    EricK Second Unit

    Jan 22, 1999
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    Thanks for the review Ron, this confirmed my suspicions yesterday as I was hesitant to buy but splurged anyways. I'll look foward to watching this...and I can't wait for the DTS track!!!

  18. Aaron Croft

    Aaron Croft Stunt Coordinator

    Jul 2, 2001
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    I can only comment on the movie, not the disc, as I watched it last night on VHS at my girlfreinds house. I swear one of these days I'm gonna show up at her house with a DVD player and a HTiaB..

    Put some cheese in a blender with some corn... and what do you get.. THIS MOVIE! IMHO this movie is super-cheesy fluffy brainless flic. The premise for the movie is decent, but the way they present it is absolutely insulting. I knew within 10 minutes who was going to live/die, who was going to be bad/good, who was going to start off bad and end up good..etc... this movie tries to manipulate you emotionally, but really just made me roll my eyes.

    This is one of those "could have been good" movies.. It tries to be a cross between Shawshank Redemption and Braveheart, but fails to capture the emotion or immagination of either of those films.


  19. Gavin_L

    Gavin_L Second Unit

    Aug 24, 2001
    Likes Received:
    thanks ron for the review, at first i didn't know if i should pick this up, but think i will the next time i get a big batch of dvds

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