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Blu-ray Review The Game Blu-ray Review (1 Viewer)

Matt Hough

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In the mid-1980s, there was a computer game on the market called “Hacker.” It came with no directions, no rules, and no information other than how to get the disc to play in one’s computer. After the program was started, it was up to the player to determine what the game was about, how one should play, and, eventually, how one would win (or “die” in the attempt). David Fincher’s The Game is in many ways reminiscent of that old computer program. Rules seem nonexistent, the game may or may not be ever-present, and one is never sure when the contest is at an end. For three-quarters of its running time, The Game is a brilliant, suspenseful tour de force, but it stumbles as it approaches the finish line.





The Game (Blu-ray)
Directed by David Fincher

Studio: Criterion
Year: 1997
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1   1080p   AVC codec
Running Time: 128 minutes
Rating: NR
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles:  SDH

Region: A
MSRP: $ 39.95


Release Date: September 25, 2012

Review Date: September 23, 2012




The Film

4/5


Billionaire investment banker, cold-hearted Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) is given a birthday turn in “The Game” designed by a mysterious corporation called CRS by his wayward brother Conrad (Sean Penn). Van Orton is told nothing about how the game operates or even what it will encompass. All he knows is that it has started (after being told he's been rejected as a player) and once it has, he’s on a seemingly desperate collision course with destruction, personal ruin, and even potential death.


Like the leading characters in such games-playing thrillers as Sleuth and Deathtrap before it, neither Van Orton nor the viewer is ever quite sure what’s real and what’s part of the game. Fincher wrings quite a bit of tension out of  the John Brancato-Michael Ferris screenplay, and it’s a good thing he’s got a good sense of pace since even a moment’s rest would allow us to start to piece together just how many holes the plot of this intriguing but ultimately outlandish picture has. The Game works better if you basically turn off your brain and simply let the picture happen. Fincher’s previous film Se7en featured a grainier, darker look and a more dour tone than The Game does, though it’s clear he’s going for some of the same raw anxiousness for the mood of this piece. He handles all of the stunts well and scores one amazing piece of staging: Van Orton jumping up in a projection room with the film projector shooting out awesome rays of white, yellow, and green light that his body distorts. Much like Gloria Swanson’s leaping into the projector light in Sunset Boulevard vowing she would make a comeback, Van Orton’s leap upwards startles immediately, and the light gives him his own demonic glow that suits the insensitivity that he has been displaying toward his fellow man. The Game finally runs out of steam right before the end, its ingenious twists and turns ultimately spinning out of control and becoming a trifle ludicrous. For the first 110 minutes of its running time, however, we are treated to a wonderfully taut and tantalizing thriller that keeps the audience guessing as much as it does its formerly expressionless leading character.


Michael Douglas does wonderfully playing the initially smug, robotic Van Orton and later the frustrated, terrified victim. Though he’s pitted against a seemingly all-powerful, indestructible entity like a corporation rather than a flesh and blood antagonist, he still manages to keep viewer interest on him and his predicament for a slightly overlong 128 minutes. Though Sean Penn is second-billed and plays his role well, his part in the proceedings amounts to little more than a cameo. The screenwriters could have used his shifty eyes and hyperactive body language to make him a more suspicious participant in the murky proceedings, but they strangely chose not to. Deborah Kara Unger has some choice moments as Douglas’ partner in the chase (though one can never be sure of anyone’s loyalty for long), but she’s a little too staid in some of the scenes, and thus she loses our sympathy long before her role in the game is revealed. Carroll Baker is almost unrecognizable as Douglas’s loyal cook, and Armin Mueller-Stahl has one electric scene as Douglas lowers the boom on him and he vows vengeance. For a movie with hundreds of extras doing bits of business around the star, the film seems remarkably empty of people to focus on apart from our hero.



Video Quality

4.5/5


The film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 is faithfully reproduced in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. It’s a very controlled transfer in every respect with sharpness consistent but not cutting edge and color modulated and never out of kilter. Flesh tones look very realistic if a trifle brown. Black levels are fine but not cutting edge either, and with the number of nighttime scenes, deeper blacks might have accentuated the image a bit more. The film has been divided into 29 chapters.



Audio Quality

4.5/5


There are two DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English tracks on the disc. One is the theatrical sound mix and the other is a mix created for home theater viewing (called a “Near Field” surround mix). Both offer excellent fidelity. The theatrical mix seems bit more robust in the action scenes while the Near Field mix seems a little sharper in more intimate scenes. You can’t go wrong with either one, however, with a fine placement of Howard Shore’s brooding music with the plentiful ambient sounds of the city and environs in the total soundfield. Dialogue has been expertly recorded and placed in the center channel.



Special Features

4/5


The audio commentary is an edited together set of comments from director David Fincher, star Michael Douglas, screenwriters John Brancato and Michael Ferris, cinematographer Harris Savides, production designer Jeffrey Beecroft, and others. They cover all the basics plus let their feelings about the work, both good and bad, rise to the surface: an excellent commentary track.


Unless otherwise noted, the bonus material is presented in 1080p.


The alternate ending runs 1 ¼ minutes.


There are four storyboard-to-film comparisons which must be watched separately: Dog Chase (3 ¼ minutes), The Taxi (3 ¼ minutes), Chris’ house (photos to storyboard to film running 4 ¼ minutes), and The Fall (1 minute).


There are five sequences featuring behind the scenes footage (in 1080i) with optional commentary on them (though the comments are repeated in the edited commentary mentioned above): Dog Case (4 ¼ minutes), The Taxi (12 minutes), Chris’ house (4 ¾ minutes), The Fall (7 ¾ minutes), and other backstage footage of the home movies being shot (9 ½ minutes).


The psychological test film which is shown in bits and pieces in the film is presented in its 1 ¼-minute entirety.


A teaser trailer runs 1 ½ minutes. A render test teaser runs 1 minute. The theatrical trailer runs 2 ½ minutes. These all come with optional commentary as well (as heard in the above commentary track).


The enclosed 17-page booklet contains and cast and crew list, the chapter listing, some stills from the movie, and film critic David Sterritt appreciation for the enterprise.


The Criterion Blu-rays include a maneuvering tool called “Timeline” which can be pulled up from the menu or by pushing the red button on the remote. It shows you your progress on the disc, the title of the chapter you’re now in, and index markers for the commentary that goes along with the film, all of which can be switched on the fly. Additionally, two other buttons on the remote can place or remove bookmarks if you decide to stop viewing before reaching the end of the film or want to mark specific places for later reference.



In Conclusion

4/5 (not an average)


The Game may have some holes in its storytelling, but it’s been directed so expertly that they’re hardly noticeable especially with an initial viewing. The Blu-ray is a lovely video and audio package with some interesting comments and behind the scenes material to offer. Recommended!




Matt Hough

Charlotte, NC

 

David Norman

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joshEH said:
Looks like I can finally retire the Criterion laserdisc now (at long last).
Put it in the Assisted Living so you can still visit it occasionally for old times sake.
I think I can put my LD and UK Bluray is the same room. Just have to wait until November and hope to send BN at least one more big $$$ transfer
 

cineMANIAC

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Has Criterion ever done a Director's Cut of any of their releases? Not saying any particular title merits one, just that it would be cool to see an occasional "alternate version" put together by these fine folks.
 

brap

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cineMANIAC said:
Has Criterion ever done a Director's Cut of any of their releases? Not saying any particular title merits one, just that it would be cool to see an occasional "alternate version" put together by these fine folks.
Only for the epic-tacular movies like Seven Samurai and Armageddon.
 

Jeeva

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cineMANIAC said:
Has Criterion ever done a Director's Cut of any of their releases? Not saying any particular title merits one, just that it would be cool to see an occasional "alternate version" put together by these fine folks.
They will also do so in november with the release of 'Heaven's Gate'...
 

MattAlbie60

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Also don't forget that their ROBOCOP release was the first time the X-rated cut was seen I believe, wasn't it?
 

Moe Dickstein

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MattAlbie60 said:
Also don't forget that their ROBOCOP release was the first time the X-rated cut was scene I believe, wasn't it?
Yep, that's why I did dot dot dot, because I couldn't remember them all offhand. CC also presented the alternate cuts of Close Encounters on LD, as well as the International Edit of Blade Runner and of course:
Brazil.
 

Scott Merryfield

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Moe Dickstein said:
And back to The Game - The Blu is on backorder at the Criterion site, seems like it's selling really well!
That is probably the result of Criterion's one day 50% off sale they had on Monday. I was able to order The Game that day, but when a co-worker tried to order it the same evening, it was already on back order.
 

cineMANIAC

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Even with the discount THE GAME BD still came out to just over $27. I have Amazon Prime so it'll make more sense for me to order it from them. It'll be about the same price (probably even cheaper) plus I'll get it in 2 days. This is why I don't get overly excited with these Criterion sales - everything is marked down from the full MSRP, not the price mostly everyone else charges, so any discount will be marginal.
 

Scott Merryfield

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cineMANIAC said:
Even with the discount THE GAME BD still came out to just over $27. I have Amazon Prime so it'll make more sense for me to order it from them. It'll be about the same price (probably even cheaper) plus I'll get it in 2 days. This is why I don't get overly excited with these Criterion sales - everything is marked down from the full MSRP, not the price mostly everyone else charges, so any discount will be marginal.
The Game only cost me $19.97 via the 50% off sale at Criterion's online store, so I'm not sure where you get $27. I did order two other Criterion titles from my wish list to get the free shipping, though. Three titles cost me less than $60 shipped.
FYI, this title appeared today in my Amazon "quick picks" section for $23.74.
 

Carlo_M

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Watched this for the first time last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. Yes the last 5-10 minutes ask us to suspend our disbelief even more than normal, but the fact that the first nearly two hours was executed so well allowed me to forgive that.
Excellent PQ and AQ. It's easy to see that by this time Fincher already had his trademark shooting style (refined from Se7en) that would permeate every movie he's made since.
 

cineMANIAC

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Scott Merryfield said:
The Game only cost me $19.97 via the 50% off sale at Criterion's online store, so I'm not sure where you get $27. I did order two other Criterion titles from my wish list to get the free shipping, though. Three titles cost me less than $60 shipped.
FYI, this title appeared today in my Amazon "quick picks" section for $23.74.
For some reason they were charging me $7 for shipping. :confused:
 

Moe Dickstein

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cineMANIAC said:
For some reason they were charging me $7 for shipping. :confused:
That's why you gotta bump it over $50 and get free shipping :D
I got it from Amazon for $27 with tax (grr) and would have gone the Criterion route, but I've been way too naughty on eBay buying used Criterions lately that I really can only justify getting the one this week. How often do they do those flash one day sales? Would be worth keeping like $60 aside for the next one. I'm trying to build a complete collection so there will always be 3 I can get lol.
 

Scott Merryfield

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cineMANIAC said:
For some reason they were charging me $7 for shipping. :confused:
As Moe said, you need an order of at least $50 to qualify for free shipping. I always maintain a Criterion "wish list" for the 50% off sales offered by Barnes & Noble, and occasionally from Criterion directly. So, I can always qualify for free shipping.
Moe Dickstein said:
How often do they do those flash one day sales? Would be worth keeping like $60 aside for the next one. I'm trying to build a complete collection so there will always be 3 I can get lol.
I do not think it's a regularly scheduled occurrence, unlike Barnes & Noble's 50% off Criterion sales which usually happen in May and November. With Criterion's online store, they just pop up randomly. This is the 2nd one I can remember within the past year.
 

Ruz-El

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I was able to sneak this off the 50% flash sale as well as 4 other titles. I'm in Canada, so I'm stuck with shipping regardless. That said, despite these being maybe $1 more then the B&N sale, the shipping was significantly less.

not including the last B&N where I was able to hit the buy two get one free over lap on top of the 50% off. Not likely to get that cheap of Criterions again!)

So I'm pleased, less to buy in nov/dec ha ha. Can't wait to revisit this one. Only ever saw the VHS on a rental back when it first came out. I held off on the DVD version hoping for a psecial edition that never arrived.
 

Ralphie_B

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Excellent - I'll have to pick this up at the next B&N 50% off sale, and finally put my HD-DVD out to pasture!
 

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