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  • Colors (1988) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    Colors (1988)

    Director: Dennis Hopper

    Starring: Sean Penn, Robert Duvall, Maria Conchita Alonso, Don Cheadle & Damon Wayans

    Released by: Shout Select

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Eye-opening at the time of its original release and unfortunately still potent in today’s divided society, Colors presents the dangerous world of gang warfare in a realistically gritty light.  Within a year’s reach of retirement, veteran L.A.P.D. officer Bob Hodges (Robert Duvall, The Godfather) is partnered with hot-headed rookie Danny McGavin (Sean Penn, Milk) in an anti-gang unit.  With clashing personalities, the two must learn to trust one another in order to survive the mayhem of Los Angeles’ South Central district.  Returning Academy Award nominee Dennis Hopper (Easy Rider) back behind the camera, Colors stages the murder of a Bloods gang member that heightens the turf war between the neighboring Crips and Barrio residing hoodlums, culminating in bullets, bloodshed and the police’s role in the center of their fatal path.  Riskily shot in the thicket of real gang territory that adds a genuine honesty to the proceedings and resulted in the actual shooting of extras during filming, Colors doesn’t flinch at the harsh realities of its crime-infested ghettos while, balancing the line of controversial good cop/bad cop approaches in protecting lawmen’s own and the community.  

    Although the casting of Penn and Duvall is inspired, their characters never fully develop as deeply as anticipated while, gang vengeance toward trigger-happy Crip member Rocket (Don Cheadle, House of Lies) takes control of the final act, leaving Hodges and McGavin’s purpose all but lost in the shuffle and shortchanging a still harrowing but, nonetheless weakened conclusion.  Featuring a chart-topping soundtrack of rap hits from such artists as, Ice-T, Big Daddy Kane and Salt-N-Pepa, Colors also costars future players Damon Wayans (Lethal Weapon) as a drug-addicted gangbanger, Tony Todd (Candyman) and Mario Lopez (Saved by the Bell) in a blink-and-you’ll-miss him role as a young thug.  An intense examination of gang life that has debatably improved over time, Colors is perhaps best recognized for its capturing of the lifestyle’s arguably darkest era and the L.A.P.D.’s equally deadly attempts to right its ship.

    Preserving its unrated cut for the first time on high-definition, Shout Select presents Colors with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Welcoming natural skin tones and lush radiance during the many sunny daytime sequences, black levels found in officer’s uniforms are deeply inky while, the drama’s filmic integrity remains firmly intact with no major anomalies to speak of.  Equipped with a strong DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is never challenged by cracks or pops while, the heavy beats of the film’s hip-hop soundtrack and jackhammering assault of bullets pulverizes onscreen action terrifically.  Carried over from Second Sight’s U.K. edition, special features include, Cry of Alarm: An Interview with Screenwriter Michael Schiffer (28:46) that shares the dangerous risks Schiffer undertook to understand the gang culture and accurately capture members’ speech patterns and slang for the script.  In addition, Cops & Robbers (16:53) hosts Technical Advisor/L.A.P.D. Gang Division Dennis Fanning on his unique career perspectives that were brought to ensure a legitimacy to the story.  Lastly, the film’s Trailer (1:53) is also included while, a hidden Easter Egg (accessed by clicking right of the Trailer in the disc’s bonus features section) offers an additional interview snippet with Screenwriter Michael Schiffer (2:16).  While the lack of supplements may fall short of other Collector’s Edition entries in the Shout Select catalog, what is included is luckily informative.  Appreciatively ensuring the film’s uncut presentation, Colors’ mileage may vary by viewer but, remains a recommendable watch for its believable expression of L.A. gangs and their very real mean streets of the era.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Shout Select, Colors can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) Blu-ray Review


    The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)
    Director: Ben Stiller
    Starring: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott, Shirley MacLaine & Sean Penn
    Released by: 20th Century Fox

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the 1939 short story by James Thurber, Director Norman Z. McLeod (Monkey Business) previously adapted the tale with leading man Danny Kaye in 1947, much to the dismay of its original creator.  After two decades of development and the likes of Steven Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan) and Ron Howard (Rush) circling the project, a remake was finally realized with Ben Stiller (Meet the Parents) starring and directing.  Does Stiller’s modernization of this much beloved work live up to anticipation or is it a daydream best left forgotten?  Let’s explore shall we...

    The Secret Life of Walter Mitty stars Ben Stiller as an introverted magazine photo manager who is constantly swept away in his own daydreams until real-life adventure draws him into situations he would have never imagined.  Co-starring Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids), Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation), Shirley MacLaine (The Apartment) and Sean Penn (Milk), the film was scripted by Steve Conrad (The Weather Man, The Pursuit of Happyness).

    MOVIE:
    The highest compliment that can be made to this adaptation is Stiller’s slickness behind the camera.  Renowned for his comedic abilities, Ben Stiller has been yelling “action” since 1987, helming such notable efforts as The Cable Guy, Zoolander and 2009’s Tropic Thunder.  Interestingly enough, the Tower Heist star hasn’t trekked into dramatic territory of this ilk since his 1994 cult appreciated, Reality Bites.  It’s comforting to see Stiller return to such a character-driven property that allows him to stretch the camera’s range as much his on-screen counterpart.  Mitty is a quiet character searching for love through eHarmony while he tends to his photo managing position at the prestigious Life Magazine.  Mitty finds himself daydreaming on a regular basis about a more courageous and heroic version of himself in adventurous situations.  The announcement of Life magazine’s final paper issue sends Mitty on a stressful course to locate the cover photo that was mailed in by noted photojournalist Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn).  Simultaneously, Mitty is falling for co-worker Cheryl (Kristen Wiig) as he chooses to abandon the big city for the adventure of a lifetime.  Consumed with locating O’Connell and his photo, Mitty treks to the far reaches of Greenland and Iceland to discover the confidence he thought was only possible in his dreams.

    Stiller, along with Director of Photography Stuart Dryburgh (The Piano), consciously keep the camera grounded and focused early on before finding more rapid movement as Mitty expands his horizons.  Beautiful cinematography is captured on ice glaciers and the jagged mountain peaks of the Himalayas as Mitty searches for O’Connell.  Stiller plays Mitty with the quiet realism of a man uncomfortable in his own skin but with the skills to hold a position with Life Magazine.  Mitty’s high-octane daydreams boarder on the absurd and charming as he longs to stand up to his snobbish superior (Adam Scott) and win the girl.  The sudden death of Mitty’s father during his teenage years is touched upon, but not explored nearly enough to understand the depth of his melancholy.  Unfortunately, this dismissal backfires resulting in less sympathy for an awkward character attempting to inject life back into his soul through his travels.  The supporting cast, while competent in their roles, do as they are required but nothing more making this a vehicle entirely for Stiller.  A clichéd love connection is weaved between Stiller and Wiig but never makes it to center stage, insisting that this is a story about courage and the road to obtaining it.  Stiller’s directorial skills shine in what is arguably his most ambitious film to date and a welcome return to a more dramatic storytelling style.  The film charms and taps into a fantasy-filled section of all daydreamers‘ imaginations but, stumbles by not fully realizing Mitty’s somber past.  While, at times heartwarming and entertaining, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty may leave you wishing for a bit more meat to chew on emotionally.
    RATING: 3/5   

    VIDEO:
    20th Century Fox presents The Secret Life of Walter Mitty with an impressive 1080p transfer in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  The sleek and almost sterile look of the Life Magazine offices are captured in ripe clarity.  Dryburgh’s impressive cinematography dazzles during Mitty’s travels to Iceland and Greenland as the viewer will think they are witnessing breathtaking documentary footage.  Contrast is strong as can be with skin tones relayed beautifully and a solid sense of detail in close-ups.  A pitch perfect video presentation that truly shines!      
    RATING: 5/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty sounds mighty fine.  Dialogue is captured with zero hiccups and absolute clarity while, some of Mitty’s exciting daydreams will rumble your speakers with sounds of shattered glass and such.  The character-driven nature of the film allows you to appreciate the quieter moments of nature picked up by the mix as much as the more intense.  A solid sounding audio treatment that will leave the listener more than pleased.
    RATING: 5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Deleted, Alternate and Extended Scenes

    - Behind the Scenes: Broken down into a variety of mini-featurettes that delve into the many aspects of the filmmaking process.

        - The History of Walter Mitty

        - The Look of Life

        - That’s a Shark!

        - The Music of Walter Mitty

        - Nordic Casting

        - Titles of Walter Mitty

        - Sights and Sounds of Production: Reveals two sub-featurettes including Skateboarding Through Iceland and Ted-Walter Fight.

        - Pre-Viz: Directs the viewer to another featurette entitled Ted-Walter Fight Pre-Viz Early Version.

    - Gallery: Reference Photography

    - “Stay Alive” Music Video by Jose Gonzales

    - Theatrical Trailer

    RATING: 4.5/5

    OVERALL:
    Ben Stiller’s adaptation of Thurber’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is an exploration of courage and the dreamer in all of us.  Stiller fits nicely into the shy, introverted character of Mitty and handled the directorial duties with a beautiful and attentive eye.  Although briefly seen, the supporting cast handled their roles well achieving the needed effects.  While, the film’s message is charming, its emotional impact is lessened due to Mitty’s past never fully being explored.  20th Century Fox’s presentation is not only gorgeous to look at and listen to but sports a wonderful array of special features with only an audio commentary from Stiller missing that would have been the icing on the cake.  The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a cheerful, albeit not perfect, film that reminds viewers Stiller is far more capable and talented than most “fockers” give him credit for.
    RATING: 4/5