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DVD Reviews

DVD reviews by Barrie Maxwell of The Digital Bits


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2009 (2010) - Bluemark Productions (MPI Media)
Released on DVD on June 15th, 2010

Film Rating: B+
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/B+/B

Michael Ruppert believes that we are in the terminal phase of the global economy as we know it. His credentials include a university education in economics and time with the LAPD, but of more relevance, 30 years of experience in investigative journalism. His belief is based on the concept of peak oil, the time when we reach the maximum oil extraction rate worldwide with the rate of production declining permanently thereafter. According to Ruppert, we are at or very near to peak oil and the 2008 recession is an early consequence - one that is likely to be repeated and with increasing severity.

In Collapse, a 2009 documentary from Chris Smith (director of The Yes Men and The Pool), he presents his evidence. The film is structured simply. Ruppert sits in a chair in some sort of warehouse chain smoking while responding to questions designed to draw out his position on the issue. Ruppert's demeanor is generally calm and thoughtful though he occasionally gives in to his emotions reflecting his deeply held beliefs on the subject. No matter what one's personal feeling about the issue may be, one cannot reasonably just dismiss Ruppert's point of view. There is no suggestion of fanaticism or conspiracy theory though Ruppert obviously believes the US government's actions in regard to oil policy are not exactly overt.

Despite the sincerity evident in Ruppert's championing of the peak oil concept and what he views as its inevitable consequences, it is telling though that he offers no solutions in the film. In one of the supplements on the DVD, he addresses this by suggesting that viewers buy his book if they want those solutions - surprise, surprise! It is an admission that weakens the persuasiveness of Ruppert's thesis substantially, though not necessarily its validity.

One comes away from the documentary with many questions and even a sense of foreboding that Ruppert might just be right. While the latter may have been the film's intent, it is the former reaction that is its greatest merit. One's interest is piqued enough to investigate the issue for oneself and to look further into Ruppert's work in order to develop a more-informed opinion. By that alone, the film serves a very useful purpose.

Collapse is available on DVD from MPI Media Group, utilizing a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer. Ninety percent of the film footage is simply that of Ruppert sitting in the interview chair and all of that looks sharp and clear. The remainder is stock footage designed to support various aspects of Ruppert's arguments and most of that is rather grainy and worn. The sound is a Dolby 5.1 mix that operates solely across the front and delivers the dialogue clearly. A simple stereo mix would have been quite sufficient. The disc supplements include the theatrical trailer, about 15 minutes of deleted scenes (additional interview footage), and a short section in which Ruppert updates what has happened since the film's theatrical release in regard to both some of his assertions in the film and his own life. Recommended.

Barrie Maxwell

The Eastwood Factor: Extended Version

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The Eastwood Factor: Extended Version
2010 (2010) - Warner Bros.
Released on DVD on June 1st, 2010

Film Rating: B-
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B+/E

Clint Eastwood turned 80 at the end of May and Warner Bros., by dint of Eastwood's lengthy association with the studio, is celebrating in style. It has produced an impressive DVD package of 35 films (contained on 19 discs) that Clint either directed or appeared in and that were either produced at Warners or are now under its control. The assemblage is called Clint Eastwood: 35 Films 35 Years. Thirty-four of those films are Clint Eastwood titles that most Eastwood fans will already have on DVD. As no updated transfers are involved, the assemblage offers virtually nothing new. The exception is the 35th film, which turns out to be a new documentary called The Eastwood Factor that was commissioned from Richard Schickel by Warners for Eastwood's 80th birthday. The version contained in the set is an abbreviated 22-minute one, but the complete 88-minute documentary has also been made available as a stand-alone DVD release and that version is the subject of this review.

Richard Schickel is a long-time film critic and more recently documentary filmmaker who knows Clint Eastwood well, being a good friend and associate. He has written a biography of Eastwood and is well-versed in Clint's output. The documentary he has produced is a decent one, but it really only gives the feel of scratching the surface of Clint's career. With narration by Morgan Freeman, it touches on Clint's early TV and film opportunities and then covers the Leone films as well as the Dirty Harry cycle, before going into a fairly chronological evaluation (with some lengthy clips) of specific films released from the mid-1970s to date. Extensive coverage is given to the likes of The Outlaw Josie Wales, Unforgiven, Mystic River, and Million Dollar Baby. Interspersed is footage of Eastwood commenting on aspects of his career as well as Eastwood at various locations on the Warner Bros. lot, such as the building where costumes from his various films are kept, the WB scoring stage which was renamed the Eastwood Scoring Stage when he intervened to prevent its being dismantled, and outside his Malpaso production company office space. It's this interspersed footage that has the most interest; unfortunately, it tends to be dwarfed by the extensive clips from films that we already know well.

The documentary would be a good introduction for someone with little knowledge of Eastwood and his films. For anyone else, it offers little new because it attempts to cover so much territory that it is unable to go into much depth on anything.

On DVD, the image is presented full frame with new interview footage letterboxed at 1.78:1 and clips presented as a mixture of full frame pan and scan, or letterboxed 1.85:1 or 2.35:1. The new interview footage looks quite crisp, but the extensive clips are inconsistent with some softness and aspect ratio selection that doesn't always correspond to the original theatrical ones. Colour brightness and fidelity were generally quite acceptable. The Dolby 5.1 track delivers a clear sound experience. The audio is pretty much confined to the front, with only occasional use of the surrounds during some of the film clips. There are no supplements on the disc. Recommended as a rental at best.

Richard Schickel's work with Warners on this documentary has also yielded a nice, 288-page, coffee-table-sized book - Clint: A Retrospective that is a more rewarding product than The Eastwood Factor documentary. It is well illustrated with stills and provides good analysis of virtually all of Clint's films including the non-Warner ones. It's well-priced at $35 ($45 in Canada) and includes the 22-minute abbreviated version of The Eastwood Factor on a DVD encased in a paper sleeve pasted to the inside back cover. Despite the difference in price, I'd easily go for the book over the DVD of The Eastwood Factor: Extended Edition.

Barrie Maxwell
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