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Adam McKay
Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling
Writing Credits:
Adam McKay and Charles Randolph

Four denizens in the world of high-finance predict the credit and housing bubble collapse of the mid-2000s, and decide to take on the big banks for their greed and lack of foresight.

Box Office:
$28 million.
Opening Weekend
$10,531,026 on 1,585 Screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-X
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
English Audio Description
English DTS Headphone-X
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 130 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 3/15/2016

• “In the Tranches: Casting” Featurette
• “The Big Leap” Featurette
• “Unlikely Heroes: The Real Characters of The Big Short” Featurette
• “The House of Cards; The Rise of the Fall” Featurette
• “Getting Real: Recreating an Era” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
• DVD Copy


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


The Big Short [Blu-Ray] (2015)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 1, 2016)

Michael Lewis doesn’t write books that seem like logical fodder for movie adaptations, but Hollywood takes them to the big screen anyway – and with successful results. 2011’s Moneyball managed to make sports data analysis interesting, and 2015’s The Big Short does the same for an even drier subject: the intricacies of the 2008 financial collapse.

In 2005, hedge fund manager Michael Burry (Christian Bale) interprets data that he believes indicates the US housing market suffers from extreme instability. Because he feels the market will collapse by 2007, he pursues a “credit default swap” that will earn him and his clients massive amounts of money when/if housing crashes.

Because financial experts view housing as the bedrock of stable investments, most laugh off Burry’s predictions. However, a few buy into his beliefs, a group that includes trader Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling), hedge fund manager Mark Baum (Steve Carell), and neophyte investors Charlie Geller (John Magaro) and Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock). We follow their financial actions and what occurs in the US economy.

As I mentioned earlier, The Big Short offers a narrative that seems like an awkward fit for a non-documentary feature film, and it comes from a director who presents an unconventional choice. One would expect Short to come from someone with a background in “serious” movies, but instead, we find Adam McKay in the director’s chair – yes, the same Adam McKay who made his name with broad comedies like Anchorman and Step Brothers.

Does this unusual directorial choice work? Yeah, for the most part. Big Short comes with some flaws, but I don’t lay most of them on McKay – or not on McKay the director. McKay co-wrote Short, and that’s the area that prompts some potentially iffy choices.

My main complaint about Short comes from its diffuse focus. My synopsis simplifies matters a fair amount, as the actual story veers off onto a lot of character tangents.

That reduces some of the impact. Because we find so many different paths, we don’t invest in any of them as heavily as I’d like. We get a decent taste – with more exposition for the personal lives of Burry and Baum than the others – but the characters tend to remain a little too anonymous. Perhaps the story would’ve worked better if it concentrated on fewer roles.

On the other hand, one can argue that the financial system itself acts as the “main character” in Short and the movie needs all these different roles to tell that tale. I can see that, as each faction of investors highlights a different chink in the monetary armor. Though all of their branches stem from Burry’s tree, they find their own twists, so it’s worthwhile to hear the myriad ways the markets failed.

McKay does his damnedest to alleviate any potential boredom that might result from the dry, technical subject matter – and he might try too hard, to be honest. Short can be rather ADHD, as the movie uses quick-cuts and jittery camerawork in a nearly pathological manner.

However, these choices seem less gratuitous than otherwise might be the case. McKay uses these techniques less as a crutch and more to explore the potentially befuddling world of finance. Sure, the hyperactive visual methods ensure the audience doesn’t doze off, but they also illustrate both the heady nature and the instability of the crazed market depicted here. A more staid approach wouldn’t offer the surreal tone the movie needs.

McKay also manages to avoid lecturing – well, most of the time. McKay previously used 2010’s The Other Guys as a soapbox – he saved his lesson for the end credits, but he still gave the film a pedantic feel at that time.

We find the occasional indulgence in Short, but these moments occur less frequently than one might fear. Yeah, McKay makes it clear that the system remains a mess, but he largely avoids attempts to talk down to the audience. We get the message and the concern without too much condescension.

Short certainly packs an excellent cast, and they help make the medicine go down more easily. All do fine work; only Bale received an Oscar nomination, but the others seem just as good. The stellar roster of actors adds credibility and zing to the proceedings.

I still think The Big Short lacks the consistency it needs to be a great film, but I can’t criticize it too much. The movie makes the unfathomable intricacies of financial markets both interesting and understandable, and it tells a good character-based cautionary tale.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus C+

The Big Short appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The film came with a fairly good image.

For the most part, sharpness seemed positive. Occasionally, I saw a bit of softness, especially during interiors. However, the majority of the film delivered nice clarity and accuracy. I saw no jagged edges or moiré effects, and the presentation lacked source defects.

In terms of palette, Short tended to mix teal and amber. This never became a dynamic set of hues, but the colors seemed appropriately rendered. Blacks appeared dark and tight, while shadows looked smooth and clear. In the end, the image remained generally solid.

The Big Short came with a newfangled DTS-X soundtrack, one that downconverted to DTS-HD MA 7.1 for those of us without systems equipped for DTS-X playback. Given its subject matter, this seemed like an odd choice for such a fancy-pants sound format, and it remained an odd choice, though the track did open up at times.

Actually, the mix occasionally became a little too aggressive in the way it handled music. The track spread score and songs to all the channels, and at times, these slightly overwhelmed the dialogue.

Otherwise, this was a soundscape heavy on environmental material. The audio used these elements in a satisfying manner, as the various situations became involving. Nothing I could call especially “exciting” occurred, but scenes on the streets or in Las Vegas or in other locations managed to add a good sense of place.

Audio quality worked fine. Despite the balance issues, speech remained natural and concise, while effects appeared accurate and distinctive. Music boasted solid range and clarity. No one will use this soundtrack as a demo reel, but it suited the narrative.

In terms of extras, the disc mostly includes featurettes. In the Tranches: Casting runs 15 minutes, 51 seconds and provides info from co-screenwriter/director Adam McKay, producers Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, writer Michael Lewis, and actors Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, Rafe Spall, Steve Carell, Adepero Oduye, Jeremy Strong, Hamish Linklater, Finn Wittrock and John Magaro. As implied by the title, “Tranches” examines cast, characters and performances. It gives us a nice look at the various actors.

During the 11-minute, 31-second The Big Leap, we hear from McKay, Gosling, Bale, Carell, Linklater, Kleiner, Gardner, Lewis, Strong, Spall, Wittrock, Magaro, cameo actors Selena Gomez and Anthony Bourdain and co-screenwriter Charles Randolph. We learn of McKay’s interest in the project and his approach to the material. Some of this feels self-congratulatory, but the piece offers a decent mix of details.

Unlikely Heroes: The Characters of The Big Short fills 11 minutes, 28 seconds with details from McKay, Bale, Strong, Randolph, Magaro, Lewis, Gosling, Carell, Wittrock, Kleiner, Spall, Gardner, and character inspiration Porter Collins. Like the title says, “Heroes” delivers more thoughts about the movie’s characters. I hoped this would dig into specifics about the real-life participants, and we get a little of that, but mainly it discusses the movie’s characters. It doesn’t offer much depth.

Next comes The House of Cards: The Rise of the Fall. It goes for 14 minutes, one second and features McKay, Strong, Gosling, Bale, Lewis, Randolph, Carell, Wittrock and technical consultant Adam Davidson. “House” discusses the facts behind the movie’s tale. Some of this seems redundant if you’ve seen the film, but “House” still offers insights.

Finally, Getting Real: Recreating an Era takes up 11 minutes, 13 seconds with comments from McKay, Carell, Kleiner, Gardner, Wittrock, Gosling, Bale, editor Hank Corwin, director of photography Barry Ackroyd, and costume designer Susan Matheson. “Real” examines camerawork, editing, and costumes. “Real” presents a good mix of notes about these behind the scenes elements.

Five Deleted Scenes occupy a total of six minutes, 28 seconds. We see “Vennett’s Call/The Real Danny Moses – Extended” (0:49), “Florida Visit” (0:55), “Burry Homelife” (0:56), “Burry Asperger’s” (3:00) and “Danny Heart Attack” (0:50).

Most seem pretty good, though “Asperger’s” feels redundant, as it takes too long to spell out what we already know. The others work well, especially when we get the cameo from Danny Moses.

A second disc provides a DVD copy of Short. It lacks any of the Blu-ray’s extras.

With The Big Short, we get a fairly entertaining take on a complicated subject. While it doesn’t hit on all cylinders, it does more than enough right to succeed. The Blu-ray brings us mostly positive picture and audio along with a decent package of bonus materials. I’d like a better roster of supplements, but I still like Short enough to endorse this release.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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