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WARNER

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Albert Hughes, Allen Hughes
Cast:
Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, Ray Stevenson, Jennifer Beals, Evan Jones, Joe Pingue, Tom Waits
Writing Credits:
Gary Whitta

Tagline:
Some will kill to have it. He will kill to protect it.

Synopsis:
Eli walks alone in post-apocalyptic America. He heads west along the Highway of Death on a mission he doesn't fully understand but knows he must complete. In his backpack is the last copy of a book that could become the wellspring of a revived society. Or in the wrong hands, the hammer of a despot. Denzel Washington is Eli, who keeps his blade sharp and his survival instincts sharper as his quest thrusts him into a savage wasteland ... and into explosive conflict with a resourceful warlord (Gary Oldman) set on possessing the book. "We walk by faith, not by sight," quotes Eli. Under the taut direction of the Hughes Brothers, those words hit home with unexpected meaning and power.

Box Office:
Budget
$80 million.
Opening Weekend
$38.437 million on 3111 screens.
Domestic Gross
$94.822 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English
French

Runtime: 117 min.
Price: $35.99
Release Date: 6/15/2010

Bonus:
• “Maximum Movie Mode”
• 10 “Focus Points”
• “A Lost Tale: Billy”
• “Behind the Story” Featurettes
• Deleted/Alternate Scenes
• “The Book of Eli Soundtrack” Featurette
• Digital Copy/Standard DVD


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EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; 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.

RELATED REVIEWS


The Book Of Eli [Blu-Ray] (2010)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 1, 2010)

If movies survive the apocalypse, what’ll filmmakers do? That’ll end the whole “post-apocalyptic wasteland” genre – maybe they’ll get into post-post-apocalyptic wasteland stories.

2010’s The Book of Eli provides an action-oriented take on the subject. Set in the mid-21st century after a nuclear holocaust, Eli (Denzel Washington) walks west on a quest. Along the way, he enters a small town to get water and a charge for his iPod. A man named Carnegie (Gary Oldman) leads the town, and he sends his minions on a search for books – or more specifically, for a Bible.

A copy of which happens to be in Eli’s possession, a fact that Carnegie learns after his girlfriend Claudia’s (Jennifer Beals) daughter Solara (Mila Kunis) spends a chaste night with the traveler. Carnegie desires a Bible because he believes he can use it to control others and become more powerful. Eli refuses to hand out the tome; despite Carnegie’s best efforts, he gets out of town and continues on his journey. Carnegie and his charges attempt to follow and stop him.

Who says they don’t make westerns anymore? The post-apocalyptic setting may give the film a theoretical sci-fi vibe ala Road Warrior, but Book avoids that. It does little to reinvent the genre’s notions – it depicts the expected bleak, primitive world – but it does give things a twist with its western fell.

Book also offers a strong graphic novel vibe. During the disc’s supplements, directors Allen and Albert Hughes note their love for those books, and the influence becomes abundantly clear throughout the movie. Heck, the opening fight sequence looks like it comes straight out of the Frank Miller catalog! This avoids seeming derivative, though, and it gives the movie a distinctive impression.

So in terms of its visuals and vibe, Book scores; the movie always looks great and it delivers a convincing world in which to set its events. Unfortunately, it falters too much in other areas, though the flick starts out pretty well and keeps us involved during the opening chapter. That early fight seems impressive, and it’s interesting to follow Eli’s journey during the first act.

Once he gets to Carnegie’s town, however, matters slow to a crawl and become too bogged down in uninteresting areas. I think the main problem stems from the lackluster nature of the supporting characters. Partially due to a strong performance from Washington – who makes Eli a badass but also a rounded personality – Eli remains worth our time, but the others fail to deliver much to make them memorable. Even the usually impressive Oldman can’t make Carnegie more than a fairly dull stock baddie.

The film invests way too much time in the wholly forgettable Solara, and that’s a major flaw. She becomes Eli’s sidekick/apprentice, and that choice sends the movie into a downward spiral. I don’t particularly fault Kunis’s performance; she doesn’t boost the film, but she doesn’t truly harm it, either. The role is simply a plot device and not one that keeps us invested. When Book sticks with Eli or with action, it flies; otherwise it tends to plod, and there’s too much “otherwise” for my liking.

It also doesn’t help that the movie keeps going well past the point at which it should end. 17 minutes of screen time remain after we learn Eli’s secret and he achieves his quest. Yes, credits fill a lot of that space, but we still get stuck with too much filler when we’re anxious to get out of our seats. This denouement period makes explicit too many areas that would be better left to the imagination, and it just makes the movie end with a whimper.

Which is a shame, as Book does have many good attributes. Even with its flaws, I view it in a reasonably positive light; I certainly won’t call it a bad flick or a failure, and I enjoyed a lot of it. However, it sags too much after a strong beginning, and its faults leave it as a mild disappointment.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A/ Audio A-/ Bonus B

The Book of Eli appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Virtually no concerns arose during this outstanding presentation.

At all times, sharpness remained excellent. I felt the film always looked crisp and detailed, without a hint of softness on display. This meant no signs of jagged edges or moiré effects, and the transfer also lacked edge haloes. Source flaws failed to appear as well; the movie appeared clean and fresh.

Maybe someday a post-apocalyptic film will boast a bright, lively palette, but Eli went with the usual super-colorless palette. The film usually used a dusty, arid sensibility, and it failed to deliver much out of that spectrum. Within those severe restrictions, the tones looked fine. Blacks appeared dark and deep, while shadows seemed clear and well-developed. I felt thoroughly impressed by this terrific transfer.

I also thought the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack worked well. As expected, the movie’s action scenes boasted the most engaging sequences. Those contributed good involvement and punch, as the various elements filled out the room in a satisfying manner. Music always boasted nice stereo presence, and quieter scenes offered a solid sense of atmosphere as well.

Audio quality seemed satisfying. Music was vibrant and full, and speech appeared crisp and concise. Effects provided clear, accurate elements with fine bass response. The movie gave us a perfectly solid soundtrack.

Book came with a fairly broad array of extras. An occasional staple of Warner Bros. Blu-rays, Maximum Movie Mode contributes an interactive component. These show picture-in-picture interviews as well as storyboards, 3D previz and concept art. The PiP bits include comments from directors Albert and Allen Hughes, first AD JP Wetzel, VFX supervisor Jon Farhat, producers Broderick Johnson, David Valdes, Andrew A. Cosove and Joel Silver, screenwriter Gary Whitta, director of photography Don Burgess, concept artist Tommy Lee Edwards, set designer John Chichester, production designer Gae Buckley, prop master David Gulick, and actors Denzel Washington, Jennifer Beals, Mila Kunis, and Malcolm McDowell. These cover the film’s sets and locations, visual design and cinematography, visual effects, cast and performances, story and characters, and the movie’s themes.

Warner’s “Maximum Movie Modes” can be excellent, but this is one of the lesser entries. The content itself seems fine, but we just don’t get much of it. Large expanses of film pass without any information, so it becomes frustrating to sit through a nearly two-hour flick for only dollops of details. If you’re very patient, “MMM” is worth a look, but it’s not especially satisfying.

We can check out the 10 Focus Points on their own or as branches of “Maximum Movie Mode”. We find “The Look of Eli” (3:32), “Underpass Fight” (3:11), “Building Carnegie’s Town” (3:16), “The Motorcycle Brigade” (2:59), “Eli Goes to Battle” (3:29), “Eli’s Mission” (1:54), “Shootout at George and Martha’s” (3:53), “Eli’s Weapon of Choice” (2:15), “Solara Causes Mayhem” (6:24), and “Apocalyptic San Francisco” (3:28). Across these, we hear from Allen and Albert Hughes, Valdes, Edwards, Silver, Buckley, Johnson, Farhat, Washington, Whitta, Kosove, Gulick, Wetzel, storyboard artist Chris Weston, martial arts trainer Dan Inosanto, set designer Derrick Clyburn-Ballard, special effects supervisor Yves De Bono, stunt coordinator Jeff Imada, script supervisor Pam Fuller, and actors Gary Oldman, Frances de la Tour, Michael Gambon and Evan Jones.

The “Points” look at visual design and storyboards, stunts and action sequences, visual effects, building some sets, weapons and props. These offer concise coverage of the material. Because they tend to follow the movie’s storyline, they aren’t as disjointed as they could be, and they provide worthwhile information about the shoot.

For some backstory about the Carnegie character, we go to the five-minute Lost Tale: Billy. This shows us aspects of Carnegie’s childhood before the war. The parts that give hints about what led to the big conflagration are interesting, but the info about Carnegie’s white trash youth are less compelling. The short is moderately fun but not especially memorable.

Two featurettes appear under Behind the Story. We get “Starting Over” (13:03) and “Eli’s Journey” (17:54). These include notes from Allen and Albert Hughes, Johnson, Beals, Whitta, Washington, Kunis, Kosove, Farhat, Edwards, Weston, Clyburn-Ballard, Silver, Imada, Oldman, Beals, California Lutheran University Assistant Professor of Religion Dr. Sam Thomas, CSULA School of Social Work Professor Dr. Susan Crimmins, USC Professor of Political Science Richard H. Dekmejian, USC Associate Professor of Social Work Helen Land, and USC International Relations and Political Science Professor of Law Edwin M. Smith. “Starting” discusses what the world would be like after an apocalypse, while “Journey” examines the film’s visual take on its subject, characters and performances, and the flick’s message/themes.

Neither program proves to be especially valuable. Though “Over” has the potential to provide a good examination of what a destroyed world would be like, it tends to simply act as basic promotion for the movie, as all the theories neatly coincide with areas depicted in Book. As for “Journey”, it mostly just regurgitates basic movie info we’ve already heard elsewhere. Neither show flops, but neither becomes particularly compelling.

Four Deleted/Alternate Scenes run a total of one minute, 53 seconds. The only one of any significance shows a coda for Carnegie. Others are pretty forgettable and short.

Finally, The Book of Eli Soundtrack lasts four minutes, 59 seconds and features Allen Hughes and composer Atticus Ross. They discuss the film’s score in this moderately interesting piece. It feels a bit superficial and promotional, but a few good tidbits emerge.

An ad for Lottery Ticket opens the disc. No trailer for Book pop up here.

A second disc offers two elements. For one, it provides a standard DVD version of the film. Note that this doesn’t simply duplicate the DVD you can buy on its own; it’s a more barebones affair. However, it allows fans without Blu-ray capabilities a way to watch the movie until they do take the Blu plunge.

The second platter also includes a digital copy of Book. This allows you to slap the flick on a computer or portable gizmo.

At its best, The Book of Eli gives us an exciting, compelling action-oriented western. Unfortunately, it only occasionally reaches these heights, and too much of it falters with dull characters and extended exposition. The Blu-ray boasts excellent visuals, strong audio, and an erratic but generally good set of supplements. While I find the movie to disappoint, I like enough of it to offer a rental recommendation. It should’ve been better, but it still has some positive qualities.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.4761 Stars Number of Votes: 63
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main