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MOVIE INFO

Director:
John Wells
Cast:
Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper, Kevin Costner, Thomas Kee, Craig Mathers, Gary Galone
Writing Credits:
John Wells

Tagline:
In America, We Give Our Lives To Our Jobs. It's Time To Take Them Back.

Synopsis:
Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) is living the proverbial American dream: great job, beautiful family, shiny Porsche in the garage. When corporate downsizing leaves him and co-workers Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper) and Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones) jobless, the three men are forced to re-define their lives as men, husbands and fathers. He soon finds himself enduring enthusiastic life coaching, a job building houses for his brother-in-law (Kevin Costner) that does not play to his executive skill set, and perhaps - the realization that there is more to life than chasing the bigger, better deal. With humor, pathos, and keen observation, writer-director John Wells (the creator of "ER") introduces us to the new realities of American life.

Box Office:
Budget
$75 million.
Opening Weekend
$45.033 million on 3471 screens.
Domestic Gross
$102.543 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1/16X9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English

Runtime: 105 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 6/7/2011

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director John Wells
• Alternate Ending and Deleted Scenes
• “Making The Company Men” Featurette
• Previews


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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 Company Men (2010)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 14, 2011)

With 2010’s The Company Men, a notable task takes on a story of career-related crisis. Set in 2008, the recession hits hard at the GTX Corporation. The film follows the impact of these employment decisions on three of the employees.

The youngest of the three, Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) gets the boot first, and it seems to hit him the hardest. He enjoyed his slice of the American dream – wife and kids, nice suburban house, Porsche in the driveway – and now must deal with a major career change in his thirties.

On the other end of the employment spectrum, Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper) has been with GTX for decades and worked his way up from the shipyards. This doesn’t save him, so he needs to re-enter the job market at a time when he should be considering retirement.

Executive Vice President Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones) is best friends with company founder Jim Salinger (Craig T. Nelson) and the business’s longest-tenured employee. While that should make him bulletproof, it doesn’t. With a much bigger bank balance than Woodward or Walker, McClary doesn’t need to worry about mortgage payments, but he still finds himself at a crossroads.

Like most ensemble stories, Company Men doesn’t treat all its subjects equally. Affleck gets the main spot on the DVD’s cover, and Bobby plays the biggest part in the movie. Phil earns surprisingly little screen time, and Gene’s tale falls somewhere between the two.

Was the movie always meant to display this imbalance? As I write this, I’ve not screened the DVD’s extras, so the answer may appear there, but I’d guess the answer is no. Men often feels rather truncated, especially in terms of Phil’s story. Cooper actually works minor wonders with the part, as even in severely limited screen time, he gives us a strong impression of his character’s life and personality, but that portion of the film still loses punch due to the lack of presence in the movie. We just don’t see enough of Phil for his tale to mean a lot to us.

Similar issues affect Gene’s plot, though not quite as severely. He earns an actual character arc, which isn’t true for one-dimensional Phil. Gene plays “white knight” through most of the movie and boasts a personal life absent from Phil’s part of the film. That gives him a leg up, even though both play second/third bananas to Bobby.

Even that plot feels abbreviated, though, and that remains one of the movie’s notable concerns. We just don’t get enough time with all the characters to really invest in their tales, and their development seems stilted. For instance, one minute Bobby seems bitter and desperate, while the next, he displays a nearly Zen acceptance of his situation. Why? I have no idea – the change occurs without any obvious reason to motivate it.

Despite these plot flaws, Men manages to be fairly engaging much of the time. At least it moves at a good clip – the story gaps mean it lacks dead time – and it certainly boasts a terrific cast. As mentioned, Cooper does quite well in his role; he’s the best of the bunch as he conveys his character’s anger, desperation and sadness without becoming over-expressive. Jones seems fine, though he relies a bit too much on his hang-dog face to act for him; to some degree, Gene is less a character than a guy with a mopey expression.

Affleck isn’t a particularly natural actor, and he doesn’t excel here. That said, he’s not bad in the role, though unlike Cooper, he can’t elevate the role above the restrictions the screenplay places on him. For much of the movie, Bobby comes across as somewhat unsympathetic; while we feel bad for his circumstance, he’s so stubborn and proud that we want to slap him. Affleck does little to make us care about Bobby, which means he can’t overcome the natural defects the script dumps on the role.

I will give Company Men credit for a general lack of editorializing. Oh, the movie makes it clear that it finds the actions of the big business CEOs reprehensible; Gene acts as the proxy who bemoans the fact the honchos still live in style while they fire employees left and right. Nonetheless, the film doesn’t beat us over the head with its message; it focuses more on the characters than the business ramifications, and it’s better for that.

If only Company Men delivered a more well-rounded experience, I’d be more enthusiastic about it. While it gives us an interesting example of the effects of the recession, it lacks the smooth narrative that would make it a more consistent winner.


The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio C+/ Bonus B-

The Company Men appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The movie came with a pretty ordinary transfer.

Sharpness seemed erratic. Close-ups and two shots provided decent to good definition, but wider elements lacked much clarity. The presence of some edge haloes didn’t help, as they made the image more tentative than I’d like. Jagged edges weren’t an issue, but shimmering cropped up occasionally, and some compression artifacts caused noise along the way. At least source flaws weren’t a factor, as the flick remained clean.

To convey the chilly corporate setting, Men went with a bluish overtones much of the time. Other hues emerged – especially when the film went with family scenes – but the blues dominated. The tones tended to be somewhat flat, as even within the stylized palette, they looked less dynamic than they should. Blacks showed acceptable deepness, and shadows were similarly decent. Nothing about this transfer ever became poor, but the image lacked much clarity and seemed average for SD-DVD.

As for the flick’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, it offered an extremely unassuming presence. The soundscape stayed with subdued material virtually the entire film. Music displayed gentle stereo imaging and general ambience ruled the day. A few scenes at construction sites opened things up a little, but even those were laid-back and without much involving information.

Audio quality was fine though also unexceptional. Speech seemed reasonably natural and concise, and music showed fair range; the score was too subdued to make a huge impact, but it worked well enough. Effects also remained quiet, so they didn’t show great punch, but they were fairly accurate. This was a consistently average track.

We get a decent set of supplements to finish the DVD. We begin with an audio commentary from writer/director John Wells. He delivers a running, screen-specific take on the project's origins and development, script/story/character notes, cast and performances, sets and locations, research and reflections on the economic crisis, cinematography and effects.

From start to finish, Wells gives us an efficient, involving commentary. He covers a good range of subjects and does so in a concise manner. Well tellls us many nice details about the project and makes this a rewarding chat.

In addition to an Alternate Ending (12:52), we get six Deleted Scenes. These fill a total of seven minutes, 16 seconds and include “Bobby’s Stock Tip” (1:10), “Bobby Wakes Up Early” (0:39), “Bobby & His Dad” (0:54), “Gene & His Wife” (1:04), “Extended Dinner” (1:45) and “Phil Looks for Job” (1:38).

The big change between the “Altenate Ending” and the existing finale comes from the source of the job one of the characters accepts; it also shows that this character has learned better how to balance career and home life. It works fine; I don’t think it’s notably better or worse than the existing finale.

As for the other scenes, they’re similarly superfluous. The two with Gene are probably best, as they show his boredom. “Job” is just pathetic; Phil already looks sad in the final cut, so this scene just makes him too pitiful. The three Bobby segments are fine but don’t add anything; we already get so much of the character that we don’t need more.

Making The Company Men runs 14 minutes, 22 seconds and offers notes from Wells and actors Ben Affleck, Maria Bello, Chris Cooper, Rosemarie DeWitt, Tommy Lee Jones, and Kevin Costner. The featurette looks at the economic reality behind the movie’s story, the flick’s influences and development, cast and performances, and Wells’ approach to the project. Since Wells already covers so much in the commentary, we get some repetition here, but it’s still a good overview.

The disc opens with ads for The King’s Speech and Blue Valentine. No trailer for Company Men appears here.

With a timely theme, The Company Men boasts decent relevance. It also manifests some good moments but lacks the consistent narrative and balance that would make it more compelling. The DVD comes with fairly average picture, audio and supplements. This becomes a moderately interesting film but not an especially great one.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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