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LIONS GATE

MOVIE INFO
Director:
Oliver Stone
Cast:
Val Kilmer, Meg Ryan, Kyle MacLachlan, Frank Whaley, Kevin Dillon, Michael Wincott, Kathleen Quinlan
Screenplay:
Oliver Stone and J. Randal Johnson

Tagline:
The Ultimate Story of Sex, Drugs & Rock 'N' Roll
Synopsis:
The story of the famous and influential 1960s rock band and its lead singer and composer, Jim Morrison, from his days as a UCLA film student in Los Angeles, to his untimely death in Paris, France at age 27 in 1971.
Box Office:
Budget: $38 million
Domestic Gross: $35,183,792.
MPAA:
Rated R.

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 7.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 138 min.
Price: $9.99
Release Date: 8/12/2008

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary With Director Oliver Stone
• Deleted Scenes
• “The Doors in LA” Featurette
• “Jim Morrison: Poet in Paris” Documentary
• “The Road to Excess” Documentary
• Original Featurette
• Trailers, TV Spots and Previews


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EQUIPMENT
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.

RELATED REVIEWS


The Doors [Blu-Ray] (1991)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 23, 2015)

Although I’ve long loved the music of the 1960s, my emphasis focused on the British bands of the era. Examine the period’s most famous bands, and I adore them all: the Beatles, the Stones, the Kinks and the Who remain cherished musical heroes of mine.

My affection never related to the era’s American acts, however. Actually, I like Motown to a moderate degree, but the West Coast rock bands always left me cold. I respect the skill Brian Wilson displayed in the Beach Boys, but I never took much interest in the music.

For me, Jimi Hendrix probably was the best of the rest of the bunch, but for all his incredible talent as a guitarist, he didn’t do much else of interest; his songs were nothing special. He maintains his place in rock history as perhaps the greatest guitar player of all-time, but I don’t think that he deserves nearly as much credit for other aspects of his music.

Although I’m not wild about Hendrix, he remains easily my favorite of the American acts that emerged in the latter half of the 1960s. The other prominent groups all have virtually no appeal for me. I’ve disliked the Grateful Dead for many years, and I never cared for others like the Jefferson Airplane either. The less said about the many short-lived psychedelic groups from the period, the better.

Into this category of “overrated bands” I definitely include the Doors. During my teen years, I briefly tried to like them - for the record, I’ve attempted to get into the music of all the acts I’ve discussed - but I could never find much of substance to their rambling, pretentious material.

Apparently Oliver Stone disagrees with me, since he decided to focus on the band during his 1991 rock biopic The Doors. The title offers something of a misnomer since the movie isn’t really about the band; the emphasis falls strongly on lead singer Jim Morrison (Val Kilmer).

The story briefly touches upon Morrison’s youth, when we witness an incident that allegedly greatly affected his psyche. After that, we skip forward to the mid-Sixties when UCLA film student Morrison befriends fellow cinephile Ray Manzarek (Kyle MacLachlan) and they soon get involved in a band that becomes named the Doors. Along with singer Morrison and keyboardist Manzarek, we find drummer John Densmore (Kevin Dillon) and guitarist Robbie Krieger (Frank Whaley).

The tale of the band’s rise intertwines with Jim’s romantic life. The latter largely involves his dealings with Pamela Courson (Meg Ryan), who Morrison eventually marries. This affair doesn’t keep Jim from diddling every other chick he meets, however, with a main emphasis on spooky writer Patricia Kennealy (Kathleen Quinlan). Morrison bopped from woman to woman with little rhyme or reason, at least as depicted in this semi-incoherent film.

I appreciate that Stone confronted a daunting task as he adapted Morrison’s life story for film. Rock biopics are usually very conventional and mostly follow the same path, as we see how the band forms, rises to fame, and eventually dissolves. This format probably works best with fictional subject matter, such as in That Thing You Do!; real-life topics require some fidelity to the truth, which restricts options.

Stone clearly wanted to do something different with The Doors, and he indeed creates an unusual rock biography. However, Stone can’t successfully shed the conventions of the genre; he attempts to work outside the box but these stabs simply make the film rambling and nonsensical at times. Rather than add to the movie’s sense of freedom and verve, his experiments just lead to an incoherent narrative that leaves the viewer bored and disinterested.

The picture works best when it focuses on the band, but even those moments are erratic. A lot of the problem stems from Stone’s overemphasis on the Morrison character. We’re usually led to see him as a visionary and the other members of the Doors as reactionary squares who just want to make a buck. Jim wants to “break on through to the other side” but they’d prefer to cash in on their fame through jingles.

This tone isn’t fair to the other Doors and would appear misguided even if it were accurate. Frankly, Morrison just wasn’t terribly talented. His lyrics were laughably pretentious and overblown, and his stage presence seemed obnoxious and self-absorbed. The band’s songs tended to be overindulgent and long-winded and lacked much substance. I can’t deny some of Morrison’s magnetism, and there’s no question that he was the lead force in the band - at least publicly - but despite what the movie tells us, he wasn’t the entire show.

Probably the strongest aspect of The Doors stems from its performances. For the most part, it’s a well-acted film, with only a few exceptions.

Kilmer got shafted when he didn’t receive an Oscar nomination for his work as Morrison. Kilmer provides a thoroughly convincing and believable performance as the Lizard King and makes him a living person despite Stone’s emphasis on the more sordid aspects of his personality. Kilmer looks and sounds eerily like Morrison in the film, but his excellent portrayal goes beyond simple impersonation to strongly encompass the character.

Most of the remaining actors do the best with what they get, which isn’t much. As I alluded, the other Doors are little more than cardboard chumps in the movie, and the portrait of Kennealy just shows her as a horny witch - literally - she believes that whole Wiccan deal, and the real Kennealy cameos as a priestess.

Ryan becomes the film’s only seriously miscast participant. She seems radically out of place in the era’s permissive culture and Ryan appears unable to adapt her usual chirpy personality to the sordid activity around her. She feels self-conscious and false in the role, and it becomes extremely hard to understand why Morrison put up with her for so long.

Ultimately, The Doors isn’t a bad film, but it seems excessively long and unfocused. Since those phrases also apply to most of the band’s music, perhaps these tendencies become appropriate, but they leave me cold nonetheless. I appreciate Oliver Stone’s attempts to create something different in this rock biopic, but the end result is fairly unsatisfying.


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

The Doors appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though not a terrible presentation, the image came with problems.

Edge haloes created the most obvious issues, as notable haloes showed up throughout the movie. These gave the film an unappealing look at times and affected sharpness. Definition usually seemed decent to good, but the image lacked the delineation it should’ve delivered. I also sensed a “digital” look to the proceedings, as it didn’t look especially film-like. At least print flaws remained minimal.

In terms of colors, Doors tended toward hot hues, with an emphasis on orange. That became too much of a trend, I thought, as it made skin tones less than natural, but overall, the colors were satisfying. Blacks tended to be a little inky, and shadows lacked great smoothness. This would’ve been a much better presentation without the digital “sharpening”.

The DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundfield favored the forward channels, which provided engaging stereo separation for the music. Not surprisingly, the songs of the Doors were the stars of the show, and these tunes came across as accurate and well-defined. Some fine ambiance also can be heard in the front speakers, as the track presented a nicely natural and well-placed mix.

The surrounds kicked in some support of the songs and also added a lot of atmospheric effects as well. These aspects significantly aided the impact of the movie’s “trippier” scenes and gave the film a solid presence. I found the soundfield to be both appropriate throughout the movie.

Audio quality was fine. Speech appeared natural and concise, without obvious edginess or other issues. Music offered good clarity but could’ve boasted better low-end; bass response seemed a bit lacking. Effects were accurate and full. This was a satisfactory mix.

When we shift to extras, we start with an audio commentary from writer/director Oliver Stone. Although this was a fairly good track, I must admit I found it moderately disappointing because it didn’t live up to the high quality of many of Stone’s other commentaries.

Stone tends to discuss the facts of Morrison’s life - and also refers to instances where he used creative license - or he talks about technical aspects of making the film. Stone briefly touches on the ways that the music moved him and other cultural issues, but these stay in the minority.

It’s a drier commentary than his impassioned discussions of Heaven and Earth and JFK, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad track. Because other Stone spiels tend to be so good, he raised my expectations, so while his talk about The Doors is as good or better than most other commentaries, it doesn’t match up with Stone’s more compelling efforts. For fans of the film, the track definitely merits a listen, but it’s not a great piece.

Called The Road to Excess, a 38-minute, 42-second piece combines shots from the film, some footage from the set, real images of Morrison and the other Doors, plus “modern” (circa 1997) interviews with Stone, Kilmer, Whaley, Richard Rutowski, and real-life Patricia Kennealy and Robbie Krieger. It’s a gloriously honest and up-front work that seems consistently entertaining and compelling.

The participants shed a lot of light on the production and also just how realistic its depictions were; apparently Kennealy is still cheesed about the way she was portrayed, and justifiably since Stone made her character a composite of a bunch of women. The program flew by due to the excess of fascinating information; it’s a terrific piece.

14 Deleted Scenes fill a total of 43 minutes, 36 seconds of excised footage; note that the running time includes an introduction from Stone that briefly discusses each piece and indicates why he made his choices.

Many of the snippets offer extended versions of existing scenes. A few seem interesting and might have merited inclusion - especially a scene in which Morrison cries after sex with a couple of teenage girls - but for the most part, Stone made the right choice. The movie runs too long as it is, and these pieces would have added to the slowness. Nonetheless, it’s fun to see them here.

We find a six-minute, 19-second original featurette that aired around the time of the film’s 1991 theatrical release. Essentially it’s a glorified trailer that mainly promotes the movie, though it adds some mildly interesting sound bites and some good shots from the set. These elements are good enough to merit a watch, but don’t expect anything terrific from the program.

The Doors In LA lasts 19 minutes, 37 seconds and offers notes from Stone, Krieger, band member John Densmore, Rock Odyssey author Ian Whitcomb, I’m with the Band author Pamela des Barres, music industry publicist Laura Kaufman, and Three Dog Night keyboardist Jimmy Greenspoon. “LA” offers a quick history of the Doors, and it does an efficient enough job of this.

A French documentary, Jim Morrison: A Poet in Paris goes for 52 minutes, eight seconds and presents info from author/composer/performer Phil Steele-Trainer, author/composer Philippe Dalecky, historian Herve Luxardo, author/composer/actor Jean-Luc Debattice, music producer Gilles Yepremyan, French fan club president Nicolas Lejeune, coroner Michele Rudler, and director/actor Laurent Sauvage. “Poet” tells us about Morrison’s late in life stay in Paris and aspects of his time there.

While it comes with some decent notes, “Poet” mostly takes a lot of time to tell us a little. We tend to hear more about the speakers and their thoughts about Morrison’s work than about Morrison himself. That makes this a passable but slow documentary.

The disc opens with ads for Rambo, Liquid, Belly, 3:10 to Yuma and Crank. We also get a trailer for Doors and five TV spots.

While The Doors is a fairly weak movie as a whole, at least it tried to be something different and gave us an unusual experience. Granted, it fails to achieve most of its goals, but the film offers some moments of interest, largely due to a strong performance by Val Kilmer. The Blu-ray brings us good audio and supplements but visuals suffer from problems. The Doors remains a sporadically provocative movie but it lacks consistency.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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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