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Drake Doremus
Nicholas Hoult, Kristen Stewart, Guy Pearce, Jacki Weaver
Writing Credits:
Nathan Parker

In an emotionless utopia, two people fall in love when they regain their feelings from a mysterious disease, causing tensions between them and their society.

Rated PG-13.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 101 min.
Price: $24.99
Release Date: 9/6/2016

• Audio Commentary with Director Drake Doremus, Cinematographer John Guleserian and Editor Jonathan Alberts
• “Switched On” Featurette
• “The Collective” Featurette
• “Utopia” Featurette
• Previews


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.


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Equals [Blu-Ray] (2016)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 28, 2016)

With 2016’s Equals, we get a science-fiction film that looks at romance in a sterile future society. In this era, the world lives in so-called peace and harmony due to the elimination of most disease – and all emotions.

In the midst of this stable but cold world, something called “Switched-On Disorder” starts to affect some inhabitants – including a young illustrator named Silas (Nicholas Hoult). This “disease” leads his emotions to blossom, and when it also impacts co-worker Nia (Kristen Stewart), the pair grow close to each other as they attempt to deal with societal ramifications.

I would find it tough to argue that Equals doesn’t wear its influences on its sleeve. Any semi-literate film fan will note that it reflects a slew of other movies, as it will remind viewers of flicks like THX-1138 and Gattaca with a whole lot of Orwell and Kubrick thrown in as well. Heck, we even find some Romeo and Juliet along the way.

To its credit, I don’t think that Equals comes across as an overt rip-off of its predecessors. Perhaps because the film combines so many influences, it doesn’t flaunt any one of them in a particularly strong manner – though the 1984 vibe probably dominates.

This allows Equals to create its own identity among its many nods toward other works, but this doesn’t mean it gives us an especially compelling story. Aspects of the film work well but the whole package never quite coalesces into something memorable.

On the positive side, I like the film’s restraint. Even as the lead characters develop their emotions and rebel against society, Equals keeps matters reasonably subdued. Whatever paths the story takes, it maintains a certain sense of chilliness that fits the film.

That said, Equals might be a little too detached for its own good. The problem comes from our connection to the leads – or lack thereof. While we should bond with and care for Silas and Nia, we never really do. They remain interesting in an abstract manner but we fail to connect to them in a meaningful manner. I guess it counts as ironic that in a movie about emotional connections, we never manage to attach ourselves to the characters.

To be fair, Equals still manages some impact, and it demonstrates excellent production design. The movie creates a future society that doesn’t seem particularly original, but it still works.

I just wish the movie boasted more emotional thrust. I respect Equals and find that aspects of it work, but it lacks the drama needed to make it a greater success.

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

Equals appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. This was a largely appealing presentation.

Though not razor-sharp, the image reflected positive delineation. In truth, the cinematography often opted for an intentionally hazy look, so I couldn’t fault the movie’s mild softness.

Much of the material demonstrated good clarity anyway, and I saw no jaggies or shimmering. Edge haloes remained absent, and I saw no print flaws.

The movie’s palette opted for a heavy blue orientation much of the time, though it added some orange as well. These stylistic choices limited the film's range but the hues seemed well-reproduced. Blacks were fairly dark, and shadows showed reasonable range, though some low-light shots could be a bit murky. Given the movie’s visual preferences, the Blu-ray replicated it pretty well.

As for the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1, it tended to be low-key. The soundscape concentrated mainly on music, which spread across the channels well. Effects tended toward general ambience, as the movie lacked showy sequences. The various elements added a little involvement to matters but left things fairly subdued.

Audio quality worked fine. Music was full and clear, while the effects showed good accuracy and clarity. Speech also seemed natural and concise. Nothing here impressed, but the mix fit the material.

As we shift to extras, we start with an audio commentary from director Drake Doremus, cinematographer John Guleserian and editor Jonathan Alberts. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific look at story/character areas, cast and performances, sets and locations, visual design and cinematography, effects, editing, music, and connected topics.

Though we do learn a fair amount about the movie, the commentary suffers from excessive praise. In particular, Doremus seems to constantly tell us what he loves about the film. Some of this is okay, but the frequent outbursts of praise make the track less effective than it should be.

Three featurettes follow. Switched On runs eight minutes, 15 seconds and involves Doremus, producers Jay Stern, Chip Diggins and Michael Pruss, screenwriter Nathan Parker and actors Nicholas Hoult and Kristen Stewart. The show looks at themes/story, the movie’s origins and development, and performance/character areas. Some of this repeats info from the commentary, but “Switched” adds some useful new notes.

The Collective goes for 13 minutes, 35 seconds and features Stewart, Hoult, Doremus, Parker, and actor Jacki Weaver. The piece examines rehearsals, cast, characters and performances. “Collective” delivers a fairly introspective look at its subjects.

Finally, Utopia lasts 30 minutes, 11 seconds and provides notes from Doremus, Parker, Hoult, Stewart, Pruss, producers Georgina Pope and Ann Ruark, production designers Katie Byron and Tino Schaedler, art director Kikuo Ota, supervising art director Jason Hougaard, and food stylist Yuri Nomura. We get info about production design, sets and locations, and other visual elements. Like its predecessors, “Utopia” becomes an involving examination of the film.

The disc opens with ads for Into the Forest, Swiss Army Man, The Lobster, Green Room and The Adderall Diaries. No trailer for Equals appears here.

As much as I appreciate its attempt to offer an introspective examination of emotions, Equals remains a little too chilly for its own good. The movie keeps the viewer too detached to coalesce into an involving tale. The Blu-ray offers generally positive picture and audio with informative bonus materials. Parts of Equals work but the whole seems like less than the sum of its parts.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
0 3:
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