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Alfonso Cuarón
Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris, Orto Ignatiussen, Phaldut Sharma, Amy Warren, Basher Savage
Writing Credits:
Alfonso Cuarón, Jonás Cuarón

Gravity, directed by Oscar nominee Alfonso Cuaron, stars Oscar winners Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in a heart-pounding thriller that pulls you into the infinite and unforgiving realm of deep space. Bullock plays Dr. Ryan Stone, a brilliant medical engineer on her first shuttle mission, with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (Clooney). But on a seemingly routine spacewalk, disaster strikes. The shuttle is destroyed, leaving Stone and Kowalsky completely alone.

Box Office:
$100 million.
Opening Weekend
$55.785 million on 3575 screens.
Domestic Gross
$268.172 million.

Rated PG-13

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby 5.1
Spanish Dolby 5.1
Portuguese Dolby 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 91 min.
Price: $14.95
Release Date: 2/25/2014

• “Mission Control” 9-Part Documentary
• 5 “Shot Breakdowns”
• “Collision Point: The Race to Clean Up Space” Documentary
Aningaaq Short Film
• Film Festivals Footage
• Preview
• 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.


Gravity [Blu-Ray] (2013)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 20, 2014)

According to common thinking, when leading ladies reach “a certain age”, they lose box office luster and get pigeonholed into a limited set of roles. Whereas these actresses once played romantic interests, as they age they find themselves left with supporting parts as mothers and similar characters.

Don’t tell Sandra Bullock, as she seems determined to break that trend. Yeah, she looked headed down that path a few years ago, as she earned an Oscar for her work as a supportive mother in The Blind Side, but 2013 shows that Sandy probably won’t get forced into middle-aged mom parts any time soon.

Indeed, 2013 may go down as Bullock’s best year ever, at least in terms of box office. At the age of 49, first she played an FBI agent in the rollicking, profane hit comedy The Heat, and then she managed to take the lead as a potentially doomed astronaut in Gravity. The Heat took in $229 million around the globe, which seems like a fine total – until you look at what Gravity did. It topped out around $700 million worldwide and snared 10 Oscar nominations – not bad for a sci-fi action flick, right?

During a mission to repair the Hubble telescope, a team of astronauts needs to endure a major crisis. When the Russians use a missile to destroy a defunct satellite, all hell breaks loose, as the debris flies through space and takes down everything it encounters.

That includes the space shuttle and related elements. Astronaut Shariff (Phaldut Sharma) gets killed almost immediately, and specialist Ryan Stone (Bullock) finds herself cut adrift and floating in space. Veteran commander Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) remains cool and saves her, but a variety of challenges await them. We follow their attempts to stay alive and make it to a functioning space station while they continue to evade debris that returns every 90 minutes.

Going into Gravity, I feared it’d be one of those movies that tells you everything in its trailer. After all, it didn’t seem like a film that would come heavy on plot. As I went into the story, I worried it’d be 90 minutes of Bullock as she floated through space and cried for help.

Which is kinda sorta what happens, actually, though the movie manages more depth and breadth than that. Included along the way, you’ll get a minor treatise on faith and perseverance.

But those don’t become a substantial element here, as they remain subtext more than anything else. Instead, Gravity turns into a basic survival tale, one that gains power from its unusual setting. Granted, it does come with a bit of an Apollo 13 vibe, but it manages a different feel, so it doesn’t come across like a rip-off of that classic.

Probably the biggest change comes from the claustrophobic focus of Gravity. While Apollo mixed shots of the astronauts with scenes at NASA and with family members, Gravity never leaves space. We only see the (living) faces of two characters – we glimpse Shariff after he dies – and the film never leaves their perspectives. While we hear from mission control in Houston, the story doesn’t take us there, so we’re forced into the POVs of the astronauts – which means primarily Stone, as the tale concentrates on her side of matters.

That’s a smart move, as it allows the movie to become more intense. Shots of mission control or others on Earth would give the audience a change to breath; that's not necessarily a bad thing – and it worked for Apollo 13 - but for the tale being told here, the tight focus makes sense. We get enough backstory from the astronauts’ dialogue to flesh out the roles and not make us feel we miss anything due to the tight focus.

Given the spareness of the plot, it becomes important that we bond with the leads, and we do. Stone can seem a little annoying at times, though I find it hard to call this unrealistic; a newcomer to space, it makes sense that she’d be as freaked out as she is. Bullock manages to play her in a natural manner that feels believable, and Clooney adds the right kind of charm and “can-do spirit” to his part.

Gravity bathes all of this in spectacular visual effects. Unlike Apollo 13 - with its ample Earth-bound footage – almost everything we see here takes place in space, which means the filmmakers need to create it all in a studio. The various production teams do this in terrific fashion, as they create the genuine illusion that we find our characters in the Earth’s orbit.

That said, I wouldn’t call Gravity an “effects movie”. It uses the visuals to immerse us in the situations, so the visuals add to our engagement.

All of this adds up to a fine film. I admit I don’t love Gravity as much as some, mainly because the spare nature of the narrative can be an issue for me. Nonetheless, it’s a minor concern, as the action and drama found here make the end result a winner.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio A/ Bonus B+

Gravity appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. This tended to be an appealing presentation.

Overall clarity seemed solid. Perhaps an outgrowth of the heavy visual effects usage, a smidgen of softness occasionally occurred, but that was a minor complaint. The vast majority of the film came across as accurate and concise. I saw no signs of jaggies or moiré effects, and the image lacked both edge haloes and source flaws.

With its orbital setting, the palette tended toward a bluish feel. This made sense and still allowed for other hues, mainly yellows influenced by the sun. The colors seemed accurate and well-rendered. Blacks appeared deep and dark, and shadows – which became a significant factor here – looked smooth and concise. I felt pleased with this transfer.

Even better, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Gravity added strong involvement to the experience. From start to finish, the movie used all the channels in an engrossing manner, as elements cropped up from around the room on a virtually constant basis.

This meant all forms of auditory material. Music was an active participant, and the mix placed dialogue in the side and rear speakers frequently. Effects added pep when appropriate – most notably in the action scenes – and placed us in the environments well, though in an unusual way. The film adhered to the silence of space, so effects came from the POVs of the characters and the occasional interior scenes. These methods created a good take on the auditory opportunities.

Audio quality pleased. Speech was concise and distinctive, while music showed nice range and punch. Effects brought out clear, accurate elements as well, with nice low-end when appropriate. The soundtrack accentuated the film in a fine way.

Among formal extras, we get a nine-part documentary called Mission Control. It runs a total of one hour, 46 minutes, 36 seconds and includes comments from writer/director/producer Alfonso Cuaron, writer Jonas Cuaron, producer David Heyman, visual effects supervisor Tim Webber, visual effects producers Charles Howell and Richard Graham, executive producer Nikki Penny, compositing supervisor Anthony Smith, animation supervisor Max Solomon, CG lighting supervisor Paul Beilby, motion control robots operator Jeff Linnell, CG sequence supervisor Stuart Penn, additional compositing supervisor Kyle McCulloch, movement coach Francesca Jaynes, special effects supervisor Manex Efrem, physical trainer Simone Ayesa, stunt coordinator Franklin Henson, movement artists Avye Leventis, Mikey Brett and Robin Guiver, special effects floor supervisor Alan Young, production designer Andy Nicholson, supervising art director Mark Scruton, CG modelling supervisor Ben Lambert, HOD modeller Pierre Bohanna, costume designer Jany Temime, editor Mark Sanger, CG supervisor Chris Lawrence, supervising sound editor/sound designer Glenn Freemantle, re-recording mixer/sound design editor Niv Adiri, supervising dialogue/ADR editor Nina Hartstone, composer Steven Price, musician Alasdair Malloy, and actors George Clooney and Sandra Bullock.

“Control” looks at script/story/character areas, cinematography and the depiction of space sequences, various effects and filming “zero G” shots, cast, training and performances, sets, costumes and visual design, editing, audio, music, and other elements.

Initially I felt disappointed that the disc lacked an audio commentary, but given the length and complexity of “Control”, that feeling quickly faded. Indeed, due to the film’s intense focus on visual elements, this super-long documentary probably acts as a better complement since it shows us the techniques as we hear from participants. “Control” covers the film in a thorough and satisfying manner.

Five Shot Breakdowns cover a total of 36 minutes, 48 seconds. In these, we hear from Alfonso Cuaron, Tim Webber, Paul Beilby, Max Solomon, Niv Adiri, Glenn Freemantle, Steven Price, Manex Efrem, Franklin Henson, Chris Lawrence, Anthony Smith, David Heyman, Francesca Jaynes, Sandra Bullock, Pierre Bohanna, Andy Nicholson, Jonas Cuaron, additional unit lighting supervisor Ashley Palin, CG effects supervisor Alexis Wajsbrot, and visual effects creators Ian Cope and Tony Clark. These examine elements related to astronauts’ visors, the fire in the space station, Dr. Stone’s “rebirth”, sound design in space, and splashdown. This means the featurettes show the various components that came together to create the complicated sequences.

The “Breakdowns” area feels like an extension of the “Mission Control” compilation. Created by the same production company, the featurettes progress in the same manner and come with the same vibe. I regard that as a good thing; since “Control” works so well, I’m happy to find more of the same here. The “Breakdowns” offer a lot more useful information.

A documentary entitled Collision Point: The Race to Clean Up Space goes for 22 minutes, 28 seconds. Narrated by Ed Harris, the piece includes notes from Alfonso Cuaron, former NASA Senior Scientist for Orbital Debris Research Don Kessler, Center for Orbital/Reentry Debris Studies principal engineer, Dr. William Ailor, Packing for Mars author Mary Roach, retired NASA astronaut Dr. Dan T. Barry, Aerospace Corporation Senior Engineering Specialist Dr. Roger C. Thompson, Integrity Applications Incorporated technical director Darren McKnight, Aerospace Corporation Associate Principal Director Ted Muelhaupt, and University of Southampton senior aerospace engineer and lecturer Dr. Hugh Lewis.

The program examines issues related to debris that orbits space. Obviously this subject connects to Gravity in a close manner; indeed, the show uses ample footage from the film. It becomes a pretty compelling look at the problem and possible solutions.

Next we get a short film called Aningaaq. Directed by Alfonso’s brother Jonas, it lasts six minutes, 53 seconds and shows the tale of a character who remains off-screen during Gravity. It’s interesting to see, but I prefer leaving the earth-bound character’s actions to the imagination.

We can watch Aningaaq with or without a three-minute, 18-second introduction from Alfonso and Jonas Cuaron. They give us set-up for the short and their inspiration for it. The intro allows us to get a good perspective for the film.

Finally, Film Festivals just shows a list of 14 festivals at which Gravity was an “Official Selection”. It’s a waste of time.

The disc opens with an ad for Her. No trailer for Gravity shows up here.

A second disc presents a DVD copy of Gravity. It includes Aningaaq but lacks any of the other extras.

One of 2013’s big critical and commercial hits, Gravity provides an unusual take on a “castaway” story. It mixes a tight narrative with strong acting and excellent visual effects. The Blu-ray delivers very good picture and bonus materials along with awesome audio. I like the movie and feel pleased with its home video representation.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.2 Stars Number of Votes: 30
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