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MAGNOLIA

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Don Coscarelli
Cast:
Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, Paul Giamatti, Clancy Brown, Glynn Turman, Doug Jones, Daniel Roebuck
Writing Credits:
Don Coscarelli, David Wong (story)

Tagline:
Just so you know ... they're sorry for anything that's about to happen.

Synopsis:
It's all about the Soy Sauce, a drug that promises an out-of-body experience with each hit. But some who come back are no longer human. Suddenly a silent otherworldly invasion is underway, and mankind needs a hero. What it gets instead is John and David, a pair of college dropouts who can barely hold down jobs.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$12.467 thousand on 1 screen.
Domestic Gross
$141.307 thousand.

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: 99 min.
Price: $26.98
Release Date: 4/2/2013

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Don Coscarelli and Producer Brad Baruh and Actors Chase Williamson and Rob Mayes
• Seven Deleted Scenes
• “Getting Sauced: The Making of John Dies at the End” Featurette
• “Creature Corps: The Effects of Soy Sauce” Featurette
• Casting Sessions
• Fangoria Interview with Paul Giamatti
• Previews and Trailers


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

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


John Dies At The End (2012)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 11, 2013)

How does a “spoiler alert” conscious critic deal with a movie whose very title is a spoiler? That’s the issue with 2012’s John Dies At the End, a film for which the big question becomes whether or not its name comes true.

After some action that hints at supernatural elements, we flash back to meet David Wong (Chase Williamson), a slacker in his early twenties. One night his friend John (Rob Mayes) calls in a panic and tells Dave about a drug called “Soy Sauce”. This allows the user to boast telepathic skills and transcend the bounds of space and time.

That sounds good, but it comes with a price, as it appears that the Sauce has opened a door to evil. Assisted by the powers the Sauce gives to them, Dave and John work to save the world.

Best known for 1979’s Phantasm, director Don Coscarelli hadn’t made a film since 2002’s lackluster Bubba Ho-Tep. That flick came with a clever concept but suffered from mediocre execution.

Dies goes in the other direction. In terms of story, it tends to be a mess. The film goes with a warped Buckaroo Banzai vibe that often threatens to bury the tale under its sheer weirdness. Honestly, I’m not sure there’s an actual plot on display here, as Dies can feel more like a collection of oddball events and less like a coherent narrative.

That should be a recipe for disaster, but Coscarelli gives the effort such a good sense of kinetic energy that even with the borderline incoherent story, Dies keeps us with it. Though it adds to the potential confusion, the film’s choice to start with action and summarize the concepts works pretty well, mostly because it prevents a sluggish opening. We get a taste of the insanity to expect at the beginning that helps us deal with what will later come.

The sheer weirdness of the film goes a long way to maintain our interest, though I admit a more coherent narrative would’ve been nice. This becomes more evident as the movie progresses, as the lack of clarity occasionally becomes a burden.

Nonetheless, Dies remains a fun, crazy ride across most of its running time. Even when it sags, Coscarelli brings it back fairly quickly, so we’re not left with extended slow spots. A flick this gory and strange won’t be for everyone, but if you’re up for a warped supernatural comedy, this one might work for you.

By the way, you might wonder if the film delivers its title’s promise. I’ll never tell!


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

John Dies At the End appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though not an eye-popping presentation, the transfer served the material well.

Sharpness looked good. A smidgen of softness hit some wider shots, but those instances remained quite insubstantial, so the majority of the flick showed fine clarity and accuracy. Jaggies and shimmering failed to distract, and edge haloes remained absent. The movie also lacked any source flaws and was consistently clean.

In terms of colors, Dies went with subdued tones, as much of the movie featured a brownish tint. The hues never stood out as memorable, but they weren’t supposed to be impressive, so they were fine for this story’s palette. Blacks were pretty deep, and shadows were generally fine. I thought they could be slightly heavy, at times, but not to a problematic degree. The image offered a solid “B+” presentation.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Dies seemed satisfying, as the soundfield proved quite active. The mix offered good stereo imaging for music and also featured a nice level of involvement from effects. These appeared in appropriately localized spots and blended together neatly. Much of the movie seemed fairly chatty, but the supernatural/action elements brought the mix to life and gave it some real kick.

Audio quality was good. Dialogue came across as natural and distinctive, without edginess or other concerns. Effects were concise and accurate, and they demonstrated pretty good oomph when necessary. Music also seemed clean and bold, with nice range. Overall, this was a solid soundtrack.

We get a decent set of extras here. These launch with an audio commentary from writer/director Don Coscarelli, producer Brad Baruh and actors Chase Williamson and Rob Mayes. All four sit together for a running, screen-specific look at the source work and its adaptation, story/character areas, cast and performances, various effects, music, editing and cinematography, sets and locations, and a few other areas.

This develops into an average commentary. On the positive side, it covers a good variety of topics and does so with reasonable depth. Unfortunately, we get a whole lot of happy talk along the way, and those drag down the overall quality of the piece. It remains worth a listen, but it’s no better than okay.

Seven Deleted Scenes fill a total of nine minutes, 38 seconds. These tend toward expository material that fleshes out existing scenes/concepts to a minor degree. Though fine on their own, none of them add anything significant.

Two featurettes follow. Getting Sauced: The Making of John Dies at the End goes for six minutes, 44 seconds and includes comments from Coscarelli, Williamson, Mayes, and executive producer/actor Paul Giamatti. The show looks at the project’s roots and development, aspects of the shoot, story/character notes, and the film’s release. A few decent observations appear, but “Sauced” remains promotional, so don’t expect much from it.

Creature Corps: The Effects of Soy Sauce lasts eight minutes, 36 seconds and features effects producer Robert Kurtzman as he takes us on a tour of his shop. He discusses various practical effects created for the film and gives us close-up looks at their creations. This develops into an engaging take on the topic.

A collection of Casting Sessions occupies seven minutes, 13 seconds. We see try-outs for Mayes, Williamson, and Fabianne Therese. (Oddly, Allison Weissman introduces herself to us but we don’t see her actual audition.) I like footage of this sort and this becomes a nice collection.

Finally, we locate a nine-minute, 50-second Fangoria Interview with Paul Giamatti. The actor/producer chats about his interest in the project, his character, his work as producer, and aspects of the production. Giamatti offers some useful thoughts but doesn’t dig into matters too deeply.

The disc opens with ads for The Sorcerer and the White Snake, Sushi Girl, The ABCs of Death and Storage 24. These show up under Also from Magnolia Home Entertainment as well, and we find two trailers for Dies.

If you can stomach over the top gore and a barely coherent plot, John Dies at the End might work for you. Though the film occasionally threatens to go off the rails, it usually delivers a wild, fun ride. The DVD offers good picture and audio along with a decent selection of bonus materials. Both DVD and movie work fine, so Dies is worth a look.

Viewer Film Ratings: 5 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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