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UNIVERSAL

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Peter Berg
Cast:
Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper, Jason Bateman, Jeremy Piven, Ashraf Barhom, Ali Suliman
Writing Credits:
Matthew Michael Carnahan

Tagline:
Trust No One.

Synopsis:
FBI Special Agent Ronald Fleury (Jamie Foxx) assembles an eclectic team (Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper, Jason Bateman) for a mission inside Saudi Arabia to find and capture a terrorist responsible for a deadly attack on Americans. However, the agents find themselves strangers in a very strange land until a native police captain takes them under his wing and helps them navigate the deadly streets of Riyadh.

Box Office:
Budget
$80 million.
Opening Weekend
$17.135 million on 2793 screens.
Domestic Gross
$47.456 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French

Runtime: 110 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 12/26/2007

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Peter Berg
• Deleted Scenes 11:06
• “Character By Character: The Apartment Shootout” Featurette
• “Constructing the Freeway Sequence” Featurette
• “Creating The Kingdom” Documentary
• “History of The Kingdom: An Interactive Timeline”
• Previews


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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


The Kingdom (2007)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 7, 2008)

Eventually audiences may take toward films that look at the situation in the Middle East, but that probably won’t occur while Americans remain involved in a war there. While 2007’s The Kingdom stays out of Iraq and doesn’t deal with the formal war on terrorism, it flirts with those topics and it probably comes to close to them for the liking of most. The box office results bear that out, as the flick took in a decidedly lackluster $46 million in the US.

I don’t know if results like that will affect the production of other Middle East-based efforts, but if those come to fruition, I hope they’re more insightful and engaging than The Kingdom. After a quick prologue that sets up the relationship among the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the US, oil and terrorism, we see a terrorist attack on oil company employees in Riyadh. FBI Legal Attaché Francis Manner (Kyle Chandler) immediately contacts Ronald Fleury (Jamie Foxx), the leader of an American Rapid Deployment Team. However, as the dust settles, another bomb explodes and makes matters even more serious.

Fleury organizes his team, a group that includes bomb technician Grant Sykes (Chris Cooper), intelligence analyst Adam Leavitt (Jason Bateman) and forensic examiner Janet Mayes. The authorities don’t want them to go take care of things in Saudi Arabia, as they worry a US military presence there will make matters worse. However, Fleury uses connections to get covert approval for the mission, so the foursome make their way east. The movie follows their investigation and its connected complications.

If you hope to find a complex, introspective view of the situation in the Middle East, stay away from The Kingdom. The movie’s clunky opening sequence sets up the connections among various factions, and that section prompts us to think that the film will follow a political point of view, one that opens up matters and creates a thoughtful examination of the issues.

Nope. The Kingdom has more in common with the “might makes right” world of Rambo than it’d like to believe, and the result gives us a one-dimensional take on its topics. Occasionally it pays lip service to the concept of Muslims as Real Human Beings, but not often. Instead, it sticks with an almost uniformly American point of view, a slant that leaves little room for nuance or interpretation.

Of course, in this sort of movie, the ignorant natives always learn The Right Way from the Americans, and we eventually come to love the little simpletons. That’s exactly what happens here. The shift feels neither natural nor realistic. Indeed, it comes across as awfully patronizing. I can accept this sort of nonsense from older flicks, but something from 2007 really should know better.

Kingdom peaks with the opening attack sequence. It telegraphs the terrorist event – like it telegraphs pretty much everything, really – but it still presents a real impact. We may know it’s coming, but it knocks up for a loop anyway.

After that, the film quickly loses steam. Again, it feels awfully conventional as the take-charge American puts together his team to go fix the situation, and nothing about the way it progresses rises above the crushing genre conventions. Everything about the movie’s progression feels tired and stale, right down to the inevitable sequences in which the Americans learn their backwards hosts aren’t that bad after all. Hey, one of them used to watch The Hulk on TV – he must be okay!

Director Peter Berg does nothing behind the camera to elevate the material either. Like every other “gritty” movie this day, The Kingdom goes with a handheld documentary style. This means shots that bob up and down to make them seem “real”. Every once in a while, this technique actually works, but usually it feels like little more than lazy filmmaking. Indeed, the more movies that feature this style, the less effective it becomes. It’s become such a cliché that its utilization actually makes films seem less real, not more.

Really little more than a by-the-numbers action flick with unusual circumstances, The Kingdom comes as a serious disappointment. Actually, it may be worse than that, as its use of the dire situation in the Middle East as its setting feels tacky at best and exploitative at worst. This is a standard thriller with little to make it a success.


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

The Kingdom appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. No serious problems emerged here, but the digital photography left us with a moderately lackluster presentation.

Sharpness generally appeared positive, though those elements could be erratic. Some shots suffered from mild softness, usually when we went indoors; the digital cameras didn’t resolve those settings incredibly well. Jagged edges and moiré effects presented no issues, but I did see some light levels of edge enhancement. I saw no signs of grit, speckles, nicks or defects of that sort, but I did notice some digital grain at times. That element never became overwhelming, but it seemed a little heavy on occasion.

Kingdom featured a subdued and stylized palette for the most part. Like most movies set in the Middle East, the tones tended toward the sandy side of the street, and we didn’t get a lot of color breadth. The hues were fine given their stylistic limitations. Black levels seemed a little murky, while shadow detail was appropriately thick much of the time. However, some shots appeared darker than expected and could be a little too opaque. Ultimately, Vice provided a good visual experience but not a great one.

As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Kingdom, it presented a somewhat laid-back experience. The soundfield didn’t do a ton to exploit its opportunities. The forward channels dominated and usually stayed with general ambience. Stereo music was well developed, and the sides opened up the image to a positive degree. For the most part, the surrounds did little more than reinforce the ambiance. Occasionally they boasted better spread and involvement – such as during a climactic firefight through the streets - but they seemed more passive than I expected from this sort of movie.

Audio quality was usually good. Speech generally sounded natural and concise; a little edginess popped up at times, but the lines were always intelligible. Music was full and dynamic, while effects sounded rich and accurate. Bass response appeared deep and taut throughout the film. The lackluster soundfield knocked my grade down to a “B”.

As we move to the DVD’s extras, we start with an audio commentary with director Peter Berg. He offers a running, screen-specific chat. Berg looks at the opening credits, cast and performances, sets and locations, music, story issues, camerawork, some history behind the film’s subjects, and a few other bits of production trivia.

Berg provides a very average commentary. On the positive side, he does offer reasonable coverage of the usual subjects, so get a decent overview of the topics. However, he never generates much of a head of steam, and quite a lot of dead air results. This becomes a moderately useful commentary but not one that does a lot for me.

I will acknowledge one particularly interesting part of the commentary: Berg’s discussion of his use of hand-held camerawork. He indicates that he knows folks like me can’t stand it and indicates that he hopes to improve on the jerkiness in the future. I was surprised by his remarks, as I thought he’d be more defiant against his critics.

Three Deleted Scenes fill a total of 11 minutes, six seconds. These include Fleury with Manner’s widow, more of the attempt by Fleury to get authorization for his mission, and additional fighting during the climax. The second segment fills the vast majority of this collection’s time. It doesn’t add much, though, as the extra exposition just pounds the same points. The other scenes are also lackluster, though one could argue the inclusion of Manner’s widow makes sense since we meet his kid in the final cut.

Something unusual follows. Character By Character: The Apartment Shootout breaks into four pieces and lasts a total of 13 minutes, 40 seconds. It examines “Fleury and Al Ghazi” (3:37), “Janet Mayes” (3:55), “Adam Leavitt” (3:25) and “Sykes and Haytham” (2:41). It takes the climax and shows it without the final film’s editing. While the latter cuts between characters, this one shows their perspectives without leaving their sides. That makes it vaguely interesting at best, as I’m not really sure what purpose this alternate editing serves.

Constructing the Freeway Sequence goes for 18 minutes, 17 seconds and features notes from Berg, stunt coordinator Keith Woulard, special effects coordinator Burt Dalton, remote control operator David Waine, remote control driver Tim Walkey, camera car driver J. Armin Garza II, special effects technician David Greene, and actors Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper, Ali Suliman, Ashraf Barhoum and Jason Bateman. It examines one particular driving stunt from conception to execution. The inclusion of a lot of good shots from the set help make this a strong program.

Next comes a documentary called Creating The Kingdom. This 35-minute and 34-second piece offers info from Berg, Foxx, Cooper, Garner, Bateman, Barhoum, Suliman, Dalton, producers Scott Stuber and Michael Mann, writer Matthew Michael Carnahan, technical consultants Ahmed Al Ibrahim and Richard Klein, production designer Tom Duffield, 2nd unit director/stunt coordinator Phil Neilson, 1st AD/co-producer KC Hodenfield, cinematographer Mauro Fiore, and actor Jeremy Piven. The show looks at the film’s origins and story, attempts at realism, cast and performances, actor training, locations and set design, action sequences, camerawork, and a few character notes.

More than the bland commentary, “Creating” provides a pretty good look at the flick. As expected, the material from the set adds substance, and we get a fairly nice discussion of various subjects. While I wouldn’t call this a great program, it proves informative and interesting.

Some background material shows up via History of The Kingdom: An Interactive Timeline. It follows significant events in Saudi Arabia in terms of the country’s development and its relationship with the US. Obviously this keeps things pretty basic, but it acts as a decent overview.

The usual allotment of ads opens the DVD. We get clips for White Noise 2 and HD-DVD. No trailer for Kingdom pops up here.

A bland thriller that uses its setting for cheap emotional exploitation, The Kingdom aspires to more than it can attain. The film lacks nuance or insight, as it does little more than depict the usual Might Is Right nonsense. The DVD presents reasonably good picture and audio – though neither excel – along with a generally useful collection of extras. I have no major complaints about the DVD but the movie itself is a disappointment.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.5454 Stars Number of Votes: 11
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