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ENTERTAINMENT ONE

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Vic Armstrong
Cast:
Nicolas Cage, Lea Thompson, Cassi Thomson, Chad Michael Murray, Nicki Whelan, Jordin Sparks
Writing Credits:
Paul Lalonde and John Patus

Synopsis:
A small group of survivors are left behind after millions of people suddenly vanish and the world is plunged into chaos and destruction.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 110 min.
Price: $34.99
Release Date: 1/6/2015

Bonus:
• Cast and Crew Interviews
• “Author’s Reflections” Featurettes
• “Behind the Scenes” Featurette
• “Behind the Scenes” Slideshow
• Trailer and Previews


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

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


Left Behind (2014)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 13, 2015)

For a thriller with a Biblical twist, we head to 2014’s Left Behind. The film opens at JFK Airport, where Captain Ray Steele (Nicolas Cage) pilots an airplane headed to London. Before he leaves, his daughter Chloe (Cassi Thomson) surprises him because she wants Ray to reconcile with his estranged wife Irene (Lea Thompson). Over the last year, Irene became intensely religious, and this caused strains in the family.

During the flight, some passengers suddenly vanish into thin air – and with Chloe back home, we see the same bizarre disappearances on the ground. The cause? The Rapture, and those not called away to God need to deal with the repercussions. We follow Chloe on the ground and Ray’s attempts to keep his passengers safe as the world descends into chaos.

If we didn’t already know this, Left Behind makes it official: Nicolas Cage will take on any movie for a buck. I won’t say that this becomes the worst effort in his filmography, but it must be in contention for that “honor”.

The story originated as a 1995 novel and already got adapted as a film in 2000, albeit one with differences compared to the 2014 version. The 2000 version focused more on a television journalist named Buck Williams (here played by Chad Michael Murray, then portrayed by Kirk Cameron). Created largely for the evangelical Christian crowd, I never saw the 2000 Left Behind, but the seemingly incongruous casting of Cage piqued my interest.

I thought perhaps the 2014 Left Behind would take a less stridently religious take on the topic and play it more as a straight disaster movie. That doesn’t prove to be the case, as I figured out literally as soon as the Blu-ray started to spin. When a disc’s previews all feature heavily Christian-oriented efforts, it seems logical to expect the main feature to follow suit, and that occurs here.

In no way do I want to come across as anti-Christian in these comments, as my negative reaction to Left Behind doesn’t stem from its religious orientation. Instead, my criticisms relate to the hamfisted manner in which it expresses its viewpoint.

I think Left Behind could’ve delivered a good disaster experience if it concentrated less on its awkward “message” and more on the action. Perhaps this misses the point, as like the Atlas Shrugged movies, Left Behind clearly exists in large part to advocate its worldview. However, I think a poorly made movie harms whatever social goals Left Behind attempts, and given the amateurish nature of this flick, it does nothing to promote its message.

Again, this didn’t have to be the case. Left Behind includes a decent amount of talent, and the story boasts real potential to be exciting. Essentially Airport with a Bible theme, the tale enjoys plenty of opportunity to become fast-paced and thrilling, but instead, it plods and meanders.

The first act seems to go on forever, as the movie takes a sleepy walk toward the inevitable action. I guess the filmmakers think these deliver useful character exposition, but they simply feel like padding, scenes that exist without much useful purpose.

Once the Rapture hits, the pacing still doesn’t improve. Oh, we get plenty of action scenes, but they seem dull and perfunctory.

That surprises me, as director Vic Armstrong made his name as the stunt coordinator on a slew of Bond movies. Given Armstrong’s background, I might expect the story/character elements to falter, but I’d think the action would work well.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t become the case, and virtually nothing about Left Behind - acting, story, characters, production values – succeeds. Whatever its ideological background, the movie suffers from the worst sin of all: it's boring and tedious.


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

Left Behind appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though not bad, the image seemed lackluster.

Sharpness took an occasional hit. While much of the movie offered pretty good clarity, parts tended to seem a bit on the soft side. This left us with a moderately well-defined presentation but not one with the bite I’d expect from Blu-ray.

I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes remained absent. I also saw no signs of print flaws during this clean presentation.

In terms of colors, teal and amber dominated. The image presented these in an acceptable manner; they could’ve shown better pizzazz but they were fine. Blacks were reasonably dark, and shadows came across with pretty good clarity. The softness became the main problem and the reason this ended up as a “C+” transfer.

I also felt underwhelmed by the movie’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. A 2015 Blu-ray with lossy audio loses points right off the bat, and the quality seemed a bit restricted, as the mix didn’t have the range we’d get from a lossless track.

Audio quality was fine despite the compression – it just should’ve been better. Speech occasionally sounded a bit stiff, but the lines were intelligible and reasonably natural. Effects and music fell in the same range; they showed fair clarity but could’ve had more oomph and power. In particular, low-end response was somewhat lacking.

As for the soundscape, it showed fair scope. Obviously scenes with disaster/action elements opened up matters the best, and those used the various speakers in a decent manner, though they didn’t integrate as well as I might like. Still, the mix provided a moderately engaging soundfield, even if it didn’t impress – though it should’ve been more dynamic given all the mayhem we found in the story.

When we shift to extras, we start with eight Cast and Crew Interviews. Under this banner, we hear from director Vic Armstrong (1:30), screenwriter Paul Lalonde (8:57) and actors Nicolas Cage (6:18), Chad Michael Murray (1:00), Cassi Thomson (6:25), Nicky Whelan (3:38), Jordin Sparks (2:20) and Alec Rayme (1:22).

Across these, we learn about story/character areas, cast and performances, Armstrong’s approach to the material, and related elements. The short clips seem forgettable and superficial, but the longer ones manage a few decent notes. Nothing truly insightful emerges, but the pieces with Cage, Thomson and Lalonde have merit.

Within Author’s Reflection, we find notes from novelists Tim LaHaye (2:18) and Jerry B. Jenkins (2:15). They cover the book’s roots and its creation. These clips are too short to tell us much, but they offer a smattering of good notes.

A Behind the Scenes featurette goes for 19 minutes, one second and includes info from LaHaye, Jenkins, Lalonde, Cage, Thomson, Whelan, Murray, Rayme, Sparks, director of photography Jack Green, special effects supervisor Matthew T. Lynn and actor Han Soto. The program examines the source novel and its adaptation, story/character domains, cast and performances, sets and locations, Armstrong’s work on the shoot, stunts and action, and visual effects. On its own, this isn’t a bad featurette, but a lot of the comments repeat from the interviews. That makes “Behind the Scenes” redundant at times.

We also find a Behind the Scenes Slideshow. This runs three minutes, 14 seconds and presents a photo montage. It mixes shots from the movie and images from the shoot. Nothing especially interesting materializes.

The disc opens with ads for God Gave Me Wings, Little Red Wagon and In the Name of God. The disc also provides the trailer for Behind and additional previews in the misleadingly titled Bonus Features area.

Even with a decent number of talented participants involved, Left Behind flops. An action movie with no thrills or drama, it seems stiff, amateurish and dull. The Blu-ray provides mediocre picture and audio as well as a minor array of supplements. I can’t find anything positive to say about this poor film.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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