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COLUMBIA TRISTAR

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Ron Howard
Cast:
Tommy Lee Jones, Cate Blanchett, Evan Rachel Wood, Jenna Boyd, Aaron Eckhart, Sergio Calderón, Eric Schweig, Val Kilmer
Writing Credits:
Thomas Eidson (novel), Ken Kaufman

Tagline:
How far would you go, how much would you sacrifice to get back what you have lost?

Synopsis:
The Oscar-winning team of Ron Howard and Brian Grazer (A Beautiful Mind and Apollo 13) present a riveting, spine-tingling thriller destined to become a classic! Academy Award nominee Cate Blanchett (1998, Elizabeth, Best Actress in a Leading Role) is Maggie, a young plainswoman raising her daughters in the desolate wilderness of New Mexico. When daughter Lily (Evan Rachel Wood, Thirteen), is snatched by a dark-hooded phantom with shape-shifting powers, Maggie's long-estranged father, Oscar-winner Tommy Lee Jones (1993, The Fugitive, Best actor in a supporting role) appears suddenly, offering help. Though stunned by his return, Maggie knows she must swallow both hurt and pride if she is ever to see Lily again. Unaware of the frightening events that lurk in the distance, father and daughter set out to track the fiend that took Lily. But lying in wait is horror so unspeakable it will change them forever!

Box Office:
Budget
$65 million.
Opening Weekend
$10.833 million on 2756 screens.
Domestic Gross
$26.900 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.40:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby 2.0
Subtitles:
English
French
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 154 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 6/6/2006

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Ron Howard
• Ron Howard’s Home Movies
• “Ron Howard On …” Featurettes


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RELATED REVIEWS


The Missing: Extended Cut (2003)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 30, 2006)

So far, the 21st century has proven to be up and down for Ron Howard. In 2000, he directed , which went on to become the year’s biggest hit with a gross of $260 million. 2001’s A Beautiful Mind didn’t rake in as much money, but given its dramatic subject matter, the flick’s take of $170 million seems very strong. Oh, it also nabbed the Best Picture Oscar and snared Howard the prize as Best Director. 2006’s The Da Vinci Code proved to be a big financial hit as well.

On the other hand, 2005’s Cinderella Man was a disappointment critically and financially, and 2003’s The Missing bombed in all areas. It failed to capture much attention, either critically or financially. As I recall, it received pretty mediocre reviews, and audiences essentially ignored it, for the movie made only $26 million.

Set in New Mexico circa 1885, we meet Maggie Gilkeson (Cate Blanchett), a frontier healer who tends to the locals and raises her daughters Lilly (Evan Rachel Wood) and Dot (Jenna Boyd). We also encounter her boyfriend, rancher Brake Baldwin (Aaron Eckhart).

Early in the film, a mystery man names Samuel Jones (Tommy Lee Jones) comes to find Maggie. When the two of them meet, it seems clear some history exists, and we soon learn that Jones is Maggie’s father. She harbors very negative feelings toward her old man and wants him gone.

Maggie tends to Jones’ wounds and confronts him with all of the pain his actions inflicted in the past. He attempts to make amends but fails and soon leaves. Lilly hates her life on the farm and aspires to depart as well, though not with Jones; she dreams of a less primitive existence.

Brake takes the kids into town one day while Maggie stays back on the farm. Oddly, the trio remains away longer than expected, and only Dot’s lone horse returns. Maggie rides to investigate and finds Brake’s assistant Emiliano (Sergio Calderon) murdered and stripped naked. She also discovers that someone killed Brake and wrapped him in some form of weird ceremonial dealie. Dot soon emerges from the woods still alive, and she provides some details of what occurred. She tells that someone rode away with Lilly.

Dot claims that an Indian who wore a hood did this heinous deed, and Maggie logically suspects Jones. However, when she chats with the local law, she learns that Jones couldn’t be the killer, as he spent the prior night in jail. The police have their hands full with crowds for their fair, so they can’t help track after Lilly. Maggie plans to do so herself, and when Jones offers to help, she realizes that she needs assistance and allows him to come with them.

Along with Dot, the estranged father and daughter hit the trail. Those two get to know each other a little better, though Maggie seems quite reluctant to let down her barriers.

Soon we discover who kidnapped Lilly along with a number of others. It’s a tribe of Indians who plan to sell the females in Mexico. We eventually learn that the Apaches are US soldiers who deserted and took to their criminal ways. The 4th Cavalry tracks them but seems to lack the wherewithal to follow through fully.

This upsets Maggie, but she and Jones intend to continue their hunt, and they’ll buy back Lilly if they catch up to the Indians before they get to Mexico. The movie alternates between their work on the trail and the events that befall Lilly, who works to escape.

When I first watched the film in 2004, I went into The Missing with little knowledge of its story. I did read the blurb on the back of that package before I watched, something I came to regret. According to the DVD’s case, Lilly is “snatched by a dark-hooded phantom with shape-shifting powers. Maggie’s long-estranged father suddenly appears, offering help.” Both events occur, but the description a) presents them in the wrong order, and b) implies a much heavier emphasis on the mystical and spooky than we actually find.

I’m reluctant to discuss those elements, as I hate presenting spoilers, and were it not for the case’s blurb, I wouldn’t mention them at all. If the movie followed the path described, we’d know about the supernatural elements quite early in the film, but we don’t. In fact, the movie doesn’t engage in any of that kind of material until almost 90 minutes into the story, and even that sequence just involves a curse that may or may not really be “supernatural”. If a phantom appeared, I must have nodded off for those moments.

This leaves most of The Missing as a simple kidnapping and chase story. We watch the baddies and see our leads follow their trail. They go through some obstacles along the way, and the abducted one predictably tries to free herself. Nothing even remotely unusual occurs in these parts of the story, as Missing takes a traditional path.

And a plodding one at that. Without question, the movie borrows liberally from the noted John Ford effort The Searchers. I’ve not yet grasped the reason for that flick’s status as a classic, so I definitely don’t find much value in a movie that does little more than remake it.

The story evolves at a very slow and deliberate pace, but not one that makes a lot of sense. The Missing seems way too long. There’s just not a lot that happens here, so the running time makes the dull tale even less stimulating.

Not only does Missing take a long way to go anywhere, but also it never arrives at an intriguing destination. The movie feels like a lot of build up with very little pay off. It does little to keep us interested along the way, as it plods along toward not much of anything.

Missing boasts a nice cast, but they get little to do. Blanchett seems doomed to often be misused or underused in her roles, and both occur here. She doesn’t get much to do most of the time, and Maggie offers little personality. As for Jones, he plays his usual rugged tough guy with the wounded soul; he mostly relies on his hangdog look and never presents any challenge.

Ultimately, The Missing feels too slow and too pointless to succeed. It plods along and fails to present an engaging or entertaining journey. Little more than a rehash of The Searchers with a couple of failed twists, the flick consistently falls flat.

Note that this “Extended Cut” of The Missing adds about 17 minutes to the running time of the original theatrical version. I’d love to detail all the new segments, but even though I saw The Missing twice before I got this new DVD, I found it hard to recognize the extra footage.

I can identify three added pieces because Howard mentions them in his commentary. In one, Jones shoots a mountain lion, and another shows a confrontation with a tarantula. We also see a scene in which Maggie teaches Dot to kill.

Though I’m less sure, I think the other reinstated segments deal with various character issues. For instance, we find out more about Jones’ past and get some expansion of his relationship with Maggie and the others. These add a little character definition.

But not enough to rescue the movie, unfortunately. The extra length of the film counteracts whatever greater depth they may add. I thought the 137-minute version was too long, so a 154-minute edition becomes downright painful. The 24 people who liked The Missing may get something from this extended cut, but I didn’t.


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

The Missing appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though it looked pretty good, the transfer found for this “Extended Cut” didn’t live up to the standards of the prior original or Superbit DVDs.

Sharpness created one of the negative changes. While the previous discs were very crisp and detailed, this one faltered at times. Most of the movie seemed well-defined and accurate, but a few shots came across as a little soft. Jagged edges and moiré effects seemed absent, and I also failed to discern any edge enhancement. Unsurprisingly, this recent flick came without any form of print flaws, as the movie remained clean and fresh at all times.

Since Missing took place in a stark setting, I didn’t expect a lot of vibrant tones, and the movie largely followed suit. However, it displayed its colors with excellent accuracy and definition. When we found elements with great vivacity, the DVD replicated them wonderfully, as the occasional brighter hues looked quite brilliant. Blacks were dense and deep, but shadows suffered when compared to the prior DVDs. They sometimes looked a little too dark, an issue I didn’t notice in the previous transfers. On its own, this was a good image, but it failed to match up with its predecessors.

On the other hand, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack that accompanied the “Extended Cut” of The Missing greatly resembled the audio of the prior versions. Most of the sound emphasized environmental elements. Since the majority of the flick took place in the outdoors, this presented plenty of opportunities for atmospherics. The mix featured a nice sense of place, as the different elements were appropriately placed and meshed together smoothly. Occasionally we encountered some more active sequences like the Indian attacks and a flood, and those kicked the track to life fairly well. The audio rarely presented a tremendously active piece, but it seemed involving and well rendered.

Sound quality always came across well. Speech was natural and crisp, with no issues connected to edginess or intelligibility. Effects seemed accurate and clear. They suffered from no problems like distortion and packed a decent punch when appropriate. The score also appeared lively and vivid, with clean highs and rich lows. Bass response was deep and tight and never seemed too loose or boomy. Ultimately, the soundtrack of The Missing worked well.

When we look at the extras of The Missing, we find one new component: an audio commentary with director Ron Howard. He offers a running, screen-specific chat. Howard looks at a broad mix of production issues. He discusses cast, characters and performances, the movie’s themes and story, research, training and authenticity, sets, locations, problems with the weather, and cinematography.

That works as a good overview, and when Howard talks, he manages to offer a reasonably insightful view of his film. Unfortunately, he lets too much time pass without information. Lots of dead air occurs here, and the problem intensifies as the movie progresses. That factor makes this commentary a chore to screen.

My other complaint comes from the fact that Howard doesn’t tell us much about the scenes he reinstated for the extended cut. He mentions three of them, but those don’t account for much of the added running time. I’d like to know more about which segments he put back into the film and why he did so. Ultimately, Howard’s commentary ends up as sporadically useful but awfully frustrating.

Most of the other supplements repeat from the original 2004 DVD. Ron Howard On... splits into six different topics. He chats about “Home Movies” (five minutes, 50 seconds), “John Wayne” (3:07), “Editing” (2:11), “The Filmmaking Process” (2:19), “His Love For Westerns” (1:49), and “Conventions of Westerns” (2:54). Howard discusses the short flicks he made as a teen, what he learned when he worked with John Wayne, the editorial and creative processes, his affection for Westerns, and his desire for authenticity. (Ron’s brother Clint also offers a few comments during “Home Movies”.) These pieces provide some nice insight into Howard’s mindset that goes beyond the specifics of The Missing itself. They add some solid material and information here.

This section also presents three of Howard’s Home Movies. We see “The Deed of Daring Do” (two minutes, 59 seconds), “Cares, Cads, Guns, Gore and Death” (2:10), and “Old Paint” (7:51). They vary in quality, but all are fun to see. It’d be great to check out more material of this sort from other then-budding filmmakers.

Previews features two ads. We find clips for The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada and Freedomland. No trailer for The Missing appears.

A slow-paced and largely pointless flick, The Missing goes nowhere. It lacks strong enough characters to overcome its sluggish pace, and the story remains too bland and uneventful to maintain interest. This “Extended Cut” makes a tedious movie even less interesting. The DVD presents very good picture and audio along with a few supplements.

If you liked The Missing and never bought one of the prior releases, grab the original 2-DVD version. If you already have that one, don’t bother to shell out the bucks for the “Extended Cut”. The elongated edition of the film makes it worse, and the only new supplement – Ron Howard’s commentary – isn’t very good.

To rate this film visit the Special Edition review of THE MISSING

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