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FIRST LOOK

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Patty Jenkins
Cast:
Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci, Bruce Dern
Writing Credits:
Patty Jenkins

Synopsis:
Based on the life of Aileen Wuornos, a Daytona Beach prostitute who became a serial killer.

Box Office:
Budget
$8 million.
Opening Weekend
$3,397,404 on 668 screens.
Domestic Gross
$34,469,210.

MPAA:
Rated R

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio:
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
English Dolby 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 109 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 9/1/2009

Bonus:
• ďMaking OfĒ Featurette
• Mixing Featurette
• Interview with Director Patty Jenkins and Composer BT
• Trailers


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RELATED REVIEWS


Monster [Blu-Ray] (2003)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 26, 2021)

It seems like the Oscars love to reward attractive people for their work as ugly folks. We find this notion borne out by Charlize Theronís victory for 2003ís Monster.

With makeup that gives her the look of a female Jon Voight, Theron nabbed the Best Actress prize as serial killer Aileen Wuornos. The flick starts with a montage that hints at Aileenís rough early life and brings us to the point where she almost attempts to kill herself.

For bizarre reasons we soon learn, she instead stops into a local gay bar, where she meets Selby Wall (Christina Ricci). Selby meekly attempts to befriend Aileen, and the pair begin what eventually turns into a romantic relationship.

Aileenís main source of support comes from prostitution, as she turns tricks with passing motorists. One of these goes wrong as Vincent Corey (Lee Tergesen) ties her up and beats her. In a fit of rage, Aileen shoots and kills the man, and she then attempts to cover up the murder.

This succeeds, though she does eventually tell Selby what occurred. Selbyís supposed to return to her family in the mid-west, but Aileen convinces her to stay, and she tries to go straight. However, Aileen encounters only rejection as she pursues a job, mostly because she has no work skills or experience.

With nothing else to do, Aileen returns to prostitution, but she snaps again while with her first trick and kills him. From there, the movie follows her pattern of murder as she becomes a true serial killer via men she picks up as they seek cheap thrills.

Whereas one might expect Monster to present a psychological investigation into the mind of a serial killer, that really doesnít occur. Sure, the movie tosses out some rationalizations for Aileenís behavior, as we learn tidbits from her hard life of abuse. Nonetheless, it doesnít get into these elements in depth.

Instead, the movie mainly exists as a perverse romance. Occasionally I thought they should have titled it Lee Ďní Selby: A Love Story, as the movie largely focused on their relationship.

Aileenís first killing doesnít occur until well into the second act, and the film never much concentrates or seems interested in those actions.

This feels like both a positive and a negative. On the plus side, it makes Monster unusual and unexpected.

It doesnít take the traditional path, and it gives us much more character development than usual for this sort of piece. We definitely feel like we know Aileen before she goes off the deep end.

However, some of the filmís sympathies seem unwarranted. At times it feels like Monster attempts to excuse Aileenís killings, especially during the earlier ones.

For the most part, she only slays mean, abusive men who ďdeserveĒ it, and we even see her show compassion toward one tubby sad-sack with a speech impediment. Not only does she spare his life, but also she gives him a quick hand job!

This changes somewhat as the movie progresses, and she eventually murders a man who possesses none of the seediness of the others. Even in that case, though, we get the impression that society put her in that spot.

I wonít spell out the details, but the movie appears to convey that Aileen was forced to shoot the man due to her predicament, and if the world had treated her better, she wouldnít have started down this murderous path in the first place.

Clearly Aileen suffered from a rough life, but one can extend only so much sympathy toward a woman who brutally murdered people. Whether or not any of these guys ďdeservedĒ it seems irrelevant, and Aileenís claims of self-defense during her trial appear absurd, with the possible exception of the first killing.

Monster doesnít slam us hard with its attempts to make us feel for Aileen, and I appreciate some of those elements. It beats turning her into nothing more than a one-dimensional movie villain. Nonetheless, I think it goes too far in this regard, as it extends too much sympathy toward her and not enough toward her victims.

As noted earlier, Theron took home an Oscar for Monster, and I canít quibble with that decision. She definitely loses herself in the part, and not just physically.

Yeah, the extra weight she gained and all the cosmetic blemishes turn the beautiful Charlize into the moderately skanky Aileen, but the actress goes farther than that. She makes Aileen seem nuts but not over the top, and she balances those elements well in a genuinely three-dimensional performance.

More of a warped love story than a psychological examination of a serial killer, Monster mostly works. I wasnít wild about the parts that extended a little too much sympathy for the murdered, but I appreciated the attempts at balance and depth. The film somewhat meanders during the third act, but it comes to a strong conclusion and remains a fairly compelling piece.


The Disc Grades: Picture D+/ Audio B/ Bonus C-

Monster appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Expect a disappointing image.

Sharpness tended toward the soft side of the street. Occasional close-ups offered decent delineation, but most of the movie felt a bit loose and mushy.

No issues with jagged edges or moirť effects materialized, and I saw no edge haloes. Print flaws cropped up on occasion, as I saw sporadic instances of specks and marks.

Given the filmís subject matter, the colors looked drab and lifeless for the most part. Some of that made sense within the production design, but the hues appeared awfully bland anyway, as even scenes with brighter tones still came across as drab.

Blacks were too bright, while low-light shots demonstrated adequate clarity at best. The Blu-ray essentially looked like a DVD.

In general, the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundfield presented a pretty limited affair. General ambience dominated the flick, as it rarely offered anything more than that.

This worked fine for the movie, as it didnít need to give us any form of auditory fireworks. Music seemed well depicted, too, as the score demonstrated nice stereo imaging and also spread broadly to the surrounds. The rear speakers didnít do much else, but they contributed a decent sense of atmosphere, and a few louder scenes used the spectrum effectively.

Audio quality came across as solid. Speech was consistently warm and natural, and I noticed no signs of edginess or issues with intelligibility.

Effects sounded concise and well-delineated, with nice range and no distortion or other concerns. Music fared best, as the score and songs appeared bright and dynamic. Not much about Monster allowed it to stand out from the crowd, but it seemed fine for this form of project.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the DVD version of Monster? Audio showed a little more range, but Iíd be hard-pressed to find obvious improvements in the visual domain. This was a DVD-quality Blu-ray.

Some of the DVDís extras repeat here, and The Making of Monster runs 14 minutes, 42 seconds. The program features writer/director Patty Jenkins, Aileenís best friend Dawn Botkins, Last Resort bartender Cannonball and owner Al Bulling, and actors Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci and Bruce Dern.

We hear about research, Theronís physical makeover, character notes and the Aileen/Selby relationship, the locations, the collaboration between the various parties, and facets of Aileenís personality and the facts behind the story.

Some decent material pops up through the program, but it seems generally superficial. We get a smattering of highlights connected to the film and nothing more.

Information related to the soundtrack shows up in an Interview with Patty Jenkins and BT. The title implies that the pair sit together during the 15-minute, 43-second piece, but thatís only partially true, as we often find separate conversations.

We learn about how BT got the job as composer, his approach to the score and his use of 5.1, and specific components of the track. They provide a decent overview and exploration of the topics, but too much mutual backslapping occurs.

Those elements make the discussion a little tough to take at times, but it conveys a fair amount of moderately interesting information.

In the Film Mixing Demo, we find an interactive piece. This lets you check out the amusement park sequence with only the audio elements of your choice.

We select from dialogue, music, and/or effects to inspect the various stems. It works fairly well for what it is.

The disc opens with ads for The Code, Labor Pains, and Direct Contact. We also get two trailers for Monster.

Plenty of extras from the earlier DVDs fail to repeat here. We lose an audio commentary, deleted scenes and other components.

A film that will likely remain best known for Charlize Theronís Oscar triumph, Monster works well as a whole. It sputters at times and becomes a little too touchy-feely in the way it treats its main character, but the overall result seems solid. The Blu-ray comes with fairly good audio as well as mediocre supplements and poor picture quality. The movie needs a new transfer, as this one stinks.

To rate this film, visit the original review of MONSTER