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MAGNOLIA

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza
Cast:
Jonathan Mellor, Óscar Zafra, Ariel Casas, Alejandro Casaseca, Pablo Rosso, Pep Molina, Andrea Ros, Àlex Batllori, Pau Poch
Writing Credits:
Jaume Balagueró, Manu Díez, Paco Plaza

Synopsis:
Picking up just a few short minutes after the first film left off, Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza's adrenalized action horror sequel follows a heavily armed SWAT team and a tight-lipped medical officer as they venture into the quarantined tenement building to uncover the origins of the bizarre outbreak. Their helmet-mounted cameras capturing every nerve-shredding moment of the mission, the team must fight for their lives when they're beset by rampaging victims of the demonic virus. Now, with each new attack, the infection grows, and the horde gains power. Should the virus somehow manage to spread outside, the result would be a disaster of apocalyptic proportions. But there's still hope; the medical officer seems to know something about this infection that he hasn't yet shared with the others. Somewhere in the building, an antidote to the virus waits to be discovered. But in order to find it, these terrified soldiers will have to fight their way through a true hell on Earth.

Box Office:
Domestic Gross
$27.024 thousand

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English

Runtime: 84 min.
Price: $24.96
Release Date: 7/12/11

Bonus:
• Deleted and Extended Scenes
• Three Behind the Scenes Featurettes
• “A Walkthrough of the Set” Featurette
• Sitges Film Festival Press Conference
• “[REC]2 On Tour” Featurette
• Previews


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


[REC] 2 (2009)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 28, 2011)

Since I thought 2007’s [REC] provided a pretty good horror experience, I figured its 2009 sequel deserved a look. The action of [REC]2 picks up right where the first one ended. Contamination has affected an apartment building and turned the inhabitants into flesh-chomping monsters.

In the first film, we followed journalist Angela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) and her crew; they were there to track a fire crew and they documented the mayhem. As the second movie starts, we see Angela taken by one of the creatures and then we leap to our new protagonists: a SWAT team sent in to accompany Dr. Owen (Jonathan Mellor), an official there to assess the situation and the spread of the infection.

As it turns out, Dr. Owen only tells the SWAT members part of the story. He’s actually a priest and the church believes the disease is really a form of demonic possession. He needs to obtain a sample of the blood from “Patient Zero”, so he leads the team on a mission to do so – all while they battle more of the speedy monsters.

I felt a bit reluctant to include some of the details in that last paragraph, as they may lead us into “spoiler” territory. However, the DVD’s case mentions the possession angle, so I think that makes it fair game; my synopsis doesn’t reveal anything you won’t learn via standard promo materials.

The demonic element works surprisingly well, partly because it ensures that [REC]2 won’t just be a simple remake of the first one – or a mindless conglomeration of action scenes. It shows a substantial Aliens influence, one that even filters down to camera choices. While the original film was supposed to be shot on just one camera, [REC]2 uses Aliens style personal video recorders. This breaks the visual monotony and allows us to see various perspectives that would otherwise fail to appear.

Even with those twists, I quickly started to fear that [REC]2 would devolve into little more than 84 minutes of “monster around the corner” frights, as after the initial plot-related changeup, that’s what we get. Happily, the film doesn’t seem content to go down that simple path. After the first act, it introduces new characters and perspectives that create a wholly unexpected twist. These feel a bit contrived, but they’re welcome nonetheless, as they add fresh blood to a potentially stale experience.

Other curveballs materialize along the way, and these ensure that the movie’s general formula never becomes generic. Make no mistake: [REC]2 remains a film in the same vein as Alien and other “haunted house” tales, as it derives most of its scares from monsters that emerge from the shadows.

Nonetheless, it shows that after all these decades, life remains in the format. [REC]2 takes a simple formula and throws enough twists at it to make it feel creative. It’s a fun flick that might even be better than the original.


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

[REC]2 appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Overall, the transfer looked pretty positive.

I didn’t think much of the original film’s visuals, but the sequel’s presentation seemed more satisfying. For the most part, sharpness was fine. Some softness interfered at times, but the image usually gave us reasonable clarity. The nature of the photography helped; it went with a lot of close-ups and quick shots, so any softness became less prominent.

I didn’t notice jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes seemed to be absent. Again, the style of photography affected this area; edge enhancement might’ve been present, but it was tough to identify due to the camerawork. No print flaws appeared through the film.

Colors were plain, but that was by design. Most of the movie took place in dank interiors, so I expected flat, drab hues. They looked appropriate. Blacks were pretty dark and dense, while shadows were surprisingly good. I thought those elements were weak in the original film, but they seemed stronger here; I didn’t have any real issues with blacks or dark scenes. This was a satisfying presentation.

While the first movie came with both English and Spanish soundtracks, the sequel only delivered the film in its native Spanish. That was fine with me – I would’ve opted for that mix anyway – and I liked the flick’s Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. I thought this one opened up the soundfield better than its predecessor. It used the five channels surprisingly well and created a fairly immersive environment.

This included a mix of elements. Occasionally we heard helicopters go around the spectrum, and voices popped up in a mix of places. Whenever we heard the cameraman speak, his lines came from the center rear, which made sense. Other effects cropped up in logical apots and blended together in a smooth manner to create a nice soundscape.

Audio quality was good. Speech was natural and distinctive; some lines could be murky, but those choices were intentional. Music was a non-factor, as the film opted for some atmospheric semi-score but nothing more. Those bits sounded fine, and effects appeared solid; the latter came across as accurate and rich. This was a positive auditory presentation.

When we head to the disc’s extras, the main attraction comes from a collection of three behind the scenes featurettes. All together, these fill a total of 53 minutes, 25 seconds and include comments from directors Paco Plaza and Jaume Balagueró, special mechanical effects Salvador Santana, digital effects Alex Villagrasa, sound designer Oriol Tarrago, stunt coordinator Toni Higuereuelo, director of photography Pablo Rosso, special makeup effects artist David Ambit, art director Gemma Fauria, and actors Oscar Sanchez, Andrea Ros, Hugo Fernandez, Jonathan Mellor, Juli Fabregas, and Alejandro Casaseca.

The pieces look at the specifics involved in filming three scenes; we learn about set design, effects, acting and other topics. Though we hear from the participants listed above, the focus stays on footage from the shoot. I like programs that do so, and this works well, as we get a lot of nice material taken on the set. The combination of show and tell succeeds and gives us a good look at the production.

Four Deleted and Extended Scenes run a total of six minutes, 48 seconds. We get “Blow-Up Doll – Extended” (2:30), “Outside the Building – Extended” (0:57), “SWAT Finds a Dead Officer” (2:25), and “SWAT Finds a Body” (0:56). The two extensions don’t add much of interest, while the pair of SWAT scenes are okay, though I don’t think they’d have made the movie more effective. “Body” actually would’ve been a distraction due to some bad effects.

Three more featurettes fill out the package. A Walkthrough of the Set goes for eight minutes, 51 seconds and provides comments from Plaza, Balaguero and Fauria. The latter dominates this piece, as she leads us through the movie’s sets. She gives us useful notes about the locations and helps make this another quality featurette.

Sitges Film Festival Press Conference lasts 10 minutes, 58 seconds and provides a panel with Plaza, Balaguero, Mellow, producer Julio Fernandez and actor Manuela Velasco. They talk about the film’s development and aspects of its genre, some effects and casting info, characters and story, and general notes. The chat can be scattershot, but we get some good tales and it moves along briskly.

Finally, [REC]2 On Tour goes for eight minutes, 40 seconds and takes us to various festivals at which the film ran. We see the directors and a few others along the way, but they don’t tell us much. “Tour” is heavy on promotional appearances and not especially interesting.

A few ads launch the disc. We get promos for Quarantine 2: Terminal, Insidious, Breaking Bad, Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown and [REC]. These also appear under Previews. No trailer for [REC]2 shows up here.

A rare sequel that might improve on the original [REC]2 delivers a good horror experience. Though it occasionally threatens to stagnate, it always finds new twists to throw at the audience and keep the viewers engaged. The DVD provides pretty good picture, audio and supplements. This is a fun flick that genre fans should like.

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