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MIRAMAX

MOVIE INFO
Director:
Doug Liman
Cast:
Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn, Ron Livingston, Patrick Van Horn, Alex Desert, Heather Graham, Deena Martin, Katherine Kendall, Brooke Langton
Screenplay:
Jon Favreau

Tagling:
cocktails first. questions later.
Box Office:
Budget $200,000
Opening weekend $74,118 on 8 screens.
Domestic gross $4.505 million.
MPAA:
Rated R for language throughout.

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Surround
French Dolby Surround
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 96 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 9/24/2002

Bonus:
• Action Commentary with Writer/Co-Director/Actor Jon Favreau and Actor Vince Vaughn
• Production Commentary with Director Doug Liman and Editor Stephen Mirrione
• “Making It In Hollywood” Documentary
• “The Cutting Room Floor”
• “Swingers Mania” Gallery
• “Swingblade”
• Cast and Crew
• Sneak Peeks


PURCHASE
DVD

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EQUIPMENT
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RELATED REVIEWS


Swingers: Miramax Collector's Series (1996)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Though Swingers didn’t attract all that much attention during its theatrical release in 1996, the film seems destined to thrive as a cult classic. With hipster catchphrases like “Vegas, baby” – heard repeatedly on Friends, for example – the movie has already ingrained itself into some parts of the culture.

Does that mean the flick’s actually any good? No, it doesn’t, but Swingers provides a fairly entertaining piece of work. I can’t say it lived up to my expectations, but I enjoyed it all the same.

Swingers concentrates on Mike (Jon Favreau), an aspiring actor/comedian who recently moved to Los Angeles from New York. His girlfriend Michelle dumped him a few months back, and he remains depressed over this split. At the start of the film, another struggled thespian named Trent (Vince Vaughn) tries to life Mike’s spirits with a quick jaunt to Las Vegas, where they hit the tables and also pick up some women.

After that interlude, the movie returns to their typical life of clubs and other nonsense, very little of which actually includes work. Mike’s friend Rob (Ron Livingston) also recently came out to LA for his career, and he finds himself upset that he gets no better offers than to play Goofy at Disneyland. Sue (Patrick Van Horn) – a boy named after the Johnny Cash song – seems interested in little more than videogame hockey, and he comes across as a loose cannon with a violent temper.

Most of the story concentrates on Mike’s pathetic attempts to meet women. As the Vegas sequence clearly illustrates, Trent presents a very slick and confident aura, whereas Mike seems to regard failure as inevitable. Thus, when they go back to the trailer of casino waitress Christy (Deena Martin), Trent ends up bedding her while Mike just whines to her friend Lisa (Katherine Kendall).

Another telling episode occurs in a bar. The boys spend most of their nights out at the clubs, and Mike eventually gets the nerve to obtain the phone number of sexy barfly Nikki (Brooke Langton). After the boys warn him to wait two days before he calls her, Mike blows it; wrought with anxiety, he phones Nikki virtually as soon as he returns to his cruddy apartment, and he leaves a series of ever-lousier messages on her machine.

When Swingers focuses on that kind of material, it succeeds best. Between Mike and Trent, I think most of us will identify with the former, and his inept escapades offer touching humor. We want to slap him for his stupidity, but we feel for the guy anyway. Of course, we think we want to be like Trent, though his shallowness and superficiality clearly appear as drawbacks. Mike comes across as a real guy, largely due to all his flaws.

I suppose my main problem with Swingers stems from its uncertain nature. At times it seems like the film doesn’t know if it wants to praise or condemn Mike. It also comes across as though no one could decide if they wanted to make a slick and wordy comedy or if they should concentrate more on the dramatic elements. The two sides don’t always mesh cleanly.

The comedic parts definitely work the best, though. Actually, the first act of Swingers offers a truly rollicking good time. Before I watched this DVD, I thought the whole thing took place in Vegas and felt somewhat surprised to see that those sections only filled a short amount of time. My prior opinion probably stemmed from the greater amount of fame earned by the Vegas sequences; I heard more about them than anything else in Swingers.

And for good reason, as those bits clearly provided the film’s most entertaining parts. The movie takes on a bright and vibrant energy during the first act, and it never quite regains that momentum once the boys return to LA. However, the filmmakers try to enliven the proceedings, and things get amusingly cheeky at times. For example, in one scene the guys dismiss parts of Reservoir Dogs as derivative of Goodfellas, but then Swingers blatantly steals some imagery from the Tarantino flick. (It also emulates a Goodfellas sequence later in the story.) It’s nice to see a film that doesn’t take itself seriously, and the self-mockery works so well that I wish Swingers included more of it.

Ultimately, Swingers doesn’t totally live up to its hype, at least not on my first viewing. Might I become more enamored of the film once I let it digest? Perhaps, as it seems like the kind of flick that should stand up to repeated screenings. Whatever the case may be, Swingers comes across as a light and witty movie that provides a reasonable amount of entertainment.


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

Swingers appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though generally decent, the picture showed the limitations of the film’s low-budget origins.

Sharpness generally looked adequate. At times, the image seemed somewhat soft and fuzzy, and definition occasionally appeared a bit weak. However, most of the movie came across as reasonable accurate and distinct. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, but some moderately prominent edge enhancement showed up on a few occasions. Grain appeared throughout much of the movie and became somewhat intrusive at times. I also saw periodic examples of speckles and marks, but the print flaws didn’t present too many distractions.

Colors varied. The neon of the Vegas scenes looked bright and vibrant, and some daytime exteriors also showed vivid and lively tones. However, other scenes offered hues that appeared thick and dense, and skintones often tended to appear orange-tinted. Black levels seemed somewhat muddy, while shadow detail was a bit heavy. Some scenes looked good, such as the piece in the bar with Nikki; that sequence demonstrated good contrast and definition in the low-light shots. However, most of those scenes came across as somewhat flat and murky. Overall, Swingers always remained watchable, but it couldn’t overcome its budgetary restrictions.

Similar concerns greeted the Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack of Swingers. The soundfield offered a fairly modest affair. Music often demonstrated good stereo imaging, but the rest of the track tended to remain largely monaural. During some broader scenes, the effects spread well across the spectrum, but these stayed in the realm of general ambience most of the time. The surrounds also kicked in on occasion, such as during party scenes, but they didn’t add a lot to the package. The soundfield maintained a modest setting.

Audio quality appeared acceptable but flawed. Speech displayed minor signs of edginess at times, but dialogue usually came across as reasonably natural and distinct, and I encountered no problems related to intelligibility. Effects appeared clean and accurate but they lacked much dimensionality most of the time. They never seemed distorted or problematic, but they didn’t appear terribly strong either. Music varied depending on the source, but most of the songs and score sounded fairly bright and lively, and they displayed pretty solid bass response much of the time. Unfortunately, effects and speech bled to the side channels on occasion. Ultimately, the soundtrack of Swingers seemed competent but not much better than that.

This new special edition of Swingers marks its second DVD release. I never saw the old one, but apparently it included virtually no supplements. Happily, the reissue corrects that problem, as it packs a nice roster of extras.

We find two audio commentaries. Actually, the first offers an “action commentary” with co-director/writer/actor Jon Favreau and actor Vince Vaughn, both of whom sat together for this running, screen-specific piece. What’s an “action commentary”? Ala the Barry Sonnenfeld/Tommy Lee Jones track from Men In Black, the participants come equipped with a telestrator, and they use it to highlight various onscreen elements. Though the commentary works perfectly well without the visuals, those elements add a fun touch to the proceedings.

As for the commentary itself, for the most part it provides an engaging track. The long friendship between Favreau and Vaughn comes through, as they seem casual and comfortable with each other. They relate a number of production details as well as ways in which the movie mirrored their lives at the time. On occasion, the guys simply describe the action onscreen, and they also often slip into Farrelly mode; for those moments, they just tell us the names of various performers. Nonetheless, the actors track usually works pretty well.

After this, we locate a “production commentary” with director Doug Liman and editor Stephen Mirrione, both of whom also were recorded together for this running, screen-specific piece. Essentially a lesson in guerilla filmmaking, I think this track provides a stronger effort than the one with Vaughn and Favreau. I like the latter piece, but the production commentary seems more informative and compelling. We learn all sorts of details about the resources used to overcome the film’s extreme budgetary restrictions, and the overall effort seems lively and engaging.

Next we move to Making It In Hollywood, a collection of four separate featurettes: “Art Imitates Life: Writing the Story”, “Life Creates Art: Getting Swingers Made”; “Life Imitates Art: Swingers Culture”, and “Art Creates Life: Life After Swingers”. These programs last between nine minutes, 26 seconds and 17 minutes, 21 seconds for a total of 49 minutes, 17 seconds of material. In addition to movie clips, outtakes, and production stills, we get new interviews with Jon Favreau, Doug Limon, Vince Vaughn, Steve Mirrione, actors Ron Livingston and Brooke Langton, line producer Nicole LaLoggia, producer Victor Simkins, Derby owner Tony Gower, Dresden Rooms owner Carl Ferari, and performers Marty and Elayne.

The first two segments cover the genesis of the project and its production. This offers a nice romp through those issues, though it’ll seem somewhat redundant for folks who already listened to the commentaries, as “Story” and “Made” repeat a fair amount of information heard there. The other two pieces focus on the movie’s influence in the culture and on the careers of its participants. These provide a lot of material not found elsewhere, so they seem more valuable. Overall, the whole package of “Making It In Hollywood” nicely details various aspect of the production and the movie’s afterlife, and the documentary merits a look.

Inside The Cutting Room Floor, we get five additional takes. Each of these runs between 55 seconds and four minutes, 22 seconds for a total of 13 minutes and 25 seconds of footage. Essentially the clips offer extended and alternate versions of material that ended up in the movie. For instance, during the Vegas trailer sequence, Trent talks about one of his TV jobs. This material seems decent but it doesn’t present anything special.

Within the Swingers Mania Gallery, we find a stillframe collection. It includes 10 screens of material. We see ads for the film plus some promo materials and a prop or two. It’s a small but useful package.

For something unusual, check out Swing Blade, a short parody. It combines aspects of Swingers with the lead character from Sling Blade for this three-minute, 27-second spoof. The concept seems funnier than the execution, but it appears moderately entertaining.

Cast and Crew includes simple filmographies for actors Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn, Ron Livingston, Patrick Van Horn, Alex Desert, and Heather Graham plus director Doug Liman and line producer Nicole LaLoggia. From the main menu, you’ll discover a Sneak Peeks area that includes trailers for Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and 40 Days and 40 Nights. Oddly, no trailer for Swingers itself appears anywhere.

Already established as a cult classic, I thought Swingers didn’t quite match up with my expectations. However, it offered a generally amusing and intriguing experience that will probably hold up well to additional viewings. The DVD presented mediocre picture and sound that likely were limited due to the film’s low budget. The package includes a very nice set of supplements, as it tosses in two good audio commentaries among other elements. Although I didn’t like the movie enough to highly recommend it, I do think Swingers merits a look.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.2894 Stars Number of Votes: 38
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