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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead
Cast:
Anthony Mackie, Jamie Dornan, Katie Aselton
Writing Credits:
Justin Benson

Synopsis:
Two New Orleans paramedics' lives are ripped apart after they encounter a series of horrific deaths linked to a designer drug with bizarre, otherworldly effects.

MPAA:
Rated R.

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Dolby 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 102 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 1/26/2021

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead And Producer David Lawson Jr.
• “Making Of” Featurette
• “Previsualization” Featurette
• “VFX Breakdown” Featurette
• Deleted Scene
• Alternate Ending
• Trailers & Previews


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RELATED REVIEWS


Synchronic [Blu-Ray] (2020)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 13, 2021)

When we last saw filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, they created 2018’s The Endless, a trippy sci-fi drama. They return with 2020’s Synchronic, a trippy sci-fi drama.

I guess there’s something to be said for knowing your wheelhouse.

Longtime pals Steve Denube (Anthony Mackie) and Dennis Dannelly (Jamie Dornan) work as paramedics in New Orleans. As they go about their work, they start to weird shenanigans related to overdose victims.

Soon they learn that a powerful new designer drug called “Synchronic” caused all these issues. While the paramedics explore this substance further, they find themselves pulled into the proverbial rabbit hole.

When I watched The Endless a few years back, I did so with little foreknowledge and not especially high expectations. It became a pleasant surprise, as despite a few issues, it delivered a pretty engaging and creative effort.

With Endless as backdrop, I went into Synchronic with a different set of assumptions. Instead of the unknowns with no track record I’d witnessed, I entered the film with hopes Synchronic would at least live up to Endless.

Actually, I thought Synchronic should work better than its predecessor. Not only did Moorhead and Benson enjoy a bigger budget, but also they recruited actual Hollywood stars via Mackie and Dornan.

The latter seemed like the biggest advantage for Synchronic. With Endless, Moorhead and Benson cast themselves as the lead characters, and while they did fine, they never equaled what more experienced performers could’ve achieved.

Actually, known primarily for the Fifty Shades movies, I don’t know how much talent Dornan boasts, but I’ve seen more than enough of Mackie to know he’s a top-notch actor. If nothing else, Synchronic felt likely to top Endless just due to his presence.

It doesn’t, but I don’t blame Mackie – or Dornan – for that. Both do fine in their roles, even if Dornan’s Dennis exists more as a plot device than as a real person.

To some degree, the same holds true for Mackie’s Steve, as he never turns into a terribly well-realized personality. Nonetheless, he gets a lot better exposition than does the flat Dennis, and Mackie does nicely in the part.

Synchronic tends to falter due to a lack of cohesion, especially because it often feels like a collection of influences. Though not a serial killer/cop story, the movie’s tone can resemble the dark, foreboding atmosphere of Se7en, and the trippy sense comes across like an echo of Altered States.

Eventually Synchronic introduces a time travel element, and despite the huge number of movies that fall in that genre, it actually manages some creativity. This side of matters also allows the flick to give us some much-needed comedy, especially when Steve evokes Back to the Future.

I admire that Benson and Moorhead create an ambitious piece with Synchronic, and it remains fairly involving. However, it seems too scattered too much of the time, as it can feel like plot threads without clear connection more than a coherent narrative.

Benson and Moorhead manage enough cleverness to allow this to mostly work, but it still leaves Synchronic as an inconsistent piece, and a movie that works less well than their prior effort.

Still, the film’s positives outweigh its negatives. Because Endless impressed me, I admit Synchronic becomes a mild disappointment, but it nonetheless offers enough cinematic value to turn into a mostly memorable tale.


The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

Synchronic appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a pretty appealing presentation.

Overall sharpness appeared good. A few slightly soft shots occasionally occurred, but they remained minor, so most of the flick offered pretty positive delineation. Jagged edges and moiré effects failed to appear, and I also noticed no edge haloes nor print flaws.

In terms of palette, Synchronic went with fairly strong sense of teal and amber. Nothing about the hues stood out, but they seemed fine for this production.

Blacks appeared fairly full and dense, while low-light shots gave us mostly good clarity. Some shadows could seem a bit thick, but those elements usually worked fine. In general, I felt pleased with the transfer.

The film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack accentuated the material. Most of the livelier moments related to the occasional supernatural elements, and we got enough of those to fill out the spectrum reasonably well. Otherwise, the film emphasized quiet ambience and provided pretty positive integration.

Sound quality satisfied. Music was full and rich, while effects demonstrated nice clarity and accuracy.

Speech came across as crisp and natural. The mix seemed to be satisfactory.

We find some extras here, and we begin with an audio commentary from writer/director Justin Benson, director Aaron Moorhead and producer David Lawson Junior. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific look at the project’s roots and development, cast and performances, story and characters, sets and locations, music, cinematography and visual design, effects, editing, and connected domains.

During this chat, the participants discuss the fact that people like me review their commentaries, and they express some concern they’ll get panned. They need not fret, for as was the case with their Endless reel -–which came from the same trio – this becomes a solid look at the flick.

The track gets into all the appropriate areas and it delves into them with gusto. We find a lot of nice insights along the way in this brisk, engaging discussion.

(Footnote to Moorhead, Benson and Lawson: my Paypal account links to the email found on this page. I expect you to send me big bucks for this rave review!)

Making Of spans 15 minutes, five seconds and provides notes from Benson, Moorhead, camera operator William Tanner Sampson, and actors Jamie Dornan, Anthony Mackie and Ally Ioannides.

“Making” discusses story and characters, cast and performances, effects, sets and locations, music, and thoughts on time travel. While not a great piece, “Making” offers some decent insights.

With Previsualization. we find an eight-minute, 17-second reel that offers comments from Benson and Moorhead. After their intro, we get a split-screen that shows the final film in a small box at the top and the previz footage at the bottom.

Rather than the usual CG animation we expect, Moorhead and Benson’s “previz” offers material acted out by live performers, with some crude effects added when necessary. It becomes an interesting presentation.

VFX Breakdown fills two minutes, 59 seconds and shows various effects in different stages of completion. Though it’d work better with commentary attached, it still gives us intriguing images.

One Deleted Scenes goes for one minute, six seconds and looks at Steve’s medical and emotional progress. It seems interesting but not essential.

We also get an Alternate Ending that runs one minute, 28 seconds. That time includes an intro from Moorhead and Benson and gives us a finale that exists as a joke. It’s actually pretty funny.

The disc opens with ads for Max Cloud, Possessor and Cut Throat City. We also find a teaser and trailer for Synchronic.

With Synchronic, Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson continue to demonstrate their ability to create unusual and intriguing movies. However, they have yet to make a consistent film, and that leaves Synchronic as a good but not great project. The Blu-ray comes with generally positive picture and audio as well as a mix of bonus materials. Synchronic works well enough to earn my recommendation, but that nod comes with caveats.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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