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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Jason Reitman
Cast:
Aaron Eckhart, Maria Bello, Cameron Bright, Adam Brody, Sam Elliott, Katie Holmes, David Koechner, Rob Lowe, William H. Macy, Robert Duvall
Writing Credits:
Jason Reitman, Christopher Buckley (novel)

Tagline:
America is living in spin.

Synopsis:
Aaron Eckhart stars as Nick Naylor, a sexy, charismatic spin-doctor for Big Tobacco who'll fight to protect America's right to smoke - even if it kills him - while still remaining a role model for his 12-year old son. When he incurs the wrath of a senator (William H. Macy) bent on snuffing out cigarettes, Nick's powers of "filtering the truth" will be put to the test. As Nick says, "If you want an easy job, go work for the Red Cross."

Box Office:
Budget
$6.5 million.
Opening Weekend
$262.923 thousand on 5 screens.
Domestic Gross
$24.765 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

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

Runtime: 91 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 10/3/2006

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Jason Reitman
• Audio Commentary with Director Jason Reitman and Actors Aaran Eckhart and David Koechner
• 13 Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
• Excerpts from The Charlie Rose Show
• “Unfiltered Comedy: The Making of Thank You For Smoking” Featurette
• “America: Living In Spin” Featurette
• Poster Art Gallery
• Art Department Gallery
• Storyboard Gallery
• Trailer
• Soundtrack Spot


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Thank You For Smoking (2005)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 31, 2006)

Based on the novel by Christopher Buckley, Thank You For Smoking promises something different: an examination of those who defend largely derided activities like smoking. Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) works as a lobbyist for the tobacco industry. Charming and suave, he does his job well and hangs out with those in similar jobs. Calling themselves the “MOD (Merchants of Death) Squad”, he pals around with alcohol lobbyist Polly Bailey (Mario Bello) and firearms lobbyist Bobby Jay Bliss (David Koechner).

Nick’s personal life doesn’t fire quite as well. His ex-wife Jill (Kim Dickens) thinks little of him and restricts his access to son Joey (Cameron Bright). She relents, however, when Nick takes on the task to convince Hollywood to feature smoking in a positive way. Joey goes along for the trip to bond with his pop.

Many complications enter Nick’s world. Vermont Senator Ortolan Finistirre (William H. Macy) stridently pushes for anti-smoking laws, and reporter Heather Holloway (Katie Holmes) writes a newspaper story on our lobbyist. Perhaps not wisely, Nick has an affair with sexy young Heather, another factor that throws a spanner in the works. Toss in a death threat and the movie follows all the ups and downs that these and other issues cause in Nick’s life.

At its start, Smoking fires on all cylinders. To be sure, it presents a very interesting premise, as we rarely see works that view hot-button topics like this from the non-politically correct side. To many, defending smoking is about the same as endorsing puppy slaughters. It takes some guts to create a story in which the protagonist comes with such heavy baggage, even if the movie tells the tale in a fairly satirical manner.

When Smoking sticks with the meat of the matter, it can work. Without question, it generates easy laughs, but the cold cynicism on display still creates life and energy in the movie’s comedy. This can be a pretty dark film, and I mean that as a compliment.

Smoking also comes with a simply terrific cast. It boasts many more “names” than you’d expect from a small, independent flick, and they help give the flick credibility. All are fine to good, though Eckhart stands out as the strongest of the bunch. He proves eminently slick, disarming and ultimately likeable as Nick; it’s a stellar turn.

So with all that going for it, why does Smoking leave me unenthused? Part of the problem stems from a lack of focus. After a charged beginning, the movie quickly loses focus as it tries to keep many balls in the air. Nick takes on a variety of different activities, and the film tires of each one before too long. The story doesn’t jump from one area to another with any real logic. Instead, it flits about more due to a short attention span. The film doesn’t explore any of its topics to a substantial degree, as it constantly abandons ship to look for something different.

That makes the movie less coherent than I’d like. We never get into a good flow, as things jerk around all the time. I don’t expect the story to stick with just one area of concern, and perhaps a more experienced director could have balanced them better. However, Jason Reitman fails to create smoothness, and the storytelling suffers.

I also never could quite figure out the movie’s point – that lobbyists are whores? Granted, the film opens up its barbs to go after others as well, but it never takes on tough topics – it’s not exactly original to poke fun at politicians and Hollywood smoothies. Smoking suffers from a lack of ambition, and it doesn’t have anything new to say. Yeah, it tells us that hypocrisy and pandering go on all over the place – this is news?

Perhaps worst of all, Smoking loses its nerve at the end. I’d admire the movie more if Nick came through all his experiences a fairly unchanged man, but the flick takes the easy, predictable path and cops out at its conclusion. Granted, it doesn’t for a Total Redemption, as it still tries to have its cynicism and eat it too, but the ending is much too warm and fuzzy for my liking. The movie gives in to sentiment right when it needs to become toughest.

At no point does Thank You For Smoking fail to entertain, and it occasionally throws out some charged laughs. Unfortunately, it gets most of these out of the way in its first act, and that means the film slowly deteriorates by the end. When the credits finally roll, it becomes tough to see it as much more than a moderately interesting disappointment.


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

Thank You For Smoking 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. I felt pleased with this consistently good transfer.

Only a few minor issues affected sharpness. A little edge enhancement occasionally made wide shots a smidgen soft. However, those remained minor, and the majority of the flick looked crisp and concise. I saw no moiré effects or jagged edges, and source flaws appeared absent.

Smoking went with an oddly subdued palette. It tended toward a dingy look that reminded me of the yellow glaze on a smoker’s teeth. I don’t know if that was intentional or just a side effect of low-key color design, but that was how it looked to me. Within this scheme, the colors seemed acceptable. They didn’t stand out, but they weren’t meant to be bold, so the hues were fine. Blacks appeared dark and firm, and low-light shots demonstrated good clarity and definition. Only the occasional soft shot kept this transfer from “A”-level.

As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Thank You For Smoking, it was exceptionally unexceptional. Since one wouldn’t expect auditory fireworks from this sort of dark comedy, however, that was perfectly acceptable. The soundfield rarely strayed from the front channels. The surrounds almost always contributed minor reinforcement, as they became more active on very few occasions. For instance, a short thunderstorm shot opened up the rears in a satisfying way, but that was the exception. Otherwise the mix stayed with stereo music and general ambience; there’s little to stand out from the crowd here.

Audio quality was solid. Speech appeared accurate and concise, with no edginess or other issues. Music was clear and showed nice range, and effects followed suit. They rarely played much of a role, but they came across as clean and distinctive. The audio was perfectly fine for the story, but don’t expect anything memorable.

Smoking comes with a surprisingly large roster of extras. The disc opens with two separate audio commentaries. The first features writer/director Jason Reitman as he gives us a running, screen-specific discussion. Reitman gets into the opening credits, cast and performances, locations and sets, the story and changes from the novel, costumes, set decoration, and other production notes.

At his best, Reitman delivers some good information about the film. He offers a few nice stories like controversy over the movie’s sex scene, and he even goes on an amusing tirade against Internet nitpickers who love to point out continuity flaws. Unfortunately, two issues mar the commentary. For one, there’s more dead air than I’d like, as gaps pop up with moderate frequency. For another, Reitman comes across as awfully self-satisfied much of the time. He makes a lot of self-congratulatory comments throughout the piece, and this gets old. The track isn’t bad, but it’s too problematic to be a real winner.

For the second track, we hear from Reitman and actors Aaron Eckhart and David Koechner. They all sit together for a running, screen-specific piece. This discussion often strongly resembles Reitman’s solo chat. We hear about all the same subjects and get many of the exact same stories; quite a lot of material repeats between the two tracks. This one tends to be livelier, though, especially since Koechner presents a genial personality. The commentary tells us a little more about changes from the book – mostly because Koechner grills Reitman on the subject – and features performance issues a bit more prominently. However, the differences are really pretty minor; the actors fail to bring a lot of useful material to the table. This is probably the superior of the two tracks, though, so if you only want to screen one, go with it.

13 Deleted Scenes run a total of 15 minutes and 35 seconds. Some interesting bits appear. We get to see the teen anti-smoking ad alluded to in the final flick, and we can check out the alternate ending discussed in the commentaries. The last one’s a disaster; I have no clue why they ever thought it’d be good. A meeting between Heather and Finistirre is more interesting in theory than on the screen, and some other duds appear. Most are reasonably entertaining, though, and we find some fun extensions of existing scenes.

We can view these with or without commentary from Reitman. He gives us some decent notes about the scenes and lets us know why he chopped them. Reitman does the job in this useful look at the segments.

An Excerpts from The Charlie Rose Show takes up 18 minutes and 22 seconds. This clip presents an interview with Reitman, Eckhart, author Christopher Buckley and producer David O. Sacks. All four of them sit with Rose for an interactive chat. We learn about the script’s long path to the screen and how all involved came on board. We also get info about the story and characters, the flick’s themes and topicality, Eckhart’s take on Nick, changes between the book and the movie, challenges related to satirical flicks, and a few general notes.

Despite too many movie clips, the Rose excerpt proves reasonably informative. It’s good to hear from the original author, and Rose makes sure that he asks some intriguing questions. The segment acts as a nice expansion of issues developed elsewhere.

A featurette called Unfiltered Comedy: The Making of Thank You For Smoking lasts eight minutes, 56 seconds. We find film clips, behind the scenes bits, and remarks from Reitman, Eckhart, Koechner, and actors Maria Bello, and William H. Macy. The show covers the story, characters and themes. Movie snippets abound in this totally superfluous promotional piece. It’s a glorified trailer.

For another featurette, we get the four-minute and 57-second America: Living In Spin. It features Reitman, Eckhart, Macy, Koechner, and actors Dennis Miller and Rob Lowe. They briefly discuss the concept of spin and how it works in today’s society. However, the program exists as another excuse to tout the movie, so we mostly get movie clips. Yawn!

A few Galleries follow. We find “Poster Art” (seven stills), “Art Department” (42) and “Storyboards” (112). All are good, though I particularly like the “Art Department” bits. They let us check out the details of the old-time cigarette ad mock-ups created for the flick along with other neat tidbits.

In addition to the Trailer for Smoking, the DVD concludes with a Soundtrack Spot.

Occasionally incisive and compelling but often predictable and limp, Thank You For Smoking rarely lives up to its potential. Despite some bright spots and good performances, the movie falters too much of the time to become a real winner. The DVD presents very good picture along with adequate audio and an erratic but generally informative set of extras. This one might merit a rental.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.875 Stars Number of Votes: 16
85:
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12:
11:
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main