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MIRAMAX

MOVIE INFO

Director:
James Gray
Cast:
Mark Wahlberg, Joaquin Phoenix, Charlize Theron, James Caan, Ellen Burstyn, Faye Dunaway, Steve Lawrence, Andrew Davoli
Writing Credits:
James Gray, Matt Reeves

Tagline:
There's nothing more dangerous than an innocent man.

Synopsis:
The Miramax Collector's Series presents the unrated director's cut of the motion picture acclaimed by critics and moviegoers alike. Mark Wahlberg, Joaquin Phoenix, and Academy Award-winner Charlize Theron power this riveting crime thriller! Just out of jail, an innocent man (Wahlberg) becomes the target of the most ruthless family in town ... his own! Also starring James Caan, Faye Dunaway, and Ellen Burstyn.

Box Office:
Budget
$20 million.
Opening Weekend
$57.339 thousand on 8 screens.
Domestic Gross
$882.710 thousand.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 114 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 12/13/2005

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary By Director James Gray and Filmmaker Steven Soderbergh
• Audio Commentary By Director James Gray
• Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
• Roundtable Discussion with Charlize Theron, Mark Wahlberg, James Caan and James Gray
• “Visualizing The Yards” Featurette
• Behind-the-Scenes Featurette
• Original Concept Art
• Theatrical Trailer


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


The Yards: Collector's Series (2000)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 14, 2006)

With a cast that includes Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron and Joaquin Phoenix, wouldn’t you expect The Yards to rake in more than about $880,000? In 2006, sure, but that wasn’t necessarily the case back in 2000 when the movie hit the screens. And hit only 146 screens at that, an awfully limited release pattern that clearly restricted its potential success.

At least DVD allows us to determine whether The Yards is a neglected winner or a flick that didn’t deserve better than its obscurity. The Yards introduces us to Leo Handler (Wahlberg), a guy who spent time in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. He returns home to his family, a group that includes his sickly mother Val (Ellen Burstyn), cousin Erica (Theron), her boyfriend and Leo’s best pal Willie (Phoenix), his Aunt Kitty (Faye Dunaway), and her new husband Frank (James Caan). We learn that Leo went to jail to cover for the actions of Willie.

Leo meets with Frank to get a job at his train company, but instead finds himself steered toward a training program. Leo wants to work with Willie – who also didn’t go to school – but Frank tries to push him away from that. Undeterred, Leo hangs with Willie and both eventually convince Frank to let them work together.

That’s when Leo learns of the business’s seedy underbelly. Willie makes pay-offs to various folks to steer jobs their way, and they also sabotage the trains built by rivals. This goes downhill, however. Willie knifes a yardmaster and Leo beats a cop into a coma. The movie follows all the complications connected to these events and how they affect the characters.

If nothing else, Yards boasts a heck of a cast. With Dunaway, Burstyn and Theron, we find three Oscar-winners, and both Phoenix and Caan have earned nominations. And then there’s Wahlberg, otherwise known as the actor who gets more jobs with less talent. I suppose that comment may be unfair, as there are other performers with less ability, but I must admit I can’t figure out how Wahlberg maintains such a successful career since he displays such a drab, lifeless presence so much of the time.

That trend continues with Yards, and the presence of so many other more accomplished performers makes the discrepancy even more prominent. Wahlberg always seems like he can’t decide which emotion to pursue so he chooses none. Contrast his deadness with the spark shown by Phoenix and the movie finds itself with problems at its center.

Yards also suffers from an uninspired premise. There’s just nothing remarkable or particularly intriguing about the stories it depicts. We’ve seen this sort of material many times, and Yards fails to spin things in a manner that allows it to differentiate itself from the pack.

The movie’s generic feel means that little about it makes an impression. It occasionally feels like it might head down an interesting path or two, but it quickly retreats to the tried and true. The characters come across as forgettable, as do the scenarios. Despite a stellar cast, The Yards lacks punch.


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

The Yards appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though too erratic for a grade over a “B”, most of the transfer looked good.

Edge enhancement created concerns. These made some wide shots a bit iffy. Much of the flick appeared reasonably crisp and concise, though. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and source flaws were minor. A speck or two cropped up along the way but nothing else distracted.

Given the movie’s somber tone, it presented an appropriately subdued palette. Browns and earth hues dominated. Because of that, the colors weren’t memorable, but the DVD brought them out accurately. Blacks were acceptably deep, but shadows varied. Some shots offered terrific delineation of low-light sequences, while others came across as a bit muddy. That factor combined with the occasional softness knocked my grade down to a “B”.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Yards presented a good but unexceptional affair. Shots related to the trains and other street elements provided the most involving pieces. These opened up all five channels to create a good sense of ambience, and material moved smoothly among the speakers. Otherwise, this was a low-key track without much to stand out to the listener. The audio accentuated the material well enough but didn’t form a substantial impression.

Across the board, the track offered good audio quality. Speech was consistently natural and concise, while music showed nice vivacity and range. Effects were also clean and accurate, and they boasted decent bass response. This mix worked just fine for the film.

A broad mix of extras fills out the release. We get two separate audio commentaries. The first was recorded specifically for this “Collector’s Series” release and presents director James Gray and filmmaker Steven Soderbergh. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. Soderbergh wasn’t involved in the making of The Yards, but he helps act as a facilitator for Gray.

Not that the director seems to need someone’s help; he’s plenty chatty on his own. The commentary looks at the project’s development and refining the script, real-life influences for the story, cast and working with the actors, planning and storyboards, cinematography and visual choices, music and sound, changes made for this cut of the film and general filmmaking elements.

That last area is where Soderbergh plays the greatest role. He and Gray offer a very good chat about their various movie-related philosophies. Those aspects help turn their chat into a very lively and edifying discussion of film mechanics and theories.

That’s really the meat of the track. We get a fair amount of material connected to The Yards itself, but this usually comes out as examples to illustrate broader points. Gray does prove blunt and loves to talk about his experiences. He even does impressions of the cast and crew while he tells stories such as how it took Joaquin Phoenix 63 takes of one shot to lose an annoying facial mannerism. This is a terrific little commentary.

For the second track, we get a running, screen-specific piece recorded by director James Gray for the film’s original DVD release. Much of the content covers subjects already featured in the Soderbergh chat. Gray talks about cast, characters and performances, visual design and cinematography, music and sound, sets and locations, and various cinematic influences/inspirations.

Boy, do we hear a lot about inspirations! Gray mentions so many movies that influenced him that I started to wonder if he ever had an original thought. I do give him credit for acknowledging his predecessors.

Gray makes this a pretty involving and informative chat, though he inevitably covers many tidbits we already learn about in the Soderbergh chat. Even though this commentary is much more focused on The Yards itself, it still repeats a lot of facts. Nonetheless, it includes more than enough of its own elements to merit a listen. It’s a very good commentary that only suffers by comparison to its predecessor.

Eight Deleted Scenes fill a total of six minutes, 27 seconds. Given the brevity of the running times, we don’t find anything substantial here. Mostly these bits flesh out some of the supporting characters in minor ways. They’re mildly interesting at best.

We can watch these with or without commentary from Gray. He proves chatty and informative as usual. Gray tells us about the segments and lets us know why he axed them.

Next comes a Roundtable Discussion with Charlize Theron, Mark Wahlberg, James Caan and James Gray. This 30-minute and 49-second reunion puts all four together to chat. They discuss modern impressions of the movie and its shoot, character influences and inspirations, aspects of the performances, working with Gray, characters, themes, and the new cut, and how their experiences affected them in the future.

A lot of times chats like this end up as little more than bland praise-fests. That’s definitely not the case in this informative and revealing piece. The participants don’t mind dishing some dirt and they let us know the ins and outs of their performances. I like that the three actors all sit together and interact. That’s not a guarantee of good material, but they mesh well and it adds to the piece. This ends up as a very good discussion.

A featurette entitled Visualizing The Yards goes for 12 minutes and three seconds. It includes movie clips, shots from the set, and comments from Gray, editor Jeffrey Ford, and cinematographer Harris Savides. We learn about the visual and lighting choices plus editing as we look at Gray’s color storyboards and shots from the flick. Since Gray tells us so much in his commentaries, we don’t learn a ton of new information, but the format provides some nice images. Those make the program worth a look.

For the 12-minute and four-second Behind-the-Scenes Featurette, we hear from Gray, Wahlberg, Theron, Caan, producer Paul Webster and actors Joaquin Phoenix, Faye Dunaway, and Ellen Burstyn. The show covers characters, performances, working with Gray, and various related subjects. Outside of some decent shots from the set, there’s not much useful material on display here. It sticks with general notes and a lot of fluff, so we don’t really learn anything new.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we find some Original Concept Art. It presents 28 frames of material. The last few show poster ideas for the movie, while the others offer paintings that acted as inspiration for Gray in his creation of the flick. They make for interesting viewing.

As the DVD opens, it comes with some ads. We find promos for The Great Raid, The Brothers Grimm, and Secuestro Express. These also appear in the Sneak Peeks area along with a clip for Underclassman.

With a cast full of accomplished actors, I expected something special from The Yards. Unfortunately, director James Gray shows off a lot of influences and never manages to make the thing his own. The DVD presents pretty good picture and audio along with a strong set of extras highlighted by two solid audio commentaries. The movie deserves no better than a rental, though fans should be happy with this nice release.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.75 Stars Number of Votes: 4
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