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.