By Mark Reilly
Greetings, you crazy bunch of Roundtable rounders! I am positive this is an improper use of rounders, which isn’t really a word, but… it’s a hell of a greeting.
For yes, Reilly was away for so long but after some creative magic and a new home (Reilly moved… and is apparently talking in the 3rd person), he is back to review TWO Blu Rays courtesy of the Schmoes and Warner Bros. Yay, free schwag.
UNFORGIVEN and J EDGAR have the new Blu treatment and I am lucky to have seen these gorgeous transfers for the first time. And yes, I am back to being normal – no more 3rd person shenanigans.
What’s so great about the task bequeathed to me is I somehow missed seeing these particular two movies in the theatres and desperately wanted to.
But you know how life is sometimes… Once they’re out of the theatre, you have that window between video and cable and forgetting them entirely because of a brain injury you suffered at seven years old. Long story.
Anywho, I never saw the movies. I think I never saw them, I can’t remember… Kidding.
The first movie up for me was UNFORGIVEN starring Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman and Morgan Freeman. This is the same movie that in 1992 won best supporting actor (Gene Hackman), best director (Clint Eastwood) and best picture. A good haul.
I remember vividly seeing Gene Hackman’s Academy speech and that’s it. Years later, UNFORGIVEN had become somewhat of a cult western for my friends. In people’s description of their favorite movies, whenever a certain genre was introduced to the mix, like the western, UNFORGIVEN is always at the top of that list.
And as a film lover, all genres of the medium are interesting to me. With UNFORGIVEN being able to hoist that golden boy Oscar, not only would you say it’s a good western – you’d also have to admit the merits it obviously deserves. And I wasn’t disappointed.
The movie tells the story of William Munny, a retired gunslinger now looking to have a quiet life in farming, raising his two kids by himself after his wife passed. Fate knocks on his door when a young gunslinger approaches Munny to reignite his killing ways in order to help him claim a 1000 dollar bounty on a couple of men charged with cutting a prostitutes face. Munny has no choice to join the young gunslinger because he needs the money – his farm is going under. What follows it a classic western where Munny travels the Wild West looking to kill the men and collect the bounty; re-discovering the “real” Munny, a cold blooded killer capable of vengeance.
It is a role Eastwood was born to play. After years in the western biz, and the go to guy for the Dirty Harry franchise, UNFORIVEN was actually somewhat of a departure for him. Special Features on the disc include a very in depth making of documentary that has seen some age but nonetheless tells a thorough tale in what it was like bringing UNFORGIVEN to the screen.
I can see why Eastwood wanted to inhabit the role of William Munny. When at first we meet Munny, he’s being knocked over by pigs, down on his luck. His wife is dead and Munny is forced to raise their two children. I find it interesting that a cold-blooded killer, like Munny, can barely tame a hog when first we meet him. The legend that was once his – that of a merciless killer of women and children – here, Munny is but a shadow of his former self. He can’t even ride a horse.
This I think makes Munny a relatable anti-hero. We know he’s capable of good and we like him because of his love for his dead wife and the burden he takes on trying to raise his kids in the right way by doing “honest” work. UNFORGIVEN is not about redemption. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s about finding that deep dark place that exists in everyone and using it for the greater good. Munny takes on the role of equalizer and re-establishes his killing ways in order to make money and survive.
I think it is by this character description and how different it was compared to his other roles that attracted Eastwood to the role. Add the deliciously evil performance by Gene Hackman as Little Bill, a sheriff in town obsessed with keeping the peace, who will go so far as to watch justice suffer in order to keep things at a status quo, and you have a reversal of principles where the sheriff is the bad guy and the gun-slinging has been is the hero. UNFORGIVEN examines justice in the old west where violence and retribution is the only way.
I could wax poetic for days on this movie, as I wasn’t disappointed. The story, direction and acting are top notch here and I can see why it took home best director, best supporting actor and, especially, best picture.
The transfer however left me a little disappointed, as did the special features. Though definitely shot in a way to show the darkness of the subject matter – very grimy, shadowed and rough, the cinematography did not hold up in the transfer and I found myself squinting to see most of the movie because of how literally dark it was. I know this could compliment the story but I found myself just wanting to see the damn movie. I wish it were just a tad brighter.
And as mentioned, the special features show nothing new and were probably carried over from the original DVD treatment. Here we have some very dated documentaries about “the making of Unforgiven” and Eastwood…A star – which is actually a great examination of his career at the time. Personally, I would have liked some “new” making of’s that perhaps, show a more in depth making of featurette from today’s view point. What the actors and especially Eastwood think about UNFORGIVEN today.
The other two docs All on Accounta Pullin’ a Trigger and Eastwood on Eastwood are both entertaining and in depth, yet still show its age – having been made years ago in the 90’s.
The best part of this new Blu treatment, aside from the movie itself, is the actual casing it comes in. A 54-page treatment on the making of – includes insights and accounts on the movie. It is a fast and interesting read that actually sheds a better light on the movie than the special features.
Overall, those searching for a badass treatment and transfer will be somewhat disappointed. However, as far as movies are concerned, this is a must own for movie buffs so I recommend it wholeheartedly.
Okie-doke – on to the swinsuit portion of the evening….my review of J EDGAR.
J EDGAR is another Clint Eastwood special starring Leonardo Dicaprio as the cross-dressing is he or is he not creator of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
I found it interesting to compare this to UNFORGIVEN because well, it’s Eastwood so there’s that. But in particular, the transfer of J EDGAR suffers from the same lighting problems as UNFORGIVEN. It was a little dark for my tastes and, again, had to squint during the low light mood in picture just to see the screen.
Also, the special features on this disc aren’t very special. There’s just one documentary called J EDGAR: The Most Powerful Man In The World. And although it’s a very interesting portrait of the man that dressed in his mother’s clothes, I really felt it was disconnected from the actual movie and more in line with an A & E Biography special. I was hoping to get a little more insight on what it was like to make the movie rather than a full on description of who J Edgar was as a man.
I for one am a huge fan of the FBI and its inception. Particularly interesting to me is the Lindbergh case and J Edgar’s involvement in finding the kidnapper. Unfortunately, the case is merely touched on for a minute in the doc and is given a little more attention in the movie. I wanted more.
Which brings me to the movie itself. Where UNFORGIVEN was a home run in filmmaking, story and acting, J EDGAR was more of a single. At least it got on base.
My main beef was not in the storytelling, the acting or the directing – it was the make-up. Good god, the make-up.
I couldn’t see where Leo began and the prosthetics ended. This, sadly, is the main problem with J EDGAR. For every time Leo is onscreen, you notice the make-up and it rips you out of the story – young thirty-something waddling around in a fat-suit with the jowls to match. You just can’t get into the story because the make-up is just so hard not to discuss.
The storytelling too suffers with a confusing narrative. As we flash back and forth from the younger days of J Edgar to the twilight of his later years, the only way I knew what time zone we were in was by the make-up. If Leo was in old-fart mood, we were in the narrative portion of the story. If Leo merely had some wrinkles and some eye make-up, you knew you were flashing back.
A movie that tells the story of a longtime FBI honcho must supply some insight into what made him tick. Instead, it suffers from the reality that the Bureau’s inception was far more interesting than the man who ran it. Though I will say that DiCaprio’s performance is very appealingly and straightforward. He does a great job of showing Hoover’s inner struggle in a body that was always slightly out of sync with his mind. For that, I must give credit where credit is due.
But in the end, I can’t recommend the movie based on equal parts filmmaking and Blu Ray treatment. Perhaps if there were a documentary on the film showing the making of J EDGAR would have swayed me a bit – mostly because I am dying to see the horrible make-up in action behind the scenes. I.E. I want to see what went wrong.
Instead, you are left with a one-disc affair with one A & E doc and a flawed story. Rent this rather than buy – do it for DiCaprio’s performance.
So I’m gonna Schmoe these two discs because I can. Hopefully it will help you decide whether these discs are a must or a pass.
UNFORGIVEN – 3.5 Schmoes out of 5
J EDGAR – 2 Schmoes out of 5.
Well, there’s my very scientific rating for the two Blu Rays in question. What do you guys think? Are you excited to own UNFORGIVEN? Are you excited to see Leo in a dress? Either way let me know and contact me through the Schmoes!J. Edgar & Unforgiven Blu Ray reviews,