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MIRAMAX

MOVIE INFO
Synopsis:
The clock is ticking on Monty Brogan's freedom -in 24 hours, he goes to prison for seven long years. Once a kingpin Manhattan, Monty is about to say goodbye to the life he knew - a life that opened doors to New York's swankiest clubs but also alienated him from the people closest to him. In his last day on the outside, Monty tries to reconnect with his father, who's never given up on his son, and gets together with his two closest friends from the old days, Jacob and Slaughtery. Also in the mix is his girlfriend, Naturelle, who might (or might not) have been the one that tipped off the cops. Monty's not sure of much these days...but with time running out, there are choices to be made.

Director:
Spike Lee
Cast:
Edward Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Barry Pepper, Rosario Dawson, Anna Paquin, Brian Cox
Writing Credits:
David Benioff

Tagline:
Can you change your whole life in a day?
Box Office:
Budget $15 million.
Opening weekend $108,865 on 5 screens.
Domestic gross $13.060 million.
MPAA:
Rated R for strong language and some violence.

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Digital Stereo
Subtitles:
None
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 135 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 5/20/2003

Bonus:
• Deleted Scenes
• Audio Commentary With Director Spike Lee
• Audio Commentary With Writer David Benioff
The Evolution of an American Filmmaker Featurette
Ground Zero A Tribute


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EQUIPMENT
TV - Mitsubishi CS-32310 32"; Subwoofer - JBL PB12; DVD Player - Toshiba SD-4700; Receiver - Sony STR-DE845; Center - Polk Audio CS175i; Front Channels - Polk Audio; Rear Channels - Polk Audio.

RELATED REVIEWS


25th Hour (2002)

Reviewed by David Williams (May 21, 2003)

25th Hour explores a very interesting concept and frames it in the clever subtext of post 9/11 New York City. How would you spend your last day of freedom if the very next day, you were headed off to prison for seven years? In Spike Lee’s new “joint”, we get to explore that quandary via Monty Brogan (Edward Norton), as he is preparing to head off to jail for a drug-related charge. Via 25th Hour, we shadow him on his last day as a free man as he spends his final 24 hours of freedom in deep reflection, as well as with good friends.

The first scene of the movie is a little disjointed from the rest, but it serves to set up a happier, more go-lucky time in Monty’s life. He and his Russian sidekick (ex-Baltimore Raven Tony Siragusa) run across a severely abused dog that’s minutes away from death and Monty decides that it’d be best to shoot it and put it out of its misery. However, when he reaches out to help it, the dog barks wildly and snaps at him. Monty enjoys seeing the feisty nature of the dog … he gets a kick out of it … and he decides to rescue it from what would be certain death. We then move forward several months/years later and see Monty walking the dog down on the harbor on his last day of freedom. He’s alone with his thoughts … and his dog … and when he’s approached by what we assume is a frequent customer, Monty turns him down on the spot and tells him that he’s been busted.

Told through a series of flashbacks, we learn about Monty’s past and find that he’s clearly guilty of the crimes we assume he’s committed and on his last day of independence, Monty has plans to spend the day with friends and family – namely, Jacob Elinsky (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a high school teacher who is falling for one of his sexy, Lolita-like students (Anna Paquin); Frank Slaughtery (Barry Pepper), a no-holds-barred Wall Street trader; Naturelle (Rosario Dawson), Monty’s girlfriend and someone who may have possibly tipped off the police; and his father, James (Brian Cox), a retired firefighter who operates a neighborhood bar frequented by friends and former co-workers - many of whom didn’t make it out of the Twin Towers alive.

An important scene in the film is a late-night gathering between Frank and Jacob at Frank’s opulent apartment overlooking Ground Zero. Frank and Jacob engage each other in a grim discussion that seems to come to the same conclusion – Monty’s prospects are pretty bleak. However, while Jacob cuts his friend some slack and tends to make excuses for his problems, Frank tends to be more cold-hearted and realistic about Monty, feeling that he’s getting what he rightfully deserves – “He’s a drug dealer for goodness sakes!” After their depressing discussion about their high school friend, the lingering shot of Ground Zero from Frank’s apartment serves as a grim undertone for Monty’s prospects while in jail, as well as afterwards … but it also lets us know that no matter how self-absorbed and narcissistic the movie’s theme may seem, the grim realities of 9/11 still hang over New York City and those who inhabit it on a daily basis. As the group converges (Monty, Frank, Jacob, Naturelle) and heads out for their last night of freedom together, the dynamic radically changes, as everyone tries to come to grips with how much all of their lives are fixing to change in a short amount of time.

The trio of Norton, Pepper, and Hoffman do an incredible job with the parts they’re given and they come off quite convincingly as very good friends, while Brian Cox delivers an engrossing and heart-breaking portrayal as a father full of regret. However, for all their chemistry, it’s Edward Norton who stands out as a man among men. He’s convincingly and equally parts bitter, angry, scared, proud, regretful, bold, and uncertain … and Norton is able to embody all these feelings into one spectacular performance. Monty knows he’s screwed up and made plenty of bad decisions in his life, but he’s man enough to face the music alone, without feeling the need to take others down with him. While he has his moments of blaming everyone but himself (Norton delivers a blistering speech in the film that goes off on every race, color, and creed known to man and it harkens back to his stunning, hate-filled performance in American History X … Amazing …), he always comes back around and realizes who is truly to blame and what is really important.

Spike Lee and writer David Benioff (original story and screenplay) throw in a few secondary and tertiary elements to add some suspense … Will Jacob end up making a grave mistake with one of his female students? Did Monty’s girlfriend, Naturelle, give him up to the cops? Will Monty face up to his court-sanctioned penalty or run? … the movie’s base narrative of a desperate and humbled man taking stock of his own life is enough in and of itself to make this a great, great film. Highly recommended and arguably one of Lee’s best outings.


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

Touchstone brings viewers 25th Hour in an anamorphically enhanced – and THX certified - widescreen presentation in the film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. With some impressively gritty and arresting cinematography from Spike Lee and Rodrigo Prieto, 25th Hour is a striking visual experience.

The film was quite detailed and sharp for the vast majority of the running time, with only some slight grain noted on occasion that broke the picture up somewhat. Much of the grain was intentional and was meant to be carried over to Touchstone’s DVD and I tried to score the transfer based on a balance between what was intended and what was more than likely not meant to be there. The film contained a very subdued and dreary color palette to go along with the subject matter and it really enhanced the viewing of the film. The scenes during the nightclub contained the most impressive and colorful hues seen in 25th Hour and the transfer handled them all marvelously. There was never any bleeding or smearing noted and as far as I could tell, everything was properly balanced and saturated when you consider that certain portions of 25th Hour were supposed to be slightly off-kilter. Black levels were spot on and allowed for above-average shadow detail and delineation.

Problems with the transfer were minimal, as the aforementioned grain was probably the most notable element throughout. Print flaws in the form of flakes and flecks rarely made an appearance, while I did note some shimmer on some of the more highly contrasted backgrounds. There was some very slight compression artifacting in a couple of the darkest scenes, but it was of the “blink and you’ll miss it” variety and ultimately, not distracting in the least. Black levels seemed to be washed out and excessively gritty from time to time, but it seemed to be intentional much more often than not. Slight edge enhancement was noted a few times throughout the presentation, but like the other aforementioned flaws, it didn’t distract from the film itself. Ultimately, this was a fine looking film that came from a well-manicured master print.

While 25th Hour does contain a few flaws, many of them were difficult to discern because of the intentional grain and restrained look-and-feel of the picture itself. Even so, 25th Hour remained a very tight and fine-looking presentation.

25th Hour gets a pretty impressive THX-certified Dolby Digital 5.1 mix from Touchstone that presents the material from the dialogue-heavy film quite nicely.

The film never uses sound belligerently, although there are a few occasions where your surrounds really light up the room. During some of the outdoor - and busier indoor scenes (for instance, the floor at Slaughtery’s Wall Street workplace) - the soundstage opened up somewhat and allowed for some environmental effects to play around and create a nice, general sense of involvement, as well as some occasions where Terence Blanchard’s score got some general reinforcement from the rear. During one scene in particular - when Monty is having his verbal outburst against certain minorities in a bathroom mirror - each and every speaker in your surround setup gets a discrete piece of the action and it allows for the moment to become much more impressive and engaging than had it simply been relegated to the forward spectrum. The low-end, as well as your rear surrounds, are definitely booming during the club scene and while those few minutes were the exception and not the rule … they were enough to take the track over the top.

As I said earlier, the majority of the film is dialogue-driven and the vast majority of it comes from the front surrounds. Speech was always crystal clear and easily understood, without any harshness or edginess to distort the proceedings. The LFE gets some play, but it’s rather restrained overall (save for the club scene), as it only served to reinforce a few effects, as well as some of the more active moments in Blanchard’s very effective score.

Touchstone has also included a French 5.1 Dolby Digital mix, as well as English Closed Captions.

Touchstone has done a commendable job with supplements for the film, but 25th Hour is a far cry from “Special Edition” material. Even so, there are a couple of really nice extras included here, so let’s take a look …

Starting things off, Touchstone has added two Feature Length Commentaries on the disc, with the first featuring director Spike Lee. Lee is able to hold his own here and he provides viewers with a fairly thorough dissection of the film and what it was like making it. There are a few moments of dead air scattered throughout the track, but Lee still manages to make what he says very interesting and engaging. Knowing Lee’s public personality, I expected him to be a bit more chatty than he was here and his commentary was surprisingly reserved and modest. Lee covers various and sundry issues dealing with the shoot – a standard director’s commentary you might say – and he expounds on the story, as well as the actors in it. A good commentary for sure, but I honestly expected a bit more from Lee.

The Commentary featuring author/screenwriter David Benioff was pretty informative and covered a good bit of ground on what it was like adapting his novel into a screenplay and all of the pressures condensing his novel involved. Also, since his novel was written before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he covers the changes that were made to the screenplay in order to use 9/11 … and more specifically, post-9/11 in New York City … as a backdrop for the story. Benioff does cover some movie production issues as well, but not quite as in-depth as Lee did in his commentary. Benioff does a good job solo here, but with the amount of dead time between the two tracks, it seems that maybe the duo should have gotten together, played off of each other’s comments, and made one, singular track that would have probably been more active having the two in the same room.

The Evolution of an American Filmmaker (22:19) is a nice documentary that gives us a quick overview of Lee and his storied film career. I won’t turn this into a discussion of what I think about Lee or his politics, as I really enjoyed 25th Hour and see it as one of his finest achievements. While this extra touches slightly on 25th Hour, it also encompasses much of Lee’s other work via clips from the films themselves, interview snippets with contemporaries and stars who have worked with Lee on other projects, as well as shots from behind-the-scenes. While the piece is short and Lee’s career is definitely worthy of deeper and more in-depth coverage, Evolution does a good job of scratching the surface on the director, his films, and his storied career in Hollywood.

There are six Deleted Scenes included from the film (“Sway” - 1:34 ; “Little Odessa” – 3:08 ; “Naturelle, Mom, and Monty” – 2:43; “Party Plans” – 0:55; “Sneaking Mary In” – 0:50; and “Mary’s Death Scene” – 1:02) and while they were all somewhat interesting in their own right, none would have really added much to 25th Hour as it stands right now. While these scenes are interesting to have as part of the supplements package, they are definitely worthy of their spot on the cutting room floor. Touchstone has added a –PLAY ALL- selection to this supplement as well, so we can view the scenes back to back to back if need be.

Ground Zero (5:31) is next and contains some raw footage the Lee and company shot while making the film. The majority of the 9/11 clean up was complete when the footage was shot, but it still remains as a sad reminder of the terrorist attacks of 2001 on American soil.

Lastly, you can Register Your DVD via the ROM capabilities of the disc over the Internet in order to qualify for disc replacement and “DVD technical support” from Touchstone. Never done it, so I don’t know what to tell you to expect if you ever actually had to call them about anything.

While there’s not a lot here outside of the two commentaries (which, don’t get me wrong, are very nice), 25th Hour is one of those films that stands alone and it would be worth purchasing if there were no supplements included.

25th Hour is quite simply a spectacular film and one that comes highly recommended. While the DVD is lacking much substantive material outside of its commentaries, the film itself is worth the price of admission alone.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.2391 Stars Number of Votes: 46
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