DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main


Darren Aronofsky
Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder, Benjamin Millepied, Ksenia Solo, Kristina Anapau, Janet Montgomery
Writing Credits:
Mark Heyman, Andrés Heinz (and story), John J. McLaughlin

“You can’t tear your eyes away” (Entertainment Weekly) from this “wicked, psychosexual thriller” (Daily Variety) starring Academy Award® Winner Natalie Portman* and directed by Darren Aronofsky. Portman delivers “the performance of her career” (Vanity Fair) as Nina, a stunningly talented but dangerously unstable ballerina on the verge of stardom. Pushed to the breaking point by her driven artistic director (Vincent Cassel) and the threat posed by a seductive rival dancer (Mila Kunis), Nina’s tenuous grip on reality starts to slip away – plunging her into a waking nightmare.

Box Office:
$13 million.
Opening Weekend
$1.443 million on 18 screens.
Domestic Gross
$106.303 million.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 108 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 3/29/2011

• “Metamorphosis” Documentary
• “Ballet” Featurette
• “Production Design” Featurette
• “127 Hours: An Extraordinary View” Featurette
• “Costume Design” Featurette
• “Profile: Natalie Portman” Featurette
• “Profile: Darren Aronofsky” Featurette
• “Conversation: Preparing for the Role” Featurette
• “Conversation: Dancing with the Camera” Featurette
• “Fox Movie Channel Presents: In Character with Natalie Portman”
• “Fox Movie Channel Presents: In Character with Winona Ryder”
• “Fox Movie Channel Presents: In Character with Barbara Hershey”
• “Fox Movie Channel Presents: In Character with Vincent Cassel”
• “Fox Movie Channel Presents: Direct Effect Darren Aronofsky”
• Previews and Sneak Peeks
• Digital Copy


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Black Swan [Blu-Ray] (2010)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 31, 2011)

If nothing else, 2010’s Black Swan deserves credit as a movie about ballet that did well at the box office. It made a little more than $100 million in the US; although that isn’t the magic number it used to be, it’s still good, especially for a weird little art house movie.

And an awful one at that! For the life of me, I can't figure out why so many like this borderline atrocious film. It wasn't a good psychological drama - it was a laughable melodrama.

20-something Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) still lives with her mom (Barbara Hershey) as she performs for the Manhattan Ballet Company. They plan to stage a revival of Swan Lake, and she aspires to play the Swan Queen. Director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) thinks she’d be great for the timid, virginal White Swan but too quiet and fearful for the bold, erotic Black Swan. The movie provides an exploration of Nina’s psychological state as she works through the role and related issues.

The entire enterprise was pretentious beyond belief - and utterly absurd. I actually interpreted that the entire movie - or at least most of it - took place in Nina's head. Obviously, any interpretation sees it from her point of view, given her many hallucinations, but the movie threw out other signs. I don't think Thomas was a ballet director - I think he was a therapist. He often spoke in shrink-speak - like when he talked about her breakthrough and how she should work from there - and he even had an ink blot on the wall of his apartment.

If taken figuratively, the movie's still an over the top absurdity, but if taken more literally, it's just a mess, mostly because it’s so unbelievable. Nina is so afraid of her own shadow that I don't believe she could've gotten a job at Wendy's, much less as a ballet dancer in a major NYC company. We're led to believe she's very talented, but to get that far in the business, she'd need more drive than that. She breaks into tears if a gerbil looks at her the wrong way; she clearly doesn't have the intestinal fortitude to make it in a competitive business.

But nonetheless, Thomas gives her the lead part because... well, because otherwise there wouldn't be a movie. Again, we hear of her talent but talent isn't the only requirement. Nina's such a pushover and a mouse that there's no way she'd even get a job with the company, much less land the lead.

Which leads me to the bizarre overpraising of Portman's performance. Except for about four minutes late in the film, Portman does little in the film other than cry, look like she's about to cry, or look like she just finished crying. Maybe this is the script's fault more than her own, but Nina is closer to the lead in a horror flick than a real character. I think Portman got the part because they couldn't find an actual deer in the headlights who had SAG membership.

That's especially true since Aronofsky's idea of dramatic tension is to throw out more "boo" moments than a Friday the 13th movie. Every time you turn around, some nutty event happens and - surprise! - Nina starts to cry again.

Lather, rinse, repeat. There’s no character development - beyond the magical change that suddenly makes Nina tough for a little while - and a lot of lame gross-out and/or fright moments.

Throughout most of the movie, I either sighed at the pretentious idiocy on screen or I laughed at it. I'm pretty sure the director sought neither emotion, but that was all I got out of this pretty darned awful movie.

I will say that "Swan" at least leaves itself open to interpretation, so I admire the fact that it doesn't totally spoon-feed the audience. Nonetheless, it's just so ridiculous and laughable that it flops.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture C/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

Black Swan appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Due to the photographic choices here, I found it tough to grade Swan.

That said, I suspect the Blu-ray replicated the director’s desires, unappealing as the results may have been. Sharpness was erratic. Close-ups tended to be reasonably accurate, but even those lacked much clarity. Much of the presentation looked rather soft and fuzzy. No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects appeared, but I noticed some light edge haloes at times.

No concerns with print flaws materialized, but the movie was awfully grainy. That was an obvious stylistic choice, but I can’t say it wasn’t a distraction. The grain affected many aspects of the presentation.

Such as colors. Granted, the film’s palette always wanted to be subdued, so even without all the grain, you wouldn’t expect much from the hues. They tended to be flat and pale much of the time, though the stage productions offered more dynamic tones. Blacks were decent – though a bit drab – and shadows were somewhat tough to discern, again largely due to the grain. I went with a “C” grade here because the image may’ve replicated the director’s intentions but it was too ugly to merit higher marks.

Less equivocal thoughts greeted the pretty good DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Swan. Obviously, music opened up the spectrum well, especially during performance sequences. Effects played a more prominent role than expected, as those elements cropped up in appropriate places and blended well. A nightclub scene used the room nicely, and others on the subway or “inside Nina’s head” also contributed a positive use of the five channels. These connected neatly and created a positive environment.

Sound quality satisfied. Music was bright and bold, while effects appeared accurate and well-defined; these all contributed nice vivacity and depth. Speech seemed concise and distinctive, without edginess or other issues. The track wasn’t quite immersive enough for anything above a “B”, but it was still more involving than one would expect from a movie about ballet.

When we shift to extras, we open with a 48-minute, 55-second documentary called Metamorphosis. It includes statements from director Darren Aronofsky, producer Scott Franklin, cinematographer Matty Libatique, editor Andy Weisblum, writer Mark Heyman, production designer Therese Deprez, assistant choreographer Kurt Froman, LookFX visual FX supervisor Dan Schrecker, prosthetic FX artist Mike Marino, 3D artist Shawn Lipowski, and actors Natalie Portman, Winona Ryder, Mila Kunis, and Vincent Cassel. The show looks at the film’s roots and story, cinematography and the shooting schedule, editing and production design, cast and performances, the use of mirrors, choreography, dancing and training, and various effects.

Despite a long list of participants, we don’t get a ton of comments in “Metamorphosis” – at least not until the show looks at effects. That was its chattiest and most informative component. Otherwise, the show emphasized shots from the set, and that worked fine. We got some interesting glimpses behind the scenes and enough info to make this a reasonably useful program.

Most of the remaining extras take the shape of short featurettes. The first three look at aspects of the production. We find Ballet (2:33), Production Design (3:59) and Costume Design (3:55). Across these, we hear from Aronofsky, Portman, Kunis, Cassel, DePrez, and costume designer Amy Westcott. “Ballet” is essentially just a glorified trailer, but the other two – which follow obvious topics – are more positive. They’re all promo pieces, but at least the last two have merit.

Two Profiles follow. We find one for Natalie Portman (3:16) and one for Darren Aronofsky (2:48). Portman discusses her character and performance, while Aronofsky looks at his interest in the movie and some production elements. Not much of interest appears here; these clearly promote the movie.

Next we get two chats between Portman and Aronofsky under the banner Conversation. These cover “Preparing for the Role” (3:53) and “Dancing with the Camera” (1:35). The clips get into training and how Portman performed for the camera. Neither delivers great material, but they have some decent notes and deserve a look.

Five Fox Movie Channel Presents clips ensue. These cover “Natalie Portman” (5:56), “Winona Ryder” (2:17), “Barbara Hershey” (3:37), “Vincent Cassel” (4:43) and “Darren Aronofsky” (6:23). The actors discuss their roles and work, while the director goes over some general areas. The Ryder and Hershey pieces lack much depth, but the others offer reasonable material.

The disc opens with ads for 127 Hours, Love and Other Drugs and the FX Channel. We also get the movie’s trailer and some promos under Sneak Peek. That area includes clips for Conviction, Never Let Me Go, Casino Jack and Street Kings 2.

The package provides a Digital Copy of Swan on Disc Two. It lets you transfer the movie to a computer or portable viewing gadget. Whoopee!

Essentially Showgirls with many more pretensions and much less skin, Black Swan goes down as one of the worst Oscar nominees in years. Absurd, silly and downright laughable most of the time, the movie fails in most possible ways. The Blu-ray comes with adequate picture, good audio and a reasonably informative set of supplements. Maybe someday I’ll comprehend why a big stinking pile of awfulness like this inspired so much praise, but not today.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.7708 Stars Number of Votes: 144
5 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main