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Jay Roach
Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson, Ed Harris, Peter MacNicol, Jamey Sheridan, Sarah Paulson, Ron Livingston
Writing Credits:
Danny Strong, Mark Halperin (book), John Heilemann (book)

When justice is blind, it knows no fear.

Game Change is a searing, behind-the-scenes look at John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, from the decision to select Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as McCain’s running mate to the ticket’s ultimate defeat in the general election just sixty days later. Told primarily through the eyes of senior McCain strategist Steve Schmidt, who originally championed Palin and later came to regret the choice, Game Change pulls back the curtain on the intense human drama surrounding the McCain team, the critical decisions made behind closed doors and how the choice was made to bring Palin on the ticket. The film examines how we choose our leaders by offering a unique glimpse into the inner workings of an historic campaign.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish DTS 2.0
French DTS 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 117 min.
Price: $24.99
Release Date: 1/8/13

• “Creating a Candidate” Featurette
• “Game Change: The Phenomenon” Featurette
• Bonus DVD


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.


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Game Change [Blu-Ray] (2012)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 9, 2013)

Back in 2008, Jay Roach directed Recount, a look at aspects of the 2000 presidential election. With 2012’s Game Change, Roach returns to HBO with another look behind the scenes of national politics.

Game Change focuses on the 2008 election, with an emphasis on the Republican side. The film launches in the summer of 2007 and shows the fading presidential campaign of Senator John McCain (Ed Harris). Aided by Senior Campaign Strategist Steve Schmidt (Woody Harrelson), McCain picks up steam in the 2008 primaries and eventually takes the Republican presidential nomination.

This takes us to the summer of 2008 and McCain’s need to pick a vice presidential candidate. He finds himself far behind the red-hot campaign of Democratic Senator Barack Obama, and this influences his choice of a running mate. Rather than select a well-known Republican, McCain chooses obscure Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (Julianne Moore). We follow the reaction to this and how the campaign proceeds/affects all involved.

2008 was unique in that one of the four main candidates was African-American and another was a woman; no matter which party won, someone unprecedented would obtain national office. Game Change doesn’t focus a lot on that historic significance, however, as it prefers to give us a behind the scenes look at the campaign and issues related to Palin’s candidacy.

One could easily believe this to be an attempt to besmirch Palin and create a parody ala Tina Fey’s famous SNL performances – some of which pop up during the movie. Some people will watch Game Change and come away with exactly that impression, but I disagree. Rather than embrace the cartoon elements of Palin – a tactic Laura Dern took when she played Katherine Harris in Recount - Moore tends to keep her character fairly grounded.

Indeed, Moore does the next to impossible and almost makes Palin a sympathetic personality. Take the scene in which she watches Fey spoof her; we actually start to feel bad for Palin as she finds herself on the butt end of such mockery.

Moore still delivers some of the Palin stereotypes, so don’t expect her take on the politician to be a radical departure from our notions; if anything, Palin has embraced a cartoony version of herself, so it’d be impossible for Moore to avoid those traits. Nonetheless, Moore works overtime to ensure a fairly three-dimensional performance. Even when forced to utter lines that could make Palin look dopey – such as when she blithely utters “it’s God’s plan” – Moore manages to make Palin seem like a genuine person, not a parody. It’s a strong performance that helps ground the film.

I think all involved also try to avoid the spoof trap as well. Actually, for the film’s first third or so, Game Change almost feels too balanced, like the filmmakers are so afraid they’ll be accused of left-wing bias that they steer too hard the other way. This dissipates eventually, but the movie never becomes mean-spirited or over the top in an ideological manner. It’s inevitable that some points of view will come out, but they remain as even as possible, I think.

Not that I expect the film to change any minds. Palin’s fans will see what they want to see and find her to be a victim of the press and the political grinder, while Palin’s opponents will remember exactly why the possibility of “Sarah Palin, one heartbeat from the presidency” terrified them. One can find all of the reasons Palin inspired so much love and hate in the flick’s 117 minutes.

Game Change might help rehabilitate John McCain’s image, though. Personally, I always thought McCain was a principled man who briefly abandoned many of his beliefs to win the presidency. Choosing Palin as his running mate was probably his most obvious political move, and the film lets us see how this choice weighed on him.

The McCain of Game Change wants to stand up for his beliefs and often does, which the film highlights. If anything, it makes him look a little manipulated into the selection of Palin – and too obsessed with doing the “maverick” thing - so the end result is that he regains some of the respect he may’ve lost in 2008.

Given how much media attention all facets of the 2008 election received at the time, I’m not sure Game Change delivers any great insight. However, it opens the door a bit and manages to provide fine entertainment along the way.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus D

Game Change appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. I thought the Blu-ray provided consistently satisfying visuals.

Sharpness was generally very positive. A smidgen of softness appeared in some interiors, but those instances were minor. Instead, the program demonstrated nice clarity and accuracy the vast majority of the time. I witnessed no instances of jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement appeared non-existent. Source flaws also failed to interfere.

Colors stayed fairly subdued for the most part. The settings didn’t favor a dynamic palette, but the hues looked reasonably accurate and full. Blacks were acceptably dark and deep, while shadows showed generally positive delineation. Overall, I found this to be a strong presentation.

As for the DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio of Game Change, it worked pretty well. Not exactly an action extravaganza, the soundscape doesn’t offer a whole lot of note. A few scenes – like at the convention or at rallies – opened up the mix in a lively way, and a quick war sequence gave the track real life. Some jets also flew around the room in a satisfying manner. This was a chatty movie overall, though, so one shouldn’t expect tons of action from the soundfield.

Audio quality always appeared positive. Music showed warm, full tones, and effects – as low-key as they were – sounded accurate and concise. Speech was an important factor that worked fine; the lines were consistently distinctive and natural, though a little edginess crept in at times. Nothing here dazzled, but the audio remained more than acceptable.

Two featurettes appear here. Creating a Candidate runs seven minutes, 26 seconds and includes comments from Game Change co-authors John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, Politico co-founder/editor-in-chief John Harris, political strategist Ed Rogers, CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger, national political correspondent Karen Tumulty, CNN Senior Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash, and CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jessica Yellin. They discuss the realities of presidential campaigns in the 21st Century. This is an entertaining piece but it doesn’t dig into the details much, so it remains superficial and breezy.

Game Change: The Phenomenon lasts four minutes, 27 seconds and provides info from Halperin, Heilemann, Bash, Tumulty, Rollins, Harris, executive producer Gary Goetzman, writer/executive producer Danny Strong, and director/executive producer Jay Roach. The show looks at the original book and its adaptation to the screen. Like “Creating”, “Phenomenon” has some decent moments, but it’s too brief and lacks much substance.

A second disc delivers a DVD copy of Game Change. This presents the same extras as the Blu-ray.

While not quite as riveting as the excellent Recount, Game Change nonetheless provides a highly entertaining piece of work. Abetted by a terrific lead performance from Julianne Moore, the film keeps us involved from start to finish. The Blu-ray delivers strong picture and decent audio but lacks notable bonus materials. Despite that, the movie brings the goods and deserves my recommendation.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 3
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