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Morgan Spurlock
Writing Credits:
Morgan Spurlock, Jeremy Chilnick

He's not selling out, he's buying in.

A documentary about branding, advertising and product placement that is financed and made possible by brands, advertising and product placement.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$118.294 thousand on 18 screens.
Domestic Gross
$636.938 thousand.

Rated PG-13

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 87 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 8/23/2011

• Audio Commentary with Director Morgan Spurlock, Producer Jeremy Chilnick, Cinematographer Daniel Marracino and Editor Thomas M. Vogt
• “At the Sundance Film Festival” Featurette
• “Workin’ Nine to Five (AM): POM Behind the Scenes” Featurette
• “Shooting for Perfection: Hyatt and JetBlue Behind the Scenes” Featurette
• Commercials
• 12 Deleted Scenes
• Previews
• Trailer


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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The Greatest Movie Ever Sold [Blu-Ray] (2011)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 24, 2011)

Best known for his 2004 fast food exposé Supersize Me, filmmaker Morgan Spurlock turns his sights on Hollywood with 2011’s POM Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. In this one, Spurlock investigates the concept of product placement, a method that means companies pay to have their wares advertised in films.

The basic premise: Spurlock makes a documentary about product placement/brand integration totally funded by… product placement/brand integration. Essentially he tries to sell himself, so he goes through the process of finding out his own “brand” and how to market it/himself. We follow his attempts to get the movie bankrolled/made and also learn about the advertising/product placement routines along the way.

Spurlock’s genius is that he takes a documentary subject and gives it an intriguing twist. However, that could be viewed as a problem as well, since it means that Spurlock’s movies can come across as “high concept”. He can seem more concerned with the overall concept that he doesn’t engage in the message and investigation as well as he should.

This means that to a decent degree, Sold feels like a “documentary lite”. Rather than give us a serious, detailed take on the topic, we view the subject through a fluffy, borderline frivolous lens. Sure, Sold does trot out a variety of experts and commentators, but they’re firmly secondary to Spurlock’s “the medium is the message” approach.

Which occasionally makes Sold frustrating. This becomes especially apparent – to me, at least – when Spurlock chats with some directors about their experiences with product placement. That’s a subject you won’t hear filmmakers mention in audio commentaries – well, except for this Blu-ray’s piece, of course – and it’s downright fascinating. I’d like to hear more about subjects like this; it seems that part of the film’s context views how product placement affects creativity, but it doesn’t dig into it enough to satisfy.

Despite these flaws, Sold does have a lot going for it, and it does get meatier as it goes – well, at least until the semi-defeatist ending. It feels like Spurlock warns us of the insidious nature of advertising but then just kind of goes “oh well!” at the conclusion. It’s an oddly vague finish to the film.

Nonetheless, Spurlock does know how to make an entertaining movie. What Sold lacks in terms of serious journalism, it makes up in energy and wit. Occasionally Spurlock seems just a bit too in love with himself – he appears to subscribe to the Michael Moore “Make the Artist the Subject” style of documentarian – but he lacks Moore’s huffy self-aggrandizing, so he’s a likable leader. With Moore, you feel that he wants nothing more than to tell us how smart and superior he is, while Spurlock comes across more as a merry prankster.

This certainly makes Sold a fun ride, and along the way, it does educate. It becomes especially amusing to see how Spurlock sneaks all the product placement into the film. Sure, he tells us he’ll do this, but he doesn’t always telegraph the advertising. That makes the placement all the more eerie; we know what he’s doing but it barely registers on a conscious level after a while. And dammit, I actually started to want to try POM Wonderful!

I’m actually surprised at how much resistance Spurlock encountered from the various brands he pursued. Involvement in a project like this seems like a no-brainer to me. I see little risk; even if the brand looks bad, only about 72 people would view the movie, so it wouldn’t do lasting damage. On the other hand, the brands that participate look cool and hip; they’re willing to poke fun at themselves and not take things so seriously. Or they’re just third-tier brands with nothing to lose – either way, I have more respect for the companies that went along with the show.

I could live without Spurlock’s camerawork choices, though. I suppose it seems strange to criticize a documentary for its documentary-style cinematography, but I think Sold goes over the top. It bounces and zooms and flits about with such abandon I actually started to feel motion-sick. Even documentaries can overdo the technique, and that’s the case here; a steadier camera would’ve been better, as the herky-jerk movement here becomes a distraction.

Sold doesn’t take on the most serious topic in the world; it certainly pales in comparison with the obesity/health issues involved in Supersize Me. Heck, I’m not even sure I learned a whole lot from the investigation, as I was already abundantly aware that a) advertising is everywhere, and b) advertisers are soul-sucking weasels. Nonetheless, Spurlock packages the message in a fun package and makes this a likable documentary.

The Disc Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

POM Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Documentaries don’t often deliver stunning visuals, and that holds true for the adequate but unspectacular image here.

For the most part, sharpness was good. The picture varied a moderate amount, though, and more than a few mildly soft shots emerged along the way. Nothing terrible arose, though, so the flick usually offered acceptable to solid definition. I saw no signs of jagged edges or moiré effects, and the image lacked edge haloes. Print flaws also failed to appear.

Given the subject matter, I expected a natural palette from Sold, and that’s what I got. I also expected somewhat lackluster reproduction of these hues, and that’s also what I got. Colors seemed decent, as they represented the tones in an acceptable manner, but they did tend to be a bit dull. Blacks were reasonably deep and tight, and shadows looked fine. Nothing here really impressed, but the visuals earned a “B-“.

Similar thoughts greeted the ordinary DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Sold. Documentaries don’t come with killer soundscapes, so this one remained laid-back most of the time. Dialogue was the primary component, and we got a fair amount of music as well; score and songs emerged from the side and rear speakers in a satisfying manner. Occasional effects also popped up, usually in the environmental manner; some bits like one that put us in Spurlock’s head became showier, but it was the exception. Most of the track stayed low-key – and appropriately so.

Audio quality was fine. Speech seemed natural and concise, without much edginess or other problems. Music seemed vibrant and full, while effects displayed acceptable accuracy; the flick lacked much to tax the speakers, but those elements worked well enough. All of this added up to a “B-“ mix.

When we shift to extras, we begin with an audio commentary from director Morgan Spurlock, producer Jeremy Chilnick, cinematographer Daniel Marracino and editor Thomas M. Vogt. All four sit together for this running, screen-specific discussion of the film's origins and development, additional background about the work that went into finding sponsors and related concerns, notes about various participants, music, editing and cinematography, and additional filmmaking experiences.

Expect a lively, brisk commentary here. We get some nice background about issues related to the film’s creation and find out more details about how Spurlock was able to maneuver through the world of advertising. The track helps flesh out what we see well.

A few featurettes follow. At the Sundance Film Festival goes for 14 minutes, 39 seconds as it shows the film’s Sundance premiere and remarks from Spurlock and a mix of others. We see a fair amount of movie clips and don’t learn anything particularly new from the comments; it’s a fairly bland featurette that often feels like it exists mostly to sell the movie.

Workin’ Nine to Five (AM): POM Behind the Scenes lasts three minutes, 42 seconds and includes notes from Spurlock. He discusses the shooting of the POM commercial found in the middle of the film. Despite its brevity, “Five” provides a pretty tight and interesting take on the subject.

Finally, Shooting for Perfection: Hyatt and JetBlue Behind the Scenes fills four minutes, 52 seconds with more notes from Spurlock. This one follows the same path as “Five”: it shows the creation of two more of the flick’s ads. Like “Five”, it’s another good little exploration.

Under Commercials, we locate five clips. We get “Alternate POM Wonderful Commercial” (0:39), “JetBlue Commercial” (0:39), “The Greatest Airline You’ll Ever Fly: JetBlue In-Flight” (1:17), “Hyatt Commercial” (0:39), and “The Greatest Hotel You’ll Ever Experience: Hyatt Welcome” (1:04). Though billed as “alternate”, the POM commercial looks a lot like the one in the film, so don’t expect anything too difference. The Hyatt and JetBlue commercials also simply repeat the segments from the flick. I think the JetBlue and POM ads are actually pretty effective, but the Hyatt one’s awful; it just makes it look like you’ll have to share your stay with a weirdo in a bathrobe.

The other two segments are interesting because they were created for use at the businesses themselves. You’d see the JetBlue one on a flight and the Hyatt one when you checked into the hotel. Both are good, though again, the Hyatt one is marred by Spurlock’s decision to cast himself as a freak with a towel on his head.

12 Deleted Scenes run a total of 48 minutes, 52 seconds. A lot of these look at advice Spurlock gets on how to sell his movie to the public. We also see his trip to make Aruba the official vacation destination of the film, Dan Rather’s comments on who “owns” the news, different participants’ favorite commercials, various marketing techniques, and extensions to existing sequences.

With a collection of clips that lasts more than 50 percent the feature film’s length, we find plenty of good content here. Without question, the segment about contributors’ favorite ads proves to be the most fun, especially when marketing foes must acknowledge some fondness for the medium. I like the Rather clip, and an extension of the piece that shows an analysis of Spurlock’s “brand type” is useful; it’s too long to be in the final cut, but it’s interesting to learn more about these techniques. I wish we’d heard more from the film directors – that was the part of the flick I most like – but I’m still pleased with this strong collection of scenes.

A few ads open the disc. We get clips for Salvation Boulevard, Beats Rhymes and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest, Midnight in Paris, Exporting Raymond, Supersize Me and Life, Above All. These also show up under Previews. The disc provides the trailer for Sold as well.

While it lacks the impact of Supersize Me, Morgan Spurlock’s POM Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold boasts enough sizzle to make it enjoyable. The film delivers a reasonable amount of information as it entertains. The Blu-ray gives us decent picture and audio along with a pretty good collection of supplements highlighted by a strong commentary and a heap of deleted scenes. Sold isn’t the deepest documentary you’ll see, but it’s fun and worth a look.

Viewer Film Ratings: -- Stars Number of Votes: 0
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