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Neil LaBute
Samuel L. Jackson, Patrick Wilson, Kerry Washington, Ron Glass, Justin Chambers, Jay Hernandez, Regine Nehy, Jaishon Fisher
Writing Credits:
David Loughery (and story), Howard Korder

What could be safer than living next to a cop?

In Lakeview Terrace, a young couple (Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington) has just moved into their California dream home when they become the target of their next-door neighbor, who disapproves of their interracial relationship. A stern, single father, this tightly wound LAPD officer (Samuel L. Jackson) has appointed himself the watchdog of the neighborhood. His nightly foot patrols and overly watchful eyes bring comfort to some, but he becomes increasingly harassing to the newlyweds. These persistent intrusions into their lives ultimately turn tragic when the couple decides to fight back.

Box Office:
$22 million.
Opening Weekend
$15.004 million on 2464 screens.
Domestic Gross
$39.263 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 2.40:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Thai Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Surround 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 110 min.
Price: $28.96
Release Date: 1/27/2009

• Audio Commentary with Director Neil LaBute and Actor Kerry Washington
• Eight Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
• “Welcome to Lakeview Terrace” Featurettes
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Lakeview Terrace (2008)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 13, 2009)

Director Neil LaBute made his name with challenging indie fare like In the Company of Men. He attempts something more mainstream via 2008’s Lakeview Terrace. In this flick, a young interracial married couple moves to the titular suburban street. Chris (Patrick Wilson) and Lisa Mattson (Kerry Washington) both look forward to a happy life in this lovely home.

Alas, this doesn’t go as planned. Neighbor Abel Turner (Samuel L. Jackson) clearly harbors racially based animosity, as he takes an instant dislike to the couple. Granted, the Mattsons don’t help their case when Abel’s kids (Regine Nehy and Jaishon Fisher) see them fool around in the pool, but that just adds fuel to Abel’s fire.

This sets off friction between Turner and the Mattsons – friction that becomes pretty intense. To make things worse for Chris and Lisa, Abel’s a cop, so they find few helpful resources when his actions become more malicious. The film follows the downward spiral of the Mattson/Turner relationship and where it ultimately leads.

Given LaBute’s background as a provocateur who explores conflicts among different genders and races, you might expect something involving and incisive from Terrace. Unfortunately, the film lacks depth and seems too muddled to succeed.

The main problem comes from its lack of focus. Terrace never chooses a clear point of view to embrace. The movie splits between Abel’s perspective and that of the Mattsons; that sounds like a good idea, I suppose, but it doesn’t work. The lack of a distinct viewpoint leaves matters scattered and without clarity.

This creates the biggest problems in terms of our understanding of Abel. The film gives us enough personal information about the character to create some sympathy for him, but then it goes out of its way to make sure we dislike him. The movie never quite knows how it wants us to view him, so we don’t embrace him in either direction. He’s way too much of a bigoted jerk for us to feel for him, but the presence of the background details ensures we can’t enjoy him as a hissable cartoon villain.

Which is what the movie should’ve made him. Terrace works best when it sticks with basic a “neighbor from hell” thriller vibe and forgets its pretensions. Sure, that’s not a particularly creative bent, but the neighbor vs. neighbor theme at least could’ve given us a fun ride.

Unfortunately, Terrace tries too hard to turn into Crash Part II. That’s a bad move, as it presents no real insight into its racial and societal elements. (Of course, Crash lacked the desired sizzle as well, but that’s a subject for that review.) Terrace treats its themes into a cartoon manner, partially because it flits around them in such a scattershot way.

“Scattershot” probably remains the best term to describe Terrace due to its overriding inconsistency. Half thriller, half racial commentary, the movie satisfies in neither regard. It follows too many unproductive tangents and never goes anywhere terribly interesting. Add to that a silly wildfire metaphor and a genuinely idiotic ending and Terrace disappoints.

“How’d That Get Past the Script Supervisor?” Footnote: at one point Chris states that they live on Lakeview Circle. Given the film’s title, it seems really odd to hear him say that. I guess someone thought Lakeview Terrace was a better title; didn’t anyone realize that they should’ve looped Chris’s line?

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

Lakeview Terrace appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. This was a watchable but not great transfer.

Sharpness created occasional issues. Though most of the movie displayed good delineation, some wide shots seemed a little soft and undefined. Some mild edge enhancement caused a few of these concerns, and the flick could be slightly blocky at times. No issues with moiré effects occurred, but I did notice a speck or two.

Colors usually seemed acceptable. Set during a heat wave, the movie gave off a rather warm orange glow, and that affected all the tones. The hues appeared fine for the most part; they could be a smidgen heavy but usually looked solid within the design parameters. Blacks were dark and firm, but shadows were more questionable; some low-light scenes appeared a bit dense. Some of that seemed to come by design, but I still thought the image was a little murkier than expected. Despite the various issues, the presentation was still good enough for a “B-“, but it was an inconsistent “B-“.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio of Terrace worked well, as the soundfield opened up nicely. Various vehicles zipped around the spectrum well and created a fine sense of the settings, especially when we saw Abel on the job or when wildfires threatened homes. Otherwise we got general ambience that formed the places in a pleasing manner. The surrounds added good info to the mix and they connected with the forward speakers to a good degree.

Audio quality was strong. Speech always remained natural and concise, and the score showed solid range and clarity. Songs followed suit, while effects also came across as clean and accurate. They displayed punch when necessary and always seemed well represented. This was a very good mix.

Among the DVD’s extras, we find an audio commentary from director Neil LaBute and actor Kerry Washington. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. They discuss how they came onto the project, cast, characters and performances, the story and changes to the script, locations and production design, ratings issues and a few other topics.

Overall, this turns into an enjoyable commentary. Perhaps inevitably, the chat occasionally degenerates into praise for various elements of the flick, but the participants also manage to throw out a good amount of useful info. LaBute dominates and includes nice insights into his choices, while Washington shares a fair number of interesting remarks as well. While not a stellar commentary, this is an interesting one most of the time.

Eight Deleted Scenes run a total of 13 minutes, 51 seconds. These include “Dad Inspects the New Home” (0:58), “Unpacking” (1:21), “Chris Wakes Up” (0:28), “Chris’ Presentation/Lisa Talks With Donnie” (3:01), “Chris Shops for Curtains” (0:48), “Chris and Lisa’s Party” (0:39), “Abel and Lisa Knife Confrontation (R-Rated Version)” (4:03) and “Abel and Lisa Knife Confrontation (PG-13 Rated Version)” (2:22). Most of these clips offer minor exposition. For instance, we learn more about Chris’ job as well as Lisa’s work. We also see a bit more of Lisa’s father’s disapproval of her marriage. “Knife” creates a tense scene that adds to the Lisa/Abel relationship; it seems interesting on its own, but it might’ve been out of place in the final cut. I do think it’s too bad “Donnie” didn’t appear since it includes a very quick cameo from LaBute’s favorite actor.

We can watch these scenes with or without commentary from LaBute. He provides some basic notes about the sequences and also lets us know why he cut them. We get good info about the segments.

A collection of three featurettes called Welcome to Lakeview Terrace fill a total of 19 minutes, 31 seconds. The shows break into “An Open House” (5:48), “Meet Your Neighbors” (6:30) and “Home Sweet Home” (7:11). Across them, we hear from LaBute, Washington, writer David Loughery, stunt coordinator Ben Bray, transportation captain Jeremy Morgan, production designer Bruton Jones, and actors Samuel L. Jackson, Patrick Wilson, and Jay Hernandez.

The shows look at what drew the participants to the project, LaBute’s impact on the production, cast, characters and performances, story and themes, sets and locations, stunts, and visual design. Much of the time, the featurettes stay with general information, so don’t expect a lot of depth. We some decent notes about a few production elements, but the pieces usually remain mediocre.

A few ads open the DVD. We get clips for Blu-Ray Disc, Paul Blart Mall Cop and Passengers=. These also appear in the Previews area along with promos for The Pink Panther 2, Hancock, Brick Lane, Termination Point, Married Life, Breaking Bad, The Shield Seasons 1-6, The Lazarus Project, Deep Winter, The Librarian 3: Curse of the Judas Chalice, The Pursuit of Happyness and Fearnet.com. No trailer for Terrace appears here.

Lakeview Terrace wants to provide commentary on American race relations within the framework of a thriller. Unfortunately, it never decides which way to go; its “jack of all trades” tendencies leave it as satisfying in no direction. The DVD provides average picture quality along with very good audio and a smattering of decent extras. Nothing stands out here as memorable, and the movie itself turns into a muddled dud.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 4
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