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WARNER

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Sidney Lumet
Cast:
Jane Fonda, Jeff Bridges, Raul Julia, Diane Salinger, Richard Foronjy, Geoffrey Scott, James 'Gypsy' Haake, Kathleen Wilhoite
Writing Credits:
James Cresson

Tagline:
Last night she drank to forget. Today she woke up to a murder. Is he her last hope or the last man she should trust?

Synopsis:
Who's the guy lying next to her? How did they meet? All Alex knows is that he's as dead as a toe-tagged John Doe. "He had a heart attack?" Alex's ex asks over the phone. "From a knife in the chest," she retorts. Two-time Academy Award winner Jane Fonda earned her seventh Oscar nomination as Alex, an alcoholic has-been actress cast in the real-life role of Suspect #1. Panicked at facing the police, Alex runs for it - right into the battered convertible of a washed-up former cop (Jeff Bridges). Their uneasy alliance draws them nearer each other and closer to the startling truth behind the murder. Director Sidney Lumet draws strong performances from his leads and an ensemble that includes Raul Julia and Kathy Bates. The murder happened the night before. But the real mystery begins The Morning After.

Box Office:
Domestic Gross
$25.147 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
English Monaural
French Monaural
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 103 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 8/30/2005

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Sidney Lumet
• Trailer


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EQUIPMENT
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.

RELATED REVIEWS


The Morning After (1986)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 99, 2008)

Though best known for socially conscious dramas like 12 Angry Men and Network, Sidney Lumet branches into different areas at times. With 1986’s The Morning After, he went for an adult thriller with a somewhat tawdry side.

Faded actress and alcoholic Viveca Van Loren (Jane Fonda) wakes up on Thanksgiving morning in bed with a strange guy. It’s bad enough she doesn’t remember anything about the prior evening, but one thing makes it worse: the guy – who turns out to be controversial porn photographer Bobby Korshack (Geoffrey Scott) – is dead from a knife wound in his chest. To make things worse, Viveca doesn’t know if she killed Korshack or not.

Not exactly a person with a lot of intestinal fortitude, Viveca panics and flees. She tries to get out of town but finds all the flights out of LAX booked. Mishaps at the airport ensue, and to escape all this, she winds up in a clunker driven by laid-back – though casually racist – Turner Kendall (Jeff Bridges).

Viveca heads back to Korshack’s pad and tries to remove any traces of her presence there. She thinks she succeeds but freaks out when it looks like someone else was there during her cleaning session. She re-encounters Turner – who pops up unexpectedly at Korshack’s door – and the two of them bond over an impromptu Thanksgiving dinner.

Matters continue to get weird, however. The next morning, Viveca finds Korshack’s corpse in her closet – and once again conveniently runs into Turner when she flees and he finds her in the street. Viveca entrusts Turner with her dilemma, and the rest of the film follows the mystery as it continues to unfold.

Morning starts with a bang but quickly turns stale. To be sure, it comes with a great premise. The film plops us into Viveca’s shoes as we experience the frightening and unknown reality with her. We get no back story or preparation for Korshack’s demise. Instead, the movie begins in bed with Viveca and his corpse, so we have to piece things together at the same time she does this.

Unfortunately, after that big opening, the tale plods and fails to go much of anywhere. Part of the problem comes from Lumet’s apparent indifference toward the actual murder. He shows little interest in that side of things, so even when the movie actually attempts to advance the plot, it does so in a lukewarm manner. This is a weird murder mystery since it appears so unconcerned with those events.

Instead, Lumet wants to focus on the relationship between Viveca and Turner. The film thrusts these two unlikely lovers together and badly wants to develop their romance. And that’s how it come across: badly. The love affair always feels forced and doesn’t develop in a natural manner. Sure, some of that would really occur given the stressful way in which the partners unite, but I still think the flick treats the relationship like a plot point instead of anything believable.

The movie also doesn’t really know how it wants to develop its characters. Indeed, they’re more a collection of traits rather than actual personalities. Many of the choices make little sense. We see Turner’s casual racism through the film, but why? This doesn’t endear him to the audience, but it also doesn’t bring out anything notable in him. It’s not like he learns and grows; he’s still racist at the end, but he simply tries a little harder to be PC.

In the role of Turner, Bridges adopts an odd twang that doesn’t make sense to me. Maybe I missed something, but I thought the film placed him as a California boy, not a southerner. It’s possible that point eluded me – it could be hard to pay much attention to this dull film – but if not, I can’t figure out that performance choice.

Or perhaps Bridges felt he needed some quirk to keep up with Fonda’s overwrought turn as Viveca. From start to finish, Fonda tears off hunks of scenery, puts a little salt on them, and them gobbles them right down. She takes her tips from the Norma Desmond school of acting and makes Viveca a relentlessly over the top personality. Some of that makes sense for a fading diva, but it remains too off-putting to succeed.

Morning also suffers from obvious red herrings, awkward editing and shifts in tone, and a terrible light jazz score. It might’ve survived all of those without Lumet’s determination to make a Lifetime channel romance. The flick’s inherent sappiness robs it of any tension and turns it into a turgid drag.


The DVD Grades: Picture C/ Audio C/ Bonus C

The Morning After appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Overall, the picture had some good moments, but it displayed a number of problems that made it mediocre.

Sharpness appeared acceptable. Much of the movie showed reasonable delineation, though a moderate amount of softness occurred. This wasn’t a consistently tight transfer, but it usually demonstrated good definition. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, and I also saw no signs of edge enhancement.

Colors displayed the muddiness typical of many Eighties flicks. Overall, the hues came across as somewhat heavy and murky. They were never truly bad, but they could appear pretty lifeless. Black levels seemed reasonably deep and dense, while shadow detail was also decent but unexceptional. Interiors appeared somewhat flat and bland, but they worked acceptably well.

The flick lost some of its points due to print flaws. Grain provided many distractions, as the movie showed fairly heavy levels much of the time. In addition, I also saw intermittent examples of specks, streaks, scratches and grit. The image also appeared rather blocky at times. This was a watchable presentation at best, so it earned a “C”.

The Morning After came with a serviceable monaural soundtrack. 1986 seemed rather late in the game for a movie to lack at least stereo audio, but this one’s single-channel mix seemed acceptable. Speech was natural and concise, without edginess or other issues. Music didn’t show much life, as the score was a bit flat and wan. Effects were reasonably clear and didn’t suffer from any distortion; they lacked dimensionality, though. All of this meant a “C” for audio.

In addition to the film’s trailer, the DVD includes an audio commentary from director Sidney Lumet. He provides a running, screen-specific piece that looks at cast and performances, sets, locations and shooting in LA, color design and cinematography, the score, costumes, and a few other production elements.

Lumet provides a spotty commentary. At his best, he lets us know a fair amount about the film’s creation and various challenges. However, the track often devolves into a basic love letter to Jane Fonda, and a too much dead air materializes along the way. You’ll learn enough from this piece to make it worthwhile, but it still sags too much.

Through his career, Sidney Lumet directed a number of classic films. The Morning After wasn’t one of them. Despite a story with real potential to engross, the movie emphasizes a tired love affair and becomes slow and dull. The DVD presents mediocre picture and audio along with an erratic audio commentary. This becomes an average release for a bad flick.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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