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Danny DeVito
Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, Danny DeVito, Marianne Sägebrecht, Sean Astin, Heather Fairfield, G.D. Spradlin, Peter Donat
Writing Credits:
Warren Adler (novel), Michael Leeson

Once in a lifetime comes a motion picture that makes you feel like falling in love all over again. This is not that movie.

Welcome to the Filmmakers Signature Series on Blu-ray ... Enjoy this outrageously funny comedy from director Danny DeVito with high quality picture and sound, true to the director's vision, thanks to an all-new HD transfer. This special edition also includes deleted scenes, commentary by director Danny DeVito, a conversation with producer James L. Brooks and more. When the seemingly perfect marriage of Oliver (Michael Douglas) and Barbara (Kathleen Turner) Rose ends in divorce, the stage is set for the ultimate battle of the exes. Ignoring the pleas of Oliver's level-headed attorney, Gavin (Danny DeVito), the Roses inflict as much misery as humanly possible on each other, as they fight it out to the bitter end.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$9.488 million on 1259 screens.
Domestic Gross
$83.699 million.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Dolby Surround 2.0
Spanish Monaural
French Dolby Surround 2.0

Runtime: 116 min.
Price: $24.99
Release Date: 9/18/2012

• Audio Commentary with Director/Actor Danny DeVito
• Introduction from Director/Actor Danny DeVito
• “Revisiting The War of the Roses” Featurette
• “The Music of War of the Roses” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes Montage 23:22
• Trailers and TV Spots
• Production Gallery
• Shooting Script
• Booklet


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 War Of The Roses [Blu-Ray] (1989)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 8, 2012)

For Danny DeVito’s second stint as director, he took on the black comedy of 1989’s The War of the Roses. Told in flashback by divorce lawyer Gavin D’Amato (DeVito), we hear the story of Oliver Rose (Michael Douglas) and his wife Barbara (Kathleen Turner).

His soon-to-be-ex-wife, that is. We see how they met and their romance/marriage as well as how they pumped out children Josh (Sean Astin) and Carolyn (Heather Fairfield). We find them a couple of decades into their lives together, with the seemingly perfect marriage.

Emphasis on “seemingly”, as all isn’t well with the Roses. They’ve grown distant and detached so they plan to divorce. That’s where the conflict really begins, as the pair battle aggressively over how to appropriately end their marriage.

With his first directorial affair – 1987’s Throw Momma from the Train - DeVito also indulged in dark comedy, but the earlier flick doesn’t quite prepare the viewer for the cruelty of Roses. Make no mistake: you won’t find a happy ending here, as DeVito goes to the Nth degree of ugliness and abuse.

Those scenes comprise the majority of the third act and offer the flick’s most entertaining bits, as DeVito clearly relishes the nastiness he puts on display. Unfortunately, the first two-thirds of the film fare less well, largely due to lackluster execution of the early segments.

War finds it tough to depict a balance between its characters, so we never really invest in them. For this story to work, we should buy the initial love/romance between Barbara and Oliver and believe that they had a “fairy tale” for quite some time.

This doesn’t occur, largely due to the depiction of Oliver. From virtually the start, he comes across as an arrogant prick, so we don’t view him as a likable partner for the warm Barbara. We can’t quite figure out she sees in the self-absorbed social climber; Douglas seems stuck in Gordon Gekko mode and doesn’t lend enough heart to the role.

Eventually, this changes. I guess the filmmakers figured out that they had a lop-sided balance between the characters so they went in the opposite direction: suddenly Oliver becomes the sympathetic party and Barbara turns into the cold, cruel one.

Which doesn’t work. We can’t change allegiances so quickly, and we shouldn’t have to do so, as a better-constructed movie would’ve let us like both of them from the start.

Why does War decide to constantly flip-flop between unlikable characters? I have no idea, as it really undercuts the story’s impact. We’d invest more heavily in the way Barbara and Oliver disintegrate if we cared more for them prior to their decline, but the off-kilter POVs on display don’t work.

Despite this, War manages to offer a reasonably entertaining tale, largely because the third act redeems it. The movie’s too long – it would probably benefit from 20-25 minutes of edits – but the final third allows it to fulfill its promise of a real “divorce gone wrong” story.

I do admire the fact that it doesn’t wimp out. Some filmmakers would get cold feet and opt for an ending with at least some happiness involved, but that doesn’t happen here. Even a small gesture intended to show some warmth between the leads gets undercut, so the movie remains consistent in its cynical outlook. It may seem odd to admire that, but I do, as too many movies want to have it both ways; War commits to darkness and doesn’t let go.

I just wish it’d been more consistent from start to finish. With a better-realized opening act, this could’ve been a really strong movie, but as it stands, it’s too up and down to be better than “pretty good”.

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

The War of the Roses appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Films shot in 1989 often looked pretty crummy, and War suffered from some of those issues, but it worked fairly well within the constraints of its origins.

For the most part, sharpness seemed fine. Occasional examples of softness materialized, but these appeared largely a by-product of the film’s slightly mushy photographic style and that ugly film stock; I think the filmmakers desired a slightly soft feel. Whatever signs of iffy definition occurred, they weren’t extreme, so most of the flick delivered decent to good delineation. No issues with jaggies or shimmering appeared, and I discerned no edge haloes. Print flaws also remained absent, and we got a natural layer of grain.

The palette of War favored muted tones, which made sense given its dark theme. Deep reds and browns dominated and seemed fine. They never popped off the screen, but they weren’t intended to do so; the colors were acceptable for the film’s production design. Blacks were a little inky but usually acceptable, and shadows seemed decent; some low-light elements were a bit murky, but those weren’t a major issue. Though never a particularly attractive image, I blamed the source for that.

I thought the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of War was decent but unremarkable. That was to be expected from a character-oriented film, and the mix opened matters up only sporadically. The audio concentrated on the front. The score usually demonstrated solid stereo imaging, and the rest of the mix showed decent ambience. A few scenes with “action” – a house fire, a car crash – opened matters up a bit more, but this was usually a pretty laid-back soundscape.

Audio quality was reasonably good, though the mix occasionally showed its age. Speech was acceptably natural; lines could be a little thin, but the dialogue was usually pretty concise.

Music worked fine, as the score offered decent depth and range. Effects didn’t play a huge role, and they occasionally seemed a bit tinny. However, they mostly sounded clear and accurate. This was a restrained soundtrack that seemed fairly average for its era and the film’s ambitions.

Part of Fox’s new “Filmmakers Signature Series”, the disc opens with an Introduction from director/actor Danny DeVito. He pops out of the opening Fox logo to provide an overview of the disc. It’s an insubstantial but fun way to begin.

DeVito reappears to give us an audio commentary. Originally recorded for an old laserdisc, he delivers a running, screen-specific look at music and the opening credits, sets and locations, cast and performances, photography, stunts, editing, deleted scenes and some other areas.

Despite a few sags, DeVito offers a generally strong commentary. He covers a nice variety of subjects and doesn’t indulge in too much of the usual happy talk; heck, even when he does, he tells himself to shut up! DeVito goes over all of the expected topics and throws in enough entertaining stories that this becomes an enjoyable, informative chat.

Two featurettes follow. Revisiting The War of the Roses goes for 28 minutes, 55 seconds and includes notes from DeVito and producer James L. Brooks, as both sit together for a chat – and watch some of the movie along the way. That makes it an alternate mini-commentary, as they discuss the usual mix of production topics as well as their relationship. This isn’t the greatest conversation I’ve encountered – and Brooks hay have the most annoying laugh I’ve ever heard – but the program’s generally worthwhile.

During the nine-minute, 11-second The Music of War of the Roses, we hear from DeVito and composer David Newman. This one plops the pair in the same screening room used for “Revisiting” as they discuss the film’s score and aspects of Newman’s career. “Music” provides another good little piece.

A Deleted Scenes Montage fills 23 minutes, 22 seconds. DeVito discusses the rationale behind the film’s edits and then we see 18 cut clips – I think; the way the piece progresses, it can be tough to tell where one ends and another begins. Most offer short snippets/extensions, though some intriguing pieces appear; we see more of young Barbara, and another thread shows how Barbara sabotaged Oliver’s beloved orchids. There’s nothing here I could claim should’ve made the final flick – it’s already too long – but some of the elements are interesting.

In addition to four Trailers and six TV Spots, we get some stillframe materials. A Production Gallery shows 116 photos; it mixes shots from the set and movie images. It’s a nice collection, and I like the fact that it follows the production in the order of the story’s events. We also get a Script for War. This covers the entire original screenplay, so we find deleted scenes in addition to those that made the final film. The format can be awkward – it uses a whole lot of frames and lacks any kind of indexing – but it’s still cool to see the whole screenplay.

Finally, the package includes a 28-page Booklet. It offers some production notes as well as cast/crew biographies. DVD/Blu-ray booklets are a dying breed, so it’s nice to find one here – especially when the booklet is as high-quality as this one.

As a black comedy, The War of the Roses provides an intermittently effective affair. It really only soars during its third act, as the first 80 minutes or so lack consistency. Still, there’s decent entertainment value here. The Blu-ray provides erratic but generally satisfying picture and audio along with a pretty nice selection of bonus materials. Neither the film nor the Blu-ray excel, but both work well overall.

Viewer Film Ratings: 5 Stars Number of Votes: 3
0 3:
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