Archive for the ‘Gravity (2013)’ Category

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Distributor: Warner Brothers

Release Date: 25/Feb/2014

Region: Region A

Length: 91 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio

Alternate Audio:

5.1 French Dolby Digital
5.1 Spanish Dolby Digital
5.1 Portuguese Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese

Ratio: 2.40:1

Notes: This title is also available on Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack and as a 2-disc DVD set. All releases include an Ultraviolet version of the film.

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“I have to say that we were writing the screenplay and we were not thinking about solutions of how we were going to shoot it. Actually, we were very precise about how we wanted it to look and to feel. Actually, when I finished the script, I sent it immediately to Chivo, Emmanuel Lubezki, the cinematographer, because he’s my oldest collaboration, and I said, “Hey Chivo, read the screenplay. It’s one movie – two characters. We can do it in and out very quickly.” I really thought it was going to require a fair amount of visual FX but it was going to be very straight-forward. When we started working on the project and testing, it very soon became clear that the present technology was not going to make it so we had to develop our own set of tools to do the film.” -Alfonso Cuarón

Alfonso Cuarón’s crew was forced to invent new technology and alter established shooting methods in order to get Gravity onto the screen. The story is a deceptively simple one. Dr. Ryan Stone (Bullock) and veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (Clooney) are on a seemingly routine mission when disaster strikes. Their shuttle is destroyed, leaving Stone and Kowalski completely alone—tethered to nothing but each other and spiraling out into the darkness. The deafening silence tells them that they have lost any link to Earth and any chance for rescue. But the only way home may be to go further out into the terrifying expanse of space.

None of this sounds terribly different from any number of the other space films that have come out of Hollywood in the past, but Alfonso Cuarón’s direction and Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography take the film into uncharted territory. The film’s aesthetics bring to mind Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, but the story itself is more digestible to a mainstream audience. Cuarón establishes the language of his film as he is establishing his characters and the basic situation in the film’s impressive first shot. The shot lasts approximately 12 and 1/2 minutes, and it is a very rich 12 and 1/2 minutes. Audiences will hold their breath from that point forward.

Critical reception has been overwhelmingly positive, and the film has earned numerous major honors to date (including Golden Globe Awards for Best Picture and Best Director; Critics’ Choice Awards for Best Director and Best Actress in an Action Movie (Bullock); and the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement. In addition, the film earned ten Academy Award® nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Actress (for Sandra Bullock’s incredible performance), Best Film Editing, Best Visual Effects, Best Music, Best Production Design, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Sound Editing).

It is easy to understand why the film has been honored with nominations for its cinematography and special effects, but the film’s impressive sound design is just as effective and does much to establish the incredible sense of dread that one feels while watching the film. It is also nice to see Sandra Bullock nominated for her performance, because it is Bullock’s performance that grounds the film and lends credibility to Cuarón’s outrageous story.

Critics have noted weaknesses in the film. Variety’s Justin Chang praised Gravity, but felt that the film’s reliance on a tragic back story marred the film.

“…There are glimmers of artifice, too, in the script’s conception of Stone, who turns out to have a tragedy in her past, an unhealed wound that feels rather needlessly engineered to provide the viewer with a psychological entry point, as well as a deeper stake in her survival. It’s the one on-the-nose element in a screenplay that, given its rigorous intelligence in all other departments, might have done well to trust the audience to stay invested in Stone’s journey without the benefit of an emotional hook…” –Variety (August 28, 2013)

A.O. Scott expanded on this criticism in his otherwise positive review of the film.

“…Nothing in the movie — not hand tools or chess pieces, human bodies or cruise-ship-size space stations — rests within a stable vertical or horizontal plane. Neither does the movie itself, which in a little more than 90 minutes rewrites the rules of cinema as we have known them.

But maybe not quite all of them – come to think of it. The script is, at times, weighed down by some heavy screenwriting clichés. Some are minor, like the fuel gauge that reads full until the glass is tapped, causing the arrow to drop. More cringe-inducing is the tragic back story stapled to Stone, a doctor on her first trip into orbit. We would care about her even without the haunting memory of a dead child, who inspires a maudlin monologue and a flight of orchestral bathos in Steven Price’s otherwise canny and haunting score.

I will confess that the first time I saw Gravity; I found its talkiness annoying. Not just Ms. Bullock’s perky-anxious soliloquizing, but also Mr. Clooney’s gruff, regular-guy wisecracking. Doesn’t Stone say her favorite thing about space is the silence?” –The New York Times (October 3, 2013)

Most critics felt the need to mention that Gravity has little on its mind and serves only as a thrilling source of entertainment (as if this were not enough). An example of this can be found in Michael Phillip’s review.

“I’m not sure it’s a game-changer, whatever that means in the roiling film industry of the moment. The movie hasn’t much on its mind; some of the writing is pretty clunky; and there’s a rather cheap aspect to the female protagonist’s tragic secret. But “Gravity” is the first movie in a long time I’ve been eager to see again, and quickly, just to re-experience the size and flow of its images, and appreciate the ‘how’d-they-do-that?’ of it all.” -The Chicago Tribune (October 4, 2013)

It is this reviewer’s opinion that a film should be accepted on its own terms. A film is a success if it stirs an audience’s emotions in the manner that the filmmakers intended.  Gravity certainly succeeds in moving its audience and it does so in spectacular cinematic fashion.

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

The Blu-ray and DVD discs are housed in a standard Blu-ray case with attractive artwork and the case is housed in a slipcover with the same cover artwork.

 back cover

The animated menus employ footage from the film supported by Steven Price’s score.

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Picture Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

Gravity is a film that warrants a high definition viewing experience, and this 1080p transfer doesn’t disappoint. The quality of the image is as close to perfect as one could possibly expect. There aren’t any noticeable digital anomalies (such as aliasing, noise or banding) present in the transfer and the detail is incredible. One can see textures with perfect clarity. The colors and the contrast are beautifully represented here with perfect black levels. The transfer offers everything that one expects from a high definition transfer.

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Sound Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track offers an incredible sonic experience. Sound plays an especially powerful role in Gravity, and this mix offers a faithful 5.1 representation of the film’s original audio. Some might be disappointed that a 7.1 track wasn’t included, but these people will likely feel much better after hearing this amazing track. The mix is extremely dynamic and always natural. The panning effects suck the viewer into the film and never become distracting. Dialogue is always clearly represented (and well prioritized), and the music and sound effects benefit from the lossless transfer. This is a truly amazing sound transfer.

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Special Features:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Gravity: Mission Control – (HD) – (01:46:36)

This comprehensive ‘making of’ documentary is divided into nine chapters:

It Began with a Story – (16:21)

Initial Challenges: Long Shots and Zero G – (10:12)

Previsualizing ‘Gravity’ – (11:38)

The Hues of Space – (10:41)

Physical Weightlessness – (7:48)

Space Tech – (13:02)

Sandra and George: A Pair in Space – (9:37)

Final Animation – (15:01)

Complete Silence – (12:13)

Gravity is a film that warrants a comprehensive account of its making, and this feature length documentary manages to be as entertaining as it is informative.

Shot Breakdowns – (HD) – (36:48)

While these featurettes can hardly be described as “shot breakdowns,” they do provide an interesting look at some of the film’s production challenges. There are five programs included and they cover a variety of different topics:

Behind the Visor – (6:50)

Fire in the International Space Station – (5:42)

Dr. Stone’s Rebirth – (7:54)

The Sound of Action in Space – (7:55)

Splashdown – (8:24)

Collision Point – (HD) – (22:28)

Collision Point is a documentary about Kessler syndrome (named after NASA scientist Donald J. Kessler who first proposed the theory in 1978). Gravity’s inciting incident is based on Kessler’s theories. Ed Harris provides narration for this interesting documentary.

Aningaaq – (HD) – (Intro: 3:18) – (Short: 6:53)

Aningaaq (directed by Jonás Cuarón) is a short film about the Inuit fisherman that Dr. Stone contacts in Gravity. It is worth a look.

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Final Words:

Gravity offers a truly unique home video experience. The excellent transfer and interesting supplementary materials should satisfy even the most discriminating cinemaphiles.

Review by: Devon Powell

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