DVD Review: Mary Poppins (1964) -- 45th Anniversary 2-Disc Edition

Read the 50th Anniversary Blu-ray Review

Just a Disc-Full of Sugar
"Helps the Medicine Go Down...
In the Most Delightful Way"
January 27, 2009

Previous Version
(40th Anniversary Edition)


The thing about film and especially cinema studies is that on the surface, we're led to believe that a film like Mary Poppins which-- much like its lead character and the actress embodying her (Julie Andrews) is "practically perfect in every way"-- just all came together "spit-spot," with a "step in time" to create one of Walt Disney's personal favorite works.

And thanks to that quintessential Disney magic, it's hard to imagine anything less than perfection involved but it's fascinating to dig deeper and realize the tremendous amount of effort that went into creating something truly "supercalifragilisticexpealidocious."

Poppins is after all the only film Walt Disney was personally involved in to receive a Best Picture nomination and the first studio release to hit DVD format (not to mention one of the longest "in print" titles on video).

Yet when you begin researching the title as a film scholar, you gain appreciation on a whole different level when you realize the decades of work involved in making such a spectacular musical and thanks to this unbelievably thorough set, anyone can become a budding Disney historical super-sleuth.

To begin, I must confess that Mary Poppins is a film that's grown on me over the years. As a child-- I remember being mesmerized by certain sequences such as the animated leap Mary and Bert take with the children into the sidewalk drawing of musical adventure but didn't have the patience for the lengthy film.

But upon viewing this gorgeous 2-disc version released to honor the 45th Anniversary of the beloved Disney favorite, I realize it's not only my favorite Julie Andrews film but one of the best musicals following the '40s, '50s and early '60s heyday.

And it's fascinating to realize what time can do for perspective as a former Disney favorite-- Sleeping Beauty-- became a bit less beautiful a few months back when I realized our leading lady said literally less than a few dozen words in the entire movie but this one, my "Sister Suffragettes" to misquote the song, is "well done" for those of us who "love to laugh."

A movie that held a special place in Walt's heart from the time his daughter, who had read the books by P.L. Travers suggested the series as possible film material more than two decades earlier but Travers proved to be an incredibly stubborn force of nature-- understandably protective of her work and worried that her character and legacy would be forever altered negatively by its cinematic interpretation.

Finally, Travers gave in twenty years later after a personal visit from Walt Disney, who graciously consented to offer her unprecedented approval on a majority of the film's decisions. However, it was this agreement that nearly made the entire feature unravel as the cast and crew recall in a candid fifty minute making-of-featurette some rather heated debates that the author disliked nearly everything they'd created. Thus, the film almost fell through once more when she waited for the thirtieth and final day to offer her consent to relent and let Walt Disney's production get started.

Its success is owed to his integral involvement and obsession with the work, along with his endless excitement over every single aspect including giving young composers Robert B. and Richard M. Sherman the opportunity of a lifetime to create one of the most instantly recognizable collections of songs in film history.

Likewise, Mary is notable for sending Disney's special effects, animation and technical departments into a frenzy with wirework, challenging choreography, and the blending of animation and live action that hearkened back to Gene Kelly in Anchor's Aweigh, the film broke new boundaries in what could and could not be done onscreen.

Most surprising to film fans was Disney's convincing Dick Van Dyke (with zero training in music or dance) that he was a natural to play the frequent scene-stealer Bert, the film has just gotten more and more impressive over the years.

But perhaps the greatest stroke of luck and find in Walt Disney live action history was in casting Julie Andrews in her first onscreen role. Ultimately, this was due to fortuitous timing as Andrews been publicly passed over by Jack Warner (of Warner Brothers) when that studio took the character of Eliza Doolittle she'd originated on Broadway in My Fair Lady to the screen and offered it to Audrey Hepburn instead.

While most actresses would've taken a break, especially considering Andrews had just given birth, she decided the best defense was offense and accepted the role that would change her career and life.

Mary garnered Andrews not only a Golden Globe award (in a memorable acceptance speech where she had the gall to thank Jack Warner for not giving her Lady which resulted in her being cast in Poppins) but an Academy Award as well in which  ironically she beat out her good friend Hepburn both times.

And following her enchanting portrayal of the magical nanny, Andrews began a film career that skyrocketed from the start as IMDb reveals that Robert Wise and Ernest Lehman immediately cast the actress for Sound of Music after appearing on-set to view rushes from Poppins.

Landing the role following a memorable performance on The Carol Burnett Show-- it seems hard to imagine to viewers today how film history would've differed had she been cast opposite Rex Harrison in the entertaining but lackluster My Fair Lady or if Disney had made the film a decade sooner when actresses like Bette Davis (!) were being considered for Poppins. 

And while luckily to the average viewer tuning in blissfully unaware it all seems quite natural, film scholars and enthusiasts find their minds working overtime when trying to decipher the possibilities, in the end just thankful that the right group of people finally managed to come together at precisely the right time.

This is especially apparent when watching Van Dyke who-- despite being endlessly labeled for his performance as one of the worst impressions of a Cockney accent ever attempted by an American actor-- is irresistibly good as Bert.

The inventive oddball who seems to have a different occupation every time we find him -- Bert's overly flirtatious relationship with Mary upset the author terribly, but the charm and command of Van Dyke's physicality is at his strongest in this film. And he's at the peak of his powers in the film's most remarkable sequence "Step in Time," which seems to go on forever as one of the most awe-inspiringly inventive bits of choreography since Gene Kelly's ballet sequence in An American in Paris.

While the film's children are adorable and it's a bit heartbreaking to realize that over the years we lost the young boy from the film at a tragically young age-- the cast and crew's observations about the wondrous experience make for wonderful DVD fodder on the packed Disc 2 from Walt Disney Home Entertainment.

Rounding out the features that are so plentiful there's too many to list, the disc also includes a Backstage Disney segment on the Mary Poppins Broadway musical (including an MP3 download of that show's version of "Step in Time") along with a great bonus short starring Andrews and including the voice talent of Tracey Ullman called The Cat That Looked at a King which was adapted from P.L. Travers' Mary Poppins Opens the Door. The short feature finds Andrews reprising her role and takes viewers yet another trip down animated memory lane as she steps inside one of those magical sidewalk chalk drawings.

The recipient of five Academy Awards, Poppins is given a gorgeous transfer in this widescreen DVD release that contains not only 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound but the original 2.0 theatrical mix for cinema purists such as yours truly.

And while I can't wait for it to finally arrive on Blu-ray, I'm thrilled to say the quality level (especially on an upconvert Blu-ray player) is mesmerizing and visually even more impressive than this week's other new and excellent modern-made Disney release, The Secret of the Magic Gourd.

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Taken (2009)

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From Star Wars' Qui-Gon Jinn to The Transporter?

In 2004 when David Mamet tackled female human trafficking with the underrated Val Kilmer thriller Spartan (which benefited zero from the forgettable title as for years I've had to remind others, "yes, you really did see that movie"), he did so with his trademark "all talk" and very little action.

However, when you give the same premise to the gang responsible for turning Jason Statham into a critic proof walking video game character in The Transporter, anyone-- even soft-spoken Liam Neeson from Nell and Kinsey-- can go all Schwarzenegger on everybody's ass quicker than you can say "action."

The film's premise is as straightforward as its effective Death Wish era Charles Bronson-esque poster and chilling trailer. Or, for the uninitiated-- here's the Cliff's Notes-- retired CIA operative Brian Mills (Liam Neeson) who had quit his gig to make up for lost time in his daughter's life finds himself blending the two in unimaginable ways after the seventeen year old girl and her best friend disappear from Paris, shortly after their arrival when abducted by a group of Albanian sex-traffickers.

In a horrifying scene played with intense calm, Brian morphs from concerned and overprotective father to black-ops agent right before our eyes when-- while chatting on the cell phone with Kim (Maggie Grace)-- intruders invade the apartment and he instructs her to hide, asking detailed questions until he must give her the news that ultimately she will be taken.

When a different voice breathes into the phone, Mills delivers a cool warning that he will hunt him down to exact murderous revenge unless his daughter is released, to which the then unseen captor chides, "Good luck."

Realizing he has ninety-six hours to get to Paris and find her before she falls through the cracks of the international human smuggling black market, Neeson's Mills goes into stealth mode, willing to hot-wire vehicles, torture, shoot civilians to get information, until he gains enough tips for an ultimate showdown.

Perpetually missing Kim by moments in an underworld maze filled with inhumane horrors, we're led into the seedy underbelly of the City of Lights in this action-packed and fast paced thriller that doesn't bother with subplot or added complexity, just succeeding in the same Transporter-like "man on a mission" formula by strapping us in and not letting go.

Sharply edited by Frederic Thoraval who had chopped together the film's producer and co-writer Luc Besson's Angel-A and lensed by cinematographer Michel Abramowicz--Professional and La Femme Nikita writer/director Luc Besson collaborated once again with his Professional, The Fifth Element, Transporter, Kiss of the Dragon Hollywood scripter Robert Mark Kamen (who also penned A Walk in the Clouds, Lethal Weapon 3, and The Devil's Own). And in bringing everyone together once again, they graduated the cinematographer of Besson's previous Jet Li film Unleashed-- Pierre Morel-- to direct.

While it excels as an air-tight if predictable thriller thanks to a transformative turn by Neeson who will never be mistaken for a foreign art-house actor again (and definitely makes up for his involvement in the horrific new Star Wars films), Taken is also ratcheted up countless notches by its first-rate behind-the-scenes talent-- most notably the score composed by Nathaniel Mechaly which has you tapping your feet and nodding your head, elevating your blood pressure along with Neeson's as he storms through the Parisian streets to track down his daughter. Just don't attempt to get in his way... unless your name is Jason Statham.

DVD Review: Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired (2008)

If You Think You Know the Whole Story,
Think Again.
The Truth is Revealed on 1/27/09.

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Before I ever learned about the man's past and the horrific events that have flooded his life including losing both parents in Poland during and just after the Holocaust along with the gruesome slaughter of his eight month pregnant wife Sharon Tate at the hands of the Manson family, I noticed a recurring tragic theme that seemed to pervade the films of director Roman Polanski.

Corruption and injustice ran rampant as did characters who often suffered cruelly at the hands of others whose actions eluded any legal repercussion. Examples of this theme were everywhere and especially apparent in the signature Robert Towne penned line as Jack Nicholson was being told to "Forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown," in arguably the filmmaker's best work, Chinatown. Yet it was just one instance of injustice including Mia Farrow giving birth to a satanic monstrosity in Rosemary's Baby, Catherine Deneuve descending into madness in Repulsion, Sigourney Weaver encountering a man who tortured her years earlier in Death and the Maiden, or Harrison Ford's wife vanishing without a trace and another woman is murdered in Frantic. Simply put, in the cinema of Polanski: lives are fractured, interrupted, and seldom given closure when insanity or death arrives.

Although this could be a recurring fixation he'd most likely dismiss, it's one that nonetheless appears again and again in some of his most personal work such as Polanski's Oscar winning film The Pianist about the horrors of the Holocaust for which he won an Academy Award as Best Director. It was a ceremony he missed (of course) and one of many he's missed since he left the United States over thirty years ago without looking back following another event which shook the nation.

After being hired to guest-edit a French edition of Vogue Magazine, Polanski-- who never hid his affection for young women in interview footage which continues to make viewers uneasy at the start of Marina Zenovich's fascinating documentary-- was arrested for unlawful sexual conduct involving his thirteen year old model Samantha Gailey in 1977 at the home of its absent owner, Jack Nicholson.

Lobbying for the assignment as he did for numerous other celebrity cases including handling Elvis and Priscilla Presley's divorce and a Cary Grant paternity suit, Judge Laurence J. Rittenbrand presided over the Polanski case in one of the most bizarre, disturbing, and shockingly unprofessional miscarriages of justice ever documented on film. And it's the trial, testimonies, and events that are studied in depth in Zenovich's Sundance Film Festival Official Selection which earned its editor Joe Bini a well deserved honor.

Intriguingly leaving Polanski out of the mix and deciding instead to let the facts speak for themselves (although Zenovich revealed in a Sundance interview that he was aware of her film's existence), she gained unprecedented access. This included cooperation from both sides of the investigation as Mr. Polanski's defense attorney Douglas Dalton candidly reveals the intimate goings-on for the first time in public since the event, the former District Attorney Roger Gunson (who was chosen, it's said due to his Robert Redford like movie star looks and straitlaced Mormon background), the victim and now poised and articulate woman Samantha Geimer along with her attorney Lawrence Silver, actress Mia Farrow, and many others who were familiar with the events.

And wisely Zenovich chose not to make a sweeping "statement film" nor judge Polanski and his numerous charges by instead serving up the facts and letting viewers decide for themselves along with giving Geimer the chance to speak once again as she has in written statements and in a public statement of forgiveness that although his actions with her were wrong, she disagreed with how the entire case was handled. In doing so, Zenovich focuses on the intense courtroom circus and unbelievable events that followed his arrest.

While there was a "media feeding frenzy" that occurred around the globe as foreign press stalked the young girl like paparazzi and getting a seat in Rittenbrand's courtroom was the most coveted "ticket" of the year, Zenovich lets us in on what was really going on behind the scenes with the unchecked hubris of a judge who was far more interested in furthering his own career than he was in actively seeing justice carried out.

Subjecting Polanski to court-appointed psychiatric evaluations that revealed that he was not a dangerous or mentally unstable sex-offender nor that he should be tried as such and going against the girl and her family's request not to sentence the director as well as fighting against a plea bargain at every turn, Rittenbrand-- who has since passed away in the early '90s-- is cited numerous times by both the prosecution and defense for his gross misconduct.

We watch in horror as Rittenbrand begins subtly in agreeing to things in his chambers and then asking each lawyer to "act out" what they'd just decided behind-the-scenes for dramatic impact so that he could remain heroic to moving forward with borderline illegal propositions of using a Chino State Penitentiary 90-day evaluation term as though it were a pre-sentence. Furthermore late into the film, even prosecutor Gunson explains that-- with all beginning to openly question whether or not they could trust the judge-- he isn't surprised that ultimately Polanski left the country and never looked back.

As the proceedings continued, Rittenbrand's conduct grew more outrageous in asking a journalist "what the hell" he should do with Polanski, promising a buddy in a country club urinal that he was going to send the (expletive) guy away for the rest of his life, and holding an in-chambers press conference, in addition to trying to negotiate deportation agreements without any authority.

Needless to say, it's amazing that to this day, the situation still remains unresolved as the Oscar winning filmmaker cannot return to the United States without being arrested on sight. As a friend jokes, in France (where Mr. Polanski and his family currently reside) he is desired and in America he is wanted. And far more recently, in light of the information revealed in the film including Gunson and Dalton's successful motion to get Rittenbrand taken off the case (although he denied any wrongdoing), the two men have filed another motion this past summer that Polanski's case be reviewed and Geimer herself filed to have the charges dismissed on behalf on the traumatic effect of the publicity.

Meanwhile, after receiving unspecified assistance from the California office of producer Dino De Laurentis and fleeing to his Parisian apartment over thirty years ago, Polanski, who has flourished in his French home remains unable to return to the United States nor England-- which was also his home at one point-- for fear of extradition and jail.

Highly compelling filmmaking that makes incredible use of not only current interview footage but archival footage of Polanski, his deceased wife Sharon Tate, and others along with memorable clips from his work carefully edited together-- Zenovich's Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired makes no apologies for the filmmaker's behavior which is appalling in every sense of the word once one realizes the charges involved, but she never fixates on lurid details, instead just staying true to the facts.

Most notably, in addition to illustrating the way that in essence the case and his exile to France made a much more compelling and startling account of injustice than anything the filmmaker could've imagined, she also reminds us that beneath the sordid details and surface level judgments were two human beings being used as legal and media fodder.

Obviously, this is immediately apparent when dealing with Geimer as she and her lawyer recall the way that the young woman whose panties were actually cut up in a room filled with men from all sides and distributed following her having to go through a male-dominated testimony of excruciating detail (some of which is reprinted on the screen).

However secondly-- Geimer, Zenovich and the lawyers on both sides of the aisle constantly remind us that no matter what we want to think about Polanski as a man-- nobody should've earned the kind of treatment he'd received. And this is especially apparent when the film recounts the tragedies of his life including the Holocaust and the way the public and press painted him as a Satanic foreign dwarf with a thick accent who was suspect number one in the murder of Tate before the Manson family connection was discovered or in the way that he was treated like a pawn in a much larger game in the hands of an egomaniacal judge.

Innocent until proven guilty is allegedly the name of the game but it wasn't the name of this game. And in this revealing documentary that opens your eyes to facts and never-before-revealed behind-the-scenes events, you realize how great of a tragedy it was for all involved that-- caught up in the frenzy, media, and power battles of a misused justice system and press-- there wasn't a way for somebody to say "game over" and start again.

More than thirty years later, Zenovich is trying to do just that with this work, just released on DVD from ThinkFilm, BBC, HBO Documentary Films, and Image Entertainment. The DVD, which also includes director and editor commentary, deleted scenes and over two hours of never-before-seen interviews, is filmmaking at its best and most crusading by illustrating the way that responsible journalism should be used, not to convict or free but to accurately represent a situation as it happened.

Highly recommended-- Zenovich's Wanted and Desired should be mandatory viewing for those pursuing both journalism and law degrees and it goes without saying that film scholars won't want to miss it either.

Update: As Reported by Ben Child in The Guardian on 2/3/09, Polanski's Bid to Disqualify L.A. Judges was Disqualified. Should he want to continue the case, it must be tried in the exact same court. Click Here to read the Article.

Contests/Giveaway: Win The Lucky Ones on DVD from Lionsgate Home Entertainment!

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DVD Synopsis
(From MovieWeb)

"A timely drama about life in America today, Lionsgate's The Lucky Ones stars Rachel McAdams, Tim Robbins and Michael Pena as three soldiers on leave trying to make sense of their lives during an unexpected road trip across the United States.

A humorous, moving portrayal about the challenges of coming home,
The Lucky Ones is directed by Neil Burger (The Illusionist) from a script by Burger and Dirk Wittenborn.

After suffering an injury during a routine patrol, hardened sergeant TK Poole (Michael Pena) is granted a one-month leave to visit his fiancé. But when an unexpected blackout cancels all flights out of New York, TK agrees to share a ride to Pittsburgh with two similarly stranded servicemen: Cheever (Tim Robbins), an older family man who longs to return to his wife in St. Louis, and Colee (Rachel McAdams), a naive private who's pinned her hopes on connecting with a dead fellow soldier's family.

What begins as a short trip unexpectedly evolves into a longer journey. Forced to grapple with old relationships, broken hopes and a country divided over the war, TK, Cheever and Colee discover that home is not quite what they remembered, and that the unlikely companionship they've found might be what matters the most."

Contest Details:

Open to All Readers With Ability to Play Region 1 DVDs. Entries Must Be Received by Midnight EST on 2/13/09. Film Intuition Respects Your Privacy and Will Not Share Any Information With Third Parties. 2 Winners Will Be Notified Via E-mail on 2/14/09. Additionally, entry forms without a mailing address and/or with a blank or incorrect trivia answer will be disqualified.

Trivia Question:

Rachel McAdams received her big break with her turn as the wicked Queen Bee in the hilarious Mean Girls. Although the screenplay was written by 30 Rock's Tina Fey, it was originally based on a book. What was the name of the book and the author of the work upon which Fey drew her inspiration for Mean Girls?

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Blu-ray Review: Pride and Glory (2008)

Own It on DVD & Blu-ray

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An Introduction

Much like other Warner Brothers films, Appaloosa, RocknRolla, and Towelhead which were also over-looked in a crowded year, the studio's excellent Pride and Glory-- acquired when WB absorbed the works in its sister company New Line Cinema-- is likewise searching for a well-deserved audience on DVD and Blu-ray.

While Towelhead suffered limited advertising and a rather disturbing subject matter and after years of mediocre Guy Ritchie efforts, audiences weren't prepared for what would be his best film in a decade with RocknRolla-- part of the lack of Pride's attendance could've been that-- just like the western Appaloosa, ticket buyers may have felt a sense of deja vu.

Due to the influx of cop corruption films over the last few years including the studio's own superlative Best Picture winner The Departed, last year's overlooked We Own the Night and 2008's gritty yet above-average Keanu Reeves turn in the James Ellroy penned Street Kings, by the time the long-delayed Glory hit theatres in October, viewers probably felt that much like the over-abundance of westerns in 2007 from The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford to 3:10 to Yuma made them pass on Appaloosa, they weren't sure whether or not these lawmen were worth a chance.

And the answer-- just like Appaloosa, RocknRolla, and Towelhead-- was a resounding yes as Pride and Glory (as well as WB's other three) made my list of not just the most underrated and overlooked films of the year but ones well worth exploring for their commanding performances and none more so than to see Colin Farrell in Glory finish his '08 hat-trick (following Cassandra's Dreamand In Bruges) and quietly become the year's most valuable cinematic player.

While Entertainment Weekly crowned a terrific Robert Downey Jr. the entertainer of the year for his Comeback King like turn in Iron Man followed up by his Oscar nominated jab at Hollywood in Tropic Thunder (as well as an underrated Charlie Bartlett) and you won't find a bigger supporter of Downey than yours truly whose work in Chaplin is what first made me study film on a scholarly level-- honestly, I want to shout from the rooftops that this past year, Colin Farrell was the one who most deserved the praise.

And although I was thrilled to see him take home the Golden Globe for In Bruges-- now that all three of his phenomenal portrayals are available on either DVD or Blu-ray, it's time to pick 'em up and have yourself a mini-Farrell fest to realize that, subtly underneath all the well-deserved headlines about Ledger, Downey Jr., Cruise's comeback, and more-- the story nobody is reporting but should is that Colin Farrell is one of the most versatile actors we have working today, coming into his own in a trio of markedly different films all worthy of a permanent place in your home library (Pride, Cassandra's Dream, and In Bruges).

In honor of the Pride and Glory's release this week, Warner Brothers graciously sent me the Blu-ray for review but before I get into the disc's technical aspects, performance, and special features, here's another look at my analysis of the film from October 24, 2008.

I. The Film

Last year, some dubbed it the year of Philip Seymour Hoffman given his hat-trick of amazingly versatile performances in Charlie Wilson's War, The Savages and Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. So, using the same type of criteria, I'd say that 2008 belongs to Colin Farrell.

With a career changing role in the sleeper gem In Bruges-- still my favorite film of the year so far-- as the suicidal hitman growing a conscience while hiding out in Bruges, he managed to make me sit up and take notice for the first time since we'd seen him in Phone Booth. Of course, Bruges followed up his sensitive turn as an unlucky indebted gambler willing to murder to set things right in Woody Allen's equally underrated Cassandra's Dream and now he's back with a fierce portrayal in Pride and Glory. Farrell continually reveals layers with each new role he takes on and with Pride, he seemingly blends together the swaggering bravado of the cocky man from Bruges who is an emotional landmine ready to explode with the devastating portrayal of a man who's dug himself into an overwhelming hole in Dream. In fact, his performance in Pride is so good and so perfectly in tune with the rest of the story that I found myself taking it for granted as I watched.

And instead, I realized I was caught up with the film's moral compass played by Edward Norton as well as the sensitive family man who's torn between the black and white of what's right and wrong when you're a man in blue as portrayed by character actor Noah Emmerich (Beautiful Girls, Miracle). Emmerich reunites with director and friend Gavin O'Connor for the third time (following both Miracle as well as an explosive turn as an abusive tyrant at the beginning of Tumbleweeds which launched both O'Connor and its Oscar nominated star Janet McTeer) in this excellent, atmospheric and moody cop family drama about the NYPD.

Although IMDb research revealed the origins of the story dated back to 2001, after the tragic events of 9/11, the filmmakers and committed stars Mark Wahlberg and Hugh Jackman moved onto other things, wisely realizing that it wasn't the right time for a drama about the moral ambiguities and corruption that occurs sometimes within law enforcement. Following the success of The Departed (which finally found Wahlberg playing an Oscar nominated man with a badge in the Best Picture winning epic), we were flooded with cop dramas but when audiences shied away from last Fall's flawed but impressive We Own the Night (again with Wahlberg) and the even grittier Spring film Street Kings starring Keanu Reeves, Pride and Glory's release date was pushed from last March until today.

Usually when release dates are changed, the subtext is that the studio doesn't have much faith in their product and wants to do more tweaking either in the editing or marketing departments (unless the film is Harry Potter which was delayed purely to make Dark Knight level money next summer) but having just seen O'Connor's Pride this week, I can honestly say that I think placing it in the minds of viewers in the midst of Oscar season was an excellent move and great posturing on behalf of Warner Brothers (who have absorbed Pride's former studio New Line Cinema).

As I've already said, Farrell is simply a marvel but equally so are Norton and Emmerich and I'd say that all three would be worthy of a nomination yet because they all work as a bigger part of an ensemble drama, it'd be hard to make a Best Actor case for any (although they may try for Norton since he's the marquee name and most heroic character). Yet with three fighting for supporting contention, I worry they'll all get lost in the shuffle of what I've always considered to be the best two categories of the Academy Awards-- namely Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress.

The film centers on a family of New York cops headed up by the patriarch and police Chief Francis Tierney Sr. (Jon Voight) whose two sons, Francis Jr. (Emmerich) and Ray (Norton) have followed in his footsteps along with the husband of his daughter Megan (Lake Bell), Colin Farrell's wilder character Jimmy Egan. After a brutal killing has found four of NYPD's finest dead in a bloody massacre, the chief asks Ray-- who has banished himself from active policing by hiding out in the Missing Person's Department after a horrible tragedy-- to lead the investigation task force. Especially, the chief implores as both a father and Ray's superior that Ray should be there since the deceased were members of the same precinct headed up by his brother Francis where incidentally Jimmy also works.

"I Want You on the Task Force."

When some of the evidence begins to point in the direction of not just the men in blue but also to the members of his own family, Ray struggles to try and negotiate how to handle the situation in a world where officers take care of their own and "bleed blue" first and foremost.

Yet as director and co-writer Gavin O'Connor and his twin brother and fellow producer Greg note in the press release that as sons of a New York City police officer who grew up in the world of "the deep sense of loyalty" and "family ties--both personal and professional--that bind police officers," they wanted to try and conquer the "blue wall of silence." In doing so, Gavin argued that he desired to "explore the idea of that impenetrable code of honor between cops, and how words like pride and glory can be used to co-opt a good cop into participating in things he knows aren't right. They say 'cops bleed blue'...but outside of that blue wall, within their own families, they bleed red. If those two entities clashed, what would happen? Where would your loyalties lie?" And in using the as "the genesis of the story," Gavin also shared that the "police have no monopoly on closing ranks against those on the outside, especially in the face of corruption" and set out to use his own setting as "a metaphor" to investigate the idea of other institutions including big business corporations and the government who operate under similar self-made codes of conduct.

While admittedly, I feared that it would be another film which stereotyped police officers in a way that just perpetuates the hatred and distrust of the men and women whom we call in our most dire situations, as someone who also grew up around blue and deeply cares about accurate depictions, I felt like the O'Connors did a tremendous job. Namely, they walk the line between telling a good story and representing what really goes on in the world of law enforcement and the tough questions officers must ask themselves at the end of the day, working long hours for thankless wages in a system where criminals continue to walk the street one arrest after another.

Additionally, while normally in police movies-- especially in regards to The Departed-- the family and especially women are typically left out of the mix but above all, Pride is a family story and this isn't the case. British actress Jennifer Ehle (most famous for portraying Elizabeth Bennett in the BBC miniseries of Pride & Prejudice opposite Colin Firth) is extraordinarily good in her supporting role as Francis Jr.'s cancer-stricken wife whose quiet dignity and strength inspire her husband to try and set things right before it's too late.

And while admittedly the film ends on a Do The Right Thing vibe and is much grittier than one would assume, especially in a few scenes involving Farrell (one of which drew immature laughter from some audience members who were riddled with shock), it has a distinctly authentic look and feel accentuated by cinematographer Declan Quinn (truly one of the greats) and a memorable score by Mark Isham.

While as a film, The Departed is still a far superior work, I was surprised by how moving this film was and how much it still lingered in my mind throughout the rest of the week as I began appreciating it on different levels. Initially, first I began relishing in Norton's sublime return to making movies after an absence as this is right up there with Norton 2.0 works like The Painted Veil, The Illusionist, and Down in the Valley, plus a moving turn by Emmerich (a great character actor) as well as good ol' Farrell who keeps wowing us film-by-film-by-film here in 2008. When it comes to Farrell, it's not the luck of the Irish; he really is that good.

II. The Blu-ray

The purposely dark and grainy photography of Declan Quinn-- one of the best cinematographers working today alongside Robert Elswit (There Will Be Blood, Good Night and Good Luck) and Roger Deakins (The Assassination of Jesse James..., No Country for Old Men)-- is heightened considerably in its Blu-ray release.

Fitting in perfectly with the quintessentially dark and noir inspired Warner Brothers cinematographic landscape first established in the studio's Humphrey Bogart pictures in the '40s and solidified up through Tim Burton's studio work in the Batman franchise, the color of night is tinged with midnight blue and indigo peeking out of the sky and elegantly interrupting the film's grit when we cut to scenes of Norton's character living on a boat, away from the lights of New York City.

Providing a wonderful transfer level of the film's sound that doesn't have you constantly lunging for the remote to adjust the speaking voice, score, and sound effect levels simply via an HDMI cable hook-up from the player to the TV, you can hear every piece of glass shattered by Farrell in anger quickly into the film and the subtle inflection and differing dialogue styles of the softer spoken, sensitive Norton, the machismo of Farrell shouting at his colleagues, and Emmerich's switching from devoted husband to man on-the-job etc.

While it's a tad grainy in the seedy night closeups to heighten the danger of the streets in which the story is set and some of the dark colors blur towards the edges into one another in certain shots with the absence of ample lighting-- stylistically, it was probably to capture the docudrama approach but for added clarity, you can switch the visual setting on equipped televisions and players to heighten the sharpness.

In the sole roughly hour long special feature-- a making-of comprehensive documentary aptly titled Source of Pride to serve both as a reference to the film's title and director O'Connor's wish to ensure the utmost in authenticity in his film that it could be a source of pride for real NYPD officers, we're given unprecedented access to alternatively the pre-production and casting of background actors etc. as well as (its standout), going along with the cast as they work closely with real officers to do their characters justice.

Opening the documentary (which was shot entirely on location in Washington Heights, New York City), with a string of profanity to "drop the f***in' weapon," we're led directly into NYPD Tactical Training, ride-alongs, weapon discussions, and an essential actor boot-camp. From the O'Connor's sharing personal anecdotes of their own experiences with guns and having a father in law enforcement with one having actually had a loaded weapon aimed directly at his head once growing up to both round-table discussions with the officers involving Norton and ride-alongs where some of the actors (including a few who look visibly terrified) realize that the role of an officer isn't that much different than their own initially as they must be willing to improvise and adapt to any given situation before assessing what needs to be done-- it's a wonderfully intense and gripping behind-the-scenes piece that thankfully doesn't seem like added obligatory fluff.

Advising the actors that the family aspect of the film is just as important as the law enforcement side, the group spent a large amount of time in each other's company, eating dinner together to try and form some sort of relationship that would be instantly apparent onscreen, often not reading the script and instead just bonding as they discussed everything.

While Norton felt an urgent need to get the film made as quickly as possible as he said, feeling the script reflected what was going on in our country as we were facing-- in his words-- a "crucible" of whether or not to be honest and tell the truth on a number of many levels, the film can indeed be viewed as allegorical of as Gavin O'Connor notes "institutional corruption" or a cancer that spreads within an organization.

Firmly arguing that he did not set out to "bash cops," instead O'Connor states that it was his intention to form a story that would accurately address the change from the old-generation to the new-generation and said that ultimately it was his goal in his unceasing quest for authenticity that police officers would be able to walk out of the theatre, thinking the filmmakers had gotten "it right."

Also providing a second disc to receive an iTunes or Windows Media Digital Copy of Pride and Glory that's good for an entire year with the use of a special authorization code and enhanced to fill widescreen televisions completely, Pride and Glory hit shelves this week courtesy of New Line Cinema and Warner Brothers.