Straight A's (2013)

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Released 17-Apr-2013

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Drama Main Menu Audio-Montage plus Music from film
Theatrical Trailer-Beautiful Creatures (1:41) : 2.35:1 and 16x9
Theatrical Trailer-Silver Linings Playbook (2:19) : 2.35:1 and 16x9
Theatrical Trailer-Safe Haven (2:09) : 2.35:1 and 16x9
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2013
Running Time 84:43
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (61:10) Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By James Cox
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Anna Paquin
Ryan Phillippe
Luke Wilson
Powers Boothe
Riley Thomas Stewart
Ursula Parker
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI $39.95 Music Joe Purdy


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes, Antisocial principal character
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, During credits

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Straight A's is only the third feature from director James Cox. Earlier efforts were Highway (2002) with Jared Leto and Jake Gyllenhaal, and Wonderland (2003) with Val Kilmer. His latest film, released locally by Roadshow, is the first screenplay from David Cole, and the young writer and director have given us a film that is an attractive blend of the old and the new, though not always doing this successfully.

     At times as this screenplay unfolds you may be reminded of the work of William Faulkner. We are in the south, there is a large white house, there are "coloured" workers around the house, and there is a family with a past. However, the past in this instance does not have the steaminess of, say, Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury. Things here are much more daytime soap PG variety. Wayward son Scott (Ryan Philippe) is urged to return home, to his southern Texas home town, by a vision of his deceased mother (Tess Harper), divorced from Scott's father (Powers Boothe), now being nursed suffering the early signs of Alzheimer's. Scott returns home, on horseback yet, to the sparkling new white home of Scott's first love, Katherine (Anna Paquin), now married to Scott's older brother William (Luke Wilson). William is away on a business trip, telling a business buddy that when he returns home his marriage will be over. Scott's arrival is gleefully welcomed by his nephew Charles (Riley Thomas Stewart) and niece Gracie (Ursula Parker), but more icily by Katherine, still twitching from her dumping by her first love. Scott, swearing, drinking and marijuana smoking, becomes an instant idol to the children, while Katherine is appalled, though still allowing her eyes to linger over Scott's taut muscular frame. What happens will not surprise any moviegoer, though there is less steam here than we would expect. Eventually William returns home, and the trio confront their issues. There is a dramatic twist that propels the film to its conclusion and eighty minutes of reasonable drama comes to a supposedly teary conclusion.

     The twist in the final act of this drama threw me completely, compelling me to watch the film a second time. There are in fact clues in the film, actually beginning in its opening moments, that prepare us for this twist. The fault, then, is not in the screenplay but in the execution of that text on the screen. The director must bear some of the blame here, but primarily I fear that it is the outcome of having limited, superficial actors in the two lead roles. Scott, the prodigal son, is a pot-smoking, foul mouthed, horse riding, unshaven, whiskey drinking failure who has spent the last eight years in and out of hospitals. In the role we have Ryan Philippe (Cruel Intentions), a stunning male beauty, blonde, handsome of face and a chiselled body. Unfortunately he does not seem capable of conveying anything other than the completely superficial. An actor was needed here who was capable of playing the external charm and charisma of the black sheep son while at the same time suggesting a darker sub-text. Obviously that is beyond Philippe at this stage of his career. Anna Paquin gives him no assistance. Miss Paquin was a quirky young child when she won her Oscar for The Piano, and her adult quirkiness fits well in her hit TV series True Blood. The world of vampires and werewolves is a setting in which the actress's twitches and grimaces seem right. Here, where she is playing a sophisticated young southern matron, her bad acting is seen for what it is. One scene in which she prepares to read from a diary while sitting at Philippe's bedside is laughable. By comparison, Luke Wilson (Bottle Rocket), with much less screen time gives a subdued, effective performance. The best acting, though, comes from the two children, with Riley Thomas Stewart a real standout as the conscientious student who gives the film its title. His delivery of an address to a school audience is a highlight of the film.

     Perhaps the director was incapable of steering his two stars through this melodrama. What he did achieve, though, was a very attractive film to look at and to listen to. The photography of Shawn Kim has some unusual moments, with soft focus, fades and rainbow effects, but his dreamlike photography perfectly suits the locale and the dramatic tone of the film. The colour is beautiful, and there are many scenes that are calendar pretty. The soundtrack utilises the music of Joe Purdy, and it, too, perfectly complements the dramatic material.

     Despite my criticisms I did enjoy this film. There are too few adult dramas around for me to treat this one too harshly because it doesn't live up to expectations. Sure, the material here is derivative and the performances fail to deliver. Nevertheless, this is a lovely film to look at, as is the male star, the leading lady is interesting if nothing else, and there are a couple of good kids. If you enjoy those family sagas on daytime TV, or old movies like The Long Hot Summer and The Sound and the Fury, then I reckon you'll quite enjoy Straight A's, even though you might not give it the score suggested by its title.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Straight A's has been given a very fine transfer for a film with a sometimes unusual visual quality.

     The film is presented at the aspect ratio of 2.40:1, the original ratio, and the image is 16x9 enhanced.

     The attractive widescreen image is generally sharp and crisp, though there is a little softness to much of the film, probably suggesting the languid southern locale. Detail is fine both in interior scenes and the exteriors, while shadow detail is good in the darker scenes. The only blemish in the entire film was a very brief instance of aliasing on venetian blinds in one scene. Apart from that, there are no blemishes or artefacts. The colours are picture postcard pretty, with the lush green exteriors most attractive. Skin tones are very accurate.

     The film is provided with Descriptive Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired, which were sampled and found to be accurate. They are all in white and centred at the foot of the screen.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     There are two audio streams, English Dolby Digital 5.1, and English Dolby Stereo Surround Encoded.

     While this is a sonically limited film, the soundtrack is very fine for the genre.

     Dialogue is front and centred, razor sharp and clear, without any sync problems. The surrounds are employed primarily for ambience in leafy exteriors, school environment, and Luke Wilson's business trip. The music, largely the work and performances of Joe Purdy, is a standout. The quality of the sound is excellent, and the full surround system is in action, with generous support from the subwoofer. The attractive musical soundtrack is the final piece of trim on a very attractive film package, that doesn't, perhaps, hold the gift you were hoping for.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     There are no extras on the local release.

Start-up Trailers

Beautiful Creatures (1:41) - presented 2.35:1 and 16x9 enhanced, Silver Linings Playbook (2:19) - presented 2.35:1 and 16x9 enhanced, Safe Haven (2:09) - presented 2.35:1 and 16x9 enhanced.

Menu

     The menu screen has a montage of scenes occupying the top two-thirds of the screen, with music from the soundtrack.

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region 4 release, which has no extras, misses out on the following which are on the Region 1 release :

Summary

     Straight A's is a very attractive film package. It promises a lot, particularly for those prepared to be optimistic about the talents of Ryan Philippe and Anna Paquin. In the 50's this could have been a vehicle for Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, but unfortunately Ryan and Anna are incapable of giving any depth to their characterizations. The material is obvious and pretty corny, and the supposedly dramatic third act is a fizzer. Nevertheless, on a superficial level, this package is still enjoyable though slight - less than eighty-five minutes with credits. You might ultimately be disappointed with this package, but it's still a bit of a gift in today's movie market, particularly for those of us who are not into vampires and warring adolescents. Once again, nothing extra.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Thursday, June 27, 2013
Review Equipment
DVDSONY BLU RAY BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA55A950D1F : 55 inch LCD HD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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