All the King's Men (2006)

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Released 10-Apr-2007

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Deleted Scenes-2
Alternate Ending
Featurette-The Making Of All The King's Men
Featurette-An American Classic
Featurette-LA Confidential - On Location
Featurette-Shake Hands With The Devil
Featurette-The Legend and Lore of Huey Long
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2006
Running Time 122:46
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (64:36) Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Steven Zaillian
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Sean Penn
Jude Law
Anthony Hopkins
Kate Winslet
Mark Ruffalo
Patricia Clarkson
James Gandolfini
Jackie Earle Haley
Kathy Baker
Talia Balsam
Travis Champagne
Frederic Forrest
Paul Desmond
Case ?
RPI ? Music James Horner


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English Descriptive Audio
Portuguese
Spanish
Hindi
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Using as inspiration one of the most acclaimed novels in American literature, Robert Penn Warren's Pulitzer Prize winning novel All the King's Men (itself a fictionalized account of the stunning rise and equally rapid fall of Louisiana governor Huey Long in depression-era America), this film follows the rise to prominence of the populist governor Willie Stark (played with the usual over-the-top excess by Sean Penn) in the early 1950s American deep south.

    Despite not believing he has much of a chance at winning office, the deeply working class Stark wins the Governorship in a landslide by appealing to the masses with his populist views and agenda. He has a strong welfare and pro-education, anti-business agenda which wins him many supporters amongst the downtrodden (or the "hicks" as Stark refers to them as), but earns him some powerful enemies in the tight-knit business community of the day. Despite initially campaigning against rampant corruption in the building of schools, Stark quickly manages to gain a reputation of being corrupt himself and taking kickbacks at every opportunity. Like many in public service, Stark starts out as an idealist, but he soon realises the power is like a drug and becomes a ruthless politician, using blackmail and coercion to crush his enemies. Stark's supporters are numerous, with his main ally being his assistant former journalist Jack Burden (Jude Law), also the narrator of the story. The privileged Burden is from a wealthy family and should naturally be against many of the welfare ideals of Stark, but he does prove to be a powerful friend. Stark's most dangerous enemy is Judge Irwin (Sir Anthony Hopkins), Burden's godfather, who refuses to flinch when Stark comes gunning for him. Kate Winslet is seemingly miscast as Anne Stanton, Burden's former lover, who strikes up a relationship with Stark, compromising his friendship with Burden. The Sopranos James Gandolfini also stars as Tiny Duffy,  Stark's political opposition and someone who also wields considerable power.

    Unfortunately the intriguing and solid story of this complex novel is just too much to handle here. The stellar cast is unable to lift this film above an average, extremely plodding and often dull political thriller that is often confusing and sometimes just plain annoying in its delivery. Despite some superb visuals and set design this is a film that will be most likely forgotten in a few years.

    A shame because the very idea of this story and how absolute power corrupts absolutely is highly appealing.
 

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Transfer Quality

Video

    A big budget film deserves a pristine transfer and I can say this gets one. It is nigh on perfect.

    The video transfer on offer here is presented in a ratio of 1.85:1. It is also 16x9 enhanced.

    Sharp and well defined detail is evident throughout. Thankfully, there is no major edge enhancement to be concerned about. Shadow detail does seem to be slightly compromised on a couple of occasions. Grain is virtually non-existent and there is also no low level noise.

    The use of colour is restricted (for artistic reasons this is a very muted looking film, bordering on being black and white) but the shades on offer are still well rendered with no problems.

    There are no compression artefacts. Film-to-video artefacts are also absent and there are no film artefacts of any note which is always pleasing.

    There are a few subtitles to choose from. I sampled the standard English ones and found them accurate and well placed on the screen.

    The disc is dual layered and RSDL formatted. The layer change occurs at 64:36.

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

Audio

    There are three audio soundtracks available on this disc. The first two are Dolby Digital 5.1 surround tracks in English and Spanish encoded at the bitrate of 448 Kb/s followed by a rather detailed audio descriptive track. The latter track is presented as Dolby Digital 2.0 and is encoded at 224 Kb/s. It is one of the most detailed descriptive tracks I have heard to date, with the female narrator describing every scene in minute detail, right down to the clothes the characters are wearing.

    The English 5.1 track is excellent with superb separation, heaps of solid, clean grunt, and some really well-mixed panning effects, especially during the various rallies. This is a modern soundtrack that will give your amplifier some serious work to do when required, but will also sail through those moments where the film pauses in a quieter and more reflective moment.

    The dialogue levels are fine and there are no audio sync problems.

    James Horner's score is anything but subtle, often crashing into scenes with the subtlety of a cruise missile. Bombastic and often too loud it is not the best work he has done.

    There is plenty of surround channel use throughout the film, with the levels varying between highly aggressive down to a subtle ambience. The political rallies and speeches outside see the sound stage open up wide, surrounding the listener.

    There's also plenty for the subwoofer to keep itself occupied with, though it is seamlessly blended with the main soundtrack.



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

Extras

Deleted Scenes

    Two deleted scenes running for 2:24 and 7:34 respectively that don't add a great deal to the story.

Alternate Ending

    An alternate ending running for 11:32.

Featurette - The Making Of All The King's Men

    Running for just 6:34 minutes this contains some good behind-the-scenes footage also has most of the cast and crew describing what a brilliantly exciting film they had just made. Obviously they made this before any of them had seen it.

Featurette - An American Classic

    A 13:10 look at Robert Penn Warren's novel All The King's Men which was obviously the inspiration for the film. Quite detailed.

Featurette - LA Confidential - On Location

    Running for 8:29 this is similar to the making of featurette and should probably have been included there.

Featurette - Shake Hands With The Devil

    A 10:27 featurette that seeks to show how the themes of the story resonate in modern day America. Just like the above this should have been wrapped up into the main making of featurette.

Featurette - The Legend and Lore of Huey Long

    The best of the extras, this 23:21 featurette examines the life of real-life Louisiana Governor Huey Long who it is claimed much of the character of Willie Stark was based.

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 disc misses out on:

    The Region 1 disc misses out on:

    With all the extras the same and only the soundtracks differing marginally, I'll call this one a draw.


 

Summary

    All The King's Men is stylish looking but drawn-out and often plodding drama based on the award winning novel by Robert Penn Warren. Sean Penn's performance as 1950s Louisiana Governor Willie Stark could once again be labelled over-acting, something he is wont to do. The rest of the cast is impressive, though the dreary nature of the plot and the dialogue hampers them often.

    The video and audio presentations are superb.

    The extras are comprehensive enough with little in the way of cheap padding.

 

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-3910, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic TH-42PX600A 42" Plasma. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

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