Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price (2005)

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Released 2-May-2007

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Audio Commentary-Director
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
Featurette-Condensed 20 minute version
Featurette-The Spoofmakers
Trailer-Madman Propaganda
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 2005
Running Time 99:40 (Case: 91)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Robert Greenwald
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Edith Arana
James Cromwell
Diane DeVoy
Jordan Esry
Red Esry
Scott Esry
Frances Fisher
Stan Fortune
Sandra Laney
Rev. James Lawson
Julie R. Lee
Donna Lisenby
Jim Bill Lynn
Case ?
RPI ? Music John Frizzell


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Director Robert Greenwald is obviously a bit of a rabble-rousing documentary maker. His previous efforts have included the highly inflammatory Outfoxed:Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism where he exposed the dodgy antics of the Fox News Network. This time round he tackles one of the largest companies by revenue in the world and also one of the largest and most controversial employers on the planet - the ubiquitous Wal-Mart.

    Wal-Mart is a company that has a pretty big reach and a massive influence on popular culture in the US. When they can claim to have more than 100 million people visiting a Wal-Mart store at least once per week in the USA (that's one in every three of the total population) the place has some obvious clout. But don't think this is a shopping paradise. Apparently many shoppers hate having to visit Wal-Mart, but they simply have to because there is so little choice in many towns. And many see Wal-Mart as being at the vanguard of the worst aspects of globalisation with its desire to assimilate society with its standard shopping practices and use of cheap Chinese imported goods.

    What this documentary tries to show is how much of an impact the establishment of a Wal-Mart store in a small town has on that town, the state and the country. From the workers it exploits on minimum wages (many full time Wal-Mart employees effectively live below the poverty line) to the obvious crushing effect the mega-mart has on the small mum and dad style stores it is all laid out in gory detail with plenty of real examples from real people, including many former employees who reveal many of the tricks employed by the chain to maximise profits and exploit workers.

    Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price is certainly not a balanced documentary - it's effectively anti-Wal-Mart all the way with many former employees and others speaking with venom about the company. This is 'balanced' with public domain footage of interviews with Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott taking the alternative view on the arguments. Like many films of a similar ilk released in recent years it is more commentary than documentary and as a result needs to be warily viewed as it gets its message across. But like any good opinion presented with passion and more than a few shocking facts it makes for compelling viewing.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. It is also 16x9 enhanced.

    With much of the camera work filmed on the run with hand held tape-based equipment, don't expect too much in terms of pristine, vibrant, or colourful film-like images here. There is grain evident in many of the shots with poor lighting, but there is no low level noise.

    Colours aren't exactly what I'd call vibrant, but the style of film and the content matter presented doesn't really call for heaps of bright colour.

    There are no compression or film-to-video artefacts. Film artefacts are also absent with much of the film shot on tape.

    The English subtitles were sampled during much of the commentary track and found to be pretty accurate.

    This is a single layered disc so there is no layer change to navigate.

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

Audio

    There's two tracks on this disc. One for the film, the other for a director's commentary. The main Dolby Digital stereo 2.0 track is pretty good, with only a few brief moments of distortion, due to some of the less than stellar source materials, but this is seldom a major issue and pretty much as expected.

    This is a soundtrack dominated by interviews, news grabs and various talking heads, so it really doesn't need anything special. There is some reasonable separation of sound effects across the front speakers, mostly notably the music. Dialogue is clear and there are no audio sync problems.

    There is a little music that supports the on screen action.

    There is no discrete surround channel or subwoofer usage.

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

Extras

Audio Commentary

    Robert Greenwald is proud of his work here and this is an informative commentary as a result. Almost as worthy as just watching the regular film.

Featurette-Behind The Scenes

    A decent length (16:37) making-of featurette here with interviews with the director and a host of others involved. Worth a look.

Featurette - The Spoofmakers

    A short featurette (7:18) dedicated to the makers of the fake Wal-Mart commercials that can be seen throughout the film. Some good behind the scenes action here.

Featurette - 20 minute condensed version

    Don't want to watch the whole 90 minute film? Well you can watch this mini version instead and pretty much get the gist of what is going on. Runs for 23:17 and includes an introduction from the director.

Trailer

    Trailers for several other Madman titles including Life and Debt, Amandla, and Dogora. Also included is the standard anti-piracy ad.

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;

    A few more extras on the Region 1 disc see a slight win to that version.

Summary

   

    An interesting documentary, that while not having a whole lot of specific relevance to Australia (at least not yet) still evokes some pretty strong moral questions that need to be answered in this day of expanding globalisation.

    The quality of the video is as expected, with the older archival footage suffering from all the usual problems.

    The audio is nothing spectacular but handles the job required with ease.

    There are several extras, though the Region 1 disc picks up a few more.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Tuesday, September 18, 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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