Mad Money (2008)

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Released 18-Sep-2008

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Audio Commentary-Feature length by director Callie Khouri
Theatrical Trailer-(02:03) ratio 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 2.0
Theatrical Trailer-(02:23) Get Smart : 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 2.0
Theatrical Trailer-(02:26) Mrs Pettigrew Lives for a Day : 1.85:1 , 16x9
Theatrical Trailer-(02:00) The Orphanage : 2.35:1, 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2008
Running Time 99:27 (Case: 104)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (61:38) Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Callie Khouri
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Diane Keaton
Queen Latifah
Ted Danson
Katie Holmes
Adam Rothenberg
Stephen Root
Roger Cross
Christopher McDonald
Peyton 'Alex' Smith
Charlie Caldwell
Case ?
RPI $32.95 Music Marty Davich
James Newton Howard


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis


Acclaim came to Callie Khouri, as did Oscar, for her writing of Thelma and Louise in 1991. In 2002 Khouri wrote and directed The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood, and then in 2006 again wore the dual hats of writer and director for the TV production Holly and Rae. For the recent release Mad Money Khouri restricts herself to directing, the screenplay being written by Glenn Gers and the result is a comedy / heist pic firmly aimed at a female demographic. While being reasonable entertainment, it is disappointing that this film does not have the integrity - nor the comedy - that we may have hoped for, particularly with two of the screen's most charismatic actresses on board.

Beginning with only a main title credit, the film opens with an obviously upmarket, middle aged couple frantically disposing of wads of cash down their toilet. This is Don Cardigan (Ted Danson) and his wife Bridget (Diane Keaton). We cut to another couple, considerably younger and lower down the economic ladder, hastily stuffing bills into their bags and quitting their trailer home. These are the Trumans, Bob (Adam Rothenberg) and Jackie (Katie Holmes). Finally we see Nina Brewster (Queen Latifah) at the barbecue behind her extremely modest home, surprised by her young son as she is burning, again, loads of cash. We then see the strong arm of the law descend on these three - after some action including a trickily devised explosion of the Trumans' van - and then we have Bridget addressing the camera, informing us, or whoever is across the table from her, that "crime is contagious".

The screenplay then takes us "three years earlier". The Cardigans, their two children both having left the nest and working as successful professionals, are living an excessive lifestyle which has stretched their means to the limit. Bob announces to Bridget that he has been sacked, and that they are $286,000 in debt. Their perfect world turned upside down, Bob turns the sofa into his personal cave where he hides from the ugly economic reality facing them. Bridget resolves that she must find a job, but in an amusing series of attempts learns to her dismay that her degree in comparative literature, and the ability to "Google", are not the qualifications she needs to find employment. Her situation desperate, Bridget ends up as a janitor in the Kansas City Federal Reserve, where she daily witnesses the shredding of millions of dollars worth of notes, too old to be left in the system. Salivating over this wanton "waste" of still perfectly good currency, the cash strapped matron decides to rob the reserve, and, needing a couple of henchwomen (?), checks out her fellow workers. Young married Jackie Truman's (Holmes) function in the shredding process is to transport the cash, securely locked in her caged cart, through the corridors into the guarded shredding room. There the cart is handed over to single-mom Nina Brewster (Latifah) who unlocks the cage and shreds the cash, all under the supervision of the guard, one Barry (Roger R. Cross), who harbours a secret yen for the attractive Nina. Jackie and Nina are soon Bridget's fellow conspirators. The remainder of the screen time is devoted to the plan, the first "job", crises, and the continuation of the threesome's exploits over the next three years - eventually aided by the men in their lives, Bob becoming rejuvenated by his wife's entry into a life of crime.

Mad Money is not a bad film, in fact there is much to enjoy. Primarily there is the sheer pleasure of seeing Diane Keaton (Reds) in something considerably better than the truly appalling Because I Said So of last year. It is difficult to believe that Annie Hall is over thirty years ago, but the screen presence of Miss Keaton glows as strongly as ever. Everything that she does, she does superbly. I just question what it is that she is asked to do. While her character begins as being grounded strongly in reality, the basis of any great comedy, she is often asked to behave like a buffoon, racing through corridors with trolleys and generally behaving like a Mack Sennett stooge. All that is fine in its place, and, as I have said, no one could do it better than Diane Keaton. But it does not sit well with the film as a whole. There is a distinctly strong and unattractive element of greed in the character of Bridget, which, rather than shrink from, Keaton exploits to its fullest, seeming to relish playing these scenes. How relevant this is today, with the economic crisis that is currently overwhelming the United States, and indeed the world. Keaton can play this as the bitter comic observation it is surely intended to be, but the fact is that director Khouri never settles on a tone for her film. The opening prepares us for a comedy of human errors, a true classic comedy in which the participants, all sympathetic flawed humans - at least that applies to Keaton and Latifah - commit considerable folly which has its unavoidable serious consequences. Instead the action too often deteriorates into silly situations, often repetitive, and culminates in a denouement that is a cheesy cop-out. The writing seems bereft of ideas, made evident by two key plot mechanisms both involving the loss of an important object, one a key and the other a ring, into the plumbing. How more satisfying this would have been if we had been allowed to truly invest in these characters, as we did with Thelma and Louise, and follow them through to whatever were the consequences of their lawbreaking actions, whether they got away with it or not. Instead, this screenplay plays it both ways leaving us at its close unsatisfied and confused as to the makers' intention. These sisters, or at least two of them, should have inspired better from the creators of the film. Actors can't be "doin' for themselves"! They need support from the writer and the director.

Apart from the brilliant Diane Keaton, there is the increasingly charismatic Queen Latifah (Chicago), a lady of generous talent and true screen stature. Here she reins in her considerable strength and delivers a much more restrained, even subtle performance. She sustains a consistent, realistic portrayal of her struggling single Mom, within the limitations of the script. Katie Holmes (Mrs Cruise) bops around looking cute, apparently channelling Michelle Pfeiffer from Married to the Mob, but at least she is not objectionable. The three men in the lives of the criminal trio are all extremely pleasing, although Ted Danson looks very strange at first sight. Adam Rothenberg, prior to this primarily a TV actor and producer, and Roger R.Cross (World Trade Center) both register strongly in simply defined characters. As Glover, the manager of the reserve, Stephen Root (No Country for Old Men), continually scores, striking a comedic note that should have set the tone for the entire film.

The movie looks great, with glossy technical expertise, some nice camerawork under the direction of John Bailey, clever scene transitions, excellent music - both original (Martin Davich and James Newton Howard) and "canned" - all in a sparkling audio transfer, and the best end credits seen for quite some time. (This is the first time I've been moved to check who was responsible for the credits of a movie since the days of Saul Bass. Mad Money's credits are attributed to "Shine".) There is so much that is praiseworthy here, but it could, or should, have been so much better. If anyone remembers The Lavender Hill Mob, an old Ealing comedy which starred an emerging Alec Guinness, that's the tone this film should have had. Nevertheless, Mad Money passes its hundred minutes running time painlessly, though forgettably. Someone else will have to make the first great female caper movie - sadly without Keaton and Latifah.

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Transfer Quality

Video


The video transfer is excellent.
There have been adverse comments regarding the Region 1, which offers both widescreen and fullscreen versions, which do not apply to this transfer.

The feature is presented in the aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.
The only criticism of the transfer is that it could be a little sharper. Miss Keaton is more clearly defined than in other recent outings, which is good to see, so perhaps a compromise was accepted, so that close ups of the older actress did not suddenly look jarringly out of focus. Apart from this minor complaint, the image generally sparkles. Shadow detail is excellent and there is no low level noise.
The colour spectrum is bright and vibrant, with outdoor scenes exceptionally brilliant, and interiors, especially the Cardigan household, detailed and rich.
There were no MPEG artefacts, with a complete absence of aliasing.

The Descriptive Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired were sampled and were accurate.

The disc is dual-layered, with the non-disruptive change occurring at 61:38.

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

Audio

This is an excellent soundtrack, particularly considering the "small" nature of the film.
There are four audio streams:
Dolby Digital 5.1 stream encoded at 448 Kbps;
Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Encoded at 224 Kbps;
Director's Commentary, Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Encoded at 224 Kbps; and
Descriptive Commentary for the Vision Impaired, Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Encoded at 224 Kbps. This was sampled and found to be accurate, delivered in the usual flat non-dramatic style, with a distinctly Australian, young male voice.

The feature was watched listening to the Dolby Digital 5.1 stream.
The dialogue was perfectly clear and easy to understand, centred with no discernible directionality. There were no sync problems.
The musical score was varied, no doubt somewhat due to two composers contributing, capturing perfectly what should have been the tone for the entire film. Sometimes more traditional and orchestral (James Newton Howard?), there would then be quirkily clever interludes (Martin Davich?) for the more comic or suspenseful sequences that added enormously to the folly of the entire situation. The music was quite brilliantly reproduced, using the entire surround capabilities of the system, fronts, rears and subwoofer. There was also an enjoyable, and frequently witty, use of "canned" music which also benefited immeasurably from the surround reproduction.
The action of the film was supported with a fair amount of ambience and directionality throughout the film, but in the climactic sequence, involving police cars and a helicopter, the sound becomes almost overwhelming, with surrounds and subwoofer really jumping. Some police radio broadcasts in the left hand rear channel quite overwhelm the dialogue in the centre channel.
All up, the soundtrack of Mad Money is vibrant and adds greatly to the enjoyment of the film.



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

Extras

The only real extras are the director's feature commentary plus the original theatrical trailer.

Main Menu:
Presented 1.85:1 and 16x9 enhanced, with audio of music theme and live and animation in which a $50 bill rotates, each turn replacing the president with one of the seven principals from the story.

Options presented are :
Play Film
Scenes : Twenty-three thumbnails and chapter titles presented on eight screens. No animation or audio, but cute visual of Queen Latifah holding each trio of thumbnails.
Extras : Options are : * Play film with audio commentary by director Callie Khouri.
* Theatrical Trailer (2.03) : Presented 1.85:1 and 16x9 enhanced with Dolby Digital
Setup : Audio : Options are : * Dolby Digital 5.1 encoded at 448 Kbps.
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Encoded at 224 Kbps.
* Director's Audio Commentary : Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Encoded at 224 Kbps.

Captions : Descriptive Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired : On / Off
Audio Description : Descriptive Narration for the Vision Impaired : On / Off



Bonus Material :

Director's Feature Commentary :

Director Callie Khouri provides a feature length commentary on the movie. Though sparse in information, with stretches of the movie without any comment at all, Khouri spaces her remarks well, and allows enjoyment of key sequences before she makes comment. I found this more acceptable than the incessant babble provided on some discs.
We learn that the film was based on a British film, Hot Money, a comic tale of a robbery of The Bank of England by a female gang. Although Khouri's film was five years in preparation, Keaton and Latifah were signed early on and remained committed to the project. Khourri, as a writer, comments on the advantage in having the voice of the actor who will eventually speak your words in the writer's head during the writing process. Much is also made of the collaborative process between her and writer Glenn Gers. The timely nature of the film, coming at a time of mortgage collapse and financial crisis, is perhaps over emphasised by the director, but with today's economic crisis the topic seems even more relevant than when the film was made.
Khouri repeatedly refers to her desire to make a comedy, and a film dealing with crime that included no violence. Praise to her. The "fine line" she had to walk between comedy and reality is also stressed, but, though she recognizes the delicate balance that was needed, it is a pity that she was not able to walk that line herself. There are interesting bits of information, such as that the shredding process in the film is not what happens at the real-life reserve, plus other useless remarks about pranks on the set.
Altogether this is low key, intimate and gentle commentary, that is worth listening to and, due to the sparcity of the comments, an enjoyable way to have a second look at the movie itself.


Trailers :
At startup three trailers are presented :

Get Smart (02:23) :Presented 1.85:1 in a 16x9 transfer with Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Encoded at 224 Kbps.
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (02:26) : Presented 1.85:1 in a 16x9 transfer with Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Encoded at 224 Kbps.
The Orphanage (02:01) : Presented 2.35:1 in a 16x9 transfer with Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Encoded at 224 Kbps.

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 misses out on :
* Featurette : Makin' Money : Behind the Scenes of 'Mad Money' (8:34) : This features interviews with director Kouri and cast members consisting chiefly of mutual congratulatory back-slapping.


The Region 1 release misses out on the Descriptive Narration for the Vision Impaired.

U.S. reviews suggest that our PAL transfer is superior, so the Region 4 release is the choice.

Summary

This heist comedy is a pleasant and forgettable way to spend an hour and forty-five minutes. It could have been great, but there is a pervading absence of intent to the entire thing. The plot lets it down, but better direction could have remedied this to some extent. Two of the gals are great - the superlative Dianne Keaton in great personal form, and Queen Latifah who never fails to please. Though limited by the script's demands, there is some excellent support from the four males and top flight production values make this a moderately entertaining night at the movies. Limited extras, but a nice "CinemaScope" look to the widescreen transfer, and excellent audio.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDOnkyo-SP500, using Component output
DisplayPhilips Plasma 42FD9954/69c. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
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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