DVD/Blu-ray Reviews

New Releases: January 25, 2011

Add Comment 25 January 2011 by Christian Toto
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secretariatbluray.pngThe beauty of Secretariat is how easily it draws us in to a story we already know by heart. It doesn't matter that Secretariat wonsometimes by a wide marginthe sport's three biggest races back in 1973. Director Randall Wallace captures the horse's majesty, power and unmatched athleticism so we root for him all over again.

Diane Lane stars as Penny Chenery, a Denver housewife who inherits her family's Virginia horse farm and forms a quick bond with a horse named Red.

Penny should have been overwhelmed by the notion of making Red, to be renamed Secretariat, a champion. But Penny gave as good as she got, and often better, from the tight knit horse racing community. She hired an eccentric trainer (John Malkovich in an Oscar worthy performance) and put all her faithand moneyinto Secretariat's future.

The rest was up to Secretariat, a horse unlike any to ever grace a race track.

Secretariat can't outrun some mawkish dialogue, and a few of the story arcs feel swiped from a Screenwriting 101 text. Capable actors like James Cromwell and Dylan Walsh are wasted in lightweight roles. But director Randall Wallace (We Were Soldiers) captures the sport's beauty in ways that demand repeat viewings.

The tasty Blu-ray extras include "Secretariat: Heart of a Champion," a mini-documentary letting those who knew Secretariat best sing his praises.

"If the camera or press were around, he knew it," the real Penny Chenery recalls. The film‘s cast appear just as spellbound by Secretariat.

"It's always nice to see someone get close to perfection," Malkovich says.

"Choreographing the Races" reveals how the critical racing sequences came to be, and a computer simulation lets the viewer see a horse race from the jockey's point of view.

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Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer seemed like the perfect match between content and director. Oscar winning director Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side) is no stranger to politically charged fare, and the self-destruction of former N.Y. Governor Eliot Spitzer caught the nation off guard. Many saw Spitzer as nothing less than presidential material.

But Client 9 proves a frustrating affair, one that lets its subject off the hook while focusing on some of the more extraneous elements of his case.

Gibney tracks Spitzer's rise, letting the governor describe his formative years in a way that highlighted his outsized personality. The narrative tracks his days as a knuckle busting District Attorney to his move to the governor's mansion, a path blazed by a sharp mind and affection for the disenfranchised.

Gibney deftly recalls the progress Spitzer made early on in cleaning up New York's corrupt political machine. But his sexual appetites would lead to his downfall.

Client 9 dispels some misinformation about Spitzer's case, but quickly gets bogged down by minutiae that doesn't illuminate or entertain. And the director lobs too many softballs at Spitzer when he should be brushing him off the plate with hard-hitting questions. The film blames a right wing conspiracy for bringing Spitzer down, and elements of Gibney's argument are chilling. But the director doesn't seem bothered by a super-smart governor who would leave himself so vulnerable to his political foes.

The extras include deleted and extended scenes, some of which should have made the final cut.

"I wanted it to be antiseptic. I wanted it to be without emotion," Spitzer says of why he decided to dial up an escort service in the first place.

The Blu-ray edition also includes an audio commentary track with Gibney as well as an extended interview with the Oscar-winning director. The result is an extended monologue that doesn't shed any new light on Spitzer or how the film came to be.

 

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Tags: Secretariat, Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer
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