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Arthur Newman: Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack Review

Arthur Newman (2013) movie poster Arthur Newman

Theatrical Release: April 26, 2013 / Running Time: 93 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Dante Ariola / Writer: Becky Johnston

Cast: Colin Firth (Wallace Avery/Arthur J. Newman), Emily Blunt (Charlotte "Mike" Fitzgerald, Michaela Fitzgerald), Lucas Hedges (Kevin Avery), Anne Heche (Mina Crawley), M. Emmet Walsh (Zazek), Kristin Lehman (Mary Alice Wells), Steve Coulter (Owen Hadley), Devon Woods (Janie Wells), Sterling Beaumon (Grant Wells), Natalie Volkodaeva (Ludmilla), Autumn Dial (Charyl), Anthony Reynolds (Ranger), Holden Hansen (Beauregard Tully), Ron Prather (Detective #1), Jason Benjamin (Cop), Sol Miranda (Rosita Tully), David Andrews (Chuck Willoughy)

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Colin Firth didn't get much, if any, career boost from winning the Best Actor Oscar in 2011. He was shooting Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy before The King's Speech was released. Since then, he's made: Gambit, an apparently not very good comedy written,
but not directed, by the Coen Brothers which CBS Films is in no rush to release, and the little-seen indie drama Arthur Newman. Of course, Firth has had dry spells before, he seems to gravitate toward indies, and he's never been a marquee movie star, at least not west of the Atlantic Ocean.

Americans who avoid theaters and those who do not live close to any of the 248 that showed Arthur Newman have the chance to see Firth's first post-statue performance now that Arthur Newman has hit DVD and Blu-ray combo pack from Cinedigm.

Marking the directorial debut of "The Ren & Stimpy Show" letterer (no joke) Dante Ariola and the first screenplay credit in fifteen years for 1991 Academy Award nominee Becky Johnston (The Prince of Tides), Arthur tells the story of two sad, lonely people who find each other on the run from reality.

"Arthur Newman" stars Emily Blunt and Colin Firth as strangers bound by destiny on a road trip from Florida to Terre Haute, Indiana.

Wallace Avery (Firth) is a divorced Floridian who failed as a pro golfer years ago and has more recently been fired as the floor manager of a Fed Ex branch. He decides to fake his death and start over again, having been promised a job as a golf pro at a Terre Haute club run by a man whose swing he fixed. Wallace acquires the necessary documents to become Arthur J. Newman and a used Mercedes-Benz convertible, while making it look like he drowned off the coast of Talbot Island State Park.

At his first of what will be many dive roadside motels, Arthur encounters Michaela Fitzgerald (Emily Blunt), a troubled young woman overdosing on cough syrup whom he takes to the hospital emergency room. Discovering Arthur's duffel bag full of cash and an ID bearing his old name, "Mike" figures out her savior's secret and shares a similar one of her own. Resisting a bus ride back to Durham, Mike tags along with Arthur on his road trip.

Beginning with a newlywed elderly couple whose veil they rescue, Arthur and Mike begin breaking into the houses of strangers for a brief taste of their existences. It's a relief from depressing reality. Hot dog enthusiast Arthur has a girlfriend (Anne Heche) and a 13-year-old son (Lucas Hedges) who are looking into his disappearance. Mike is a drifter with paranoid schizophrenia in her genes, resulting in her mother's suicide and her twin sister's institutionalization.

13-year-old Kevin Avery (Lucas Hedges) looks into the disappearance of the father he couldn't stand. Mina (Anne Heche) is also affected by the loss of the boyfriend she took for granted.

Though it seems to be vaguely marketed and widely classified as a romantic comedy, Arthur Newman is not. It is, however, an intriguing film that avoids trivializing or overdramatizing its leads' cloudy states of reinvention. The American South accent proves to be a constant struggle for Firth, which is surprising, but then this is a relatively new challenge for the 30-year pro.
Blunt, who's had more practice in the art, manages to consistently hide her own English accent. The possibility of romance between them is off-putting at first, between the characters' baggage and considerable age gap. But, evolving slowly and strangely, it emerges as perhaps the only thing that either of these desperate loners has to live for.

Ariola does an admirable job for a first-timer, remaining on track despite many opportunities to slip up. His cast is comfortable with the material and the open ending seems preferable to anything more concrete that Johnston could have scripted.

Though not a film with mass appeal (it hasn't even had a theatrical engagement scheduled for Firth and Blunt's native country), Arthur Newman is likely to surprise some who rent it with low expectations.

Arthur Newman: Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English); DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled or Captioned
Release Date: September 3, 2013
Two single-sided discs (BD-25 & DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.95
Blue Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($24.95 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Arthur Newman sports a terrific 2.40:1 Blu-ray transfer that is sharp and suitably detailed throughout. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio also meets the high expectations set by a hi-def release of a brand new film. Sadly, neither disc includes English SDH subtitles or closed captioning, which is bad news for those who are D or H(I).

Screenwriter Becky Johnston explains her return from a 15-year hiatus is actually a 20-year-old script she wrote for Nick Nolte. The Blu-ray and DVD's main menus give us an animated version of the film's poster design.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Arthur Newman is joined by two standard extras (each in HD on Blu-ray): its theatrical trailer (2:17) and a behind-the-scenes featurette (30:27). Unmentioned on the case, the former is welcome as always.
The overlong latter, titled "Cast and Crew on Making Arthur Newman", shares some on-set B-roll in addition to many remarks from Colin Firth, Emily Blunt, Anne Heche, director Dante Ariola, screenwriter Becky Johnston, producers, and other crew members. Most interesting is the revelation that Johnston's screenplay was written twenty years ago for Nick Nolte.

The DVD, the same disc sold separately, includes the same two bonus features.

The menu has stills cycle in a design inspired by the film's theatrical one-sheet. The Blu-ray doesn't support bookmarks, but does resume playback of any unfinished video.

The two comparably-labeled discs take opposite sides of a standard blue keepcase, unaccompanied by slipcover or insert.

Mike (Emily Blunt) adds ribbing and prying of Arthur (Colin Firth) to their playful night putting at the Terre Haute golf club where he expects to work.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Arthur Newman plays much better than it sounds on paper and though not a great film, it is a compelling drama worthy of your attention and thought. Cinedigm's combo pack is ordinary but, apart from the lack of subtitles, satisfactory. You're unlikely to regret renting either of these two discs.

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Reviewed September 5, 2013.



Text copyright 2013 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2013 Cinedigm, Vertebra Films, Cross Creek, Monarch Bay Productions, Focus Features International, and Flatiron Film Company.
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