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At Middleton Blu-ray Review

At Middleton (2014) movie poster At Middleton

Theatrical Release: January 31, 2014 / Running Time: 100 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Adam Rodgers / Writers: Glenn German, Adam Rodgers

Cast: Andy Garcia (George Hartman), Vera Farmiga (Edith Martin), Taissa Farmiga (Audrey Martin), Spencer Lofranco (Conrad Hartman), Nicholas Braun (Justin "Dingleberry"), Tom Skerritt (Dr. Roland Emerson), Peter Riegert (Boneyard Sims), Mirjana Jokovic (Professor Riley), Stephen Borrello (Travis), Daniella Garcia-Lorido (Daphne)

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Actor Andy Garcia has flirted with movie stardom since his Oscar-nominated breakout role as the
illegitimate son of Sonny Corleone in The Godfather Part III. He's taken top billing in major movies like the hit romance When a Man Loves a Woman and featured prominently in Ocean's Eleven and its sequels as the adversary of George Clooney's cool titular protagonist. Time and again, though, Garcia has shown he's more interested in what interests him than having his work be widely seen. He's not enough of a snob to turn down The Pink Panther 2, but he seems more engaged in independent films, a number of which he has also produced or even directed.

At Middleton is one of the latest vessels for Garcia's passion. He produced and stars in this independent romantic dramedy co-written by Glenn German and first-time director Adam Rodgers, who together scripted the 2008 Charles S. Dutton Lifetime TV movie Racing for Time.

George Hartman (Andy Garcia) and Edith Martin (Vera Farmiga) meet and bond on their respective teenagers' visit to Middleton College in "At Middleton."

Garcia plays George Hartman, a cardiac surgeon who is visiting the campus of fictional Middleton College (played by Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington) with his son Conrad (Spencer Lofranco). Also there for this open house are high-end children's furniture saleswoman Edith Martin (Vera Farmiga) and her daughter Audrey (Taissa Farmiga, Vera's youngest sister).

The two kids have differing outlooks on the small, storied liberal arts college. Nonconformist Conrad has little interest in attending there, while ambitious Audrey has her heart set on enrolling there and being advised by accomplished linguist Roland Emerson (Tom Skerritt in a small role). But the film is less invested in this generation than the previous one, sticking with George and Edith as they get separated from the group and their difficult teenagers. The parents, each unhappily married, quickly form a connection by this shared experience, which sees them "playing hooky" and riding around campus on bikes they've stolen from one improbable encounter to another.

Audrey (Taissa Farmiga) doesn't mince words during a meeting with the respected linguist she wishes to become her advisor. While father (Andy Garcia) peruses a Middleton brochure, son (Spencer Lofranco) tugs at the necktie he didn't want to wear.

Their adventures include portraying an old married couple in a theater class that demands their participation, getting high with a couple of alternative underclassmen (one of them played by one of Garcia's real daughters), playing piano together, combatting a fear of heights,
and creating backstories about random pedestrians during a bit of people watching. Their children meet up and have their contrasting views of the college changed, but the movie cares far more about exploring the extramarital romance potential for these middle-aged strangers on this fateful day.

At Middleton feels like an untimely remake of an old screwball comedy. It is clunkily set up and extremely contrived. Turning these uptight parents, who meet over a disputed parking space, into quirky, playful, young free spirits who unrealistically spout hip dialogue about Twitter, the film can't decide on a suitable tone or an audience it wants to please. Even actors as seasoned as these two leads can't overpower the prevailing artifice that has characters repeatedly bandying the word "feckless" at one another. Like any film that ruminates upon adulthood, this seems to mean well and want to be taken seriously. But it comes across as shallow and out of touch, a flimsy attempt to enter the ranks of such hallowed single-day stories as Dazed and Confused and Groundhog Day.

After a blink and miss three week limited engagement in theaters, At Middleton reached DVD and Blu-ray this week from Anchor Bay Entertainment.

At Middleton Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.78:1 Widescreen
Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: April 1, 2014
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($24.98 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

At Middleton may be a low-budget production, but you'd never know by watching it. The film sports a super bright, clean, sharp, and vivid 1.78:1 Blu-ray transfer. While the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio isn't as remarkable, it presents the soundtrack with nary a problem.

Nicholas Braun's improvisation skills are on display in the outtake reel. A shot of Vera Farmiga and Andy Garcia's bike ride around campus is one of the stills featured in the slideshow video of Garcia's original song "There Was a Day."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray's extras begin with the Set Up section's audio commentary by writer/director Adam Rodgers, writer/producer Glenn German, and actor/producer Andy Garcia.

They discuss the filmmaking process and conditions without the excitement that inexperience usually breeds. Despite the occasional glimmer (brief mention of the MPAA's rating, Coca-Cola product placement, licensing film clips, and another studio's objection to the working title Admissions), it's not a track that's worth your time.

Next up comes an outtake reel (11:09), which shows off unused ad libs of Garcia, Vera Farmiga, Spencer Lofranco, and Nicholas Braun in addition to some bloopers (Vera gets the giggles a lot), which bleep most of their profanity.

Finally, "There Was a Day" (4:25) sets less than 1080p publicity stills to a jazz song written and performed by Andy Garcia, creating a kind of tender (and somewhat laughable) music video.

The disc opens with trailers for Enough Said (a move presumably reciprocated by Fox), Small Time, City Island, Jayne Mansfield's Car, and Snake & Mongoose. These aren't accessible by menu and At Middleton's trailer isn't included at all.

The menu plays piano music over clips. Like other Anchor Bay Blu-rays of in-house titles, this one allows you to set bookmarks but won't let you resume playback in an easier fashion.

The eco-friendly keepcase isn't joined by a slipcover or any inserts.

Over a juice box and some Dasani product placement, the liberated George (Andy Garcia) and Edith (Vera Farmiga) share a flirtatious lunch.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Movies for and about adults are increasingly rare, but being one of those doesn't absolve At Middleton of its decidedly contrived storytelling. While this may not be quite as pedestrian as most romantic comedies, it's just as stupid and unsatisfying.

Anchor Bay's Blu-ray offers excellent picture, fine sound, a dry audio commentary, and not much else of note.

Buy At Middleton from Amazon.com: Blu-ray / DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Andy Garcia: City Island New York, I Love You Ocean's Thirteen The Godfather Part III
Vera Farmiga: Bates Motel: Season One The Conjuring Orphan The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Joshua
10 Things I Hate About You College Road Trip Road Trip | Nicholas Braun: Prom Sky High
New: Delivery Man The Wolf of Wall Street Saving Mr. Banks

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Reviewed April 4, 2014.



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