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Clear History: Blu-ray with Digital Copy Review

Clear History: Blu-ray with Digital Copy cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Clear History
Movie & Blu-ray Details

Director: Greg Mottola / Writers: Larry David, Alec Berg, David Mandel, Jeff Schaffer

Cast: Larry David (Nathan Flomm/Rolly DaVore), Bill Hader (Rags), Philip Baker Hall (McKenzie), Jon Hamm (Will Haney), Kate Hudson (Rhonda Haney), Michael Keaton (Joe Stumpo), Danny McBride (Frank), Eva Mendes (Jennifer), Amy Ryan (Wendy), J.B. Smoove (Jaspar), Amy Landecker (Nathan's Wife), Mary Klug (Tibby), Patty Ross (Gladys), Marianne Leone (Joyce), Mike Cerrone (Poker Buddy), Dorothy Dwyer (Poker Buddy), Peter Farrelly (Poker Buddy), Jimmy Tingle (Poker Buddy), Doug Bowen-Flynn (Police Officer), Marilyn Cortez (Nanny), Paul Scheer (Dinner Friend), Christian J. Mallen (Howard at 15), Brendan Meehan (Young Howard), Wolf Blitzer (Himself), Conan O'Brien (Himself), Robert Lamm (Himself), Lee Loughnane (Himself), James Pankow (Himself), Walt Parazaider (Himself), Liev Schreiber (Tibor - uncredited)

Original Air Date: August 10, 2013 / Running Time: 100 Minutes / Rating: TV-MA

1.78:1 Widescreen (Broadcast Ratio) / 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (English), 2.0 DTS (Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish; Not Closed Captioned
Blu-ray Release Date: November 5, 2013 / Suggested Retail Price: $24.99
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25) / Blue Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($19.97 SRP)

Buy Clear History from Amazon.com: Blu-ray with Digital Copy DVD

In an April 1998 interview with The A.V. Club that discussed both the series finale of "Seinfeld" and his theatrical screenwriting debut Sour Grapes, Larry David said, "Yeah, I doubt I'll go back to TV for a while, if ever.
It doesn't seem like it. I think I'm pretty much done with it."

Sixteen months later, HBO aired an hour-long mockumentary that would soon become the basis of "Curb Your Enthusiasm", the series that has occupied David ever since. The largely improvised, much-lauded comedy has cemented David as a small screen genius. His ventures into the world of feature film have been few and far between, and simply as an actor, not chief writer and executive producer as on "Curb."

While HBO remains cautiously optimistic that David will bring "Curb" back for at least a ninth season when it suits him, the premium cable channel was happy to work with him in the meantime on a rare one-off creative venture. Along with his "Seinfeld" and "Curb" collaborators Alec Berg, David Mandel, and Jeff Schaffer, David wrote and produced the TV movie Clear History.

The HBO movie "Clear History" stars Larry David as a marketer who reinvents himself on Martha's Vineyard.

David also fills the lead role, his first in a feature since Woody Allen's 2009 New York comedy Whatever Works. Sporting a hairdo and beard that make Jeff Lebowski look kempt, David is Nathan Flomm, a marketing wizard in on the ground floor of Electron Motors, a San Jose, California company working to develop an efficient electric car in 2003. The brains and CEO of the operation is Will Haney (Jon Hamm), whose decision to name the new car Howard after his young son runs afoul of Flomm. So disgusted by the name, Flomm chooses to quit and sell back his 10% stake in the company, which is soon to go public.

Though he regrets that move the following day and apologizes to Hanley, what's done is done. While the Howard becomes a tremendous success, Flomm loses his wife and his home. Even his long, shaggy hair starts to fall out while the media reports that his decision cost him $1 billion in stocks based on the company's astronomical value.

We jump ahead ten years to the present day and learn that Flomm has reinvented himself as Rolly DaVore, a caregiver on Martha's Vineyard. There, Rolly has plenty of friends, the type that throw him a surprise birthday party at a local diner. Nobody knows of Rolly's embarrassing past, and how would they, for his clean-shaven, balding white-haired self bears little resemblance to the blunderer who made the news a decade earlier.

Jon Hamm wears glasses while playing the executive Will Haney, rather than the ad man Don Draper. Michael Keaton sports friendly mutton chops as Joe Stumpo.

Rolly's peaceful island existence threatens to come tumbling down when who should move to the Vineyard but Will Haney. Haney doesn't recognize Rolly, mistaking him for a mover. Inspired by the film adaptation of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead (the source of that career-changing name), Rolly hatches a plan for vengeance.
With the help of his friend Frank (Danny McBride), Frank's contact, the cantankerous Joe Stumpo (a barely recognizable, friendly mutton-chopped Michael Keaton) and his slow-witted assistant Rags (Bill Hader), Rolly decides to blow up the Blue Heron, the mansion that the loaded Haney and his trophy wife Rhonda (Kate Hudson) are renovating over community concerns.

Rolly lands a job on the project's construction team, by cashing in a return favor from the foreman (Philip Baker Hall), but instead of building, he is secretly planning to demolish when the Haneys are not at home. Rolly considers changing the plan to something different and more personal when he detects a romantic connection between him and Rhonda.

Clear History is basically a feature-length "Curb Your Enthusiasm." David isn't playing a version of himself, asking celebrity friends to do the same, or recycling his favorite public domain music cues. But the sharp writing and improvisation-driven performances closely resemble "Curb." There are also about as many laughs as the three episodes this movie would fill.

Minus the insidery Los Angeles stuff and long-term character histories, the humor is very similar. Rolly is just as picky and stubborn as the character of Larry David. Here, he objects to a diner placing their silverware directly on the table, hidden electrical outlets you have to bend down to reach, a woman who only shampoos her hair weekly, and oncoming cars on a narrow road that expect him to back up even though they've clearly got a closer clearance.

The attention to everyday minutiae that made David such a perfect fit for translating Jerry Seinfeld's stand-up act into an unusually creative, complex, and quotable sitcom still amuses even as David shares the screen with actors unseasoned in his current approach to comedy (which includes everyone in the cast but J.B. Smoove). David's success in television is legendary enough that he probably had no difficulty assembling this deeply talented cast, which also includes Academy Award nominee Amy Ryan as Rolly's ex-girlfriend (the target of a running mystery involving the band Chicago), Eva Mendes, sporting a ridiculous Cuban accent and an obesity backstory, and an entertaining, uncredited Liev Schreiber as a Chechnyan resource.

As successful as their dramatic movies are at competing for and winning Emmy awards, HBO rarely makes comedy movies. If Clear History is to be recognized (and I kind of doubt that), it will have to wait until 2014 to become eligible. On Tuesday, the movie hits DVD. It also hits Blu-ray, a format that "Curb" has never seen, with a digital copy in the edition reviewed here.

This menu shot shows the shaggy-haired, long-bearded Nathan Flomm (Larry David) is an easy look to distance from. "Curb Your Enthusiasm"'s J.B. Smoove plays Jaspar, who recognizes Rolly's past identity while dressed like this.

VIDEO and AUDIO

The 1.78:1 widescreen picture is outstanding, looking as sharp, pristine, and vibrant as any Blu-ray. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack isn't quite as breathtaking,
but it presents the film-driving dialogue and occasional Chicago needle drop with no complications whatsoever.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Clear History's only extra is a digital copy, downloadable in iTunes and UltraViolet formats with the directions and unique redemption code found inside the unslipcovered blue keepcase.

The disc opens with a trailer for We're the Millers, which for me it followed with a streamed promo for HBO movies and miniseries.

The menu cleverly uses the same computer interface design from the creative opening and closing credits, with listings placed atop a very "Curb Your Enthusiasm"-esque selection of clips from the movie. The BD doesn't support bookmarks or resume playback.

Rolly (Larry David) picks up vibes from Rhonda (Kate Hudson) on their shared day at the fair.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

If you're a fan of "Curb Your Enthusiasm", chances are that you'll find Clear History a pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good movie in the same vein. It's a funny outlet for the plentiful wit of Larry David, his trusted collaborators, and the game, talented supporting cast. While HBO's Blu-ray is barebones, it features great picture and sound. More importantly, the movie it holds is recommended viewing.

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Reviewed October 31, 2013.



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