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The Ides of March Blu-ray Review

The Ides of March (2011) movie poster The Ides of March

Theatrical Release: October 7, 2011 / Running Time: 101 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: George Clooney / Writers: George Clooney, Grant Heslov (screenplay); Beau Willimon (screenplay & play "Farragut North")

Cast: Ryan Gosling (Stephen Meyers), George Clooney (Governor Mike Morris), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Paul Zara), Paul Giamatti (Tom Duffy), Evan Rachel Wood (Molly Stearns), Marisa Tomei (Ida Horowicz), Jeffrey Wright (Senator Thompson), Max Minghella (Ben Harpen), Jennifer Ehle (Cindy Morris), Gregory Itzin (Jack Stearns), Michael Mantell (Senator Pullman)

Buy The Ides of March from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + UltraViolet Digital Copy DVD

In recent years, no one has been the face of Hollywood's award season quite like George Clooney. Clooney's rise from recurring sitcom roles to TV drama stardom to one of cinema's go-to leading men is remarkable by any measure. And it has afforded him the privilege of only making movies that stand to be recognized at the end of the year.
He's actually only competed at three Oscar ceremonies and his only win came for Supporting Actor in 2005's soon-forgotten Syriana, but it's tough to remember a time when Clooney was not a part of the discussion for the industry's top prizes. Weighing his many options carefully, Clooney even only lent his voice to a film that would have won the Best Animated Feature Oscar in many years (Fantastic Mr. Fox).

Clooney was fittingly seated front and center at Sunday night's Golden Globes with both of his 2011 movies in contention. He won the award for Best Actor in a Drama for his work in The Descendants and is expected to win the Oscars' non-genre-divided equivalent at the end of next month. His other film, The Ides of March, vied for four honors, with Clooney nominated for three behind-the-camera roles as a screenwriter, a producer, and the director. Ides is Clooney's fourth time in the director's chair and his third credit as writer. But in many ways it feels like a sophomore outing, as his serious follow-up to 2005's Good Night, and Good Luck., an historical political drama that received six Academy Award nominations including Original Screenplay, Directing, and Picture.

Ryan Gosling plays ambitious deputy campaign manager Stephen Meyers in "The Ides of March." Presidential hopeful Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney) answers questions against the signature black backdrop of Charlie Rose.

Fictional Ides is set in the present-day version of American politics. Clooney and Good Night producer/co-writer Grant Heslov adapt the 2008 Off-Broadway play Farragut North by Beau Willimon, who also receives a screenplay credit.

The film focuses on Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling), the young but experienced deputy campaign manager of presidential candidate and current governor Mike Morris (Clooney). Charismatic and sincere, Morris is in good shape to pick up the Democrats' nomination over his chief opponent, Senator Pullman. Polls put Morris ahead by a comforting six points in the all-important, forthcoming Ohio primary. Stephen believes in Morris and is fully devoted to helping him win. When the candidate asks him if he's single, Stephen replies that he's married to the campaign, bringing a proud smile to Morris' face.

In the midst of the usual business of spinning facts and coordinating strategic appearances, Stephen gets a call from Senator Pullman's campaign manager Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) asking to meet. Impressed by the 30-year-old's adversarial efforts, Duffy extends a job offer and lays out his candidate's formidable plan to win in Ohio. While Stephen barely weighs that offer, he and his mentor (Philip Seymour Hoffman) push on in the quest to land Morris a potentially decisive endorsement from a demanding North Carolina senator (Jeffrey Wright) also being sought by the rival.

Stephen's life is complicated when a New York Times reporter (Marisa Tomei) informs him she is about to file a bombshell report and even more so when Molly (Evan Rachel Wood), the teenaged intern he just hooked up with, drops a different and even bigger bombshell on him. Suddenly, the hot button issues that Morris has been grilled on seem immaterial, with Stephen's entire political career in limbo and his longtime allegiances in doubt.

Evan Rachel Wood plays Molly Stearns, an intern who will quickly change Morris' campaign and Stephen's life. Loyal campaign manager Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) teaches his favorite deputy a lesson or two.

The Ides of March boasts sharp storytelling. The dialogue and characters are as deliciously complex as any around and they advance a taut, gripping drama far more human than political. The story is absolutely specific to the profession and hedges on the win-at-all-costs mentality of any successful campaign manager. But any link between Willimon's play and the 2004 presidential bid of Howard Dean that loosely inspired it is severed in favor of universal truths and compelling moral dilemmas.
The title of the play refers to the downtown Washington destination where failed campaign managers end up in consulting firms. That undesirable alternative motivates a driven individual like Stephen to protect his own interests when it seems as though the world around him is falling apart.

Clooney makes the film as utterly compelling as it can be, not only drawing rich performances from his cast, Gosling most of all, but also empowering them with thoughtfully arranged frames and soul-searching close-ups. An effective dose of reality is added with appearances made by real TV commentators, including Charlie Rose, Chris Matthews, and Rachel Maddow. Wisely, Clooney, an outspoken liberal like many of Hollywood's elite, keeps political messages to a minimum, defining his candidate enough to take shape but not placing him into any past or present context. More important than that is the crossing and double-crossing needed to survive, a mindset easy to adopt as we sympathize with characters through destructive, selfish maneuvers that bleak predicaments render necessary.

There is true confidence and skill behind the camera that defy Clooney's decades of acting and equip him with a promising fallback career when he eventually must relinquish that "sexiest man alive" title he's carried for nearly twenty years now. Though its Oscar prospects seem limited to at most a best adapted screenplay nomination, I consider The Ides of March as good as or better than several of the films more likely to compete in a greater number of categories.

While still adding some to its $41 million domestic gross, Sony brings The Ides of March to DVD and Blu-ray today. We cover the latter here.

The Ides of March Blu-ray cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: January 17, 2012
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Suggested Retail Price: $35.99
Blue Keepcase with Side Snap
Also available on DVD ($30.99 SRP)

VIDEO and AUDIO

The Ides of March looks terrific in the Blu-ray's 2.40:1 presentation. The film inevitably is driven by conversation and features little action, but the compositions are striking and the transfer delivers sharp and clean imagery. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio won't be singled out as a demo-worthy dynamo, but it certainly remains crisp, sufficiently weighty, and of consistent volume throughout.

Young Beau Willimon explains how his play "Farragut North" became a George Clooney movie in "Developing the Campaign." George Clooney directs himself while co-writer/producer Grant Heslov looks on in "Believe."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Extras begin with an audio commentary by George Clooney and his co-writer/producer Grant Heslov. They mostly just report on what's onscreen, identifying locations and appearances by Clooney relatives. Their casual reflections still provide some insight into production, shot selection, postproduction tricks, screening receptions, and the creative processes. It's not a riveting track, but it's informative enough and has some amusing sarcasm.

On the video side, the Blu-ray supplies four medium-sized featurettes in HD.

"Developing the Campaign: The Origin of The Ides of March" (7:08) discusses how the pieces fell into place for this production, how the movie departs from the play, and the title's Caesarian/Shakespearean overtones. "Believe: George Clooney" (6:19) gathers thoughts on Clooney directing himself, with cast members singing his praises and B-roll capturing him in action.

What does a political consultant do? Political consultant Stuart Stevens ought to know. Clooney and Gosling face off with the American flag between them on the Blu-ray's menu montage.

"On the Campaign: The Cast of The Ides of March" (5:49) acknowledges the film's proficient lead actors. "What Does a Political Consultant Do?" (7:29) answers that question with remarks from Clooney, crew, and a real political consultant.

The disc opens with a Blu-ray promo and full trailers for Drive, Moneyball, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
The Previews submenu provides access to those trailers and to ones for Anonymous and The Rum Diary. Unfortunately, The Ides of March's own trailer is conspicuously absent from the disc.

A BD-Live section allows you to stream the Men in Black 3 trailer and previews for other Sony titles (including The Ides of March). It's a nice feature as long as we don't pretend it's anything more than sluggish advertising.

Finally, the release is equipped with an UltraViolet digital copy, enabling you to stream the entire movie with a provided code and the necessary account sign-ups.

The DVD edition includes the commentary, "Believe" and "On the Campaign", losing the digital copy code, other two featurettes, and (obviously) BD-Live content.

Inserts serve up unique Sony Movie Rewards and UltraViolet digital copy codes. Typical for Sony, the standard side-snapped keepcase makes use of Blu-ray case translucency to display additional artwork on the inside.

The menu plays clips on an assortment of expanding rectangles while an excerpt of Alexandre Desplat's military drum-invoking score plays. The disc resumes playback and supports bookmarks.

Governor Morris (George Clooney) receives a troubling phone call during a press conference. Pullman campaign manager Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) stealthily pursues his adversary.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

George Clooney takes us deep into the shark-infested waters of political election campaigns in the smart and intriguing The Ides of March. This dialogue-driven drama may feel like a more cinematic, R-rated cousin to "The West Wing", but that's still enough to rank it among last year's best films. The Blu-ray's feature presentation is just about perfect and though the bonus features are a bit underwhelming, the movie is well worth seeing.

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Philip Seymour Hoffman: Doubt Jack Goes Boating Moneyball The Big Lebowski
Paul Giamatti: Win Win Fred Claus The Last Station The Hangover Part II
Evan Rachel Wood: Across the Universe Whatever Works The Conspirator | Marisa Tomei: Cyrus Wild Hogs Four Rooms
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Reviewed January 17, 2012.



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