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Kill Your Darlings: Blu-ray + DVD Review

Kill Your Darlings (2013) movie poster Kill Your Darlings

Theatrical Release: October 16, 2013 / Running Time: 103 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: John Krokidas / Writers: Austin Bunn (story & screenplay); John Krokidas (screenplay)

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe (Allen Ginsberg), Dane DeHaan (Lucien Carr), Michael C. Hall (David Kammerer), Jack Huston (Jack Kerouac), Ben Foster (William Burroughs), David Cross (Louis Ginsberg), Jennifer Jason Leigh (Naomi Ginsberg), Elizabeth Olsen (Edie Parker), John Cullum (Professor Steeves), Brenda Wehle (Permissions Librarian), David Rasche (Dean), Kyra Sedgwick (Marian Carr - uncredited)

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Daniel Radcliffe will always be associated first and foremost with Harry Potter, but that doesn't mean he can't add to his body of work as an actor.
Well-performing (but snooze-inducing) The Woman in Black proved there was life after Potter for the Brit and now Kill Your Darlings shows the 24-year-old actor is capable of some indie credibility as well.

Kill Your Darlings tells a true story involving the most influential Beat Generation icons in their young adulthood. The film opens in 1943 with Allen Ginsberg (Radcliffe) getting accepted into Columbia University. The son of a poet (David Cross in an uncharacteristic gig) and paranoid woman (Jennifer Jason Leigh) soon institutionalized, Allen enrolls at Columbia, where he is taken under the wing of rule-breaking sophomore Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan). Lucien introduces Allen to alcohol and "Wonderland", parts of New York City where anything goes. He also introduces the frosh to William Burroughs (Ben Foster), a privileged young nitrous oxide experimenter Allen mistakes for a criminal.

Freshman Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) questions his professor's teachings on poetry. Blonde rebel Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan) likes what he sees in Allen.

This group skips class, vows to try new experiences, and defaces books, ripping out pages they nail to the wall in random order. Allen and Lucien even break into Columbia's library, replacing priceless first editions with raunchy texts and the banned writings of Henry Miller. Also running with this crew, which is open-minded as far as sexual orientation goes and not so into higher education, is Beat pioneer Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston).

The thrust of the plot involves Lucien's former professor ("Dexter" star Michael C. Hall), a possible ex-lover, who is protective of Lucien and even writes school papers for him.

The feature filmmaking debut of John Krokidas at age 40, following fifteen years of sporadic shorts, Kill Your Darlings fails to compel to the degree of a Wikipedia section. Though it depicts figures of great influence on America's literary scene and tells a story involving life, death, crime and punishment, the film just never grabs your attention or gets very interesting. Watching it on a full night's sleep around 7 PM, roughly five hours before a typical bedtime, I struggled to stay awake.

William S. Burroughs (Ben Foster) experiments with drugs in the bathtub. Allen calls his crazy mother Naomi Ginsberg (Jennifer Jason Leigh).

The problem isn't that Krokidas can't direct, but that he overdirects this apparent passion project. Instead of letting the material do its job, the director tries to liven it up with some style and nonlinearity. Occasionally, it works. A scene of altered reality that's revealed to be a nitrous oxide trip arrests. Most of the time, it has the opposite of the effect intended,
numbing and boring you instead of forming an emotional connection with the real human beings on display.

The acting is generally good, although nothing you'd cite when compiling a nominations list. Radcliffe's American accent is fine. DeHaan has impressed more elsewhere. Hall does a passable Philip Seymour Hoffman impression. No one else has enough screen time or work to make a really meaningful impression. The period recreation doesn't feel terribly authentic based on what we know of the 1940s, but then the Beats seemed to be ahead of their time.

Acquired by Sony Pictures Classics for under $2 million following exhibition at the Sundance Film Festival, Kill Your Darlings was a non-starter in theaters last fall, where it expanded to 78 screens and then reversed course, ultimately ending just past the $1 million mark domestically. It hits stores tomorrow exclusively in a Blu-ray + DVD combo pack.

Kill Your Darlings: 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), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Czech, Polish)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired; BD only: Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Hungarian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian
Not Closed Captioned; Blu-ray Extras Subtitled in English
Release Date: March 18, 2014
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $35.99
Blue Keepcase with Side Snap

VIDEO and AUDIO

Kill Your Darlings upholds the high Sony standard of quality picture and sound. The 2.40:1 widescreen presentation offers a yellowish color palette and plenty of style, but good sharpness and detail. The 5.1 DTS-HD is suitable, bursting to life for unconventional needle drops and some period songs. Curiously tailored for Eastern European audiences, the Blu-ray includes two dubs and a wealth of subtitle tracks. The DVD does not.

Dane DeHaan and Daniel Radcliffe answer a few questions from Jenelle Riley. Bearded friends and co-writers John Krokidas and Austin Bunn answer questions in plaid.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The extras begin with an audio commentary by Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan, director/co-writer John Krokidas, and co-writer Austin Bunn. The track definitely contains that indie film passion, though the discussion leans more to the practical experience of shooting the movie,
from the chilly Hudson River to the real Columbia University, and picking out music for it. The group never lets any lulls come, though it's unlikely you'll be as excited to hear their talk as they are to provide it.

On the video side (where everything is in HD on Blu-ray), things start with "In Conversation with Daniel Radcliffe and Dane DeHaan" (6:04). The two young leads share their experiences and challenges for a live audience and moderator Jenelle Riley.

A long, casual Q & A with John Krokidas and Austin Bunn (1:05) unfolds in Bunn's living room. Questions are printed onscreen and followed by thoughtful answers from the filmmakers. The bearded former college roommates discuss everything from discovering the Beat writers to turning it into their first film to trying out period jazz before using contemporary music that fuels their writing juices to utilizing '40s slang. I doubt many people will like the film enough to want to spend multiple hours listening to these two talk about their creative process, but it's here for those who want it.

Hollywood's new It Couple, Ben Foster and Robin Wright Penn, smiles for the cameras on the red carpet at the Toronto Film Festival. Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston) returns a married man and a free one, bailed out by the family of his wife (Elizabeth Olsen).

On the Red Carpet at the Toronto Film Festival" (7:29) finds cast and filmmakers mingling with fans and Sony Pictures Classics brass, before moving inside for some pre-screening remarks and introductions by Krokidas.

Next up come seven deleted scenes (7:20). They show Allen noticing his roommate undress, more of the boys' library prank, Jack Kerouac and Edie Parker (Elizabeth Olsen) fighting, make-up marrying, and reconnecting with Allen, and another jail cell visit.

The "Kill Your Darlings" theatrical trailer includes Lisa Schwarzbaum's advance praise for the film. Dane DeHaan is R.P. McMurphy and Daniel Radcliffe is Clark Kent in "One Flew Over the Superman's Nest."

Finally, Kill Your Darlings' theatrical trailer (2:03) is kindly included.

Selecting the Previews listing repeats the same full trailers with which the disc opens,
advertising The Invisible Woman, The Armstrong Lie, Wadjda, Tim's Vermeer, and Blue Jasmine.

Not available on its own, the DVD includes all the same extras while somehow remaining well under dual-layered capacity.

The menu simply attaches score to a static shot of DeHaan and Radcliffe. The Blu-ray supports bookmarks and resumes playback too.

No inserts join the plainly-labeled discs inside the side-snapped keepcase of this UltraViolet-less release, Sony's latest to forgo reverse side artwork on the inside.

Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) and Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan) lay back and enjoy the moment in "Kill Your Darlings."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Daniel Radcliffe moves away from Harry Potter in Kill Your Darlings, an indie drama that should be of no greater appeal to his fans than anyone else. Draining the interest from its true story, this film gets bogged down in style, making it tough to care about any of the characters.

Sony's Blu-ray combo pack offers fine picture and sound plus over three hours of substantial bonus features. If you enjoy the movie, it's worth a purchase. But I can't recommend it as more than a one-time viewing and even then only for interested parties.

Buy Kill Your Darlings from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD

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Reviewed March 17, 2014.



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