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Not Fade Away Blu-ray Review

Not Fade Away (2012) movie poster Not Fade Away

Theatrical Release: December 21, 2012 / Running Time: 112 Minutes / Rating: R

Writer/Director: David Chase

Cast: John Magaro (Douglas Damiano), Jack Huston (Eugene Gant), Will Brill (Wells Montan), Bella Heathcote (Grace Dietz), Brad Garrett (Jerry Ragovoy), Christopher McDonald (Jack Dietz), James Gandolfini (Pat Damiano), Isiah Whitlock Jr. (Landers), Dominique McElligott (Joy Dietz), Molly Price (Antoinette Damiano), Meg Guzulescu (Evelyn Damiano), Lisa Lampanelli (Aunt Josie), Louis Mustillo (Johnny Vitelloni), Brahm Vaccarella (Joe Patuto), Gregory Perri (Skip Grasic), Gerard Canonico (Billy Schindewulf), Rebecca Luker (Marti Dietz)

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While plenty have struggled to make the leap from television to film, the transition couldn't have seemed all that daunting for David Chase, who is heralded for "The Sopranos", the mature, cinematic,
Emmy-winning HBO drama he created, wrote, and ran for six acclaimed seasons over the course of eight years. Instead of returning to TV, where he worked as a writer and producer for nearly thirty years prior to "Sopranos", Chase's long-awaited follow-up act finds him writing, directing, and producing his very first feature film in the 1960s coming-of-age drama Not Fade Away.

The film opens with a black and white sequence depicting adolescent Keith Richards and Mick Jagger teaming up on an English train. They, of course, would form The Rolling Stones. This film is about a fictional band formed shortly thereafter by adoring fans. We turn our attentions to New Jersey in 1963. Just weeks after the assassination of President Kennedy, the Beatles and Stones are grabbing the nature's attentions with their new sound called rock 'n roll.

Among the bands' countless admirers is Douglas Damiano (John Magaro), a college-bound teenager. He becomes the drummer and back-up vocalist in a band formed by a foursome of area youths. Their band, launching with covers of their favorite Stones and Kinks songs, comes to assume greater importance for Damiano, who eventually is promoted to lead singer and tries his hand at original songwriting.

Doug Damiano (John Magaro) talks racial politics while enjoying a slice of mayonnaise-dipped bacon. Pat Damiano (James Gandolfini) is none too pleased with his son's plans.

In his freshman year, Damiano comes home for Thanksgiving sporting the hairdo of a young Bob Dylan and with heightened social consciousness. The new fashion sense and outspokenness doesn't sit well with his old-fashioned, working class Italian-American father (James Gandolfini). But Damiano does win some attention from Grace Deitz (Bella Heathcote), a pretty girl he was too shy to approach in high school.

There is an unmistakable autobiographical quality to this film, whose details and musical tastes will certainly strike a chord with viewers of the Baby Boom generation. From tense family gatherings to the casual use of derogatory terms to bacon dipped in mayonnaise as a snack, there is little doubt that the 67-year-old Chase is drawing from his own experiences as a third-generation Italian-American, seduced by the British Invasion and the counterculture movement. The personal writing yields flavorful portrayals of 1960s families.

At the same time, Not Fade Away is more than a little aimless. That's a word you can use to describe many people and certainly, this film's protagonist. But it's not a desirable quality in a feature film. We jump from one holiday to another, sort of checking in with Damiano's band, but never fully taking stock in their ambitions and petty rivalries. There's the stop-and-start romance. There are subplots, like Mr. Damiano being diagnosed with terminal lymphoma and Grace's older sister being involuntarily hospitalized for suspected drug abuse, neither of which the movie follows through on.

The unnamed band at the center of the film gets their big audition in front of an important music agent.

Much time is spent on old television footage of news reports and the influential British bands playing. At times, the film feels like an R-rated version of "The Wonder Years" without as much nostalgia. At other times, it feels merely like a showcase for things Chase is enamored of,
from "The Twilight Zone" to a jazz musician you probably don't know. The drama is often enjoyable and investable. It simply doesn't add up to something with real vision or a self-contained story to tell.

Chase may have previously only had six episodes and a television movie to his name as a director, but he proves to be a confident captain. He's a little too confident, however, that viewers will value these relatable vignettes he's strung together enough not to notice or mind the lack of cohesion or a conclusion.

Making the rounds of some important fall film festivals and then beginning its qualifying run in limited release four days before Christmas, Not Fade Away arrived with the unmistakable implication of awards prospects. Not only did those go basically altogether unrealized, but the fairly mild reviews weren't enough to push the film out of the shadows of other holiday season tentpoles. After an expansion on the first weekend of 2013 earned the film a pitiful average of $478 from 565 theaters, the barely operational Paramount Vantage quickly scaled back the release, which ended up earning just $611 thousand on a $20 million budget.

Not yet released in any foreign markets, the film looks to start recouping some of those steep losses domestically on Tuesday, April 30th when Paramount releases it to DVD and Blu-ray.

Not Fade Away Blu-ray cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.78:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish, English DVS)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish; Film only: English for Hearing Impaired
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: June 19, 2012
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($29.99 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Blu-ray presents Not Fade Away in 1.78:1, approximating the aspect ratio of its theatrical engagements. As it usually is for brand new films, picture quality is excellent. Some inspired camerawork from Chase and cinematographer Eigil Bryld make those sharp, spotless visuals easy to appreciate. The default 5.1 DTS-HD master audio mix is also a delight, nicely presenting both the familiar '60s tunes and the band's covers. Three standard alternate soundtracks and four subtitle streams should completely satisfy the North American market for which this disc is intended.

Little Steven Van Zandt earns his music consultant credit by teaching "The Boys in the Band" how to play. "The Sopranos" creator David Chase discusses the film's experiences reflect his own as a 1960s New Jersey youth.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

One of the rare new Paramount theatrical releases not to get a combo pack, Not Fade Away is treated to three types of Blu-ray-exclusive bonus features as well as a downloadable digital copy and complimentary UltraViolet stream.

First and most substantial are "The Basement Tapes", three featurettes of roughly equal length that add up to a 35-minute, 53-second documentary.
Though broken down into topics ("The Boys in the Band", "Living in the Sixties", and "Hard Art"), the pieces are consistent in quality and composition. Each takes us inside the film's creation, touching on casting, musical training, the characters, period costume and hair, the autobiographical elements, and the music. Chase opens up at length, explaining how he approached this project as an extension of his favorite part of "The Sopranos" (the licensed music) and how portions parallel his own New Jersey upbringing as a drummer in a band that didn't make it. It's good material that makes up for the lack of an audio commentary.

"Building the Band" (3:06) is a promotional making-of short covering some of the same ground as the first piece above regarding the cast's musical training by executive producer/music consultant/"Sopranos" alum/E Street Band guitarist Steven Van Zandt.

Doug (John Magaro) endures more awkward family conversation in this extended Thanksgiving meal scene. The band strikes an album cover-ready pose on the "Not Fade Away" Blu-ray's menu.

Finally, we get four short deleted scenes (5:33), which show us the kids coming up with band names, a Thanksgiving meal extended to include a touch of anti-Semitism,
a scene illustrating the young couple struggling to pay their rent, and an addition in which Damiano's father seems to spontaneously join in a funeral procession.

This Blu-ray entitles you to both an UltraViolet stream of the film and a downloadable digital copy; directions and your dual-purpose redemption code adorn the only insert within the eco-friendly keepcase. You get two years to redeem each.

The static, silent menu utilizes a promotional still of the band. The disc supports bookmarks, but doesn't resume playback. Unusual for a Paramount BD, the disc didn't stream any trailers at insertion.

Doug Damiano (John Magaro) tries to patch things up with his girlfriend. Love interest Grace Dietz (Bella Heathcote) sympathizes with her troubled, eccentric sister.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Not Fade Away succeeds as compelling atmosphere and distant reflections, but not as a fulfilling, coherent piece of storytelling. David Chase's writing is evocative enough to enjoy in the moment, but too meandering to leave feeling satisfied. For those fond of the '60s and hungry for personal filmmaking, the faults aren't grave enough to skip this film, which gets an admirable Blu-ray release.

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Reviewed April 18, 2013.



Text copyright 2013 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2012 Paramount Vantage, Indian Paintbrush, The Weinstein Company, Gran Via, Chase Films,
and 2013 Paramount Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.