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Our Brand Is Crisis: Blu-ray + Digital HD Review

Our Brand Is Crisis (2015) movie poster Our Brand Is Crisis

Theatrical Release: October 30, 2015 / Running Time: 108 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: David Gordon Green / Writers: Peter Straughan (screenplay), Rachel Boynton (documentary)

Cast: Sandra Bullock (Jane Bodine), Billy Bob Thornton (Pat Candy), Anthony Mackie (Ben Sawyer), Joaquim de Almeida (Senator Pedro Ignacio Castillo), Ann Dowd (Nell Talby), Scoot McNairy (Richard Buckley), Zoe Kazan (Sarah LeBlanc), Dominic Flores (Hugo Barco), Reynaldo Pacheco (Eduardo "Eddie" Camacho), Louis Arcella (Victor Rivera)

Buy Our Brand Is Crisis from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital HD DVD Instant Video

Conceived as a prestige picture that George Clooney would both direct and star in, Our Brand Is Crisis wound up attracting very little prestige as a Sandra Bullock vehicle produced by Clooney and directed by David Gordon Green. This political comedy premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival,
received general release in late October, and was already forgotten by mid-November, at which point it had mostly finished selling tickets to the pitiful sum of $7 million on a $28 M budget and a 2,200-theater opening. Not even the Golden Globes, faced with slimmer than usual pickings in their Musical or Comedy categories, would throw this critically and publically unloved fall flop a bone.

Loosely based on Rachel Boynton's 2006 documentary of the same name, Brand stars Bullock as Jane Bodine, an American political strategist with a spotty track record. She is coaxed out of semi-retirement and reclusion to lead a team of Americans trying to get Pedro Castillo (Joaquim de Almeida) elected as the President of Bolivia. When Jane joins the effort, polls show Castillo sitting with just 8% of the vote, 28 points behind leading candidates only 90 days before the election. The onus falls on Jane to turn things around. Quoting everything from The Art of War to Warren Beatty, Jane gets Castillo to retool his image and appeal more to the poor indigenous people who form a majority of the nation's population.

Jane and company face stiff competition in her old rival Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton), who has defeated her every time in the past and whom she holds responsible for her blemished standing and nickname "Calamity Jane." Delivering a steady flow of intimidation with occasional callous flirtation, Candy is not above any kind of smear tactics, which keeps the Castillo campaign on its feet as the race heats up.

In "Our Brand Is Crisis", Sandra Bullock plays "Calamity" Jane Bodine, a U.S. political strategist appointed to help a Bolivian presidential campaign.

Politics do not lend themselves to film very well. For one thing, you've either got to choose between real life (and all the polarizing baggage that comes with it) or fiction. This movie opts for the latter, bearing only vague resemblance to the 2002 Bolivian election that Boynton documented. Bullock's heroine and all other characters are composites, with the consulting firm based on James Carville's outfit. Naturally, like most political movies, Brand remains as apolitical as it can, making the election all about the campaign and not about the content or issues.

Alas, there isn't all that much of interest in this fictionalized run. And none of the characters, from Bullock's lead down to minor figures portrayed by Anthony Mackie, Ann Dowd, Zoe Kazan and Scoot McNairy, do anything to win our sympathy or investment. There is little to indicate that Castillo is the right man for the job or someone who will be able to manage the nationwide crisis that becomes the focus of his campaign.

Green, whose career began promisingly with George Washington and other esteemed indies, has not been the same since he tasted mainstream commercial success on Pineapple Express.
After sticking with mainstream comedy to diminishing returns (Your Highness, The Sitter), Green returned to indie fare to mixed results (Prince Avalanche, Joe). Here, he makes a mainstream studio film with all the commercial appeal but none of the daringness of a challenging indie. Neither critics nor the general public could get on board, despite Bullock having impressively made it to her 50s with her star power and Q score both at impressive heights following the popularity of The Proposal, The Blind Side, and Gravity. Blonde as in Blind Side, Bullock is fine in the role but cannot get us over the film's investment obstacles.

After the pitiful theatrical showing, Warner Bros. has decided not even to release the film in one its standard combo packs. Instead, as of yesterday, you can buy Our Brand Is Crisis in separate DVD and Blu-ray editions (each fitted with Digital HD with UltraViolet), the latter of which we review here.

Our Brand Is Crisis Blu-ray + Digital HD 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, Portuguese, Descriptive Service)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Not Closed Captioned; Extra Subtitled
Release Date: February 2, 2016
Suggested Retail Price: $29.98
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($28.98 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

It's hardly news when a new studio film looks great on Blu-ray, so there's no need to stop the presses over Our Brand Is Crisis' fine 1080p presentation. The 1.78:1 transfer utilizes every available pixel and offers pleasing clarity, sharpness, and moderately stylized colors. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack isn't particularly noteworthy, but it does a fine job of dispensing dialogue, ambient noise, and the occasional piece of music. The film's infrequent Spanish dialogue is translated by a default track of player-generated English subtitles.

A brunette Sandra Bullock discusses Calamity Jane Bodine in "A Role Like No Other." As on the poster and cover, Sandra Bullock does her stuck in a glass box mime on the Blu-ray's menu screen.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Like the DVD sold separately, the Blu-ray includes just a single bonus feature.
It is the featurette "Sandra Bullock: A Role Like No Other" (11:00), which celebrates the leading lady who has had a long and fairly fruitful relationship with the studio. The piece discusses how the script was regendered to suit the actress and the protagonist's arc, nature, and relationship to other characters.

The disc opens with a promo for digital movies followed by full trailers for Black Mass and The 33.

A single-sided insert supplying the Digital HD with UltraViolet code is all that joins the silver disc in the unslipcovered eco-friendly blue keepcase.

Per Warner's standards, the main menu simply applies some score to a static design adapted from the poster that has been simply adapted for the Blu-ray cover. The disc resumes unfinished playback, but only if you left the movie or extra unfinished.

The Bolivian presidential campaign pits Jane (Sandra Bullock) against her unpleasant repeat rival Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton).

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Our Brand Is Crisis never shakes a feeling of mediocrity. This political campaign dramedy never does enough to stand out. The story, the characters, the acting, and the filmmaking are all okay, but nothing more than that, which is enough to make for a passable way to spend two hours but not enough to distinguish this from the far better films released around the same time and now competing for awards.

Warner's presentable but vanilla Blu-ray is strictly a rental and even then only for fans of Sandra Bullock and/or political machinations.

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Related Reviews:
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Sandra Bullock: Gravity Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close The Proposal The Vanishing (1993) Premonition Fire on the Amazon
Billy Bob Thornton: The Judge Sling Blade Jayne Mansfield's Car Dead Man U Turn Entourage Faster Armageddon
Anthony Mackie: Captain America: The Winter Soldier Real Steel | Scoot McNairy: Argo Killing Them Softly | Zoe Kazan: Ruby Sparks
Directed by David Gordon Green: George Washington The Sitter | Written by Peter Straughan: The Men Who Stare at Goats
Politics: The Campaign Swing Vote The Ides of March Veep: The Complete First Season Accidental Love

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Reviewed February 3, 2016.



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