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Singles Blu-ray Review

Singles (1992) movie poster Singles

Theatrical Release: September 18, 1992 / Running Time: 99 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Writer/Director: Cameron Crowe

Cast: Bridget Fonda (Janet Livermore), Campbell Scott (Steve Dunne), Kyra Sedgwick (Linda Powell), Sheila Kelley (Debbie Hunt), Jim True-Frost (David Bailey), Matt Dillon (Cliff Poncier), Bill Pullman (Dr. Jeffrey Jamison), James Le Gros (Andy), Devon Raymond (Ruth), Camilo Gallardo (Luiz), Ally Walker (Pam), Eric Stoltz (Mime), Jeremy Piven (Doug Hughley), Tom Skerritt (Mayor Weber), Peter Horton (Jamie), Christopher Masterson (Steve at 10), Paul Giamatti (Kissing Man), Xavier McDaniel (Himself), Eddie Vedder (Eddie), Cameron Crowe (Club Interviewer), Chris Cornell (Chris), Tim Burton (Brian), Victor Garber (Kid's Dad - uncredited)

Buy Singles from Amazon.com: Blu-ray • DVD • Double Feature DVD • Triple Feature DVD • Instant Video

Very few filmmakers who specialize in romantic comedies could have their movies described as heartfelt and sincere.
That fact has distinguished Cameron Crowe for over twenty-five years now. Crowe made his feature debut as the writer of Fast Times at Ridgemont High and the book, an exercise in undercover freelance journalism, on which it was based. Though iconic and successful, that high school comedy proved to be a distant cry from what we would come to know as a signature Cameron Crowe movie: smart, mature, peppered with music, and offering an unusually agreeable blend of humor and sentiment. Crowe spends enough time on his films to keep his résumé lean and to keep his brand unrecognizable to novice and casual movie fans. Those familiar with his work, on the other hand, will find it easy to identify, study, and judge.

Crowe's methods earned him admirers and accolades at the turn of the century. Jerry Maguire (1996) was a box office hit and Oscar nominee for Best Picture. Almost Famous (2000) was a modest box office performer, but an Oscar winner for Original Screenplay and loved by most who saw it. Vanilla Sky, a remake of a Spanish film, drew mixed reviews but grossed $100 million domestically and another $100 million abroad, suggesting leading man Tom Cruise was essential to Crowe's commercial success.

Since then, Crowe's stock took a dive on 2005's Elizabethtown, a too familiar, easy-to-hate movie that struck out with both critics and the general public. It took six years until Crowe released another narrative film in We Bought a Zoo, a likable diversion that didn't perform quite as well critically or commercially as 20th Century Fox would have liked for a wide release Christmas week opening. Crowe's next film, the long-untitled Hawaii-set dramedy Aloha, has been delayed and subject to some negative buzz, but it is scheduled to open wide at the end of May with a promising cast topped by Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, and Bill Murray.

Crowe's second film as director, 1992's Singles, arrived on Blu-ray this week not in anticipation of the filmmaker's next effort but as part of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment's observation of Record Store Day. Singles doesn't directly relate to that occasion, which will be celebrated on April 18th this year, but it does feature a lot of music and center on the Seattle-originated grunge culture that helped shape and define the final decade of last century.

The film's central couple, Steve Dunne (Campbell Scott) and Linda Powell (Kyra Sedgwick), shares a moment at a Seattle newsstand in "Singles."

Singles is not quite an anthology of shorts, but it's a little closer to that than, say, your typical Woody Allen ensemble romcom. Crowe's movie unfolds with a series of vignettes involving young unmarried Seattleites. Some sequences are introduced by title cards and some by characters making direct camera addresses, but the format is loose and flexible.

Crowe disarms with the opening sketch, in which environmentalist Linda Powell (Kyra Sedgwick) falls fast for an engineering student from Spain (Camilo Gallardo) whose visa is about to expire in just days. Before leaving, he gives her his pinky ring; she gives him a garage door opener. Going dancing on her first night apart to get over him, she sees him at the bar talking to another woman.

With that brief misdirect out of the way, the most central and serious romance of the film involves Linda and Steve Dunne (Campbell Scott), a department of transportation worker who dreams of introducing a Supertrain to combat the city's gridlock problem. A delayed phone call nearly derails the couple, but things heat up again and come to include an unplanned pregnancy and an impromptu marriage proposal.

Another thread given time and attention among these friends (most of whom are also neighbors in an 18-unit singles complex) is the relationship between Janet (Bridget Fonda), a coffee shop employee, and her dreamy but shallow co-worker Cliff Poncier (Matt Dillon), who also delivers flowers and is the lead singer of a band called Citizen Dick. To make Cliff happy and hopefully more interested, Janet explores getting substantial breast implants, a procedure the surgeon (Bill Pullman) discourages.

There is also the situation of Debbie (Sheila Kelley), who turns to video dating.

Janet Livermore (Bridget Fonda) is a lot more into grunge rocker Cliff Poncier (Matt Dillon) than the other way around.

Video dating is one of numerous elements that date Singles. The film is so in the moment that it now seems ancient in many ways. Shot in the spring of 1991, the film features manual car keys and car locks,
corded telephones, tape-based answering machines, busy signals, the possibility of dialing a wrong number, wrist watches, and one brick mobile phone with a huge antenna. Oh, early '90s.

People accused Empire Records, a film I just reviewed whose Blu-ray arrived alongside Singles (with which it has been paired in a Double Feature DVD), of arriving a year too late to cash in on the alternative music craze it so heavily featured. Singles didn't open in theaters until September 1992, sixteen months after production wrapped. And yet, it was so ahead of the curve that it must have seemed extremely timely. Then in his mid-30s, Crowe was older than most of his characters, but he's always related to those slightly younger than him, as in his fine directorial debut Say Anything... (1989).

Crowe, a native Californian, had his finger on the pulse enough to capture the grunge movement right before it really took off. Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" would have to be cut after its licensing rate escalated. Alas, Eddie Vedder and other members of Pearl Jam who portrayed Cliff's Ciitzen Dick bandmates were filmed prior to making it big. This production strikes one as remarkably prescient, as if somehow just barely into the '90s, Crowe snuck a peek at the future and knew that Seattle's grunge sound, fashion and coffee would be some of the things that people most remembered about the entire decade. The movie even makes its multiple references to NBA player Xavier "X-Man" McDaniel work, even if he was traded from the SuperSonics shortly before filming.

Crowe may not yet have been a huge Hollywood power player, but he commanded respect and interest. The film includes appearances from two of the director's staples: Eric Stoltz plays a non-silent street mime and Jeremy Piven is an excitable pharmacy cashier. Other famous people you may recognize: Paul Giamatti in one of his first movie roles playing a man guilty of some extreme PDA and Tim Burton as a video dating cameraman referred to as the next "Martin Scorsees."

Steve (Campbell Scott) raises the question of marriage to Linda (Kyra Sedgwick) in between her bites of a chili dog.

Singles performed okay at the box office, opening in third place with a barely 1,000 theater count. It ended up grossing $18.4 million from a max of 1,330 theaters. Adjusted for inflation, that intake is the equivalent of $37 million in 2015,
a respectable but not quite monumental sum which compares to like a Wild or Birdman, though it didn't enjoy any Academy Awards bump. Singles' only documented nomination was in the MTV Movie Awards' Best Song category, which it ended up losing to the Oscar-ineligible "I Will Always Love You."

Like Crowe's other movies, Singles does have its moments of on-the-nose romance that strike you as corny. The director usually gets away with such bits because they are situated in the middle of stories that show genuine care and regard for fully-developed three-dimensional human beings. That's as much the case here as it is in Jerry Maguire, Say Anything..., and Almost Famous.

Inexplicably long out of print on DVD, where it was released all the way back in early 1999, Singles this week returned to stores or at least the few that still have extensive catalog Blu-ray selection.

It's worth mentioning that on Blu-ray Singles opens with a modern Warner Bros. Pictures logo, an update to which purists might and should object.

Singles Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.78:1 Widescreen
2.0 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 2.0 (French, German), Dolby Mono 1.0 (Castilian, Latin American Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, German SDH, Castilian, Latin American Spanish, Korean
Not Closed Captioned; Some Extras Subtitled
Suggested Retail Price: $19.98
Release Date: April 7, 2015
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25)
Blue Keepcase
Still available on Amazon Instant Video
Previously released as DVD (February 23, 1999), Triple Feature DVD with Home Fries and Mickey Blue Eyes (November 7, 2006), and Double Feature DVD with Empire Records (September 2, 2008)

VIDEO and AUDIO

For all the things that out Singles as an early '90s movie, the Blu-ray's picture quality isn't among them. While the film strongly evokes the '90s visually, the 1.78:1 transfer is surprisingly stupendous. No grain or imperfections mar the sharp, detailed presentation and winning experience. Singles narrowly predates the days of 5.1-channel soundtracks. Nonetheless, its 2.0 surround DTS-HD master audio mix does a great job of conveying dialogue and music, soaring to great heights when it's supposed to (e.g. Cliff's pimped out car stereo demonstration), but remaining steady otherwise. Four dubs and five foreign subtitle tracks complement the English offerings.

The gag reel shows us more of young Paul Giamatti playing a man whose public kissing session is disturbed. A complete live performance of Soundgarden's "Birth Ritual" is among the new bonus features included on Singles' Blu-ray.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

One of the rare catalog Blu-rays to unearth new supplements, Singles adds quite a bit to the handful of DVD extras it also recycles. All of them are presented in standard definition and, aside from the trailer, the outmoded 1.33:1 aspect ratio.

First up is a never-before-seen gag reel (3:17), which collects takes humorously gone awry.

Complete live performances are provided for three of the grunge songs partially seen or glimpsed at in the film: Soundgarden's "Birth Ritual" (5:26), and, from Alice in Chains, "It Ain't Like That Anymore" (4:45) and "Would?" (4:01). Those whose main interest in Singles stems primarily from the music scenes should appreciate these performances previously unreleased in full.

A romance between Janet (Bridget Fonda) and plastic surgeon Dr. Jamison (Bill Pullman) accounts for more than one-third of Singles' epic deleted/extended scenes section. Love is a game, according to Singles' original theatrical trailer.

An epic Deleted/Extended Scenes section consists of 25 deleted/extended bits. Unfortunately, it makes the major error of omitting a "Play All" option,

thus requiring you to watch them one at a time and return to the menu after each one. It's tough to comprehend how Warner, who's authored more discs than several other major studios put together, could make such a rookie mistake here.

Altogether, the footage runs exactly 51 minutes, but you'll need quite a bit more time to watch it all with all the extra button pushing, waiting, and copyright credits. The most significant cut is "The Ballad of Janet and Dr. Jeff", a 16-minute storyline exploring the romance between Janet (Bridget Fonda) and her would-be plastic surgeon (Bill Pullman), whose character is fleshed out considerably. After being subjected to an automated phone survey, Janet gets involved in a phone dating service and gets a variety of callers.

Other things preserved: more of the mime (Eric Stoltz), who gets into a fight and can't shut up at the music club; nutty rantings by Debbie (Sheila Kelley) about men's apartments; David (Jim True-Frost) having his penis examined by a doctor he tips and living his life like a French movie; and a downbeat new arrival to the singles complex.

Finally, we get Singles' original theatrical trailer (1:59), which interestingly mattes the film down to 2.40:1 and takes the now-unheard of step of speaking the cast's names as they appear.

The oddly black and white cover artwork for Singles, which comes from the theatrical poster design, takes the opposite approach of what black and white movies advertising in color do, not using color on either side. The menu adapts that front cover art to fill the 16:9 screen and lays some score over it.

No inserts or slipcovers join the plain blue keepcase.

A fortuitous elevator ride holds some hope for Janet (Bridget Fonda) and Cliff (Matt Dillon).

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Singles is a reminder not only of Seattle's cultural impact on the 1990s, but of Cameron Crowe's gift for telling romantic stories involving real human beings. Wielding a great presentation plus a number of worthwhile new extras, Warner's easily recommended Blu-ray represents a significant upgrade over the movie's long unavailable DVD.

Buy Singles from Amazon.com:
Blu-ray / DVD / Double Feature DVD / Triple Feature DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Written and Directed by Cameron Crowe: Say Anything... • We Bought a Zoo | New to Blu-ray: Empire Records • Hoop Dreams
Bridget Fonda: Jackie Brown • The Godfather Part III | Campbell Scott: The Amazing Spider-Man | Bill Pullman: Newsies
Matt Dillon: The Art of the Steal • Tex • Girl Most Likely | Kyra Sedgewick: The Humbling • Reach Me • Phenomenon
Slacker • 10 Things I Hate About You • Tales of the City (20th Anniversary Edition) • Like Crazy • How Do You Know

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Reviewed April 8, 2015.



Text copyright 2015 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1992 Warner Bros. Pictures and 2015 Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.
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