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"Leaving Las Vegas" - {Blu-ray}
Reviewer:
Wayne Klein
Studio: MGM/Fox
Genre:
Drama
Release Date:
April 14, 2011
Special Features:

Unrated version Rated: R for sexuality and drug use

Review:

Before Nicolas Cage managed to turn his career into a joke by accepting a variety of increasingly absurd action roles, he showed potential as an actor. I'll admit I didn't care for Cage all that much in some of his more important roles such as Peggy Sue Got Married where I felt he was horribly miscast. Nevertheless, he's a fine actor at his best with a quirky approach that can make even the most boring or absurd roles fun to watch even if the films themselves are really, really bad. Once Cage began entertaining playing roles such as Superman it's clear that he had strayed from the path of intelligent decisions and needed a new agent that knew Cage's strengths. Hopefully Case will realize that his career has been confined to a wasteland and try and break free of it by taking roles (even if they are small) that will help him regain the credibility that he earned with his performance in Leaving Las Vegas and his Academy Award as Best Actor. ***

That was before Cage's brilliant, raw performance in Leaving Las Vegas. Written and directed by Mike Figgis from the novel by John O'Brien, Leaving Las Vegas remains a grim, harrowing tale that may be very difficult for those who have dealt with substance abuse or have family that have struggled with alcoholism. The film also features a terrific performance by actress Elisabeth Shue who also frittered away much of the momentum gained for her career in this film. She is every bit Cage's equal and more than holds her own in this film. It helps that director Figgis recognizes that he just needs to let his performers ACT and keeps the rest of his approach fairly low key. If the film does tend towards melodrama that's somewhat the nature of the beast with these type of films--events in films like this are often larger-than-life much as the struggles and drama is for those in the real world. --

Image & Sound:

Shot on 16mm film and on a low budget Leaving Las Vegas will never look like a million bucks but even given the limitations of the source material there is quite a lot that a good, solid transfer can do to make this film shine. Colors look decent throughout but most of the film looks as if it was shot using filters to soften and bury the image in murk. Detail is soft throughout the film and while the print is relatively clean looking there is some minor print damage that should also have been cleaned up. Staying true to the theatrical look of the film is one thing but I don't recall the film looking quite this dingy back in the day when I saw this in theaters. Leaving Las Vegas isn't what you would call a poster child for a demo quality Blu-ray disc but a better transfer for the film could and should have been possible with the right TLC. Unfortunately, it doesn't get it here. This isn't a bright, shiny special effects driven movie. The transfer quality reflects in many respects the psychlogical states of the characters but I can't help but feel that the film COULD look better than this. ***

Most of the attention in the area of Surround Sound is focused on the score and it sounds quite nice in the mix. Dialogue comes across cleanly and viewers should keep in mind that this type of dialogue driven drama isn't really all about the sound effect so much as insuring you can understand wha the characters are saying. In that regard the audio transfer sounds quite good and sounds better than the video presentation to me.

Special Features:

Beyond the original trailer we get nothing of note and that's disappointing. Anchored by Oscar caliber preformances you'd expect better from MGM and Fox for this title given how much critical acclaim it received. I feel that including an audio commentary from Figgis would have been worthwhile and it would have been nice to include footage from the Academy Awards showing Cage's acceptance speech. A featurette on the production would have been a nice touch for this film as well and while I understand wanting to get this out and generate revenue, sometimes it's worth taking the extra time and effort to produce something worthwhile the first time since it's unlikely we'll see another high def transfer in the immediate future (given the economy, the appeal of the film, etc.).

Final Words:

A number of terrific performances are a highlight of Leaving Las Vegas and it's a pity that MGM/ Fox didn't take the extra time or effort to produce as good and complete a Blu-ray as possible. Still, the transfer is decent looking enough with a solid audio transfer.

 

 
 
 
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