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My take: The Descendants (2011)

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Old 04-11-2012, 11:41 PM   #1
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Default My take: The Descendants (2011)


Title: The Descendants (2011)
BD-50 Dual-Layer Disc / Two Disc Set
Video: 1080p / AVC
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, and Spanish
Run time: 115 minutes
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Rating: R
Region Coding: Region A Locked

George Clooney as Matt King
Shailene Woodley as Alexandra King
Amara Miller as Scottie King
Nick Krause as Sid
Beau Bridges as Cousin Hugh
Matthew Lillard as Brian Speer
Judy Greer as Julie Speer
Directed by Alexander Payne

I want to first apologize for my three month hiatus as I have been extremely busy with life. I should hopefully be getting back into a regular pattern with reviews again. I appreciate your patience and understanding in this matter.

Alexander Payne is not someone that most casual film viewers recognize at first glance, but if you've personally been impressed by his some of his previous work (About Schmidt, Election, and Sideways) you will most certainly recognize his style in The Descendants. I am not a huge fan of George Clooney, but he can be an extremely talented actor when he wants to be and he does not disappoint here. Under Payne's direction Clooney seems to be focused on what he does best, which is dramatic acting. After all, Payne did walk away with an Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar (along with nominations for Best Directing and Best Picture) and Clooney was nominated for his performance as well.

Matt King is a successful lawyer who has spent his entire life in Hawaii. His descendants date back to the 1860s when his great-great-great (I think I got that right) grandfather married the daughter of the last native king. What this meant is that his family was entrusted with a 25,000 acre plot of land, which features a perfect landscape for just about anything. Matt is the head trustee of the land with all of his cousins as members of a board. Most of Matt's cousins want to sale to a local entrepreneur who will pay handsomely and also promises to keep the terrain looking as natural as possible. Just when it seems that the group has decided what to do with the land Matt's wife Elizabeth has a boating accident and is sent into a debilitating coma where she is kept alive with life support.

With two daughters who are 10 and 17 Matt is forced to come to grips with his devastating situation after he has been a workaholic for nearly 20 years where he has lost some connection to his family. He also discovers additional facts about Elizabeth's personal activities before the accident. What ensues is a mission, so to speak, where he and his family must ascertain what Elizabeth was doing before the accident, but also how it may be connected with the sale of the 25,000 acre plot of land. Matt must not only attempt to keep his family together, but he almost must decide if selling his family's land is in the best interest of his descendants.

Despite all of the positive publicity, constant TV promotions/trailers, and Oscar buzz I just wasn't overly enthralled with The Descendants. Yes, the script is well written and most of the acting is top notch, but I just didn't find myself engaged and entertained from start to finish. I kept having to look at my clock to see how much longer even though this one runs just shy of two hours. It is well crafted film with all of the essential elements, but in my opinions lacks the originality that makes someone want to watch a film again and again. I certainly can't recommend this enough, but you might want to give this one a rental before running out and laying down $15-20 on it. This is rated R for profanity so this is definitely not one for the kiddies.

The Descendants was shot on location in Hawaii so therefore you would expect the cinematography to be breathtaking and it is exactly that. Luscious greens, vibrant blues, and relaxing earth tones are absolutely beautiful with this 2.39:1 framed transfer. As one would expect with a new release grain is thin and well resolved without any evidence of DNR, EE, or compression issues. Fine detail is about perfect most of the time. There are some softer shots that appear to be intentional due to glare from the ocean or being shot in extremely bright conditions, but this is a minor quibble at best. It might not be something you remember for demo material, but it is certainly pleasing to the eye. My own screen captures of The Descendants can be found below.



Sporting the typical DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track The Descendants does not disappoint. The film is of course dialogue driven, which is always properly prioritized in the center channel without any audible deficiencies that I could detect. The film's relaxing Hawaiian score comes through the fronts at just the right level and bleed into the surrounds extremely well. Other more discrete sounds such as birds, trees rustling, and background speech all have a significant presence in the fronts and surrounds as well. There is really little going in the LFE as the sub only seems to respond to a few crashing waves and a bit of the musical score. For a dramatic piece I think the mix works extremely well without any major hiccups to speak of.

The Descendants comes with more extras than I was suspecting, but surprisingly there is no commentary track. The highlight is a five minute segment that explains why two deleted scenes were cut as well a 12 minute piece that features Clooney and Payne chatting away about the film and Clooney's career. There are several other features that range from two to 16 minutes that look at various aspects of the filming location, contain music videos, or take a look at the cast. Most can be skipped, but diehard fans will want to check them out. There's also an included DVD and Digital Copy of the film.

Movie: 7/10
PQ: 9/10
AQ: 9/10
Supplements: 6/10
Final Word: A Purchase For Fans

As always thanks for reading folks.
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Old 04-12-2012, 05:15 AM   #2
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Thanks, I haven't seen this one yet but plan to rent it soon.
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Old 04-12-2012, 08:25 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Chris Gerhard View Post
Thanks, I haven't seen this one yet but plan to rent it soon.
No problem Chris. I think you'll probably enjoy it as I did, but I'd like to know if you feels it warrants a purchase.
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Old 04-13-2012, 07:15 AM   #4
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Life comes first, and I hope all is well, so there is no need to apologize for your absence.
Thanks again for an excellent review. I put it in my Blockbuster que.
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Old 04-13-2012, 08:20 AM   #5
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Life comes first, and I hope all is well, so there is no need to apologize for your absence.
Thanks again for an excellent review. I put it in my Blockbuster que.
I appreciate it John. Everything is okay at the moment as my son is doing much better. You are very welcome and I should be back to writing at least 1 review per week.
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