Site created 12/15/97.
review added: 2/6/01
1995 (2000) - 20th Century
review by Brad Pilcher of
The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras):
Specs and Features
98 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, full
frame (1.33:1), dual-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case
packaging, audio commentary by director Edward Burns, theatrical
trailer, scene access (20 chapters), film-themed menu screens,
languages: English (DD 2.0 & mono), French (mono), subtitles:
English, Spanish, Closed Captioned
"I don't need any
new ideas. I'm confused enough."
How's this for a movie pitch? Three Irish Catholic brothers find
themselves sharing the same roof due to a myriad of circumstances.
The oldest is happily married to a woman he dearly loves, but he's
tempted to cheat. The youngest one is a devout Catholic dating a
Jewish girl and getting a serious case of guilt. And the middle one
is the most cynical about love, even after he falls in love.
The Brothers McMullen works,
man. That's not to say it's the greatest film ever made, but for a
$24,000 film made by unpaid actors, many of whom had never stepped
in front of a camera before, the film is surprisingly refreshing.
Essentially, the film is a morality play. Each of the brothers is
trying to figure out how to do the right thing in their own
fractured ways, and that makes them real. The acting is sometimes
sub-par, and sometimes stellar. Ed Burns, who also wrote and
directed, stands out, but that would only make sense.
The true salvation is the script. It slowly picks up steam, scoring
some witty points here and there, and finally has you buying the
payoffs at the end. It's slow going in the beginning, but it works.
Anybody could nit-pick The Brothers
McMullen apart. But this film was made guerrilla style,
on a non-existent budget... and it shines. No wonder it won Best
Film at Sundance.
On the presentation side, it's hard to judge the video transfer on
this DVD due to the shabby print used. Grain is all over the place
and print defects abound. The image is soft and sometimes muddy.
But, to be honest, I couldn't care less. The movie was originally
shot on any 16mm film stock Burns could get his hands on, so just
having the image in reasonable quality is a blessing. It was common
for the crew to use only the available daylight to shoot, with quick
and primitive camera set-ups. Hell... the dolly they used was a
piece of plywood with skateboard wheels. Given that Fox put it on
35mm film for theatrical release, and then gave us anamorphic
widescreen on DVD, helps one to forgive many of the defects. In
short, the disc's image is hard to bash despite the poor video
quality relatively speaking. The flip side of the disc also holds a
weak panned and scanned version, that only further exacerbates the
framing issues. Our suggestion - skip the P&S side.
The audio, presented in a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, is nondescript.
Once again, this is a zero budget film. More often than not, the
only sound on the track is the dialog with a modest Irish score.
Spatial effects? Nada. Heavy bass? Why would there be? To tell the
truth, it's not a bad piece of audio... it's just not an
audio-intensive film. In fact, it's the opposite of audio-intensive.
As for the extras, we have a theatrical trailer, which is standard,
but it's joined by a very cool little commentary track. Ed Burns
speaks almost the whole time, and his story is really engaging.
After watching the film originally, I was a bit disappointed by some
of the quality issues. But when I listened to Burns, I got a whole
new appreciation for how the film was made. For example, the crew
snuck into a cemetery rather than get a permit to film there. They
hid the camera under a coat to get subway shots. They paid their
actors nothing, and used the on-set food from Burns' mother as set
props in the film. Cheap is the word here, but Burns gives great
insight on how they conquered these obstacles. When all is said and
done, this turns out to be one of the best commentaries I've heard
in a long time.
So put down that Godzilla
disc. Sure, it may be loaded, but the film still sucks. Go get
yourself a copy of The Brothers McMullen
and maybe... just maybe... you'll gain an appreciation for the true
ART and love of filmmaking.
The Brothers McMullen
Stories From Long
Island (Ed Burns 3-disc set)