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A view from the Blu (-ray) on DVDBeaver by Leonard Norwitz

 

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    Modus Operandi     The Scorecard:     

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Trading Places - BRD

(John Landis - 1983)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Studio: Paramount Pictures (USA) / Paramount Home Entertainment (USA)

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1 / AVC

Feature film: 1080p

116 minutes

Supplements: SD

1 disc

 

Audio:

English DD 5.1

French: DD mono

Spanish: DD mono

 

Subtitles:

English, English SDH, French and Spanish

 

Extras

• Making-of documentary: Insider Trading:

Featurettes:

Trading Stories

Dressing the Part

The Trade in Trading Places

• Deleted Scene with optional commentary

• Trivia Pop-Ups

 

20 chapters

Standard Blu-ray case

Release Date: June 5, 2007

 

Trading Places ~ Comment

One of the things we enjoy about Trading Paces every time we see it is the opening credits: scenes of 1980s Philadelphia set to the exuberant strains of Mozart.  But, why Mozart?  And why The Marriage of Figaro Overture? Turns out this is no idle choice, nor one made only for the sake of its energy and sparkle, of which it has plenty. Figaro is all about class struggle, masters and servants, and, not least, changing roles that eventually foil the nobility.  Cool, huh (and another reason why I found the gorilla bit so dull, and contrary to the movie's literate promise.)  If it weren't for Landis being seduced by the low humor of its screenplay, I think this movie would have been a classic instead of merely an entertainment.  Just about everything on the train, much of Eddie Murphy's freeloading (and all too clean) houseguests, and Winthorpe's vomitous Santa was, and remains, a dilution of the movie's potential. The joy of this movie is watching how everyone changes roles or is upended by them – for a change, a title that reveals layers of meaning beyond the obvious – and for a comedy at that.

 

 

 

Trading Places ~ The Score Card

 

The Movie : 7.5

The disgustingly and arrogantly rich Randolph and Mortimer Duke (Ralph Bellamy and - my personal Oscar choice that year – Don Ameche) make a bet that their star employee, Louis Winthorpe III, a product of Ivy League breeding, would resort to crime if sufficiently humiliated AND that a black, streetwise light-fingered criminal could take Winthorpe's position in the company if given the opportunity.  The Dukes stack the deck as only a select jury could be tampered with.  Dan Aykroyd is sniggeringly perfect as Louis, a man who "never did a hard day's work in his life." Louis is arrested before his entire social club for theft, a trumped up charge that quickly escalates into possession of PCP.  Eddie Murphy was never better, before or since, as Billy Ray Valentine, a man who reeks of the street, but who discovers a dignity he never knew he possessed once he finds a turf and a soul worth defending.  To this end, Billy Ray enlists the aid of Louis' former valet, played to the nines by Denholm Elliott (this was in the middle of his curative duties for Indiana Jones, and a couple of years before A Room With A View.)  Louis finds solace in the arms of the prostitute that was employed to help set him up: Jamie Lee Curtis bares more than her body on his behalf, seeing both a potential investment and little boy to take care of.

 

Image : 9 (9/11)

The score of 9 indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray DVDs.  The score in parentheses represents: first, a value for the image in absolute terms; and, second, how that image compares to what I believe is the current best we can expect in the theatre.

 

 

 

By "11" I mean that this image is almost certainly better than anything we could see as a re-run in the theatre or, I suggest, than we saw in the first place – theatre projection being what it is, and was.  In short, this is the best this movie has looked, regardless of medium or venue.  Sure, it is easy to say that the movie represents old school technology and, like any comedy, it was never intended as a visual showcase.  But Trading Places contains some bloody difficult challenges for video (or film, for that matter: like the many interior scenes in Winthorpe's home and office, with their dark wood paneling.  The photography can throw all sorts of light at it, but there is the danger of its looking faked or, worse, highly reflective of the light source.  No matter how you meet the challenge, the whole point is lost if the paneling looses its rich luster.  This is where Blu-ray shows its stuff: with its seeming ability to resolve infinite gradations of hue, the interior come alive with realistic color and density of material.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music : 6/9

Mozart and Elmer Bernstein abound in this delightful musical confection.  How can you go wrong!  Of course, this film never won any marks for its audio mix, nor should it have.  It's two dimensional, relying on performance and situation to move things along.  Most of the time, the dialog is clear enough, though I never could make much sense out of the final stock exchange melee.

 

Operations : 8

Typical of Paramount BD discs, the scene selection menu does not enlarge the thumbnails when clicked, though they are not all that small to start with.  Extras are well organized and easily accessed.

 

 

 

Extras : 6

The Blu-ray DVD sports an all-too short (less than 20 minutes) making-of featurette that includes interviews drawn from a variety of sources.  Included in the cast: Landis, writers Harris and Weingrod, costume designer Nadoolman; actors Aykroyd, Jamie Lee Curtis and, by way of a TV interview a few years ago, Eddie Murphy.  A few extra bits are also included, but nothing else in any depth.

 

 

 

Recommendation: 9

Despite my reservations about the movie from a strictly purist point of view and a less than demonstration quality audio track, I've enjoyed this film repeatedly, never more so than on this high definition presentation. This being a Paramount DVD and with no telling about that studio's future interest in Blu-ray, you might not want to delay picking it up if you had put it off earlier.

Leonard Norwitz
LensViews
October 28th, 2007

 

 

 

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