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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

King of California [Blu-ray]

(Mike Cahill, 2007)

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Millennium Films

Video: First Look Pictures

 

Disc:

Region: FREE! (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:33:18.634

Disc Size: 16,288,705,775 bytes

Feature Size: 13,256,742,912 bytes

Video Bitrate: 15.99 Mbps

Chapters: 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: January 29th, 2008

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: VC-1 Video

 

Audio:

Dolby Digital Audio English 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps / DN -4dB
DTS Audio English 768 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB / Dolby Surround
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), Spanish, none

 

Extras:

Director commentary with Mike Cahill

The Making of King of California (9:59)

Outakes (4:43)

Trailer (2:23)

Previews

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Synopsis: At age sixteen, Miranda has already been abandoned by her mother, dropped out of school and has been supporting herself as an employee at McDonald's while her father Charlie resides in a mental institution. When Charlie is released and sent back to their home, the relatively peaceful existence Miranda's built for herself becomes completely disrupted. Charlie has become obsessed with the notion that a long-lost Spanish treasure is buried underneath their local suburban California Costco. Initially skeptical, Miranda soon finds herself joining in Charlie's questionable antics in an effort to give him one last shot at accomplishing his dreams in this darkly funny, exciting and surprisingly hopeful take on the modern family and the American dream.

***

After spending several years in a mental institute Charlie (Michael Douglas) is sent home, reuniting with his teenage daughter Miranda (Evan Rachel Wood). Charlie becomes obsessed with the notion that a long-lost Spanish treasure is buried underneath their local suburban California Costco. Disconnected from reality and his daughter's life, Charlie's erratic behavior further strains their relationship and completely disrupts her peaceful existence.

Initially skeptical, Miranda soon finds herself joining in Charlie’s questionable antics in an effort to believe in her father and give him one last shot at accomplishing his dreams in this darkly funny, exciting and surprisingly hopeful take on the modern family and the American dream.

 

 

The Film:

 

Michael Douglas stars as a treasure-hunting eccentric in this Alexander Payne-produced comedy from director Michael Cahill. Recently released from a mental institution and reunited with his teenage daughter, Miranda (Evan Rachel Wood), Charlie (Douglas) decides there's century's old gold buried near their lower-middle-class neighborhood, and sets out on an obsessive quest to find it. Along the way, the estranged parent and child rekindle a long-lost bond with each other. Featuring a score by David Robbins, King of California screened at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival!

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

The sketchy, derivative story (think Terry Gilliam), about Charlie’s pursuit of a cache of Spanish gold he’s convinced is buried somewhere near the family’s shabby SoCal-boonies home, shows signs of attempted cutting-room resuscitation, and Douglas has too much fun breaking in codgerhood to bother finding the haunted depth in his once-suicidal character. But King of California is nevertheless weirdly captivating. The quiet, bruised intimacy of the film’s father-daughter relationship is beautifully played, and first-time screenwriter-director Mike Cahill’s wry grasp of the desert-suburban-sprawl milieu is refreshingly harangue-free: He strikes a fascinating balance between bitter repulsion and begrudging fondness that anybody raised in strip-mall hell will understand. In that vein, there are a couple of shout-outs to Costco, which plays a substantial supporting role.

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

 

Firstly, I reviewed this disc back in 2008, but I enjoy it so much that I revisit it often and  thought it deserved better coverage (with real screen captures.) The image quality is nothing exceptional - single-layered with a modest bitrate. I kept thinking that King of California was shot in HD, but probably not. The visuals are reasonably tight and crisp - many outdoor sequences are impressive, but it lacks any real depth. Colors are very bright and I see no manipulation. I think the VC-1 encode at 1080P resolution does a fine job of presenting the film but it never really stands out as exceptional. I noticed a couple of instances of noise. But I wouldn't avoid watching this just because the video is less-remarkable than some other Blu-rays. It looks very consistent and clean - probably not too far off the theatrical.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio:

Unfortunately, First Look don't take advantage of the lossless ability with a DTS-HD Master or LPCM track. On the Blu-ray that I watched the film was offered in Dolby Digital Plus 5.1, English DTS, and English (Dolby Digital 2.0). This is no action film and the 2.0 channel would suffice for the films entirety but it lacks the robustness we sometimes expect from this format. I noted a bit of separation near the end via the DTS but truly the advanced audio (like the video) presentation is wasted on this fine, simple comedy. There are optional subtitles (English and Spanish) and the disc is Region FREE playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.

 

 

Extras:

I was very keen to listen to Cahill's commentary and he didn't disappoint. I would say I enjoyed this better than most of the hundreds of commentaries I sit through. He seems like a gregarious chap and I truly look forward to more projects from him - although, so far, this is his only directorial effort. There is also an uninspiring politically correct 'making off' where Douglas extols the script - its selling of his involvement. It's okay but represents itself as a bit of a filler. Ditto can be said for the Outtakes although some may find humor in them.    

 

BOTTOM LINE: Some films you just gravitate towards. My expectations were not high when I popped it in the player, but I warmed (and continue to warm). It's a film I have revisited about a half-dozen times. Douglas states in the 'Making of..' about King of California having a 'magical quality' and, I think, that it definitely filters through to the audience. I loved Evan Rachel Wood in this and, despite the Blu-ray weaknesses, this is still a film I strongly recommend - hopefully you will be as pleased as I was.

 



 

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