First Look Pictures
Review by Gary W. Tooze
Video codec: VC-1
Video resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
English: Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 on Blu-ray, English DTS, English (Dolby Digital 2.0)
English SDH, Spanish, none
∙ Director commentary with Mike Cahill
∙ The Making of King of California
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
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.
Bizarre Indie-like feature King Of California introduces us to a new-ish Michael Douglas character - Charlie is a wild-eyed, mop-haired zealot with a salt-and-pepper beard spreading antiestablishment positive-ness but seemingly cognoscente of his weaknesses... yet he chooses to do nothing about them. He is happy to be himself - there is no pretension. Truly a character that we can embrace - warts and all. After two years he is released from a mental institution and reunites with his young daughter Miranda (Evan Rachel Wood ) - who is a survivor living a meager life and having all the maturity absent in her father's persona. Okay the stage is set - is this going to be another heartwarming coupling of the two extremes? Not on your life - we have a journey of compulsion, historical fantasy and seeking buried treasure. This absurdity of his quest turns out to be almost the entire film - and it's marvelous fun. But we like Charlie and desperately want to believe in him. His pure enthusiasm even evokes his practical daughter to this curious adventure. Of course, along the way, the bridge is gapped but free of the typical Hollywood cloying sentimentality we see far too often. It's Mike Cahill's first kick at the can (as writer and director) and it's a huge success in my eyes. The eccentric characters (yes even beyond Charlie) and quirky humanistic humor reminded me quite a lot of Little Miss Sunshine. Like that film, I also recommend!
I don't *think* I've seen a First Look Pictures high-definition transfer before. Firstly, I'll say that I am not over-the-moon about it. It looks acceptable but for such a modern film I was expecting more in terms of image quality. Now the cinematography doesn't really support the 1080p resolution - there are no awe-inspiring vistas or intricate details presented - to give reason for a VC-1 encode transfer. Colors seem quite strong but the film has a darkness to it making the final presentation look kind of thick on hi-def DVD. It does look better than SD but not immensely so in my opinion.
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. I noted a bit of separation near the end but truly the advanced audio (like the video) presentation is wasted on this fine, simple comedy.
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 - hopefully soon. 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.
I made a comments in my article about the new formats that I would only consider re-purchasing films I own on SD that would benefit the most from a hi-def upgrade (or new stuff to review). Since I liked this film quite a lot but don't feel it deserves a hi-def transfer, then I strongly recommend the SD version below:
NOTE: We realize the Blu-ray and HD are only a few dollars more, so that may influence your decision to 'upgrade'.