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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Picking Up The Pieces
Picking Up The Pieces
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Review by Aaron Beierle | posted November 11, 2000 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Director Alfonso Arau explains his intentions of making a "politically incorrect" comedy in the insert notes of this DVD, but he doesn't explain why the laughs are missing. Arau is a very good director in films such as "Great Expectations" and "A Walk In The Clouds", but even working with a great cast (Woody Allen, Kiefer Sutherland, etc), he can't get this oddball comedy to work.

Allen is impressive as he can almost always make the least interesting dialogue work to his advantage with his solid comic timing. Otherwise though, the rest of the cast of strange characters plays like a version of "Drowning Mona", only transported South. Although not nearly as dark as "Mona", "Pieces" revolves around a small town of "colorful" characters who are a bit too colorful for their own good. In the small Mexican town, a magical hand is recovered that grant wishes to those that hold it. Soon, more and more people are coming into the town to see the miracle.

Allen is fantastic, taking the material two levels higher. But otherwise, the acting and characters are all over the place. David Schwimmer is one of those actors who has proved that he is successful in the role on "Friends", but hasn't been terribly successful otherwise. Again, here he's bland. Sutherland is over the top as a local cop, and Maria Grazia Cucinotta("The World Is Not Enough") looks fantastic, but doesn't get a whole lot to do.

The idea of a hand that grants wishes isn't a bad idea for a small movie, but I think the film needs a much better screenplay. There are a few sucessful chuckles in the film, but most of the humor falls very flat. It's dissapointing, because the talent involved (well, except for Schwimmer and a couple others) could have made for a better movie. "Picking Up The Pieces" is a movie that premiered on Cinemax after having trouble getting a distributor. I'd hoped that it was just one of those instances where a film slipped through, but it's not the case here.


The DVD

VIDEO: The most impressive thing about the video quality for "Picking Up The Pieces" is the look of the movie. Famous cinematographer Vittorio Storaro("Apocalypse Now") photographed this movie, and gives many of the scenes an almost absurdly beautiful look for such flat material. Sharpness varies at times; some of the interior scenes look a bit soft, but otherwise, sharpness and detail fare pretty well throughout.

Colors are excellent, as the cinematographer often uses color and rich lighting to wonderful effect. Colors look natural, bold and crisp, with no flaws that I saw. There are some other flaws that I did notice though. The print used has some noticable flaws early on in the movie, where some slight marks and scratches are visible, but the majority of the movie seemed clean and clear. Pixelation is visible a couple of times throughout the picture as well, although these are minor instances that didn't prove to be too distracting.

Overall, the picture, presented at the not-often-seen ratio of 2.00:1, does justice to the remarkable cinematogaphy of Vittorio Storaro. Nice, although not perfect, work from Artisan.

SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack actually is rather active, but not hugely agressive in any way. There are the occasional uses of the surrounds that are enjoyable, such as early on in the hand unveiling where a number of subtle background sounds can be heard. A rainstorm at a little over an hour into the movie also provides a convincing environment. There are also some additional instances where surrounds deliever more intensely, but this being a comedy, things are mostly kept towards the front. Fine audio quality to the presentation, which also offers an enjoyable score and clear dialogue. Nothing stunning, but does an enjoyable job with what it has to work with in the film.

MENUS:: Artisan always does nice work on their menus, and although their work for "Picking Up The Pieces" isn't their most elaborate, the animation and layout is enjoyable.

EXTRAS:

Commentary: This is a commentary from director Alfonso Arau, who opens the commentary by talking a bit about his career, which started with "The Wild Bunch", and went on to other roles and jobs before directing. It's a mildly interesting track, as the director talks about what drew him into the material, and how the film came together after he got the screenplay, which appealed to him. It's an energetic, fun commentary. Although I found it to be a little slow at times, the director has some good stories to share about the set, and rarely is there silence during the track.

Featurette: A short featurette that only lasts a couple of minutes, with interviews with the cast and crew, mainly talking about what it was like to work with a non-directing Woody Allen.

Interviews: Short interviews with David Schwimmer, Maria Grazia Cucinotta, Alfonso Arau, Elliot Gould, Fran Drescher, Cheech Marin, Eddie Griffin, Keifer Sutherland and Andy Dick. All of the interviews are a minute or two each.

Also: The trailer, photo gallery, trivia game and biographies.

Final Thoughts: As Woody Allen is pretty much the best thing about the movie, it's lightly recommended as a possible rental for fans of the actor. Otherwise, you might want to skip "Picking Up The Pieces".

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