I figured with the interest I had in Director Justin Lin's recent film The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift, I would enjoy his other 2006 affair Annapolis. You would think if a director decides to borrow from such classics as Top Gun and Rocky, that you would have a solid product in the end. Such isn't the case here, as the film seemingly took all cliches of the two aforementioned films and meshed them all into one film.
Annapolis is about a man named Jake Huard (James Franco), a person who seems to be going nowhere yet is determined to make something of his life. Jake has a super tough dad (Brian Goodman) who thinks Jake is out of his mind when Jake tells him he wants to join the elite Annapolis military training academy. After all, as the tagline tells us, '50,000 apply, 1,200 get in', Jake's dad must be right. Movie cliche number one occurs when Jake is accepted into the elite program. Jake decides to try out boxing and, naturally, excels at it. He views boxing as a type of self-respect, something he hopes everyone else will see in him too. He soon meets Superior Office Cole (Tyrese Gibson) and challenges him to a Navy boxing competition. That's the basic plot of the fi.. one second.. I forgot the standard love part. Jake becomes infatuated with a beautiful female cadet named Ali (Jordana Brewster). I don't want to spoil anything for, but since the film has already borrowed 3-4 cliches, I let you figure out how the film ends.
I'll fully admit, even though Annapolis meshes all of these film cliches into one, the film wasn't entirely a disaster. Sure it wasn't anything amazing, but I found the acting to be the saving grace of the film. Granted the film's dialogue is rather stiff and, well, unimaginative, but the performance of Franco (I really wish audiences would get the fact out of his head that Franco isn't only know for his role in Spiderman, but that the man can actually act) helped his character get a bit out of the cliche box. I've always found Gibson to be a fine actor. Heck, he even made the recent Waist Deep fairly entertaining. His determination in the role helped bring Cole's character out of the cliche box, similar to Jake's character.
One can certainly understand why Director Justin Lin made this film. As he tells us in the commentary, he needed to make a film that would introduce his face to Hollywood, hoping to gain that A-list status that every director wants. While Annapolis didn't completely achieve this goal as it has a 11% approval rating and only made $17 Million at the box office, it showed Hollywood that Lin was capable of making a somewhat entertaining film. Granted the film borrowed every known cliche in the world, but what saved Lin and his film from the trash barrel (trust me it's still hovering above), is the aforementioned acting. Hollywood obviously sees something in Lin, as I do, because they had him direct the latest Fast and the Furious, which was entertaining in it's own right. I just hope that one day Lin can return to his former days of solid film making by directing film like Better Luck Tomorrow.
Presented in a 1080p, MPEG-2 Encoded, 1:85:1 Widescreen Aspect Ratio, Annapolis has a consistently good picture throughout the course of the film.
The film's print benefits from being a mere 8-9 months old. Color usage was great with deep, dark blues of the ocean and bright, vibrant whites and oranges of the setting sky. Grain is present throughout, but only with a very thin coat. All of this added to a more realistic picture. Depth was solid for the most part. I noticed a few scenes had that three-dimensional feel to them that we have come to expect from High-Definition material. I will comment that the scenes that didn't have that three-dimensional look to them, really suffered from a flat, bland look. During these sequences, colors seemed off (particularly the blacks and blues, both of which looked almost washed away).
Edge enhancement was noticeable in a few of the outdoor training sequences, but never became an issue that affected the transfer. Compression wasn't a big issue as well. It just shames me to write that a transfer for a film is far, far better than the film at hand.
Arriving with an uncompressed PCM 5.1 Surround Sound Audio Track, encoded at the standard 48 kHz/16-bit, Annapolis sounded fantastic!
Dialogue was clear and clear with no real instance of muddled dialogue. Dynamic range was great with solid highs that was accompanied by low, deep bass. Some of the dramatic sequences between Franco and Gibson did sound a bit corny, but that was more the writing than the actual dialogue audio. Surround usage was easily the best part of this track as each of the fighting sequences boasted a really convincing atmosphere of audio. As the punches flew, I felt like I was in the audience of a boxing match hearing each crunching, powerful blow.
The soundtrack, while rather quiet for the most part, was good enough as it mixed itself in with the film's happenings. Even though I did expect a bit more, I suppose the reason may be the composer Brian Tyler is rather new to the music scene and may have not figured out the kinks of the scoring business. It may also be because I'm use to big, powerful scores from John Williams, Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard, and Howard Shore in the typical uprising action film.
Overall, Annapolis sounded excellent with constant rich audio that will surely please the viewer. Annapolis gives Buena Vista another solid marking.
- Audio Commentary with Director Justin Lin, Writer Dave Collard, and Editor Fred Raskin: Commanded a majority of the commentary track, I enjoyed Lin's comments on his overall journey from his native land to Hollywood. He speaks to us about why he chose to make Annapolis and what he hoped to accomplish with the film in relevance to being able to make that A-list Hollywood affairs. The track made me like Lin even more considering his sincere-ness when it comes to film making.
- Deleted Scenes: Here we get seven deleted scenes that run about 12 minutes. Most of the scenes focus on character development, which was a pleasant surprise here. Optional commentary from Lin and crew helped us understand why he felt these scenes should have been left on the floor of the editing room.
Annapolis borrows from one too many movie clichés to make the film good. Even though the acting was great, the dull plot combined with the aforementioned clichés, really kills the film. Even though this Blu-Ray release boasts fine video and exceptional audio with an interesting commentary, I can't see that many would want to own this. If you must, give it a rental if only to introduce yourself to Lin.
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