DVD Talk
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Reviews & Columns
Ultra HD
International DVDs
Video Games

Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
DVD Talk Radio
Feature Articles

Anime Talk
DVD Stalk
DVD Savant
High-Def Revolution
Silent DVD

discussion forum
DVD Talk Forum
DVD Price Search
Customer Service #'s
RCE Info

DVDTalk Info
Review Staff
About DVD Talk
Newsletter Subscribe
Join DVD Talk Forum
DVD Talk Feeds

Sponsored Links

Search: For:
Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Power Trip & Red Diaper Baby - Ironweed 2
Power Trip & Red Diaper Baby - Ironweed 2
Ironweed Film Club // Unrated // January 1, 2006
List Price: $14.99 [Buy now and save at Ironweedfilms]
Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted February 11, 2006 | E-mail the Author
E - M A I L
this review to a friend
Printer Friendly
In 10 Words or Less
The revolution will be on DVD

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: Good one-man shows, documentaries
Likes: Liberal, progressive politics/causes
Dislikes: Being depressed
Hates: Corporate ideology

The Movies
Power Trip
Sitting here, typing out this review, electricity is humming around me. It's powering my laptop, the router feeding my internet access, the monitor I am watching the movie on, the DVD player playing it, the receiver pumping out the sound and the central-air system heating my house. That's just the items in my field of vision at the moment. There's a blizzard bearing down on the area, and there's a chance all this power will go away, but eventually, it will (hopefully) return soon after.

If it wasn't going to come back, because I couldn't afford to have it return, then I would be in the same situation at the people of Tbilisi, the formerly-Soviet Georgian city at the center of this film. When AES, a multinational energy company headquartered in America, takes control of the power utilities in Tbilisi, they decide, as part of an overall improvement plan, to cut off power to those who aren't paying for it. As expected, this is hardly a popular decision, and most of those in the area cannot afford to pay, so most have to go without, a situation that just further burdens a society that has struggled mightily.

Power Trip isn't really about the people of Tbilisi though. Their story gives the film important context and background. The film is really about the people of AES, who are attempting to modernize the area's power systems. Because of this, the film has a unique point of view, where it feels like it sympathizes with the corporation, a condition that would seem at odds with a progressive film club. On the other hand, no one seems to be getting rich off the project, and the people of AES seem like good people, especially Piers, a laid-back manager who refuses to cut his hair until payment levels reach 50 percent.

The film excels when it shows the Georgian way of life, and the challenges that AES faces in upgrading the electricity. Seeing the wiring set-ups that have been jury-rigged by the people to obtain free power is eye-opening, as it shows the risks people will take to get some electricity. Even more interesting is the reaction of the people to the troubles they face. The sense of entitlement some people express regarding the electricity is shocking, while the anger expressed is frightening.

How one views the conflict between a corporation holding the power and the people who need it will be a personal call. The fact is, there is no electricity charity, and it's all too easy to paint AES as the villain when the cut off the power. The film is more balanced than that, but there's the matter of a friendship between Piers and the director that lead to the film being made.

How much of what you see as the "good" of AES is influenced by that friendship? How often does a corporation allow cameras to see their inner workings without some sort of underlying public relations purpose? Those kinds of questions have to be asked on a personal basis when watching the film. No matter what answer you come up with, the movie is undeniably powerful, and tells a complicated story without getting tied down in politics and business, which makes it a successful film.

Red Diaper Baby
Monologuists are, in many ways, some of the most impressive performers around, as simply by standing on stage and talking, they can hold an audience in their sway. A step above stand-up comics, performers like the late Spalding Gray bring pure charisma and story-telling ability to the stage, and deliver an entertaining and often enlightening slice of life.

Josh Kornbluth, the mind behind the hilarious Haiku Tunnel, is just such a performer. The child of divorced American Communists, Kornbluth had a rather unique upbringing, being shuttled back and forth between two oddly fascinating characters, while being assigned by his father with the responsibility of one day leading a violent Communist overthrow of America. As a result, his youth is spent spreading the gospel his parents instilled in him, though his story isn't quite as serious as that sounds, thanks to the way he tells it, which is manic, sarcastic and extremely energetic.

The Communist manifesto that informs the majority of his act is highly entertaining, especially as explained as part of his father's story, but when Kornbluth gets into the coming-of-age portion of his tale, he really comes alive. Talking about his first sexual experience, which incredibly involves crocheting, he becomes a whirlwind of emotional expression, vividly recreating the moment for the audience in glorious detail.

Translating a monologue to the screen can be a difficult task. When Stephen Soderbergh tackled Gray's Gray's Anatomy, he took a very low-key personality and used very stylized visuals to make him more interesting to watch. Here, Doug Pray (Hype!) is working with a whirling dervish of a performer, and with some creative lighting and stage design, he makes the stage setting work, while keeping the camera acrobatics to a minimum. When he does get flashy, it's with a purpose.

Only available to subscribers to the Ironweed film club, these films, a combined 175 minutes, are presented together on one DVD, the January 2006 issue. The disc comes packaged in a nicely-designed ThinPak case with a four-page insert that includes letters from the director of Power Trip and the club's president. Unfortunately, I think the listed specs, which show one feature film and two shorts, are wrong, as those are the specs of the previous month's release. Other than that, it's a well-done package.

The DVD itself is just as nice, with a classy animated, full-frame main menu that has a stylish transition into the submenus, which have options to watch the films, select scenes and check out the special features. The scene-selection menus are text lists of chapters, while there are no audio options, subtitles or closed captioning.

The Quality
Power Trip
Likely shot on video, the full-frame film looks good, with proper color, though the level of detail isn't very high, and video noise is a problem in the darker scenes. Pixilation is a noticeable problem along hard edges. On the plus side, the transfer has no obvious dirt or damage to it. The audio, a Dolby Digital 2.0 track, is clean and an easy listen, pumped entirely through the center channel. There's nothing impressive about it, but it does its job.

Red Diaper Baby
Presented in letterboxed full-frame format, the movie looks good, but not great. The color is solid, and the level of detail is decent, but there's a good deal of grain than makes the film look a bit soft. There's also occasionally some noticeable dirt and damage in the transfer, as well as some distracting jittering. The audio, delivered in Dolby Digital 2.0, is center-channel only, but is very clean, with a very defined mix of music and monologue, and appropriate for the material.

The Extras
A 1:20 video introduction by Kornbluth explains the two included films and gives a sales pitch for Ironweed, and is joined by two other extras on this DVD. A pair of short interviews, one with Power Trip director Paul Devlin (four minutes) and one with Kornbluth (five minutes), give a bit more insight into the films, but include more clips from the films than really needed. There is also a pair of promotional screens for the disc's partner, Energy Action, and Ironweed.

The Bottom Line
Though I don't know if I could get into a film subscription built around the progressive ideal, this release was certainly interesting. Power Trip is a smoothly-produced, though very sad look at a crumbling society, while Red Diaper Baby is a hilarious, high-energy view of a twice-removed product of that society. Together, Ironweed's choices, two very different films, work as an excellent cinematic team on DVD. Considering how much film is on this release, the extras are expectedly slim, but still a bit disappointing. If socially-conscious films are your cup of tea, you should be very happy with this release, while most everyone should get a kick out of Red Diaper Baby.

Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.

Follow him on Twitter

*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.

Other Reviews:
Find the lowest price for 'Power Trip & Red Diaper Baby - Ironweed 2'
Popular Reviews
1. Polyester
2. Aladdin (1992) (4K Ultra HD)
3. Godzilla: King of the Monsters
4. Mirage
5. When A Stranger Calls Back
6. Kind Hearts and Coronets
7. Men in Black: International
8. Reap the Wild Wind
9. Who Saw Her Die?
10. Dogtooth

Sponsored Links
DVD Blowouts
Alien [Blu-ray]
Buy: $19.99 $9.99
Sponsored Links
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Copyright 2019 DVDTalk.com All Rights Reserved. Legal Info, Privacy Policy, Terms of Use