HOLLYWOODLAND ($29) is a blend of fact, fiction and supposition that produces of heck of an entertaining conspiracy movie set in the golden twilight days of old Hollywood. At the time of his death, actor George Reeves was best known for starring as Superman on television and was beloved by the children that tuned into the program on a regular basis. Reeves death was ruled an apparent suicide, but there were enough inconsistencies in physical evidence to indicate that something more nefarious may have transpired on the evening that Reeves died of a gunshot wound to his head. As someone who enjoys a good conspiracy theory, I am more than willing to accept that Reeves death may have been an unfortunate accident or maybe even cold-blooded murder.
During the course of HOLLYWOODLAND, the film’s screenplay allows the different possible scenarios of Reeves death to play out, without giving the audience any definitive answers as to which one is ultimately correct, as the little inconsistencies in the physical evidence are never really explained away. The plot of HOLLYWOODLAND inter-cuts two separate stories; first, the investigation of Reeves death by down and out private detective Louis Simo (Adrien Brody), and second, the last eight years in the life of George Reeves (Ben Affleck), beginning with his affair with Toni Mannix (Diane Lane)- the wife of MGM movie executive Eddie Mannix (Bob Hoskins).
In all actuality, the second story is the most interesting, as it gives one insight into the Reeves life and nearly fruitless acting career, which goes a long way to lend credibility to each of the various theories surrounding how the doomed actor met his end. Unfortunately, watching the private detective’s personal life fall apart, as he strings along clients and gets beaten up by the Hollywood goon squad proves less interesting than the time he spends trying to uncover what happened to Reeves on the final night of his life. Performance wise, HOLLYWOODLAND is uniformly terrific across the board, with Ben Affleck being the absolute standout in this regard. Previous to HOLLYWOODLAND, Affleck’s acting has been totally under-whelming, but here Affleck delivers the goods, bringing to life a middle aged, slightly paunchy, less than successful George Reeves. The cast of HOLLYWOODLAND also features Lois Smith, Robin Tunney, Larry Cedar, Jeffrey DeMunn, Brad William Henke, Dash Mihok, Molly Parker, Caroline Dhavernas, Kathleen Robertson, Joe Spano, Gareth Williams and Zach Mills.
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has made HOLLYWOODLAND available on DVD in a 1.85:1 widescreen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. This is a really terrific looking little transfer that beautifully transcribes the films mildly stylized cinematography. The picture appears crisp and is generally well defined. Colors are warm, attractive and have a mildly nostalgic cast. Blacks are accurate and the whites are clean. The image is mildly contrasty and has occasionally slightly blown out whites. The film elements are very clean and there is little appreciable grain. Digital compression artifacts are never a cause for concern.
HOLLYWOODLAND comes with a fairly subdued mix encoded into Digital 5.1 channels of Dolby Digital. Since HOLLYWOODLAND is a talky drama, surround usage is primarily limited to ambient and musical fill. The forward soundstage sees the lion’s share of sonic activity, but that is limited to dialogue much of the time. Fidelity is strong, with the music component coming across without any noticeable limitations. Voices are cleanly reproduced and the dialogue maintains complete intelligibility. A French 5.1 channel track has also been included on the DVD, as have English and Spanish subtitles are provided.
Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some nice extra materials. Director Allen Coulter is on hand to provide a running Audio Commentary. Next up one will find three featurettes Recreating Old Hollywood, Behind The Headlines and Hollywood Then And Now. Deleted Scenes close out the extras.
Although it leaves one with more questions than answers, HOLLYWOODLAND offers a wonderful recreation of old time Hollywood, in addition to being an enjoyable character drama wrapped in a conspiracy/mystery. Universal’s DVD looks great and sounds just fine. If you are a Superman fan, like well-acted dramas, or even a look back at the glamour of old Hollywood, then you’ll enjoy HOLLYWOODLAND. Recommended.
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