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"The Bag Man & Better living through chemistry"

Release Date: April 1st and April 15th, 2014

Overview: The Bag Man : John Cusack (2012) and Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook) star in this action-packed crime thriller about a hit-man named Jack (Cusack), who takes an assignment to deliver a mysterious bag to his crafty boss (De Niro) with strict instructions not to peek inside. With the help of an elusive prostitute (Rebecca Da Costa, Breaking the Edge), Jack battles a mess-load of gunfire, a slew of crooked cops and unruly mobsters on a deadly quest to deliver the precious cargo and earn a big pay day. This action-packed crime thriller also stars Crispin Glover (Alice in Wonderland), Sticky Fingaz and Martin Klebba.

Better life through chemistry : After a lifetime of suburban respectability, pharmacist Douglas Varney (Sam Rockwell) rebels by embarking on an exhilarating drug-and-alcohol-fueled affair with the gorgeous and seductive Elizabeth Roberts (Olivia Wilde). When their uninhibited antics put them on a collision course with his wife (Michelle Monaghan), her husband (Ray Liotta) and the DEA, Doug fears he is about to lose everything—until he and Elizabeth hatch a scheme they think will allow them to have it all.

My Thoughts: Better living through chemistry : Sam Rockwell stars as Doug Varney, a small town pharmacist with an overbearing wife (Michelle Monaghan) and an uneventful life running the drugstore he bought from his insufferable father-in-law. Following a chance encounter with a lonely trophy wife (Olivia Wilde), Doug embarks on an exhilarating drug-and-alcohol-fuelled affair with the most glamorous woman he has ever met. Film rating :

The Bag Man: This crime thriller follows the story of a tough guy named Jack with chronic bad luck and a conscience which seems to keep him on the right side of humanity. He is hired by Dragna (Robert De Niro), an undefined crime boss to complete a simple but definitive task. From there the plot shifts to remote Louisiana Motel and the anticipated arrival of Dragna who is to pay Jack and collect the fruits of his assignment. Waiting for Jack are a host of shady characters that all seem to have a part to play. Over the course of a long and violent night, Jack's path crosses that of Rivka a stunningly beautiful woman who is being pursued by a pair of denizens. Rivka is clearly more than she seems and her plight suddenly becomes physically and emotionally entangled with Jack's. When Dragna finally arrives on the scene there are sudden and extreme consequences for all. Film rating:

These are a pair of middling films that suffer from bland scripts that have moments of elevated interest but ultimately fail to deliver well rounded characters and good narrative flow. I liked Better living through chemistry a bit more as it told a sort of full circle story about a nebbish in the doldrums who gets a new lease on life after a series of events that open his eyes (in more ways than one). The Bag Man provides no foundation for its characters and tries to ply you with unsupported mystery, repetitive action and an unfulfilling reveal/ending that is poorly conceived and executed. I didn’t mind the first act but it’s all down hill from there. Both of these feature solid casts which helps some but ultimately each is relegated to the bin of forgettable films.

Better living through chemistry:

Audio/Video total rating:

( Max score: 100 )

This is a solid looking high presentation that boasts clean, well depicted primary colors and a good mix of secondary hues that mate well with the source material. Resolution is discerning with varying degrees of delineation. Sharpness is primarily stable with lucid clarity which enhances depth. Black and white levels are spot on which imparts a fair amount of pop to colors and brighter exterior sequences while keeping darker or low lit segments looking noticeably punchy with quiet blacks with visibly gradational detail in shadowy backgrounds. This is a pleasing video presentation that appears faithful to the film’s original elements.

The lossless DTS-HD MA soundtrack has good dynamic range and detail rich clarity that enables the detection of subtle background sounds within the acoustic environment created by the surround mix. Dialogue is firmly planted in the center channel which clearly renders voices and effects with appropriate distinction and tonal balance within the front soundstage. Low frequency effects aren’t noteworthy but the subwoofer is kept busy as it works in tandem with the rest of the system to appropriately convey the low level bass associated with the film’s recorded elements. Video rating = 88 Audio rating = 80

The Bag Man :

Audio/Video total rating:

( Max score: 100 )

This high definition presentation delivered fair overall image quality. The video offered an appreciable level of detail during close ups and certain wide angle camera shots. The exterior shots of Louisiana and city based locations appeared vivid with naturally rendered colors and stable resolution. The majority of the time the visuals didn’t have a high level of image penetration. Sharpness was good but occasionally inconsistent as the image softened at times. Blacks were punchy which increased depth perception in low lit sequences.

The lossless audio presentation did a nice job rendering the film’s soundtrack. Dialogue had excellent intonation and clarity which allowed subtle tonal differences in the voices of the cast to be noticeable. This was a well balanced surround mix that quite often engaged the entire system. Dynamic range was excellent and the audio had an open expression that allowed it to extend well into the room. Surround activity wasn’t extensive however the action based elements provided an enriching level of immersion that generated a seamless soundstage. The LFE channel was frequently active and reproduced the recording’s lower bass frequencies with deep impact that had excellent tactility. Video rating = 82 Audio rating = 86

Bonus Features:

  • Better living through chemistry:

  • Ultraviolet Digital Copy

  • The Bag Man:

  • (HD) Making of featurette – 29 minutes

  • Ultraviolet Digital Copy

Here are the trailers:

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

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Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16x9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Horizontal Masking System

Marantz AV8801 11.2 Channel Audio/Video Processor

Sherbourn Technologies - 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier

B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 Seven Channel Amplifier

Oppo BDP-103D Universal Disc/3D capable Blu-ray Player (With Darbee video processing)

Panasonic DMP-BDT310 3D capable Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)

Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player (HDMI Audio/Video)

Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)

System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control

Canton "Ergo" Series speakers

Axiom Audio QS8 Quadpolar speakers

SV Sound PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)

APC AV S15BLK Power Conditioner/Surge Protector

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