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Douglas Pratt

By Douglas Pratt

DVD Geek: The Town

Ben Affleck’s expansive crime drama about a Boston bank heist crew, The Town, has been released on a Blu-ray by Warner Home Video, containing both the 125-minute theatrical release and a 153-minute ‘Extended Director’s Cut.’  There is, interestingly, one scene in the director’s cut that repeats aspects of a conversation that occurs previously in the film, but it is actually like real life, where someone asks you the same question again because they don’t remember asking it before, and it is a nice little moment that never really happens in movies that are pared to the bone, even on director’s editions.  The longer version of the film is the more satisfying version because it has more time to explore the characters, and that is the point of the movie.  The theatrical version makes an efficient action film, but the Extended Cut keeps all of the action while letting it mean more because you know the characters better.  Affleck also stars, and in some ways the film is one of those wish fulfillment projects where, through his character, the director/star gets to live out a macho daydream.  But where directors like Steve Martin and Woody Allen have used this device to imagine that young women are attracted to them because of their personalities, Affleck is still young enough himself to believably get the girl, and instead gets to pretend that he’s a successful, high-adrenaline crook.  Giving the best performance in the film, Rebecca Hall plays a bank manager who is abducted during one of the heists and then released, with Affleck’s character, who had been disguised, then looking her up and striking up a relationship with her.  It’s absurd, but necessary to get the plot going, and since most of the film is relatively absurd anyway, if you accept these small exaggerations, you can have a very good time with how the story then plays out among the characters.  In another inspired piece of casting, John Hamm is the FBI agent heading the task force that is trying to bust the crew.  Curiously, there is one really nice sequence in the theatrical version near the end, showing how Affleck’s character evades some police checkpoints, that has been removed for no apparent reason from the Extended Cut, making his actions a little more confusing. 

The picture is presented in letterboxed format with an aspect ratio of about 2.35:1.  The color transfer is sharp and accurate.  The DTS sound mix has some nice moments, especially once the shooting begins.  The theatrical version comes with alternate French and Spanish tracks in 5.1 Dolby Digital.  A second platter is included that contains a copy of the film on DVD and a copy that can be downloaded onto handheld viewing devices.  The BD has alternate English, French and Spanish subtitles, and 30 minutes of passable production featurettes.  An option also allows the featurettes to pop up in appropriate spots as the film is unfolding. 

Affleck supplies a commentary track on the theatrical version and the same track with additional comments on the Extended Cut.  Along with discussing his approach and technique in various scenes, he talks a lot about the Boston locations and Boston culture being explored in the film, and about the research he did with the real bank robbers who operate or have operated in the past in the area of Boston where the film is set.  At one point in the movie, the robbers put on uniforms to escape detection because, Affleck explains, “People see a uniform and not a person.  I always wondered about that until we had to shoot the piece going to the train on the end, and I actually decided to take the subway from where we were to South Station, where the train was, wearing this outfit, and not a single person said anything to me.”  Except one old woman, who came up to ask him for directions.

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The Ultimate DVD Geek

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon