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Abigail Clayton lives alone. Very alone. In fact, the attractive heiress has not left her Manhattan loft apartment for almost two decades. The famous daughter of a wealthy industrialist, Abigail disappeared from the prying eyes of the press and the intrusiveness of her family on her 18th birthday, the day she received her massive inheritance. During years of self-imposed isolation, Abigail has had contact with only two people-her building's Concierge, Klandermann, with whom she communicates via notes-and Dr. Raymond Fontaine, a longtime family friend and her sole confidant for most of her life.
For more about Columbus Circle and the Columbus Circle Blu-ray release, see Columbus Circle Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on February 24, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.0 out of 5.
Director: George Gallo (I)
Writers: George Gallo (I), Kevin Pollak
Starring: Selma Blair, Amy Smart, Jason Lee, Kevin Pollak, Giovanni Ribisi, Beau Bridges
» See full cast & crew
Columbus Circle Blu-ray Review
Round and round it goes, where it stops... somebody please stop it. Anybody? Please?
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, February 24, 2012
From the School of Shifty Shyamalan Filmmaking comes Columbus Circle, a double-knotting, triple-crossing indie thriller from writer/director George Gallo and co-writer Kevin Pollak that Universal tossed on the scrap heap back in 2010. And for good reason too. Gallo's messy genre pic may boast a decent cast, but it unravels long before its twenty-third plot twist elicits yet another round of groans. Whereas most movies work to build toward that one unforgettable hard right, the filmmakers cut the wheel every ten minutes, carelessly barreling down whatever dark alley happens to be nearby. Everyone has a secret, every secret has a secret, and every last twist and turn is more ludicrous than the last. But those quote-unquote surprises aren't discovered or stumbled upon, they're splayed out for all to see; shamelessly telegraphed gut punches that arrive with expositionary pomp and bargain bin circumstance. And when the end credits finally arrive to put Gallo and Pollak out of their direct-to-video misery, those who haven't already given up on Columbus Circle mid-movie -- the gluttons for punishment, sadomasochists, and duty-bound reviewers among you -- will share an exasperated laugh at the sheer stupidity of it all.
There are two versions of Columbus Circle: the version Gallo and Pollak want you to think you're about to watch, the one hinted at in official plot synopses, and the version of the film that actually exists, which would require far too many spoiler alerts to even begin to chart. For our purposes, I'll stick with the official version so those of you who are anxious to stay in the dark can keep the lights off. Just don't blame me for lying through my teeth when you realize my stripped-down synopsis involves as much sleight of hand as it does. But I digress. Selma Blair steps into the sulky shoes of Abagail, an independently wealthy, agoraphobic recluse who hasn't stepped foot outside her Manhattan luxury high-rise apartment in twenty years. She relies on two people for everything -- the building's helpful concierge, Klandermann (Pollak), and family friend and lifelong confidant, Dr. Raymond Fontaine (Beau Bridges) -- and conducts all of her banking and business by way of the internet. But that all changes when her elderly neighbor is killed. Abagail is suddenly forced to interact with three other people -- investigating detective Frank Giardello (Giovanni Ribisi), hot-tempered neighbor Charles Startford (Jason Lee), and sweet-natured domestic abuse victim Lillian Hart (Amy Smart) -- and, in the process, face her greatest fear: the outside world.
But Columbus Circle isn't a whodunit. That little bomb is dropped relatively early. It isn't a who-is-she by any means, as a lengthy news report tells us exactly who Abagail is, where she came from, why she's confined herself to her apartment for twenty years, and why she's the most mysterious woman in the United States. (Seriously, that's what we learn she is. No exaggeration or sarcasm here.) It isn't a thriller either, as any and every thrill is spent in the film's admittedly tense and unnerving opening murder. I don't even think Gallo and Pollak know what they want it to be. They aim for Hitchcock but hit Shyamalan instead (and that's being kind), they try to shock but trip over their own two feet, they try to create a tangled web of deception and intrigue only to create a tangled ball of plot threads and sinister agendas. But it's all for naught. Abagail naturally overcomes her fears and gains the upper hand over any murderers and thieves that rear their heads, but only at the expense of logic, good storytelling and, well, reality. Here's the post-credits sequence Gallo and Pollak didn't think to shoot: Detective Giardello goes back to the station, takes a few fingerprints, realizes what happened, and sets things straight. A little bit of police work, the right question from a journalist... even Nancy Grace could figure out what actually went down in three seconds flat. So much for the film's arrogant ending, where Abagail basks in the glory of her (and by her I mean Gallo and Pollak's) self-satisfying brilliance.
Ladies and gentlemen, we're now entering spoiler territory.
Other mysteries abound, each one far more titillating than who killed Abagail's neighbor. For instance, why are Circle's criminals so eager to turn their backs on someone they know full well to be a murderer? An ex-con escapes strangulation, runs into the street, pauses to threaten his attacker, and gets hit by a bus. (It comes as a complete surprise because, you know, New York City streets are usually empty.) A mastermind tries to call off a wildly and unnecessarily involved heist, much to the displeasure of his chief minion, and then proceeds to go water his plants. In his backyard, at night, with all of the lights off, and, again, with a known murderer sitting in his living room. It borders on such bad parody that I began to wonder if Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer were handed the reigns to Columbus Circle for a day. And then there's -- again, spoiler alert -- the con that the villains' scheme hinges on. To say it's riddled with plot holes would be much too generous. It isn't just the small details either, which I won't bother to dissect here. The entire idea of a long con would have been recognized as an absolute waste of time, resources and criminal partners if the film's Big Bad had only thought to hire an amateur hacker; a twelve-year-old capable of tapping into the home computer of a woman whose concept of protecting her untold millions is to use the easily crackable, ten-character password "hulahoop18." (Did I mention that Abagail, as a young girl, earned a well-publicized Guinness World Record for hula-hooping for eighteen hours?)
And all of that is to say nothing for Gallo's Mad-Libs direction, the script's cringe-inducing dialogue, the overabundant flashbacks and mismanaged scene recalls that litter the film, Anastas N. Michos' nipped-noir cinematography, or the horrible -- absolutely horrible -- performances by almost everyone involved. Blair is irritating, burdensome and unlikable, and shamelessly sheds Abagail's psychological ailments the moment the recluse feels safe. Lee, much as I love the man, overacts, over-extends and over-delivers every line, expression and trick in Charlie's repertoire. Smart, fresh off Crank: High Voltage, starts strong but eventually becomes as transparent as she is obvious, adding a none-too-sly grin or glimmer to every lie she tells. Pollak, who's usually on point, takes on a dual role of sorts and torpedoes both. (Try, just try, not to snicker when he recounts finding the body of an elderly woman to Charles and Lillian.) And Jason Antoon (playing Giardello's partner, Jerry Evans) adds nothing to the mix. Only Ribisi rises above the muck of Columbus Circle, and only by digging deep and finding ways to escape the gravitational pull of its black hole screenplay. If this review hasn't convinced you to stay away by now, though, I suspect nothing will. Morbid curiosity may drive you to rent Gallo's grievous gaffe, but don't say I didn't warn you.
Columbus Circle Blu-ray, Video Quality
Columbus Circle impresses on the whole with a crisp but hard-to-pin-down 1080p/VC-1 encode; an oft-times striking, at-times inconsistent presentation that suffers with a few ailments. Noise is uneven, lightly swarming random faces, walls and backdrops without warning. Faint artifacting and macroblocking barge in as well, albeit without as much malice. Other over-processed oddities appear from time to time too, including slight smearing, minor ringing and intermittent crush. While I suspect many of the transfer's shortcomings trace back to the film's already inconsistent photography and post-production tinkering, drawing the line between the source and its Blu-ray presentation is proving to be quite a challenge. Still, none of it amounts to anything remotely resembling an unwatchable presentation and, for the most part, Columbus Circle looks pretty good. Colors are strong and vivid, primaries pop, skintones are perfectly saturated, black levels are generally dark and deep, and contrast only slips and slides here and there. Detail is also excellent on the whole, with an array of nicely resolved textures, revealing closeups and cleanly defined edges, and delineation is decidedly decent, especially given the noirish nooks of Gallo's thriller. Softness intrudes at times, sure -- the vast majority filmic, a few select instances not-so-filmic -- but it isn't a bother. All in all, Columbus Circle could look better, but it could also look much, much worse.
Columbus Circle Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Universal's unassuming DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track keeps its head down and gets the job done. Dialogue is clear, able-bodied and neatly prioritized in the mix, even if a handful of hushed lines drift dangerously close to indistinct. The LFE channel isn't what I'd call aggressive but it's certainly assertive, embracing the film's meatier thunks and thuds, more intense sequences, and Brian Tyler's pounding score (particularly when a drunken Charles catches Abagail and Lillian venturing into the hall). The rear speakers step up as well, creating a fairly immersive soundfield tainted only by a hint of artificiality. Shattered glass scatters across the floor, heated arguments bleed through the walls of Abagail's apartment, crowded city streets are suitably noisy, and the acoustics of luxury lofts, lobbies and elevators are dead on. Directionality isn't as precise as it could be, and pans are a tad wooden on occasion, but they aren't prevailing issues. Columbus Circle's DTS-HD MA track proves to be the highlight of the disc, at least it will for those who stick around long enough to experience it in its entirety.
Columbus Circle Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
No one shows up to defend Columbus Circle. No commentary, no featurettes, no trailer, no extras at all. It's better that way, I suppose, but some insight into what went wrong, why it was shelved for so long, or even a misleading, hyper-articulate EPK would have at least satisfied my morbid curiosity on some level.
Columbus Circle Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
In case you hadn't noticed, I didn't enjoy my time with Columbus Circle. At all. It crumbles and falls apart, almost from the very beginning, and its story, script, scheme, characters and performances don't hold up to close scrutiny (or any scrutiny, for that matter). Universal's Blu-ray release is better, if only because it helps Gallo's misfire look and sound more like a cohesive thriller. While there isn't a single extra to be found, its serviceable video transfer and strong DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track more than make up for it. Columbus Circle, though? I don't think anything could make up for it.
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Columbus Circle Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Exclusive Giveaway: Columbus Circle - March 1, 2012
Blu-ray.com and Universal Studios Home Entertainment are offering five Blu-ray.com members the opportunity to win a copy of director George Gallo's independent thriller Columbus Circle, starring Selma Blair, Jason Lee, Amy Smart, Beau Bridges and Kevin Pollak. ...
• Columbus Circle Blu-ray - January 4, 2012
In March, Universal Studios Home Entertainment will bring Columbus Circle to Blu-ray. This psychological thriller stars Selma Blair (Cruel Intentions) as an agoraphobic heiress whose sheltered life becomes violently unsettled with the death of her elderly neighbor. ...
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