Powder Blue Blu-ray offers solid video and audio, but overall it's a mediocre Blu-ray release
On the gritty streets of LA, the destinies of four people desperate for connection and
redemption are about to collide. Jessica Biel, Ray Liotta, Forest Whitaker and Eddie Redmayne
lead a top-notch cast in this powerful thriller about an overwhelmed erotic dancer, a grieving
husband who has lost his will to live, a terminally ill ex-con and a pathologically shy mortician.
With Kris Kristofferson, Lisa Kudrow and Patrick Swayze in unforgettable supporting roles, this
film movingly chronicles the imperfect lives of people teetering on the edge of despair and the
miracles that bring them back.
For more about Powder Blue and the Powder Blue Blu-ray release, see Powder Blue Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on May 18, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Whereas Hollywood blockbusters have long been accused of sacrificing character and plot to appeal to the lowest common denominator, independent films have long been burdened with overambitious scripts and pretentious filmmakers. For every relevant and resonant exploration of the human condition that emerges from the Indie circuit, there seems to be a dozen overwrought, overbearing direct-to-video releases waiting in the wings; each one brimming with cumbersome irony, contrived interconnectivity, and overtly eccentric losers. Which brings us to writer/director Timothy Linh Bui's Powder Blue, a meandering, anticlimactic dry-heave that attempts to examine loneliness and heartache with all the finesse and subtlety of a toddler with an air horn.
'Powder Blue' offers plenty of promising characters and storylines, but squanders their potential...
Powder Blue presents the intertwining stories of several lost souls struggling to survive the turmoil and tribulations of LA: Jack (Ray Liotta), a recently-released felon attempting to connect with his long-lost daughter before succumbing to the cancer ravaging his body; Charlie (Forest Whitaker), a suicidal widow whose wife (Sanaa Lathan) died in a car accident on their wedding day; Lexus (Alejandro Romero), a transsexual prostitute with a painful past; Qwerty (Eddie Redmayne), a mortician who nurses a lost dog back to health and develops feelings for its owner; Sally (Lisa Kudrow), an optimistic waitress that provides the lone source of hope in a film largely devoid of it; Velvet Larry (Patrick Swayze), a sleazy club owner with a penchant for glam rock fashion; and Rose-Johnny (Jessica Biel), an emotionally vulnerable stripper with a troubled childhood, a dying son, and, of course, a heart of gold. As paths cross and predictable stars align, the desperate denizens help each other find varying degrees of love, peace, and redemption.
Shamelessly mining the depths of Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia (Linh Bui's teetering tale even culminates with a bizarre meteorological event), Powder Blue is a patchwork misfire comprised of ideas lifted from far superior films. Even though the director sets a competent stage and manages to move all the proper pieces into place, the production lacks context and the performances lack a sense of purpose. Swayze is squandered as a lame caricature of decadence, Biel overacts as if her life depends on it, and Romero has to contend with cliché heaped upon cliché. Moreover, brief but meaty appearances by actors like Kris Kristofferson tease viewers with the realization that more intriguing characters are attending to their own mysterious affairs elsewhere. Liota (exuding undeniable control over a surprisingly multi-faceted role), Whitaker (overcoming trite and redundant dialogue with a steady series of expressive gut-punches), and Redmayne (contrasting his fellow castmates with a welcome degree of measured softness) attempt to save the story from Linh Bui's pen and lens, but simply can't right the wrongs of the film's clumsy screenplay and its garish, paint-by-numbers cinematography.
By the time Whitaker busts out his best Andy Dufresne impression, Liota stumbles into a surreal oceanside reunion, and the police find a frozen body covered in a man-sized mound of smurf-hued ice, you'll be begging the credits to roll and put the characters out of their cinematic misery. Is there a decent flick buried within Linh Bui's pedestrian script? Somewhere. But as much as he wants Powder Blue to be the latest and greatest Indie darling, it underwhelms, falls flat, and misunderstands what elements make films like Magnolia so remarkable and rewarding in the first place. Unless you can't resist the prospect of watching Jessica Biel expose her bare assets, skip this one and spend your time and money elsewhere.
Powder Blue arrives on Blu-ray with a vivid 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that overcomes a veneer of gritty, at-times militant grain to present a fairly faithful rendering of Linh Bui's every intention. Cinematographer Jonathan Sela relies on a series of monochromatic palettes to enhance the tonal qualities and themes of each scene -- Liota generally encounters a cyan-tinted cityscape, Whitaker is often submerged in ungainly yellow-golds, and Biel dances in a world of stark reds and overpowering shadows -- but the high definition presentation handles each one in stride. Searing lights and heavy shadows make Velvet Larry's club the sole source of severe distractions: primaries bleed, noticeable blocking and banding appears in the backgrounds, and depth is inconsistent (note how lifeless and two-dimensional an early dressing-room encounter between Biel and Swayze looks). Other locales fare much better, offering relatively natural skintones, refined textures, and well-defined object edges. Powder Blue may not boast the most attractive picture, but its technical transfer serves up an above average experience that pays respect to the film itself.
With a soundstage that resembles a vacant parking lot more often than a sprawling Los Angeles cityscape, Powder Blue isn't the sort of film that will ever shake home theaters or send audiophiles running for store shelves. Still, Image Entertainment's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is worth some praise since I can't imagine Linh Bui's low-budget production sounding much better than it does here. Most of my complaints come down to the film's uninvolving original design and its resulting potential. Dialogue is intelligible and reliably prioritized, but errant hiss and street noise pop up at inopportune times, usually to the detriment of center channel clarity. Likewise, ever-present rear speaker activity keeps streetwise ambience and fairly convincing acoustics on target, but lacks the precision and polish typically associated with high definition audio. To its credit, LFE support exhibits strength when called upon (strip club sequences, a jarring car wreck, and a lumbering bus are weighty to say the least), pans are decidedly transparent, and the overall soundfield is unexpectedly (albeit inconsistently) immersive. I can't say it changed my life, but I have to admit Powder Blue sounds pretty good.
The Blu-ray edition of Powder Blue includes the same basic special features as its standard DVD counterpart: an informative (albeit slightly pretentious) Audio Commentary with director Timothy Linh Bui and producer Tracee Stanley, a decent Behind-the-Scenes Featurette (SD, 17 minutes) packed with engaging cast and crew interviews, a small Photo Gallery, and the film's Theatrical Trailer.
I know there are people out there who enjoyed Powder Blue for its performances, but I wasn't one of them. Its script is contrived and convoluted, the majority of its characters failed to win my sympathies, and writer/director Timothy Linh Bui aimed too high and came up too short to earn my recommendation. The Blu-ray edition of the film is better -- a faithful video transfer and lossless audio track assure that -- but a few technical issues and a bland supplemental package hold it all back. Rent Powder Blue if you're overcome by curiosity, a love of the genre, or a desire to see Jessica Biel release her inner stripper. Otherwise, skip this Magnolia impostor and save your cash for more intriguing titles.
Image Entertainment has announced that they will bring the drama 'Powder Blue' to Blu-ray on June 9th, day-and-date with the DVD release. Featuring an all-star cast of Jessica Biel, Ray Liotta, Eddie Redmayne, Forest Whitaker, Kris Kristofferson, Lisa Kudrow, and ...