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The Color of Money(1986)
Fast Eddie Felson teaches a cocky but immensely talented protégé the ropes of pool hustling, which in turn inspires him to make an unlikely comeback.
For more about The Color of Money and the The Color of Money Blu-ray release, see the The Color of Money Blu-ray Review published by Michael Reuben on June 6, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Paul Newman, Tom Cruise, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Bill Cobbs, John Turturro, Forest Whitaker
Director: Martin Scorsese
» See full cast & crew
The Color of Money Blu-ray Review
We've Been Hustled
Reviewed by Michael Reuben, June 6, 2012
What is it with Disney and The Color of Money? The film was profitable, won Paul Newman a long overdue Oscar and helped establish Martin Scorsese's reputation as a commercially viable director. Disney obviously thinks enough of the property to retain it under the company's own umbrella, rather than farm it out to Mill Creek as it has with so many other catalog titles from its Touchstone Pictures label. When it finally issued the film on DVD six years into the format's existence, the disc had no features and wasn't enhanced for 16:9, despite being prominently labeled as such. Now, six years into the Blu-ray format, Disney has once again issued a featureless disc that will have Blu-ray afficionados protesting "DVD quality"—and for once they'll be justified (though the Blu-ray does improve on the DVD, but not by much). To add insult to injury, Disney has labeled this a "25th Anniversary Edition", thereby underscoring the fact that the film's mistreatment has continued for a quarter century. It's a tribute to The Color of Money that the film remains absorbing despite inferior presentations. Loosely adapted from the novel by Walter Tevis, who also wrote the original novel of The Hustler, the screenplay by Richard Price catches up with Fast Eddie Felsen twenty-five years after he walked out of his final match with Minnesota Fats, victorious but with his pool career finished after he refused to pay the cold-blooded gambler Bert Gordon (memorably portrayed by George C. Scott). The novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said that there are no second acts in American lives and thereby provided a handy lead-in to thousands of stories about second chances. The Color of Money is a classic of the genre. It opens just as Eddie catches a whiff of something that wakens him as if from a long slumber and reminds him of the thrill he used to know when shooting pool made him feel on top of the world. "Anything can be great, I don't care", Eddie said to the doomed Sarah Packard in The Hustler. "Bricklaying can be great, if a guy knows, if he knows what he's doing and why, and if he can make it come off." In The Color of Money, Eddie's dilemma is that he's forgotten why the game was great, after the passage of so much time. As often happens, the color of money has stained all other hues with its tint.
Eddie (Newman) has been making his living selling knock-off liquor and backing the occasional pool player. We find him in a bar run by his sometime girlfriend, Janelle (Helen Shaver), hustling her to buy generic whisky she can pass off as name-brand goods (Eddie even supplies the labels). He's also staking a pool hustler named Julian (John Turturro), but today Julian keeps losing to a video-game-obsessed kid named Vincent (Tom Cruise, perfectly cast). Eddie knows pool talent when he sees it, and he instantly grasps that an unknown face with a killer stroke offers a unique opportunity to win real money at the tables—if he's teamed with someone who knows how to set up the suckers. Eddie begins luring Vincent, a task that becomes easy once Eddie realizes that Vincent's girlfriend, Carmen (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), is every bit as mercenary as Eddie. A "hard broad" (in Eddie's phrase) with a background in petty crime, Carmen treats Vincent more as a "mark" than a boyfriend. Vincent is too innocent and too full of himself (and testosterone) to notice. Though Carmen doesn't fully understand Eddie's game, she's intrigued enough to help him entice Vincent into a six-week road trip that will end at the national 9-ball tournament in Atlantic City. Along the way they'll stop at every pool hall where there's money to be made, and Eddie will stake Vincent and show him how it's done. The only catch is that Vincent has to lose when Eddie tells him, and Vincent hates losing. "Why can't we have a hustle where I win?" he whines. Vincent suffers from the same irresistible urge to show off that caused Eddie to get his thumbs broken in The Hustler. Nothing about the trip goes according to plan, and everybody learns something unexpected. Carmen learns what an amateur she is at the art of the con, having relied exclusively on feminine wiles to this point, without mastering any of the other complexities of what motivates people. Vincent has to grow up quickly, after taking some painful knocks; he sheds some of his youthful exuberance but gains a measure of self-control. ("You wouldn't even recognize him", says Carmen when they reach Atlantic City.) And Eddie? There's a point midway through the film, where Eddie sits intently watching Vincent play top-rated player Grady Seasons (pool pro Keith McCready), and you can feel his interest shift from the hustle to love of the game. It's as if a switch has flipped in Eddie's memory, and he's watching himself play at full tilt against Minnesota Fats twenty-five years ago. From that moment on, Eddie is no longer the same hustler who charmed Vincent and Carmen onto the road. By fits and starts (and a few pratfalls), he has to find his way back to the man he once was. A lesser director than Scorsese would not have been able to bring off the third act of The Color of Money, which has to cover vast amounts of narrative territory to convey Eddie's redemption. But Scorsese has always been adept at finding the heart of a story, and he utilizes the entire array of Newman's considerable acting tools and his own cinematic invention to wring twenty-five years of dissipation out of Eddie Felsen before our eyes. (There's a swimming scene that plays like a baptism.) By the time Eddie is standing in the tournament room in Atlantic City, almost anything can happen. What does happen feels just right. "I'm a real big fan of character in people", says Janelle, who's flown out to join him. For Eddie, as for anyone who remembers The Hustler, that word resonates.
The Color of Money Blu-ray, Video Quality
After viewing Disney's 1080p, AVC-encoded Blu-ray, I played the last ten minutes of the 2003 DVD, upscaled by a Panasonic Blu-ray player, just to get a sense of the difference. The Blu-ray improves on the DVD, but not by much. There is a degree of additional detail that is most noticeable in distant objects, which are somewhat more distinct on the Blu-ray, though far less than they should be in a hi-def transfer from a 35mm film source. One should not have to peer at the screen to distinguish between a Blu-ray image and a DVD from nine years earlier. Two features immediately stood out. The first was the Blu-ray's limited color space. The film's colors, which should be vibrant in the pool scenes, are as dull on the Blu-ray as they are on the DVD; indeed, the palette is roughly equivalent in both hi-def and NTSC, which I believe is the first time I've ever encountered such a phenomenon. The second, more egregious issue is persistent video noise, which occurs in almost every scene—and when I say "video noise", I don't mean film grain. Let me be as clear as possible: Should anyone be heard to complain that The Color of Money suffers from "DNR", it will simply confirm that the term "DNR" is now used as a general term of opprobrium without any technical meaning. Noise reduction is one operation that was clearly not performed on this transfer, although that won't necessarily be obvious from screencaps. It is, however, unmistakable in motion, as the frame crackles and vibrates to an extent I have rarely seen since the days of laserdisc. Depending on screen size and individual disposition, the noise may or may not be tolerable, but either way it obscures picture detail. Grain this ain't. Black levels are weak, with black often appearing gray, and contrast is also lacking (although a higher contrast would merely have accentuated the noise). Shadow detail is weak to non-existent, which is especially a problem for a film with so many scenes set in dingy and dimly lit bars and pool halls. What went wrong here? An experienced telecine colorist might be able to offer an educated opinion, but they (wisely) don't make themselves available for consultation on the internet. I've visited post houses, watched colorists at work, reviewed hundreds of DVDs and Blu-rays and watched thousands more, but I'm not willing to hazard a guess about the cause of this disappointment (old transfer? botched transfer? poor element? poor mastering?). What I do know is that the image on this Blu-ray is an embarrassment. The Color of Money deserves much better.
The Color of Money Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The news is better on the audio front. The Color of Money received a 6-track mix for 70mm prints, but the standard release format was Dolby Surround. The 2003 DVD contained a DD 4.1 mix, and the Blu-ray's DTS-HD MA 5.1 track appears to be based on the same source, with a generally front-centered mix and nothing in the way of discrete (so-called "split") surround activity. But overall fidelity and dynamic range are improved, and this is particularly worthwhile in the occasional scene where deep bass extension is called for, such as the opening "break" of the Atlantic City tournament, which resounds throughout the auditorium (and clear to the back of the viewing room). Subsequent breaks and the hum of the crowd also make themselves heard. Otherwise, the dialogue is generally clear, although it sometimes sounds slightly artificial, no doubt as a result of post-recorded ADR. (Some viewers have reported difficulty hearing the dialogue; I didn't find that to be the case.) The soundtrack selected, composed and supervised by Robbie Robertson plays with good fidelity for the standard of the era; a contemporary soundtrack would be more cleanly separated from the other sonic elements, but those were limitations of the analog age.
The Color of Money Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The disc features "Sneak Peaks" for The Odd Life of Timothy Green, John Carter, The Avengers and ABC TV on DVD and Blu-ray. As far as I'm concerned, promotions for current projects don't qualify as extras for The Color of Money's "25th Anniversary Edition".
The Color of Money Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Beginning with The Verdict in 1982, Paul Newman turned his back on the romantic leads that had sustained his matinee idol career for so long and delivered a succession of magnificent autumnal performances that included The Color of Money, Nobody's Fool (1994), Twilight (1998) and Road to Perdition (2002). Each of these is distinctive in its own particular way, but The Color of Money is notable for the characteristic visual brio with which director Scorsese expressed Fast Eddie Felson's rediscovery of his former self. Newman's intensity supplied the thought and the emotion, and Scorsese's cinematic pyrotechnics supplied the energy (aided, as usual, by Thelma Schoonmaker's inventive editing). Maybe someday we'll actually get to see it clearly in a home theater. Caveat emptor.
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The Color of Money Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Upcoming Disney Catalog Releases for 2012 (Updated) - June 26, 2012
This year, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment will bring over thirty catalog entries to Blu-ray. The scheduled films span across Disney's different distribution branches, and while the studio has previously hinted at certain titles - such as The Color of Money, ...
• The Sting Blu-ray - March 23, 2012
As part of its 100th Anniversary, Universal Studios Home Entertainment will offer special Blu-rays of selected catalog titles, and The Sting should arrive in the June wave. Director George Roy Hill's crime comedy reunites Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid stars ...
• Three Disney Catalog Titles Scheduled for Blu-ray - March 7, 2012
With three early retail announcements, Walt Disney Studios has revealed plans to release Blu-rays of the following titles from their Touchstone catalog - The Color of Money, Cocktail, and Ransom. The films are expected to street on June 5th.
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