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Set some 20 years in the future after the devastating Second Civil War, the story revolves around a drifter who unwittingly becomes a national hero. On the run from an evil and oppressive sect known as the Holns, the drifter retreats to the woods of the Northwestern U.S. and assumes the identity of a postal employee when he inadvertantly stumbles upon a wrecked postal vehicle. Although the United States government has long been disbanded, The Postman begins to deliver the mail - providing a sense of hope to the frightened locals who have for too long lived under the Holn's oppressive ways.
For more about The Postman and the The Postman Blu-ray release, see the The Postman Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on September 18, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Kevin Costner, Will Patton, Larenz Tate, Olivia Williams, James Russo, Daniel Von Bargen
Director: Kevin Costner
» See full cast & crew
The Postman Blu-ray Review
Despite all its flaws, I have a soft spot in my heart for this Costner cringer...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, September 18, 2009
Among my personal favorite guilty pleasures -- Judge Dredd, Summer School, Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection, Surviving the Game, The Beastmaster, and Toy Soldiers -- Kevin Costner's The Postman reigns supreme. I have no delusions about its legacy; no qualms with anyone who despises its every scene. I don't feel the need to defend it from its harshest critics, most of whom can rattle off a laundry list of grievances that, quite frankly, are completely justifiable. When it came time to evaluate my enjoyment of Costner's third directorial effort, I even found myself struggling to identify the reasons The Postman appeals to me in the first place. Maybe I'm just a sucker for post-apocalyptic tales. Strike that. I'm most definitely a sucker for post-apocalyptic tales. Maybe I'm just partial to Costner's canon or his patented Everyman schtick. Strike that as well. I'm too enamored with Ray Kinsella, Jim Garrison, and Charley Waite to deny my love of Costner. Perhaps some films just hit home for no discernible reason; perhaps that's the essence of a true guilty pleasure.
Based on author David Brin's 1985 novel of the same name, The Postman follows the perilous, post-apocalyptic journey of a nameless drifter (Kevin Costner) who stumbles across a tattered postman's uniform and a bag of old, undelivered letters. Concocting a story about a fledgling government, he uses his newfound props to gain access to a small settlement called Pineview. After inspiring the locals, earning their trust, and attracting the affections of a woman named Abby (Olivia Williams), the postman leaves with little intention of actually delivering the mail the townsfolk have given him. But when an old enemy -- the leader of an organized army of thieves and cutthroats, General Bethlehem (Will Patton) -- raids Pineview and learns of the postman's existence, all hell breaks loose. When an army of young postal carriers take the postman's lies to heart, it gets even worse. Armies clash with armies, guns are brandished, blood is shed, and the fate of the already floundering United States falls on the shoulders of a reluctant hero unsure of what part he wants to play in all the madness. Can lies breed hope? Can a nomad inspire a nation? Can any synopsis make this movie sound any less ridiculous? Sigh... just try not to snicker.
The Postman is a strange brew indeed; one formed from the life-giving primordial ooze of Dances with Wolves and the over-salted, post-apocalyptic seas of Waterworld. Costner establishes an intriguing tone from the get-go -- sprinkling in just enough Mad Maxian lunacy to keep genre hounds on familiar ground -- but seems to have a difficult time sidestepping the pretentious pitfalls of his lesser works and overcoming the more eccentric absurdities of Eric Roth and Brian Helgeland's overwrought script. It's as if the director was more concerned about redeeming his career in the wake of Waterworld's $175 million dollar implosion than in creating something as weighty and profound as Dances with Wolves, his 1990 Oscar-winning directorial debut. Alas, The Postman wasn't destined for Academy Awards, just five Razzies, including Worst Picture, Worst Actor, Worst Director, and Worst Screenplay. Some have blamed the performances (Costner and Patton aside, the cast is all over the place), others the neverending screenplay (which admittedly drags on far too long), still others have accused the story itself of being a non-starter; an aimless vanity project bound to inflate budgets and squander precious talent. However, most blame Costner. Be it casting, scripting, shooting, or editing, the proverbial buck stops with the director.
But I say Costner and Patton are so strong in The Postman that it doesn't warrant so much needless criticism. Regardless of how quickly everyone on screen either falls in line or steps up to support tyranny, Costner is a magnetic force (even in his most dour bouts of normalcy) that makes it fairly easy to suspend disbelief. Patton is just as mesmerizing, perhaps more so, chewing scenery and stealing entire acts of the film from his co-star and director. Their confrontations are intense; their dialogue sharp and biting; their arguments intellectual chess matches. Together, the two actors nearly lift the film out of its humdrum dwellings. Does that make it the finest film of all time? One of the best post-apocalyptic epics to grace the screen? Of course not. But come on... does every film need to be? If you strip Costner's epic of its humorless direction and overlook some of its more grating supporting performances, you can see the roots of something that could have been an engrossing exploration of ego and pride in a modern wasteland. Yes, it's overblown fluff, and yes, it's bizarre, inadvertently amusing, and lacks the oh-so-serious soul Costner desperately wants it to exude. But it's also wildly entertaining. Where else can you see an army of postal carriers stand up to a legion of troops led by a former photocopier salesman? Where else can you watch characters brandish flags so often, as if the mere act of flash a strip of red, white and blue will grant an angel wings? Where else can you see musician Tom Petty unite the survivors of a devastating calamity with nasally authority?
The Postman isn't great cinema by any stretch of the imagination. At best, it's fleeting fun. It isn't a startling warning about the dangers of excess or neglect, but rather an entertaining excuse to watch armies clash in a neo-Western wasteland. It isn't a classic by any right... it's merely a guilty pleasure; one that offers two captivating performances, a slick but superficial story, and some unforgettable scenes made more memorable by the sheer nature of the film that accompanies them. I know most people will loathe every minute of The Postman, but I can't help but love it, warts and all.
The Postman Blu-ray, Video Quality
Though The Postman's 1080p/VC-1 transfer suffers from a variety of issues (including a shoddy opening sequence), it represents such a substantial upgrade from its standard DVD counterpart that I'm reluctant to complain too much. Faces are flushed far too often (our dear Will Patton looks perpetually flustered), crush haunts the darkness on occasion, and overzealous edge enhancement, ever the bane of my existence, is both noticeable and distracting. Even so, the film looks better than ever. Colors are vibrant, primaries are bold, black levels are fairly absorbing (despite some unresolved nighttime shots), and contrast is bright and healthy (albeit a tad inconsistent). Grain spiking is a persistent nuisance and several soft scenes spoil the flow, but detail is strong overall. Textures have received the most notable boost, offering refined facial features, crisp stitching, and sharp stubble. While it isn't the greatest catalog transfer I've had the pleasure of reviewing lately, it's nevertheless a decent one. If anything, some errant noise, artifacting, and ringing conspire to thwart the disc's finer qualities. Digital clutter regularly assaults the starkest skies and deepest shadows, and additional anomalies appear and disappear throughout. No one issue is debilitating enough to ruin the entire experience, but together they create a somewhat inconsistent presentation. Regardless, fans of The Postman will be satisfied with the results and all too happy to drop their old DVD copy in the trash.
The Postman Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Breezy and lively but a bit stout and shifty, The Postman's Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track could have used some extra work before being booted out the door. Dialogue is warm, clean, and well prioritized, rear speaker aggression is commendable, and LFE output is resonant enough to lend the film's action sequences some extra oomph. That being said, a few lines are buried in the mix, sound effect clarity ranges from nuanced to stagey, and exterior expanses struggle to sound as authentic as they look. In fact, anyone who closes their eyes might think many of the small towns the postman visits are more empty than they are. Many of the population centers sound sparse and many homes sound surprisingly barren, despite the on-screen hustle and bustle. While I blame the relative simplicity of the film's original sound design rather than Warner's lossless efforts, it doesn't make the track's intermittent issues any less distracting. On a more positive note, dynamics are suitably punchy anytime horses thunder across the plains or General Bethlehem's men fire their rifles. While crowd chatter and environmental ambience can be underwhelming at times, interior acoustics are convincing, directionality is respectable (albeit slightly imprecise during Bethlehem's raids), and James Newton Howard's musical score is hearty and unyielding. It may not be the greatest catalog track that's graced my speakers this week, but it still has a lot to offer guilty pleasurists like myself.
The Postman Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
In the wake of The Postman's critical drubbing, I doubt the Warner execs overseeing the project were in the mood to roll out a high-dollar supplemental package for its DVD release. As such, the new Blu-ray edition offers fans (what few of us there are) nothing more than a shoddy theatrical trailer and an eleven-minute, standard definition glimpse at the film's special effects. Personally, I would have enjoyed listening to a commentary track in which Costner discussed his work, if for no other reason than to hear how he would address the various criticisms that have been leveled at the film over the years.
The Postman Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Postman is a guilty pleasure, through and through. It's entertaining, sure, but I doubt anyone could make a proper case as to how it's much more than that. The Blu-ray edition has its share of problems as well, but manages to substantially outclass its DVD counterpart with an above average video transfer and TrueHD audio track. I would love to listen to Costner dissect The Postman with an audio commentary but, until that day arrives, this is, by far, the best way to indulge in his third directorial outing. Give it a rent and see if it rings your guilty pleasure bell as readily as it does mine.
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The Postman Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Warner Announces Ten Catalog Titles for September - May 13, 2009
Warner Home Video has announced ten titles from its catalog for Blu-ray release on September 8: 'Catwoman', 'Creepshow', 'Dead Calm', 'Freddy vs. Jason', 'The New World: Extended Cut', 'Over the Top', 'The Postman', 'Snakes on a Plane', 'Sphere' and 'The ...
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