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The Screening Room
swing vote
THE STUDIO GATE
What ever happened to Kevin Costner? One moment, he's king of the movie universe making bank and winning Oscars. The next, he's making movies like "Swing Vote" for years. I'm not the biggest fan of Costner, but on occasion, he can pull of a role. In "Swing Vote," it's difficult to find much value in his character.

"Swing Vote" is now available on DVD and Blu-ray disc. This is a review of the Blu-ray.

Costner really isn't one of the better actors, in my opinion. He's very limited in his range and essentially plays with the same mannerisms, tone, inflection in his voice, etc., as he has done for years. In "Swing Vote," he does extend his range a bit and at first, he's quite good playing a loser father. He's got the drawl down, and even adds some character quirks as nail biting. That's kind of gross and annoying, but at least Costner's trying here. His character of Bud Johnson, however, wears on you very quickly. And considering this is yet another Costner movie that runs long, it's hard to stay with him till the bitter end.

The film has quite an "A-list" cast, including Kelsey Grammer, Stanley Tucci, Nathan Lane and George Lopez. Nearly everyone in the cast puts up a good show. The actor who shows everyone up is the young Madeline Carroll (Molly). She is one of those rare young actors who isn't annoying or bratty on-screen. She's the strong point of this movie. What I enjoyed about her performance is how genuine she is. Her personality isn't over the top, but it's strong enough to place Costner in the shadow of her spotlight.

I'm not trying to be too hard on Costner. I've watched him go from the mild mannered Eliot Ness in 1987's "The Untouchables," to his surprisingly strong turn as director in the now-I-can't-sit-through-this film, "Dances with Wolves" (1990). Yet after "The Bodyguard," his ego grew with his paychecks and his career hasn't been the same. His limited range, as I recall reading somewhere years ago, was reminiscent of actor Gary Cooper. That's a failry accurate comparison. Costner can be perfect in roles that let him be him, like "Field of Dreams." I can still remember his role as Jake in the great modern western, "Silverado." I supposed I'm still trying to get over his turn as Robin Hood in 1991, because it's hard to watch him now.

"Swing Vote" is oddly made well with good intentions. The direction is confident by Joshua Michael Stern, and the film looks good. Yet movies about elections tend to turn most audiences of anyway. I think the combination of 2008's endless election coverage, and the fact that politics normally don't make for entertaining movies these days, doomed "Swing Vote." The film really doesn't have a solid core of what it's trying to say, nor does it have a center of conflict. We really don't like Bud Johnson, and we certainly don't like the politicians running for office (Dennis Hopper for President), so the film has two major issues going against it.

The Blu-ray disc continues to show why I've gravitated to the format. Though the picture quality occasionally suffers from digital noise in some dark scenes, the picture is overall excellent. The 2.39:1 aspect ratio seems to be Costner's preferred format, and the cinematography plays well. Scenes are nicely staged.

The dialogue is nice and clear, while the music has been recorded well. The DTS-MA track shows off the depth and clarity of the Blu-ray format. I did notice the weakness of lossless audio in one of the music tracks. Early in the movie, the song by the Marshall Tucker Band "Can't You See" is played. The CD that I have, with re-mastered songs on it, is loud and clear with plenty of bass. The version played via DTS-MA has a lot less impact. This is not reason to not rent or buy "Swing Vote. The sound quality is very good.

Costner seems like a good guy and I've enjoyed him in some of his movies. Unfortunately, I wouldn't cast my vote on this film or Costner's character. 
        
Bill Kallay

Special thanks to Click Communications

Photos: BVHE. All rights reserved.
Blu-ray Quick Glimpse

cover


MOVIE

Well made film but ultimately boring to watch

TALENT
Director: Joshua Michael Stern

Cast: Kevin Costner, Stanley Tucci, Nathan Lane, Madeline Carroll 

FEATURES
Numerous

RATING
PG-13

BLU-RAY
Picture: Excellent
Sound: Very Good

GEEK OUT
Graphic and very realistic gore

TECH SPECS
Aspect Ratio (2.39:1)

DTS-MA
Dolby Digital 5.1

BLU-RAY
RELEASE DATE
January 13, 2008
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