Annapolis
R1 - America - Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (31st July 2006).
The Film

Letís be frank here, Annapolis borrows a lot from other films, it has the underdog competitive boxing angle as previously seen in Rocky (1976) and about a thousand other inspirational sports films. It has the gruelling military training sequences that are softer and less interesting as previously seen in Full Metal Jacket (1987) and itís got James Franco as previously seen in the Spider-man (2002, 2004, 2007) movies.
Itís fair to say that Annapolis doesnít have a shred of originality, the story is paint-by-numbers and wholly predicable, the cast is sorely underutilized, and the film feels like a recruitment video for the U.S. Navy. Additionally Jordana Brewster is not only inadequate for the role she plays, she may also want to consider additional acting classes to add depth to her otherwise wooden performance. I do believe we have ourselves a female equivalent to Orlando Bloom, Brewster seems to be the best possible candidate for emotionless female performance of the year!
Annapolis tells the story of Jake Huard (Franco), for years Jake has dreamed of joining the Navy and training at Annapolis, instead he works with his dad (Brian Goodman) as a welder building ships. After applying heíll get to live out his dream and is awarded a spot into the Academy. This starts months of training and hard work to meet the criteria for U.S. Naval duty - however Jake has a chip on his shoulder and develops contempt for Lt. Cole (Tyrese Gibson), along the way he meets a hot training officer, Ali (Brewster) and eventually gets to prove himself not only to her but the entire Academy when he trains to be a boxer and kicks a bunch of peopleís asses.
Ok, now that the synopsis of out the way letís outline the overall problems with this film. First of all, the story is nothing new, inspirational underdog-type stuff. The narrative flow is basic, introduce character and character traits, introduce set-up, challenge the character, somewhere in the middle the challenge is too much and in a moment of weakness gives up, but an unlikely person motivates him to continue, he continues, earns respect and gets the girl - all in a days work. This script reeks of screenwriting 101, no surprises, no expectations, in fact if it wasnít for these actors attached to this project Annapolis may as well have been a straight-to-video release or a made-for-TV drama that sugar coats the U.S. military in a time of conflict.
Which brings me to my second point, looking into this filmís production history I was surprised to discover that the filmmakers had no cooperation with the U.S. Navy, yet this entire production feels like a recruitment video often screened to high School kids about the advantages to joining the service, and what better production house to exploit those good times than the dream factory of Hollywood. After watching this film I was suddenly struck with the notion that if I joined the service not only will be challenged mentally and physically, but Iíd make new friends, get to cavort with higher-ranking female officers (hot ones by the way, all the female officers in this film are supermodel grade), and Iím certain to look snappy in my dress whites - right? Iíve seen many films filled with shameless plug after shameless plug, product placement annoys me to no end especially when itís obvious, and Annapolis is the ultimate case where an entire film is virtually used to sell the product of naval service.
There only positives I could determine regarding this film are its technical; aspects. The photography by Phil Abraham is stunningly slick, Abraham also had some nice locations to shoot as the production design to the best of my knowledge accurately reflect a Naval training school. Sadly, great photography and set design do not make a great film - they only enhance one. In the hands of a better director Annapolis could have been a gem, instead with are left with this predictable fodder that will not likely be remembered in the years to come.

Video

Presented in the filmís original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1, this anamorphic widescreen transfer isnít quite as good as one would expect. The image is generally sharp, although many scenes appear soft, colors are rendered beautifully but blacks seem murky and arenít given an appropriate amount of depth and boldness and the same goes with the shadow detail. I did notice some minor edge enhancement and compression artefacts, which is disappointing.

Audio

This film includes an English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track only. Dialogue is clear and plays without distortion or interference. There was an adequate amount of active environmental and directional effects spread across the sound space, all of which felt natural. I did find the music in parts mixed at a much higher volume than I would have liked and did find it overbearing at times. Overall the track wasnít as aggressive as Iíd have preferred, especially with a film such as this. Otherwise this is a competent track that holds little to no surprises.
Optional subtitles are also included in English for the hearing impaired, French and Spanish.

Extras

First up we have a feature-length audio commentary with director Justin Lin, screenwriter Dave Collard and editor Fred Raskin. For the most part this is screen-specific, although the participants to go off on tangents every now and then, mainly discussing their roles and the challenges they faced with this film. The participants have a lot to say pertaining to the production process and the research they undertook for the technical elements as well as sharing a healthy amount of information regarding the cast among other topics. If you enjoyed the film then this track is certainly worth exploring.

The first featurette is entitled Plebe Year: The Story of Annapolis which runs for 11 minutes 4 seconds. This is the standard EPK fluff stuff, that covers all the bases briefly from the script writing process to casting to shooting. Along the way we hear about how these characters are all relatable and the journey they go through is not unlike yours and mine - the stock standard sales pitch with inspirationally manipulative music over the top of the entire clip. Additional material covered that includes the training process and working with the actors. Thereís some minor substance to this piece, although nothing worth repeated viewing.

The second featurette youíll find on this disc is The Brigades which runs for 10 minutes 17 seconds. In case you missed it in the film, this clip tells you what the brigades are and the excruciating training process that the actors had to undergo for the boxing elements of this film and all the challenges that involves. We also get a look at how these boxing scenes were shot.

A collection of 7 deleted scenes are also featured on this disc. These scenes all include optional audio commentary by director Justin Lin, screenwriter Dave Collard and editor Fred Raskin. They comment on the scenes in question as well as provide detail behind them and why they were ultimately removed from the final edit. These scenes can be viewed individually or with a Play All function. The scenes included are:
- I-Day runs for 5 minutes 1 second, in this scene Jake attends the induction at the Academy in this montage-style scene.
- Cell Phone Montage runs for 54 seconds, this is a training sequence where the Lt. Cole tries to break the recruits spirits.
- Swimming Pool runs for 1 minute 32 seconds, yet another training scene, were the recruits jump from a platform into the pool.
- Penny Sweating/Risa Thanks Lake runs for 1 minute 30 seconds, this extended scene shows Jake being disciplined after a training exercise, Ali offers Jake some advice and Risa (Katie Hein) thanks him for helping her out.
- Smoker at the Graveyard runs for 1 minute 2 seconds, here Jake visits the graveyard, lights two cigarettes.
- Contagious Sloppiness runs for 47 seconds, Cole inspects Jakeís room and mess it up to make a point about his sloppiness.
- Comatose Twins runs for 55 seconds, Jake visits Twins in the hospital after his attempted suicide.

Rounding out the extras are a collection of bonus trailers:
- Apocalypto which runs for 2 minutes 4 seconds.
- Stick it which runs for 2 minutes 30 seconds.
- Goal! The Dream Begins Which runs for 2 minutes 22 seconds.
- The Shaggy Dog which runs for 1 minute 47 seconds.
- Glory Road which runs for 2 minutes 23 seconds.
- Greyís Anatomy: Season One which runs for 47 seconds.

The first three previews listed above are start-up trailers and play before the menu, to skip them press the Menu button on your remote.

Overall

The Film: D Video: C+ Audio: B Extras: B- Overall: C

 


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