Rounders Collectors Edition

Cover Art and Menu: 10/10
Halleluiah! A DVD cover with some personality! I love it. I don’t really need to say much, just look at the picture above and you will see that somebody somewhere in the world had a moment of clarity and made a cover that I’m thrilled to have on my DVD shelf. The menu is a live video clip from the movie, which is also quite ambitious considering most menus are just a simple html page with links to the features and movie. Ok, so far so good. Great cover, decent menus, what’s next?

Extras & Features: 8/10

  • Behind the scenes special – I love behind the scenes features, but sometimes they seem a bit short. That’s the case with this DVD. This extra includes interviews with the director and cast, and lots of information about how the movie came to be.
  • Set Top Game – An actual poker game to humble the most cocky players..:)
  • Inside professional poker – Matt Damon and Edward Norton get a chance to play with the pros at the World Series of Poker. This documentary type extra explores the world of professional poker and how it’s mostly often mislabeled as professional gambling. The people who play poker for “a living” don’t seem to be taking much of a gamble when they play. It’s a great look into the world that inspired such good film.
  • Feature Commentary with professional poker players – Want to know if the poker and the study of poker players in the movie are accurate or pure Hollywood smoke and mirrors? This commentary is an absolutely perfect addition to the DVD. It’s not only topical but just as entertaining as watching the movie on its own.
  • Feature Commentary with Director John Dahl, Screenwriters David Levien & Brian Knoppelman & Actor Edward Norton -The best commentary is MORE commentary. I love to hear all about movies and how they are made so this jam packed commentary is well worth a listen.
  • Championship Poker Tips – Want to learn more about playing poker? Check out the God’s of poker and their hot tips on how to master this very complex game of strategy, chance and luck..oh, no luck is not a factor (or so they say).

The Movie: 9/10:
John Dahl has a history of making some dark intense films with intriguing characters and a glimpse at the underbelly of human nature. What is it that draws people to near obsession with the art of poker playing? What makes a young man give up everything important in his life, including his girlfriend, and law degree? It could be the rush of the moment when he spots his opponent’s give away. A roaming eye, a tug on the ear, a nervous twitch, even the twist of an Oreo cookie, these are all potential hints at what’s in their hand. There is a game a part from the game, it’s all the calculations it takes to figure out every angle, every possible scenario that is playing out on the table in front of you. It all seems very alluring and addictive.

Rounders is a story about a young man struggling to figure out what his life is really all about. His relationship with a long time friend takes him back to the world of poker he had abandoned so he could move on with his life as a law student. Going back to the table doesn’t take much persuasion though, he’s never let go of his love for the game.

This is an amazing story, and I dig a good story. I’m in love with almost every character, including the more shady guys. There is such an ambience in every scene that I was completely sucked into there world from the opening shot. With conflicts abound, like Damon’s character against himself, him against his friend, his friend against the poker underworld, and finally Damon gets tangled in his own conflict with the poker “bad guys” as well. It’s all convincing and it’s done with enough subtlety so that, even though it’s a big story, it doesn’t have the cheesy blockbuster feel about it.

Every scene is shot with beautiful color and lighting. The style is signature Dahl with lots of silhouettes, close ups, and visually interesting sets that build such a fascinating world.

The performances are all seamless. Even the secondary characters who occupy this dark landscape of people are convincing and add to the texture of Dahl’s interpretation of this semi-unsavory corner of gritty city life. Damon and Norton are exciting to watch, as always.  From line to line it’s impossible for me to take my eyes off of either one of them.

I’m ready to watch it again and I only watched it two days ago, so that says something about the movie for sure. John Malkovich is crazy good, if you know what I mean. He’s hypnotizing to watch and his character is endlessly creepy with a dash of genius mixed in for good measure.

John Turturro plays his eccentric character with such finesse I want him to be my underworld connection, even if he’s seriously dangerous.:) Like I mentioned the performances are all amazing and that adds so much to the quality of the whole film, it’s just one more thing that puts this movie near the top of my favorites list.

If you appreciate a good story with characters who capture your attention from start to finish, Rounders is a must see. The dark but explosive colors and overall artsy look of so much of the movie along with some of the most atmospheric sets you will find in a drama, make it a total package.

I love it. Excuse me while I go watch it again…..

Value: 8/10
…..I’m back

At just under $20 this is a fairly good deal, only because the movie is so darn good and the extras add a lot to the experience. There is nothing lacking here, except I would love to have more behind the scenes footage.  Remember I’m pretty tough to persuade when it comes to separating me from that 20 bucks, so there has to be a good reason. I think this DVD is worth it. If you find it for more I’d say wait for a sale, if you find it for less.. LET ME KNOW!! Ok. Fine. Ignore the price, just go buy the thing and you will be glad you added it to your collection.

Overall Score 9/10