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Kalifornia – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Shout! Factory is bringing the cult classic Kalifornia to Blu-ray again, via their Shout Select label. Its finding itself as one of the coveted Collector’s Edition titles to boot. Sporting new artwork (Which admittedly is pretty damn good to my eyes), this release doesn’t boast much in the way of new interviews (Just one with the director), but does carry over all the old stuff and will feature the Theatrical edition of the film for the first time on Blu-ray. Each cut of the film will be on its own disc. This film features an early performance from Brad Pitt that has been to the liking of many fans. You can pick up this film when it releases on March 5th. Pre-order is available to have on release day from the Amazon link below.

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Film 

Brian Kessler (David Duchovny) is a writer, and his girlfriend, Carrie Laughlin (Michelle Forbes), is a photographer. They’re working on a book about serial killers, and planning a trip across the country to document the sites of famous serial murders. To cut costs, they set up a ride-share with strangers, Early Grayce (Brad Pitt) and his girlfriend, Adele Corners (Juliette Lewis). But what they don’t know is that Early is a violent sociopath in the middle of his own serial killing spree.

Kalifornia is a pretty interesting character study and thriller that is a bit too long, but overall plenty entertaining. Written back in the 80s during a fad of people being super plugged in to true crime stories, the film can easily come back around and speak to our current pop culture infatuation with the same topic. Those into the Netflix true crime docs and Serial podcast may find quite a thrilling tale in this cult film they’ve possibly never heard of with big names they know in the cast.

Driving Kalifornia is what was at the time an up and coming cast. Juliette Lewis was the most established of the bunch and had already been in a number of big projects with significant roles. She plays her more typecasted type role here and is fine. David Duchovny leads the charge and had mainly been more of supporting roles and a recurring character on Twin Peaks at this point. You can see a lot of the Fox Mulder in him in this early role with his investigative process. Michelle Forbes was making her big jump from Star Trek: The Next Generation after turning down the chance to lead Deep Space Nine. People mainly talk Brad Pitt in this movie, (Maybe I have a thing for bajorans) but Forbes is possibly the best performer with a handle on her role here.

At some point many years back, many claimed this as their favorite Brad Pitt role (Some likely still do). If anyone ever mentioned “Kalifornia” that would be the first thing that came up. Most of that is Brad Pitt playing against his “handsome man” type here. But, he’d also do that (And much better) in Twelve Monkeys a few years later. The performance is a little off balance juggling between cartoonish and horrifically grounded. He’s a young actor and this is a big task. When it comes to the violence, its on point and Pitt is so disturbingly haunting during it that you can see its just nothing to his character. Its almost passionless, and out of a habit or need like sex or having lunch. Just an itch to be scratched, which falls nowhere in Duchovny’s studies on it during the film. Its quite effective and what elevates this movie from a possible forgettable status.

If you’ve seen Kalifornia before, you’re in for a bit of treat. I’d only seen it once or twice many years ago before this viewing and it held up pretty decently. I feel the film could get on with things a bit quicker and be more effective, but it works nonetheless. It features 4 performers early in their careers but as solid and terrific as ever (How has Michelle Forbes not become a huge star?). Its the road trip buddy movie from hell and works in terms of character study and delivering thrills in a horrific manner.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Kalifornia doesn’t mention anything about the transfer, so one can assume the Unrated cut is the same as the previous Blu-ray release. The theatrical version of the film sports a similar picture to which I couldn’t personally see much of a significant difference between the two images. Its an above average image that is plenty sharp and crisp with pretty rock solid attention to detail.

Depth:  There is a decent depth of field on display here. Overall its a bit above average. There are moments, like a DePalma shot in a hotel room that looks quite nice, but there are other smoky moments that run a little flatter. Movements are smooth and cinematic in nature and no real motion distortion issues occur.

Black Levels: Blacks are impressively deep and have a nice complimentary function to them. Most of the information is still intact and the shades and tints are well saturated in the image. No crushing present.

Color Reproduction: Colors are pretty strong and bold given whatever lighting they use. Most pop strongly in night scenes with that lighting and neon lights real glow right off the screen. A lot of the film tries to portray a hot desert look with colors that fade into monotony but interiors and nighttime scenes really show the film has a lot to offer in its color palette on display.;

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural with just a hair of warmth and consistent from scene to scene in the film. Facial features and textures, dried blood and the like show up quite well in medium and close up shots.

Noise/Artifacts: N/A

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 Stereo DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: Kalifornia offers the same audio options for both the theatrical and uncut versions of the film. They also both sound quite similar. These mixes are very front focused and a little bit lighter on the volume and lower end sounds. Its decent enough to get the job done but the stereo track might actually be enough to suffice as the 5.1 track leaves you wanting a bit more “oompf” to it.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: Nothing too deep here, and rather light on the bump. Car engines, gun fire, shattering glass, punches and such give a little more of the deeper thumps from the subwoofer.

Surround Sound Presentation: As mentioned, this is a more front heavy track, there are some nice touches from the rear channels at times. Most of the contribution from the back is light ambiance on scenes.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and plenty audible given any environment or effects/score heavy sequence.

Extras 

Kalifornia – Collector’s Edition is a 2-Blu-ray disc set that features reversible cover art.

Disc 1 – Unrated Version

Interview With Director Dominic Sena (HD, 24:36) – He calls the journey of making the film an “odyssey”. He touches on starting Propaganda Films in 1986 with David Fincher and their goals with that venture. He gets really quick into his hunt to find a script to do for his first feature film and takes us all the way through Kalifornia and its legacy.

Original Featurette (SD, 5:22) – An original EPK for the film.

Original Interviews (SD, 2:35) – Brad Pitt and Juliette Lewis from the time of the film’s release. Very 90s stylized.

Trailers & TV Spots (HD/SD, 5:50)

Disc 2 – Theatrical Version

Contains the identical bonus features as Disc 1.

Summary 

Kalifornia is a little lengthy thriller, but ultimately works, driven by a good cast and direction with personality. Shout! Factory brings it to Blu-ray again with a couple additions, notably a director interview and theatrical cut (There are old features from the DVD that have finally made it to Blu-ray too). Those who already own the film are likely satisfied by what they have, though this version does the better job at upgrading the old DVD release. For the right price this is a handy upgrade, but the current high price might not have many itching to pull the purchase trigger.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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