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Don Jon (Blu-ray Review)

I remembered when Don Jon rolled out theatrically this past September I was very nervous going in and partaking in it not because the trailers or television spots looked bad, but because they neglected to screen it for us members of the Austin press.  Usually, nine times out of ten, when there’s no screener that’s not a good sign and is frequently an indicator that the film’s a real stinker if you know what I mean.  Thankfully, for at least this movie,  I’m glad to report that’s not the case and had it not been for the various web clips of the hilarious chemistry between Tony Danza and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s onscreen characters, this Blu-ray would have marked my very first viewing of the flick.  Those short clips I found on Fandango virtually sold me on this feature and got me to open up my wallet to see this one theatrically.  If you’re reading this marketers, listen up and take notes because everyone in my inner circle that really understands me knows that’s a hard thing to do to get me to open up and spend my hard earned money.  So you ready to learn more about Don Jon?!   Good, because coincidentally I’m in the mood to talk about it!

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Film 

Don Jon appealed to me first and foremost because of the big names involved like the suave and handsome Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the stunning Scarlett Johansson and the seemingly forever immortal beauty Julianne Moore.  However, the more important determining factor for me in wanting to check this out was the fact that not only was Gordon-Levitt the leading man and the writer of this romantic comedy, coming of age gem, but it also marks his directorial debut.   Say whaaaat?!   I know!   That’s quite an accomplishment for this young man in my opinion and I have nothing but mad respect for the lad.  And in addition to the three star actors I previously mentioned, the film also includes the likes of Rob Brown, Glenne Headly, Brie Larson and Who’s The Boss‘ Tony Danza in supporting roles.  The flick also contains a couple pretty famous cameos as well, but I won’t spoil those for anyone who has not plunged into the Don Jon’s world just yet.

So our story here goes a little something like this.  Italian American, Jon Martello (Gordon-Levitt), is a modern day Don Juan, with a very short list of things he cares about in his life: “my body, my pad, my ride, my family, my church, my boys, my girls, my porn.”  Although he has an active sex life with women he frequently picks up at nightclubs, he looks at pornography on the Internet habitually, even preferring it to real sex.  Gasp!  Yes!  I just said that.  He prefers whacking off to porn over the real thing!  I never said the man was perfect or completely sane for that matter.  Haha.  And if there are any Apple fanboys or aficionados reading this, you’ll have to trust me here when I say that after watching this flick you’ll forever think of your Mac a different way every time you hear that distinct startup sound.  I’ll leave it at that.

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And here’s the part of my review where I declare that as it applies to me, Don Jon is very reminiscent of one of my favorite all-time movies, Saturday Night Fever.   I say that because of the coming of age story regarding our young lead struggling to figure out what he really wants out of life because he thought he already knew and/or had it, and of course his relationship with his hilarious Italian parents (Danza and Headly), including his mostly mute sister, Monica (Larson).   The dynamics between the family members, their interactions and even the way Jon struts down the street reminds me of the legendary Travolta flick in almost every frame rendered and when Saturday Night Fever is among your ten best movies ever made in life list, that’s definitely a very good thing to be compared to.   And while his parents don’t necessarily mess with his hair, they do give him a very hard time constantly drilling him on when he’s going to bring home a good girl.  Mom wants some grandchildren.   Is that what Jon wants?  He says he doesn’t, but I honestly don’t think he knows.  There in lies the conflict.  And for just that brief moment, we have also skated away from the real, awkward problem here…his porn addiction.  Some also relate and call this movie the funnier version of the sex addiction film Michael Fassbender starred in, Shame, but I really don’t see it that way and that’s the last you’ll hear of it from me.

So during a typical night out at the club with his two best friends, Jon notices and hones in on beauty Barbara Sugarman (Johansson), and although she finds him interesting and cute he ultimately fails to pick her up for a one-night stand.  However, unlike his other prey, he finds her extremely interesting and vows to find out who she is taking desperate routes such as Facebook to track her down and ultimately asks her out to lunch.  I guess you can say the two hit it off at lunch and Jon begins the courtship of Barbara, but without the usual sex that accompanies such a relationship.  However, that’s okay.  After all, Jon still has his faithful porn, which will never leave him with blue balls.  Eventually Barbara encourages Jon to go back to school in the night and they even meet each other’s parents and Jon’s couldn’t be happier with Barbara (some hysterical moments with Danza’s character here), who seems to become a regular accompanying him to family meals and even Sunday mass.  And of course, the magic in the bedroom finally happens…but is Jon satisfied or does he still prefer his porn over real sexual relations with Barbara?   Now do you understand the conflict here?!   Let’s just say Barbara catches him in the act and she’s not the least bit happiest about it and delivers an ultimatum to Jon.  But who will he choose, Barbara or his porn on the cleverly disguised old MacBook he has?  And what does Julianne Moore’s character bring to this story?   All this and so much more, including a multitude of NSFW moments, await you on Blu-ray should you chose to indulge in a viewing of Don Jon, and I very much hope you do.

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I also feel the need to go a bit deeper and talk about the ingenious filmmaking involved here.  You see, this isn’t some amateur little boy project.  Joe had been working on this screenplay patiently and conceiving shot frames in his mind for many years before even taking the plunge to make this flick.  While it may not be evident upon your first viewing, I trust during subsequent ones you’ll be able to pick up on the fact of how each of the three acts have their own distinctive sound, look and flair to them.  This may be a simple and straightforward narrative, but no expense or thought was spared by Joe to make sure he conquered his craft not only onscreen, but on the written pages as well.  And God bless him for doing so because as a result Don Jon placed as number ten on my Top 10 films of 2013 list over here.

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Video 

Let me be the first to tell you just how the porn Jon watches looks to him, things look quite splendid and luscious here in the video department.   It’s not the finest presentation you will ever see on Blu-ray, but it’s hardly something you can ever waste a lot of time nitpicking over.  Let’s start by talking about the basics.  The picture is framed in a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.40:1 on a 50 GB dual layer disc rendered in a AVC @ 34 MBPS encode.  I’m a big fan of the detail on display here for all to see from the pores in the actors’ faces and moles on their bodies to the ripped muscles on the elder Danza and the ugly a$$ wallpaper that adorns their dining room walls.  Everything in the background sets is meticulously detailed, chiseled and well thought out and thanks to the video department here, we have a heavyweight winner here.   The colors are all lively, indicative of their environment and the black levels are very deep and inky.  There are no artifacts, specks of dirt or noise to be found anywhere in this print.   Like the film itself, this department is well merited of the praise it deserves.

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Audio 

While things are almost perfect up above in the video department, the same can’t be said for events here in the audio one.  That’s because this DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is spot on exceptional in every which way you can grade it on from engulfing rears to an a$$ kicking score, things are just checked exceeded in every grading category.  Down below in the Extras section we’ll spend a few minutes talking about the ways in which this score was meticulously put together, but for now all you need to know is that your subwoofer will scream, kick and holler and your rear speakers will be actively engaged throughout just like the rigorous exercise Joe’s character underwent offscreen and onscreen.  Yep, that’s right.   Atmosphere is all around you here and when it wants to the score can knock you over or be serene as a butterfly gliding throw a meadow.   I’m in love with this track and you will be too.  Best of all, you’ll never have to struggle to hear what’s being said.   You heard me right (or read me).   The dialog levels are always loud and clear.  So as you can see for a romantic comedy track, this one defies all odds and is hands down one of the best in the genre, in my opinion.  Also selectable from the disc’s main menu are English and Spanish subtitles.

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Extras 

I know this is highly unusual for me, but for the life of me I could not wait to tackle and dive into the special features while watching the movie for the second time on the Blu-ray format.  I have such mad respect for Joe that I was “extra” curious to see how this was all thrown together from his point of view.   After all, he is the director, writer and lead actor.   If anyone should be in the know, it would have to be him.   And thankfully, the man did not disappoint as I’ll tackle all the supplements below in full detail so you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into or missing out on if that is the case.   Quite honestly, this would have been a Blu-ray I would have loved to have an audio commentary on, but we will have to make do with the below extras.  So what do you say?   You ready to tackle them?!

  • Making of Don Jon (HD, 6:45) – Joe talks about the art of filmmaking and states that if you don’t want to be involved in a huge collaborative process, then write a book or something by yourself.   He also spends sometime talking about his DP of choice, Thomas Kloss, as well as his personal trainer who got him into shape for this role and who he later added into the picture as a bartender.  The rest of the crew also spends some time discussing topics such as characters, sets and costumes.
  • Don Jon’s Origins (HD, 7:20) – This featurette traces the film back to its earliest notes all the way back in 2008 when Joe conceived the idea where he explains the film is really a personal one of how the media affects people where you have one guy addicted to porn and that’s the way he sees the world and on the other end of the spectrum you have a woman addicted to traditional romance films and obviously that’s the way she sees the world.  Joe also talks about his doubts he had about making this film and the fact that he wrote one scene at a time over a very long period while staying true and working from his outline.  Last but not least, he talks about how he first worked with Danza back in 1993 on Angels in the Outfield.
  • Joe’s Hats! (HD, 4:50) – This one takes an in-depth look at how Joe was the writer! director and lead actor.  I know I talked about the subject to death up above already, but now we have a special feature glamorizing the fact too.  Joe goes on to say how nowadays it’s easier to do this wearing all the hats and how he could not imagine handing his script over to someone else to direct as he wrote it exactly how he saw it being shot.  He also talks about how he learned a lot from all his short films and videos he has made and cautioned first time filmmakers to never dive into directing a feature before knocking out little guys first.  He also talked about the distinctive styles of the three different acts, which we will talk about in more detail below. 
  • Objectified (HD, 5:07) – This one in my opinion is kind of a throwaway, but it deals with the topic at hand, sex in the media and porn.   Julianne, Joe and Scarlett all discuss how people objectify each other through image and sex in the media.   Tony Danza recounts how in his childhood if he wanted porn, then he had to go to the store to buy it.  Lol.
  • Themes and Variations (HD, 5:39) – This one may be short on runtime, but the wealth of knowledge here is definitely a big wow!  Composer Nathan Johnson discusses the three different acts and the distinct feel of them despite a universal theme that you’ll pick up on in subsequent viewings.  He talks in detail about his approach to the first act with the synth music in the club scenes, the Hollywood romantic strings in the second act and guitars for the third act where I guess you can say things come undone a bit.  Surprisingly, Joe said to Nathan that he wanted to cut the film to his music rather than the other way around.  The sound was also mixed at Skywalker Sound.  Lucky!
  • HitRECord Shorts (HD) – This one is a mesh of different segments so I thought I would dissect them each individually below.   FYI…there is an option to play them all as well.
    • My Favorite Things Request Video (HD, 4:21) – Joe asks people to submit videos to his company that talks about central themes in Don Jon here as to whether people can love things and what are your favorite things.
    • My Favorite Things Remix (HD, 3:42) – This one features a bunch of contributions from people talking about the things they love.
    • My Favorite Things Remix: Film Preservation (HD, 1:23) – One person submitted this piece which talks about their love of film preservation and how digital hasn’t reached those heights yet to conquer the look of movies captured on film.
    • My Favorite Things Remix: Love of Objects (HD, 1:11) – This one examines how quickly people are to admit they love a thing, but rather slowly admit that emotion towards another person.   Lol.  How true!
    • Vinegar (HD, 2:31) – This piece was submitted by someone named Falling Alice and Joe loved it so much he animated the monologue.   The piece examines the many God like uses of vinegar.  It’s actually quite humorous I thought. 
  • Trailer (HD, 2:26) – I think you all know what this one is.
  • DVD (SD, 90 mins.) – Here’s a copy of the film for your kiddies to watch in the back of the mini van.
  • iTunes Digital Copy (SD, 90 mins.) – I hate that Fox is doing this now.   You get an HD copy of the film on UV, but a sh1tty SD copy of the film for iTunes that is only unlockable via the DVD disc.  Sucks!
  • UltraViolet Digital HD (HD, 90 mins.) – And last but not least we have a redeemable code to watch this film on your favorite UV equipped player.  Bah!

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Summary 

Obviously, any fan of Joseph, Scarlett, Julianne and heck even Tony Danza should check this one out.  I’ll even go as far as to say anyone that loves porn or lives with someone addicted to porn should check this one out.   Me on the other hand, I’m here for Joseph.   I have always liked him as an actor and now admire his creative vision as not only a writer, but also as a director too.   The young man has a smart head on his shoulders and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next even if it takes some him some time.   I’ll patiently wait.  The guy deserves all the praise he earns from his debut film here, Don Jon, and while it’s not going to tackle and capture any Oscar awards next year, it’s definitely a romantic comedy I wholeheartedly recommend checking out on the most supreme home media format in the land, Blu-ray.  All aspiring filmmakers should also pay careful attention to all the notes and words of wisdom given to you subconsciously in the disc’s supplemental package.   Until the next time, take care, thanks for reading and have a safe and happy new year.

Don Jon is available on the Blu-ray format on New Years Eve, 12/31, but for anyone who cannot wait…you can own it now via your favorite Digital retailer of choice!  For everyone else who knows and understands that there’s nothing better than watching a film on Blu-ray for the first time, make sure you hit up our pre-order link here and thank you for your support!

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Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

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