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Genre: , ,

Cast: Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, James Franco, Emile Hirsch, Diego Luna, Alison Pill, Lucas Grabeel, Victor Garber, Stephen Spinella

Director: Gus Van Sant

Rated: R

Review By:
Ryan Hamelin

New York University - Tisch '12

"Procrastinate now, don't put it off." -Ellen Degeneres

Release Date: March 10th, 2009
Click to Buy on DVD or Bluray!
Overall Grade: B+


Review By: Ryan Hamelin

Click Here to Read the Theatrical Review!

Click Here For Our VIDEO Interview with James Franco

Click Here For Our VIDEO Interview with Emile Hirsch

Click Here For Our VIDEO Coverage of the Red Carpet Premiere

Click Here For Our Interview with Sean Penn

Click Here For Our Interview with James Franco

Milk (Blu Ray)

Movie Grade: A-

DVD Features Grade: B

Overall Grade: B+

All praise the mighty Sean Penn. Sure, Mickey Rourke got completely and utterly robbed at the Oscars by Penn's portrayal of America's first openly gay politician, but there's a reason why the guy keeps getting nominated year after year. Like Rourke, Penn's performance is the foundation for the entire film and it is this, more than anything else that makes him worthy of the praise and adulation he received this year. The film works because of his performance, and it is easily the greatest of his career. I wholeheartedly agree with DeNiro's quip at the Oscars, "How is it that Sean's managed to get all those straight parts?" He is nothing short of glowing here, and while his ensemble is good, he is clearly the star of the show.

Speaking of an ensemble, it's hard to get better than Josh Brolin, James Franco, Emile Hirsch, and Diego Luna. Each and every member of the cast does their best to take some of the weight off Penn's shoulders, and it turns out they can carry quite a bit. Even Hirsch, who has only had the vaguest hints of true talent in his past filmography, easily slips into the shoes of Cleve Jones, one of Harvey Milk's closest advisors and organizers. The whole film unspools with a deliberate and steady pacing which, depending on the events of the timeline, can slide dangerously close to boredom. However, it never does, and that is a tribute to the Academy Award Winning screenplay by Dustin Lance Black as well as the formidable editing talent behind the scenes.

In no uncertain terms, Gus Van Sant is the only person who could have directed this film. His visual sensitivities, and the performances he manages to get out of his actors (he even made Ben Affleck look great for gods sake) lend him the versatility to tell Milk's story at an honest and affecting level. Van Sant, having resigned himself to smaller independent projects after the overwhelming success of Good Will Hunting, returns to Hollywood with all of the pizzazz he left with. You have to hand it to the guy, he really knows how to craft a film for the optimum emotional impact. As the audience cheers out loud for the defeat of Prop 6 in Milk's time, they are haunted by the recent passage of Prop 8, something the filmmakers weren't even aware of while they were editing the film.

The finished piece is an exercise in motivation, passion, and complete

and utter conviction that would be admirable in any field. Demerits include odd choices of framing which leave a ton of headroom above the actors, a generally bland color palette, and the occasional slow sequence or repetitive scene. Among the many dull and plodding Academy Award offerings of this past fall, Milk is a bright light of hope and optimism that pulls it out of the pack. Overall, it's a great film, and deserves to be nominated among the year's best. Penn's performance in and of itself is worth the rent, and despite the subject matter, the story is one which reaches across all social stratifications and will be a source of inspiration for many years to come. Be sure to check this one out.

The Extras:

This is one of the more lackluster Blu-Ray transfers I've seen. While everything does look sharp and detailed and the lighting comes across brilliantly, this really isn't a film that benefits from ultra high-resolution imagery. In the theaters, the grittier older look fit perfectly with the tone of the movie, but here it just looks uninspired and I'd say it would be more worthwhile to buy the movie on good old standard def DVD. The special features include 3 featurettes, each one detailing a different part of the production from the original historical figure, to the cast and crew, to the marches and the staging of the larger sequences. The lack of commentary is disappointing, if only because Penn himself is nowhere to be found in the interviews on the other features.

Movie Grade: A-

DVD Features Grade: B

Overall Grade: B+

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