People Like Us (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
October 6, 2012 by Dennis Amith
Touching and entertaining, “People Like Us” features the directorial debut of writer Alex Kurtzman and features a wonderful cast with Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks, Olivia Wilde and Michelle Pfeiffer. Recommended!
TITLE: People Like Us
FILM RELEASE: 2012
DURATION: 113 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English DVS 2.0 Dolby Digital, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Language Tracks. Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish
COMPANY: DreamWorks Pictures
RATED: PG-13 (For Language, Some Drug Use and Brief Sexuality)
Release Date: October 2, 2012
Directed by Alex Kurtzman
Written by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jody Lambert
Produced by Bobby Cohen, Roberto Orci, Clayton Townsend
Executive Producer: Alex Kurtzman
Co-Producer: Jody Lambert
Music by A.R. Rahman
Cinematography by Salvatore Totino
Edited by Robert Leighton
Casting by Denise Chamian
Production Design by Ida Random
Art Direction by James E. Tocci
Set Decoration by Douglas A. Mowat
Costume Design by Mary Zophres
Chris Pine as Sam
Elizabeth Banks a Frankie
Michael Hall D’Addario as Josh
Michelle Pfeiffer as Lillian
Olivia Wilde as Hannah
Mark Duplass as Ted
Sara Mornell as Dr. Amanda
Philip Baker Hall as Ike Rafferty
“People Like Us” is directed/produced by Alex Kurtzman (Cowboys & Aliens, The Proposal, Star Trek, TV’s “Hawaii Five-O”), written by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci (Transformers, Star Trek, Cowboys & Aliens) and Jody Lambert (her first writing debut) and composed by award-winning composer A.R. Rahman (127 Hours, Slumdog Millionaire). Chris Pine, who plays Sam, is a twenty-something, fast-talking salesman whose latest deal collapses the day he learns his father has suddenly died. Against his wishes, Sam is called home to put his father’s estate in order and reconnect with his estranged family. While there, he uncovers a startling secret that turns his entire world upside down — he has a 30-year-old sister (Banks) he never knew existed.
Alex Kurtzman is best known for writing for TV series such as “Alias”, “Fringe”, “Hawaii Five-O” and writing the screenplay for films such as “Transformers”, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”, “Star Trek”, “Mission: Impossible III”, “The Island” and “The Legend of Zorro”.
But while known for writing, aside from directing an episode for TV series such as “Alias” and “New Day”, Kurtzman has not directed a film. But in 2012, Kurtzman made his directorial debut with “People Like Us”, which he co-wrote with Robert Orci (“Star Trek”, “The Legend of Zorro”, “Transformers”, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”) and actor Jody Lambert.
The film would star Chris Pine (“Star Trek”, “This Means War”, “Unstoppable”), Elizabeth Banks (“Zack and Miri Make a Porno”, “The Hunger Games”, “The 40-Year-Old-Virgin”), Michelle Pfeiffer (“Scarface”, “Batman Returns”, “What Lies Beneath”), Olivia Wilde (“TRON: Legacy”, “In Time”, “House M.D.”) and Jon Favreau (portrayed by “Iron Man”, “Iron Man 2”, “Swingers”).
“People Like Us” revolves around a New York corporate barterer named Sam (portrayed by Chris Pine) who got into trouble with an expensive shipment that violates federal law and the Federal Trade Commission threatens the company owned by his friend Richards (portrayed by Jon Favreau) for fraudulent business actions. So, now his job is threatened and faces federal inquiry unless he bribes a Federal Official by building a room for his wife at his expense.
Now, desperate in need of money, Sam is in trouble and needs to find the materials to build this room. But when he gets home, he receives news from his girlfriend Hannah (portrayed by Olivia Wilde) that his father had died.
Sam struggles of going back home for the funeral due to his predicament, but Hannah books them on a flight and the two head to Los Angeles.
He arrives late and misses the funeral but as he arrives home, he is met by an upset mother, Lillian (portrayed by Michelle Pfeiffer), because Sam hardly came back to visit.
One day, Sam receives a call from his father’s lawyer (portrayed by Philip Baker Hall) and hoping that he has been left with money, instead he is left with his father’s vinyl collection and left with a shaving kit bag. When Sam opens up the shaving kit bag, inside is $150,000 in cash and instructions for him to give it to a person at the following address.
Who is this person? A mistress?
As Sam goes to the address, he finds out that it belongs to a single mother with a son. When he follows the woman, he finds out her name is Frankie (portrayed by Elizabeth Banks), a recovering alcoholic who works as a bartender and has a troubled 11-year-old son named Josh (portrayed by Michael Hall D’Addario). When he follows her to an AA meeting, he sees her give a speech about her father who died and that the newspaper mentioned how he left behind a wife and son, but no mention of a daughter and how it hurts her deeply.
Now knowing that his father had a daughter that he never knew about, Sam must make a decision. Will he keep the money to himself to help offset his debt or make good with his father’s wishes by giving the money to the sister he never knew he had?
“People Like Us” is presented at 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio). I like the fact that Kurtzman wanted to show a different side of Los Angeles and not utilize the banal stock footage scenes to show the glitzier side of the city. With plenty of outdoor scenes, the picture quality of this film is vibrant, really good detail when it comes to the closeups. Skin tones are natural, black levels are nice and deep and I didn’t see any problems during my viewing of this film. No artifacts or excessive DNR, picture quality for “People Like Us” on Blu-ray was great!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“People Like Us” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and 2.0 Dolby Digital, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Language. While the film is primarily a dialogue-driven film, there are scenes that do utilize the surround channels such as an explosion in the pool, speeding through traffic or crowd ambiance. But “People Like Us” is primarily a front and center-channel driven film.
Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.
“People Like Us” comes with the following special features:
- Number One with a Bullet: The Story Behind “People Like Us” – (14:28) Inspired by true events, filmmakers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci talk about working on big budget films and going back to their roots to create a small film.
- Audio Commentary 1 – Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Alex Kurtzman and Actors Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks
- Audio Commentary 2 – Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Alex Kurtzman and Writers Roberto Orci and Jody Lambert
- Selected Scene Audio Commentary – Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Alex Kurtzman and Actress Michelle Pfeiffer for eight selected scenes.
- Taco Talk – (4:51) Improv takes featuring Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks and Pine talking about filming at his favorite local taco stand, Henry’s Tacos.
- Deleted Scenes/Extended Scenes – (18:25) Featuring introductions by Alex Kurtzman for each of the five deleted scenes.
- Bloopers – (3:24) Outtakes from “People Like Us”.
“People Like Us” comes with a DVD version of the film presented in 2:35:1 aspect ratio – enhanced for 16×9 televisions, English, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, English DVS 2.0 Dolby Digital and Subtitles in English SDH, French and Spanish.
How far would you go in order to get to know more about a sibling that you never knew existed? “People Like Us” a film inspired by real-life events of writer/director Alex Kurtzman discovering at the age of 30, that he had two half-siblings.
A personal film for Kurtzman, but also for he and writer/partner Bob Orci, it was a way to step back and return to their roots of film writing and taking that experience to create their own film and for Alex, directing it.
Taking eight years for Kurtzman to write, in many interviews, Kurtzman has said that this film was something he and Bob Orci wanted to create for themselves and allowing part of their lives to be incorporated into this story. But most importantly, to create an independent film, which would eventually become a studio movie. While a third writer and good friend of Kurtzman, Jody Lamber was brought into bring a voice outside of the ideas that he and Orci brought to the table.
“People Like Us” is a touching film with a pretty solid cast with Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks, Olivia Wilde and Michelle Pfeiffer. Amazing to have this cast, considering the film was shot with a low-budget in Los Angeles.
But with family dramas such as “People Like Us” not really being made anymore for today’s cinema, “People Like Us” is an interesting film about two broken individuals who happen to have a connection thanks to their father. While Chris Pine held his own with wonderful performances by Michelle Pfeiffer, Elizabeth Banks and Olivia Wilde, part of the enjoyment of this film relies on the concept of relationships.
Aside from the character of Sam trying to get to know his sister Frankie, by not telling her who he really is, there are other relationships that come to play in this film. Sam and his girlfriend Hannah, Sam and his mother Lillian and Frankie and her son Josh. Each of these relationships are troubled at one point, but somehow and someway they try to find a resolve to the pain that is affecting their relationship.
While the relationship angle worked very well for the film, the whole story of Sam in trouble with the FTC felt unnecessary. As the film tries to paint him as a man who would do anything for money, the whole trouble of him being in legal trouble felt unnecessary when the film’s primary focus was on relationships and it became more of a distraction.
And one scene that revolves around Frankie trying to threaten the Los Angeles school principal of a lawsuit for her son causing damage to the school pool, for anyone who attends school in Los Angeles know already that causing major damage by explosion at a LAUSD school will automatically lead to expulsion and other problems. So, I found it a bit interesting for her son to even get a second chance. And I felt that perhaps there could have been another way of showing that her son is troubled.
But aside from these minor quips, I enjoyed the film and as for the Blu-ray release, how awesome to have three audio commentary tracks included plus other bonus featurettes. Also, with the film being shot in Los Angeles, many scenes shot outdoors, picture quality looked great. Colors were vibrant, skin tones were natural and I saw no problems with overall picture quality. Of course, the film is primarily dialogue-driven but there are some scenes with crowds and the character of Sam in traffic that is carried over into the surround sounds via ambiance. And last, the Blu-ray release also comes with a DVD version of the film.
Overall, “People Like Us” is a touching and entertaining film with a wonderful cast. While not too deep or emotional, I found Kurtzman and Orci’s writing to be much better than a few of their big budget films. And this return for them to get back to their roots worked to the film’s efficacy and the fact they were able to get this cast with the budget they were given is amazing. And I hope that both Kurtzman and Orci continue in doing more of these type of films or even indie films outside of the big budget sci-fi films which they have done many times throughout their writing oeuvre.
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