21: TWO-DISC SPECIAL EDITION

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THE STORY SO FAR:

Inspired by the true story of MIT students who mastered the art of card counting and took Vegas casinos for millions in winnings. Looking for a way to pay for tuition, Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) finds himself quietly recruited by MIT’s most gifted students in a daring plot to break Vegas. With the help of a brilliant statistics professor (Kevin Spacey) and armed with fake IDs, intelligence and a complicated system of counting cards, Ben and his friends succeed in breaking the impenetrable casinos. Now, his challenge is keeping the numbers straight and staying one step ahead of the casinos before it all spirals out of control.

SPECIAL FEATURES

  • â?¢Â Filmmakers’ Commentary
    � Digital Copy of Film
    � Basic Strategy: A Complete Film Journal
    � Money Plays: A Tour of the Good Life Featurette
    � The Advantage Player Featurette

THE CRITICISM

The mistaken presumption behind this film is that fiction is more compelling than the truth, a flaw that haunts so many well-intentioned “biopics” and “based-on-a-true-story” shams. The real-life Dr. John Nash, for instance, is such a more complex human being than the bland composite of stereotypes Ron Howard served up in “Beautiful Mind.” The film “Coach Carter”–and perhaps “Blow”–are the only “true story” flicks in recent memory that didn’t grope for a fairytale ribbon to wrap reality in–the magical team ends up losing in the first round in “Coach Carter” (in the movie as they did in real life), and “Blow” dares to leave audiences unappeased as we watch poor Johnny Depp pursue his greed all the way to a life sentence in prison and permanent dissociation from his beloved daughter.

Here, though, we have a contorted plot so deeply implausible it’s almost condescending. There was no crooked professor’s guiding hand in Ben Mezrich’s life luring him into a foreign terrain of adventure, no Bobby Knight halftime tirades in a Bellagio suite between hands, and that is exactly the thing that makes Mr. Mezrich’s story, and the book upon which the film is based, so much more interesting. Furthermore, the real MIT wiz-kids began by failing–miserably, repeatedly, and hugely. Not until the fourth or fifth incarnation of the band of wiz-kids from Cambridge did the money actually start to come in.

The DVD is a fun release that’s got a nice special edition release. There are a ton of featurettes on the release that cover everything from the production to Blackjack. What kills me about the release is how lop-sided the release feels. The first disc is sparse, while a ton of the featurettes get dumped on the second disc. It seems a little scattershot, especially when it’s connected to a slightly shaky A/V quality. Still, I’d recommend it for a rental before purchase.Â

THE BREAKDOWN

  • Video: A transfer that is pretty good, but has a little digital noise.
  • Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Extras: Featurettes, Commentary and Trailer
  • Packaging: Keepcase in a Slipcover
  • Final Score: 94% – A

RELEASE DATE: 07/22/08

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