January 28, 2012 5 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

I often approach movies like “ATL” with mixed expectations. I’ve never really been too much of a fan of urban movies and as I get older I feel less in touch with today’s youth and especially those of inner-city Atlanta. Then again, one of the pleasures of watching so many movies is that occasionally I’ll go into a film with one expectation and come out with an entire new one. Such is the case with “ATL” a film by Chris Robinson who also directed another favorite of mine, “Antoine Fisher”. “ATL” shows us a side of today’s teens that we either don’t know exists or don’t want to know exists. Atlanta, one of the fastest growing cities in the country, has its share of wealth and riches and we’re reminded of that when we see Esquire (Jackie Long) and the posh Country Club he works at. However “ATL” is more about the whole and less about the four friends that take up the majority of the screen time.

We meet the four friends in question almost right away as the voice over narration tells us things we know and don’t want to hear. Rashad (Tip Harris) and his buddies: Esquire, Teddy (Jason Weaver) and Brooklyn (Albert Daniels) do pretty much everything together and something that really surprised me was their dedication to Esquire. His story is the most compelling in the movie. He’s got a ticket to an Ivy League school but only lacks the letter of recommendation to get in. By his own admission, he or his family doesn’t really know anyone who could write such a letter. This is until he meets John Garnett (Keith David), a millionaire at the Country Club where Esquire works. The focus is constantly shifted to the other three friends, notably how they deal with a drug problem. “ATL” isn’t a movie for everyone and it does manage to avoid the usual pratfalls that movies like this seem to take. Personally I think “Boyz in the Hood” epitomized this very well and even fifteen years ago we saw some of the same problems that today’s teens are facing.

Video: How does it look?

The 2.40:1 HD transfer is among the better-looking out there and it should be as this is a new movie and new movies on HD, well…let’s just say it’s hard to imagine anything looking better. Almost immediately I was reminded of how much an improvement in picture quality a HD disc is over a standard DVD. Mind you, it’s the little nuances that really stand out, details in the background and an overall sharpness that just looks so pristine. Luckily for us, Warner has included a standard DVD version on the HD-DVD as well, so you can compare for yourself the differences between the two. The movie has a varied color palette and I was impressed at the level of detail, particularly in the roller skating sequences. The standard DVD looks good too, but with a reference-quality version on the same disc, it’s easy to say that the HD version is about as good as it gets.

Audio: How does it sound?

The Dolby Digital Plus soundtrack is very active and features a very robust soundtrack (of artists that I’ve never heard of, does that date me a bit)? Dialogue is very clean and clear and while some of the more intense scenes will get your attention, I noticed a lot of scenes that had some very discrete effects happening. Dolby Digital Plus is a good thing, taking the 5.1 to a higher level. Truly, every movie sounds a lot richer and fuller. The standard version has a Dolby Digital 5.1 track that, for all intents and purposes, sounds about the same. I noticed only a few differences between the two but either way you go you’ll be satisfied. I was.

Supplements: What are the extras?

“ATL” doesn’t contain many supplements, mainly just a couple of deleted scenes and a music video (“What You Know”). There is a featurette entitled “In the Rink: A Director’s Journey” that contains some interviews with the cast and crew, but a commentary track would have been welcome. Rounding out the supplements is the original theatrical trailer.

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