January 28, 2012 6 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

This film has a narrative of sorts, but it is more than just that, much broader than a simple linear storyline. Since I don’t want to ruin the smaller details and nuances, I will just give a brief overview and allow you to discover the rest as you watch. Sam Krichinsky (Armin Mueller-Stahl) has come to America with most of his family, where they hope to establish new and prosperous lives. His family is Jewish and as he looks toward his new home, he sees not just a new land, but also a dream and hope for the future of his family. As time passes, Sam and his relatives experience all sorts of changes, from times in the slums to times when life is treating them better than ever. But no matter how the outside world was, the family also changed and evolved, sometimes in the same patterns, but sometimes much different also. So yes, this movie has a traditional storyline of sorts, but in essence, this is more about the American experience and family than a narrative device.

I was never that impressed with the reviews for Avalon, but since I like Barry Levinson’s work, I decided to give this disc a spin. As I said, I had heard a lot of good reviews for this movie, but they all seemed to praise the idea more than the execution. But Levinson is a skilled director and the cast looked solid, so I knew it was worth a look. In the end, I do think the idea is a good one and Levinson seems to have put a lot of personal effort into Avalon, but I just wasn’t that taken with the film as a whole. You can see Levinson’s commitment throughout the picture, but aside from a few sequences and some terrific performances, it all seems to fall short of the potential here. I do think Avalon is a solid picture and all, but it could have been much better I think, which is why I am let down here. I wanted to like this more, as I liked the other Baltimore based efforts from Levinson, but I think this was less than impressive. But if you’re a fan of Levinson and his Baltimore based films, then by all means give this disc a rental and see what happens.

As writer and director of Avalon, Barry Levinson (Rain Man, The Natural) was able to inject a lot of personal texture into the movie. As the liner notes report, Levinson based this on his own family members and spoke with distant relatives to gain insight, which shows on screen. I think Levinson is a very talented director and love some of his other efforts, but I think he falters here, perhaps due to the personal nature of the subject matter. On the normal scale, his direction is more than solid, but I think he is less than his usual self, which is a let down. But at times, his usual traits emerge and that proves to be just enough to carry this movie to the end. This is by no means his finest hour, but I suppose his work here is still stable and worth a look for fans. The cast here includes Armin Mueller-Stahl (Shine, The Game), Joan Plowright (The Scarlet Letter, Surviving Picasso), Elijah Wood (Deep Impact, North), Kevin Pollak (End of Days, The Usual Suspects), Aidan Quinn (The Lemon Sisters, In Dreams), and Elizabeth Perkins (Indian Summer, 28 Days).

Video: How does it look?

Avalon is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This is a good presentation, but some flaws do surface that keep the score down. I saw more grain that I expected, but not to the extent that it distracts from the film, so no real concerns there. I also think the source print shows too much debris and damage, as a 1990 film should look cleaner than this. But again, the problems are not massive, so I won’t knock the score too much in the end. The colors and contrast seem in order though, which ensures the image remains stable and effective. This transfer has some errors present, but I still think this is an above average visual treatment.

Audio: How does it sound?

The included 2.0 surround track is more than adequate, since this film is driven by dialogue and other conservative audio elements. The track seems very clean and effective, as sound effects come across in fine form and Randy Newman’s musical soundtrack is also well presented. But this is not the movie to choose for dynamic presence, so don’t expect much more than a basic treatment with some active scenes tossed in. The dialogue is crisp and sharp at all times however, with no volume issues at all to report. This disc also houses 2.0 surround tracks in Spanish, French, and Portuguese, as well as subtitles in those languages plus English, Chinese, Korean, and Thai.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This disc includes some talent files and the film’s theatrical trailer.

Disc Scores