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  1. #1
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    Default NEW IN TOWN (Blu-ray; Lionsgate)



    Studio Name: Lionsgate (Gold Circle Films/Epidemic Pictures/Edmunds Entertainment/Safran Company)
    MPAA Rating: PG
    Disc/Transfer Information: 1080p High Definition; 16X9 Widescreen Presentation 1.78:1; Region 1 (U.S.) Release
    Tested Audio Track: English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (tested at core 5.1 DTS)
    Director: Jonas Elmer
    Starring Cast: Renee Zellweger, Harry Connick, Jr., JK Simmons


    SYNOPSIS:

    A couple of things stand out immediately upon reviewing Jonas Elmer's New in Town after seeing it theatrically, and now on Blu-ray at home...JK Simmons' absolutely waste of talent in his role as a bumbling, idiotic-talking Minnesota "Podunk" and the truly delicious and sexy-looking Renee Zellweger in her short, short skirt suits and outrageously high stilettos. Man, is she cute in this...

    Zellweger, coming a long way since the Jerry Maguire days, plays Lucy Hill, a sex kitten of a high powered executive living in chic Miami and newly assigned to analyze the future of her company's operations in the outskirts of Minnesota. She's got her eye on a promotion if she accepts and pulls this assignment off -- that is, go to this one-cow town and downsize the manufacturing efforts of the foods company she is comfortable working for in sunny Miami. A couple of clichés from other comedy formulas are at work here, notably the environmental "shock" Zellweger's character experiences when she comes off the plane from Florida and walks outside of the Minnesota airport terminal, nearly freezing her hoo-ha off as the below-zero wind blows right under her short skirt. But there's more -- Zellweger's "Lucy" makes a contact for her job in Minnesota in the form of another "Podunk dunce" played by Siobhan Fallon Hogan who is supposed to be her executive assistant there, but quickly shows her hick roots. What's worse, Hogan's character attempts to set her up with Harry Connick, Jr., a widower living with his daughter in this iced-over weirdo town, but who turns out to be the local union representative for Zellweger's company.

    While Connick, Jr. is tolerable here, the most ill-placed role has to be JK Simmons' character as the plant foreman -- his Minnesota redneck lines are simply not convincing nor funny, and it's difficult to imagine Simmons playing more memorable characters in the past after watching this, such as the skinhead leader in HBO's Oz or J. Jonah Jameson in Spider-Man. It was a horrible casting decision. As Zellweger deals with the abundant amounts of idiots before her in this town and under her watch at the manufacturing plant, she begins to get close to Connick, Jr. in an unrealistic scenario resembling nothing cemented in the real world; he flirts with her, she does a makeover on his daughter before the Valentine's dance, she goes hunting with him and Simmons' character (after Simmons is laid off as the foreman due to budget cuts Zellweger was forced to make) and the entire production is slathered in a thick, syrupy coating of stereotypical romantic underpinnings familiar to anyone who has spent time with this kind of cinema for any length.

    There's some kind of a message here -- that this "city girl" can come full circle as a stuck-up fashion twit working in a posh office in Miami, then get a taste of the real world and what real working people go though when they lose honest jobs, all the while recalling her father's roots in the foods company when he worked in the factories. Is it a "message"? I'm uncertain of that, truly -- but it seems to be the underlying pulse that makes New in Town go. Inbetween, Zellweger gets stuck in a snow bank when her rental car in Minnesota flies off the road after just missing a cow, she's lied to by the factory workers about there being a "Groundhog Day" they must take off for, along with a holiday devoted to the fact that the local pond has frozen solid...what's truly frightening beyond any of this nonsense that runs rampant in the picture is the fact that people do truly live like this in certain parts of the United States...

    The unavoidable romance between Zellweger's city girl character and the bearded, buck-toothed Connick, Jr. culminates in a moment where she almost gets in his pants as the two of them await the return of his daughter from the dance; unfortunately, as she is getting comfortable with these hick freaks in the town and falling in love with Connick, Jr.'s character, her company is getting impatient on the layoffs and closings she is supposed to be overseeing. Ultimately, she is called back to Miami where she is told that the Minnesota plant will be closed down and all the employees will lose their jobs -- some kind of conscience grows inside Zellweger's character's brain, and she suddenly feels sorry for these people (remember when I mentioned the thick layering of clichés?).

    Feeling compelled to do something, she takes it upon herself to return to the frozen tundra of Minnesota and capitalize on the concept of taking her assistant's tapioca recipe and mass-marketing it. The plan works, as they test it out on folks at a local mall who eat the pudding up like Peter North down on Jessica Drake's...well, never mind that. Ignoring orders from her superiors in Miami, "Lucy" finds a way to reinstate Simmons, Connick, Jr. and the other factory hicks so they can fix the broken equipment in the plant to start making the tapioca. When her company catches wind of this, they decide to back the operation based on the great feedback about the product -- but with Zellweger now back in Florida after getting her raise to V.P., things start to come loose again in Minnesota and the company is again threatened to be sold.

    There really isn't anything to New in Town -- it's a light, hollow comedy, I suppose, that doesn't break any new ground the way screamers such as 40 Year Old Virgin and I Love You, Man have in this genre. Connick, Jr. almost sleepwalks through some of his lines, and the absolutely horrendous, embarrassing performance by the bumbling JK Simmons is really one for the books; he should be ashamed of himself in this (in truth, he didn't have much to work with by the writing team of Kenneth Rance and C. Jay Cox).

    But oh...does Zellweger look absolutely delicious in those short skirts...


    NEW IN TOWN REVIEW CONTINUED BELOW...

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    NEW IN TOWN REVIEW CONTINUED...

    VIDEO QUALITY: HOW DOES THE DISC LOOK?

    Nothing special here. Lionsgate provides a 1.78:1 1080p transfer that looks good where it's supposed to, yet fluctuates between some softness and wispy veils of grain. Some images showed great pop and detail, then some collapsed into a plain vanilla softness; the beginning of the transfer is marred by a pasty, bland look to the characters and environmental shots -- but in all fairness, the bleak Minnesota landscape in the dead of winter didn't have a great deal going for it. Shot mainly in Canada, New in Town was somewhere in the middle in terms of video quality on Blu-ray.

    The sequences in snow exhibited some extra noise and grain around the fine areas and there was an exhibition of it running in the background of these scenes; grain itself wasn't an issue, as it's kept at bay most of the running time (save for some moments it popped up in difficult lighting shots, etc.) but there were parts of this transfer that slipped into that "doesn't look like high definition here..." realm.

    Scenes with Zellweger jogging on the beachfront in Miami looked superb, with the lush, almost neon-green of the palm trees showing good impact and the sun-lit beach behind her glowing in that HD radiance and clarity, although the blue sky in some of these shots were riddled with some noise and grain.

    I don't think you'd be buying this for the video transfer, though. :what: I also found it quite humorous that Lionsgate's new marketing gimmick appears to be to include a moniker on the front covers of the BD boxes exclaiming 1080p/BEYOND HIGH DEFINITION!

    This didn't look like high definition for the most part, let alone go beyond it...

    AUDIO QUALITY: HOW DOES THE DISC SOUND?

    Another head-scratching decision by Lionsgate taking into consideration the market and genre here: a 7.1 Master Audio track is provided -- complete with the awesome new opening "Master Audio" logo clip -- but it doesn't offer anything in the way of any superb sonics given what it has to work with here.

    Again, my system "dumbed down" the 7.1 track to 5.1, and ran the mix at the DTS core -- so I had two handicaps already facing me. Still, the track lacked tactile punch and required more master volume than usual to get immersed in it. On the plus side, surround usage was very generous, from the echo support for score and music to the swooshing of snow when Zellweger's car hits the ice bank to ambient effects depicting Connick, Jr. getting shot in the ass when Zellweger accidentally discharges her rifle during the hunting-with-the-boys sequence. There was an "issue" with the way score and music tracks on this mix were handled, though; it seemed the effects for music spread throughout the soundstage were in too much of an "echo" and it made some of the songs come off sounding flat and matrixed through the speakers. It's difficult to explain, but this may have been a combination of the mixing down effect from 7.1 to 5.1 to satisfy my arrangement coupled with the core DTS stripped from the MA stream.

    SUMMARY:

    A chick flick in almost every sense of the word, except the chick here isn't dolloped with Fendi and Bebe shopping bags; my wife enjoyed this in the theater and now at home, as well, but I didn't find anything to like about it. If this is your thing, give it a whirl. Fellas, you may get a rise or kick out of seeing the sexy Zellweger strut her stuff in her skirts and heels.

    RECOMMENDATIONS:

    Worth an evening's rental. We found this used online for just about what the used and new DVD was going for, so if you can do the same if your spouse liked/likes it, do what I did. But don't pay full price for this, please.

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