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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Politics > Finance > White Collar Crime > History > Economy > Crisis > Drama > Big Business > Chasing Madoff (2011/Cohen Media/MPI DVD)/Margin Call (2011/Lionsgate DVD)/Too Big To Fail (2012/HBO Blu-ray w/DVD)

Chasing Madoff (2011/Cohen Media/MPI DVD)/Margin Call (2011/Lionsgate DVD)/Too Big To Fail (2012/HBO Blu-ray w/DVD)


Picture: C/C/B- & C     Sound: C+/B-/B- & C+     Extras: B/B/C+     Films: B/B+/B



Now to continue our look at the few releases that have the boldness to cover what really happened during The 2008 Financial Crisis.  The story is so complex and unbelievable that it takes at least five releases, four documentaries and two dramas (the housing bubble part of Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story applies here; see link below) have done a great job, but I bet this will just be for starters and there is sadly more to come as the neglect, irresponsibility and abuse that started in the 1980s is finally setting in.



First we have the remarkable Jeff Prosserman documentary Chasing Madoff (2011) which tells us about the many years that led to federal authorities to finally arrest Bernard L. Madoff for conducting one of the biggest ponzi schemes and frauds in all financial history, conning people out of literally billions of dollars, including celebrities, big businessmen, banks, investors and the government, though more than a few people knew what was going on and allowed it to continue until the whole financial system nearly collapsed.


It also turns out that some great people with a conscious started to notice years before that Madoff was up to something, was being oddly standoffish and would get suddenly mad, belligerent and angry when anyone even lightly and politely asked about how he did it or even for any advice or tips on how to succeed.  Too bad he was light years away from a real financial genius like Warren Buffett.  Instead, he was following the fraudulent Enron model of money that was not there.


For years, Harry Markopolus, Frank Casey, Neil Chelo, Gaytri Kachroo and Michael Ocrant were finding out what no one seemed to know or some very powerful people may have wanted to cover up since they were just making so much money.  This is an extremely well shot, told and explained tale of how these fine people were isolated and eventually very concerned for the country and even for their own lives about the truth they knew that was the “big lie” and best kept ugly secret of its time until the calamity that followed occurred.


Of course, Madoff was only one of the giant reasons awful things happened and he deserves 100% discredit for what he did, but there is so much more to this and other who are as equally guilty for other big reasons.  Yet, he is the only one going to jail?


This is very brave, honest documentary filmmaking and one of the best documentaries of the year, but you have not heard of it yet because there are many who are afraid you might and then you might start to think about what is really going on.  I have been recommending it since I first saw it and consider it must-see viewing for everyone.  Cohen Media and MPI deserve a big thanks for getting it distributed.


Extras include an Alternative Ending (but not one where people did not loose their money, though if some people had just listened…), Trailer, fine Deleted Scenes (I wish some had stayed) and a feature length Director’s Commentary track worth hearing after watching this compelling work.



As I raved about it months ago on our home page in during awards season in an essay entitled The Most Underrated Motion Picture Of 2011: J.C. Candor’s “Margin Call”: An Instant American Classic You Must See!, I was still hoping more people would see this film and not enough have.  To explain the film, on Blu-ray and in the DVD edition we are covering here, what follows is most of the body of my rave about the film:


“Occasionally…, a gem shows up that does just that (think Joel Schumacher’s Falling Down (1992) with Michael Douglas for instance) and along with big studios pushing their prime releases for the season, Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions have produced, backed and cleverly distributed a bold film about the financial crisis that not enough people seem to want to talk about despite it affecting us all deeply as much now as when it started.  The feature-length debut for newcomer writer/director J.C. Candor called Margin Call.


At a major financial institution involved in stocks and investment trading, a bunch of mass firings quietly starts up including a veteran analyst (Stanley Tucci) who has been working on a projection at the company that is unfinished but will reveal a disaster to come that will send devastating ripples through the world economy.  From an amazing screenplay, no moment is wasted in this incredible work that gives us an inside look at the beginnings of the crisis that some smart, ambitious films did not quiet pull off prior to this release.


As impressive as its writing, directing, production and the honesty of the situation bold portrayed is one of the best ensemble casts of the year including Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany (along with the underrated Priest is the most undervalued actor of the year), Jeremy Irons, Demi Moore (in her best work in years), Simon Baker, Penn Badgley, Mary McDonnell and Co-Producer Zachary Quinto (Mr. Spock from the revived Star Trek) all at the height of their acting powers makes this the kind of film we used to get all the time and that we (to say the least) do not get enough.


It is a fantastic work that the more people see it, the more they will be talking about it, remembering it and will stay as relevant as when it was first released, only becoming more so as the topics dealt with continue to loom large in our lives and in this critical election year.  I wanted to alter everyone to this great work in advance of our official home video coverage, so don’t miss it!”


Extras include a From The Deck: Photo Gallery, Missed Calls moments with cast & crew, Revolving Door: The Making Of Margin Call, more fine Deleted Scenes with optional commentary (again, I wish some had stayed) and a feature length Director & Producer Commentary track worth hearing after watching the film.



Equally as impressive with its cast, Curtis Hanson’s Too Big To Fail (2012) may not be making the big statement in the same way by placing itself in a corporation and showing us how profound the situation got for the crisis and the country, but goes into the actual banks and U.S. Government in how this all happened and even with some likely extrapolation and fictionalization, really hits the nail on the head in being an insider’s view of the disaster.


William Hurt plays Henry Paulson, who was running oversight of the big banks when it looks like one of them is in over their heads about debt and the housing bubble about to burst.  As you have seen and heard, people bought houses they could not afford, were encouraged deliberately to do so and when things went bad, the dealmakers tried to blame the recipients 100% despite the broken laws, deception and (here’s the best one), a crazy and hardly known (especially when most of these people signed for said houses) action called “robo-signing” where their contracts would be signed for them whether they liked it or not.


Few have heard that last one and it is not in any of these releases, but the situation was more underhanded than you’d think.  Then as the one crisis is possibly averted, a big insurance company (AIG) is about to teeter as well, then you add Madoff, other corporations playing with phony financial formulas, the buying and selling of debt and the ability of some unknown people to get rid of the only watchdog (Elliott Spitzer, never mentioned in this film) who might have been able to stop this and you just start to get the picture of what was going on.


Director Hanson is a very smart guy, though I am not a fan of most of his films like the overrated L.A. Confidential, but did like the underrated Wonder Boys and believe this is as strong as any of his theatrical film releases.  Like Margin Call, we have a solid cast joining Hurt (all in fine performances) including Paul Giamatti as Ben Bernanke, Billy Crudup as Timothy Geithner, Matthew Modine as John Thain, Bill Pullman as Jamie Dimon, Dan Hedaya as Barney Frank, a memorable James Woods, John Heard, Topher Grace, Tony Shalhoub and Ed Asner as Warren Buffett.  The rest of the cast is as good and the script by Peter Gould based on the Andrew Ross Sorkin book is an ace of a job.


Extras include Digital Copy for PC and PC portable devices, a Making Of featurette, Opening The Vault To The Financial Crisis featurette and Timeline Of A Crisis section.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on all three DVDs are all a little softer than I would have liked and apart from this coverage, have not caught up to the Margin Call Blu-ray, but get that version if you have a player.  Chasing Madoff deserves a Blu-ray and should get one down the line, the sooner the better.  That leaves the 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Too Big To Fail, which is shot on 35mm film, but has more than its share of 1080i HDTV news footage and some occasional style choices that hold it back, though there are some nice shots here throughout.


All three DVDs have lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mixes that are dialogue-based and limited as you would expect from such documentary productions, but Margin Call has more a more active use of surrounds and is the best of the three, matching the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on the Too Big To Fail Blu-ray.  This also suggests that the DTS-MA on the Margin Call Blu-ray would outdo all on this list.



I strongly recommend all three titles, but would also highly recommend you check out these other three releases at their accompanying links on Blu-ray and DVD:


Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story (esp. housing bubble section)



Client 9: The Rise & Fall Of Elliott Spitzer + Inside Job (DVD only)




-   Nicholas Sheffo


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