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Special effects propel "Gravity" (Blu-ray review)

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Gravity

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Gravity (2013)

Starring: Sandra Bullock

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A routine spacewalk turns into utter chaos when a debris storm collides with the space shuttle. When astronauts Ryan Stone (Bullock) and Matthew Kowalski (George Clooney) are detached from their work stations and sent hurtling into space with limited oxygen, no gravity, and nothing to catch them, they'll need an absolute miracle to survive.

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The Breakdown:

"Gravity" is a very basic story: Two astronauts out in space. Two astronauts further out in space. Two astronauts do not want to be out in space anymore. But the thing that makes "Gravity" worth watching is the sheer emotion that goes into that story. By putting yourself in the boots of the astronauts, it actually is quite horrifying. It's a nightmare come true. Once the debris storm hits, the story spirals out of control (pun intended) into, practically, a string of absolutely unthinkable worst-case scenarios. Clooney provided a grounded perspective (irony intended) and Bullock does a great job of conveying probably the way that every normal person in those circumstances - panic mixed with a frantic desire to survival. The entire 90-minute movie is basically a two-person show, with Bullock enjoying a majority of the screen time, and being able to keep an audience on the edge of its collective seat the entire time is a testament to both great acting and great directing. The special effects are absolutely incredible, looking completely authentic and faithful, as far as the audience's untrained eye can see, to the laws of physics. By watching the Blu-ray's bonus features, one will come to find out that the movie is much more symbolic than the typical moviegoer might have realized on first viewing, which is also pretty fascinating. If you're nerdy about behind-the-scenes stuff and special effects, you've got to check out the bonus features.

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The Verdict:

There's a reason why "Gravity" won every single technical award at the Oscars in 2014. It's an absolute marvel, technologically, boasting, perhaps, the greatest CGI effects ever done. So props to Alfonso Cuaron and friends for that. Brilliant, brilliant work. The biggest weak point of "Gravity" is its story, which, as previously mentioned, is rather basic. Ninety minutes of two people floating out in space can only tell so much of a story. But those are 90 minutes of pure anxiety and paranoia. By the time the movie is over, viewers will hate outer space and want to kiss the very carpet beneath their feet. In the end, isn't that really the goal of this movie? To send audiences on such an emotional, visual roller coaster that they greater appreciate the world around them? Well done. The best compliment one could give "Gravity" would be to refer to it as "an experience" - and it really is. However, it is also of note that, though the movie is definitely beautiful as a hi-definition Blu-ray, viewers who shelled out the big bucks to see the film in IMAX 3D like the Salt Lake City DVD Examiner did, may not have quite the same immersive experience that they did in the theater the first time around. Nevertheless, it's a great movie (though not "Best Picture" great) and it deserves to be watched.

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Similar movies: "Apollo 13" (1995), "Apollo 18" (2011), "Cast Away" (2002)

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Blu-ray bonus features:

- Audio in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese

- Subtitles in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese

- "Gravity: Mission Control": 9 behind-the-scenes featurettes - Fascinating stuff about symbolism, space, and special effects. Worth a watch.

- Five shot breakdowns: in-depth looks at five key scenes in the movie and the thought, special effects, and cinematography that went into shooting them.

- "Collision Point: The Race to Clean Up Space": A documentary narrated by Ed Harris

- "Aningaaq": A short film by Jonas Cuaron with optional introduction

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Directed by: Alfonso Cuaron

Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures

Running time: 91 minutes

MPAA rating: PG-13 for "intense perilous sequences, some disturbing images, and brief strong language," including mild profanity throughout, some moderately-offensive religious references and one use of the F-word, and an adrenaline-induced hallucination.

Costars George Clooney

Blu-ray release date: February 25, 2014

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