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Warner Home Video presents
ATL: Combo HD-DVD (2006)

"In his house, we never discussed our problems. We just watched Good Times. It semed like the answer to everything."
- Rashad (Tip Harris)

Review By: Mark Zimmer  
Published: August 01, 2006

Stars: Tip Harris, Lauren London, Evan Ross
Other Stars: Lonette McKee, Antwan Andre Patton, Mykelti Williamson, Keith David, Albe Daniels, Jackie Long, Jason Weaver
Director: Chris Robinson

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for drug content, language, sexual material, some violence
Run Time: 01h:47m:19s
Release Date: July 18, 2006
UPC: 012569810297
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ A-AA B-

DVD Review

Plenty of cities have been the focus of films, but for some reason Atlanta hasn't been at the heart of as many as one might expect. That omission is remedied in this effort by first-time director (but veteran music video director) Chris Robinson and a mostly-novice cast. This coming of age comedy-drama is something of a love letter to the city of Atlanta and the 'hood of Mechanicsburg, centering on of all things a roller-skate rink.

The picture follows four friends just weeks from high school graduation. Rashad Swann (Tip Harris, better known as rapper T.I.) is trying to keep his little brother Antwone (Evan Ross) out of trouble, but Antwone finds the allure of drug dealer Marcus (Antwan Andre Patton, rapper Big Boi of Outkast) irresistible. Esquire (Jackie Long) has aspirations of attending an Ivy League school, and sees an opportunity to get know tycoon John Garnett (Keith David) and get a letter of recommendation. The other two, who get somewhat shorter shrift storywise, are New York-born Brooklyn (Albe Daniels) and hustler Teddy (Jason Weaver). The group is hoping to make a splash at the Cascade Roller Rink in the upcoming Skate Wars, but Rashad keeps getting distracted by ghetto girl New New (Lauren London), who has some secrets of her own.

With a cast full of rappers, it's both surprising and refreshing that the film doesn't glorify the gangsta culture. In fact, it has a deep current of innocence (thanks in no small part to the wholesomeness of the roller rink). It's good to see young black men in solidly positive roles, with aspirations and making moral choices, in contrast to the typical grim fare Hollywood usually offers as examples. The result makes for a character-driven story that's quite accessible even if you're not from Atlanta or the south.

Although there are few accomplished actors in the cast, the performances are very solid and naturalistic. Tip Harris in particular comes off as leading-man material, with an angular and very expressive face and a broad emotional register. Evan Ross more than holds his own as the younger brother. Mykelti Williamson provides much of the comedy, and he brings the boys' eccentric guardian Uncle George to vivid and humorous life. One of the highlights is his rant at the youngsters' getting more romantic action than he is, a perfectly-timed comic diatribe. Keith David provides plenty of gravitas as Garnett, first taking Esquire under his wing, then rejecting him when he realizes that the boy comes from Mechanicsburg, his own place of origin. There's plenty of class distinction on display, but there's also hope for social mobility.

One of the interesting aspects is the restraint on a number of points. Even though one of the central foci is the agitation of sexuality in hormonally-charged young men, the picture never devolves into generic teen sex comedy territory. The sexuality is undeniably there (especially in POV shots of the young women skating), but it's taken seriously as part of the coming of age. Language is a shade harsh, but it's not the endless parade of profanities one might expect either. Finally, the allure of the quick money to be made in the drug trade isn't denied, but it's depicted in for the most part in a negative light. The result is a positive and uplifting picture that offers hope without being clichéed or pat.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.40:1 - Widescreen2.40:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyesyes

Image Transfer Review: The combo HD-DVD features excellent transfers on both sides, with deep black levels, good shadow detail and vibrant color. The HD-DVD side in particular is excellent, as one would expect from a 2006 transfer of a movie only a few months old. There is tons of fine detail throughout, and textures pop off the screen. The visual experience is often overwhelmingly colorful. Beyond a little compression ringing, there's little to dislike here.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
English, Spanishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Dolby Digital + 5.1 tracks are offered in both English and Spanish. They're very clean, as one would expect. The soundtrack has plenty of low bass that is frequently house-rattling. The standard 5.1 side seems to be at somewhat higher levels, but the HD-DVD version feels somewhat cleaner, with better bass definition.

Audio Transfer Grade: A


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
5 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Elite
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Music video
Extras Review: The SD-DVD side contains several extras that are worthwhile. The best is a 28m:45s making-of documentary that discusses the roller rink as a source of the Atlanta music scene, and features plenty of behind the scenes material. One key segment features Robinson trying to coax a better performance out of London. A set of five deleted scenes provides some additional business but really don't add much. An anamorphic widescreen trailer is included, as is a nonanamorphic music video from T.I. for What You Know, echoing a frequent theme of the movie—that it's not what you know, but who you know.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

Debut director Chris Robinson knocks the ball out of the park with this outstanding coming of age comedy drama, featuring some excellent performances and something different from the usual Hollywood treatment of young black men.


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