"Talk to Me" is not the best biopic out there, but it's a fascinating testimony to one of radio's premiere disc jockeys.
Talk to Me (2007, HD-DVD)
Directors: Kasi Lemmons
Producers: Don Cheadle
Writers: Michael Genet (screenplay) and Rick Famuyiwa (screenplay) Michael Genet (story)
Features: * Two Featurettes * Deleted Scenes * Bookmarking * 5.1 Dolby TrueHD * Dolby Digital 5.1 Plus
Don Cheadle ... Ralph Waldo 'Petey' Greene
Chiwetel Ejiofor ... Dewey Hughes
Bruce McFee ... Prison Sign-In Guard
Mike Epps ... Milo Hughes
Peter MacNeill ... Warden Cecil Smithers
Adam Gaudreau ... Escorting Guard
Taraji P. Henson ... Vernell Watson
Cedric the Entertainer ... 'Nighthawk' Bob Terry
Martin Sheen ... E.G. Sonderling
Talk to Me
"Talk to Me" barely registered on the map when it was released a few months ago. For whatever reason, the bio pic of African American radio disc jockey Ralph Waldo 'Petey' Greene, just didn't resonate with audiences. Perhaps the release was just poorly timed or even more tragic, Patty's legendary rants about 'the establishment' and 'white supremacy' have been forgotten.
Regardless, "Talk to Me" is an engaging, often amusing, but flawed biopic. It tries to encompass the entire life and career of Petey Greene into a trim two hours, but it ends up streamlining the story to a noticeable degree.
Had the film just focused purely on Petey's rise to fame in the mid-60s, we would have had a worthy biopic capable of spawning sequels, but instead, the film chooses to spend a large chunk of time on that era and then it covers the 70s and 80s as well. It feels tacked-on and unfinished--like a highlights reel, as most biopics do. Perhaps that's the way Petey's career felt in reality, but somehow, I doubt that. The film never really goes deeper into the psyche of Petey Greene and thus, the plot feels shallow and a bit cliche.
The cast is absolutely top notch though. Don Cheadle's portrayal of Petey Greene is nearly spot on. Chiwetel Ejiofor's performance as Petey's manger Dewey Hughes is thoughtful and reserved, as most of Ejiofor's performances are. The film doesn't do Ejiofor's character much justice though, as it streamlines his story in the final act.
The direction of the film is also reserved and a bit flat. Moments of energy are defused by stale setups and cliched plot design. The story itself emerges the true victor out of the whole proceeding. Petey Greene was such an interesting pop culture figure that even with the film's flaws, his bright character shines through, leaving us wanting more.
Ultimately, "Talk to Me" is a finely performed character piece with a very solid first and second act. The film tragically crumbles apart in the final act as it takes on more than one storyline. Even though the final era of Petey Green's life was streamlined, the film manages to do his legacy justice showing the audience an era where radio meant something--a time where a man, any man, could speak his mind, and not get bogged down by unwanted shocks and gross-out potty humor.
Film Report Card:
As entertainment: B
As a film: C+
This is a review of the "Talk to Me" HD-DVD.
Universal presents "Talk to Me" on HD-DVD in 2.35:1 widescreen, encoded in 1080p/VC-1 video. I found this track to be a bit reserved, much like the shooting style of the film. It's a very murky print with very low contrast and sharpness. I can't imagine that it looks much better, if at all, from it's DVD counterpart. This isn't a reference disc, that much is certain. But for what it tries to do, be a muddy looking picture based on an era accurate muddy looking color design, it succeeds.
Universal provides two tracks for us avid HD-DVD watchers. The first is a 5.1 Dolby TrueHD track and the other is a Dolby Digital 5.1 Plus track. This isn't exactly a film to show off your system as this is pretty much a glorified stereo track. Surround placement is minimal, but well tuned and pristine on both tracks. I can't really say which track I preferred as both sounded extremely similar due to the film's lack of ambient surround usage. Again, for what it's trying to do, both tracks succeed.
Surprisingly, this is a very minimal 'Combo Format' release. Fans are limited to only three special features to choose from.
The first two features are short, EPK-style featurettes, "Who is Petey Greene?"and "Recreating P-Town." More or less these are glorified commercials for the film with nothing really interesting to say. It's unfortunate we didn't get a Petey Greene documentary here.
Finally, there's a series of nice worthwhile deleted scenes. I think these should have been cut back into the feature. Of the special features, this is the one to check out.
Other than Universal's bookmarking feature, there's nothing here for HD-owners. Where's the commentary track or a Petey Greene documentary? That sort of stuff is usually standard with biopics like this.
"Talk to Me" is not the best biopic out there, but it's a fascinating testimony to one of radio's premiere disc jockeys. The HD-DVD presentation preserves the look, sound and feel of the film, but adds little in terms of supplements. If you like this film or the biopic subgenre, I'd give this one a spin.
HD-DVD Report Card:
HD Content: N/A
Overall Value: B-
On HD-DVD: October 30th, 2007
* Add me as a friend on Myspace
* Email Me with Comments, Concerns, Questions and Complaints regarding this review, but please, be nice.
----R. L. Shaffer