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Freakonomics [Blu-ray] (Bilingual) [Import]

Jade Viggiano , Zoe Sloane , Alex Gibney , Seth Gordon    PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)   Blu-ray
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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In 2005, economist Steven Levitt teamed up with journalist Stephen Dubner to bring us the best-selling phenomenon “Freakonomics”, a revelatory investigation into the hidden side of everything that introduced us to a new way of understanding our world. Now, six rogue filmmakers behind some of the most acclaimed documentaries in recent years have brought Levitt and Dubner’s groundbreaking vision to life. Compiling a series of fascinating, visually arresting and often hilarious case studies, Freakonomics proves that the key to unlocking the mysteries of everyday life lies in one very important question: what’s the incentive?

Review

"Entertaining" -- Stephen Holden, New York Times

"Fascinating...Provocative...Surprising...Undeniably entertaining." -- Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter

"Profound...Sophisticated…" -- Eric Kohn, Indiewire

"Tons of fun." -- Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York

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4.0 out of 5 stars A unique look at incentives Dec 10 2013
By bernie TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Blu-ray
Occasionally somebody comes along and finds unique way to look at life. Some of these people with different types of insights get published. This presentation is based on a popular book by the same name "Freakonomics". The title might be a bit misleading it's really about incentives and misleading statistics.

Here Freakonomics takes the discipline down to the individual I have already had several economics courses that showed things such as all world history including wars and even the U.S. Constitution can be boiled down to economic incentives. So the economic concept is not new but applying it to individual cases or other disciplines is what makes this presentation unique.

As with all concepts there is no way that you can cram the whole theory from the book into an hour and a half program. So here we get a superficial overview which does not quite live up to the standards. I was really impressed when the program started out with the section on real estate; they showed what I always suspected. The section on cheating was pure statistics and not as impressive but useful. The section on parenting was a little dragged out and not quite as focused; however I did find the part on getting kids names interesting. The section on incentives showed nothing new however I could name a few people that could learn something from this feeling. The section on cause and effect pretty much wraps up the concepts that are trying to be presented here.

I suggest you listen to the commentary as it gives some insight as to what is trying to be accomplished in the presentation(s). Why they picked different directors and so forth. Filmmakers will find this interesting.
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Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  190 reviews
41 of 46 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Buy the books Jan. 27 2011
By AlsAaron - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
This is my constructive criticism, since I know that Levitt and Dubner read reviews.

I hate to write a mediocre review, but after reading and enjoying both Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics, this movie was a little disappointing. It is not that it was bad, just that I had high expectation considering that the books were so good. I was very excited to order this and even show it in my microeconomics class, but after watching it I am not sure if I will use it at all- perhaps a clip or two.

The visual effects, illustrations, and cinematography were very good. I also was glad to seem some interviews from the authors, rather than some other format. However, if you had not already read the book, you might be a little lost on what they were talking about. I am not sure how it could have been done better, since they covered a lot of content and had limited time, but it does not seem like the viewers would walk away and say "Oh, I now have a more clear understanding of XYZ..."

The thing that bothered me most was the subtitles during the Sumo section. In addition to there being quite a bit of Japanese dialog, the subtitles were hard to read because they were all in white. Very distracting when a bright screen came up and you could not read them. I found myself anxious for this section to end so we could go back to English.

I think that the authors should consider a TV series instead of a movie, similar to their podcast now (which is great, BTW). Think Myth-Busters or Stossel's 20/20 programs: They could cover more topics without feeling rushed.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Documentary based upon much better book Sept. 22 2010
By Dave - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
I should not have paid as much as I did to watch this pre-theatrical release. I did so because I thought a documentary based upon the book "Freakonomics" would be very interesting. There were a number of interesting points in the film, but this is just one more case where the reviewer says that the book was much better. The main problem I had with the film is that it presented so little information in the time allotted. I believe this was because it attempted to be entertaining as well as the directors personalizing the content and wasting time by injecting too much of themselves into the content. This lead to a boring documentary where I felt cheated of time and money because so little real content was presented. I suggest reading the book and skipping the movie. If you would rather watch a film than to read a book, then wait til after the film is released in theaters and distributed on DVD. I do not think this film will be able to command a high price for very long after it is distributed on DVD and you should be able to rent or buy it at a discounted price. This book is essentially about looking at common phenomina from different or non-standard points of view. In doing so, there really is no timely earthshaking material so you will not have missed much by waiting for lower prices. I still believe the book or the film contain perspectives that make them worthwhile, but the film barely earns an average rating in my opinion which is generous in this instance.
22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars STRANGE NAME, GREAT MOVIE Jan. 17 2011
By Mark Turner - Published on Amazon.com
Occasionally a movie comes along, based on a book, that inspires people to run out and pick up a copy and actually read. It doesn't happen often and in today's world where more people are in tune with a visual experience as opposed to a reading one, when it does happen it's wonderful. Such is the case with FREAKONOMICS.

Based on the best seller of the same name, the book was written by economist Steven Levitt and journalist Stephen Dubner. It focused on Levitt's research into the causality of numerous topics as explained via economics and tabulated information. The interesting thing, as he states, is that in seeking reasons for various topics people think things are connected to something else but it turns out not being the case. Trust me, its less complicated than you think and easier to understand than you would expect but more so after watching this film.

To make a movie out of the book, they chose 4 different notable documentary directors and went to work. Each one has their own look and feel, but all incorporate into the general picture at hand. The first is one of the most well known, Morgan Spurlock who did SUPER SIZE ME. Here he takes on the question of what is in a name.

The question here is is a person judged and their life set up early on by what their parents name them? Beginning with the example of a young girl named after Tempest Bledsoe of COSBY fame whose mother couldn't spell resulting in the name Temptress, we find that it wasn't her name so much as her environment that formed her life. But there's more to it than that. The choice of names and how they affect everything from your job acceptance to your place in society is discussed with results different than one might expect.

But back to the original premise of the film, where one would think that a person's name might be the reason for the life that the end up with, the truth is that it is more their surroundings. Thus the expectations of people are proved wrong when the facts are sought out.

A section on cheating focuses on sumo wrestlers in Japan. Sure, you might not be interested in two big men in diapers fighting one another, but that's not the point. The discussion forms around sumo being a traditional sport surrounded in religion and honor that was corrupted. So much so that the results of matches could be predicted. What brought about this change from honor to corruptibility?

One segment deals with incentives and what we expect once more versus the outcome. Here, a group of students are given the incentive to do well in school by being promised $50 each time their grade cards come out if they show improvement and a few other items like attendance. Those that do well qualify for a $500 check at year's end as well as a stretch limo ride. Does this incentive help increase school activity? Watch and see.

The fourth section discusses the reported drop in crime rates during the 80s. Politicians spoke endlessly about how they had achieved this, citing the increase in policemen on the streets as the biggest reason. In researching the date, Levitt and crew discovered that police were only a small portion of the reason crime decreased. The main reason, nearly 49% worth, was...well again, watch and see.

The movie is well made and follows an interesting path. It starts out simple, discussing selling your home and real estate agents (trust me it's interesting) just to set up the film's/book's idea and then presenting the different theories focused on in an intelligent and still entertaining way.

Perhaps the best thing about this book is that it will make you look at the world from a different standpoint. You won't tend to accept things at face value and will look deeper into why things happen. You might even choose to pick up a copy of the book and see how they applied themselves to discover the real answers to some different questions.

All in all, the film is a treat, making it enjoyable as well as informative. That's a rare combination to find in films these days. Rare still is the fact that you have a documentary that doesn't preach one political side or another, it just informs. And to me that makes it a great documentary.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Cause: meaningless numbers presented in entertainment fluff; Effect: waste of time Feb. 9 2014
By Andromeda12 - Published on Amazon.com
This film is a compilation of several short films that focus on the cause and effect of socioeconomic phenomena as described by Steven Levitt in his book "Freakonomics" which not only fails to deliver the truth of cause and effect, but couches the attempt in entertainment fluff that ranges from a salacious stop at a strip club to heart-wrenching stories about the effects of these phenomena on individuals. Starting out with the broad concept of human decisions being based on incentive, the film moves into a prolonged look at birth names, a segment that finishes with two very different conclusions: your given name makes no difference in your life outcome, and that African-American names on resumes are far less likely to result in job interviews. 15 minutes into the film, the erroneous nature of Levitt's arguments is already apparent.

The concept that Levitt purports in "Freakonomics" is to attempt to understand what factors cause societal behavior by analyzing data sets, and in doing so, he criticizes erroneous connections by others; however, by looking narrowly at certain sets of statistics, he makes the same mistake in assigning causality. For example, he concludes that since the legalization of abortion, the rate of homicide has declined and makes the argument that the availability of abortion has led to fewer homicides. Analyzing data sets to find possible correlations doesn't explain why an individual data set changes with time. By understanding the abortion rate data set, one can see that since abortion is common across all socio-economic groups, its scope does not match that of homicide, which is highest in economically disadvantaged groups. In fact, the groups that face the highest levels of homicide are the very groups most likely to give birth to children in single-parent, low-income households. So again, the cause and effect are not correlated.

While the film's premise in looking at statistical data when trying to understand socioeconomic phenomena is very commendable, it won't provide you with any real understanding, because society is more than just the sum of its data sets. Combined, as it is, with the emotional roller-coaster-ride through Hollywood-style entertainment, this film is more than a waste of time; it contributes to the problem of muddled thinking that disguises itself as fact.

If you want to really understand something, start out by first researching the scholarly literature, then look at the data sets: numbers without meaning lead to meaningless numbers.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad but it can't match the book March 27 2011
By Paul Allaer - Published on Amazon.com
When last year I saw the poster for this then yet-to-released movie at my local independent movie theatre, I was thrilled and really couldn't wait to see this, since I was such a fan of the book upon which this isbased. Then for whatver reason the movie never came to the theatres here in Cincinnati, so I recently checked out the DVD.

"Freakonomics" (93 min.) tries to bring onto the screen pretty much the same stories that the co-authors brought us in the book. Most of the stories as brought in the movie actually are condensed and gloss over a lot of the details, in particular the data supporting the seemingly unexpected results from the "hidden side of everything". That proves to be a fatal flaw for the movie, even if the movie is not bad as entertainment. The one section that goes further than what is in the book is the Sumo wrestling investigation to explore corruption, and that was foor me the best part of the movie. In all, it's not a bad movie, and certainly compared to the crap of most Hollywood mainstream commercial movies, this is a standout movie.

Every single reviewer of this movie falls into 1 of 2 categories: either as having read the book before seeing the movie, or as not having read the book. I can almost guarantee that very few of us who have read the book, will be entralled with the movie. If you happen to not have read the book or seen the movie yet, I'd suggest you save your money on this DVD and instead head on over to Amazon's Books section and buy Freakconomics and its sequel Superfreakonomics.
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