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APRIL 2013

By Daniel Lammin
5th May 2013

This month's Blu-ray round-up includes a number of exciting catalogue releases, great indie releases that flew under the radar at the cinemas and some of the biggest films of the last year.

Released 13th March 2013

This strange little film didn’t even warrant a cinema release, which is a tremendous pity. Peter Strickland’s ode to the sound and foley artists of the 1970s follows Gilderoy (Toby Jones), a gifted British sound artist called to Italy to work on a troubled Italian horror film, or ‘Giallo’. Leading a very insular and quiet life, Gilderoy finds himself fracturing under the strain of watching such extreme situations stylised every day, and begins to crumble. Sound is most definitely the focus of this film, so much so that we are never allowed to see the film they are working on, but rather experience it through the sound and foley we watch the performers create. As a film, ‘Berberian’ has an incredible Lynch-like quality; a giddy combination of unusual sound and music design and surreal dreamlike images, bolstered by the kind of excellent work we’ve come to expect from Jones. It’s certainly not a film for everyone, but giving it a try might reap some unexpected rewards, especially for those with a love for cinema and how it is made.

While the image isn’t at the heart of this film, Strickland’s work is still very striking, and Madman have used the excellent UK Artifical Eye release and its terrific 1080p transfer as the basis for this release. ‘Berberian’ is a film of darkness and shadow, and self-consciously filmic, so the transfer is full of natural grain and textures, resulting in an almost hypnotic quality. Just as impressive (and you would hope it would be) is the DTS-HD MA 5.1 English and Italian track, which recreates beautifully the aural world Strickland has created. Sound is woven throughout the film in a fashion most films can rarely be bothered with, and it helps to make it an even more distinctive experience.

‘Berberian’ comes with a wonderfully packed set of extras, and while a lot of the making-of material recycles the same interviews and information, its quality and frankness still make them far more interesting than the usual fluff. There are also deleted scenes, an audio commentary with Strikland, and his early short films, including the short this film is based on, which started as a film gag that expanded into a full feature. Strikland is a fascinating new artist, and these extras give a great opportunity to hear where the unusual tone of this film has come from. Overall, an excellent set.

Released 3rd April 2013

When MGM declared bankruptcy in 2009, the fate of four projects became unsure - ‘The Hobbit’, ‘Skyfall’, ‘The Cabin in the Woods’ and ‘Red Dawn’. All four finally saw theatrical release last year, but while the first three went on to tremendous critical and commercial success, the last completely disappeared through the cracks. A remake of John Milius’ 1984 film, ‘Red Dawn’ finds a group of teenagers fighting guerilla warfare when communists invade the United States, led by a pre-‘Thor’ Chris Hemsworth. The premise sounds suspiciously similar to the classic Australian novel ‘Tomorrow, When The War Began’, but Milius’ original actually predates it. As a production, ‘Dawn’ is actually quite impressive, with all the tools available to pull off the scale necessary to make the film effective, and it could have been quite a memorable film if not for its production woes. What works against the film the most, however, is leading man Josh Peck, who is uniformally awful - a surprise considering his excellent work in the past. Without a strong protagonist, the film gives you nothing to connect to, and is not helped by Isabel Lucas’ lack of charisma as his girlfriend. Hemsworth pulls up the standard considerably, thank goodness, and holds you enough to see where the film is headed. ‘Red Dawn’ has all the potential to be an exciting film, but unfortunately doesn’t have enough going for it to pull it off.

Read more on our theatrical review here.

‘Red Dawn’ has a gritty, cinematic texture, the kind of look one associates with these kinds of teen action films. Roadshow have given the film an excellent 1080p 2.35:1 transfer to recreate this, and while the content might not be of the highest standard, the visuals certainly are. Being a war film, the sounds would need to be up to scratch, and the DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is robust and thumping, giving volume to every explosion.

Unfortunately, Roadshow don’t have any special features on offer, but considering the troubled release history this film as had, this may have something to do with it.

Released 10th April 2013

Riding off the success of ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ (2010), Dreamworks aim high with ‘Rise of the Guardians’, with a bold concept and brave visual design as the four guardians of childhood hopes and dreams (Father Christmas, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and the Sandman) team up with renegade spirit Jack Frost against the villainous Bogeyman. Everything about ‘Guardians’ is about scale, and the film pushes the boundaries of computer animation further than they have been in a while. What’s lacking, however, is a genuine sense of heart. For all its wonder, ‘Rise of the Guardians’ is surprisingly empty, and doesn’t leave much of a lasting impression.

Click here to read our review of the Blu-ray release.

Released 10th April 2013

For a genre that’s had a solid existence for a while, it’s strange that there have been very few tween comedies or films worth talking about. Maybe there will be one day. In the meantime, though, we have films like ‘Fun Size’. The premise has a lot going for it, teenager Wren (Victoria Justice) searching for her oddball little brother Albert (Jackson Nicoll) on a Halloween night as he runs off to create havoc, and the lead characters have quite a bit going for them, but any notion of strong character development and narrative is sacrificed for jokes of the lowest common denominator. Kids will probably find some amusement out of this, but they probably won’t be thinking about it much afterwards.

Click here to read our review of the Blu-ray release.

Released 10th April 2013

Not since the days of John Hughes has a film so perfectly captured the rights of passage that come from being a teenager. At its centre is Charlie (Logan Lerman), very intelligent but very troubled freshman thrust into the high school arena, and his building friendship with Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller), a stepbrother and sister duo proud in their place as teenager misfits. What saves ‘Perks’ from being a conventional teen drama is the winning combination of simple, clear filmmaking, a surprisingly honest and brutal screenplay, and a powerful trio of central performances , especially from Lerman, making for a very special and very powerful experience.

Released 24th April 2013

While it might not be the home-run it was expected to be, ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ is certainly a step up for Walt Disney Animation. Set in the world of arcade computer games, it follows Ralph (John C. Reilly), the much maligned bad-guy from Fix-It Felix Jr, on his quest to prove that he’s more than meets the eye. The visuals are spectacular, and the gags come thick and fast, and while the film lags slightly in a clunky second act, it races forward toward a thrilling finale. It might not be a "classic", but ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ deserves a place next to the other films in the Disney canon.

Click here to read our review of the Blu-ray release.

Released 24th April 2013

Here’s another little gem that slipped through the cracks at the cinema, featuring two of the most exciting comic actors on television - ‘Parks and Recreation’ star Rashida Jones (who also co-wrote the film) and ‘Saturday Night Live’ actor Andy Samberg. Celeste and Jesse are inseparable and clearly made for each other. They spend as much time together as possible, and their lives are completely interwoven. What’s so strange is that Celeste and Jesse are divorcing each other, and much to their friends’ confusion, not acting like an estranged couple should. It’s a gorgeous little premise, and bolstered by terrific performances from its leads, especially Jones. The filmmaking is slick and considered, and the screenplay handles that lovely balance of slapstick hysterical comedy and tender romantic drama. Rhythmically, the film tends to move along at a similar pace, making it feel longer than it actually is, but the premise is milked for all its comedy and pathos, making for a surprisingly memorable film. It’s not quite up to the giddying standards of ‘(500) Days of Summer’ (2009), but it’s cut from a similar cloth.

Disney have gifted ‘Celeste & Jesse Forever’ with a beautiful 1080p 2.35:1 transfer. Detail is crisp, colours are carefully muted, and the wonderful quality of light used in the film is maintained with just enough film grain to give it texture. The same can be said for the tender DTS-HD MA 5.1 track, which wisely places the performances at the forefront. An excellent presentation all round.

What we get is a surprisingly full set of features, including two audio commentaries with the cast and crew, a short but fascinating making-of featurette discussing the films themes and background, a red carpet Q&A and a selection of deleted scenes. Also worth checking out is an outtake of Chris Pine’s performance, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment that all the more surprising because it’s Chris Pine.

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