Well, even if the movie itself is abysmal, Sony once again outdo themselves with this UK Region Free Blu-ray release which boasts a stunning 1080p High Definition video rendition, presented in the film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen. Detail is excellent throughout – from the few longer, more cinematic shots, to the close-ups (and there are a few too many random close-ups of the lead characters’ faces whilst in mid-conversation!), fine object detailing remaining strong, with no noticeable softness and no obvious edge enhancement or digital tinkering – like DNR – applied to the image. It just looks stunning. The colour scheme is quite broad and vivid, but, again, I have no idea where they spent their budget (perhaps on Witherspoon’s red dress?) as it isn’t exactly an effects-laden production. Still, there are plenty of bright, sumptuous tones on offer, rounded out with deep and solid black levels which result in excellent night-time sequences. With a fine layer of suitably cinematic grain running throughout the film, there really is very little to quibble about when it comes to this presentation, it’s basically superb, clearly reference quality, and only just shy of a perfect 10.
Although we do get an accompanying lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, there isn’t a great deal in the material here which pushes your equipment anywhere near its capabilities. It’s just not that kind of movie. Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently throughout, largely emanating from across the frontal array. The score is pretty throwaway – it neither interferes with the movie, nor particularly enhances it; and it’s certainly not in the least bit memorable – but it does allow the surrounds to have a little more to do than just sit around waiting for something to happen. Effects are almost entirely of the atmospheric variety, a bustling party and a couple of busy city-streets moments remaining the absolute highlight. The track is far from objectionable, in fact, what it does have to offer, it presents extremely well – I dare say, perfectly – but the lack of material to showcase leaves it far from demo quality at the end of the day.
Why is it that some of the worst films get all the extras? Here we get a hefty package that boasts not just an Audio Commentary from the Director, but also a Commentary over selected scenes with Owen Wilson on board; lots of extra footage; and a couple of fairly chunky featurettes.
Commentary with Filmmakers features writer/director James L. Brooks, as well as his Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, who talk over the entire length of the feature. Brooks explains a little into how they chopped and changed with the original idea – and eventually settled on having to sum up the whole softball backstory with an extended credits montage; discussing the future of film vs. digital, their older techniques, and what they learnt for this movie; the casting, the actors; the ever-evolving script and, rather uniquely, some of the things that they would have done differently, given the choice to do it all over again. Kaminski sports an extremely thick accent, which can make his contribution harder to understand, and, to a certain extent, it doesn’t help that he’s dominated throughout by Brooks – it would have been nice to hear a little more from the guy who did the cinematography for the likes of Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List.
Select Scenes Commentary with James L. Brooks and Owen Wilson has the two of them talk over a ten different scenes, totally about 30 minutes of commentary, with a Play All option so that you don’t have to select them all individually. By its very nature, this is quite a choppy, bitty offering, and there are also huge pauses, where Wilson is just watching the movie (for the first time, by his own admission, and with no intention of watching it again anytime soon – nor of even finishing it this time around). There are a couple of moments where they offer up some decent background trivia, but overall this is a tough one to endure given its piecemeal nature.
Extra Innings is a 15 minute Featurette that again focuses more on the writer/director’s original premise – almost as if it was shot prior to the final edit of the film. Here the cast and crew talk about the softball player background to the lead character, the insight the director gleaned into female athletes (and even their dating habits – i.e. predominantly other sports players) and the background into this premise; then going on to cover a few other early stage plot points, with semi-revealing background information. It’s quite a nice little Featurette, although sometimes you do get the feeling that they are all talking about a completely different movie – and a much better one at that!
A Conversation with James L. Brooks and Hans Zimmer has the writer/director chatting with the legendary composer to talk about their respective work, their work together and their utterly unremarkable collaboration on this film. It goes on for a whopping 26 minutes, and you have to think, of all of the films for Zimmer to chat so comprehensively about – why pick such an awful one where you can’t even tell that it’s him scoring?
Deleted Scenes total 30 minutes of footage: Lisa's Childhood, Too Rough, Stair Hopping, Point 4 Seconds, The Office Scene, Cries in the Night, The Hat, Play-Doh Plant, Anxiety Attack, Mr. Opposite, Pomposity, Baseball Agent, Annie & George, and Sandwich Bit. We also get an Alternate Ending (the original Ending), and all of the scenes come with optional Commentary from the writer/director. As you might expect – given the amount of research that Brooks apparently did into female sports players – there is more to this aspect of the narrative (both in terms of flashbacks, and training segments); we also get an awkward lift scene between Wilson and Witherspoon, more of that far-too-bright red dress, some alternate scenes with Rudd and Nicholson; and then there’s that variant ending, which is really pretty close to the one they used. Some of the shots don’t have completed effects (the fake car sequences stand out the most, but there is also an animatic!) and none of them would have really improved the film, unfortunately.
Blooper Reel is thankfully just 2 minutes long, although you have to wonder whether it being so short is as a result of the fact that the cast really didn’t have all that great a time on this production – unsurprisingly.
Interactive Script Gallery allows us further insight into Brooks’s script, although an earlier version – where his female athlete focus was more dominant, would have been more interesting to compare and contrast.
The George offers up a ninety-second run-down on how to make the drink that George concocts in the movie (which looks a little like an oversized bloody mary).
Finally we get a couple of trailers on disc startup.
The Director and Writer behind As Good As It Gets. One half of the excellent Wedding Crashers team. One of the funniest supporting actors in Knocked Up. The charming star of Legally Blonde. And the Oscar-Winning lead actor, also from As Good As It Gets. Seriously, this film has some fantastic ingredients. And it’s awful. Terrible. Abysmal. Almost unwatchable. And just plain boring as hell. It’s one of the worst films that I have seen this year, an even bigger disappointment considering the people involved in making this production. It even cost $120 Million – a hefty budget for a simple romantic comedy – and it also, so far, looks like one of the biggest flops of the year. At least there’s some justice in that.
On Region Free UK Blu-ray we get excellent video and audio, as well as a decent array of extras, but I really don’t know who is ever going to find out about all that because I can’t see who I would be recommending this film to. Even one of the stars, Owen Wilson – on his brief interjection into the commentary – states quite matter-of-factly that he’s not going watch this movie in full until it comes on TV. That’s good advice. If you’re really, really, really curious about this, then that’s what you should do – wait to watch it on TV.
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