It might provide a map to decent picture and sound but sadly the film loses the plot
Maps to the Stars Film Review
An attempt at a scathing satirical portrait of Hollywood, Cronenberg’s latest fails to shock or awe, and instead rides a little too closely towards precocious bitterness.Lauded as one of the most daring filmmakers in the Western world, I’ve been less than impressed by David Cronenberg’s recent output. Out of a partnership with production company Prospero Pictures, Cronenberg has delivered three middle-ground works which barely hint at the volatile genius that he has captured in the past, with his all-star A Dangerous Method failing to feel very dangerous at all, and Cosmopolis saw him take his first shot at the 1%ers, and hit, but fail to deliver a fatal blow. With Maps to the Stars he returns to finish the job with an anti-Hollywood film of epic proportions. However it not only tells a story so whimsical that it feels like it has no grounding in reality, but also, even if you can understand the lesson that he’s trying to teach you, fails to tell you anything you didn’t already know.Child abuse, narcissism, psychopaths, schizophrenics, incest, pyromania, self-destruction and self-immolation - it has it all but uses none of it wisely. Julianne Moore bravely tries to remain true to her art as an ageing actress desperate for one last shot at glory - playing the same role her late, and revered, mother played in a remake of one of her films - whilst Cusack struggles to avoid his trademark eccentricities (see the immolation scene). Mia Wasikowska drifts around with seemingly much beneath the surface but nothing revealed, whilst Robert Pattinson continues a run of escape-from-the-shadow-of-Twilight features, although he was far better utilised in The Rover. The biggest waste, though, is the talent of Cronenberg, who feels like he has long lost sight of the bold, daring filmmaking that earned him his reputation in the first place.
Blu-ray Picture QualityCronenberg’s first US-shot feature looks pretty good on Blu-ray, boasting some very impressive images. The film is presented as part of a Region B-locked UK package courtesy of Entertainment One, with a 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video rendition in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen.
Whilst bathed in the glow of ironic Hollywood sunshine, Maps to the Stars looks very good but not quite spectacular.
The setting, and style, appears to leave the film occasionally enshrouded in a slight softness around the edges, although many shots come across with supreme clarity, in the tradition that we’ve perhaps come to expect from modern productions rendered in HD. Skin tones remain well-explored, with wrinkles and lines on display and clothing textures and background flourishes afforded fine object examination.
There is a precision to the piece, but it’s held back from being obvious demo material by the stylisation, which views the subject matter through an almost slightly soft-focus style. It’s intentional, of course, but it makes it hard to view the piece as anything close to being perfect. Still, with no obvious image or stability issues – no technical flaws – this is nonetheless a very good rendition.
Blu-ray Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is also a very good effort, which occasionally treads into quintessential Croneberg territory, delivering a brooding undercurrent that carries the malevolent, dark undertones of the piece through to aural fruition.
Whilst, frequently, quite a reserved effort, occasionally classic Cronenberg scoring gives the film a much-needed dark undercurrent.
Dialogue is given clear and coherent prioritisation, largely from across the frontal array, and resonates in the silence that many of the scenes are otherwise afforded. Effects are almost entirely reserved and atmospheric, crafting an authentic but fairly clinical ambience which seldom fully engulfs you but also always keeps you within the realms of the picture.
The score is also minimalist, but there are some traditional Cronenberg – almost 80s – elements at play, which work wonderfully to give the track some depth. A couple of louder party sequences further give your sound system room to stretch its legs and, overall, whilst no demo material, this is a clinical, professional offering.
Blu-ray ExtrasThe extras package includes an audio commentary by screenwriter Bruce Wagner, who reflects upon the somewhat troubled production history which originally led him to adapt his screenplay into a novel when funding for Cronenberg’s movie fell through. There are also some Cast and Crew Interviews and an On the Red Carpet segment. The disc is rounded off by some previews on startup.
Maps to the Stars Blu-ray Verdict
The Blu-ray sports a decent level of picture and sound quality but that can't save the film from losing it satirical bite.
Good video and audio, as well as a smattering of extras, leaves this a decent enough release for fans, although Cronenberg enthusiasts should consider this in comparison to his more recent output and not his early gems.
Buy the Maps to the Stars Blu-ray here
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