Mission to Lars Blu-ray Review
The road trip of a lifetime with just one condition... Tom's
PictureThere's no real wow factor with this 1080p AVC encode to speak of, but it doesn't make too many mistakes. On the whole, it's extremely watchable, and the type of content that makes up Mission To Lars really doesn't scream out for breathtaking visuals - the breathtaking part is in the people in the documentary. That being said, there are issues that Blu-ray fans should probably know about.
A lot of the scenes at concerts are pretty dark, and unfortunately there's evidence of heavy noise within the image. To be fair, it's to be expected really given the documentary style guerilla lensing of the movie, but, nevertheless, it's there, and it's quite impossible not to notice it. For the most part, the rest of the film's blacks seem reasonably ok. Sometimes a little washed out and grey, and shadow detail isn't great, but nothing that I'd wax lyrical about. I tried to find out a little more about what the movie was shot with besides the obvious "GoPro" cameras mounted around the RV, but I categorically failed - so it's speculative that I suggest these failings in blacks and contrast are due to the equipment used. Like I said though, this is not intended to display captivating photography, so it's totally forgivable in my opinion.
Detail in general is acceptible. There are a lot of quite extreme close ups of Tom and Will and Kate, and textures seem a little flat and dull. Again though, this isn't something that really detracted form the experience - in fact, you could argue that it almost made the image a little more palatable - I tend to find extreme close ups on people's faces a bit harrowing if it's all too clear they've got spots and other blemishes - who wants to see that?
Motion can at times cause problems too, with ocassional screen tearing and judder, which leads to some jaggies on edges. I can't quite work out if some of the footage was shot at 1080i and upscaled, but there's definitely some problems with lateral movement in some shots.
On the whole, it's lit reasonably well, and Will Spicer, who spends most of his time behind the camera, does a reasonable job. Respectable on the documentary spectrum. It's never going to win awards for photography (and there's no reason a documentary shouldn't be able to by the way), but it's a reasonably solid picture that doesn't detract from the enjoyment of the movie.
SoundThe 5.1 LPCM surround mix is basic at best. Sadly, I think a lot of the source recordings weren't quite up to standard, which inevitably led to some problems with the mix. There's some clipping and resulting distortion at times with the dialogue, especially noticable when the siblings visit a Fragile X syndrome expert in America, but I suspect this is in part at least, down to the fact that Tom himself looked to be the sound recordist for the interview. Clearly wasn't checking his levels on his Zoom H4N recorder!
The surround field is underused even for a documentary. I'm not suggesting that they should have recorded every concert with a surround mic, but at least some additional sound design to enhance the sense of immersion within the crowd scenes wouldn't have gone amiss.
It's a product of it's own nature, recorded "handy-cam" style throughout, and most likely with a single stereo shotgun microphone, so expectations ought to be managed, but even so, there are sections that they simply couldn't restore that still made it into the movie.
The soundtrack is actually a rather nice and eclectic selection of pieces, and no, they're not all from Metallica. It boasts the likes of Ben Howard, Devandra Banhart and Blur, not to mention little known Mike Lindsay's pretty and lightweight original scoring fitting in perfectly well.
Overall, not a brilliant showing for sound here, but again, nothing so utterly devastating as to spoil the movie.
ExtrasIt's not exactly a plethora of extras on display, but the modest offerings are reasonably interesting and should go some way to satisfying those with a hunger for more after watching this brilliant movie.
Interview with Lars Ulrich
A 30 minute interview with the legend himself, conducted by Kate Spicer herself almost a year after the movie's completion. Many topics are covered, and if you can manage to endure the constant "umm-ing" and "ahhm-ing" from Lars, there's quite a lot of insight on offer. I won't lie, as interested as I was to hear this interview, I grew weary of the meandering waffle from Lars - it's not his fault, he's an ageing Dane trapped in a largely vowel dominated American accent.
Sunday Times interview with Tom
The sunday times conducted an interview with Tom and Kate some time after the movie hit our screens for the first time. It's quite heart-warming to see the lasting effect that Will and Kate's road-trip idea has had on Tom. At 10 minutes, it's worth watching for sure.
Exactly what it says on the tin. A decent amount of additional stuff, most of which rightly ended up in the bin though.
VerdictMission To Lars has a little bit of everything, most notably, bucket loads of Feel-Good factor. It's an epic road trip around the west coast of america in which Will and Kate take their brother, Tom to meet his all-time hero, Lars Ulrich of Metallica. Tom suffers from a condition called Fragile X syndrome, which is a mental disability not dissimilar to Autism. The documentary follows the three siblings on their mission to get Tom in a room with Lars, even if it's just for 30 seconds.
Totally heart-warming, brilliantly engaging, and utterly inspiring, Mission to Lars manages to be funny, infuriating, frustrating and joyous to behold all at once, and it does it all by simply showing Tom just the way he is. It truly is one of the most unique and thoroughly entertaining documentaries ever made.
The Blu-ray package for Mission To Lars is certainly not up there with the finest, but it holds it's own nonetheless. Admittedly, this is mostly down to the movie itself bearing much of the weight of qualitative responsibility, with a slightly lack-lustre audio presentation, and a fair to good video presentation. Mission To Lars makes a worthy addition to any Blu-ray collection, but probably not because of the format. It's absolutely worth grabbing, so put your reservations aside and dive in - you won't get gob-smakingly brilliant picture and sound, but you will be supporting a fantastic independant documentary.
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