Sideways Blu-ray Review
“Sideways” is presented in widescreen 1.85:1 with MPEG-4 AVC 1080p coding.
Although the 70's style cinematography that Payne chose to utilise really suits the movie it's unfortunately at the expense of picture quality. The pastille colour palette leads to muted tones and colours giving everything; including skin tones, a washed out appearance. The print also showed regular indications of dirt with specks present in the corners and edges of many scenes. The exterior shots are over-saturated, again with washed out colouring, giving these shots a slightly hazy feel. Although some of the vineyard shots and other long shots display good depth, the effect is marred by softness in the image (again this was Payne's intetention). Then there's a major problem with this movie - the grain. As an intentional inclusion by Payne to preserve the cinematic feel of the movie it's everywhere, and in my opinion really detracts from the picture quality in a big way (but I won't be deducting marks for it). The darker night time scenes do boast some solid blacks but there's some evidence of crushing.
The interior scenes in the movie are closer to the standards Blu-ray is capable of, with good definition on the various patterned upholstery that is prevalent in the movie, and with all items on the restaurant tables appearing realistic (especially detailed when in close up). Detail such as wood engravings on furniture and wallpaper patterns are well defined. Facial close-ups are for the most part very acceptable but will not cause any jaw dropping moments. In certain scenes primary colouring can appear stronger - this seems to accompany scenes where Mile's is slowly overcoming his depression so this may have been the intention of the director. Most of the interior scenes also offer good depth, especially with static camera shots, but these fall short of the 3D pop factor that other titles have demonstrated.
While maintaining the artistic intentions of Payne, and providing an upgrade over the DVD release, the picture quality is impressive at times with interior scenes showing some nice detail. While the external scenes should provide depth the softness of the image prevents this to a degree.
“Sideways” comes packed with a 5.1 dts HD Master Audio soundtrack, and it's frankly wasted here.
Like the video presentation, the audio on this BD release is most certainly not reference standard material. With dialogue dominating the soundtrack, and very little ambient effects, there were very few instances where the surrounds came into play. In saying that, dialogue is crystal clear throughout and is never difficult to follow as Jack and Mile's banter with increasing ferocity. The score is a type of 70's throwback containing some jazzy interludes and 60's style happy tunes. The score, while present, never really comes to the forefront to impress, and the does not utilise the surrounds to any great degree. In saying that it's a pleasant score that adds to the onscreen antics and free love feel of the movie.
Serviceable is the best word to describe this audio presentation; it does its job and no more. I can understand why the video presentation contained, in my opinion, undesirable grain and softness, but I can't see why some ambient effects, such as the chirping of crickets in the vineyards, or the murmur of other restaurateurs clinking their wine glasses, were not added to take advantage of BD's audio capabilities. It's cases like this where the new HD codecs are most definetly underused and this track does not offer much upgrade from the DVD release.
“Sideways”, as we've come to expect from Fox's releases, does not come with a lot of extras. I thought that we would have gotten lots of insight from Payne on the complex nature of the characters and explanation on how he adapted the novel but sadly these are not present. The highlight of the extras is the commentary track, featuring Haden-Church and Giamatti, as they punctuate almost every scene with humorous observations and continually poke fun at themselves, which is refreshing. They also offer insight into production values and comment on the visionary directing skills of Payne. They also both seem infatuated with Virginia Madsen!
“Behind the Scenes Featurette”(6.35 SD) - As the title suggests this is a featurette on the making of the movie. We see that Payne enjoyed the humanity and characters portrayed in the book written by Rex Pickett and this is what encouraged him to adapt this novel for the big screen. We also get insight from the cast and crew on their experiences on working with Payne. The pleasant atmosphere that Payne promotes on set is also discussed, with Payne always close to the on screen action (and not sitting in front of a monitor), and sometimes even giving instructions to the actors during filming. This demonstrates that Payne is focused on the characters and the story with aesthetics taking a back seat. We also get comments from the cast on the characters they play. From these behind the scenes glimpses it's obvious that Church and Giamatti have great chemistry which is shown throughout the movie.
“Deleted Scenes” - Here we have seven deleted scenes from the movie. For the most part these do not add any significant revelations to the adventures of Jack and Miles. Comprising mostly extended cuts from scenes included in the finished movie.
I have to say that I really enjoyed “Sideways” and like to think of it akin to “Pineapple Express”, a buddy stoner movie with wine instead of weed. The story unfolds naturally as the movie progresses and the impressive cast provide some great characters. With a feel good ending that poses questions on how everything turned out for Jack and Miles, this is the perfect finale to this unusual but charming movie.
While the video presentation can look impressive at times, it's the audio that lets this movie down. I understand the director's decision to maintain artistic integrity over look and quality but this Blu-ray disc does not offer much over the DVD release in terms of audio quality. The audio does a serviceable job and dialogue is clear but there's not enough activity to test or even demonstrate BD's audio capabilities. The picture quality, in my opinion, is marred by grain and softness throughout. There are some scenes, especially indoors, where the high definition transfer is evident, but these only account for roughly half of the movie.
The extras package contains no real revelations with the insightful and funny commentary track being the highlight. The deleted scenes are a standard affair, with the behind the scenes featurette only skimming the surface of this complex movie.
Overall a serviceable presentation with the picture quality being the only facet that shows any benefit from the high definition transfer. But this is a movie watchers movie relying on story and character development to keep the audience enthralled. If you liked “Sideways” then it will probably never look or sound any better than this Blu-ray release. p>
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £19.99
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