PictureComing to Blu-ray with an astonishingly detailed 1080p transfer, The Brothers Grimm looks absolutely amazing and is one of those demo discs that, even if the film itself was lousy (which it isn't) would still warrant frequent spins just so that you could revel in its pixel-perfect glory. Trust me, this is no fairytale, folks. The image on show here is simply wonderful and could well be the best that I have yet seen on BD or even HD. It is certainly right up there with the top echelon of hi-def pictures that I have been able to view, including the illustrious King Kong.
The print is immaculate, with only some very, very slight grain in evidence against some of the deeper, fire-augmented red - in the tavern, say. Blacks are extremely deep, yet contain reams of detail within, extending the depth of the image considerably. Interiors are beautifully shadowed and atmospheric, whilst they benefit the exteriors with a heightened sense of realism, lending pockets of unfathomable darkness to the 1.85:1 picture. Just check out the Red Riding Hood (or cape as Jake at first writes it down) sequence to see the wonderful shot that creates a V-shaped view of forest light and colour between the tremendously menacing sides of a rock fissure composed of the blackest black to see what I mean. Complementing this is a contrast level that is ultra reliable and totally devoid of glare, blooming or slide-off. The early stunt when the boys go witch-hunting in a spooky barn proves this with intense shadows, gleaming armour and shafts of light all in the same shot. And check out the crucifix that ignites into bright white flame in the same sequence. Transitions from light to dark and vice-versa are equally well-handled.
But it is in the clarity and sheer wealth of detail that this BD release excels. Those fantastical forests feature such depth and ultra-clear imagery that, even with my face pressed up close to scrutinise (which I know you shouldn't really do, but with imagery this tempting, it is hard to resist) the three-dimensional aspect of the higher resolution kept on revealing yet more textures. The pattern on bark, the different leaves, the fabulous gnarlings of twig and branch and the shadowy copses and pathways are all rendered with such meticulous precision that the film often resembles a real-life view into a real-life wood. Just look at the forest floor and its carpet of leaves - truly amazing. But the detail exhibited on masonry, beer barrels in the tavern, melted wax down the side of a candle, the golden braid on Delatombe's uniform and the various sculptures and carvings in the set design is just as eye-poppingly well rendered. Close-ups are utterly pin-sharp, with fine detail on faces, armour and costumes so vivid and clear that you feel you could reach out and touch them. Hair is absolutely finite, as are whiskers, fur and feathers and skin tones are completely natural and authentic.
Again, the colours that this transfer achieves are nothing short of awesome - so deep, lush and vivid are they. This is a very colourful film and the entire spectrum is utilised and always with strong and razor-sharp definition. Belluci's fabulous red gown literally leaps off the screen, and have a look at the regal dinner party sequence to see just how well the disc handles multi-various hues, smaller details in distant costumes and far-away skin tones. And then there are the torture chamber scenes which show just marvellously the transfer is able to present a picture that is awash with flame-tinted shades and extremely warm, smooth fields of sheen. Sumptuous stuff, indeed.
What denies The Brothers Grimm the full 10 out of 10, however, is the evidence of slight hazing and some almost subliminal grain seen against some of the deeper, fire-coloured reds - in the tavern, for instance, or Cavaldi's torture chamber - and some very slight noise which can be found usually against the pale grey skies. Otherwise, this transfer is amongst the best that I have seen so far on either BD or HD.
The images shown here are for the purposes of illustration only and do not reflect the quality of the Blu-ray disc.
SoundThe good news is that the phenomenal picture is bolstered by an equally phenomenal audio transfer, in the sound of a wildly exciting PCM Uncompressed 5.1 (48kHz/16-bit) track that is the sort of dynamic mix that has you praising the day you wired all those speakers up. Right from the start, just flicking between this track and the DD 5.1 mix also available, reveals the huge leap up in quality, volume and clarity.
Literally every sound that you can hear is pin-sharp and exquisitely placed within and around the aural environment and The Brothers Grimm provides plenty for the ears to savour. From the expansive rush of Dario Marianelli's score, that can engulf the listener or gently tease the further reaches of the sound design, to the excellent steerage of fx, such as the lifting up of the trees' roots, the vicious fly-bys of the woodsman's axe and the startlingly accurate flapping and squawking of birds, the mix never puts a foot wrong. The frontal array sounds deep and extended beautifully across left and right, seemingly pushing the walls of your lounge further out. Voices are immaculately centred and crystal-clear at all times. The rears come into play often and with such oomph and resonance that you will either have to get used to it pretty quickly or suffer from neck-ache from turning around all the time. The track also features plenty of front-to-back sweeps, and vice-versa, ensuring that the listener is always thrust right into the heart of the action.
High-ends are sharp and pristine and the mid-range is warm and enveloping. More subtle effects such as the swarming of bugs around a crypt, the skittering of spiders over the horse's mouth, and ambience of the village or the army laying siege to the forest are reproduced just as atmospherically. Bass levels are also exceptional and are called into service numerous times with oodles of weight and rumbling presence. Folks, this really is a wonderful track, PCM Uncompressed once again delivering the sonic goods with some of the best and most accurate rendering that I have heard. The English DD 5.1 mix is admittedly very good too, but when compared directly to the PCM it falls short in almost every department. Once again, I feel obliged to add a half point to the film's audio score, so although it may state 9 out of 10, you can take it as a 9.5! Absolutely stunning.
ExtrasTerry Gilliam supplies a commentary track for his film that tends to be a little dry despite his boundless enthusiasm for the project and practically inexhaustible production knowledge. He proves to be a smooth, free-flowing talker, and not prone to the rambling he sometimes affects during interviews that I've seen. Utterly scene-specific, he describes virtually every extra who appears (he clearly loved the people of Prague, since he seems to have employed most of them) and every fx shot that we see ... and many that we don't see, such as the real birds and the CG ones, and points out the unique set designs and incredible matte backgrounds. There were allegedly a lot of injuries incurred during filming and Gilliam likes to mention these as well. Some nice anecdotes are aired, such as how the huge, imposing woodsman was, in reality, a really skinny guy who had to wear so much bulky coats and padding that he could hardly walk, and the fact that Matt Damon's wig was actually modelled on Jamie Oliver's mop-top. Quite surprisingly for Terry Gilliam, he only has a few slight digs at the studio. It is a good track, with rarely a pause, but I feel that it would have been much better if Gilliam had had someone else with him to bounce ideas and recollections off.
Then we get a very generous 12 Deleted Scenes that can be played individually or as a Play All. To be honest, there is some great stuff to be found in here, including a fabulous (though not quite complete) sequence in which Will, Jacob and Angelika battle a huge and monstrous tree. Again, Gilliam provides enormous detail about the scenes' genesis and production and the reasons for their excision in his optional commentary. He regrets a lot of them biting the dust on the floor of the editing suite, but is philosophical enough to realise that the film is, ultimately, better off without them.
Next we have a brief (8.42 mins) featurette entitled The Visual Magic Of The Brothers Grimm, which chronicles the most audacious of the 800-odd fx shots in the film. Using split-screen reveals to show on-set footage with finished film, pre-viz animatics and storyboards, key elements such as the mirror sequence, Belluci's jigsaw-puzzle face and, of course, that lamentable wolf. Gilliam, along with a few other CGI boffins, explain just how hard it was to create and fully render the wolf, but you can clearly sense the frustration and disappointment that the director feels about the final result.
Finally, we get a Movie Showcase feature that simply highlights the best AV moments from the film.
VerdictI thoroughly enjoyed The Brothers Grimm, whenever Peter Stormare wasn't fouling things up, that is. Whilst ostensibly quintessential Gilliam - fairytales, folklore and heroism subverted - the film plays out in a much more multiplex-friendly fashion, with a clutch of big stars, rich and glossy production values and a narrative that is a tad more mainstream than many may have expected. For me, its atmosphere is gorgeously gothic and its visuals - the odd dodgy bit of CG notwithstanding - a lush tapestry that reveals more treasure the closer one looks. Engaging leads and a standout score seal the deal for me as Gilliam scores another winner.
The Blu-ray touch works even more magic with simply awesome AV quality presented. The picture is absolutely ravishing to behold and the PCM Uncompressed is bound to impress. Gilliam's commentary is a great addition, and the deleted scenes yield some intriguing gems. So, overall, I can heartily recommend The Brothers Grimm ... especially for fans of Les Pacte Des Loups and Sleepy Hollow. A terrific AV experience.
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