The Wackness Blu-ray Review
PictureThe Wackness is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 at 1080p using the MPEG-4/AVC codec. It's a mixed bag of sorts mainly due to the colours being leached from the image. The main players all have something missing in their life and Levine enforces this fact with the lack of colour on screen.
It seems to be a pretty much washed out affair, with no sparkle or pop, added to that at times it's shot in the so called 'documentary' style with hand held cameras, the result though is quite a lot of grain in these scenes. Whilst this filming style does in fact suit this feature it doesn't really add anything to a Blu-ray presentation. The shadow scenes are never truly inky and detail is somewhat lost, specifically the ones in Dr Squires' office; there's no real definition of features that can be easily identified.
The image is often soft, again I feel a decision made as opposed to a transfer defect but again it doesn't help this Blu-ray disc in terms of video quality. There's little depth of field and whilst some shots in the New York streets offer up some good detail it's not across the board and not what we have come to expect from more recent releases. Whites on the other hand seem pretty stable and well confined, there is some minor enhancement as objects are in the front of brighter backgrounds.
Encoding wise there are no other problems, with no noise of blocking on show. I am sure this is faithful to what the director intended but there are better visuals out there for your Blu-ray bucks if that's what you're looking for on this new medium.
SoundThere are two tracks to choose from a French 5.1 TrueHD and of course the original English TrueHD 5.1. but similar to the previously mentioned video this doesn't really fire on all cylinders either. There's some ambiance from your surrounds with weather effects or street noise in New York but apart from that it's not a multi channel extravaganza.
As a dialogue driven piece weight must be applied to the almost continual important conversations and all of these come across well enough so you'll never be wondering what that last sentence was. The dialogue is predominantly rooted in the centre however there is some panning to centre-left or right as the characters move within the frame or off screen. Apart from passing trains this is the only real use of any steerage up front.
The LFE kicks in when the hip hop tracks are at the fore and this is where the frontal stage widens somewhat. The bombastic tracks booming out, tightly and well controlled with the stage deepening somewhat. Like or loath hip hop you cannot deny that the audio during these moments does indeed work well within the specific frame of the film.
The audio track more than covers the bases it needs to, not a full on assault but subtle and defined. Expanding when needed and staying quiet when the dialogue pieces are the order of the day.
- Commentary Josh Beck and Jonathan Levine
A pretty solid conversational piece more or less discussing the scenes on screen at the time. It's a fluid affair, light hearted and jovial. There's not a lot of production chat, some scene setting chat but that's about as far as it goes on that level. Levine relates some of this back to his early days in New York of being a student himself. A good enough commentary but not much more than that.
- Keeping it Real: A Day in the Life of Write/Director Jonathan Levine. - 0:07:45 - 1080p/MPEG-2
Jonathan Levine detailing his trips over the US as he promotes his film. He's in and out of radio and television studios. It's usually him on face to camera as he travels between these locations, giving no real insight into the movie. Luke and Olivia turn up before the premiere but have nothing really to say even though they do have a couple of lines in front of the premiere audience. I found this to be a rather vacuous affair, not really adding any depth of the disc.
- Time in a Bottle: Behind the Scenes of The Wackness. - 0:17:39 - 480i/MPEG-2
Levine himself states this is partly an autobiographical from having sex, smoking weed, growing up and exploring relationships. A standard short EPK with the cast Josh Peck, Sir Ben Kingsley and Olivia Thirlby having their say on the themes within the film. Kingsley discusses how he revelled in comedy on the stage and when he migrated to the big screen he tried comedy even with Gandhi but he admits it never really worked for that film. Like the film Kingsley is the best thing about this EPK.
- Luke Shapiro's Dope Show. - 480i/MPEG-2
Josh Beck in a back room studio somewhere giving it his homeboy rap routine. It's rather short, thankfully at some 7 minutes, and a little painful to watch at times. He has a DJ in the background spinning the required discs.
- Deleted Scenes.- 0:05:12 - 480i/MPEG-2
A collection of irrelevant scenes including Luke weighing dope pre graduation, Jeffrey's wife drunk on the floor obviously enjoying the after effects of a free evening with Jeffrey. Stephanie putting on make-up with Jeffrey asking her not to stay out late and Luke's father working on a Walkman scheme. None of these add anything to the feature and rightly hit the cutting room floor.
5 trailers for The Wackness, they are played individually, there is no Play All function.
The standard high def promo and trailers for Standard Operating Procedure, Redbelt and The Fall.
After another eternity to connect I finally managed to get on-line only to find no information up on the BD-Live site at all. I continually find BD-Live a disappointment.
The commentary is good enough, flowing and detailed but the rest of the extras included on this disc really left me wanting a little. There's no great information on the characters, the actors or the production implemented.
VerdictThe Wackness is a delightful little piece, a coming of age story, a missed opportunities story all rolled into one between differing generations. Sir Ben Kingsley steals the show yet again and can now add an element of comedy to his arsenal. There are better coming of age teenage movies out there, specifically the ones from the Eighties, including the altogether wonderful Risky Business and The Breakfast Club, but what Levine shows us here is that no matter your aspirations as a young adult they may all fall by the wayside as you grow a little older.
The acting is excellent all round and whilst the video suits it's a little too anaemic at times for my own liking. The audio though is acceptable enough but this set as a whole is let down by the lack of a decent set of extras.
I can still recommend watching this film, whether you choose to purchase or not will depend on a number of factors though. If you like a little hip hop or in fact were a teenager when this was set, 1994, then go for it as you will relate to it a little more. For everyone else out there perhaps a rental is justified. Either way I think you will enjoy these 90 odd minutes.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.77
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- Commentary Josh Beck and Jonathan Levine