'Australia' arrives on Blu-ray with probably the best 1080p AVC/Mpeg4 transfer of a 'live action' movie that I've seen to date. I'd rate it above even 'Zulu' in terms of sheer picture quality. The image is vibrant, with great contrast and black levels are reassuringly deep. There's also a great depth to the image, which doesn't look false at all. There's no ringing around faces to suggest over sharpening, but still you see skin pores in fine detail in the facial close ups. The one red vein in Ms Kidman's right eye is clearly visible, such is the detail. The skies are deep blue, the Australian earth is a strong reddish/brown in places. You can almost count the individual rocks in the desert scenes. A great deal of care has gone into this transfer to do full justice to the excellent cinematography. You'd really expect a movie shot on the latest film stocks to be this good. Grain is visible in some night shots, but they were probably shot on a faster rated film with resultant grain. There's nothing wrong with this at all. It's a faithful reproduction of the way the movie looks - and it looks truly fantastic. It is so sharp! I'm often ribbed for saying a shot is pin sharp, but I'll go further and say that this movie is scalpel sharp. Project it on a big screen and see for yourself.
The audio on 'Australia' is supplied as a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that really makes the earth move. Honestly! When the cattle arrive in Darwin, you'd swear they were thundering through your lounge. Such is the impressive use of the base extension that you'll be looking for hoof prints in the shag pile.
Dialogue is firmly and clearly locked to the centre channel, while the music and effects tracks are carefully steered (cattle, oh no!) around the main stereo pair and surrounds, making for an immersive experience. The music sounds good, whether it be 'Somewhere over the Rainbow' or the rather corny use of Elgar over some of the 'Doesn't the landscape look impressive?' shots. Come on Baz, show some imagination. The bombing of Darwin will have you ducking for cover too.
Overall, a very impressive soundtrack. Play nice with the neighbours.
'Australia' bounds on to Blu-ray with several bonus features for our delectation.
Sadly there is no director's commentary. I would have loved to have known what was going through Baz Luhrmann's mind at various points in the film, particularly with regard to the 'false peaks' and Ms Kidman's accent.
- Featurette: 'Australia: The People, the History, the Location' (HD, 7 mins)
This a way too short, dryly narrated, piece of PR puff that looks both at the film and the history of the locations used. This would have benefited from a more in depth look at the history angle to flesh out the issues touched upon in the feature for a wider audience, but is interesting all the same.
- Behind the Scenes (HD, Total 70 mins)
Here we have a series of nine documentary shorts, that examine the various areas of the production and provide a fascinating insight for the film buff . We hear first hand from those involved in the process, exactly how much care and effort it takes to bring a movie to the screen.
Areas covered are Photography (4:37), Production Design (5:30), Costume Design (6:58), Locations (6:22), Cinematography (6:44), Sound (11:05), Editing (11:05), Music (10:23), and Visual Effects (8:40).
- Deleted scenes: (HD, Total 3 mins)
What About the Drove?
Angry Staff Serve Dinner
You can pretty much see why these scenes were removed from a movie that was already heading towards the three hour mark. They just didn't add much to the storyline. As it stands, the final film could survived having about an hour removed from its length.
3 different trailers for 'Australia' (HD, 4 mins)
Slumdog Millionaire (HD 2 mins)
'Australia' on Blu-ray has one of the finest quality widescreen 2.35:1 1080p AVC/MPEG4 transfers I've seen to date and it does full justice to the spectacular cinematography of the landscape. It's very sharp and vibrant, with deep black levels making this a treat for the eyes.
The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track will rock the foundations of your house when the cattle are on the move, keeping dialogue clear and allowing music the room to breathe.
The only letdown is the fact that this is a very lumpy movie, that really needed a more experienced, sensitive director to bring home the bacon (or beef in this case). Nicole Kidman looks lovely, but her posh English accent is unconvincing. The chemistry was missing between the two main stars that would have made it work as a sweeping romance. Young Brandon Walters, as Nullah, steals the show.
The extras gives us some insight into the production, although strangely there is no director's commentary.
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