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page added: 7/1/10

Blu-ray Reviews
Blu-ray Disc reviews by Todd Doogan & Tim Salmons of The Digital Bits

44-Inch Chest (Blu-ray Disc)

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44-Inch Chest
2009 (2010) - Touchstone (Image)
Released on Blu-ray on April 27th, 2010
Also available on DVD


Film Rating: B
Video (1-20): 18
Audio (1-20): 17.5
Extras: C

"I want you dead. I think you owe me that. I do. Because that's what you've done to me. You've f**king killed me."

As time goes by, more and more I realize that Sexy Beast is one of my all-time favorite films. Everything about the film is so well done.

First off: Ben Kingsley is simply awesome. He owns the film in no uncertain terms as the off-center and deeply psychotic Don Logan. Ray Winstone, as Gal Dove the criminal who got out and is now living the good life, is equally awesome. And let's never forget Ian McShane's Teddy Bass. Add those stellar performances to a classic heist plot and witty dialogue, and Sexy Beast makes for a film that can be rewatched as often as you feel the need to plop down in front of it.

So when I first read that the writers of Sexy Beast (Louis Mellis and David Scinto) were teaming once more for a UK set crime story starring the above referenced awesomeness of Winstone and McShane, I wanted to see the film right then and there. And when I finally saw the trailer, I was pretty sure I knew what one of my favorite films of 2010 was going to be. Now that I've seen it, did I let hyperbole get the best of me? A little bit. 44-Inch Chest is no Sexy Beast, but I assure you that it'll be in my Top 10 by years end.

Colin Diamond (Winstone) is a bad man. One can assume he's a cog in some UK criminal machine; though this point is never truly made. What IS clear about Colin when we first see him: He's a broken shell of who he normally is. Lying, seemingly dead, in the center of a thrashed-out home, we literally look down on him, his eyes wide with death. And then he blinks, reassuring us that he is indeed alive. (Though, he wishes he wasn't.) Enter Colin's steadfast friends: the affable Archie (Tom Wilkinson), weasely Mal (Stephen Dillane, Thomas Jefferson in HBO's John Adams mini), crotchety Old Man Peanut (John Hurt) and the very out and proud Meredith (McShane). They are here to lend support to Colin in any way possible... and right now, what he needs is for them to grab a man we will know only as "Loverboy" (Melvil Poupaud) and hold him in a broken-down safe house until he's ready to do what he needs to do. Why this guy? What did he do? Well... we learn in flashback that Colin's wife (played by a now mature, but still strikingly beautiful, Joanne Whalley) has cheated on him with Loverboy, and she's planning on leaving him. This information sets off Colin in a way that breaks his mind, ego and machismo into a thousand pieces, and he does some things - some terrible, unforgivable things - that break him even further. Now, Colin has to wrestle with everything he's just done: What he did to his wife (and didn't do as a husband) and what he now needs to do as a man. His salvation lies in a single moment, and we get to witness it all from the inside out.

The whole presentation and story structure of 44-Inch Chest is very theatrical. It's all basically told in a single environment (with flashes elsewhere), giving a claustrophobic feel and a sense of urgency. Everyone (and I mean everyone) in the cast gets their moment to shine. We get character exposition, witty monologues and some great development from all on screen (best among the supporting cast are John Hurt and Ian McShane). But in the end, the gooey center belongs to Winstone, who owns this movie in every scene he's in - even when he's slightly comatose. You can feel his anger, his pathos, his heartbreak, and his collapse of self. 44-Inch Chest no epic crime film, but as a character study, it's a film definitely worth your time.

The 1080p transfer on Image's Blu-ray is surprisingly good, and would hold its own against many major studio releases. Detail is very nice, contrast and shadow detailing are excellent (critical given the moody nature of the film), and while color is intentionally muted, it's always accurate. The disc includes audio in DTS-HD lossless of good quality, though the mix is more standard "indie" fare. There's not a lot of dynamic surround play, but the film's lean score sounds fine and dialogue is clear. For those of you interested, the disc's extras include a decent audio commentary featuring director Malcolm Venville, a 22-minute video interview with Venville that covers much of the same ground as the commentary, a 15-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, 5 minutes or so of additional short character Epilogues (unused from the end of the film), and the film's theatrical trailer. It's not a lot, but it's plenty for this film.

All in all, Image has delivered a very solid disc of a film that's worthy of your attention.

Todd Doogan

Moon (Blu-ray Disc)

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2009 (2010) - Sony Pictures Classics (Sony)
Released on Blu-ray on January 12, 2010
Also available on DVD


Film Rating: A-
Video (1-20): 18
Audio (1-20): 18
Extras: B

Excellent in nearly every detail, Moon is a fantastic one-man show and character study from director Duncan Jones, with a brilliant performance by Sam Rockwell. Running in the same vein as previous marooned astronaut stories like Silent Running, Solaris and 2001: A Space Odyssey, Moon not only takes inspiration from such classics of the genre but incorporates pieces of them making for a unique experience.

Very well designed and executed using mostly simple film techniques and special effects, it could have easily been made within the same timeframe as a lot of the contemporaries it draws from. Everything in the film drives the story forward and gives it solid gravitas. Visually, it's not landmark, but it's personification is simple for the story it's trying to tell. It doesn't try to delve into heavy technical and grandiose science fiction. Those elements are there simply because they're a part of the world and they're not worth explaining. The focus here is the story, and it's very well told. My only complaint about the film is the final seconds of it. With the last shot I was hoping for a silent resolution, but without giving too much away, that's not what happened. Everything leading up to that moment, however, works really well.

There's also another aspect about the film, which I guess I should mention. After seeing it, I wondered what it would have been like to have had Kevin Spacey in the lead rather than Sam Rockwell. I'm not saying that should have happened, but it just seems like the natural thing to do. It probably would have been another Oscar vehicle for him, of course, but it would have also left Sam Rockwell's brilliant performance forever unknown to us. I guess it's just best to ponder at the possibility. I'm positive that Kevin Spacey would have given a terrific performance because this was a perfect role for him to play, but I'm much happier to see Sam Rockwell get his due and do more interesting character-driven work.

Although the environments and color palette of the film are both pretty sparse and lack a bit of visual finesse, the presentation here is very, very good. It's a very sharp 1080p transfer, but does go just a bit soft at times (thankfully not very often). Being that this film is mostly monochromatic, blacks, grays and whites are very deep and solid. Film grain is also very solid, if not minimal. Although the picture is as sharp and detail-oriented as you could hope for, it's deficient visual style holds it back just a bit. The DTS-HD Master Audio also does it's job very well. This isn't a film filled with a lot of explosions or any of the other standard surround sound tableaus, but it's a very well-balanced soundtrack nonetheless. Along with the aforementioned DTS track, you get two more in French and Portuguese. In addition, you get a Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 channel. The subtitles include options for English, English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish. There are also optional subtitles for the commentary tracks, as well.

The extras go by pretty quickly, but there are some nice selections. You get two audio commentary tracks. One with Writer/Director Duncan Jones, Director of Photography Gary Shaw, Concept Designer Gavin Rothery and Production Designer Tony Noble. The other with Writer/Director Duncan Jones again and Producer Stuart Fenegan. The former is more of a discussion about the film among friends while the latter gets more into the technical details. Next is Duncan Jones' short film Whistle. While it doesn't tie to the film directly, it's an excellent example of the man's talent. The featurettes that follow are pretty short and sweet, including The Making of Moon (which breezes over the making of the film very quickly) and Creating the Visual Effects. The second featurette is a little more interesting than the first, but the real meat of the behind-the-scenes details can be found in the Q&As: the Science Center Q&A with Director Duncan Jones and a Filmmaker's Q&A at the Sundance Film Festival. For my money, these are the two featurettes really worth digging into. Ending the extras are a BD-Live option, the film's theatrical trailer and other trailers for District 9, Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day, Michael Jackson's This Is It, Black Dynamite, Zombieland, It Might Get Loud, The Damned United, Coco Before Chanel, Snatch, Close Encounters of the Third Kind: 30th Anniversary Ultimate Edition and Blood: The Last Vampire.

I really found a soft spot for this picture over the course of watching it. The score is one of my favorites from any film that I've seen recently while Sam Rockwell is absolutely engaging in his role. Moon probably won't be remembered for it's science fiction aspects, but for it's wonderful story... which is just how it should be. In other words, go out and pick this up this right away. You won't be disappointed.

Tim Salmons
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