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DVD Reviews


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#1 of 8 OFFLINE   Herb Kane

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Posted November 25 2003 - 12:30 PM

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My House In Umbria

Studio: HBO
Year: 2003
Rated: Not Rated
Film Length: 103 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 (1.78:1)
Audio: DD 5.1
Color/B&W: Color
Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
MSRP: $26.98
Package: Keepcase

The Feature:
I have to admit, when this disc showed up at my door a couple of days ago, not only hadn’t I heard of it, it didn’t do much to pique my interest after giving it only a cursory glance (don’t ever judge a book by the cover, right…?). Upon turning it over, I noticed the movie featured Dame Maggie Smith and recent Academy Award winner Chris Cooper… So immediately I’m thinking, okay, you now have my full attention. Being somewhat familiar with HBO’s recent projects, I thought I might just give this one a look. And am I glad I did…

Traveling by train through the Italian countryside, Emily Delahunty (played by Dame Maggie Smith) is seated in a compartment with a young American family and their young daughter Aimee (Emily Clarke), a young German couple and a retired British Army General traveling with his daughter. During the trip, a bomb explodes, shattering the compartment as well as the lives of those aboard. Unable to leave the country until the investigation into the bombing is complete, the survivors are invited back to Emily’s beautiful Italian villa to convalesce (from the physical and psychological wounds) until they are strong enough to go on with their lives.

The young American girl Aimee survives but is traumatized, to a point where she is unable to even speak, having lost both of her parents in the horrific blast. In an attempt to reunite young Aimee with family, the police contact the girl’s only living relative, her uncle Thomas Riversmith (played by Chris Cooper). When Thomas flies in from the U.S. to Italy to retrieve the girl, it becomes pretty clear that he is there only out of family obligation and guilt toward his late and estranged sister. Thomas’ aloof and standoffish personality makes it difficult for him to hide the fact that he feels inconvenienced by the thought of an instant family.

Finally, through the determined investigation of police Inspector Girotti (played by Giancarlo Giannini) it becomes disappointingly clear as to is responsible for the bombing. Also clear is Emily’s disturbing consumption of alcohol as it increases through the progression of the movie. Though, it seems that the lonely woman has now found her calling as a person caring for those in need.

This enchanted film moves along at a slow and deliberate pace but the pace is appropriate. The film is a testament of friendships that form under the worst of circumstances and a singular person rich in humanity. Maggie Smith is absolutely outstanding and is brilliant in her role as the forlorn Emily Delahunty. Filmed mostly in Italy, the cinematography showcasing the Italian countryside is breathtaking.

I wasn’t expecting the look of a $100 million dollar blockbuster, but this transfer didn’t disappoint either. In fact, I’d say it did more things right than wrong.

Shot mostly soft – (slightly soft), images of close-ups and facials were sharp and detailed nicely. Grain was present only minimally, rendering a very pleasant image.

Colors were rather muted though, not dull. The movie had a “European” feel or look to it so it’s possible the outdoor shots were filmed with a very slight yellow filter. Although black levels were not overly deep, they were adequate.

Unfortunately, some haloing was present but admittedly, I was looking for it – I wasn’t bothered by it. I noticed some light instability (possibly artifiacting…?) during a few scenes with solid color backdrops – it was infrequent and not bothersome. And as we would expect from a new film, I did not detect any dirt, scratches or dust.

All in all, a most impressive offering.

As you might expect, this is a mostly dialogue driven film. Except for the initial explosion, the entire movie is dialogue.

The clarity of the dialogue is crystal clear and always intelligible and hiss was never present. There was a pleasing sense of spaciousness during the score which had a “European elegance” to it. I was impressed with its sense of envelopment.

Surround use was minimal used primarily during passing cars (or sheep…) etc. as well as music filler. LFE was present during the initial explosion but that’s about it. I wasn’t expecting much but it did was it was supposed to admirably.

Very nice.

Special Features:
The disc has a few special features including a Commentary featuring Director Richard Loncraine and Executive Producer Frank Doegler as they offer up a bevy of interesting facts pertaining to the film and its location. The explosion sequence which was almost “dreamlike” is a rather unique one and it’s interesting to hear their thoughts on how that was handled. They’re both easy to listen to but Doegler seems a bit stiff at times, but he does loosen up throughout the commentary.

Also including is a Cast & Crew listing of all the players linking us to a brief bio and filmography for each of the members.

Finally is a neat Trailer featuring various HBO projects which caught my attention… so much so, I watched it a couple times.

Final Thoughts:
My House In Umbria is a delightful story about friendships that are forged after chance deals them a set of ill-fated circumstances and how forgiveness is afforded to those who don’t necessarily deserve it. At the end of the film reference is made to the term “Carpe Diem” which seems to be a particularly fitting term, especially to those who have lost loved ones.

This made for TV movie has all the qualities of a recent big budget motion picture and is better than most of them… including the quality of its presentation. Don’t let the cover fool you… the movie is wonderful.

Highly Recommended…!!

Released: November 25th, 2003
My Top 25 Noirs:

25. 711 Ocean Drive (1950), 24. Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), 23. Desperate (1947), 22. Pushover (1954), 21. The Blue Dahlia (1946), 20. The File on Thelma Jordon (1949), 19. He Ran All the Way (1951), 18. The Asphalt Jungle (1950), 17. The Killing (1956), 16. I Walk Alone (1948),...

#2 of 8 OFFLINE   Lawrence X

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Posted November 26 2003 - 12:53 AM

Thanks for the review! It's nice to see you also cover foreign/independent films as they generally seem so much richer and more original than the most all of the Hollywood focus grouped, demographically shoe-horned and product placement friendly fare. I'll definitely be giving this one a rent!

#3 of 8 OFFLINE   Brajesh Upadhyay

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Posted November 26 2003 - 01:17 AM

Thanks for the review. I missed this movie on HBO & I've been anxiously waiting for them to re-run it. This DVD will do just fine.
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#4 of 8 OFFLINE   SteveGon


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Posted November 26 2003 - 02:38 AM

Thanks for the review. I'll check this one out. Posted Image

#5 of 8 OFFLINE   ChrisMatson



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Posted November 26 2003 - 03:33 AM

How are the vistas of the Italian countryside? I was thinking about getting this or Under The Tuscan Sun to remind me of my honeymoon. I have not seen either movie. Can any one point me to the better blind buy?

#6 of 8 OFFLINE   Martin Jeeves

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Posted November 26 2003 - 08:08 PM

I have seen both and "Under The Tuscan Sun" is by a fair margin the better movie. In fact, it's excellent!

#7 of 8 OFFLINE   Trenton McNeil

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Posted December 14 2003 - 05:49 PM

I saw this movie on HBO-HD when it was in heavy rotation. I must not have an artistic bone in my body....I thought it was horrible. I sat through it because of the INCREDIBLE detail and cinematography of the landscapes and the drop dead clarity of the HD transfer. It would be interesting to compare them side by side.

#8 of 8 OFFLINE   Brajesh Upadhyay

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Posted December 15 2003 - 05:07 AM

Trenton, I didn't care for it either. In a word... boring!
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