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DVD Reviews

HTF Review: Four Weddings and a Funeral - Deluxe Edition



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#1 of 8 OFFLINE   Jason Perez

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Posted January 29 2006 - 06:31 PM

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Four Weddings and a Funeral: Deluxe Edition





Studio: MGM
Year: 1994
Rated: R
Running Time: 118 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)
Subtitles: English, French, and Spanish
Audio: English and French – Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish – Stereo Surround




Release Date:
January 31st, 2006



If you have ever been involved in trying to plan a picture-perfect wedding, you know how much pressure there can be, and how many little details have to be right, for it to come off as planned. What if something went wrong though? Say, for example, the ring bearer lost the rings, or the best man’s toast is completely inappropriate, or the bride makes like Julia Roberts in The Runaway Bride and flees as the ceremony is about to commence? Worse yet, what if a guest were to pass away during the after-party (how’s that for a wedding day memory)? You have questions…this romantic comedy has the answers!

Yes, God bless him, Richard Curtis’ screenplay for Four Weddings and a Funeral commingles a budding romance between a gun-shy British bachelor who cannot seem to settle down and a flirtatious American with wedding day disasters, and the end result is lots of laughter and enjoyment! Now, let me be honest and say that this romantic comedy still calls many plays from the dog- eared “romantic comedy” playbook, but it is still done well enough that it is endearing nonetheless. In fact, Four Weddings and a Funeral was considered a good enough motion picture to garner an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture to go along with its hefty box-office take, and is also notable for catapulting star Hugh Grant to “A list” status.

Perhaps the best thing Four Weddings and a Funeral had going for it was Mr. Curtis’ surprisingly poignant script, which contains his distinctly British flair, enough drama to keep the romantic aspects of the tale from overwhelming viewers, and lively, quirky supporting characters that make the story truly memorable. No, this is not your garden-variety tale of two people who could not be more wrong for each other meeting, falling in love, having trouble strike, and then reuniting again in the end with a kiss accented by string instruments! Rather, this is a rare romantic comedy, which actually has some weight to it, and characters that are fully fleshed out.

I also liked how the titular ceremonies make the film play somewhat like as a collection of vignettes, which both develop the courtship between a conservative Englishman with commitment issues named Charles (Hugh Grant) and the lovely Carrie (Andie MacDowell), and deals with the importance of friendship by advancing the tales about the supporting characters that comprise Charles’ support system. Among them are his hearing-impaired brother David (David Bower), the cynical Fiona (Kristin Scott Thomas), who is hopelessly in love with Charles but knows she’ll never land him, a gay couple named Gareth (Simon Callow) and Matthew (the very funny John Hannah), and Scarlett (Charlotte Coleman), who has a penchant for “bonking” the wrong guys.

Our leading man and lady first meet at the film’s first wedding, between some mutual friends. It is made clear that Charles is interested in Carrie from the get go, but being Charles, he is reluctant to make his move. Being a bit more brazen, Carrie helps him out, and they end up sharing a wonderful evening together. Unfortunately, they part just as quickly, and then bump into each other at other weddings, which keeps the feelings they have for each other alive, and leads to some really awkward moments. I do not want to get into too much detail, but despite their feelings for each other, circumstances dictate that they can share no more than a few fleeting moments of passion, after which each returns to their individual comfort zone. Will they ever manage to come together for good?

While we are wait impatiently to see whether Charlie and Carrie will end up together, director Mike Newell really brings the humor in the four weddings Richard Curtis has included in the script (hence the title) off the page. Some of the things he throws in are awful wedding bands, an inept priest-in-training (Rowan Atkinson) who cannot manage to get the words to the ceremony right, and some of the snafus mentioned in the opening paragraph of this write-up. Now I know it is wrong to laugh at the misfortune of others, but Newell’s handling of this wonderful screenplay really does make it easy!

You might be thinking “All this ranting about weddings, but what is up with the funeral in the title?” Well, it is precisely what serves as a precursor to the movie’s joyous conclusion. To be a bit more specific, the tragic death of a member of Charlie’s inner circle causes him to evaluate his life, and his inability to commit to a single woman. And as a result of his analysis, Charlie finally makes a bold decision, embarking upon the path that he perceives will bring him the greatest happiness. The only question is, will his actions have come too late?

I don’t want to spoil the ending, so I’ll stop there, but rest assured that it is about as contrived as any other romantic comedy’s finale, and yet somehow does not make the film any less fun to watch. I could be wrong, but a good amount of the credit for that has got to go to the actors, particularly Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell, who really sell the story. Here, Grant exhibits an early version of the character that he has successfully conjured up several times since, exuding plenty of charm and wit. MacDowell, who I also really liked in Groundhog Day, is even better here, playing a character that is funny, winning, and sexy. Her interactions with Grant seemed very natural, and their onscreen chemistry was believable, which is vitally important in any romantic comedy.

The supporting actors were also very good, particularly Rowan Atkinson as the tongue-tied priest, and John Hannah, who gets to show his skill as both a dramatic and comic actor. Their fine work makes the characters in this film people you enjoy spending two hours with, and people that you are interested in watching. Your opinion may vary, of course, but I wish the film was longer, so I could have spent more time with these folks! I had not seen Four Weddings and a Funeral in a while, but after watching again, I appreciated it subtlety and blend of comedy and drama even more than I did before. This is a very good motion picture, and easily one of my favorite romantic comedies! If you haven’t seen this film yet, I urge you to give it a spin!





SO, HOW DOES IT LOOK?
This is Four Weddings and a Funeral’s second coming on DVD, the previous disc released some years back as a barebones release, which contained both the butchered full-frame and original widescreen aspect ratios (1.85:1). The previous DVD did not feature the worst transfer I have ever seen, but on this double-dip “deluxe edition”, I can honestly say that the visuals have been given a substantial overhaul!!!

The most noticeable improvement (to me) was how much less print damage/debris appears in the image. There are still a few specks and spots that pop up here and there, but in general this new transfer is much, much cleaner. And though I would not go so far as to say that the image is razor sharp, the level of overall detail is also much improved for the deluxe edition, likely thanks to the transfer being anamorphically enhanced. Thankfully, artifacting, pixelization, and edge enhancement (quite noticeable on the previous disc) were also missing in action!

To sum things up, Four Weddings and a Funeral finally has a transfer that fans can be proud of, as the image is substantially cleaner and more detailed! In fact, I would say that the visual improvement in this film is reason enough to upgrade if you already own the previous disc!!! Posted Image Posted Image



WHAT IS THAT NOISE?
Just like the visual transfer, the audio elements of Four Weddings and a Funeral have been retooled, resulting in a much more pleasant listening experience. Presented by MGM home video in Dolby Digital 5.1, the new mix boasts clarity and composure that the track on the previous disc lacked.

Like most romantic comedies, this is a fairly non-dynamic film, with a lot of dialogue in it, but the actor’s voices come through in a realistic and robust fashion. Outside of generating ambience, the rear channels are not utilized very often, but the soundstage does open up a bit whenever music (mostly “Here Comes the Bride”) comes into the picture. Frequency response and imaging were above average as well, and the soundtrack exhibited a nice, smooth midrange, as opposed to the harsh, grating tone of the mids on the previous DVD. I’ll be honest, the subwoofer pretty much sits this one out, although there were a few instances where the wedding tunes were given some additional punch.



EXTRAS, EXTRAS!!!


Audio Commentary with Filmmakers
This newly created audio commentary features Richard Curtis, Duncan Kenworthy, and Mike Newell reminiscing about their very successful little project. I love the film, and I really liked this commentary, as the speakers are all very engaging, and provide more than enough background information to make it worth a listen or two. In particular, there is more detailed discussion about the casting process, how the production was delayed for two years and the budget slashed, and the characters behaviors.

If you like this film at all, the commentary track should be a pleasant experience!


Deleted Scenes
There are a total of five deleted scenes available for perusal, with optional introductions by producer Duncan Kenworthy). Including the introductions, these scenes, most of which were cut for pacing reasons, run for a little over 10 minutes. They are entitled:

--- The Wedding Line
--- The Novice Priest
--- The Deaf Father
--- The Friends
--- The Kiss


The Wedding Planners
This featurette, which runs for 30 minutes, features interviews with the film’s principal cast and crew, who give fans a sense of the origin of the film, and the process of getting it made. Some of the topics I found most interesting were:

--- Mike Newell revealing that he was concerned the script was “too British”.
--- Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell discussing how they came on board, and producer Duncan Kenworthy (who doesn’t drop any names Posted Image ) mentioning that a number of really big names read for the lead roles in Four Weddings.
--- Mr. Newell discussing how budgetary constraints forced the creative team to devise some shots that he is ashamed of.


Four Weddings and a Funeral: In the Making
This is a vintage 7 ½-minute featurette where director Mike Newell and his two stars talk about the story, the characters’ personalities and motivations, and the qualities their counterparts brought to the project. Since it was undoubtedly a promotional piece, it is a little on the “fluffy” side, but it does not require a major time investment, so it is certainly worth looking at once.


Two Actors and a Director
In this 5 ½-minute featurette, Mike Newell, Hugh Grant, and Andie MacDowell talk casually about casting the two leading roles in Four Weddings and a Funeral, with MacDowell chatting about what drew her to the part and Grant quipping about auditioning for his role in front of the Muppets.


Trailer
The trailer (2:24) for Four Weddings and a Funeral is included.


Promotional Spots
There are three brief promotional spots for the film included:
--- Comments by producer Duncan Kenworthy (1:39)
--- Hugh Grant’s Promotional Spot (35 seconds)
--- Andie MacDowell’s Promotional Spot (1:13)


Photo Gallery
There are 35 color/black-and-white promotional still photographs in the gallery for Four Weddings and a Funeral.


Promotional Materials
Trailers for Hitch, 13 Going On 30, and The Cutting Edge: Going for the Gold, are available. Now if a movie ever called for a sequel, it is The Cutting Edge! Posted Image



SCORE CARD

(on a five-point scale)
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Audio: Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image
Extras: Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image
Overall: Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image



THE LAST WORD
With all the double and triple-dips of films on DVD these days, it is surprising that it took years for MGM to get around to retooling Four Weddings and a Funeral. At least the “deluxe edition” was worth the wait, however, as the improvements in both the audio and visual presentation are not small, and easily worth an upgrade if this film is already sitting in your library. The value-added materials should also be of interest to fans, both old and new.

And if you are not among those with Four Weddings and a Funeral in your DVD collection, I urge you to rectify that situation right away! This is a funny, well-written, and expertly directed and performed film, which rewards repeat viewings and holds up very well after over a decade! At long last, it has a DVD worthy of its stature, which makes my last words very easy to write…

Highly recommended!!!


Stay tuned…
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#2 of 8 OFFLINE   David Williams

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Posted January 29 2006 - 07:47 PM

Thanks for the comprehensive review. I can't wait to get my hands on it and I shouldn't have to wait long as it shipped today from Amazon. Should have it in hand on release day!
"Only two things are infinite––the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not so sure about the universe." ––Albert Einstein

#3 of 8 OFFLINE   Casey C.

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Posted January 31 2006 - 11:37 AM

Picked this up today. Haven't watched it yet, but the packaging was kind of odd. It comes in this weird clear plastic sleeve that includes artwork apparently intended to overlay the standard artwork.

On the cover, most of the co-stars are obscured by a hedge (including poor Charlotte Coleman's face); on the back, another (redundant) picture of Andie 'n' Hugh overlays Rowan Atkinson. Weird.

Once you throw away the sleeve, though, it looks quite nice Posted Image

It comes in a white case, which generally I don't like, but given the wedding theme it does look appropriate.

#4 of 8 ONLINE   Steve Tannehill

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Posted January 31 2006 - 12:42 PM

Didn't the original release have a music video on it? (Time to dust off the 1997 portion of the shelves...)

Thanks for the review... I picked up a copy today.

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#5 of 8 OFFLINE   James Luckard

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Posted January 31 2006 - 01:38 PM

The very first Polygram DVD did indeed have the "Love Is All Around" music video, but that was the only extra. It also has really awful image quality and loads of print damage.

Although I bought the British edition of the SE when it came out two years ago, I held onto the Polygram disc, as the MGM disc from the UK had those hideous player-generated titles throughout, each time we get a "Six Months Later," etc.

I'm really hoping the new disc doesn't have those, but since it's MGM as well, I'm not holding out much hope. Still, the extras are great and I'll be buying it just because I know the film so well that the PAL speedup really bugs me.

#6 of 8 OFFLINE   Casey C.

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Posted January 31 2006 - 07:36 PM

The extras are quite good -- especially the long "Wedding Planner" one.

But did anyone else notice that when the featurettes included a clip from the movie, the clips appeared to be speeded up? Maybe they were taken from a PAL master and this is the dreaded PAL speedup? I found it to be very noticeable; Hugh's voice sounded like he was about 12.

The film itself sounded great though! Posted Image I'd seen it on TV for so long that I'd forgotten they weren't actually saying "Bugger!" when they were late for the wedding Posted Image

(James: the "X months later" subtitles look like they're definitely part of the film element, not player-generated.)

#7 of 8 OFFLINE   James Luckard

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Posted February 01 2006 - 11:19 AM

Just got the disc today. I'm so glad this didn't get released under MGM, Sony has not only kept the original burned in titles for "X Months Later," but they've kept the burned in subs for all of the sign language that people use to talk to Hugh Grant's brother.

The R2 SE from MGM replaces all these subs with player generated subs, which don't hit at exactly the same timings as those in the original film and throw off some of the gags that come from the sign language.

Thank you Sony for doing this disc right. I can now sell my R2 SE used and recoup a couple of bucks towards the new one.

(As for the featurettes, yes, they've all been ported over from the R2 SE, and they were all done for the British market, so they all have PAL speedup in the clips, and the interview footage also has PAL ghosting, but seems to have at least been recorded at 25fps, so there's no speedup. Still, a tiny flaw on a great disc.)

#8 of 8 OFFLINE   Joel C

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Posted February 02 2006 - 10:37 AM

To be fair, MGM stopped doing player generated subtitles after people started complaining about them.
Joel
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