Blu-ray Disc Review
Release Date: February 03, 2009.
Film Rating: /
Starring: Paul Giamatti (Miles), Thomas Haden Church (Jack), Virginia Madsen (Maya), Sandra Oh (Stephanie)
Directed by: Alexander Payne
In search of wine. In search of women. In search of themselves.
Director Alexander Payne, popular for his films About Schmidt and Election, brings the characters in Sideways to life in this poignant story of two buddies who take a week together to taste wine, eat fine foods, and golf as they celebrate the single life before marriage. But Miles and Jack share as much in common as a golf club and a bottle of wine. They have a friendship from being freshmen in college, but as years have gone by they are completely different people.
Miles (Paul Giamatti) is a pill-popping depressed individual; he’s a Grade 8 teacher and has failed attempts at becoming a writer. He is still heartbroken over his divorce that happened two years ago and wallows in his self-pity. He wants to believe being single is all he needs as he enjoys his favourite hobby of wine tasting – and drinking it excessively.
Jack (played by Thomas Hayden Church) is about to get married. He’s an actor and a voice-actor, young at heart and loves his women. To celebrate his last few days as a bachelor, the men take a week-long drive around Southern California. It comes as no surprise to see both men butting heads in terms of what they should be doing on this trip. Miles wants this trip to be private between the two of them – old buddies getting together and celebrate good times. Jack, on the other hand, is looking for a piece of ass in what he sees as his last week of freedom. Each try to impose their personalities on each and the comically mismatched pair are soon drowning in both wine and women. As they take on these female companions, they experience travelling up, down, and sideways on the road of life.
Wonderfully written and brilliantly acted, Sideways is now one of my favourite films. It’s no wonder it appeared on over 340 “top ten” film lists of 2004. There is lots of character development in this film; Paul Giamatti and Thomas Hayden Church are so convincing in their roles it felt like I personally knew these guys while watching the film. I can’t imagine any two other actors to fill the roles of these characters. They look like and play such opposites you become convinced these guys are real people. In a sense they are. There is a little bit of both Miles and Jack in most people - or you could feel like you are looking in the mirror. I should also mention that the performances of the two females in this story, Sandra Oh and Virginia Madsen are also equally fantastic.
This comedy is recognized as a clear winner in terms of story and writing, scooping up an Academy Award for Best Writing – Adapted Screenplay (and nominated for four others including Best Picture) as well as being nominated for seven Golden Globe Awards and taking home Best Picture and Best Screenplay. Wow!
VIDEO QUALITY: 4.5/5
This Blu-ray disc offers a large improvement over the DVD in terms of rendering finer details, grain, and the softer photography. This BD accurately exhibits the slightly 1970s look as intended by the director. The warm sunsets over the Californian terrain are strong in their appearance and the film frequently has a look of dusk. Film grain can be seen throughout these long shots, adding to the warm and cozy feeling. Flesh tones sometimes take on the warmth of the dry environment, while all other colours seem to keep an accurate hue. The darkest blacks can appear a bit grey, such as in Chapter 27 when Miles and Jack go to the house at 6am to fetch the wallet. Any edge outlining that appeared on the DVD is absent on this BD. This BD of Sideways appears to be faithful to the film and 1.85:1 aspect ratio without any unwanted artefacts.
AUDIO QUALITY: 3/5
The DTS-HDMA lossless 5.1 encode faithfully reproduces the jazz soundtrack in this film that perfectly sets the mood of the two buddies wining and dining across southern California. Dialogue can appear a bit heavy with a touch of distortion that is evident on the print master. It’s not much to worry about and I doubt most will hear it. The remaining effects are mixed nicely to create an environment in the front soundstage. Surrounds are used minimally, and so is LFE. The lossless audio on this BD offers more resolution than the DVD, and even with its minimal sound design, the room opens up and the soundtrack has more room to breathe.
TACTILE FUN!!: 0/5 ZERO
TRANSDUCER ON/OFF?: OFF
Bass shaker not required. It doesn’t suit the film and there is hardly any LFE anyway.
SPECIAL FEATURES: 2/5
This BD has the same great commentary as the DVD. Spoken by actors Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church, it’s about as funny and interesting (if not more amusing) than the film itself. I had a hoot listening to these two guys joke away at everything. By listening to this commentary, you can tell these two guys really click together as a pair when working together. This gave great on-screen chemistry as two buddies. When Thomas Haden Church speaks, he sounds just like his character on screen…it’s as if he played himself. I kept thinking: “I already know this guy…”
Also included on the BD are the same seven deleted scenes that were cut by the director late in the editing process just to speed up the film. There is a written introduction to all of the deleted scenes by Director Alexander Payne, and then an intro to each specific scene. The scenes are presented in 1.85:1 widescreen but aren’t enhanced for widescreen TVs. They look finished and as good as the film in its final form. They also include a moment in the film before and after the deleted scene for context. The deleted scenes add up to a little over five minutes.
A behind the scenes featurette (4:3 SD, 6:34) talks briefly of what the film is about. I wouldn’t call it a good behind the scenes featurette because it has lots of clips of the movie in it as the story is being explained. I like to see a little more “behind the scenes” rather than repeated portions of the movie I’ve just watched.
The theatrical trailer is absent, although there are four forced trailers when the disc is loaded. They are of Little Miss Sunshine, Napolean Dynamite, The French Connection (all HD), and The Boondock Saints (SD).
IN THE END...
Sideways is a great movie with a great high definition presentation. Highly recommended!
February 13, 2009.