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Blu-ray Reviews

HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Moonstruck



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#1 of 2 Cameron Yee

Cameron Yee

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Posted February 26 2011 - 09:38 AM

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Moonstruck
Release Date: Available now
Studio: MGM Home Entertainment
Packaging/Materials: Single-disc Blu-ray "ECO-BOX"
Year: 1987
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1:41:55
MSRP: $19.99

  THE FEATURE SPECIAL FEATURES
Video 1080p high definition 16x9 1.85:1 Standard definition
Audio DTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: Spanish 1.0, French 2.0 Stereo
Subtitles English SDH, Spanish, French Same


Representing a bit of a milestone, "Moonstruck" was the first title I reviewed for HTF when I came on as a reviewer in 2006. Included in this review are portions of that DVD critique.


The Feature: 4/5

"Snap out of it!" demands Loretta (Cher) of Ronny (Nicolas Cage), a sharp rebuke to his sudden declaration of love. Several hours earlier, overcome by passion, she had asked him to more-or-less snap into it, so why the apparent change (or loss) of heart? Well, for one she's engaged to his brother, Johnny (Danny Aiello), and for another she actually feels something for Ronny and in her experience that kind of thing leads to bad luck.

Seven years earlier the man she loved died in a freak bus accident, taken before they could start a family, and ever since she's seen herself as jinxed. With her impending second marriage, she's determined that things be different, even though she fails to see marrying a man out of practicality as its own kind of bad luck. Her mom Rose (Olympia Dukakis) doesn't mind though, stating with a weary look to Loretta's father Cosmo (Vincent Gardenia), "The ones you love only make you crazy 'cause they know they can."

Ronny himself seems to have more than enough crazy to spare. When we first see him he's stoking fires in the basement ovens of a local bakery, drawing easy comparisons to any number of myths about tortured souls. But as it turns out, he mostly suffers from an acute case of the melodramatics. Five years ago Brother Johnny distracted him at the bread slicer, costing him his hand and his shallow fiancee. And if he seems a little irrational about the whole thing, that's just the way he is, as fiery as the ovens he stokes all day; as passionate as his brother is kind of a putz. Ronny meets Loretta when she tries to persuade him to come to the wedding, Johnny's request of her while he's off in Sicily visiting his sick mother. Ronny and Loretta are of course the ones meant to be together though, not out of practicality but out of the passion that strikes them as soon as they meet. But before we reach that inevitable conclusion we'll have a beauty salon makeover, Puccini's "La Bohême" and a tense and awkward breakfast with the whole cast around the kitchen table.

Along the way we also get interesting glimpses at the relationships surrounding the protagonists. Loretta's father is cheating on Rose with a woman who seems to make him feel young and powerful, while her aunt and uncle are still faithful and in love after decades together. Meanwhile a regular patron (John Mahoney) at the family's favorite restaurant keeps getting drinks thrown in his face by his much younger dates. And Rose has her own philandering opportunity, though ultimately she just wants to know why men feel compelled to do it. As a result, love and marriage look less and less like matters of practicality or things easily snapped out of.

The strength of the "Moonstruck" script is matched by the quality of the cast, with the most endearing member being Olympia Dukakis as the longsuffering wife. Cage displays the go-for-broke acting we've come to expect from him, though in 1987 it seems he had yet to knock his vocal pitch down an octave. And Cher effectively portrays a no-nonsense woman, reticent about falling in love again. The peripheral players, like Loretta's grandfather and aunt and uncle, only have a handful of scenes but round out the sometimes-quirky, Italian American flavor.

The musical soundtrack is a pleasant and appropriate mix of original pieces by composer Dick Hyman and themes from and influenced by "La Bohême." Particularly effective is the use of Dean Martin's performance of "That's Amore" over the opening credits. Special features on the disc reveal a part of Puccini's opera was used in an early cut and turned off the test audience. Martin was clearly the better choice, capturing the tone and Italian American elements of the film perfectly.

"Moonstruck," which won Academy Awards for Original Screenplay (John Patrick Shanley), Supporting Actress (Olympis Dukakis) and Lead Actress (Cher) in 1987, is a perfect example of romantic comedy done right, balancing occasionally quirky humor with sentiment, but never becoming ridiculous or saccharine. Though some might mistakenly dismiss it as a "chick flick," the film should appeal to both men and women and is especially recommended for hopeless romantics and old married couples of all ages.


Video Quality: 4/5

The film is accurately framed at 1.85:1 and presented in 1080p with the AVC codec. Seemingly derived from the same master, the transfer has similar characteristics to the DVD. Black levels are solid and contrast displays the full range of values with no signs of compression. Shadow detail can be a little limited at times, but this - and the fairly muted color palette - seems inherent to the choice of film stock. Overall sharpness is decent, though close-ups seem to fare better than wider shots. Grain appears intact with perhaps some use of noise reduction, though it's not to excessive levels. The image also has a smattering of dust and dirt specks, though it seems heaviest during the film's title sequence.
 

Audio Quality: 3.5/5
Dialogue in the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is consistently clear and intelligible. Surround activity is limited to support for the score and an occasional environmental effect, but is well-balanced with the rest of the speaker array. Low frequency effects are non-existent, but the track has respectable depth and fullness, along with some very good detail in the upper frequencies.


Special Features: 3/5
The extras include all the disc-based items from the 2006 deluxe edition DVD, with the highlights being the commentary track and the piece on the music. Gone are the less pertinent printed recipe cards, which I doubt will be missed, but were a nice complement to the video on Italian cuisine.


Commentary with Cher, Director Norman Jewison and Writer John Patrick Shanley: Participants were recorded separately and parts were edited together to correlate with events on the screen. The information is interesting and plentiful, containing a nice mix of anecdotes, thoughts on the script and background into the making of the film.

Moonstruck: At the Heart of An Italian Family (25:30, SD): Members of the cast and crew provide history of the film, covering the genesis of the script, casting process, Academy Award anecdotes, and candid interviews with different Italian American couples. The majority of the cast and crew interviews were recorded in 2006, with the notable exceptions of Nicolas Cage's and Cher's coming from promotional material from 1987. After listening to the commentary track I can't help seeing this documentary as a bit superfluous as it contains many of the same stories and topics.



Pasta to Pastries: The Art of Fine Italian Food (30:07, SD)

  • Intro (1:40): Host Mark DeCarlo introduces the program, then takes viewers on a tour of Little Italy. Having DeCarlo as host was a headscratcher, since he has no connection to "Moonstruck," but after a little digging I learned he's the host of the Travel Channel's foodie show "Taste of America."
  • Grotta Azzurra Restaurant (18:49): Executive Chef Elvin Molina cooks a typical Italian meal of Spedini ala Romanna, Bucatini Amatriciana, and Lamb ala Elvin (his personal recipe). This is the best part of the section, though DeCarlo tries a little too hard to be funny.
  • Italian Food Center (2:32): DeCarlo visits an Italian market and samples some items from its deli.
  • Ferrara Pastries (2:29): DeCarlo stops by Ferrara's to sample cannoli.
  • Pimonte Ravioli Co. (2:08): DeCarlo visits a major pasta supplier for Little Italy restaurants; however cameras were denied access to the apparently top secret ravioli making area.
  • Gelato Stand (1:03): DeCarlo samples some gelato from a street vendor.
  • Florio's Restaurant (1:25): DeCarlo takes a brief look in the restaurant's kitchen.


Music of Moonstruck (6:24, SD): Interviews with composer Dick Hyman, screenwriter John Patrick Shanley and director Norman Jewison about the parallels and allusions to Puccini's "La Bohême" and operatic themes used in the score. A nice featurette on a sometimes overlooked filmmaking component.


Recap
The Feature: 4/5
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 3.5/5
Special Features: 3/5
Overall Score (not an average): 4/5


MGM Home Entertainment turns in a fine technical presentation for a charming Italian American-influenced romantic comedy. With the special features carrying over the major items from the 2006 DVD special edition, the Blu-ray release becomes a clear choice for those who have yet to own the title. It's harder to recommend it for a double dip for existing owners, but at the right price point it should make for a respectable upgrade in picture and sound quality.


One thing leads to another at cameronyee.com

#2 of 2 ManW_TheUncool

ManW_TheUncool

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Posted February 27 2011 - 06:08 PM

Thanks, Cameron.


Guess I'll probably wait for a better price before upgrading...


_Man_


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