Blu-ray Review HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Away We Go - Recommended

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Kevin EK, Sep 28, 2009.

  1. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Producer

    May 9, 2003
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    Studio: Universal
    Film Year: 2009
    Film Length: 1 hour 38 mins
    Genre: Romantic Comedy-Drama/Road Movie
    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
    BD Resolution: 1080p
    BD Video Codec: VC-1 @ over 30 mpbs
    Color/B&W: Color
    English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 @ an average 3.5 mbps
    Spanish DTS 5.1
    French DTS 5.1
    Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
    Film Rating: R (Language, Some Sexual Content)
    Release Date: September 29, 2009
    Starring: John Krasinski, Maya Rudolph, Jeff Daniels, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Allison Janney, Chris Messina, Catherine O’Hara and Paul Schneider
    Written by: Dave Eggers & Vendela Vida
    Directed by:  Sam Mendes
    Film Rating:    3 ½ /5
    Away We Go is a thoroughly surprising film, in all the good ways that I can imagine. The movie is ostensibly a romantic, comic road movie about a couple that travels the U.S. looking for a proper home for their impending family (the woman is 6 months pregnant).   And there is a lot of character comedy throughout, as the couple (played by an able John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph) encounter a series of effective cameos by various actors, including Allison Janney (playing a completely unexpected character for her), Maggie Gyllenhaal (hilarious here and far better than her performance in The Dark Knight), and a surprisingly dark turn by Melanie Lynskey. But underneath all of the comedy is always a river of deeper feeling, which becomes more evident as the story continues. Maya Rudolph in particular gives a performance of such yearning that the viewer practically aches. It’s also a beautiful film that presents a variety of environments and situations – as any good road movie should. I have to admit that I put this disc on the player expecting a slight comedy, but walked away with a much deeper experience.  ONE SPOILER-ISH NOTE: AN EARLY SCENE OF THIS FILM INCLUDES A BIT OF FRANK SEXUALITY. NOTHING TOO FAR, BUT I STILL FEEL A NEED TO GIVE THE WARNING.
    Away We Go is being released on Blu-ray tomorrow, with a high definition transfer in picture and sound, a bookmarking function and BD-Live access, a pair of featurettes and a scene-specific commentary with Sam Mendes and co-writers Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida.
    VIDEO QUALITY   3 ½/5
    Away We Go is presented in a 1080p VC-1 2.35:1 transfer that shows off accurate flesh tones throughout – which gets pretty tricky here since Roth is wearing an artificial belly for pretty much the entire film and that has to match her as well. The different locales shown in the film have distinct visual styles that come across well here. One particularly satisfying image from early on shows the reflection of a jet in the mirror windows of an office building. I should note that I am watching the film on a 40” Sony XBR2 HDTV. If anyone is watching the film on a larger monitor and is having issues, please post them on this thread.
    AUDIO QUALITY   3 ½/5
    Away We Go is presented in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix in English, as well as standard DTS mixes in Spanish and French. Most of the mix here is in the front channels for the dialogue, but there is a fair amount of music coming through the surrounds. Some environments, like a pole dancing club, come to life a bit more in the surrounds, but I wouldn’t consider this an especially immersive mix. On the other hand, it does its job well in terms of making the dialogue clear and keeping the channels distinct.
    The Blu-Ray presentation of Away We Go comes with three special features – a scene-specific commentary with the director and screenwriters, and two featurettes about the making of the film. There is also the usual BD-Live functionality and the “My Scenes” bookmarking feature. 
    Feature Commentary with Sam Mendes, Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida  – This scene-specific commentary with Sam Mendes and the writers is a sociable one, with a bit of patter between the participants but also a fair amount of production information. Repeatedly, the participants discuss deleted scenes that were filmed, but have not been included on the disc here.
    The Making of Away We Go  (1080p, 16:13) – This brief making-of featurette mostly consists of interviews with the cast and director Mendes, with some interesting contradictions. (Mendes says he always wanted Krasinski for the film, while Krasinski says he knows that Mendes tried to get other actors before coming to him.) There’s a surprising bit of information about most of the film being shot in Connecticut, even for some scenes taking place in farther off locations. On the other hand, the featurette doesn’t discuss the shoots that did happen in Florida, Colorado and Arizona. But it does touch on some interesting areas, including the selection of Alexi Murdoch to write the songs for the score.
    Green Filmmaking (1080p, 6:38) – This featurette focuses on the production’s efforts to “Go Green”, in some similar ways to the earlier production of Evan Almighty I reviewed a couple of years back. The same basic logic applies here – minimizing the use of plastic bottles, recycling, composting, using hybrid vehicles, etc.
    BD-Live - This Blu-ray includes access to Universal’s BD-Live online site, allowing for the viewing of trailers online.
    Subtitles are available for the film and the special features. A full chapter menu is available for the film. The Blu-ray menus also include the “My Scenes” bookmarking feature and a BD-Live User Guide. When the disc is first put into the player, high-definition trailers are presented in 720p resolution. I noticed that the trailers were not the same each time. One the first playback, I was shown a trailer for Duplicity. On the second go-round, I saw trailers for Coraline, Changeling and State of Play.
    IN THE END...
    Away We Go is more than the sum of its parts. Far more than the simple comedy you might expect from the packaging, there are many deeper treasures here. (I am beginning to think that Sam Mendes cannot make a simple, light comedy without adding the layers, and that’s not a bad thing.) The Blu-ray presentation, with the commentary included, is a fine way to experience this film. I heartily recommend it for everyone, particularly fans of the cast and the director.
    Kevin Koster
    September 28, 2009.

  2. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

    Feb 12, 1998
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    Nice review, Kevin. I hope people check this out, because Maya Rudolph is amazing in it. She and Krasinski create one of the most credible screen couples I've seen in a long time.

    Also, for people who think Sam Mendes only makes Oscar-aspiration films, this is the one that breaks the mold. Not that it isn't a good film, but it doesn't have that sense of "Important Film" stamped all over it. Part of the credit is due to Ellen Kuras's cinematography, which is simple (deceptively so) and naturalistic. Sounds like it came through well on the Blu-ray.

    Everything Gyllenhaal has done was better than her performance in The Dark Knight. After Secretary and SherryBaby and The Great New Wonderful and even Stranger Than Fiction, it's just painful to watch a great actress wasted in a sacrificial girlfriend role.
  3. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

    Nov 15, 2004
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    The basement of the FBI building
    Yeah, John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph are very appealing as a couple and, in my opinion, are a big reason why the movie is as good as it is.

    I definitely hope more people see it on video. When I caught it in the theater, I was the only person there.
  4. Southpaw

    Southpaw Supporting Actor

    Sep 2, 2006
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    Should get it in the mail from NF today. Can't wait to check it out. Thanks for the write-up!
  5. trajan

    trajan Screenwriter

    Jan 1, 2009
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    I can't believe the same director that gave us American Beauty directed this excuse for a movie. I took it out of the player after an hour and took it back.
  6. Tony Mirra

    Tony Mirra Stunt Coordinator

    Jun 1, 2000
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    Heh. That actually sweetens the deal for me. I hated American Beauty.

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