DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Everything Is Illuminated (RECEOMMENDED).

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Herb Kane, Mar 17, 2006.

  1. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

    May 7, 2001
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    Everything Is Illuminated

    Studio: Warner Brothers
    Year: 2005
    Rated: PG-13
    Film Length: 105 Minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Enhanced Widescreen
    Audio: DD 5.1
    Color/B&W: Color
    Languages: English
    Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
    MSRP: $27.95
    Package: Single disc/Keepcase

    The Feature:
    Actor-turned-director Liev Schreiber makes his debut behind the camera in this most recent Warner Independent effort, Everything Is Illuminated. The film is a journey of sorts and can easily be seen as a deeply personal effort. Schreiber does an admirable job at conveying this sentiment to the audience. The film has a quirky flair and at times seems disjointed but ultimately winds up being a satisfying melodrama even with a few contrivances, coincidences, and plot holes.

    Jonathan (played by Elijah Wood) is a "collector." He obsessively catalogs items pertaining to his family in Ziploc bags, then pins them to his bedroom wall - everything from old photographs to his grandmother's false teeth. When he is given a photo taken in 1940's Ukraine of his grandfather with the mysterious woman Augusta, his curiosity is piqued. So he travels to the Ukraine and hooks up with Heritage Tours, a family-owned business that specializes in helping rich Jews locate their dead ancestors. With the aid of twenty-something Alex Jr. (played by Eugene Hutz - who also narrates the film) and his grandfather, Alex Sr. (played by Boris Leskin), Jonathan begins a road trip into his past.

    Everything Is Illuminated achieves a witty tone and moves along at a decent pace. During the first half-hour, there's plenty of humor as Jonathan and Alex Jr. (whose grip of the English language is not the greatest) struggle to communicate. The trio's final destination, and the revelations that occur there, are emotional. In a strange kind of way, it seems easy to connect with these characters - a bond that is ultimately necessary when the climax eventually comes along. The film moves along at a decent clip, however, a few more quiet moments might have lent to an even greater sense of emotional power.

    The film's star, Elijah Wood comes off as somewhat stiff, but that's probably because he's playing, well, someone who's stiff. Some may find Jonathan's appearance a distraction with the neatly coiffured hair and the thickest of spectacles, but that's the very appearance that adds to the unique flavor of the film. Although the film hints at an obsessive compulsive disorder (ya think...?), it never really digs too deeply. The two non-English actors are convincing, with Boris Leskin filling the grumpy old man role while Eugene Hutz is the occasionally bumbling sidekick. Some of the best parts of the film occur early when Hutz does an amusing voiceover describing his character's likes and dislikes. (He's a big Michael Jackson fan, and can dance like John Travolta.)

    Based on Jonathan Safran Foer's 2002, critically-acclaimed novel (of the same name), Everything is Illuminated works because the viewer cares about the characters, even though Jonathan is somewhat distant - or just weird (hey, the guy keeps his grandmother's false teeth in a Ziploc bag). While Everything is Illuminated takes place in present time (except for memories and flashbacks to WWII), the magic of the film rests with Schreiber's ability to deliver us from the weirdness of the film to that of solemnity. Look for a brief Liev Schreiber cameo as well, very early in the film.

    The Feature: 4/5

    Presented in it's original A.R. of 1.85:1 - enhanced widescreen, this transfer is excellent. Colors looked vibrant and lush - nicely saturated. Skin tones appear real and accurate. Blacks were rich and inky deep, while whites looked crisp and clean. Contrast levels also looked excellent.

    Image definition was quite pleasing, not only on close-ups but also on the longer and wider shots. There is only a slight amount of fine film-grain present, affording the overall image a rich and textured look. The authoring seems to have been handled well as I could detect no signs of compression errors however a slight amount of edge enhancement was evident - very slight. As we hope for such a new release, the print was immaculate and free of any marks or blemishes. Besides that, my only other complaint is a slight (very slight) look of glossiness to the overall image, something I don't particularly care for.~

    Other than my two small - very small - gripes, this is a fine looking transfer that most should be pleased with.

    Video: 4/5

    Surprisingly enough, this DD 5.1 encoded soundtrack does a better than average job at conveying the audio portion of this mostly dialogue driven film. The track is perfectly clean and free of any hiss or other noisy distractions. Dialogue was crystal clear and bold and always intelligible. Even during Paul Cantelon's fitting score, dialogue is never lost in competition.

    Not much to speak of here in terms of depth or dynamics however, the score shows up with a reasonably wide soundstage. Surrounds are employed tactfully, albeit, subtlety and mostly for music filler. And there is even the odd LFE engagement, but the overall track is rather subdued.

    Solid but not flashy.

    Audio: 3.5/5

    Special Features:
    Not much here in terms of special features - including the noticeable absence of a commentary, however, the disc looks like this:
    [*] First up, a collection of Additional Scenes. There are a total of five scenes entitled, The Collector, Premium Dancer, Breakfast, 400 Words For Snow and The Collector Part 2 - all presented non-enhanced. Interesting to see but none of these would have added very much to the film - although during Premium Dancer, there's an interesting little dance scene performed on and around a circular bed that's a lot 'o fun.... Duration: 18:29 minutes.
    [*] The only other feature is the film's Theatrical Trailer, which is, as we would expect, near perfect. Duration: 2:26 minutes.

    Special Features: 2/5

    **Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**

    Final Thoughts:
    Everything is Illuminated starts with silliness and ends with something deeply reflective. How it gets from one to the other is the focus of the film; a journey undertaken by three unique individuals who delve into the secrets of the past in an attempt to explore and discover one's roots. There is no question Everything is Illuminated plays on the side of quirk, so it might not be to everyone's taste. This is a film that grows appreciably upon reflection and one that hopefully finds an audience on our beloved format.

    While the special features are sparse, the presentation is excellent. If you are not familiar with the film, you might consider a rental first. Those familiar with it, should be pleased. If this one eluded you at the theater, check this little oddball out, you might be pleasantly surprised.

    Overall Rating: 4/5 (not an average)


    Release Date: March 21st, 2006
  2. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
    Likes Received:
    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein
    It's sort of cool that you reviewed this
    title because last week I watched Goodnight
    And Good Luck
    , and was so intrigued by this
    trailer that was attached to the front of it.

    This looks to be a very interesting film, and
    as soon as I am done posting this message, I
    am going to place a preorder for it based on
    your supportive review.
  3. Justin W

    Justin W Stunt Coordinator

    Oct 2, 2003
    Likes Received:
    i'm with you ron. the trailer on good night and good luck interested me as well. i'll probably rent it first. but i'm excited.
  4. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

    May 7, 2001
    Likes Received:

    That's funny Ron.... that's exactly why I chose it - I'm glad I did. Hope you enjoy it.
  5. Dave Vaughn

    Dave Vaughn Stunt Coordinator

    Oct 8, 2001
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    This is one of my favorite movies of last year. The humor was outstanding and the trailer was good too. That attracted me to the movie in the first place and didn't give the whole movie away (which is rare these days).

  6. Adam_S

    Adam_S Producer

    Feb 8, 2001
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    Real Name:
    It's a good movie, about as straightforward and safe an adaptation of that particular portion of the book as you can expect, so it never reaches for (nor achieves) greatness but it does an adequete job at being a very good movie.
  7. Brian_cyberbri

    Brian_cyberbri Stunt Coordinator

    Dec 30, 2004
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    I remember seeing somewhere the filming of this movie in Europe, but I had forgotten about it since then. I also saw the trailer on GN&GL, but accidentally skipped it after a few seconds and couldn't go back because it wasn't available in the Extras - so I didn't catch the name. It's now at the top of my Netflix queue, along with The Squid and The Whale, also due out on Tuesday.

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