Sideways [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (30th March 2009).
The Film

Did you know that a Japanese remake of this quirky little film is being made? Crazy? Yes, who knew the small Independent film from 2004 would warrant a remake? Let alone a Japanese one, I guess it's not that hard to believe considering Hollywood borrows and remakes a host of films from overseas each year, they've milked the Japanese film industry for a bunch of forgettable horror films... now it's Japan's turn to remake American films for their audiences. Before you seek out the Japanese version (which might find it's way to Western audiences) I urge you to see the Alexander Payne's original, which is well and truly a quirky and wonderful little independent that swept the scene back in 2004.

"Sideways" was the Indie Oscar darling of 2004, similarly garnering accolades with the likes of "Little Miss Sunshine" (2006) and "Juno" (2007), it seems every year at the Oscars an Independent film surges into the limelight (or at least since the rise of Miramax anyway...) and gets to play with the 'big boys' of Hollywood filmmaking (This year's film was "The Wrestler") These films certainly deserved their moments in the sun, after all it's hard enough to make a film with Independent financing let alone get anyone to see it. So the achievements of the respected filmmaker's are nothing to sneeze at. Payne's melancholic comedy rose to attention partly due to its cast, the always entertaining Paul Giamatti delivers a rounded and brillaint performance as would-be writer Miles, supporting him are Thomas Haden Church and Virginia Madsen both in roles that relaunched their careers and both Oscar nominated for their supporting roles. The relationship between Chruch's character Jack and Miles feels believable, real and their chemistry is the glue that binds the film and brings Payne's screenplay (co-written by Jim Taylor) to life. It's another reason why the film succeeds so well.

I was enamored by the script, it's a well shaped and developed screenplay and nothing ever feels forced, contrived or a plot device to simply get characters from 'A' to 'B', which is a marvel considering the plethora of poorly written fodder making it's way to the big screen these days (take your pick of any video game based movie for example). "Sideways" is a human comedy that engages, features well rounded characters (flaws and all) and it's no wonder why the film picked up numerous awards for it's screenplay (Oscar, BAFTA & Golden Globe among others).

Payne's sense of humor is very much rooted within the character relationships and exposing character flaws to best effect and there's plenty of moments between these two main characters that will generate laughs, primarily Jack's constant philandering which leads to one of the funniest moments in the film with Miles being chased by a naked M.C. Gainey. And if you're a little twisted (like me) then you'll get a kick out of Stephanie (Sandra Oh) beating Jack with her motorcycle helmet, another of many humorous moments spattered throughout the film.

I was lucky enough to catch this film before the hype, before the Oscar frenzy and accolades, it was at a Festival screening and it was one of the most memorable and enjoyable. I'm excited to revisit it on Blu-ray for the first time in a couple of years and it still holds up. "Sideways" might be a dash pretentious for some, especially all the houty-touty wine talk, but it's a great film and comes highly recommended.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1 this film makes its Blu-ray debut in 1080p 24/fps high-definition and has been mastered using AVC MPEG-4 compression. The film's overall look is very natural, it's no frills photography and it holds up fairly well in HD. The film is occasionally soft, but this doesn't deter detail from looking good, especially textures. Skin tones look natural, colors are somewhat subdued but again this is intentional and not a flaw of the transfer. It's clean of dirt, specks and compression problems, grain adds the weight to the image and thus this transfer is very film-like, but depth is a little limited as the overall image still looks a bit flat. I also found that black levels were not consistent, despite these minor problems the film looks better than the DVD version released almost 5 years ago.

Audio

Four audio tracks are included here, they are in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixed at 48kHz/24-bit as well as DTS 5.1 tracks in French, Portuguese and Spanish. This film is entirely dialogue centric, there are no gun shots, no car chases, no explosions or over-the-top set pieces, so it's not exactly the type of sound mix that you'd want to use as an example of how awesome HD audio can be. But, it's a decent track that does exactly what it's supposed to do. Dialogue is clear and distortion free, music cues and ambient and subtle environmental surrounds add some layers to the mix. It's a good track but nothing that a standard 5.1 track couldn't have done.
Optional subtitles are included in English for the hearing impaired, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Cantonese, Mandarin and Korean.

Extras

Fox has released this film with all the extras from the previous DVD release, this includes the audio commentary, a collection of deleted scenes, two featurettes and finally a series of bonus trailers. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

First up is a feature-length audio commentary by actors Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church. It appears the onscreen friendship between these two clearly translated into a real-life friendship as these two provide an entertaining track that's as engaging as the film itself. The art of the commentary seems lost these days, with a majority of track simply not delivering, lacking in information and also in a sense of fun. Comedy films need an entertaining track to take fans through on-set stories, escapades and shared memories and that's exactly what these two provide. I only wish that the film's director could have joined them in adding his own two cents into the filmmaking process. Otherwise this track is well worth your time.

Following that are a collection of seven deleted scenes which opens up with "Notes from Alexander Payne" which runs for 2 minutes 10 seconds, and lets us in on the scenes and his editing choices in some text notes cut into a reel, these scenes can be viewed individually or with a 'play all' option, the scenes included are:

- "Scene 44 - Miles Throws Away The Bible" runs for 1 minute 39 seconds, while waiting for Jack in the motel room Miles throws the bible in the garbage.
- "Scene 50 - Jack Mocks Miles And Tracy Opens The Door For The One-Legged Man" runs for 3 minutes 10 seconds, an unnecessary scene which Jack pokes fun at Miles about Maya and her vibrator, later there are more establishing shots of the location.
- "Scene 96 - Miles Hits A Dog" runs for 2 minutes 56 seconds, Miles finds ways to kill time while alone and accidentally runs over a dog while on his way back to the motel from the golf course.
- "Scene 117 - Earlier Version Of The Couples' Afternoon Together" runs for 1 minute 43 seconds, this is an extended version of the montage seen in the film.
- "Scene 134 - Too Sporty?" runs for 1 minute 56 seconds, Jack takes Miles out shopping for new sneakers to cheer him up.
- "Scene 143 - The Paraguayan Vulture" runs for 1 minute 24 seconds, this is a scene that references the dog which Miles hit in a previous deleted scene.
- "Scene 147 - Miles Gets The Vicodin" runs for 1 minute 34 seconds, Jack complains about potentially having to undergo an operation on his nose after Stephanie broke it with her helmet, Miles picks up some vicodin from the pharmacy and also takes two pills with Jack.

"Behind-the-Scenes" featurette runs for 6 minutes 34 seconds and is a very basic EPK clip that covers the basic of the production from the key cast and crew. They comment on the story and the characters as we get the usual amount of interviews, behind-the-scenes footage and clips from the film. Pretty basic stuff here that doesn't warrant repeated viewing.

Rounding out the extras are bonus trailers for:

- "Little Miss Sunshine" which runs for 2 minutes 25 seconds.
- "Napoleon Dynamite" which runs for 1 minute 11 seconds.
- "The French Connection" which runs for 2 minutes 59 seconds.
- "Boondock Saints" which runs for 46 seconds.

Overall

The Film: A+ Video: B- Audio: B+ Extras: B- Overall: B

 


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