Year One [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (15th December 2009).
The Film

Harold Ramis used to be funny and after you've watched "Year One" and you're a fan of the film's stars, you'll also start to think that both Jack Black and Michael Cera also used to be funny. "Year One" had potential, but fails to amount to anything humorous, I wanted to laugh hysterically, but instead I chuckled a few times, raised my eyebrows a few times to some lame set-ups and checked my watch more than once hoping the film would find a brisk end. The film asks too much from its stars and they're simply not capable of holding this film together, Black's usual shtick gets tiresome after 10 minutes and so does Cera's deadpan delivery. There's so much comedy gold to mine and these two only scratch the surface made up of the clichéd and predictable, never going further to explore the comedic depths where the potential for this film would have been.

"Year One" tells the story of Zed (Jack Black), a poor excuse for a hunter and Oh (Michael Cera) a poor excuse for a gatherer. One day they are banished from their tribe for eating the forbidden fruit, and decide to go on an epic journey. On their journey they encounter some Biblically famous characters, are involved in some Biblically recorded events, travel to Sodom, are enslaved, join the Roman legion, discover their tribespeople have also been enslaved and attempt to save them, most notable Maya (June Diane Raphael) and Eema (Juno Temple) two girls that our bumbling heroes pine over.

At its core this is a classic fish out of water tale, two characters taken out of their element and forced to fend for themselves, prove themselves to one-an-other and rise up as heroes all with comic effect throughout their journey. The only problem is that the comic effect is rather ineffective at best. Lame one-liners, over-the-top improvisation, and the mis-matching of Black and Cera's styles all lend to eye-rolling moments. Guest stars David Cross and Paul Rudd would have made a better comic pair in the lead roles instead of Black and Cera. Their scenes were only a few that made me chuckle, their chemistry is smile inducing and their banter is infectious. Their scene comes near the end of the first act and it's a real struggle to make it that point, having endured uninspired slap-stick moments featuring Black making an ass of himself. It doesn't get any better folks! Hank Azaria and Oliver Platt ham it up in performances they should be ashamed of, what happened to these guys? You can add Azaria to my list of "used to be funny" people and honestly I much prefer Platt as a dramatic supporting actor in such films as "A Time to Kill" (1996), "Kinsey" (2004) and "Frost/Nixon" (2008).

The story is about as simple as a new born donkey, you don't really ask much from a story with a film such as "Year One" so it doesn't come as too much of surprise and historical inaccuracies aside (which are forgivable given the genre of the film). However, some semblance of a story couldn't have hurt? Screenwriters Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg (the script was also co-written by Ramis too) have done better work than this and "Year One" doesn't really do them any favors considering their inspired writing for "The Office" (2005-Present) demonstrates. After watching "Year One" I don't hold much hope for "Ghostbusters III" (which these two are writing) supposedly coming out in 2012. I can't push the entire blame on the writers though, as a lot of scenes seem to have been improvised with actors going off script and extended each punch-line further and further away until its almost unrecognizable. So the film's stars and its director can share in some of that blame.

"Year One" was mostly a waste of time, if I had to quantify it I'd say 85% waste of time 15% real comedic value (the fact that I found a portion of this film funny is the sole reason it doesn't get an outright failing grade). It might be worth a rainy day rental but it's plain as day why this film bombed at the box office this past summer, plus there are way better comedies out there worth your time.

This Blu-ray disc includes both the original "Theatrical Cut" version of the film running for 97 minutes and the slightly longer (god help us) "Unrated" version which runs for 100 minutes.

Video

The original theatrical ratio in 1.85:1 is mastered in high-definition 1080p 24/fps using AVC MPEG-4 compression. Sony delivers this film onto Blu-ray in stunning fashion. The film's sharp and crisp image displays bold and solid colors, natural skin tones (although a few times tends to lean towards the orange hues), and deep black levels. The image is clean and free from any specks and dirt, which is expected considering its a recent release. The depth and detail are fantastic, with the rich textures of the film's locations really coming out, the intricacies of the costumes and production design all benefit as well from this HD presentation. Overall this is a pleasing image.

Audio

Four audio tracks are included in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround, French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround, Portuguese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround (all mixed at 48kHz/24-bit) and a Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 track. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its English DTS-HD audio track. For the most part this is a solid presentation, for a comedy this film has a lot of activity in its surround channels. With environmental and ambient sounds adding to overall immersion, some larger set pieces make better use of the surrounds than more dialogue driven scenes. Dialogue is clear and distortion free, but depth isn't as broad reaching as I'd have liked, then again this isn't exactly a full-blown action film.
Optional subtitles are included in English, English for the hearing impaired, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

Extras

Sony includes a collection of extras that features an audio commentary, two featurettes, a fake ad, montage clip, an alternate ending, deleted scenes, extended & alternate scenes, a gag reel, theatrical trailer, bonus trailers, a trivia track, interactive feature and BD-Live access. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

First up is a feature-length audio commentary by the film's director Harold Ramis and actors Jack Black and Michael Cera. I had much more fun with this track than I did watching the film,and I entered into it unwillingly having to put myself through the film once again for the sake of reviewing this supplement. So it had to win me over, and for the most part that was achieved. Ramis, Black and Cera provide a light and occasionally funny track as they recall moments from the filming, they joke and amid that Ramis talk about the production process, occasionally commenting on technical aspects, working on the locations, the challenges of the filming and on working with his stars among other things. It's a standard affair but these participants make for a fun listen.

Next up is "Year One: The Journey Begins" featurette which runs for 17 minutes 52 seconds. This is a typically standard EPK clip, covering the basics of the production. There's some decent behind-the-scenes material but the talking heads don't offer up enough detail to warrant a repeated viewing. The film's story, development and filming are covered.

"Sodom's Got 'Em!" is a fake ad that runs for 1 minutes 52 seconds about what it's like living in the sinful city of Sodom. It's moderately funny.

"Line-o-Rama" is a montage clip that runs for 5 minutes 10 seconds, essentially this is b-roll footage of the actors improving lines, over and over again. Some funny, some passable...

Next up is an alternate ending with optional audio commentary by the film's director Harold Ramis and actors Jack Black and Michael Cera. The ending runs for 8 minutes 13 seconds and is entitled "Sodom Destruction" in this ending fireballs from the sky destroy the city of Sodom as everyone flees. Oh saves Zed and they both get their girls and Cain gets what he deserves.

Following that are two deleted scenes, you can view individually or with a 'play all' option. They are:

- “Zed & Marlak” runs for 2 minutes 52 seconds. Zed finds out that Marlak asked Maya to be his wife. Zed ends up having to face Marlak as he discovers Zed's artwork.
- “Splooge” runs for 1 minute 10 seconds. Zed encounters Cain at the doors to the orgy and promises him that he'll get Cain invited to the orgy instead of having to guard the doors.

But wait, there's more! A collection of ten extended & alternate scenes is up next and they can also be viewed individually or with a 'play all' option, these scenes include:

- "The World is a Stone" runs for 1 minute 15 seconds., Zed and Oh talk about whether there's more to life.
- "Shaman" runs for 1 minute 56 seconds, the Shaman reminds Zed that eating the fruit was wrong.
- "Zed's Speech" runs for 2 minutes 4 seconds, an extended version of Zed's final speech to the village before he is banished.
- "Cougar" runs for 52 seconds, an alternate version of Zed and Oh's conversation before they encounter the cougar in the woods.
- "Zed & Oh Camp" runs for 1 minute 5 seconds, more camping moments.
- "Dust" runs for 44 seconds, an awkward moment at the dinner table with Adam.
- "Lost in the Desert" runs for 2 minutes 35 seconds, Zed and Oh find themselves lost in the vastness of the desert.
- "Stuff to Learn" runs for 41 seconds, Zed explains there's a lot to learn from being in Sodom.
- "Zed's Plan" runs for 55 seconds, Zed tells Maya that being interested in the princess is all part of his plan, then explains it further.
- "Bull's Head" runs for 1 minute 29 seconds, Zed climbs down the bull's head to face the High Priest.

A fairly generic gag reel is also included and runs for 8 minutes 28 seconds, line flubs, missed cues, cracking up into laughter mid-take, the cast look like their having fun, it's a shame that fun and funny didn't make it into the final product.

The film's original theatrical trailer is next and runs for 2 minutes 17 seconds.

There are a collection of bonus trailers for:

- "Sony Blu-ray" spot which runs for 2 minutes 27 seconds.
- "Black Dynamite" which runs for 2 minutes 19 seconds.
- "Angels & Demons" which runs for 32 seconds.
- "The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3" which runs for 32 seconds.
- "It Might Get Loud" which runs for 33 seconds.
- "Whatever Works" which runs for 33 seconds.
- "The Ugly Truth" which runs for 31 seconds.
- "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" which runs for 2 minutes 12 seconds.
- "Moon" which runs for 33 seconds.
- "District 9" which runs for 32 seconds.
- "Assassination of a High School President" which runs for 2 minutes 26 seconds.
- "Blood: The Last Vampire" which runs for 32 seconds.
- "Ghostbusters" which runs for 1 minute 24 seconds.

Some Blu-ray exclusive extras are included on this disc, the first of these is "Leeroy Jenkins: The Gates of Sodom" featurette which runs for 2 minutes 8 seconds. Vinnie Jones as Sargon leads a group of men in this clip in what apparently is a "World of Warcraft" re-enactment? Not sure, the reference if lost on me.

The "MovieIQ" is a trivia track that runs through as you watch the film with pop-up bits of information about the production, locations, the cast and crew, among other things. There's a lot to take in and worth exploring if you have the time.

The next exclusive feature is "The Year One Cutting Room" interactive feature, allows viewers to edit your own scene and share it with others online through the BD-Live access for those that have profile 2.0 players. This is a neat feature, but I found it a little on the slow side and was bored with it rather quickly.

As mentioned above, this disc is equipped with BD-Live access for those with profile 2.0 players only, you can access Sony's online portal and download some content. You can also access the "Cinechat" feature and chat with others while you watch the film.

Overall

The Film: D- Video: A Audio: B Extras: B- Overall: C

 


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