L  e  n  s  V  i  e  w  s

A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

 

Introduction: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.


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Wanted [Blu-ray]

 

(Timur Bekmambetov, 2008)

 

 

 

 

 

Also available in a Limited Edition

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Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Universal Pictures

Blu-ray: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

 

Disc:

Region: A

Runtime: 1:50:00

Chapters: 20

Feature Size: 23.56  GB

Case: Standard Amaray Blu-ray case w/ slipcover

Release date: December 2nd, 2008

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.45:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: AVC

 

Audio:

English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1; Spanish & French DTS 5.1

 

Subtitles:

English SDH, Spanish & French

 

Extras:

• Disc 2: Digital Copy

• Extended Scene - in SD (1:58)

• Cast & Characters - in HD (19:58)

• Stunts on the L Train - in HD (2:30)

• Special Effects: The Art of the Impossible - in HD (8:27)

• Groundbreaking Visual Effects: From Imagination to Execution - in HD (8:06)

• The Origins of Wanted: Bringing the Graphic Novel to Life - in HD (8:05)

• Through the Eyes of Visionary Timur Bekmambetov - in HD (9:05)

• Wanted: Motion Comics - in HD (13:55)

• The Making of Wanted: The Game - in HD (10:01)

• Exclusive to Blu-ray: Alternate Opening (2:38)

• Exclusive to Blu-ray: U-Control: Wanted: Motion Comics; Scene Explorer; Assassins Profile, PIP

• Exclusive to Blu-ray: BD Live

 

 

The Film:

When talkies began to take hold in the early 1930s, movie studios found ready material in literature. If it was a popular or classic novel it was fair game to give voice to this awesome invention. Now that computer-generated effects have become commonplace, movie producers scour the comics for material. Wanted was perhaps the most popular independently produced series of graphic novels produced in the last ten years. I say this as if I knew this before I watched the movie and delved into its many bonus features. But I hadn't – and now wish that I had. From the artwork reproduced here, the original comic is one dynamite, if psychiatrically certifiable, piece of work.

Wanted is the creation of Scottish artist Mark Millar (see: HERE) where it looks like the graphic novel is still in print.) Millar is on hand in the extra features to comment on the transition to feature film. Realizing that vision is Kazakhstan director Timur Bekmambetov whose sci-fi fantasy film, Night Watch, gained international attention in 2004. The comments in the extra features on this disc by cast, producer and crew in praise of Bekmembetov's imaginative vision tend to get a bit thick, as expected for these things, but I have to admit there is some novel creative thinking at work here – and it works at all three levels: dazzling special effects, support of character and respect for its comic book origins.

The Movie: 7.5
Lowly, anxious, tormented accounts manager, Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) is suddenly thrust into a world of super-assassins when he is told by the cool, sleek Angelina Jolie that his father, whom Wesley thought he had lost when he was an infant, was killed only that morning. He is also informed that this same father was the best of the best in the assassin business and that what made this possible were certain inheritable traits – traits, that up till now manifested in Wesley only as heightened anxiety - and that he, too, had acquired. They only needed bringing to the fore and honed into a killer like his father with the help of Ms. Angelina (aka Fox) and her covert cadre of gifted assassins, led by the sage and wily Sloane (Morgan Freeman.) You can imagine the duality of attraction and aversion such a possibility might set up for our Wesley. One of the joys that Wanted has in store is watching how McAvoy, who is a walking time bomb here, moves between these opposing demands until he becomes what he must – a finely tuned killing machine, sans costume or special makeup.

It seems that a thousand years ago, a group of weavers learned how to interpret the secrets of the Loom of Fate. They formed a Fraternity of Assassins that received instructions from the Loom about who should be killed in order to maintain a righteous balance of power in the world. Wesley is told that one of the Fraternity's group went rogue and has been killing off its members - among them, his father. Wesley must learn the ways of The Force in order to set things right. (This is a comic book, remember, where nerds and geeks become superheroes, and the Hitlers of the world are never targets.)

 


 

Image: 9/9   NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

Wanted is granted a full-blooded image in rich, saturated color with no distracting artifacts or blemishes. The blacks are deep, yet yield sufficient information in the shadows. The high end is never blown away. The movie was shot on film (in Prague, as a stand-in for Chicago) and that look is honored and maintained. Except for the episode with the mountain train, where the effects dominate reality, this is demonstration quality stuff.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 8/7
What with Wesley's frequent echoic screaming and bullets streaming in slow motion, bending this way and that, there is ample opportunity for sound engineers to create a mix that would be the envy of your friends. The uncompressed DTS HD-MA mix is dynamic and unambiguous in its intentions: dialogue is focused and clear, and surround effects are properly located. You might find yourself ducking a couple of times – if not from bullets, then from the rats.

 

Operations: 7
Universal has opted for not trying to reinvent the menu wheel for every Blu-ray that comes along – and for this, I give them points for sanity and courage. I also happen to like the menu design, though I feel that U-Control in general is a little labor intensive: it may be a case of a complex technical solution where a simpler solution might have served the user just as well. On the other hand, people who enjoy video games would probably find its multitasking interactivity familiar and desirable.

 

 


On a different note, may I put in my plea that there be a uniform placement code adopted for the feature film. DVD never got around to this – and worse, often did not distinguish the feature from bonus materials clearly on the disc. My preference is for the right side, but one or the other, and never hiding behind a card, please.

 

Extras: 8
All but one of the extra features are in HD, which makes for an inviting, easy on the eyes experience. The titles are fairly self-explanatory - but a few notes, why not: In Cast and Characters, director Timur and artist Millar are on hand to add their two cents, along with the principal actors, in respect to casting and their characters. In Groundbreaking Visual Effects we learn that the effects are shipped back to and managed by Timur's Russian company, Bazelev. It's nice to see how these effects are done in such well-lit HD. In Wanted: The Motion Comics, we are treated to beautiful renderings of eight scenes from the graphic novel, showing how they are translated into corresponding episodes in the movie. The Making of Wanted: The Game is an extended, effective promo piece for Universal/GRIN of the video game based on the movie.

Through the Eyes of Visionary Timur Bekmambetov is as much a commentary on Timur's creative process and methods by others as much as the director himself. We hear from the film's producer, cast members and artist Mark Millar. Timur is a hands-on director – he appears to know what he wants, yet engages his cast in the process. He has one comment worth repeating, as it informs much of his work here and elsewhere: "Life is dark, but humor is humor."

In place of a commentary as such, Universal makes ample use of U-Control, the most relevant part of which is the Picture-in-Picture feature. While PIP incorporates some of what is covered in the separate extra features, it does go over new ground, and in the context of the film.

 

 

Bottom line: 9
In what feels like Fight Club meets Yoda meets Spiderman (without the suit or the fibres), Timur Bekmambetov turns Mark Millar's graphic novel into a space-bending piece of cinema wizardry. James McAvoy (Last King of Scotland; Atonement) may surprise you in this persona (I thought he was every bit as good as Mr. Whitaker in the first film, but this is way different.) The blu-ray is awesome in every respect. The movie itself may not be to everyone's taste any more than any form of pulp fiction that glorifies murderous villains – but taking it for what it is . . .

 

Leonard Norwitz
November 20th, 2008

 

 

 

 

 

Also available in a Limited Edition

Collector's Gift Set:

 

 

 

 





 

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