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

Inkheart (Digital Copy Special Edition) [Blu-ray]

 

(Iain Softley, 2008)

 

 

 

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: New Line Cinema & Solaris Entertainment

Blu-ray: Warner Home Video

 

Disc:

Region: All

Runtime: 106 min

Chapters: 25

Size: 50 GB

Case: Standard Blu-ray case w/ slipcover

Release date: June 23, 2009

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.40:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: VC-1

 

Audio:

Dolby TrueHD English 5.1; Dolby Digital English 5.1, German 5.1

 

Subtitles:

English, Spanish & German (on selected material)

 

Extras:

• Additional Scenes – in HD (10:38)

• Eliza Reads To Us – in HD (3:46)

• A Story from the Cast & Crew – in HD (6:36)

• From Imagination to the Page: How Writers Write – in HD (13:36)

• Disc 2: Digital Copy & Standard Definition DVD

• BD Live featuring Commentary by Director Iain Softley

 

 

The Film: 5
Where is Encino Man when we need him, I ask you? Have you noticed there has been a general decline in the energy and focus of Brendan Fraser lately? With such diverse films as George of the Jungle and Gods and Monsters well behind him, and such lazy performances as we've seen in the latest Mummy movie and Adventure to the Center of the Earth, Fraser seems well on his way to becoming the next Eddie Murphy. In all fairness, these last have not been the sort of movies one yearns to sink one's teeth into. And Inkheart is no different.

Under the rudderless helm of Iain Softley (K-PAX), the best that might be said for this cinematic fantasization of Cornelia Funke's children's book is that though every actor seems to be reading from a different book and things may not be hold together very well, at least they're certainly not dull. The gist of the story goes something like this: It is evening and Mo Folchart (Fraser) is innocently reading a fairy tale to his wife and young daughter when, unbeknownst to anyone in the room, characters and events from the story begin to materialize. Fast forward several years and we find Mo and daughter Meggie (Eliza Hope Bennett) driving through the Alps on their way to yet another bookstore where Mo continues his search for one in particular. At last he finds it: "Inkheart."

Mo keeps the reason for his quest secret from the watchful eyes of his daughter but not, as it happens, from Dustfinger (Paul Bettany), a character from this very book who arrives on the scene insistent that Mo, alias "Silvertongue", return him from whence he came. And why not! Dustfinger certainly doesn't belong in our life zone. The reason, we soon come to find out is that when Mo read from "Inkheart" many years ago, Dustfinger came out and Mo's wife (Sienna Guillory) went in. Ooops! For some reason, Mo lost his original copy and has been searching for another so he can read Resa out of the book and home to family. Just how this works is a little hit and miss, but one has to try, doesn't one. Of course, Mo didn't figure this out all at once, else he would have rescued Resa years ago and that would have been the end of our tale.

Things get interesting when a squad of bad guys, henchmen of the evil Capricorn (Any Serkis) – you see, Dustfinger wasn't the only character to come out of the book that night - arrive to kidnap Mo, Meggie and aunt Elinor (Helen Mirren) and take them to Capricorn's mountain resort village where he demands Silvertongue read him more wealth and power from other books. Capricorn is working his way toward "The Shadow" who is not a noirish detective, let me assure you.

Some interesting twists and turns follow, as for instance when Fenoglio (Jim Broadbent), the author of "Inkheart" arrives on the scene. Alas, there is some confusion in both the script and the direction as to whether it's the written or spoken word that has power. Things get a little dicey in this respect at the climax, but we get the idea well enough.
 

 


 

Image: 6/8
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.

I chalk it up to all the post-processing this movie suffers that it simply grains out even in the scenes without much in the way of effects. There is a persistent soft haze that gives way to occasional clarity in close-ups and many of the interiors of Capricorn's castle, but the distant shots seem to be infected with pixie-dust. It's too bad really because we can see what is hiding underneath: some lovely production design, and can'twaitogothere European locations and halfway decent effects.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 8/7
Inkheart on Blu-ray is almost redeemed by its excellent audio, especially in uncompressed Dolby TrueHD, which engages every component we spent those big bucks on: from the subtle trickle of water, the crackle of fire, to the roar of The Shadow, to a cyclone right out Oz, this mix offers visceral support to an otherwise messy and lackluster (or perhaps it's too much luster) affair. The problem is that it also provokes a sensory and intellectual disconnect from image and script.

 

Operations: 7
Unanimated, ornate, but straightforward menu design. Unremarkable and non-problematic.

 

 

 

Extras: 3
It's hard to believe that for a fantasy movie such as this that there is no commentary, no "making-of" or special effects bonus feature. In their place, Warner offers only a good deal of Cornelia Funke as she talks about her writing process, which, her being an illustrator and all, starts with the image, and how that progressed – or, in this case, digressed – to the movie at hand. In another segment Funke introduces Miss Bennett who reads a passage from the book to some gratifying art work: quite nice, actually, as far as it goes. "A Story from the Cast & Crew" is a popular camp and school game where one person starts a story and successive people add a line, making up new directions for the storyline as it goers along – a waste of valuable disc space. There are also some deleted scenes in HD and an extra disc that doubles as Digital Copy and DVD of the movie.

 

 

Bottom line: 5
A dynamite, demo quality audio track is not enough to save this Blu-ray, with its fuzzy image and depleted bonus features. Fans of the book, especially pre-teens, will no doubt love it.

Leonard Norwitz
June 17th, 2009

 

 

 

 

 


 

About the Reviewer: 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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