Review by Leonard Norwitz
Theatrical: Working Title
Blu-ray: Universal Studios
(as verified by the
Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)
This is the U.S. cut (12-minutes shorter) of the film, the
Region FREE UK
HERE is the full version!
Disc Size: 46,220,582,228 bytes
Feature Size: 32,914,452,480 bytes
Video Bitrate: 30.14 Mbps
Case: Standard Blu-ray case
Release date: April 13th, 2010
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: VC-1 Video
DTS-HD Master Audio English 3601 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3601
kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
DTS Audio French 768 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit
DTS Audio Spanish 768 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
/ Dolby Surround
English (SDH), English,
• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Richard Curtis, Producer
Hilary Jones and Actors Nick Frost and Chris O'Dowd
• Deleted Scenes – in HD (50:20)
• Six Featurettes – in HD (19:30)
For the first ninety minutes of Pirate Radio my cheeks ached
from perpetual smiling. Then just when I thought the movie
was over, along came a third act – not nearly as much fun,
though a fitting conclusion to all the sex, drugs and rock &
roll that came before.
Pirate Radio might be thought of as one long music video
that makes foreground, middleground and background use of
some of the best rock material from what many feel (myself
included) was the best and certainly most influential era of
rock music: the mid-to-late sixties. The end credits list
some 52 songs by The Who, The Rolling Stones, Procol Harum,
Jimi Hendrix, Martha & the Vandellas, The Hollies, The
Turtles, Cream, The Kinks, The Grateful Dead, David Bowie
and many others (no Beatles and no Bob Dylan, though.)
The story proper, to the extent that there is a story,
begins when young Carl (Tom Sturridge, with a self-image
problem, if you can believe that!), is sent by his mother to
live on "Radio Rock" for a few months, ostensibly to get him
on track. Ha! Radio Rock is a fairly sizable boat, anchored
somewhere in the North Sea, home to a handful of DJs, who,
under the caring and daring management of Quentin (a sublime
Bill Nighy) broadcast rock music to a rapt audience more or
less forbidden to hear this music on the public airwaves.
As fictional as this seems, such was the case for a few
years in the late sixties in and around Great Britain. The
government pretty much dictated what could and couldn't be
played on public airwaves, and so ruled that rock 'n' roll
could only be aired for about an hour a day. Pirate stations
proliferated, broadcasting to an audience of 25 million
people. Surprising as it may seem, advertisers were keen to
reach this audience and were not shy about their support
until the government began a serious crackdown.
Avoiding such technical matters as how the signal was
transmitted, writer/director Richard Curtis concentrates on
the boat-sized egos that rotate through their shifts and do
or do not speak to each other or join in on the general
anarchy. The ship's complement consists entirely of men
except for the cook, who is a lesbian (Katherine Parkinson).
The "rule" is that no women are allowed on board except for
a kind of biweekly happy hour when a boatload of lovely
friendlies would arrive to contribute their all for the war
effort. Meanwhile, the DJs (Nick Frost, Chris O'Dowd, Tom
Brooke, Ralph Brown, Tom Wisdom and Rhys Ivans) in their
unique way, serve as godfathers to shy and inexperienced
Carl – and you can imagine where that leads.
The venerable Kenneth Branagh plays the stuffy and
overconfident minister out for pirate blood. And speaking of
pirates, there is Jack Davenport as Mr. Twatt, the mister's
hatchet man. Talulah Riley is Marianne, the girl young Carl
is kinda sorta fixed up with. Emma Thompson drops in as . .
. well, I won't spoil the surprise. And we're about it, look
for a lingering cameo by January Jones, who took a break
from Mad Men to do this for us.
Director Curtis frequently cuts to Radio Rock's audience in
rapt attention – drinking, dancing, smoking, lounging -
recalling The Truman Show in a kind of soap opera interplay
between life on the boat and their audience. A nice touch.
And to give you an idea of how evocative of the era the
movie is, in addition to the music, the haircuts and the
jewelry: the least convincing performance is by Philip
Seymour Hoffman. Usually dependable and brilliant, in this
movie he seems to be rehearsing the part rather than embody
it as he usually does. Hoffman is not without his moments,
and his character, "The Count," does get to make some
important observations, such as: "Years will come, years
will go, and politicians will do fuck all to make the world
a better place. But all over the world, young men and young
women will always dream dreams and put those dreams into
Signing off with an important travel advisory: Stay tuned
through the credits.
captures were taken directly from the
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.
There's an offhand quality to the photography that is ably
maintained in the transfer: Often grainy and lacking in the
slick sharpness of many a high def presentation, the image
evokes memories of Woodstock, as it should. Color leans to
an antique yellow, as if the onboard lighting had not been
completely corrected; contrast is generally high with little
detail in the shadows and lots of blown out areas. All this
is, I would take it, intended. In other respects the
transfer appears free of nagging artifacts, enhancements or
CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
Audio & Music:
While we might wish for a revelatory experience with the
music, it should come as no surprise that, despite the
benefits of uncompressed audio (for which, especially in
this case, we are grateful), we are offered no new
acoustical insights. But neither do we hear it as listeners
to pirate radio must have, yet never in their entirety.
Dialogue, which is sometimes a mash of overlapping effects
is clear enough. Surrounds are employed subtly for the most
part to establish interior shapes and sea sounds of birds
and boat noises, but doesn't really take hold until the last
act when a storm threatens the final curtain for Radio Rock.
Expect some serious dynamics and nicely tuned LFE.
Being a Universal Blu-ray, menu operations are standardized
and a piece of cake to operate. There is no PIP on this, so
all is simplicity itself.
The high point of the extra features is, funnily enough, the
Deleted Scenes. I don't generally find much of value in this
category, but Pirate Radio is a rare exception. Presented in
high-definition, with optional introductions by director
Curtis if you like, here are 50 minutes worth of funny bits
that for reasons of length or irrelevance didn't make it
into the final cut. Influences of Richard Lester's Help!
abound. The scene where Mr. Twatt is introduced to Miss
Clitt is British humour dry and cool to the very last.
The often hilarious audio commentary plays like a memoir
interspersed with the occasional factoid to place events in
a historical context. And, yes, we do get to find out how
much of the boat is real and really out there and how they
did the transmitter-climbing scene.
The six featurettes, which can be viewed as a Play All, is a
20-minute behind the scenes adventure that begins with
Curtis' original motivation for the movie and his thoughts
about the state of British radio broadcasting in the late
sixties. It segues to an all too brief segment where Curtis,
Nighy, O'Dowd and Hoffman talk about the life-changing
influence of 1960s rock, then takes us through the
recreation of the Radio Rock boat and the perils of filming
at sea, and eventually devolves into an extended fantasy
piece that didn't make it into the movie – or, was that when
I went to the fridge for a beer.
As you can no doubt tell, I really like this movie which
compares in its ramshackle narrative style with M*A*S*H. No
doubt for good reason. The music is awesome, the characters,
situations and performances are a delight. Not nearly as
tight as In the Loop nor as audacious as The Bed Sitting
Room – two other superb English satires recently transferred
to Blu-ray, Pirate Radio should speak to a broader audience
that ought not be disappointed. Thumbs Up!
April 4th, 2010