Little Fish (Warner) (2005)

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Released 27-Feb-2006

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Menu Animation & Audio
Audio Commentary-Rowan Woods (Director)
Theatrical Trailer
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
Deleted Scenes-With Optional Commentary
Notes-Soundtrack Listing
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2005
Running Time 109:11 (Case: 114)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Rowan Woods
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Cate Blanchett
Sam Neill
Hugo Weaving
Martin Henderson
Noni Hazlehurst
Joel Tobeck
Lisa McCune
Susie Porter
Case ?
RPI $34.95 Music Nathan Larson


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    I can remember many years back, sitting in a dark Melbourne cinema at the conclusion of a film and thinking to myself, "wow - I can't wait to see this guy's next film". The film was The Boys (1998) and the guy was this film's director, Rowan Woods. The Boys was Woods' feature film debut as a director and together with a very talented cast and crew, he created one for the best Australian dramas of the nineties. Strangely, it would be some seven years before we would get the opportunity to see his next feature film, Little Fish.

    Apart from working as the Second Unit Director on Chopper in 2000, Woods worked mainly in television during those seven years. He has directing credits on episodes of Farscape and Fireflies, to name just a couple.

    It is interesting that the writer of Little Fish also has a solid background in television and as a consequence, the quality of the screenplay for Little Fish is certainly no fluke. Jacqueline Perske has very impressive credits as a writer, including the television series The Secret Life Of Us and Love My Way. In Little Fish , Perske has written an intelligent and provocative screenplay that challenges the audience by patiently revealing character and plot detail. In fact, I need to be very coy in my synopsis of this film, as to not spoil the many subtle revelations that make Little Fish such a pleasure to watch.

    The ensemble cast is simply first class. Cate Blanchett  plays Tracy Heart, a recovering heroin addict, living in the western Sydney suburb of Cabramatta, also known as Little Saigon. Tracey has her life back on track and has been clean for four years, although the temptation to use again is ever present. Tracey has a steady job, managing a video store. Her dream and ambition is to buy into the business and expand it into the realms of internet gaming. Her efforts to secure a loan in order to achieve this goal are met with constant disappointment.

    Watching with loving intentions over Tracy's welfare is devoted mum, Janelle (Noni Hazlehurst). She has endured the heartbreak of Tracy's addiction and also the rehabilitation of her larrikin son, Ray (Martin Henderson), after a serious car accident years earlier. Janelle is fiercely protective of her children and won't take a backward step in keeping them on the straight and narrow. The suspicious return of Tracy's former boyfriend, Jonny (Dustin Nguyen), after five years living in Vancouver intensifies Janelle's protective streak as old and deep emotional wounds are re-opened.

    More sinister developments revolve around a former rugby league star, Lionel Dawson (Hugo Weaving) and local crime boss, Brad "The Jockey" Thompson (Sam Neill). Ray and Jonny foolishly become involved in shady drug dealings and draw in a reluctant Tracy, who is desperate to escape the shackles of her present life and get the necessary collateral needed to finally realise her ambitions.

    Little Fish picked up thirteen AFI nominations in 2005 and won five awards, including awards for Cate Blanchett, Noni Hazlehurst and Hugo Weaving. Noni Hazlehurst's decision to leave the steady employment of her long-term television role and return to film has certainly been vindicated. Noni's performance in Little Fish  is undoubtedly on par with her work in Monkey Grip (1982) and is testament to her abilities as an actress. And although Cate Blanchett again confirms her status as an A list actress, it is Hugo Weaving who steals the film. His performance as Lionel Dawson is flawless and is arguably his best work on film - to date.

    Footnote: The opening of Little Fish does have much in common with Woods' previous film, The Boys . If you get an opportunity to view both films, compare the opening titles of each film and I'm sure you will notice distinct similarities both in the music and in the style of the titles.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer for Little Fish is excellent.

    The film is presented in the correct aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer displays excellent sharpness and clarity generally, with the obvious exceptions being the occasional soft focus close up effects used in the film. The use of lenses is discussed in the audio commentary, which some people may find interesting. Grain was occasionally evident, but overall blacks were deep and clean. Shadow detail was also excellent.

    Colours appeared perfectly natural and beautifully balanced.

    There were no MPEG artefacts in this transfer and no obvious film-to-video artefacts were noticed. As you would expect from a recent film, film artefacts were not an issue.

    Unfortunately, there are no subtitles available on this DVD.

    This is a single sided, dual layered disc. The layer change is very well placed at 63:02 . Although the change occurs mid-scene, thankfully it was not easily detected.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio transfer provides outstanding enhancement for this drama, without overkill.

    There are three separate audio tracks on this DVD; English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s), English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s) and English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s). All these tracks are very impressive.

    There were no adverse issues with dialogue quality and audio sync appeared to be consistently spot on throughout.

    The original score for Little Fish is credited to Nathan Larson .His score provides enhancement to the general atmosphere of the film and is quite haunting. There is also music from other artists used in the film, including a children's choir version of the Cold Chisel song Flame Trees.

    The surround channels were superbly used to enhance the entire film in a subtle manner. Scenes in public places such as market places and city streets spread brilliant ambient sound over all channels to create a very realistic experience. The film's music also benefited from this excellent mix, spread over the surround channels.

    The subwoofer was kept quite busy, adding significant kick to music and to the general sound design.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The selection of extras is interesting and highly relevant to the film.

Menu

   The menus are 16x9 enhanced and feature imaginative animation together with looped music and dialogue samples from the film.

Audio Commentary - Rowan Woods (Director )

    Rowan Woods is proud and passionate about this film, which is clearly evident in his commentary. He covers various aspects relating to the making of the film and provides considerable insight into these aspects. I also found his analysis of certain scenes very interesting. This was certainly one of the better audio commentaries I've heard in recent times and it complements the other extras very well.

Featurette - Behind The Scenes

    Categorized into four separate topics, these are brief glimpses into the making of Little Fish. Interviews with cast and crew members are incorporated with scenes from the film and some behind the scenes footage. Each topic can be selected individually, or select the "play all" function for continuous play of all topics. Those interviewed include Rowan Woods, Jacqueline Perske, Cate Blanchett, Noni Hazlehurst, Sam Neil, Hugo Weaving and Martin Henderson.

  • Beginnings (6:10)  Discusses the characters and aspects of the story.
  • Research (5:28)  Looks at the intricate and extensive research done for the film and how it was put to good use by the cast and crew.
  • Challenge (4:57)  Discussion about working with Rowan Woods and his methods.
  • Flame Trees (3:38)  A look at how the use of this song in the film eventuated.

    Deleted Scenes - With Optional Commentary from Rowan Woods and Jacqueline Perske.

        These five scenes are presented in a letterboxed format with time coding. All too often deleted scenes are presented with no explanation as to why they were not included in the final cut, so the optional commentary is a very worthy inclusion here and well worth listening to after viewing the scenes initially.

  • Girls Toilets (0:58)
  • Jonny Comes To The Video Shop (1:58)
  • Janelle Meets The Jockeys' Wife (1:22)
  • Moss Meets Jonny And Ray (1:19)
  • Nup Nup Nope (0:18)

    Theatrical Trailer

        Little Fish (2:35)

    Notes - Soundtrack Listing

        This is a text-based list of the music and songs featured on the film's soundtrack CD.

    R4 vs R1

    NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

        At the time of this review, there is no R1 version of Little Fish available.

    Summary

        Little Fish is an honest and confronting story of regrets, tragedies and the dreams of ordinary people. The film's outstanding technical aspects mirror the calibre of the performances. This is thought-provoking Australian drama at its best. Highly recommended.

        The transfers are both excellent.

        The selection of extras provides considerable insight into the many aspects of Little Fish.

  • Ratings (out of 5)

    Video
    Audio
    Extras
    Plot
    Overall

    © Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
    Sunday, February 26, 2006
    Review Equipment
    DVDJVC XV-N412, using Component output
    DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
    Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
    AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
    SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

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