Stranger Than Fiction (2006)
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Deleted Scenes-2 full fake interviews
|Year Of Production||2006|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (85:27)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Marc Forster|
Roadshow Home Entertainment
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Subtitles||English for the Hearing Impaired||Smoking||Yes|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
'This is a story about a man named Harold Crick...and his wristwatch.'
These opening words from the narrator make you realise quickly that you are not going to be watching a straight-forward comedy. Fans of Will Ferrell who are used to his more frantic and physical style as seen in other movies such as Talladega Nights or Zoolander may wonder what they have wandered into. However, those who enjoy comedies which are thought provoking, offbeat, surreal and emotional will certainly enjoy this comedy drama.
The story concerns Harold Crick (Will Ferrell), a US Internal Revenue Agent whose job is to investigate potential tax fraudsters and bring them to justice. He is a boring, obsessive compulsive and very lonely man who is very focused on numbers. One morning whilst focusing on his normal daily tasks he starts to hear a voice in his head which seems to be narrating his story as if he is a character in a novel. Initially he finds this annoying but his annoyance turns to fear when the voice predicts his 'imminent death'. He sets out to find out what is going on in his head and to avoid the death which has been foretold for him. Concurrently, he meets and becomes attracted to someone who he is investigating for not paying her taxes, Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who runs a small bakery. As he attempts to unravel the secret of the voice in his head he runs into various interesting characters including the IRS HR guy, Dr Cayly (Tom Hulce, who I haven't seen in a movie for many years), a psychiatrist (Linda Hunt) and a Professor of Literature, Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffmann). Hilbert helps him to work out what sort of novel he is in and then to track down the author. It is not really a spoiler to mention that the author is Karyn Eiffel (Emma Thompson) who is as surprised to meet him as he is her. She is struggling herself with writer's block as she cannot decide how best to kill Harold in the book. His watch also has an important role to play in the plot but I don't want to spoil it.
I enjoyed this emotional and slyly amusing comedy which makes the audience think more than most comedies of recent times, which is certainly a good thing. In addition to the excellent writing, this film also has an interesting visual style incorporating a number of elements. These include on screen text and moving graphics which point out what is going on in Harold's head (besides the narrator), some interesting camera work such as a very visually interesting scene on a bendy-bus and a very clean and slightly cold colour scheme, especially in the scenes involving Harold's life before this change such as his apartment and office. This is offset by a more colourful scheme as his life and mental state changes especially in scenes involving Ana. The film was directed by Marc Forster who is really making a name for himself with projects such as Monster's Ball, Finding Neverland and this. It was written by first time feature writer, Zach Helm who has just completed shooting his first directorial feature Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium also starring Dustin Hoffmann.
The acting is of high quality throughout with the performances of Will Ferrell and Dustin Hoffmann standing out for me. Ferrell was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance in this film and it's great to see him in a different role to his usual loud-mouthed fool (although I enjoy those films too!).
I would certainly recommend this film to fans of Will Ferrell who want to see him doing something different and for people who enjoy an offbeat and thought-provoking comedy.
The video quality is very good but does not scale the heights of the best transfers.
The feature is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, 16x9 enhanced, which is close to the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1.
Sharpness is not bad but it certainly doesn't rate as crisp, especially in backgrounds and longer shots. Close-ups are generally quite sharp. There was no evidence of low level noise. There was some occasional MPEG grain and even some occasional spots of mild macro-blocking such as at 5:23. I would guess these would be quite obvious on a projector. Shadow detail was very good.
The colour was very good with no issues to report.
The only non-MPEG related artefact I noticed was some minor aliasing such as on some trays at 42:20.
There are subtitles in English for the Hearing Impaired. They are clear and easy to read, exact to the spoken word and indicate who is speaking based upon their location onscreen.
The layer change occurs at 85:27 and is well placed at the end of a scene.
The audio quality is very good.
This DVD contains two audio options, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack encoded at 448 Kb/s and a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack encoded at 224 Kb/s.
Dialogue was consistently clear and easy to understand and there was no problem with audio sync. The nature of this film makes this the critical sound element.
The music is by Britt Daniel & Brian Reutzell who also wrote a number of the songs used during the film. The music choices are excellent, both the songs and the score adding significantly to the feel and flow of the film.
The surround speakers added some minor effects such as the demolition sounds at 49:05 and some immersive atmosphere.
The subwoofer was used mostly to support the music. I did not notice any significant LFE activity, which is consistent with the style of the film.
|Surround Channel Use|
Despite the quantity of extras available, I found them somewhat disappointing. They were mostly similar in style (talking heads interspersed with scenes from the film) and very self-congratulatory. All extras were presented in non-16x9 enhanced widescreen.
The menu was cool and funky including dialogue, music and an introduction..
Featurette focused on casting decision includes all of the main cast members discussing their roles. Goes on a bit too long.
Featurette about the various crew members and how the director was chosen. There's a whole lotta luuuurve going on!
Featurette about the locations used in Chicago featuring someone from the Illinois Film Office.
Featurette on the script, dialogue and the writers influences.
Behind-the-scenes footage with music.
The most interesting featurette about the technology used to develop the onscreen G.U.I (text and graphics). Bit too long though.
Amusing fake interview used as something showing on television during the film. Features comedy actress Kristen Chinoweth as the vapid presenter interviewing Emma Thompson in character.
A less successful but still amusing fake interview, this time with the effects supervisor posing as an author.
This film has been released in Region 1 in SD and Blu-ray formats. Both include the same extras as our local release. From an SD comparison perspective this is a draw.
The video quality is very good but nothing special.
The audio quality is very good.
The extras are plentiful but not overly inspiring.
|DVD||Pioneer DV667A DVD-V DVD-A SACD, using Component output|
|Display||Sony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Monitor Audio Bronze 2 (Front), Bronze Centre & Bronze FX (Rears) + Yamaha YST SW90 subwoofer|