The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Magnolia - 2009
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 94 minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.35:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Starring: Scoot McNairy, Whitney Able
Written & Directed by: Gareth Edwards
Music by: Jon Hopkins
Region Code: A,B,C
Blu-ray Disc release Date: February 1, 2011
Six years ago NASA discovered the possibility of alien life within our solar system. A probe was launched to collect samples, but crashed upon re-entry over Central America. Soon after, new life forms began to appear there and half of Mexico was quarantined as an INFECTED ZONE. Today, the American and Mexican military still struggle to contain "the creatures"...
Our story begins when a US journalist agrees to escort a shaken American tourist through the infected zone in Mexico to the safety of the US border.
Reading the description for this film and having seen the trailer it had a sort of Cloverfield meets District 9 feel that looked interesting. After watching it I found that it was really neither. It is set after most invading monster movies normally end as these large alien creatures take over and inhabit certain parts of the world. The locals become accustomed to living life so close to them but occasional interactions happen and usually have fatal results. Photographer Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy) has been waiting for the chance to get the big money shot and travels to Mexico during the aliens migratory season. But when his boss's daughter Sam (Whitney Able), also in Mexico, gets caught up in things there her father demands that Kaulder help to bring her home. This turns out to be easier said than done after a series of mishaps lands them deep in the alien infected zone struggling to make their way back to America.
This is a multi-genre film that is part road movie/romance, drama and sci-fi/horror. It follows the trials of this couple as they struggle to make their way from Mexico back into the U.S. and the bond that forms between them as a result. It is more character driven science fiction adventure than horror/monster story as they level of suspense/threat by the creatures is secondary. Whereas a film like District 9 excelled at balancing character design, drama and action I felt that Monsters lethargic pacing and uneventful story left it feeling bland and uninteresting. Likewise I found the design of the aliens (squid like that walk around on their tentacle/arms) to be non-menacing which diminished the fear factor. For 93 minutes I sat wondering where the film was going. In reality the answer never came as the non-climactic ending (which was preceded by a bizarre mating sequence witnessed by Andrew and Sam) perfectly coincided with the rest of the film. I have read very positive things about it which leads me to think that perhaps I just missed the point of Monsters. It was shot on a shoe string budget and features only two actors (the remainder of the cast are locals) and lots of CGI. Be that as it may I have no problem with a budget film provided I find it entertaining. I did enjoy the performances by Able/McNairy and appreciated the narrative's allegory and organic feel but neither provided a viable connection for me. Maybe a second viewing will provide a different perspective but I somehow doubt it.
The rating is for language and some disturbing images.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Monsters comes to Blu-ray Disc from Magnolia HE featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 17 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 5.6 Mbps.
This film's source elements don't lend themselves to overly vibrant, high gloss video as images tend to lean toward reserved color schemes, and grittier textures that provide the look that director Gareth Edwards was striving for. Contrast is slightly scaled back which gives the video a flatter less dynamic appearance. Blacks are fairly strong and detail in dark areas and shadowy backgrounds is estimable. Resolution is good overall however due to the nature of the photography definitive sharpness and fine detail perception ebbs and flows. These instances don't completely inhibit the ability to visually resolve the structure of objects within the frame but slightly diminish it. Conversely there were times when images have improved dimensional depth and discernible clarity. Many of the dark/low level sequences are overtly grainy and tend to look noisy. Otherwise the presence of grain is rarely detectable and artifacts are kept to a minimum.
This 7.1 channel lossless soundtrack delivers good sound quality, punchy dynamics and discerning clarity. There isn't aggressive use of surround sound but when called for the mix utilizes the entire system to create a fair level of envelopment that brims with diffused ambience and convincing near field effects. Dynamic range and detail are excellent as the recorded sounds have definable presence, appreciable delineation and robust impact. Bass response is appropriately dialed in and has good solidity and palpable extension. The final sequence at the convenience store brought all of these elements together and sounded great. Dialogue is predominantly clear and concise but occasionally required more prominence within the front soundstage. Overall I found this to be a decent home theater presentation but not especially worthy for demonstration purposes.
- Audio commentary with writer/director Gareth Edwards, Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able
- (HD) 4 Deleted/Extended scenes
- (HD) Behind the scene of Monsters - 69 minute making of featurette
- (HD) Monsters the edit - 21 minute featurette
- (HD) Visual effects - 35 minute featurette
- (HD) Interview with Gareth Edwards - 44 minutes
- (HD) Interview with Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able - 28 minutes
- (HD) New York Comic Con discussion with Gareth Edwards - 5 minutes
- (HD) HDNET: A look at Monsters - 4 minutes
- BD-Live enabled
- Digital Copy (iTunes)
Monsters is a multi-genre film that is part road movie/romance, drama and sci-fi/horror. It wasn't exactly what I was expecting and turned out to be more of a character driven science fiction adventure. That isn't a problem however the film suffers from lethargic pacing, an uneventful story and unconvincing special effects. I did enjoy the performances by the cast and appreciated the narrative's allegory and organic feel but unfortunately neither provided a viable connection for me which left Monsters feeling dull and uninteresting. It comes to Blu-ray Disc from Magnolia Home Entertainment featuring good high definition audio/video quality and an in-depth look behind the scenes at the film/filmmaker that brought it to the big screen. I have read very positive things about Monsters which leads me to think that perhaps I just didn't get it. Maybe a second viewing will provide a different perspective but until then I can only recommend that those interested should rent it first.
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