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DVD / Blu Ray Review: One Week by Michael McGowan

One Week - On DVD and Blu Ray in Canada
by Jason Whyte

If you read my review on efilmcritic.com earlier this year, you’re very much aware that I am a fan of Michael McGowan’s second feature, “One Week”. I was lucky enough to see the film at the opening of last December’s Whistler Film Festival, to be followed by another viewing as the opening film of this year’s Victoria Film Festival. Mongrel Media, the film’s distributor, opened the film in March and since went on to earn over $1.5 million in the box office (it cost roughly the same to make). Now that number may at first not sound like much, but note that this film was released on only about 65 or so screens in Canada only. Add to that, "One Week" was earning solid returns for 8-9 weeks after its release, filling auditoriums long into its run, rather than earning everything in just its first weekend as nearly every film does these days.

"One Week" is an ode to the beauty and power of living in Canada, but it is also a telling story of a man who tries, even with limited success, to find himself when he realizes his days are numbered. I have always loved road trip movies, and this Toronto-to-Tofino adventure is no exception. For more on my thoughts on the film, check out my review HERE.

In a quick turn of events, the DVD and Blu Ray was released on Tuesday, a short window having just hit theaters in March. I had just seen the film again theatrically so this release is a quick turnaround. Mongrel is being smart and striking while the iron is hot instead of letting the film linger for months and months before hitting video store shelves. I was sent both a DVD and Blu Ray to check out, so let's take a look.

VIDEO: How does this movie look?

The film was shot in Super 16 at 1.85:1, and thusly the image was blown up to 35mm and hard matted at the top and bottom on the theatrical prints, so forget about going for a full frame release. I don’t think Mongrel has one planned anyway, which is good as this film entirely relies on unique framing of close-ups, vast shots of Canadian landscape as well as intercutting vintage footage and flashbacks. The flat 1.85 works better in this regard as it keeps the action intimate with Ben’s plight while also remaining open and visual at the same time.

Before I talk about the video transfer, I want to say that Mongrel Media is a fantastic Canadian company and both their theatrical division and home video releases have been very good, if not excellent content. In particular I’m very much a fan of their festival collection, where they ported over popular titles that have played at festivals in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal and would otherwise not be seen by audiences.

Now, with that said, it pains me to discover that the Blu Ray review copy I received gives us the feature film in a transfer at 1080i (interlaced) resolution and not at 1080p (progressive) which is the standard for Blu Ray discs. If you own a widescreen HD monitor with 1080p resolution, the disc will automatically downscale the image, despite the menus being in 1080p. There is no mention anywhere on the packaging that the transfer is 1080i either.

There are very few 1080i discs out there (recent releases include Alliance Video’s release of “Good Will Hunting” and “Traffic”, and HDNet’s “One Last Thing”) and I was surprised to see this. Even the recent Canadian film, the festival hit “Young People Fucking” from Maple had a full 1080p, MPEG-4 transfer. A review of that disc is HERE. To make matters worse, there is no mention anywhere on the packaging about the technical credits on the feature film transfer, so anyone who purchases the title to get a high-def experience of the film in full 1080 progressive will be cheated.

The video transfer on the Blu Ray isn’t terrible, far from it; although not without its drawbacks due to interlacing, There are instances of combing, aliasing, choppy frames and even times where the image appears to be breaking up (watch closely on Ben’s horse-ride scene with the ranch hand. The backgrounds pop in and out of focus as if the transfer can’t hold the image properly). Much of the film relies on the grain and latitude of Super 16 negative and a progressive transfer would easily communicate this vision to HD. There are still warm colors, strong contrast and a likable use of film grain, but again, it is missing what should have been there in the first place.

The DVD looks good, although it takes a while to get there. The film immediately starts on a very grainy sequence in a doctor’s office. The look is definitely intentional and stylized, so don’t take this as a fault with the transfer (it holds up a bit better on the Blu Ray). As the film moves along, it balances the outdoor footage and flashbacks quite well, and is a nice and bright DVD transfer. I was viewing this on a 52” LCD, so I’m assuming some of the problems won’t show up on smaller sets, of which most DVD owners likely have anyway.

AUDIO: How does it sound?

Despite the setbacks with the video on the Blu Ray, I was very impressed with the subtle yet effective high-bitrate DTS track on the disc. The film’s ample use of music and narration comes across very well, and even some aggressive surround usage at times. Well done. You could never accomplish a high-bitrate track like this on DVD, so it's nice to have.

Also included on the Blu Ray, among the French 5.1 option, is another English track in downscaled 448kpbs Dolby Digital 5.1, which sounds a bit limited in comparison, but still effective if you don’t have DTS capability. The same soundtrack also exists on the DVD along with a 2.0 option as well as French 5.1 and 2.0.

EXTRAS: What's on this thing?

As soon as you pop in the disc, you are greeted with a quite extensive amount of trailers. These vary wildly in quality as well. On the Blu Ray, they switch from 720p to 480i (the “Act of God” trailer is in 4x3 letterbox!) depending on the source. There are some good spots here for “Nurse Fighter Boy”, “Il Divo”, “Tulpan” and “Act of God”, but a quick hit of your menu button will bypass all of these into the main menu.

The first special feature I tried out was an entertaining commentary by director Michael McGowan, who talks about the hardships of shooting a zero-budget picture, stealing location shoots and working with all of his actors. McGowan rarely pauses and has a lot of interesting things to say (even my local Victoria Film Festival gets a shout-out, when he discusses how he placed a shot of a nearby Duncan hockey rink in a Manitoba town instead).

Following this is a nice series of featurettes, including a behind-the-scenes look at the small crew making the film along with a Q&A screening in Toronto with McGowan and star Jonathan Jackson. Both these featurettes run about ten minutes each. There is also a quick two minute photo gallery featuring production stills from the film.

In a stroke of what-the-hell, the theatrical trailer is also included on the Blu Ray in full 1080p resolution. I’m nearly offended by this; it gives us a look at an image we aren’t getting with the full transfer of the film.

Both discs are identical in content and there are no exclusives. I was quite happy with the features on this release as they are a nice compliment to the film.

BOTTOM LINE:

"One Week" is a terrific film, one worth seeing and while I am happy that Mongrel provided enough behind-the-scenes footage and commentary, I just can't recommend the Blu Ray release due to the interlaced transfer. I know that Blu Ray owners with full 1080p displays will feel cheated and disappointed with this transfer, and I strongly recommend that this title should be re-released progressively. The DVD, on the other hand, is a great presentation with a nice assortment of features, and will do very well for those who have not taken the high-definition plunge yet.

Thanks to Mongrel Media for supplying both DVD & Blu Ray for review. As of this writing, One Week is only available on home video in Canada, but we will let you know when there will be a release in the United States (or simply import from our good friends at amazon.ca). In the meantime, be on the lookout for future DVD and Blu Ray reviews on efilmcritic.com! Jason Whyte, efilmcritic.com


link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=2778
originally posted: 06/18/09 03:56:20
last updated: 06/18/09 16:11:52
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