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Nominated for Best Picture and taking home the Oscar for its screenplay, SIDEWAYS ($30) is one of the most intelligent, character driven comedies to come down the pike in quite some time. In addition to its intelligent writing, SIDEWAYS features some terrific, true to life performances that really draw the audience into the world and lives of these somewhat flawed characters. SIDEWAYS starts off as a typical road trip buddy movie, but it offers up a much richer tapestry of situations and introspection. Paul Giamatti stars in SIDEWAYS as Miles Raymond, a forty-something, divorced teacher and unpublished writer, whose great love in life is wine. Miles best friend Jack Lopate (Oscar nominee, Thomas Haden Church) is about to get married, so the two set off on a weeklong road trip into California wine country to play some golf and do a little tasting. Of course, Jack sees the trip as a last hurrah as a single man and goes looking for a little female companionship.

Female companionship comes in the form of Maya (Oscar nominee, Virginia Madsen), a waitress whom Miles knows from previous treks through wine country, and her friend Stephanie (Sandra Oh), who works at a local winery. Unaware he is about to marry; Stephanie immediately hits it off with Jack, and two begin a passionate affair. Miles on the other hand, really came to wine country for the wine, but surprisingly finds a kindred spirit in Maya, who shares his passion for wine. Although there are a number of emotional and comic upheavals during the course of trip through wine country, Miles ultimately comes away from the experience changed and able to write the next chapter of his own life.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has made SIDEWAYS available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. The 1080p presentation offers fans the best-looking release of SIDEWAYS that they are likely to see in the home venue. Considering that SIDEWAYS was shot on a rather modest budget and the cinematography favors a soft focus approach, this disc is not anywhere demonstration quality. That said, SIDEWAYS has a very film-like appearance that is very pleasing. Image sharpness and detail are good, with some sequences appearing stronger than others- overall, a highly accurate rendering of everything present in the original photography. The color palette is muted, which actually come across nicer on Blu-ray than they did in standard definition. Blacks are fairly accurate, as are the whites. Contrast is a little under whelming, but otherwise fine. The elements from which SIDEWAYS has been transferred are in very good shape, displaying only some minor blemishes. Modest Grain is present, but maintains a nice film-like quality for the presentation.

SIDEWAYS is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Since SIDEWAYS is primarily a talky comedy/drama, the sound design isn't particularly aggressive, but is well presented. As expected, the material is front heavy, with some engagement of the outlying channels for occasional effects, ambience and musical fill. The lossless encode does offer benefits to the film’s musical component, which has strength and presence. Voices are cleanly reproduced and the dialogue is totally understandable. French, Spanish and Portuguese DTS 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc. Subtitles are available in French, Spanish, Korean, Cantonese, Mandarin and Portuguese.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the disc's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few extras. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with actors Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church. This is a fun commentary and really worth the time to listen. Seven Deleted Scenes and a "Behind-The-Scenes" Featurette close out the extras.

SIDEWAYS is a truly superb film, which has been given a delicious presentation on Blu-ray. Highly recommended.



Sideways [Blu-ray] (2004)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2009 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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