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MONSTER

Region 2 (UK) Edition

Director:  Patty Jenkins

Featuring:  Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci, Bruce Dern, Lee Tergesen

CAUTION: This review contains minor spoilers!

THE FILM

Patty Jenkins' acclaimed biographical film about notorious American female serial killer Aileen Wuornos showcases a remarkable performance by Charlize Theron, who was rewarded with a Golden Globe and Academy Award for her performance.

THE DVD

Metrodome's UK disc offers a 1.85:1 presentation of the film, with anamorphic enhancement. The film is rather grainy, especially in the darker scenes, where there often hints that the filmmakers were pushing their luck with the film stock. Brightly-lit scenes are nicely represented. It's a clean and very satisfying transfer, however, and there are absolutely no hints of artificial edge-enhancement. Black levels are solid, there's good shadow detail, and the colour balance seems fine. This is a rock-solid presentation.

The 104m film has a very high average bitrate of 9.41Mb/sec (of which 8.0Mb/sec is the video component). This allows for accurate representation of the film (grain and all), and for about as much detail as the format is capable of.

There are English HoH subtitles for the film, but not the commentary or the bonus materials. There are no on-screen captions during the film.

The disc offers a choice of Dolby Digital 2.0 (256kbps), Dolby Digital 5.1 (448kbps) and DTS (754kbps) audio tracks. The mix isn't especially elaborate, but is generally appealing. Score composer BT, in an interview on the second disc, reveals that the music was especially composed with a 5.1 mix in mind, aiming to create a hazy, dream-like ambience. The music drifts around the soundstage, pushing sound from all your speakers. There's little to pick between the DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes, but comparing the two indicates that the DTS track offers better placement, and marginally-improved fidelity.

THE BONUS MATERIAL

The film is accompanied by a good commentary track, with director Patty Jenkins, producer Clark Petersen and star Charlize Theron. The track offers some background detail, including some useful information about Wuornos that's not apparent from simply watching the film, (revealing, for example that Aileen's first victim, played by Oz's Lee Tergesen, was a convicted rapist). The track will certainly enhance your appreciation of the movie. This track is not on the US disc, but it's not being promoted as a UK exclusive.

Aside from the commentary, all the bonus material is presented on the second (dual-layer) disc. The US version crams all its bonus material onto the same disc as the movie.

Monster: The Vision and Journey (26m) - An excellent, bullshit-free summary of the filmmakers' approach to filming Aileen's story, explained primarily by Jenkins. Highlights include a visit to some of the locations Aileen frequented; a good look at how Theron's startling physical transformation was achieved in the make-up chair; and a good chunk devoted to both the lead actresses and their working methods (the profile of Ricci, particularly, is concise and very revealing). There's also a very interesting section which shows several takes of one pivotal scene, in which Theron offers subtly different interpretations of the dialogue.

The Making of a Monster (22m) - This featurette explains the somewhat tempestuous relationship that Aileen had with the filmmakers (Monster's director Jenkins, and documentary filmmaker Nick Broomfield, whose second documentary about Wuornos, Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer, is excerpted here). It also explains why Jenkins glamourised the depiction of Aileen's lover (who, in reality, somewhat resembled Wuornos herself). Broomfield has some nice things to say about the film, and notes how Monster was able to give a more rounded portrait of Aileen, because, despite his best efforts, none of the real-life participants in Wuornos' story are co-operative. Jenkins also admits that the film only got made, distributed, and gained an audience, because it was a lesbian serial killer story, starring two hot Hollywood actresses playing "hot lesbians", and because one of them was "uglified". This is another outstanding featurette, and it's exclusive to the UK DVD!

Deleted & Extended Scenes (17m) - offers five segments, with slightly-compromised image quality.

Dream Sequence - Aileen fantasises about an idyllic life with Selby, before being rudely brought back to Earth by Selby's guardian.

Welcome To My World - An much longer alternate version of Aileen's confession to Selby

Newsflash - A very short scene in which Aileen sees a TV news report about the police finding one of her victims.

Job Interview: Out Takes - amusing, free-wheeling dialogue for one of the job interview. "I worked with people, one-on-one!"

Bus Station: Full Performance - more of the emotionally-charged farewell scene.

Film Making Demo - a presentation of the Ferris Wheel sequence, where you can choose one of seven different audio combinations, dialogue and effects, dialogue and music, effects only, music only, effects and music, and the full mix). Not terribly interactive, or enlightening. The US version offers a full DTS presentation, but the UK version has to make do with a Dolby Digital 2.0 track.

Trailers - A Theatrical Trailer (2m), two US Trailers (2m each), a trailer for Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer (which manages to mis-spell Wuornos' surname!), and unrelated promotional trailers for Donnie Darko - The Director's Cut, Vodka Lemon and documentaries The Corporation, Bus 174, and The Last Victory.

Interview With Patty and BT (15m) - The on-screen title is Monster - Evolution of the Score, which is a better title, since the menu title is simplistic. This is a featurette that features interviews with Jenkins and composer BT (who wrote the music for The Fast and the Furious). They discuss the development of the score, how it complements the story, and how certain beats in the film acted as pivots in the music. This featurette is on the US disc, too, but, because it was sponsored by DTS, is presented in DTS 5.1 on the US disc. Here it's presented in 2.0 Dolby Digital. (Fans of the score should investigate the US Music From & Inspired by the Film Monster DVD / CD edition - more details here). T

Cast Filmographies - Film credits for Theron and Ricci, ripped straight from the IMDb.

The US disc contains a fifteen-minute featurette that does not seem to be the same as either of the featurettes on the UK version. It may be a cut-down version of the Vision and Journey featurette.

SUMMARY

Metrodome's UK DVD features a remarkably good transfer, slightly hampered by the film's micro-budget (it was shot in less than a month), and some envelope-pushing cinematography. It's unlikely that the film will ever look better, in standard definition format. Metrodome have wisely pushed all the bonus materials to the second disc (apart from the commentary track, which accompanies the film, for obvious reasons!) This has helped the video presentation of the movie, and allowed for a good selection of quality bonus material, some of which is not available on the (single-disc) US edition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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