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At the mention of the name of Stephen King, horror novels tend to spring instantly to mind. Also well known is the fact that not all of his movie adaptations are worthy efforts. Films such as Silver Bullet, Sleepwalkers, and Dolores Clairborne are just three examples of movies which should never have been brought to the big screen.  Even factors such as the huge success of ‘The Green Mile,’ and a cast list including Anthony Hopkins were not enough to have audiences flocking to see his latest movie adaptation, Hearts in Atlantis. The movie performed poorly at the box office, but now it has been released on region two, giving audiences another opportunity to decide for themselves whether or not it was a worthwhile production. Read on to find out if the movie proves to be a success, or simply just another let-down.

Hearts In Atlantis
The movie starts by introducing us to Bobby Garfield. Bobby has just been informed of the death of a childhood friend. While attending the funeral he receives some more bad news. Another close childhood friend has also sadly passed away, and this news seems to come as a terrible shock to him. The film then flashes back to 1960, when Bobby was only eleven, and this is where the main story begins. Bobby (Anton Yelchin) is living with his mum, Liz. His mother would rather forget about Bobby’s father, who no longer lives with them. However, Liz is finding it hard to bring up Bobby on her own. Money is tight, so she has no alternative but to bring in a lodger for the upstairs apartment.

The new tenant is called Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins). Unfortunately for him Liz takes an immediate dislike to him. She originally jokes that she cannot trust a person who carries his belonging in paper bags, but it soon becomes apparent that her feelings run deeper than that. In contrast, Bobby finds Ted interesting and gradually gets to know him better. Ted offers to help Bobby save for a bike in return for a favour. Ted is getting older, and finds it a struggle to read the newspaper. Therefore he asks Bobby to read the daily newspaper to him, in exchange for some pocket money. As Bobby gets to know the eccentric lodger, he realises that Ted has a hidden power. Ted is in fact psychic, and can pass his powers onto other people. Being psychic may sound like an exciting power to have, but in the 60s people were apprehensive. For that reason the FBI consider Ted to be a huge danger, and decide that they need to capture him. Bobby learns of Ted’s fate, and elects to help his new-found friend. Several incidents occur, which result in Ted being left with nowhere to run. That’s all I am going to reveal about the story, because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone reading this review.

Hearts In Atlantis
Over the past couple of years, Stephen King novels have evolved from nasty horror stories through to thoughtful character-driven novels. Most people will refer to ’The Green Mile’ as a perfect example of this, but even before that he was toning down his books. Even though there are no monsters in this movie, it still has moments which distinguish it as an adaptation from a King novel. The 60s theme coupled with young protagonists reminded me a lot of his previous novel, ‘IT’. There is no doubting that the main reason the film succeeds is down to Anthony Hopkins and Anton Yelchin. Hopkins is obviously a very experienced actor, but before watching this film I had never heard of Anton Yelchin. However, his name is now etched in my memory after an inspiring performance which even outshines his more experienced co-star. Anthony Hopkins also adds a touch of class to the movie, which would have surely suffered from any less convincing lead actors. What is surprising is how well the two main characters interact. Onscreen they seem to have a believable relationship, which is a credit to both actors.

Director Scott Hicks also adds his stamp of class to the film by providing some tense scenes (particularly towards the end), which kept me engrossed for the duration of the movie. Thinking back, there are not that many surprises during the movie, but the tone and atmosphere foretell the fact that there is something just around the corner. As mentioned above, the final part of the film is pretty tense, but it is then complimented by a feel-good ending which should bring a smile to your face. Hearts in Atlantis was not the type of film I was expecting, but it left me feeling pleasantly surprised.  Definitely worth watching.

Hearts in Atlantis is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. What struck me from the start was how detailed the image quality appeared to be. Peoples’ faces and the background scenery were crisp and clear. Colours were also vibrant and true throughout, with solid blacks. Skin tones appeared accurate. There was no obvious sign of compression artefacts, but occasional edge enhancements were visible. However, this was only very occasionally and it certainly didn’t become distracting. Grain was hardly noticeable throughout. Barring the edge enhancements, this could be considered near reference quality.

The audio aspect of this disc is every bit as impressive as the visual side. The movie is brought to the screen in English Dolby Digital 5.1. Normally I would consider this type of movie to be lacking in any rear speaker action, however that doesn’t appear to be the case, and what we are treated to is pretty impressive.  The movie is mostly dialogue driven, but there are also scenes which require a little more atmosphere. That’s where the rear speakers are brought into play as they subtly create suspense to compliment the visual effect. There are some quite gripping scenes in the movie, and the soundtrack plays a huge part in creating the atmosphere. Towards the end of the film the soundtrack really comes into its own, and makes you realise exactly how good it is. The movie also has quite an active musical soundtrack, with plenty of 60s tunes being played. The track deals with these moments well. There are also French and Italian soundtracks provided on this disc. Overall a quality soundtrack from Warner.

Hearts In Atlantis
Considering the nature of the movie it seemed a good opportunity for Warner to provide us with some interesting extras and thankfully that is what they have done. The best extra in my opinion is the interview with Anthony Hopkins. Director Scott Hicks asks the star lots of questions about his memories from the film. I probably wouldn’t class this as being an interview, because they seem at ease with one another, and the atmosphere makes it more of a chat. Anthony Hopkins is very talkative throughout, and shows obvious enthusiasm for the film. He is very complimentary about Anton Yelchin, who plays the character of Bobby. Apparently Anton Yelchin impressed from the very first interview, and Hopkins tips him for a great future. Being a Welshman, it was nice to hear Anthony Hopkins talk about his childhood which he spent in the town of Port Talbot, Wales. Anthony talks about his struggle to initially get work, and then moves on to reveal how some of his memories contributed to the way he played the character of Ted in the film. Apparently his grandfather had a big influence on this. The interview lasts for about thirty minutes, and is well worth a viewing.

Next in the order of content would have to be the screen specific audio commentary by director Scott Hicks. As mentioned in previous reviews, I am not the greatest fan of commentaries, but I found this one interesting. Hicks is obviously animated about his movie and gives a very detailed insight into various aspects of it. From the story itself through to the technical aspects (e.g. camera angles), Hicks gives a thorough commentary which is compelling, but also fun. He also has nothing but praise for the actors involved in the movie, and it is interesting to hear about the experiences he had on set. This is definitely a commentary worth listening too, and probably one of the best I have come across recently.  

Hearts In Atlantis
The theatrical trailer is also included in the extras section. The trailer has a running time of just over two minutes and is presented in anamorphic widescreen. Be warned though, as the trailer reveals a lot of the plot. What is does well however is to set a creepy atmosphere which is not actually portrayed in the movie. Also included on the disc is a still gallery, and cast and crew filmographies.

Hearts of Atlantis is not going to please everyone. Fans of Stephen King’s novels will feel a little cheated by the straightforward plot, but I considered it compelling enough to keep my attention right through to the end credits. The movie has found a real star in Anton Yelchin. Combine his raw talents with those of the more experienced Anthony Hopkins, and you have every chance of creating a successful movie. That’s exactly what Hearts of Atlantis is. A riveting plot, strong relationships and a ‘feel good’ ending make Hearts of Atlantis an easy film to recommend. Warner have also done a smashing job with the disc. Impressive visual and audio elements combined with worthwhile extras, make this a disc that you must own.