How to Lose Friends & Alienate People (UK - BD)
Chris Gould takes a look at this recent comedy feature starring Simon Pegg...
Small-time journalist Sidney Young (Simon Pegg) has a love-hate relationship with the world of celebrity. His trend-bucking magazine, Post Modern Review, takes a satirical look at the glitz and glamour of super-stardom and has earned the ire of many a celebrity, but as much as Sidney is repulsed by the excesses of the lifestyles of the rich and famous, he is attracted to the trappings of fame. When he unexpectedly receives an invitation from Clayton Harding—editor of the conservative Sharps magazine—to attend an interview in New York, he jumps at the chance. Although he makes an arse of himself, Sidney amuses Harding and is given an entry-level position at the magazine
As usual, Sidney gets off to a bad start by insulting his attractive co-worker Alison Olsen (Kirsten Dunst) and angering his immediate boss Lawrence Maddox (Danny Huston) by writing caustic pieces about the insipid clients of powerful publicist Eleanor Johnson (Gillian Anderson). Although Sidney’s foibles lead to conflict with just about everyone he meets, he and Alison eventually become friends and offer advice and encouragement to one another. However, when Sidney meets and becomes obsessed with rising starlet Sophie Mayes he has a difficult choice to make: sacrifice his friendship with Alison by selling out and becoming just another corporate whore, or stick to his guns and risk losing his newfound status as a celebrity hanger-oner.
The version presented on this Blu-ray is apparently the theatrical cut of the film, but it differs from the version of the film I originally saw (no, I'm not saying where). Most, if not all of the omissions can be found in the deleted scenes, but they only serve to illustrate how dumb studio executives can be, because some of the best character moments have been cut. One scene in particular acts as the driving force behind Sidney's actions in the final act, and it's gone! The sad thing is that the cuts only amount to about two minutes of footage in total, so leaving them in would hardly have caused the film to run long. What utter, utter dullards studio executives can be.
Presented at 1.78:1 (1080/24p AVC), which is a little different to its original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1, How to Lose Friends & Alienate People looks pretty decent on Blu-ray. I didn’t catch the film theatrically so I can’t comment on the accuracy of the transfer from that perspective, but it is a marked improvement over the version I did see. Colour rendition seems accurate, although the film's palette is slightly skewed towards the warmer end of the spectrum, lending everything a sort of golden brown appearance. I was impressed by the depth of the blacks and the image is fairly detailed throughout. As you would expect from a recent release, the print is in very good shape and there were no glaring digital issues either. I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised by this transfer.
On a slightly pedantic note, I do wish Paramount would stop labelling their Blu-ray releases as ‘anamorphic’, because they aren’t (1920x1080 is a native widescreen resolution, unlike 720x576).
The disc includes the now de rigueur Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack that does all that can reasonably be asked of it. The film isn’t exactly an aural Tour de Force, but the track does a good job of rendering the dialogue and the soundstage is about as full as you’d expect from a predominantly dialogue-driven feature, which is to say that you'll spend most of the film listening to the front channels. The surrounds do get a bit of a workout during a few scenes—namely Sidney's visits to various clubs and parties, the odd plane flying overhead, rainfall and some of the film's music—but if you come into this one expecting an all-action mix you'll be disappointed. Even so, it's an accurate representation of the source material, so I don't have any real complaints.
How to Lose Friends & Alienate People isn’t as jam-packed as most Paramount Blu-ray releases of late (certainly the ones I’ve seen), but this is fairly understandable given the film’s relatively dismal box office takings. Anyway, here's a complete run-down of the material.
Deleted Scenes (15:02 SD): There are ten deleted scenes in total, all with optional commentary. You can opt to view each scene individually, or select the 'Play All' option. Included in these scenes are at least two character moments that absolutely should not have been removed from the theatrical version of the film. One is a nice little pay-off to Sidney's meeting with the forgotten female film star and the second scene is basically Sidney's entire motivation for his actions at the beginning of the final act. I simply cannot fathom why they were removed.
Audio Commentary with Simon Pegg and Director Robert Weide: I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this track, what with the absence of the usual Pegg co-commentators, but it actually turned out to be rather good. There's plenty of good-natured banter and a lot of geeky facts (the woman Sidney meets in the bar played one of the central characters in The Force Unleashed), along with the usual behind-the-scenes gossip. Pegg and Weide obviously have a good rapport, which translates effortlessly to this track.
Audio Commentary with Director Robert Weide: Although initially reported in the press release, the sleeve makes no mention of this solo track, so its presence actually came as a bit of a surprise to me. Weide provides a solid commentary that focusses more on the technical side of things than the joint effort, but it's still well-worth listening to.
Gag Reel (31:50 SD): Pretty self-explanatory this one. The gag reel is moderately amusing, but the running time is deceiving because a lot of the footage is repeated more than once (which is annoying).
Blogs (17:23 SD): There are six blogs in total, each of which focuses on a different day of filming. To be perfectly honest the running time is too short to offer any real insight into the filming process, but it's nice to have a brief glimpse into the lives of the cast and crew.
The Blu-ray sleeve includes a quote from the Sunday Times that says How to Lose Friends & Alienate People features ‘more laughs than any British comedy over the past decade’. Well, I can think of at least two films starring Simon Pegg with more laughs in the first twenty minutes than in the entirety of this film. That’s not to say it’s a terrible movie—far from it—but I have a feeling that it probably holds a greater resonance for those who work in the media. I enjoyed it for what it was—an affable comedy with a few genuine ‘laugh out loud’ moments—but I don’t think that it will go down in history as Pegg’s finest work and it's a crying shame that the studio cut some of the best character moments.
Although not up to the quality of some of their recent ‘event’ releases (such as Topic Thunder and Iron Man), Paramount has once again delivered a solid Blu-ray release. Audio-visual elements are perfectly good and the few extras that are included are more worthy than the featurettes that usually accompany box office failures. If you’re already a fan of the film or Simon Pegg in general I can see no reason why you shouldn’t check this out, but you might want to rent rather than buy.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 16th March 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English, Audio Description 2.0 English
Extras: Audio Commentary with Simon Pegg and Director Robert Weide, Audio Commentary with Director Robert Weide, Deleted Scenes, Gag Reel, Blogs
Easter Egg: No
Director: Robert Weide
Cast: Simon Pegg, Kirsten Dunst, Danny Huston, Megan Fox, Jeff Bridges, Gillian Anderson
Length: 109 minutes
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