Middle of Nowhere (US - BD RA)
Gabe does his best to get himself the hell out of this particular small town...
Grace (Eva Amurri) should have a bright future ahead of her, but thanks to her irresponsible mother (Susan Sarandon), who racked up thousands in debt in her name, she has neither the money nor the credit to pay for college. Dorian Spitz (Anton Yelchin) is the black sheep of a wealthy family, who is shipped off to live with his militant uncle after trying to runaway with the Hispanic housekeeper. Grace and Dorian meet working at a water park, and enter a mutually beneficial business contract—Dorian will score and sell pot, and Grace will drive him from one deal to another. Problems arise when Grace discovers more horrible truths about her mother, and meets a handsome rich boy named Ben (Justin Chatwin), and Dorian meets Grace’s younger sister Taylor (Willa Holland).
Long, sad story short: Middle of Nowhere is a film about annoying, sulky, whiny people, and the only way we can tell the protagonists from the antagonists is the intensity of their self-centred or mean-spirited behaviour. Grace is the closest anyone comes to relatable, but this is mostly because her mother is so unforgivably wicked (in such an unenjoyable manner) that we can’t help but support her endeavours at least a little bit. It’s somewhat satisfying listening to her berate the other characters, but at a certain point it becomes clear that that is her only real place in the film, and that she doesn’t really have anywhere to grow. I actually don’t hate rich white people with problems movies, or even naval-gazing non-plots on principle or anything (I own copies of most of Wes Anderson’s films, after all), but I prefer they aren’t frustrating, dull, or disengaging. Director Rob Stockwell has a good eye for camera placement, and has a few musical montages in him, but he can’t overcome the listless, aimless storyline. The cast is made up of actors I actively like, but no one really brings their A-game to the material, except perhaps Eva Amurri, who frankly deserves better. It all adds up to a plate of I didn’t really care.
Holy heavy grain Batman! Usually I’m a stringent supporter of Blu-ray releases not being afraid of showing off the grain that lets us know we’re watching something shot on film, but this transfer verges on what I’d call excessive. It looks kind of like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and with good reason, it’s shot on 16mm film. Assuming you can look past the grain, and I know you can, this 1080p transfer is about as much as we can expect from a 16mm release. Details are pretty sharp in close-up, and busy wide shots, though flatter and softer than other formats can manage, don’t feature any compression artefacts or noticeable edge enhancement. Colour quality is warm and realistic, and eclectic, but inconsistent within a single scene, seemingly based on lighting (overcast vs., sudden bursts of sunlight, perhaps?). Black levels are impressive and reasonably sharp when it comes to supporting edges.
I’ve gotten so used to understated, ‘quirky’ comedies putting no effort into their 5.1 sound designs that even a slightly interesting surround mix kind of impresses me at this point. Middle of Nowhere’s DTS-HD Master Audio is far from a Michael Bay movie, but there are minor directional elements, and plenty of basic ambience. The majority of the aural elements are centred, but most scenes feature some kind of defining aural element, like running water, whirring washing machines, or chirping birds, which keep the stereo and surround channels alive. The dialogue is consistently clear, but there are definite signs of slightly off ADR sessions on the lip sync. There isn’t a lot of score on the film overall, but the added pop music elements are presented warmly enough, and feature quite a bit of LFE support.
The extras begin with ‘The Making of Middle of Nowhere’ (25:00, SD), which starts as the usual extended trailer EPK, complete with the cast and crew summing up the story and reasons we’re going to like the film, various clips that don’t spoil too much, and some brief behind the scenes information. The whole thing is then elongated quite a bit with more in depth, yet still kind of general look at the cast, and the location shooting. This is followed by a series of extended interviews (11:20, SD) with director John Stockwell, actors Eva Amurri, Anton Yelchin, Justin Chatwin, Willa Holland, Susan Sarandon, and producers David Lancaster and Nicole Rocklin. The extras are completed with eight deleted/extended scenes (06:30, SD), and a trailer.
I personally did not connect with Middle of Nowhere. At all. I didn’t relate to the story, I didn’t like any of the characters, and my opinion did not change over the mercifully brief runtime. The film does have a personality, and will likely connect with plenty of other people, so I recommend readers take this brief review in the context of my other reviews before deciding on a rental for themselves (I liked Youth in Revolt, Whip It, Adventureland and Away We Go for the record). This Blu-ray release looks about as good as a 16mm film can look in high definition, better than expected, and sounds better than most modestly budgeted quirky dramadies in DTS-HD Master Audio sound.
*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 13th July 2010
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: English SDH and Spanish
Extras: Deleted Scenes, Making of Featurette, Cast and Crew Interviews, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: John Stockwell
Cast: Eva Amurri, Anton Yelchin, Justin Chatwin, Willa Holland, Susan Sarandon
Length: 95 minutes
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