Red Riding Hood (UK - BD)
Chris Gould sat through this one largely because Amanda Seyfried is very cute...
Red Riding Hood opens with a scene in which a young girl gleefully slits a rabbits throat, just for fun. Cut to ten years later and this young girl, Valerie, is now a young woman played by the (admittedly delectable) Amanda Seyfried. Valerie is in love with a handsome woodcutter called Peter (with whom she shared the tender moment of ‘rabbiticide’ all those years ago), but her parents have agreed to sell, sorry, ‘arrange’ for her betrothal to Henry, the son of a wealthy family who’s always had an eye for her. At the very moment she decides to run away with Peter the body of her sister is discovered in the village, apparently the victim of a werewolf that has stalked the area for many years. The assembled villagers decide to take matters into their own hands and track the wolf to its lair where they succeed in killing it, but not without the loss of Henry’s father. However, as is so often the case with these things the arrival of Gary Oldman’s Father Solomon and his pack of witch finders reveals the truth—they didn’t really kill the werewolf, which is living among them in plain sight in its human form. Cue lots of finger-pointing, uncomfortably sexualised scenes (for a film aimed at twelve-year-olds) and a rather ropey looking CGI wolf…
I’m not sure what I was expecting from the director of Twilight, but I think I got what I deserved. Fragile one minute, strong the next heroine? Check. Slightly aloof, brooding but oh so sexy love interest? Check. Competing love interest, also oh so sexy and probably better suited to our girl? Check. Some supernatural element that purports to be the film’s main focus but really takes a back seat to the love triangle? Check. I guess it must be an age thing, but I derived very little enjoyment from this film and its baffling plot. Not baffling in that it’s difficult to comprehend, just baffling in so much as it got the green light in the first place. Narratively it’s a bit of a mess, the characters aren’t particularly likable or relatable, there’s little to no chemistry between Seyfried and her suitors (although both me and the wife though the male leads should be playing each other’s roles) and the effects are pretty woeful. As previously mentioned some of the sexual content is a tad graphic for a ‘12’ rated film (especially in the alternate cut). Now I don’t want to sound like an old fuddy-duddy, but I think that preteen children are bombarded by far too many sexually provocative images nowadays and I found the scenes in which Seyfried wrapped her legs around Fernandez as he hoisted her against a wall before practically dry humping him a tad much. It would have been fine at a fifteen certificate, but I wouldn’t have wanted to be sitting there watching it with a child. It’s a real pity, because I like Amanda Seyfried and despite a recent spate of questionable roles I have fond memories of her performances in movies such as Mean Girls and Jennifer’s Body.
Well I wasn't a huge fan of the film, but the 2.40:1 (1080/24p AVC) transfer goes some way towards making up for its narrative shortcomings. The image has a soft, dreamlike quality that effectively conjures images of the fairy-tale that inspired it. Much of the running time is spent in the characters’ homes or in the village square at night time, during which the palette is pushed towards the warmer end of the spectrum with lots of ambers and oranges courtesy of candlelight and fires. As we push through the film there are some quite striking uses of the primary colour of red (to be expected), particularly for the titular hooded cloak worn by Valerie. Blacks are quite murky at times, only occasionally revealing significant detail, while whites look suitably icy. Detail levels are good overall, but the film’s dreamy photography precludes the sort of razor-sharp clarity associated with some films and the whole thing looks bit flat at times. As for the shortcomings, well there really aren’t too many of note, certainly when viewed on a modest-sized HDTV. I couldn't see too much in the way of artefacting, certainly of the serious kind, so it appears that Warner did a pretty good job with this one and I think my score is a fair reflection of the overall quality.
The strong visuals are accompanied by an even stronger audio track in the form of a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 effort that ticks all of the boxes. It’s a lively affair right from the outset, with plenty of ambience in the form of general village chatter and the sounds of nature (hey, they do live in the woods). There’s a surprising amount of surround utilisation throughout the one-hundred minute running time, much of which occurs during the various wolf attacks, but the score also has a pretty notable presence in the rears. However, perhaps the most surprising thing about the mix is the sheer power of the low frequency effects, which really are quite startling at times. The wolf’s throaty growl elicits a similar noise from the subwoofer and the strange ‘hoover-like’ humming on the soundtrack is also positively reinforced. Dynamic range is impressive—with crisp highs to accompany the rumbling lows—and dialogue reproduction is spot-on throughout, even during the frenetic scenes. As you might have guessed from my earlier comments about ‘hoovers’ the music is an odd combination of the traditional and the modern, but it works well for this film.
Although the cover proudly announced the presence of an alternate cut, I'll be damned if I could spot anything different beyond the ending and even then it's quite predictable. Still, it's better to have it than not, right?
I guess the main attraction here has to be 'Secrets Behind the Red Hood', which is a feature-length picture-in-picture track with Catherine Hardwicke, Amanda Seyfried, Shiloh Fernandez and Max Irons. On paper this looks like a pretty good feature, but I have to admit that after around thirty minutes I was pretty bored with the whole affair. It’s a bit of an awkward track to say the least, with a seemingly never-ending slew of embarrassing comments from Hardwicke and what I hope is mock arrogance from Seyfried. Fernandez sits there like a ventriloquist’s dummy without an operator for most of the time, save the odd comment about how he and Seyfried were fighting while filming this scene and that. Max Irons seems slightly more at ease and cracks most of the gags, but it’s not exactly riveting viewing. The track also includes behind-the-scenes footage, rehearsals, interviews and various other bits and pieces in the PiP window, but there are frequent, lengthy gaps between appearances. In short, this feature was a bit of let-down…
Moving swiftly along we come to the 'behind the Story' section of the disc, which includes seven short featurettes. The first, 'The Reinvention of Red Riding Hood (05:25 HD) takes a look at, you guessed it, the reinvention of the fairytale as well as the previous iterations. 'Red Riding Hood: Red's Men' (03:18 HD) takes a fluffy look at Valerie's male love interests, while 'Red Riding Hood: Making of the Score' (10:59 HD) is a slightly more informative look at the film's music. 'Before the Fur... Making of the CGI Wolf (00:40 HD) is a ridiculously short look at the realisation of the film's big bad. Honestly, at less than a minute what's the point? Also included are 'Casting Tapes' (07:24 HD) and 'Rehearsals' (05:52 HD), which I hope are pretty self-explanatory. The last feature in this section is 'Red Riding Hood in 73 Seconds (01:28 HD), which many would argue is the preferred way to watch the movie.
Four deleted scenes come next, but there's really nothing here that adds to the story in any significant way. There's also a gag reel (02:37 HD), which mostly consists of people's clothing getting caught on the scenery, and a couple of music videos, Fever Ray's 'The Wolf' (02:20 HD) and 'Just a Fragment of You' (03:07 HD) performed by Anthony Gonzalez and Brian Reitzell. Finally, if you keep pressing right in the menu (past the music videos) a short (00:26 HD) Easter egg appears. As one of Warner's 'Triple Play' releases you also get DVD and digital copies of the film on the second disc and some BD-Live content that has nothing to do with the film.
Red Riding Hood is not a great film but I can see it being lapped up by the Twilight crowd. It shares much in common with those features, including my desire never to see it again. Still, I’ve tried not to let that prejudice my feelings towards the Blu-ray release. It’s a great looking and sounding disc from Warner that should really please those who do like the film. Unfortunately the extras are a lot flimsier than they first appear but that seems to be par for the course. If you saw and liked Red Riding Hood at the cinema you won’t be disappointed with this release, but everyone else should be warned that the technical qualities do little to compensate for the feature’s shortcomings.
* 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 12 years and over
Release Date: 22nd August 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Dolby Digital 5.1 German, Dolby Digital 5.1 Italian, Dolby Digital 5.1 Japanese, Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish
Subtitles: Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Spanish
Extras: Secrets Behind the Red Cloak, Behind the Story, Deleted Scenes, Gag Reel, Music Videos,
Easter Egg: No
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, Shiloh Fernandez, Max Irons, Billy Burke, Lukas Haas, Michael Hogan, Julie Christie, Virginia Madsen
Length: 100 minutes
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