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Feature


It's the inventive tale of Hamlet as told from the viewpoint of two of the work's supporting, but certainly more outrageous, characters. In this version, the Shakespearean equivalents of Laurel and Hardy get a chance to take the lead roles in a setting where illusion and reality overlap. (Adapted from the RLJ Entertainment synopsis)

 Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead
I have a fondness for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead that stems from my high school English classroom. After covering Hamlet it was a welcome and appealing diversion; a retelling of the story that follows two minor characters and plenty of humorous musings on the nature of destiny, probability and identity. What was even better was we got to watch this movie version of it.. in school! This was at an age where I loved Tarantino and Besson movies, so finding out Tim Roth and Gary Oldman were the leads just made the whole thing that much sweeter. Needless to say, I ate it up. I would eat up any movie that I got to watch in class instead of listening to a lecture. But I never revisited it in the decade since until now.

Does it hold up ten years later outside of a classroom setting? For the most part, yes. Some critics have panned it for being flat, but I enjoy the deadpan approach. Sure, it wears pretty thin after 117 minutes, but seeing this style of humor applied to a Shakespearean setting is a unique delight. Oldman and Roth make an entertaining pair of idiots and I still got a kick from watching Rosencrantz frequently stumble upon a big scientific discovery only to mess it up or be interrupted. The scenes that did less for me were the ones that actually involved the story of Hamlet. I grew weary of the exaggerated theatricality quickly, but it was still fun to see a younger, scenery chewing Iain Glen (Jorah from Game of Thrones). I presume this material plays much, much better in the stage version.

 Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead

Video


This 1080p transfer leaves some things to be desired. It has a good bitrate, taking up about half of a dual layer Blu-ray disc. Right off the bat there is some noticeable telecine wobble that I quickly adjusted to, but it may bother some. More often than not there is a harsh granular appearance that doesn't resemble 35mm film. It almost resembles CRT static. It may not come through in the screencaps, but in motion it is often apparent. This is especially the case in darker scenes where black areas of the picture are filled with noise. Oddly enough, there are occasional shots that don't appear to suffer from this. Close ups look fine. Detail is better than a DVD but suffers underneath the oppressive grain. Every object has the same rough texture and even colors are somewhat washed out. If you were hoping for a nice remaster this release will disappoint you, but it is still technically better than any existing version of the movie.

Audio


The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track has less problems than the image. It didn't receive the 5.1 treatment, but let's not kid ourselves and pretend this adaptation of a stage play needs it. It does more than necessary with the two channels it does have. There are frequently ambient sounds, be it a bird whistling or trickling water in a bathhouse, that only come from one channel or pan from right to left as the camera moves across a scene. Occasionally dialogue goes a bit off balance, louder in one channel over the other, despite a character being in the center of the frame. Dialogue levels are acceptable and easy to interpret.

 Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead

Extras


The special features are small in number but great in length. The first and only new extra is a new 25th Anniversary Interview with Tom Stoppard (HD, 55:37). From the old DVD release there is an additional Interview with Tom Stoppard (SD, 59:09), an Interview with Gary Oldman (SD, 58:27), an Interview with Tim Roth (SD, 32:56), and finally an Interview with Richard Dreyfuss (SD, 45:30). If you wanted over four hours of interviews this release has you covered.

 Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead

Overall


It has been a long time since I've read Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and even longer since I've read Hamlet, so I imagine much of the cleverness Tom Stoppard wove into this story has been lost on me. I still had a fun time revisiting this movie adaptation Stoppard directed himself and found some delight in Gary Oldman and Tim Roth's deadpan performances. This Blu-ray release is an upgrade from the old DVD but doesn't stun in the AV department. There's plenty of interview material in the special features, though only one of them is new to this release.

 Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead
 Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead
 Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead
 Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead
 Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead
 Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray 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.


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