Posts Tagged ‘Stormy Monday’

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: July 18, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 93 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 2.0 English Linear PCM Audio

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 1.85:1

Bitrate: 34.19 Mbps

Title

In 1988, Mike Figgis (Leaving Las Vegas, Timecode) made his feature directorial debut with Stormy Monday, a taut, noir-influenced gangster movie that drew on his key formative influences, including his youth in the Newcastle of the late ’50s and early ’60s, and the city’s vibrant jazz scene. Interestingly, Figgis was also responsible for the film’s “seductive jazz score.”

The story itself is rather thin and uninteresting as it focuses on a character named Brendan (Sean Bean)—a young loafer taken under the wing of jazz club owner Finney (Sting). Finney is under pressure from American mobster Cosmo (Tommy Lee Jones) to sell up in exchange for a cut of a local land development deal. Brendan just wants to earn an honest crust, but his burgeoning relationship with Cosmo’s ex-lover Kate (Melanie Griffith) threatens to drag him into the middle of the impending showdown.

To call the film a slow burn would be quite the understatement, but the interesting cinematography by Roger Deakins (The Shawshank Redemption, Fargo, The Village, No Country for Old Men, Prisoners, Sicario, and too many other great titles to mention) and solid performances are just enough to demand the viewer’s continued interest.

Unfortunately, the seemingly inevitable payoff isn’t really forthcoming, and the entire film remains a mere exercise in style. Figgis is a well-respected filmmaker, and he certainly has talent. Unfortunately, this talent is rarely in the service of a worthwhile cinematic experience.

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Video houses the Blu-ray and DVD discs in a sturdy clear Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve featuring the choice of newly commissioned artwork and what is presumably the film’s original poster art. This reviewer prefers the original artwork to the new design, but it is always nice to have a choice. There is also an attractive booklet that features an appreciative essay by Mark Cunliffe entitled Mike Figgis: Renaissance Man that delves into such topics as the film’s initial reception (including Roger Ebert’s review for the film). It adds a bit of extra value to Arrow’s relatively modest package.

[Note: The aforementioned booklet is only included with the first pressing of this particular release.]

The animated menus utilize footage and music from the film and are reasonably attractive and easy to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

3.5 of 5 Stars

The liner notes claim that Arrow’s transfer is sourced from a 2010 master provided to them by Pretty Pictures, and not much more is said about these materials. This is usually an indication that the resulting image will not be overwhelmingly impressive. Luckily, Stormy Monday manages to look relatively nice and offers up a nice image (even if it is far from perfect). Colors are especially vibrant and attractive, though skin tones can sometimes be less than perfectly natural. The cinematography boasts a slightly soft image that limits the amount of fine detail that can be seen, but one feels that this is in keeping with the original source. Clarity is quite pleasing and close-ups can look especially crisp in high definition. Grain is a bit uneven and this sometimes causes minor compression issues (or compression causes minor grain issues). Black levels often pleases but there are some times when they are less than completely solid. An extremely clean print must have been used for the initial scan, because there aren’t any noticeable blemishes. It isn’t the best Blu-ray image in the universe, but it is certainly the best home video transfer the film has ever received.

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Sound Quality:

3 of 5 Stars

Arrow’s DTS-HD Master Audio track isn’t quite as strong as what one might expect from Arrow, and it is difficult to articulate the precise problem here. It simply doesn’t sound quite right, and this might be the result of the source elements (but we cannot say for certain). Dialogue is quite clear and never presents any issues, but other sounds seem to have trouble with reverberation and have a slightly wet presence. This could easily be source related, but it is noticeable to discerning ears. The music is also problematic and can sound gaunt and slightly processed. None of the aforementioned issues are terribly distracting, but they are real issues that will likely not go unnoticed.

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Special Features:

2.5 of 5 Stars

Audio Commentary with Mike Figgis (Writer & Director) and Damon Wise (Film Critic)

This is a meat and potatoes track that discusses a good many “behind the scenes” aspects of the production. It seems to be an older track (probably recorded for one of the film’s earlier DVD releases). Figgis is a rather dry commentator but manages to keep the listener engaged as he goes into detail about such subjects as the challenges he faced due to the film’s low budget and the initial insecurity he felt as a green director. His anecdotes are often interesting (and will hold special interest for any future filmmakers).

Just the Same: Stormy Monday 30 Years On – (HD) – (33:15)

Neil Young (film critic) offers this informative video essay that finds the commentator discussing the practical locations and acts as a sort of affectionate appreciation. Those with a fondness for “then and now” location comparisons are likely to enjoy this feature, but one never feels that his comments are terribly instructive and most will be grateful that Young’s contribution to the disc is in the form of this half hour essay instead of a two hour commentary track.

Theatrical Trailer – (HD) – (01:29)

Arrow includes the film’s original theatrical trailer which simply oozes all sorts of 1980s vibrations but tends to overplay the film’s marketable attributes in a manner that likely lead to a great deal of disappointment in anyone who paid for a ticket after seeing it.

Image Gallery

This brief image gallery contains only 12 photos but one doubts if the marketing department had much more to work with.

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Final Words:

Mike Figgis devotees should be happy to add this unusual film to their collections, but the everyday Joe looking to kick back with a beer for two hours might wish to skip this one.

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Review by: Devon Powell

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