Monster - Blu-ray Review

Michael Scott

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Monster


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Movie: :4stars:
Video: :4.5stars:
Audio: :4.5stars:
Extras: :halfstar:
Final Score: :4stars:




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Movie

I’m going to admit that I didn’t really look into director Kore-eda Hirokazu before watching Monster, so I was completely side lined by the film we actually got vs. what I THOUGHT it would be about just by glancing at the trailer. What starts as a seemingly creepy and almost horrific take on a troubled pre-teen turns into a nesting doll sort of film that opens up new layers and new perspectives about what’s actually going on in the film, changing and adapting with each new revelation and “doll” unveiling. I’m fascinated, mildly bemused, and generally surprised over what played out, and more shocked that this completely subverted my expectations and per-concpetions going into the film more than anything (I’m usually never THIS far off in my guesstimation of how a film will play out).

At first the film is a dark and slightly creepy look at a troubled (and possibly dangerous) young boy named Minato Mugino (Soya Kurokawa), who seems to be headed on a dark path. His single mother Saori (Sakura Ando) begins to notice things about Minato that stand out and cause alarm. At first it’s him cutting his own hair, a cut over his ear, and Minato himself saying depressive things such as if he would still be human if he had a pig brain transplant. Saori is almost 100% sure that something is up with Minato, and and she keeps hounding her son until Minato admits that he was struck by his teacher Mr. Hori (Eita Nagayma). Instantly coming to her son’s aid, Saori confronts the school and the afore mentioned teacher, putting all her weight on the administrators to come to the bottom of it.

And here is our first perspective shift and unveiling of the nesting doll plot line of the movie. The film immediately jumps to the perspective of Mr. Hori, and like you might guess, not everything is exactly as Saori had guessed and Minato explained. There are some bullies involved in the situation as well as Minato not really telling the whole truth to his mother. Minato’s dark state is influenced not only by them but a withdrawn and indifferent father (Shido Nakamura). Jumping once more into the nesting doll strategy, we get the rest of the picture through Minato and Yori, a young classmate who both live together in their own sort of private fantasy world that allows them to escape the pain of real life.

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Judging by the title of the movie, you might guess that this would be a horror movie, or a thriller of some sort, but by the first act of the film my opinions changed dramatically. I was now sure this was going to be one of these “who is really the monster here?” type of situations, where we see things from different perspectives and have our expectations subverted with a hidden motive etc.. Reality is slightly different though, as the film takes a sort of Mystic River take on things, leading us down a dark path, but also revealing that “blame” for the situation is not really on any one person or persons, but one a whole community that has failed our protagonists. Not only that, the perception of antagonists and protagonists are blurred to the point of near in-distinction, as is Kore-eda’s obvious desire to allow the viewer to make their preconceived ideas of blame, only to sit back and watch as they’re all proven to be a lot more ambiguous than originally guessed.

Kore-eda’s tale of pain and suffering is less about “who is the monster”, and more about realizing that not everyone is a villain, nor are they the hero either in reality. Instead we’re allowed to sit and watch everything unfold from multiple different angles and are left wondering just what we’re supposed to feel about characters we had previously pigeonholed as villains, or as heroic characters.




Rating:

Not Rated by the MPAA




Video: :4.5stars:
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For once IMDB has answers on what cameras were used and the digital intermediate resolution for the home video release as well. Filmed from a variety of digital cameras we get a true native 4K master for this release (and I would have loved for Well Go USA to drop a 4K UHD disc of the film) the 2.39:1 AVC encoded Blu-ray looks superb in 1080p. Filtered and given a slightly green and amber look, the film still manages to showcase stunning detail levels on faces and clothing, while giving a misty and almost dreamlike look to certain portions of the film. Faces look a tad bronzed for my tastes, but overall this is an impressive looking film that doesn’t have many issues related to artifacting, and is really impressively textured to boot.









Audio: :4.5stars:
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The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track (Both in English and in the original Japanese) is a stellar representation of a non ostentatious sounding mix that does everything right. The track opens up a good bit in the outdoor scenes, but stays strongly front heavy during the copious amounts of quiet dialog (such as Saori questioning Mr. Hori and the rest of the school staff, or Mr. Hori pleading with the young girl to tell him the principal what she told him earlier). Bass is minimalistic, but still quite appreciative in the score, and the surrounds major uses stem from ambient outdoor noises and the like. Nothing is going to stand out and “shock and awe” the listener, but it is well crafted, finely nuanced with ambient detailing, and picture perfect dialog locked up in the center channel. Simple, yet amazingly effective in its simplicity.












Extras: :halfstar:
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• Well Go USA Previews
• Original Theatrical Trailer












Final Score: :4stars:

Monster is a fascinating art house drama from Japanese director that I honestly had not been exposed to before. It’s a fascinating watch that gives me distinct Boyhood meets Mystic River in Japanese form. Which means that it’s equal parts slow paced drama, and mystery, that takes a deep and contemplative look at how humans react. Is it going to be everyone’s cup of tea? Of course not. Films like this obviously appeal to the arthouse crowd more than your average movie goer, but I found the film both fascinating and frustrating to watch at the same time. Well Go USA’s Blu-ray release looks and sounds great, but of course has almost no extras to enjoy, and this is a film that I REALLY would have loved to have seen a director’s commentary on. All in all, a very good film that is going to be one that you watch and re-watch simply to chew over all of the questions and revelations that Kore-eda opens up to the audience.


Technical Specifications:

Starring: Sakura Ando, Eita Nagayama, Soya Kurokawa, Hinata Hiiragi
Directed by: Kore-eda Hirokazu
Written by: Yuji Sakamoto
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: Japanese: DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DTS-HD MA 5.1, Japanese/ English DD 2.0
Subtitles: English
Studio: Well Go USA
Rated: NR
Runtime: 125 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: April 9th, 2024
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Recommendation: Good arthouse Film.

 
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