Blu-ray Review Comedy

The Stars are Aligned for this Blu-ray Review: Magic in the Moonlight

December 17, 2014Ben Mk


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Comedy and romance are in the cards...

With each passing year comes the promise of a new Woody Allen movie, and 2014 was no different. Arriving on the heels of 2013's surprisingly somber Blue Jasmine, Allen's 47th film, Magic in the Moonlight, marks the prolific writer/director's return to the more lighthearted fare he's come to be known for. And the results are as enchanting as ever, transporting moviegoers — as well as stars Colin Firth and Emma Stone — back to the roaring twenties, for a comedy that's brimming not only with magic, but also with mystery and romance.

   

The Film Firth plays Stanley Crawford, a successful British stage magician who dazzles audiences as his alter ego, Chinese illusionist Wei Ling Soo. With his act, which involves making an elephant disappear into thin air and sawing an assistant in two while dressed in full Oriental garb, Stanley has audiences worldwide convinced that magic is real. But ironically, Stanley himself is no true believer. In fact, he's quite the opposite — a skeptic and a hardened cynic — which is why his childhood friend and fellow magician, Howard (Simon McBurney), seeks him out one night, following a rousing show in Berlin.

Howard presents Stanley with an intriguing predicament: one involving the well-to-do Catledge family, whose matriarch, Grace (Jacki Weaver), and son, Brice (Hamish Linklater), have fallen under the spell of an American, Sophie Baker (Stone), claiming to be a bonafide spirit medium. Howard believes otherwise, but the problem is that he hasn't been able to conjur the proof, so he asks for Stanley's help in debunking Sophie's mystical abilities.

But when Stanley arrives at the Catledges' Côte d'Azur estate, he's genuinely taken aback — not by the picturesque French scenery (gorgeously shot by Midnight in Paris cinematographer Darius Khondji) or by Sophie's awkward yet graceful allure (which explains why Brice has been ardently practicing serenading her on his ukulele), but by her eerily accurate insight into his carefully-guarded personal life. It's enough to cause him to question his own life philosophy. Could there really be such a thing as magic? The more time he spends with her, the more the seeds of doubt — concerning his own fervent disbelief in all things otherworldly — begin to grow.

Naturally, being a Woody Allen picture, there are certain expectations that come into play the moment the opening credits start to roll, such as the assumption that lighthearted romance will percolate between Stanley and Sophie. And not to spoil any surprises, but Magic in the Moonlight is a Woody Allen film through and through (and all that that entails). From its (speak)easy-listening soundtrack and wry humor to the neurotic thoughts brewing in the mind of its protagonist, all the tried-and-true hallmarks of Allen's filmmaking are most definitely present and accounted for.

That includes a first-rate cast as well, especially the film's two leads. As the delightfully doe-eyed Sophie, Stone is an enigma to both Stanley and us, the audience (at least until the film's denouement), fully living up to being the "vision" that Brice describes her character as. Likewise, Firth is charming (in a caustically British sort of way) as Stanley, a pompous man who's lived his life by the letter of logic and rationality and who ends up discovering his sense of humility. And together, they help put the "magic" in the movie's title.

Audio/Visual Fidelity Magic in the Moonlight debuts on Blu-ray with a picture-perfect A/V presentation, completely befitting of the film's wistfully understated tone and aesthetic. Sporting a light veneer of grain and a warm and inviting color palette, the hi-def image shines with an appreciable amount of on-screen detail, bringing to life not only the scenic beauty of the South of France (awash in visuals of pink flowers and green foliage bathed in rays of golden sunshine), but also the authentic-looking production design (full of vintage automobiles, period garb and the like). The beauty of Sony's Blu-ray transfer is nicely matched by the disc's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, which renders every line of the film's dialogue-centric soundstage with the utmost clarity. On top of this, there's also the ambience created by the recurring bouts of jazz and classical tunes, not to mention the sounds of the idyllic French countryside, all of which sound fantastic.

Special Features Sony's Blu-ray release includes an UltraViolet digital copy of the film, as well as a brief 16-minutes-worth of HD extras. The most noteworthy of the bunch is an 11-minute featurette titled Behind the Magic, which intercuts interview clips of Colin Firth, Jacki Weaver and Hamish Linklater with scenes from the film, as the stars discuss the film's production and its subject matter. There's also On the Red Carpet: Los Angeles Film Premiere, a 3-minute piece that features snippets of interviews with cast members Simon McBurney, Colin Firth, Erica Leerhsen, Hamish Linklater and Jacki Weaver (as well as film critic Leonard Maltin and film producer David Permut) from — where else — the red carpet of the film's L.A. premiere. Lastly, the film's 2-minute Theatrical Trailer is also included.


The Bottom Line Like a relaxing getaway on the French Riviera, Magic in the Moonlight is beautiful to take in and isn't at all taxing on the mind. It's a light and fluffy morsel (of "rom-com à la Woody Allen") that melts in your mouth as soon as you bite into it — just like Sony's Blu-ray release, which excels in the audio/video department but is noticeably light (as Allen's films usually are) when it comes to bonus features. Mind you, the lack of extras shouldn't deter fans of Woody Allen, because, all in all, Magic in the Moonlight on Blu-ray is quite magical indeed.  Ben Mk

Disc Breakdown
The Film  —  
Audio/Visual Fidelity  —  
Special Features  —  





* Reviewer's note: Portions of this Blu-ray review were adapted from my original review of the theatrical release, published on August 1st, 2014.




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