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Blu-ray Review: Sideways (2004)

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Sideways is the fourth film from the brilliant comedic team of director Alexander Payne and his writing partner Jim Taylor, whose screenplay, adapted from Rex Pickett’s novel, won the Academy Award. Released in 2004, it tells the story of wine connoisseur/potential novelist Miles (Paul Giamatti) who has taken his best friend, former soap-opera star Jack (Thomas Haden Church) away for a week to Santa Barbara wine country before Jack’s wedding. However, Miles' plans of male bonding are sidetracked by Jack's philandering ways. Flying wingman does have its advantages as Miles gets a chance to become better acquainted with Maya (Virginia Madsen), who works at a restaurant he frequents.

A review of the film is located here, but like a fine wine, Sideways remains just as good with age. Upon this repeat viewing, I again laughed hard throughout and found no flaws in the story that is crafted upon masterfully realized characters the writers and actors make appear as real, believable people before our eyes.

The video leaves something to be desired in its transition to high definition. Throughout the film, there’s a lot of grain in the image, sunny scenes and light sources are slightly blown out, and the shadows engulf more of the image than expected. It is presented in a 1.85:1 ratio and the whole film appears to be shot with a limited depth of field that creates a soft focus, particularly the backgrounds.

The English audio is only available in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, but is wasted on this dialogue-heavy soundtrack. The surround doesn’t offer much other than occasional ambiance and music but it is very slight.

The special features are all the same ones from the previous DVD release although they have not been upgraded.  There is a short behind-the-scenes feature, seven deleted scenes presented with an introductions from Payne to explain the reasoning behind the decisions to cut them, and a very funny audio commentary with Giamatti and Church riffing together about the film.

Sideways is one of the funniest films of the decade, but the Blu-ray leaves a lot to be desired. It should be seen by all, but if it's going to be owned, the DVD might be the better choice in the long run.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS