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Hot Fuzz (HD DVD)
Universal Studios Home Entertainment / 2007 / 121 Minutes / Rated R
Street Date: July 31, 2007
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Reviewed by High-Def Digest Staff
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
Do yourself a favor -- visit YouTube and type in the word "Spaced." The results will lead you to a hilarious British TV sitcom helmed by actor Simon Pegg and director Edgar Wright. A mere fourteen episodes of the show were broadcast in the UK between 1999 and 2001, but this limited debut allowed the two friends to bring their love letter to horror legend George Romero ('Shaun of the Dead') to theaters across the globe. In turn, the critical success of 'Shaun of the Dead' paved the way for 'Hot Fuzz' -- Pegg and Wright's love letter to modern action films.
'Hot Fuzz' is the story of Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg), a by-the-book London policeman whose impressive achievements are making every other officer look bad. To keep everyone happy, the Chief Inspector (Bill Nighy in top form) transfers Angel to a quiet town called Sandford. Crime is non-existent in the tight-knit rural village and Angel is depressed by the friendly surroundings, his unit's lack of experience, and his bumbling partner, Danny (Nick Frost).
But he soon begins to notice there's something strange about Sandford -- a local businessman (Timothy Dalton) raises his suspicions, the town's inspector (Jim Broadbent) seems to eager to let miscreants go free, and key leaders in the community seem to conveniently look the other way anytime something bad happens. Before the big-city cop can place his finger on what's wrong, dead bodies begin popping up everywhere. The townspeople believe each death is an accident, but Angel knows murder when he sees it. With local help and the action-movie know-how of Danny at his disposal, Angel works to uncover the secret buried beneath the smiles of Sandford.
A key component shared by many British comedies seems to be their unique ability to derive laughs from watching dry-toned people encountering bizarre circumstances. As situations become more and more ridiculous, it's endlessly fun to watch characters try to maintain their composure regardless of what's happening to them. 'Hot Fuzz' uses this standard of British comedy to great effect and the film works on many different levels -- as a buddy-cop comedy, as a parody of the genre, and even as social commentary.
Perhaps best of all, even as it fills its action beats with parody, 'Hot Fuzz' manages to maintin a genuine respect for the balls-out intensity of '80s and '90s genre films. As such, the action scenes boast top notch stunts and camera work, drawing as many cheers as it does laughs.
The only possible negatives I could find in 'Hot Fuzz' came from comparing it to the duo's earlier parody, 'Shaun of the Dead.' While the first film clips along with intense focus, 'Hot Fuzz' occasionally meanders. The second act, in particular, has a tough time getting to the point and sometimes chases unnecessary subplots. Likewise, I thought 'Shaun of the Dead' explored the zombie subgenre a bit more completely, referencing a seemingly endless supply of classic genre films, while 'Hot Fuzz' tends to repeatedly return to the same handful of films for its laughs.
Still, 'Hot Fuzz' is a hilarious sophomore effort from Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright. If you've never experienced their clever blend of British humor and genre satire, you're in for a treat -- and if you're already a fan, you'll find plenty more to enjoy here. Either way, this one's sure to please fans of both comedy and action. A solid recommend.
This 1080p/VC-1 transfer made me sit up from the moment Nicholas Angel flashes across the screen. This is easily one of the finest high-def presentations I've seen on high-def disc and I can't get over how impressed I was by its precision. While the London palette is somewhat washed out, it still features bold primaries, excellent contrast, and flashes of life. The Sandford scenes, by contrast, pop off the screen with vibrant colors and inky blacks that bring a convincing level of depth to the picture. Exteriors in particular are reference level with strong greens and blues that never affect the fidelity of the image.
Detail is astounding and there isn't a hint of grain -- every background and foreground edge is sharp and clear. Just watch the shootout near the end of the film in the grocery store: every label is legible, each speck of blood is crisply defined, and all of the spilled food is expertly rendered. To top it all off, the image never feels artificial -- skintones are natural and there's not a hint of any overzealous post-production clean-up work. Noise is non-existent, the only softness in the film appears to be entirely intentional, and edge enhancement isn't visible once. To be blunt, I couldn't come up with anything negative to say about the transfer.
A quick comparison to the standard edition version of the film on the flipside of this combo disc shows just how improved 'Hot Fuzz' is in its upgrade to high-def. The DVD transfer is dull, soft, and blocky -- it doesn't even come close to the HD DVD side.
The audio package is nearly as impressive as the video. Although it doesn't boast a high-end option like a Dolby TrueHD track, the included Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 EX surround mix (1.5 Mbps) is impressively proficient in everything it does. Rich dynamics immediately make their presence known with boomy bass and crisp treble ranges that didn't have peaking issues or stability problems. Dialogue is layered exactly as it should be within the soundscape and I wasn't distracted by any prioritization mishaps.
Channel movement occurs frequently and startlingly fast -- but the Digital-Plus mix offers subtle pans and smooth transitions that add a level of authenticity to the soundfield. More importantly, accuracy is exact and all of the speakers get a full workout with boisterous explosions and weighty gunshots. I continually found myself turning my head at sounds that seemed to be occurring elsewhere in my house. Immersing myself in the mix was a cinch and I found the entire sound experience to be extremely pleasant from beginning to end.
Wow. This HD DVD boasts a mind-boggling eighteen hours of special features -- that's more supplemental content than I've ever had the pleasure of reviewing on any disc release, and it's the second-most packed HD DVD to yet see release (behind Warner's 'Ultimate Matrix,' which was priced at three times the cost). This edition of 'Hot Fuzz' includes all of the supplemental features found on the standard DVD, plus an overwhelming amount of HD DVD-exclusive extras (see below).
First up among the standard supplements is an audio commentary with actor Simon Pegg and director Edgar Wright. Unlike most tracks of this sort, back-patting is kept to a minimum, as the two have a breezy chemistry that brings a welcome dose of reflection to their efforts in 'Hot Fuzz.' Both share a number of memorable (and funny) anecdotes as they discuss writing the script, filming key scenes, and working with all the talented character actors who bring Sandford to life.
Next dig in and prepare yourself for a nice series of "Deleted Scenes" (21 minutes) that can be played individually or all at once (with or without commentary from Pegg and Wright). A few seem repetitive and others only add in a few extra bits to existing scenes, but the majority of these are amusing enough to justify at least one viewing. Even better is a lengthy collection of "Outtakes" (11 minutes). Although this is a typical collection of bloopers that generally revolve around mistakes on set, the cast is clearly having so much fun that their laughter is contagious.
A collection of "Storyboards" literally encompasses every scene in the entire film. I'm not a nut for this sort of feature, but storyboard fans will be impressed by the enormous assortment of images.
Continuing this OCD-esque presentation of behind-the-scenes info is the "Fuzz-O-Meter" -- a pop-up trivia track that plays overtop of the film and provides way too much information to soak up in a single viewing. This is another feature that doesn't necessarily pique my interest, but the sheer weight and detail of the track is impressive.
Next comes a trio of short in-joke videos. "The Man Who Would Be Fuzz" (1 minute) is an all too brief outtake where Simon Pegg and Nick Frost impersonate Michael Cane and Sean Connery. I actually ended up watching this one three times because I just couldn't get enough. It's one of the shortest features, but definitely one you shouldn't miss. Likewise, "Danny's Notebook: The Other Side" (1 minute) is a quick look at the animation Frost's character makes using his pad. Lastly, "Hot Funk: The TV Version" (4 minutes) is a collection of a few key scenes in edited-for-TV form.
The only standard supplement that'ssolely restricted to the DVD side of this Combo Disc is a featurette called "The Fuzzball Rally: US Tour Piece" (28 minutes), which documents Pegg, Frost, and Wright's press tour for the film's release in the US. The segments are mildly amusing as the boys get a punch drunk near the end, but it's skippable for the most part.
Finally, we have a collection of promotional materials, including the film's theatrical trailer, UK television spots, and a alternate cut of the main trailer.
(Note that all of the video-based supplements listed above are presented in 480i/p only.)
While the standard supplements are impressive in their own right, this HD DVD edition of 'Hot Fuzz' also includes a huge number of additional supplements that were previously released in the UK as part of a 2-disc Special Edition DVD. Since they're not included in the US-released DVD edition, they count as HD DVD exclusives, but be warned: each of the following are presented here in 480p video only.
First up is an entire bonus film shot by Edgar Wright when he was a teenager, called "Dead Right" (41 minutes), which comes complete with several special features of its own -- a making-of featurette (11 minutes) and two commentary tracks. Considering it stars his schoolmates at the time, you can imagine the quality of the production, but I still had a blast watching this genesis of 'Hot Fuzz.'
The real meat of the short film comes in its two audio commentaries -- the first features Edgar Wright director's track and the second includes Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. The director is humble and engaging, pointing out lessons learned from his early projects and how he's developed as an artist. The actors are fun and tend to playfully prod at their friend's childhood work. Between the short film, the two commentaries, and the making-of featurette, you could spend over two hours just exploring Wright's pre-'Fuzz' effort.
The 'Hot Fuzz' content begins with a volley of three additional audio commentaries. The first features the actors who portray the Sandford Police unit -- Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent, Kevin Eldon, Rafe Spall, and Olivia Colman. This was hands down my favorite track of these three, as the group has a natural rapport that made another viewing of the movie worth my time. The second commentary includes some of the key villagers -- Timothy Dalton, Kenneth Cranham, Paul Freeman, and Edward Woodward. While this one suffers from the absence of Pegg, Frost, and Wright, Dalton does a decent job of keeping it on par with the quality of the other content. The third exclusive commentary is the only true disappointment in the bunch, featuring two authentic British police officers named Andy Leafe and Nick Eckland. A one-trick pony, I found myself skipping around listening for anything of interest (alas, I never found much).
Moving on, we get a "Conclusive Making of Documentary" (30 minutes) that concentrates on 'Hot Fuzz' before it was commited to film. I found this feature to be unique and fascinating -- supplements that focus on a film's inception are rarely this thorough. It includes Pegg and Wright talking about the ideas that led to 'Hot Fuzz' and the various forms it took on before it became a feature film.
A collection of "Video Blogs" (30 minutes) are divided into thirteen chunks from the filming of 'Hot Fuzz' that were posted online before the film's release. The videos explore the film's make-up, practical effects, action choreography, after parties, and shooting delays. Overall, these tend to be a bit repetitive and promotional, but the actors and creative team keep things light and entertaining.
A series of "Forensic Featurettes" (48 minutes) are divided into eight chapters -- "Art Department," "Friends and Family," "Cranks Cranes and Controlled Chaos," "Here Come the Fuzz," "Return to Sandford," "Edgar and Simon's Flip Chart," and "Simon Muggs and Sergeant Fisher's Perfect Sunday." These videos explore the films stunts, sets, locations, special effects, and shooting schedule. In conjunction with the "Video Blogs," this series of featurettes offers an exhaustive look behind-the-scenes at the actual production of 'Hot Fuzz.'
Next comes a group of "Plot Holes" (3 minutes), identifying some problems that honestly weren't so noticeable my first time through the film. Bravo to Pegg and Wright for including this feature, as they did with 'Shaun of the Dead.' It showcases their ability to point out their mistakes and revel in the fact that those mistakes have been committed to film. I really enjoyed this one.
"Special Effects: Before and After" (6 minutes) is pretty standard and shows the progression of original shots to their final, CG enhanced form. There isn't anything too special in this one, but it was a quick watch all the same.
Finally, we have a series of "Photography Galleries" house posters, ads, and various production stills.
All in all, this is a truly extraordinary collection of extras. No, there are no whiz-bang PiP commentaries or web-enabled features, but the sheer amount of quality content here proves that when push comes to shove, old-school supplements can still hit it out of the park. Now if only they were presented in full 1080p video...
Our thanks to reader Myung S. for sending in this easter egg:
For a behind-the-scenes look at the fence-jumping shot with Simon Pegg, highlight the MyScenes option and press left two times. Click on the HF logo that appears at the bottom of the menu for a quick, twenty second chuckle.
Found an egg? Please use our tips form to let us know, and we'll credit you with the find.
Our site has never reviewed a release that's scored 5 stars overall -- in fact, this entire disc seems too good to be true. Not only is the movie entertaining and satisfying, but the video transfer is gorgeous, the audio packs significant punch, and there are approximately eighteen hours of entertaining supplemental materials.
Judged in comparison to the standard-def DVD, the video and audio packages are both significantly improved, and this HD DVD even includes ten hours of features that aren't even available on the US-released DVD.
Simply put, in my opinion, this is currently the best overall high-def release on the market -- especially when you factor in the price. Purchasing 'Hot Fuzz' on HD DVD is a no-brainer for fans and an easy recommendation for newcomers. This is what high definition is all about.
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