Wednesday, February 9, 2011

BLU-RAY REVIEW: MONSTERS (2010)

MONSTERS (2010)
Special Edition + Digital Copy [Blu-ray]

LABEL: Magnolia Pictures
REGION CODE: Region 1
RATING: R
DURATION: 94 Min.

DIRECTOR:
Gareth Edwards
CAST: Kaulder Scoot McNairy, Sam Whitney Able
TAGLINE: After Six Years. They're No Longer Aliens. They're Residents.

PLOT: Six years ago NASA discovered the possibility of alien life within our solar system. A probe was launched to collect samples, but crashed upon re-entry over Central America. Soon after, new life forms began to appear there and half of Mexico was quarantined as an INFECTED ZONE.Today, the American and Mexican military still struggle to contain "the creatures"... Our story begins when a US journalist agrees to escort a shaken American tourist through the infected zone in Mexico to the safety of the US border



FILM: It seems NASA and their exploration of space have completely fucked over the people of Earth by carelessly collecting samples of a alien life from Jupiter's moon Europa which promptly burns up in the atmosphere upon re-entry and spreads an alien organism over the northern Mexican territories and six days later Lovecraftian neon-octopi sprout forth. It's been six years and the creatures have taken over pretty much all of northern Mexico and both borders are heavily fortified and guarded by the Mexican and United States Armed Forces.  Down Mexico way Andrew (Scoot McNairy) is a freelance photojournalist out to make a name for himself by documenting the infected zone but he's been reluctantly assigned to guide the boss's injured daughter Samantha (Whitney Able) out of the increasingly dangerous area. His assignment is to get Samantha to a ship leaving for the United States in two days time. Hopping a train they arrive at the coastal city there and buy a ticket for the ferry.  All is going according to plan and the two make a night on the town but their drunken shenanigan cause her to miss the boat the next morning, which just happened to be the last transport before the navy quarantined the area. With few options left they resort to hiring a band of  gun-toting smugglers who will guide them through the infected zone to the US border. The adventure is frought with danger and takes them up a river and through other exotic Mexican jungle locations. Adding to the sense of realism to the film Edwards has populated the landscape with some rather nifty scenes of war-torn destruction that adds an element of urgency to the film.

I think anyone going into MONSTERS (2010) hoping for a GODZILLA type giant creatures on the attack film might be sorely disappointed though this is actually a bit like a mumblecore version CLOVERFIELD (2008). The film is focused on our two young human characters as their relationship goes from tenuous partnership through the infected zone to something more meaningful - that's right, at it's heart Monsters is indeed a love story. This may turn off  some viewers as it's a pretty subtle evolution and not overly dynamic either. For a film titled Monsters this is a quiet and very human-centric film. I knew going in this would be more a road film than a creature feature but I couldn't help want for more action, more intensity mostly due to the fact that I found the creatures to be so intriguing. The creatures are there but more in the background and not explored enough in my opinion. Monsters is less a post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller than it is a meandering travelogue through Mexico peppered with well-acted subtle human drama, some striking visuals and the occasional creature encounter.


DVD: MONSTERS comes to Blu-ray in a great looking 16:9 enhanced 2:35:1aspect ratio. The film is gorgeous in eye-popping 1080p with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround. Though the film is not overly bombastic the surrounds are well utilized and give a real sense of depth to the proceedings particularly in the jungles settings as you find yourself surrounded by the sounds of nature and the eerie alien trilling sound. Not only is there a wealth of bonus content but a digital copy of the film as well.

SPECIAL FEATURES:
- Audio Commentary with Gareth Edwards, Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able
- Deleted and Extended Scenes (20:07)
- Behind the Scenes of Monsters (1:09:15)
- Monsters: The Edit (21:31)
- Visual Effects (34:56)
- Interview with Gareth Edwards (44:16)

- Interview with Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able (28:04)
- New York Comic Con Discussion with Gareth Edwards (5:02)
- HDNet: A Look at Monsters (4:40) .
- Trailers: Ong Bak 3, All Good Things, Night Catches Us, Vanishing on 7th Street, Rubber

VERDICT: Like DISTRICT 9 I found MONSTERS is an interesting take on the alien invasion genre, it's almost entirely character driven and despite it's moniker delivers precious few creatures encounters but when they do show on screen up it's thrilling stuff. I give this a recommend with the caveat that you should be aware that this is not a thrills-a-minute alien apocalypse tale this is something more subtle and rooted in the human struggle following an alien infestation. Up next for director Gareth Edwards is a new GODZILLA film, natch.  ***1/2 (3.5 out of 5 stars)

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