Thursday, January 10, 2019

CASTLE ROCK: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (2018 ) (4K UltraHD Review)

CASTLE ROCK: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON

Label: Warner Bros. 
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated 
Duration: 501 Minutes
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD MA 
with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 2160 UltraHD Widescreen
Directors: Michael Uppendahl, Dan Attias, Andrew Bernstein, Andrew Bernstein, Greg Yaitanes, Ana Lily Amirpour, Julie Anne Robinson, Nicole Kassell
Cast: André Holland, Melanie Lynskey, Bill Skarsgård, Jane Levy, Sissy Spacek

Synopsis: The first season of Castle Rock
follows Henry Deaver (André Holland, American Horror Story), a Death Row attorney who returns to Castle Rock, Maine, his hometown, after he receives an anonymous phone call from the infamous Shawshank State Penitentiary. The call is about a nameless young man (Bill Skarsgård, It) who is found locked in an underground cage that’s located in a long-abandoned cell block beneath the prison. Upon his discovery, the mysterious young man, with a sinister and unnerving presence, whispers Henry’s name. Curious about how and why someone left this boy imprisoned, Henry is drawn into the case and attempts to help him. But there are reasons why “The Kid” was imprisoned. And reasons why he should never be set free. 

When I first heard that J.J. Abrams was producing a mystery thriller set in Castle Rock and peppered with characters from the mind of Stephen King I was very excited, I grew up reading and watching the adapted works of King, I've been steeped in his brand of small town horror since I was knee-high to fly, and the idea of a "Kingverse" was very intriguing.  The problem was that the series premiered on Hulu, which I did not and still do not have, so I missed out on watching it until Warner Bros. picked this up for distribution on home video, releasing the series on Blu-ray and 4K UltraHD. 

At the heart of the story we have a criminal lawyer named Henry Matthew Deaver (André Holland, American Horror Story: Roanoke) practicing in Texas, he returns to his home town of Castle Rock, Maine after receiving a anonymous phone calls from the Shawshank Prison, where a mysterious man known as "the kid" (Bill Skarsgård, Ithas been discovered locked away in a cage in a closed down section of the prison. He has no name and there are no records of who he is and how he got there, but it has something to do with the retired former prison warden Dale Lacey (Terry O'Quinn, The Stepfather). 

Henry Deaver's return to Castle Rock does not go unnoticed by the locals, he having left  Castle Rock years earlier under a shadow of suspicion following the death of his adopted father Reverend Deaver (Adam Rothenberg). Upon his return he is reunited with his mother Ruth (Sissy Spacek, Badlands) who struggles with dementia, and her lover, the town's craggy retired sheriff, Alan Pangborn (Scott Glenn, The Silence of the Lambs). He is also reunited with the girl who lived across the road from him during their childhood, the neurotic realtor Molly Strand (Melanie Lynskey, Detroit Rock City) who just happens to be psychic. 

Henry takes on "the kid" as a client, working to free him from his wrongful imprisonment at Shawshank, meanwhile strange things are happening around Castle Rock, with each episode exploring the personal lives of various people, introducing us to a niece of The Shining's Jack Torrence (Jane Levy, Evil Dead), the homicidal proprietors of a new bed and breakfast (Mark Harelik, ElectionLauren Bowles, True Blood), a corrections office who is being slowly driven insane (Noel Fisher, Final Destination 2).

This first season is threaded with a lot of loose ends that don't really culminate in a wholly satisfactory finale, but hopefully season two will tie off these loose ends into a more cohesive and streamlined story experience. That's not to say I didn't love it, I did, as a Stephen King fan I absolutely loved all the references and nods to other King stories, everything from the recurring 27 year cycle from It to the rabid dog attack from Cujo, and mention of the corpse found by the tracks from Stand By Me, plus we are steeped in the mythology of Shawshank Prison which looms large in the story, there's even a nod to The Green Mile! Now, I know that  references and nods do not make for a great story by themselves, but I found the story intriguing, there's some wonderful mystery and suspense happening throughout, I just don't think it panned out as well as I would have hoped, but well enough that I am on board for the next season.   

The performances throughout are all pretty great, but I would like to put the spotlight on Sissy Spacek is highlighted in episode seven with her character Ruth struggling with dementia while seemingly time-shifting, this was my favorite episode of the series, the gal has still got the goods, giving a touching and tragic performance that stands apart as one of the best of the season.  

Audio/Video: The 10-episode series arrives on Blu-ray/4K from Warner Bros. spread over a pair of 4K discs (and a pair of Blu-ray discs), with five episodes on each disc. The 4K UltraHD presentation looks gorgeous, it's a cold looking Maine set show, so it's not exactly teaming with primary vibrancy, but the melancholic colors look crisp and appropriately dynamic. No Dolby Atmos on this 4K release but the DTS-HD MA 5.1 is strong and powerful, giving us a pleasant surround experience, the score from Thomas Newman (The Shawshank Redemption) and Chris Westlake  has a nice presence in the mix, optional English subtitles are included. 

Extras include 3-min 'Inside the Episodes' featurettes, plus the 19-min 'Blood on the Page' and the 5-min 'A Clockwork of Horror: Merging the styles of Stephen King & J.J. Abrams' providing insight from the series creators, writers and cast. The 4-disc BD/4k set comes housed in an oversized black 4K keepcase with a one-sided sleeve of artwork housed in glossy slipcase with the same artwork, which has that worn softcover look about it. Inside you find the discs which all have the same prison bars design adorning them, plus a digital copy of the series. 

Episodes:
1. Severance (54 min) 
2. Habeas Corpus (48 min) 
3. Local Color (49 min) 
4. The Box (49 min) 
5. Harvest (49 min) 
6. Filter (44 min) 
7. The Queen (60 min) 
8. Past Perfect (51 min) 
9. Henry Deaver (45 min) 
10. Romans (52 min) 

Special Features: 
- Blood on the Page (New Featurette)(20 min) 
 A Clockwork of Horror: Merging the styles of Stephen King & J.J. Abrams (New Featurette) (5 min) 
- Inside the Episode: Severance (4 min) 
- Inside the Episode: Habeas Corpus (3 min) 
- Inside the Episode Local Color (3 min) 
- Inside the Episode: The Box (3 min)
- Inside the Episode: Harvest (3 min) 
- Inside the Episode: Filter (4 min) 
- Inside the Episode: The Queen (3 min) 
- Inside the Episode: Past Perfect (3 min) 
- Inside the Episode: Henry Dever (3 min) 
- Inside the Episode: Romans (3 min) 

I love the setting, tone and atmosphere of the show, I dig the time shifts, and the mystery and intrigue are dripping right off the screen, but the slow-burn never really blossoms into a fiery ball of awesome, but so far I dig the story they've threaded, so bring on season two, I am ready for more of this Kingverse! 

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