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April 1, 2008
The Wicker Man Blu-Ray Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
1/9/20082/4/2008Sony PicturesNeil LaBute
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4Dolby TrueHDMNic Cage

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Nic Cage agreed to make this movie?
As you have probably noticed Hollywood seems to be churning out an increasing number of remakes, be it from cinema or television. In recent years we have seen movies which have improved on the originals including Hairspray and Casino Royale while many more promising efforts are currently in production including Dirty Dozen, The Day the Earth Stood Still and Get Smart to name a few.

More often then not though remakes aren't a patch on the originals with efforts such as Poseidon, Planet of the Apes and The Fog all failing to capture the spirit of the original movies. We can now add another title to that list of duds, The Wicker Man. But what is the movie about? Read on...

When police officer Edward Malus arrives at a secluded island to investigate the disappearance of a local girl, he soon discovers the residents are hiding a terrifying secret... a secret so shocking that it will shake his beliefs to the very core and bring him face to face with the horror of the Wicker Man.

The Wicker Man was originally released in 1973 and is generally regarded as a great suspense/horror movie. This remake though manages to fall over on so many levels. The primary issue is that the entire movie lacks any real suspense or frights. There isn't much of a buildup to the surprising, but ultimately disappointing, ending with the movies only really big 'shock' coming in the opening scenes. If there is one positive to be drawn from this movie it's the impressive sense of a small secluded community that is generated by the impressive costume and set design. It's not enough to save the movie, but it really is all we could come up with.

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Checking out the class roll.
If you're not a Nic Cage fan then there is little chance you'll remotely like this movie. He plays the central character, he acts like he does in every other movie, and there's not much to like about his performance. He seems to be going through the motions with this movie, with little emotion, and little heart put into his performance. Supporting cast are adequate including the wonderful Ellen Burstyn as Sister Summersisle. I have to ask though how you can have an actor as gorgeous, and talented, as Leelee Sobieski and only have her appear as Sister Honey in a couple of scenes? Could they only afford her for a couple of days work to get another name attached to the movie? The sad thing is that she puts in one of the more haunting performances in the movie.

The Wicker Man is a remake that didn't need to be made. It's dull and predictable and it really is hard to imagine who they were going after in terms of audience. It's not scary enough to be a horror flick, doesn't have enough action to be a big Nic Cage blockbuster, and as impressive as the original was it certainly doesn't have the audience to pull large crowds into this movie. Probably worth a rental, but nothing more.

Encoded in 1080p in the films original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 the Australian release of The Wicker Man on Blu-Ray is a different transfer from the American Warner Brothers release. While the American release is encoded in VC-1 the Australian release, through Sony Pictures, is encoded in AVC MPEG-4 and it really is an impressive result. From the opening scenes the image remains sharp through the entire picture with impressive levels of detail, even during the darker scenes. As one would expect from a movie not two years old the print is extremely clean with no film dirt or artifacts evident.

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Leelee is so under-used it's not funny.

As with the video, the audio on The Wicker Man is quite impressive. The primary track is English Dolby TrueHD which presents the movie the best possible light. The movie is very much dialogue driven, and therefore the audio is primarily from the front speakers with little use of surround channels unless absolutely necessary.

The great news for Australian Blu-Ray owners/purchasers is that our version has a superior audio format to the American release. With a release through Warner Brothers the American disc is gimped with a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track encoded at a 640kbps.

The only other language provided on this disc is Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 which is somewhat surprising. Given that the disc is supposedly for Region B only we suspect this disc doesn't include region coding and would be playable in a Japanese Region A player (some Blu-Ray discs still aren't encoded with regions before you ask). Subtitles on the disc include English, English SDH and Japanese.

The Wicker Man has one primary extra, a commentary. It really is disappointing that Sony couldn't provide more for this release. Sure, they're not going to sell many copies of this movie, but is it really hard to throw in a couple more extras on such a recent movie. We know that every production these days has plenty of promotional material - even the Theatrical Trailer would be worthwhile.

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No, this is not Braveheart!
Audio Commentary with Cast and Crew: This commentary includes writer-director Neil LaBute, actors Leelee Sobieski and Kate Beahan, editor Joel Plotch and costume designer Lynette Meyer. To be honest I was disappointed with this commentary. Leelee (who I really like and wanted to hear from) barely says a word throughout the commentary and the participants seem to love this movie. Sure, anything one works on for a long time becomes a natural love, but have they actually seen the critical and commercial reception to this movie?

Alternate Ending (1:37/HD): Without giving anything away I guess this ending would have suited the 'feel' and themes of the movie a little more, but it is a pretty terrible ending and I prefer the current one in the movie (although they could have left in some of the violence from this clip!). While it is presented in High Definition the special effects are terrible (god I hope they weren't final) while the audio is only presented in 2 channel 192kbps Dolby Digital.

Trailers (5:01/HD): Trailers for Ghost Rider and Perfect Stranger. Both are presented in High Definition with 448kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Sadly there is no trailer for The Wicker Man.

As a horror movie The Wicker Man isn't a great movie, in fact it's crud. Technically the transfer on this disc is pretty solid, almost reference quality in fact. While I can understand that Sony Pictures want to make their money back on the production of this movie, it doesn't make it an essential purchase. Looking at IMDB's score for the original movie, we probably would have been much better off looking at that movie instead.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Sony Pictures. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.