Thursday, May 22, 2014

Grand Piano Blu-Ray Review

Reviewed by Allie Schembra
Tom Selznick, the most talented pianist of his generation, stopped performing in public because of his stage fright. Years after a catastrophic performance, he reappears in public in a long awaited concert in Chicago. In a packed theater, in front of the expectant audience, Tom finds a message written on the score: “Play one wrong note and you die.”  In the sights of an anonymous sniper (John Cusack), Tom must get through the most difficult performance of his life and look for help without being detected.

Film (4 out of 5 stars)
Tom Selznick is one of the world’s greatest pianists.  Five years ago, he froze at a concert and hasn’t played in public since.  His wife, Emma, is a famous actress and has encouraged him to return to the stage.  As Tom prepares for the performance, he is noticeably nervous and unsure of himself.  As he prepares to go on stage, an usher hands him his folder of music.  Confused, he pulls out a set of pages and throws them away.
Once on stage, he begins playing and as he makes his way through his music sheets, comes across a note written on the pages.  Tom is unsure if the note is a joke or not and doesn’t want to play along… until the note tells him to go to his dressing room.  At the rest, Tom runs to his dressing room, where he finds his phone ringing and an ear piece in his back pack. 

Once he puts the earpiece in, a voice tells him to do what he says or else he will kill his wife, and him.  Tom returns to the stage and sits back down at the piano and once again begins playing.  He realizes his cell phone is still in his pocket and calls a friend in the audience.  His friend answers and leaves the theater once he realizes it’s Tom and something fishy is going on.  His friend then disappears and his girlfriend goes to find him and also disappears. 

Tom continues playing the piano and doing what the voice in the earpiece says.  When he gets to the end, he realizes the sheet music he threw away is what he needs to stay alive and rushes off the stage to find it.  Instead of recovering it, Tom recreates it and returns to the stage to complete his concert.  Once finished he draws the crowd’s attention to his wife and invites her to sing a song for the audience.  While she’s singing, Tom goes to find the man in his earpiece.

There isn’t much to Grand Piano other than Elijah Wood playing and John Cusack talking to him through an earpiece.  There is some action at the end, though.  Grand Piano is a great film.  I’m a big fan of the symphony and orchestral music, so the film was right up my alley.  Elijah Wood did was good job as Tom, the pianist who doesn’t quite know how to handle the situation and John Cusack was really good as Clem, the man inside his earpiece.  The film left me wanting more, just to satisfy my curiosity about the piano itself, which belonged to Tom’s teacher and mentor.
Video (4 out of 5 stars)
The 1080p high definition, widescreen presentation of Grand Piano was very good.  There is a lot of black in the film and it was all sharp and true.  The colors really popped against the black, especially the red of the carpet on stage.  The piano itself was shiny, like grand pianos should be, and reflections were clear.  Off stage, the picture was great, as well.  Shadows blended well together and at the end, when there was more action happening, it was all sharp and clear. 
Audio (4 out of 5 stars)
Grand Piano is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD master audio with English SDH and Spanish subtitles available.  The sound is wonderful.  While not perfect – there were some parts that were a little hard to hear – the mix of music and dialogue went well together and nothing seemed forced or out of place.  Listening to the music was highly entertaining and there were no volume issues during the film.  The dialogue coming from the earpiece was clear and easy to hear and the sound levels were good when the dialogue occurred over the music playing.  There were many times I wanted the characters to stop talking just so I could hear the music being played.  Grand Piano is a good film to close your eyes to and focus on the music.
Extras (4 out of 5 stars)
 I was surprised at the number of extras included on the Grand Piano and how different they all were.  Each of the extras touched on a different aspect of the film.  They were all very interesting and I really enjoyed watching them.

  • The Making of Grand Piano – This is a 16 minute look at how the film was made.  It was interesting hearing the story and how the actors took to their characters.  What I didn’t like is that some of it was in Spanish.  I turned the captions on, but they didn’t show up.  My Spanish is not as good as it once was, so it was difficult to follow along with the composer when he was talking about the film.
  • Interviews – Interviews with Director Eugenio Mira and Elijah Wood.  These are available individually or as a play all.
    • Eugenio Mira – The director discusses his excitement over the film, how he chose his actors and the film came together.
    • Elijah Wood – The actor talks about how he became involved, what kind of film Grand Piano is and how the film was structured and how it flowed.
  • Soundtrack – The Director and composer talk about the music in the film.  It was interesting to see how it was all put together – from the music itself to the orchestra to the flow of the film.  This is also in Spanish, but the subtitles were added.
  • Coaches – A look at Elijah Wood playing the piano and the coaches that were used to help him learn.  The feature also looks at how the coaches taught Don McManus (Norman Reisinger) how to conduct an orchestra.
  • Following Eugenio – Interviews with cast and crew about Director Eugenio Mira.  This was actually pretty funny and interesting.  They talk about his sense of humor, his way of directing and how he interacted with everyone.
  • Stunts – There aren’t many stunts in the film… a few near the end at the climax, but they are pretty suspenseful.  This is a look at how they stunts all came together and the choreography of the stunts and the action.
  • Visual Effects – This was a super interesting feature.  It showed the viewer how the set designers created the Chicago Opera House using green screens, blue screens, 3D imaging and 250 extras.
  • Wayne’s Shot – How the director, cast and crew made the shots with Wayne (Alex Winter) in a very small space.
  • AXS TV:  A Look at Grand Piano – Another behind the scenes look at Grand Piano.
  • Also from Magnolia Home Entertainment – A re-showing of the previews from the beginning of the disc.

Summary (4 out of 5 stars)
Grand Piano was highly entertaining and the 90 minutes went by fairly quickly.  I spent a few minutes at the end of the film trying to figure out a few of the parts, to make myself understand what the heck happened.  But… you’re not supposed to know.  And that’s part of what made Grand Piano a great film. It’s definitely a film I will watch again – if only to try to catch some things I may have missed the first time. If you’re a fan of classical music, you will enjoy the soundtrack. I know I did.

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