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Blood and Chocolate(2007)
As a young girl living in the remote mountains of Colorado, Vivian (Bruckner) watched helplessly as her family was murdered by a pack of angry men for the secret they carried in their blood. Vivian survived the attack by running into the woods and changing into a wolf. Ten years later, Vivian is living a relatively safe and normal life in Bucharest, Romania. Vivian spends her days working in a chocolate shop and nights trawling the city’s underground clubs, fending off the reckless antics of her cousin Rafe, and his gang of delinquents he refers to as "The Five".
Vivian’s life begins to unravel when she has a chance encounter with Aiden (Dancy), an artist researching Bucharest’ ancient art and relics for his next graphic novel. Aiden pursues Vivian until she relents and begins to see him, but she can’t bring herself to tell him the truth - and lives in fear of showing him who she really is. Even though Vivian has sworn never to kill, she is as much an animal as she is human, and her love for Aiden threatens to cast him to the very wolves who saved her life and who are waiting for their chance to hunt him as prey.
For more about Blood and Chocolate and the Blood and Chocolate Blu-ray release, see Blood and Chocolate Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on May 9, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Agnes Bruckner, Olivier Martinez, Hugh Dancy, Bryan Dick, Katja Riemann, Chris Geere
Director: Katja von Garnier
» See full cast & crew
Blood and Chocolate Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, May 9, 2010
That is the world I remember and one I wish I'd never known.
While Vampires continue to be Hollywood's golden children du jour, raking in untold millions of dollars in movie tickets and merchandising (thanks, Stephenie Meyer), the mythical figures known as Werewolves seem more an afterthought these days, even if Tinseltown has churned out several pictures in their honor over the past few years. Werewolves have a rich history on-screen; Universal's classic The Wolf Man starring Lon Cheney, Wolf starring Jack Nicholson, and An American Werewolf in London are several of the standard-bearers of on-screen werewolf mythos. More recently, these furry friends have been depicted in the Underworld films opposite their arch-enemies, those moneymaking Vampires, to moderate financial success, these Kate Beckinsale-in-tight-black-leather movies at the very least recouping their budgets and earning a tidy profit to the tune of several millions of dollars. Two of the Werewolf's most recent appearances on-screen, The Wolfman and Blood and Chocolate, haven't been as fortunate. The former -- despite a star-studded cast -- failed to recover its hefty budget in gross domestic ticket sales, and the latter, well, it made enough to pay the New York Yankees' team salary for a game or two. Based on a novel by Annette Curtis Klause, Blood & Chocolate proved to be nothing short of a disaster upon its theatrical release in 2007, a mere three-plus years ago. Don't remember it? Don't worry. It tanked faster than the Baltimore Orioles' 2010 season.
Bucharest, Romania, present day. Teenager Vivian (Agnes Bruckner) is a Werewolf, and she's in-line to become pack leader Gabriel's (Olivier Martinez) newest bride. Tensions in the pack are high -- Gabriel's son Rafe (Bryan Dick) has broken one of Werewolf-dom's oldest laws, "hunt as a pack or not at all," by killing a human who rejected him on the dance floor -- and they rise to an even greater degree when Vivian finds herself attracted to a human artist named Aiden (Hugh Dancy). The two instantly hit it off, though Aiden remains in the dark as to Vivian's true identity. Her protective family shuns the idea of a Werewolf-human relationship -- particularly considering Vivian's destiny to become Gabriel's bride -- but it isn't until Aiden comes to learn the truth does the romance spiral out of control and he becomes a target of a massive Werewolf hunt. Vivian must choose between her pack and her true love and her way of life and the life she longs to live.
Blood & Chocolate, the movie (the novel was published in 1997), has something of a Twilight-esque feel to it, even if the movie did come before anyone who was not a female high school student really knew who Stephenie Meyer was. Like Twilight, Blood & Chocolate is about a family of outcasts, only here they're Werewolves and not Vampires. In Twilight, a Vampire male and a human female fall in love; in Blood and Chocolate, a Werewolf female falls in love with a human male. As in Twilight, there's resistance to the romance from the lead character's fellow shape-shifters, while the human struggles to balance his feelings against the realities of the situation. What ultimately sets Twilight apart from Blood & Chocolate is that the movies in the Twilight series manage to, at the very least, develop characters and display a modicum of feeling and emotion, not to mention boasting significantly higher production values. Blood & Chocolate feels like an afterthought, a movie made because there was a few million dollars lying around with nothing better on which to spend it. It has a rushed feel, its characters are developed only as far as is needed to allow the plot to make sense, and in no way does the movie ever do anything to make the audience care whether Vivian and Aiden wind up together. At least in Twilight there's a strong enough dynamic between Bella, Edward, and Jacob that there's some actual tension and emotion overlaying the various unfolding events.
Although the basic story is easy enough to follow -- Werewolf falls in love with guy, Werwolf would rather not have to marry the pack leader, Werewolf must choose between her kind and her love -- Blood & Chocolate does a very poor job of filling in the gaps and details, leaving the story and the characters out to dry in a movie that just doesn't seem to care all that much about anything but atmosphere. Even at its best, the film is a transparent bore. Take, for instance, a scene somewhere near the middle of the movie where a tertiary human character is forced to run through the woods and from the Werewolves. If he manages to get to the river, he lives. Of course he turns into a dish of Dog Chow, but it's painfully obvious that the scene serves no purpose other than to blatantly foreshadow an identical scene that's to come near the end of the film, the only difference being that the hunted will be someone of greater import to the story (one guess as to who it is). On top of that, Blood & Chocolate never really comes together with a seamless and worthwhile narrative; character development is poor, several character motivations aren't explained to a satisfactory degree, and perhaps most damaging of all, the film seems more interested in building a dark, almost overwhelming atmosphere instead of better characters and a more cohesive story. Few films manage to survive on atmosphere alone; for as critically-drubbed as they may be, Rob Zombie's Halloween re-imaginings come close, but Blood & Chocolate just flounders under its excessively dark mood. On the plus side, the human-to-Werewolf transformation special effects show promise but ultimately seem more like "rough drafts," so to speak, rather than final efforts. Additionally, Blood & Chocolate is competently made on a base level; the acting is decent, there are no glaring errors, and the picture enjoys a professional fit and finish, but otherwise, there's not much about this one that's worth the time or effort.
Blood and Chocolate Blu-ray, Video Quality
An earlier release from Sony, Blood & Chocolate sports a mid-level 1080p, MPEG-2 encoded, 2.35:1-framed transfer. The picture's brighter scenes sport good color reproduction, a fair sense of depth, and solid detailing on the various locations in and around Bucharest; viewers will be pleased with the texturing on streets and building façades, but the transfer stumbles when the film shifts to its almost ever-present darkness. Here, the transfer goes smooth and lacks depth and vibrancy; shadow detail is generally poor, save for some deliciously-realized exterior shots of Bucharest at street level as light fixtures shine down on wet pavement and brick walls. Generally, blacks tend to drown out details around the screen, and faces and other objects within the shadows lack texture. Skin tones, too, take on a decidedly orange tint, whether in daytime or nighttime scenes. There's little of note to this transfer; it's murky, not particularly sharp, and just isn't very attractive during its many dark sequences. It seems fairly representative of the filmmakers' intent, features a bit of grain, and lacks much in the way of intrusive noise. It's a decent enough transfer, but it's not going to wow anyone except for those who enjoy Blood & Chocolate as their first Blu-ray experience.
Blood and Chocolate Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Blood & Chocolate spills out a decent PCM 5.1 uncompressed soundtrack. No great shakes but not exactly a poor effort, the track seems more a victim of the movie's lackluster sound design than a middling effort on Sony's part. It does make good use of the surround speakers in the way they support the primary musical cues, but there's a notable absence of seamlessness, space, and clarity to the music, traits associated with the upper-tier lossless and uncompressed soundtracks. A dance club scene in chapter two proves to be about the best the track has to offer, with what is an almost mesmerizingly deep and cavernous presentation as the entire soundstage is filled with the music's dreamlike quality. Unfortunately, the remainder of the track never quite lives up to that potential. Additionally, it lacks a more natural atmosphere; the city locales seem ripe for a more potent environmental support structure, but rarely is there more than passing indication that there's anything going on outside the frame. A series of gunshots and shattering glass heard near the end of the film also fail to pack much of a punch. In the track's defense, a light rainfall as heard in chapter ten delivers the most seamless and natural environmental ambience in the entire film, the track doing well to make it seem like it's raining throughout the soundstage. Otherwise, this one is a basic nuts-and-bolts offering that delivers everything the movie needs to get by -- including problem-free dialogue reproduction -- but there's little of substance here to elevate it into the upper stratosphere of Blu-ray soundtracks.
Blood and Chocolate Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Blood & Chocolate arrives on Blu-ray with minimal supplemental support. The primary extra is an audio commentary track with Director Katja von Garnier and Actor Olivier Martinez. This is one of the more bland commentary tracks out there; it's by-the-book, the participants speaking affably enough but covering the most basic of elements, describing the on-screen action while speaking on the shooting locales, filming the wolf scenes, the manner and order in which the film was shot, the special effects and the implementation of "wolf eyes" in characters while in human form, and other random tidbits that provide a fair bit of pertinent information. Unfortunately, the track is slowly-paced with many stretches of silence throughout, making it something of a chore to get through. Also included are 15 deleted scenes (480p, 11:41) and 1080p trailers for The Messengers, Ghost Rider, The Covenant, The Grudge 2, Catch and Release, and Stomp the Yard.
Blood and Chocolate Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Blood & Chocolate is OK. That's really the best way to describe it. It has very little going for it outside of a behind-the-camera technical proficiency, but it's still far from being an awful movie. Dull characters, middling acting, a transparent plot, but passable special effects and decent production values make Blood & Chocolate a movie that Twilight fans might want to watch if only to see a similar story told from a different perspective, but for everyone else, there are far better Werewolf movies to enjoy. Blood & Chocolate's Blu-ray release, much like the film, barely registers a blip on the radar screen. A mediocre transfer, a slightly better uncompressed soundtrack, and a paltry collection of extras equal one of the lesser offerings from Sony. Worth a rental for Twilight fans and readers of Annette Curtis Klause's book.
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