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The sleepy English village of Wall is named for the cobblestone wall that has, for eons, kept the villagers safely apart from the supernatural parallel universe that lies just on the other side. It is here that young Tristan Thorne (Charlie Cox) makes a wild-eyed promise to the prettiest girl in the village (Sienna Miller), whose heart he hopes to win: that he will bring her back a fallen star. Now, in order to make good on his promise, Tristan will have to cross the forbidden wall, and enter a mysterious kingdom lit by unending magic and unfolding legends of which he will quickly become a part.
In this fantastical realm known as Stormhold, Tristan discovers that the fallen star is not at all what he expected but a spirited young woman (Claire Danes) injured by her cosmic tumble. Now, she is in terrible danger -- sought after by colossal powers including the "King's" (Peter O'Toole) scheming sons for whom only she can secure the throne; and a chillingly powerful witch (Michelle Pfeiffer) desperate to use the star to achieve eternal youth and beauty.
As Tristan sets out to protect the star and bring her back to his beloved on the other side of the wall, his journey will bring incredible encounters with a pirate captain (Robert De Niro) and a shady trader (Ricky Gervais), among other surprises. But if he can survive by his wits and the strength of his newfound love, Tristan will also uncover the secret key to his own identity and a fate beyond his wildest dreams.
For more about Stardust and the Stardust Blu-ray release, see Stardust Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on September 1, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Claire Danes, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert De Niro, Charlie Cox, Sienna Miller, David Kelly
Narrator: Ian McKellen
Director: Matthew Vaughn
» See full cast & crew
Stardust Blu-ray Review
Is 'Stardust' worth sprinkling into your Blu-ray collection?
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, September 1, 2010
People aren't what they may seem.
When it comes right down to it, the "happily-ever-after" Fairy Tale might be the most reliable basis for a story that ever was. No matter whether it's in literature, oral tradition, song, or film, there's something to be said for that basic "character comes from meager origins to find his or her destiny, conquer evil, fall in love, and, yes, live happily ever after." Its basic elements have worked in everything from Snow White to Star Wars, and they've been amped up and given a shiny new home in Director Matthew Vaughn's (Kick-Ass) Stardust, an honest Fantasy/Fairy Tale picture that delivers the goods, even if it never really distinguishes itself from others of its kind from either a thematic or contextual perspective. Vaughn counters the picture's recycling of several basic genre themes and elements by lending to the film a wild but also earnest and heartfelt tone that makes it a fun and all-encompassing experience, one that's home to plenty of action, romance, laughs, and magic, not to mention a unique collection of characters that bring a touch of humanity to a movie that's packed with otherworldly elements. Stardust isn't the most unique picture ever made, but it's an example of a new movie working with old material and building something not just watchable but even a little bit memorable out of it.
The land of Stormhold is in great upheaval. The king has just died, leaving his feuding, murderous, and power-hungry sons to sort out who among them will be the next ruler. They're tasked by their late father to find a gem, and he who demonstrates the power to return it to its natural state will ascend to the throne. Stormhold is a magical land of enchantment and mystery that lies beyond the small English village of Wall, so named for the stone wall that surrounds it. Though the locals generally adhere to the rule that asks them not to venture past the wall, the young and adventurous Tristan Thorn (Charlie Cox) dares cross it in hopes of finding the remnants of a shooting star that crashed somewhere beyond and presenting it as a gift to the love of his life, Victoria (Sienna Miller, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra), in hopes that it will prove his dedication and worth as a potential husband. In Stormhold, Tristan will meet the mysterious Yvaine (Claire Danes, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines) who just so happens to be in possession of the stone that's destined to determine the next ruler of Stormhold. Meanwhile, the evil witch Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer, Wolf) hopes to use Yvaine's secret powers to her benefit and pursues her across the land. Can Tristan and Yvaine evade the evil witch, the king's cunning sons, and the other perils that they're sure to encounter on their way to discovering their own destinies within the boundaries of a world in which they don't belong?
Stardust has all of its genre's bases covered: at some point, and usually playing some major role in the story, Matthew Vaughn's picture incorporates young love, power-hungry cretins, magic, witches, whacky characters, swashbuckling action, and even a unicorn. It sounds like a formula tailor-made for some generic Fantasy picture of the week, but Stardust elevates its game by embracing a whimsical tone and a tight visual structure that allows the audience to go along with an otherwise tired series of events and plot devices and, at times, even believe them all to be new. Stardust doesn't reach the same level of eccentricity and magic as Rob Reiner's The Princess Bride, but it's not the same kind of Fantasy; Stardust has its humorous elements but it's not grounded in laughs. Instead, it's more of a serious Adventure picture with a light underbelly. The Princess Bride was clearly made and marketed as pure fiction and fantasy -- its bookend "story time" scenes allow for the movie to get away with more of a children's book tone, characters, and actions -- but Stardust wants its viewers to take everything a bit more seriously than that, but not to the point of believing that the picture is anything but a magical make-believe adventure.
Perhaps Stardust's most strongly-realized element is the barrier between its "real" area in England and the "fantastical" area that lies beyond an old stone wall, guarded by a quiet old man with a few tricks left up his sleeve to keep would-be adventurers at bay, except, of course, those whom are fated to find their destiny on the wall's other side. It's the simplicity of it all -- a centuries-old stone wall, a guardian who may be its equal in age, and a completely unassuming area that could pass for most any rural locale in England -- that makes it work within the context of the film. No magic mirrors, no portals, no holes in the ground, just a simple object which works in separating two wonderfully unique worlds and cultures ultimately destined to collide in the search for balance and harmony. Even through all of the more involved plot devices, random characters, magical locations, big special effects, and name stars, it's that wall and the old man guarding it that seem like the two things that balance out Stardust and help make it much more relatable than would just another globular special effect that teleports its characters from one realm to the next. The wall and its guard add an old-fashioned honesty to the movie that allows the picture's bigger elements to work all the better within the context of the whole.
Though Stardust works in spite of several very generalized genre elements, the picture isn't free of problems on the technical side of the ledger. Though his picture is big and very often beautiful, Director Matthew Vaughn never can seem to find that proper pacing that would allow Stardust to operate as smoothly as it should. The film's first half in particular seems far too cluttered and sluggish, though things admittedly pick up a great deal in its second hour. First-time viewers may be hit with information overload, and while repeat viewings allow for some of the sluggishness of the first half to vanish thanks to greater familiarity with the story and the purpose behind most of the seemingly inconsequential pieces, the picture remains a bit too bloated for its own good. On the other hand, Vaughn captures a visual scheme that's as big as the two worlds in which the film operates; Stardust looks as sweepingly grand as it should and is accompanied by an equally large score courtesy of Ilan Eshkeri that, oddly enough, seems to recall elements of Klaus Badelt's music for the Pirates of the Caribbean pictures. Stardust's acting is also generally sound; the relatively unknown Charlie Cox plays the film's lead role with a mixture of sweet innocence and daring heroics that make the character work, while his opposite, Claire Danes, looks positively radiant (ahem) and lends a girl-next-door sweetness to her part that makes the picture all the more believable in terms of its romantic angle. Michelle Pfeiffer goes all-out as a crusty old witch longing to look younger, and Robert DeNiro plays the film's most unusual character -- a kinda-sorta gay cross-dressing airborne pirate -- for all it's worth, letting loose, having some real fun on-screen, and giving fans something a bit lighter than the fare he's usually known for in pictures like The Deer Hunter and Heat. Unfortunately, all of the characters are pretty one-dimensional, but considering how well they're portrayed and integrated into the story, their lack of originality and depth isn't much cause for alarm.
Stardust Blu-ray, Video Quality
Stardust falls onto Blu-ray with a handome and sturdy, but not jaw-dropping, 1080p transfer. It's hards to find a glaring weakness in the image, even if, at times, blacks become a bit too absorbing, colors tend towards the warm end of the spectrum, noise flutters around the background, a few elements go a bit too soft, and some scenes take on something of an unnatural digital sheen. Generally, though, Paramount's transfer captures a nicely filmic image; Stardust's depth of field is impressive, it retains a layer of film grain, and it never appears riddled with unsightly debris or print damage. Detailing is moderately strong across the board as seen in woven clothing, the texturing of skin, and a pebbly dirt road, among other elements seen throughout the film. Colors are strong, appearing vibrant but neutral during bright daytime scenes and more subdued but still natural and pleasant when lit only by candle, campfire, or moonlight. The 1080p transfer brings out a few warts in the special effects, notably in Captain Shakespeare's flying pirate ship, but the benefits of the high definition presentation far outweigh any such negatives. Fans should be pleased with Paramount's effort on Stardust, but it's not quite up to the same level of excellence as the studio's best efforts.
Stardust Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Stardust debuts on Blu-ray with a high quality DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. There's little to this track at first -- surround effects are minimal and music doesn't play with much vigor -- but as the adventure gains steam, so too does the soundtrack. The score plays as incredibly large and spacious, even without an aggressive back-channel support element. Bass is oftentimes heavy and potent but not lacking in precision; Shakespeare's ship rumbles through the soundstage with plenty of heft in tow. The track does capture some distinctive surround elements that are delivered with pinpoint placement and help open up the soundstage to capture the sheer magnitude of the picture's scope and sense of adventure. The final action sequence is demo-worthy all the way, combining all of the track's positives into one extended listen that's sure to please both the most ardent Stardust fan and the most demanding audiophile alike. Rounded out by clean, precise, and center-focused dialogue, Paramount's Stardust soundtrack is a worthy companion to a grand Fantasy/Adventure Fairy Tale.
Stardust Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Paramount brings the long-awaited Stardust to Blu-ray with a fair collection extra content, headlined by an audio commentary track with Director Matthew Vaughn and Writer Jane Goldman. It's certainly not the most engaging track; the participants slog along and point out little tidbits at only a modest pace, but it is refreshing to hear Vaughn's honesty as he discusses some of the film's shortcomings or places where the film suffered from a lack of money. Vaughn and Goldman also discuss working with both big stars and relative unknowns, the picture's special effects, and more. Crossing the Wall: The Making of 'Stardust' (1080p) is a five-part feature that's broken down into the following segments: The Quest For the Stone (5:25), a short piece that looks at the beginning stages of translating Neil Gaiman's novel to the screen; A Portal to Another World (9:02), a piece the examines the challenges of translating the novel into a shootable script and within the allocated budget; What Do Stars Do? (15:24), a closer look at the casting process; A Quest of Enormous Importance... (9:20), a brief look at the shoot both on-location and in the studio; and Have You Seen a Fallen Star? (16:17), an in-depth study of the film's special effects. Next up is Nothing is True (480p, 10:14), a short piece that takes viewers behind-the-scenes of Stardust with Novelist Neil Gaiman and Illustrator Charles Vess. Also included is a collection of five deleted scenes (480p, 5:32), a blooper reel (480p, 5:25), and the Stardust theatrical trailer (1080p, 2:29).
Stardust Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Other than some pacing issues in the first hour, Stardust proves itself a success of storytelling even considering its recycled plot elements. The movie's flat-out fun; it's big, adventurous, and plays with a nice mixture of humor, heart, and heroics. The special effects are fine, the acting is good even if the characters are a bit one-dimensional, and Matthew Vaughn's direction is effectively steady. Stardust is a modern-day fan favorite, and while it may not be destined to nestle up against some of the best Fantasy/Adventure/Fairy Tale pictures of all time, it's a fine movie in its own right and is well worth a watch. Stardust's Blu-ray yields strong picture and sound qualities and a fair assortment of extra content. Recommended.
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Stardust Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Stardust Gets Blu-ray Release in the US - June 21, 2010
Paramount Home Entertainment has officially announced the US release of Stardust for September 7. This fantasy/adventure movie, based on a novel by Neil Gaiman, is one of the last few titles released on HD DVD by the studio in 2007 but still awaiting a BD release ...
• Stardust Blu-ray in UK and Germany - December 9, 2009
The UK and Germany branches of Paramount Home Entertainment are releasing the fantasy movie 'Stardust' on Blu-ray, respectively on February 1 and February 4, 2010. 'Stardust', based on a novel by Neil Gaiman and starring Claire Danes, Michelle Pfeiffer and ...
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