Blu-ray
Highly Recommended
4 stars
Amazon
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Overall Grade
4 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
4 Stars
HD Video Quality
4 Stars
HD Audio Quality
3.5 Stars
Supplements
3.5 Stars
High-Def Extras
0 Stars
Bottom Line
Highly Recommended

Ghost Town

Street Date:
December 28th, 2008
Reviewed by:
Drew Taylor
Review Date: 1
July 16th, 2009
Movie Release Year:
2008
Studio:
Paramount
Length:
102 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Okay audiences/critics - you're constantly complaining about the state of the romantic comedy. Everything's pandering, you say. Well this is true, but what really grinds my gears is when an exceptional romantic comedy comes along and the critical community fails to get behind it, while the studio, used to selling that same kind of brain-dead drivel, doesn't know how to market it properly, and as such… it dies.

This is a real shame, because David Koepp's 'Ghost Town' is a great little movie.

The tale of miserable dentist Bertram Pincus D.D.S. (played by Ricky Gervais with his signature combination of anti-social prickliness and genuine charm) who, after a colonoscopy, gains the ability to communicate with ghosts, is a cute, fun, beguiling movie. Amongst the ghosts Gervais has to contend is Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear), who wants to employ Gervais in the fruitless task of easing his widowed wife's anxious soul (Frank was cheating on her at the time of his death). This movie is about a lot more than just ghosts. It's about isolationism in the big city, about the distances we put between each other, and a love letter to both the cruelty and charm of New York City.

This is one of director David Koepp's little directorial projects. Koepp is one of Hollywood's most prolific and profitable screenwriters (a brief look at his partial resume: 'Spider-Man,' 'Jurassic Park,' 'Panic Room,' 'Angels & Demons,' 'War of the Worlds,' the list goes on…) but every so often he'll direct a project for himself, and it's usually a smallish thriller (the underrated 'Trigger Effect,' the neat horror contraption 'Stir of Echoes' etc.). This, however, is his first stab at a romantic comedy, and you'd think with his somewhat heavier filmography, that he might get weighed down by the morbidity of the concept, but no. Koepp (and his co-writer John Kamps) keep things light and bubbly, with just the right amount of introspection. They know all the beats that make for classic romantic comedies (Koepp cites 'Bringing Up Baby' as a chief influence) and really have crafted something resonant and entertaining.

If you think I'm lavishing too much praise on what many will consider little more than a trifle, just consider the amount of talent that went into the movie - the real, humanistic turns by Ricky Gervais, Kinnear, and others; how delicately the script is crafted; and how rarely, in this day and age, we get a romantic comedy that actually makes you feel something, instead of just a movie consisting of a string of mildly amusing gags.

'Ghost Town' deserves a much bigger audience than it got in the theaters (again - I blame critics not willing to throw their weight behind a movie like this and a studio unsure of how to sell a romantic comedy that's actually good), and hopefully this wonderful Blu-ray release will add a few more passionate fans.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

'Ghost Town' looks like a million bucks in high def, and hopefully this will help build on its tiny audience. The disc comes equipped with a 1080p, 1.78:1 transfer, and it's kind of hard to not be impressed.

Since Koepp's previous directorial efforts have been thrillers, there's a fair amount of mood and atmosphere in the picture. Unlike most comedies, which are content to just be brashly over lit, 'Ghost Town' sports wonderful autumnal color palette. Combine that with some great locations and the 'Ghost Town' viewing experience is just great.

Details are clear, skin tones look nice, blacks are deep and dark, and textures spring to life. There are no technical issues to mar the image either, as I didn't notice any halos, noise, or any of the other glitchy nonsense that can sometimes mar even the sharpest of picture qualities.

This isn't a perfect transfer, as sometimes white levels are too bright (this is odd, given the aforementioned color palette, and even more distracting). But overall, this is a solid transfer and I'm glad Paramount awarded such a small and seemingly forgotten movie this level of care and attention.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

While 'Ghost Town's' Dobly TrueHD 5.1 lossless mix isn't going to set the world on fire, it is very solid and a worthwhile component to this release.

Like most comedies, most of the dialogue is up front and center. This is fine. The dialogue sounds clear and crisp. This is expected. There is, however, some nice ambience, particularly in the crowd scenes or when Gervais is being menaced by a gaggle of ghosts.

The surround channels are also utilized with the film's classy score. These flourishes add much in the way of atmosphere, and while not the most immersive soundtrack imaginable (you're probably not going to think a naked ghost is standing behind you), it is well above average for films of its ilk.

Also included on the disc are Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 and French Dolby Digital 5.1 audio tracks, as well as subtitles in English, English SDH, Spanish, French, and Portuguese.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

It's good to see a nice collection of extras on this disc, but even nicer that all the video features are in glorious HD! Hallelujah. Thank you DreamWorks/Paramount for doing this. We can only hope more studios will take the same approach!

  • Commentary with David Koepp and Ricky Gervais Simply put, this is my new favorite commentary track. David Koepp is trying to act like the consummate professional and, as always, Ricky Gervais is just giggling like a child. At one point he asks Koepp why there weren't any toddler ghosts following his character around. At another, he starts berating those of us that are still listening for listening. It's just hysterical. It's almost like a meta-commentary track, with the participants knowing that only the hardcore geeks (or reviewers) will be listening. This is, as far as I'm concerned, essential listening.
  • Making 'Ghost Town' (HD, 22:40) This is a fairly standard making-of doc, with talking head interviews with all the main participants and plenty of behind-the-scenes shenanigans. While far from essential viewing, it still is a lot of fun to watch. (It would, however, have been nice to see some of those deleted/extended scenes everyone is talking about. Particularly anything with the brilliant Kristin Wiig.)
  • Ghostly Effects (HD, 2:01) This is brief and silent and really could have used with a little explanation. Basically, it's just the different passes they did for scenes involving the visual effects of the ghosts. At one point in the commentary, Koepp says that he's never seen a special effect that's made anything funnier (except, he concedes, maybe a couple of gags in 'Men in Black'), so it's nice to see how spare these really are.
  • Some People Can Do It (HD, 6:21) Anyone who has watched the British 'Office' DVDs knows how much of a cut up Ricky Gervais is, and here that is elaborated upon, with nearly six minutes of botched lines, curse words, and high-pitched giggling. It's pretty funny, but not for 6 minutes.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

There are no HD exclusives.

Final Thoughts

Without hesitation, I give 'Ghost Town' a highly recommended mark. Those looking for a sharp, sophisticated romantic comedy (with a whole lot of heart) need look no further than this release. (Those content with 'Confessions of a Shopaholic,' move along, nothing to see here.) Paramount and Dream Works have put together a killer disc, with above-average audio and video and a nice (if small-ish) collection of special features - all in HD!

Technical Specs

  • Blu-ray
  • BD-50 Dual-Layer Disc

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.78:1

Audio Formats

  • English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround
  • French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH
  • English Subtitles
  • French Subtitles
  • Spanish Subtitles
  • Portuguese Subtitles

Supplements

  • Commentary with David Koepp and Ricky Gervais
  • Making 'Ghost Town'
  • Ghostly Effects
  • Some People Can Do It
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