- Street Date:
- August 17th, 2010
- Reviewed by:
- Drew Taylor
- Review Date: 1
- August 17th, 2010
- Movie Release Year:
- 101 Minutes
- Release Country
- United States
The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
'Cemetery Junction' should have been an event. The debut feature from writer-directors Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, the mad geniuses who gave us the British 'Office' and the depressing/funny showbiz spoof 'Extras' (not to mention, with bizarre everyman Karl Pilkington, the most wonderfully silly podcast ever), should have been something that every hardened cineaste or casual moviegoer took note of.
But then, it wasn't an event at all, and in fact, it barely registered.
In England it was released to a handful of rapturous reviews, but not exactly dynamite box office, causing its American distributor to forgo a theatrical release, instead dumping the movie direct-to-home video, a dubious distinction usually reserved for some Z-grade vampire movie starring Eric Roberts.
And now it stands to be assessed: was 'Cemetery Junction' an underrated future classic or was it a bomb that got what it deserved? Well, the answer is… a little of both.
'Cemetery Junction' is set in the early-1970s in a small English town of the same name. It primarily concerns the coming of age of three friends, Freddie (Christian Cooke), Bruce (Tom Hughes) and Snork (Jack Doolan). Cemetery Junction is a factory town, and Freddie doesn't want to follow in the footsteps of his father (Ricky Gervais) who works all day and has nothing to show for it but a modest home and a large beer belly. Instead, Freddie decides to start selling life insurance for a local businessman (Ralph Fiennes, oscillating between chilly and power-hungry nicely), while Bruce is content to start fights and cause trouble, and Snork is just a bumbling goon who works at the local train station and has an elaborate tattoo on his chest and back depicting a comely female vampire and his own very noticeable arousal.
Since this is a coming-of-age comedy/drama in the most classic mold, Freddie falls in love with his boss's daughter (Felicity Jones, quite foxy), who of course is already engaged to a slimy weasel (Matthew Goode, channeling some of his villainous 'Watchmen' performance) and must make the biggest decision of his life: stay in the small town and, even with a seemingly "glamorous" job, fall back into the life of his family members, or strike out on his own.
Truth be told, 'Cemetery Junction' is not without its charms. It was filmed in a way to emphasize the romantic nostalgia of youth, with every experience heightened and hyper-real. And then there are the lead actors, who have an amiable, freewheeling togetherness about them which doesn't always work, but works enough of the time that you actually buy them being friends. They aren't superb by any stretch of the imagination, and both Freddie and Bruce are too pretty to be believable as small town English boys.
And while Gervais and Merchant, for the most part, nimbly nail the tonal balance between comedy and drama (and photographically, it never resembles television), there isn't anything that ever seems all that authentic. Instead, what we're treated to is a simulacrum: a coming-of-age story made by a bunch of guys that love coming-of-age stories without any grit or integrity to elevate it above mediocrity. Maybe with time (and repeated viewings), 'Cemetery Junction' can truly come to life. But right now, it feels like it's stuck in a small town, waiting to break free.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
The 50GB Blu-ray disc is Region A locked. It does auto-play, after which you're treated to a terrible assortment of trailers, including Jennifer Lopez's 'The Back-Up Plan.' The disc is BD-Live equipped.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
Despite the movie's many, many, many faults, one thing is for sure: the 1080p AVC MPEG-4 transfer (aspect ratio: 2.40:1) is really great.
Full of brimming primary colors befitting of its heightened 70s setting that pop brilliantly, the 'Cemetery Junction' transfer works so well because it's so true to the intent of the source material. For example, sometimes the image definitely has a "softness" to it, but far from this being a flaw, it actually is one of the transfer's chief assets, replicating the "soft" look of many movies from that period.
The transfer also comes through where it counts: skin tones look good, black levels are deep and dark, textures (like the waviness of Felicity Jones' hair) shine through, and there's enough grain to make it feel like a theatrical presentation, even if it never made it to North American theaters.
Additionally, there are no distracting technical glitches to speak of.
All in all, this is a very handsome presentation of a movie that works as a wonderful transfer and as a deliberate extension of the movie's narrative. In other words: it's awesome.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
This disc has a shockingly strong lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. (I wasn't expecting much, truth be told.) There's really nothing to say against this mix.
Everywhere it counts, the mix delivers: dialogue is strong, crisp and clear, and unlike some other British productions, you probably won't have to slap on the subtitle option to understand what, exactly, they're saying. Music is also strong and well defined, both the original music by Tim Atack and the period-specific music selections.
Even more surprising is the dimensionality of the track. Almost every location that the surround fields can spring to life, they do: inside the factory, in the home, at the disco. These instances add a much-needed sense of depth, atmosphere, and ambience, and are very much appreciated, especially since we're talking about a fairly middle-of-the-road comedy/drama.
There's also a French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track available and subtitles in English, English SDH, French, and Hindi.
The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff
There are voluminous extras on this 'Cemetery Junction' Blu-ray, most of which appear on the standard definition DVD. There are some goodies that are only on the Blu-ray, though, which I'll get to in juuuuust a minute.
- Audio Commentaries The disc comes equipped with two audio commentaries. One (Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant) is engaging and lively and funnier than the actual movie; the other one (with lead actors Christian Cooke, Tom Hughs and Jack Doolan), er, less so. Let's just say if you have any interest in re-watching 'Cemetery Junction,' do it with the Gervais/Merchant commentary track. You won't be disappointed.
- Deleted Scenes (HD, 13:36) This collection of superfluous scenes is an oddity and far from noteworthy, although you do see a little more of Gervais in his tiny role.
- Blooper Reel (HD, 13:42) Anyone who has watched the 'Office' or 'Extras' DVD sets knows what they're in store for with a Gervais/Merchant collaboration: lots and lots of cackling laughter. (There's a reason this is longer than the collection of deleted scenes.) It's worth watching for Gervais' repeated attempts to burp on cue alone.
- The Directors: A Conversation with Gervais and Merchant (HD, 15:07) This is actually a really worthwhile little doc, especially if you forgo the audio commentary. It actually made me like the movie a little more. You can tell that the filmmakers earnestly wanted to make a top caliber, Hollywood-level film that wasn't just a bunch of bumbling around. Also: they're very funny.
- The Lads Look Back: The Stars Discuss 'Cemetery Junction' (HD, 10:14) This is pretty much what the title implies: it's the three actors, together, talking about 'Cemetery Junction.' Again: this is a worthy watch, especially if you don't go ahead and watch their commentary track. Also funny: they tell the same story that Gervais does on the other documentary. It's like 'Rashomon' up in here!
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
There are some nice little Blu-ray-exclusive special features and an annoying Blu-ray feature that Sony keeps trying to shove down our throats (we don't wait it! Stop it!)
- MovieIQ This is Sony's lame-ass BD-Live special feature, which is basically like a dumbed-down version of Pop Up Video. SKIP IT.
- Seventies Style: Production & Costume Design (HD, 8:44) This is a really great really special feature, which talks about the production and costume design of the film, interspersed with interviews with Gervais, Merchant, and other members of the creative team. Merchant, in particular, tells a great story about going to the disco for the first time as a youth and it being an absolutely transformative, magical experience that they wanted to replicate here. They weren't going for realism, necessarily, but the heightened reality of youth. Great stuff.
- Production Featurettes (HD, 6:45) This is a collection of five micro-documentaries that I believe originally aired on Ricky Gervais' website. These are inconsequential and you're not missing anything if you skip them.
There's supposedly an Easter Egg but I can't find it -- help me out!
It pains me to say that 'Cemetery Junction' is, at best, a rental. Like I have said before, this movie, the first big screen outing for Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, wound up going straight to the small screen, and it's kind of fitting. The movie is a very middle-of-the-road coming of age story about a bunch of kids stuck in a loser British town dreaming for bigger, better, brighter things. I felt the same way: I wanted this movie to be bigger, better, and brighter. Thankfully, the AV on the disc is impeccable, and there are a couple of fun special features but you can get through it all in a weekend; it's not worthy of your collection.
- BD-50 Blu-ray Disc
- English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround Sound
- English, English SDH, French, Hindi
- Commentary with Writers/Directors Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant
- Blooper Reel
- Cast Commmentary with Christian Cooke, Tom Hughes, and Jack Doolan
- Deleted Scenes
- The Directors: A Conversation with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant
- The Lads Look Back: The Stars Discuss Cemetery Junction
Exclusive HD Content
- Seventies Style: Production and Costume Design
- The Start of Filming
- Snow Dude (Easter egg)
- Week 1
- The Directors On Set
- Meet the Boys
- movieIQ+sync and BD-Live
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