Religion is a bit of a taboo subject, but it does make great comedy as the Monty Python crew knew many years ago. Now the legendary writer, director and actor Harold Ramis has taken his turn at taking this subject and turning into a 100 minute comedy. Even if it stirs some controversy it's sure to help sell ticket sales. It worked for (the non-comedy) The Passion of the Christ right?
Year One tells the story of two unproductive, incompetent hunters in ancient times are banished from their primitive village. The unlikely pair wander through early biblical civilization encountering historic and religious figures along their comedic journey including Cain (David Cross) and Abel (Paul Rudd), Abraham (Hank Azaria), Isaac (Christoper Mintz-Plasse), Harold Ramis as Adam and Oliver Platt as the High Priest among others.
Of course the movie will live or die by the primary cast and it's fair to say that Jack Black and Michael Cera are the stars as Zed and Oh respectively. They play, well, pretty much the same characters as almost every other film they are in so if you don't like them in other films, you won't like them here. On the flipside, if you like their other movies then you'll probably enjoy them here. We must also give credit to the three leading ladies including Juno Temple as Eema, Olivia Wilde as Princess Inanna and June Diane Raphael as Maya.
We must point out that this Blu-Ray disc includes both the Theatrical version which runs for 97 minutes as well as the Uncut version which runs a couple of minutes longer at 100 minutes. The differences are negligible at best with some slightly longer shots, a few more crass moments, and, umm, that's about it really.
Year One certainly isn't a great comedy, but it's not the worst we've seen in recent years either. It's certainly not as bad as trash like Disaster Movie or even Paul Blart: Mall Cop but it's probably one you'd only want to rent when you want to get drunk and have some fun with some mates around. Citizen Kane this ain't.
Encoded using the AVC MPEG-4 codec and presented at the films original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 Year One is another solid effort from Sony on Blu-Ray. There is plenty of sharpness and detail to the image with a fairly good colour reproduction and being such a recent release there is no film artifacts such as dirt present on the print. There are several moments where the fine attention to detail in the clothing, sets and other props really shines and indeed such attention to detail wouldn't be out of place in an epic production several times the cost of this $60 million picture. Contrast levels are good and there is good shadow detail as well.
We did feel that, at times, the image comes across as a little hot with characters looking a little sun burnt on occasion - still the movie does take place in a lot of desert locations, but still... Another issue is that, at times, there is some black crush and compression issues apparent (have a look around Jack Black from 48:26 to 48:29 when they are running out of the tunnel). These are minor issues in a generally very good video transfer.
MovieIQ (HD): MovieIQ is a new feature on Sony Blu-Ray discs which, though an internet connection, allows you to get more information (we believe sourced from IMDB) about actors in the film. It's an interesting concept that works quite well (in fact we could see this in future being used to sell 'products' seen in films).
Cine-Chat (HD): This is a BD-Live chat so you can chat with your friends through the disc while you're watching the movie. Thankfully there's a nice 2 minute video showing you what you can do with Cine-Chat. Now, if I had some friends that have this disc we could try it out!!
Year One Cutting Room (HD): This mode allows you to re-edit the movie by cropping clips, adding effects and so on. It's a bit gimmicky for us, but the best feature is that you can then send these clips to your friends if they have a BD-Live compatible Blu-Ray player. Fortunately there's a nice little movie for a couple of minutes that explains how to use this function.
Alternate Ending - Sodom Destruction (8:13/HD): Playable with or without an optional commentary from Harold Ramis, Jack Black and Michael Cera this is an interesting and totally different ending to the movie.
Deleted Scenes (4:02/HD): Two deleted scenes ("Zed & Marlak" and "Splooge") are presented here in excellent quality although only with stereo sound and a weird audio hiss in a part of the first clip in particular. Still each of the two clips are fairly entertaining.
Extended and Alternate Scenes (13:38/HD): There are ten scenes here in total and quite a bit of content as a result. Some were cut for good reason from the film, but others were fairly good alternate takes.
Line-O-Rama (5:10/HD): A series of ad-libbed lines while filming. Nothing too original here...
Gag Reel (8:28/HD): No guessing for what this featurette is. With so many comedians participating in this movie there's some very entertaining stuff here.
Year One: The Journey Begins (17:52/HD): This is the "Making of" documentary on the disc. It's a bit too brief and lacks detail but it has some interesting moments, and plenty of on-set footage.
Leeroy Jenkins: The Gates of Sodom (2:08/HD): Also strange is this weird little battle sequence.
Year One Trailer (2:17/HD): This is the trailer for the movie presented in HD with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.
Trailers (12:03/HD): Trailers for Blu-Ray is High Definition, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Angels & Demons, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Julie & Julia and Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist.
Review By: Dave Warner