Alfie appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The flick usually looked pretty good, but it showed a few more problems than I’d expect from a modern movie.
Sharpness mostly came across well. Some light softness interfered with the image occasionally, but not with much frequency. Instead, the movie largely appeared distinctive and concise. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, but mild edge enhancement appeared through the flick. As for source flaws, I noticed an occasional speckle, but the biggest distraction came from the surprisingly heavy grain. This may have been a stylistic choice, but such a decision didn’t seem obvious, and the film turned awfully grainy at times.
As I noted in the body of my review, Alfie used a very broad palette that went from heavy, oversaturated tones to cold, stark hues. The DVD replicated them fairly well, though the denser colors occasionally looked a bit messy. Blacks were acceptably dark but not anything exceptional, and shadows were also only good. Though low-light shots demonstrated acceptable definition, they weren’t terribly vivid. For the most part, this was a more than acceptable transfer, but the various concerns knocked it down to a “B-“.
Though it lacked any significant problems, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Alfie also earned a “B-“ due to its lack of ambition. That didn’t come as a surprise, though, since I didn’t expect a chatty drama like this to offer a sonic firecracker. For the most part, the soundfield stayed restricted to the front and failed to demonstrate much breadth. Music depicted good stereo delineation, and effects spread to give us a decent sense of atmosphere.
Not much else occurred, however, and that included the use of the surrounds. A few sequences such as thunder and nightclubs brought the back speakers to life, but those occurred infrequently. They worked fine for what they were, though, and the mix was about what I’d expect for this kind of movie.
Audio quality appeared solid. Speech consistently came across as concise and crisp, and I detected no issues connected to edginess or intelligibility. Effects rarely taxed my system, as the film offered few louder sequences. Those elements sounded appropriately accurate and dynamic, though. Music was nicely defined and vivid, with tight highs and warm lows. There wasn’t much to this mix, but it was perfectly acceptable for this story.
Despite the film’s weak box office showing, Paramount’s DVD of Alfie packs a surprisingly formidable roster of extras. It opens with two separate audio commentaries, the first of which features writer/director Charles Shyer and film editor Padraic McKinley. I can sum up much of this commentary’s content in three words: location, location, location. Shyer constantly tells us which bits were shot where, and he explains that he thinks this is fascinating since it shows the ways filmmakers tie together pieces filmed on different days in disparate spots. And he’s right to a degree, but a little of this goes a long way.
In addition, Shyer and McKinley chat about editing and pacing, cut sequences and comparisons with the original flick, the cast and the music, visual elements and lighting, and general storytelling topics. In spite of the obsession with locations, the content is usually pretty solid, and we get a fairly good look at the film’s making. Unfortunately, plenty of the standard happy talk pops up here, as the pair often praise the film and those involved. Those elements slow down an otherwise reasonably positive track.
For the second commentary, we get Shyer plus writer/producer Elaine Pope, both of whom sit together for a running, screen-specific chat. Not surprisingly, Shyer and Pope mostly go over story-related issues. We get more substantial comparisons between both the original and the play with the remake, and we also hear about deleted and changed sequences, character development, working with the actors, and general production choices. A moderate amount of information repeats from the first commentary, but not too much; for example, though Shyer occasionally mentions locations, he doesn’t do so nearly as often.
Unfortunately, this commentary comes with plenty of vapid praise, and that makes it tedious much of the time. The information that appears only sporadically becomes intriguing, as Shyer comes across as a bit talked-out after the first commentary. Occasional dead air occurs, especially during the film’s second half; for that period, things get tedious, though this track never really goes much of anywhere. Enough decent notes pop up for big fans to like it, but I didn’t get involved in it.
In an unusual move, Shyer mentions that they recorded the track about 10 days after the film opened in America and he actually acknowledges its lack of success. He doesn’t come out and call it the flop that it was, and he spins it with notes about its success elsewhere, but I was nonetheless really surprised to hear any information on this topic at all. Rarely do those involved with financial duds admit that in commentaries!
In the Round Table of Alfie, we get a 16-minute and 16-second program. Shyer and McKinley sit with cinematographer Ashley Rowe and production designer Sophie Becher. They talk about their impressions of the original and the concept of a remake, staging the scenes in which Alfie talks to the camera, the film’s color schemes and other visual choices, making England look like New York, storyboards, sets, the use of signs to telegraph Alfie’s mood, and the flick’s genre.
In addition to the comments, we see a few appropriate film clips plus occasional snippets from the original. Lots of nice behind the scenes bits pop up as well to flesh out the concepts. Some of the material repeats from the commentary, but we get a better investigation of the issues in this tight and informative piece.
For The World of Alfie, we get a 10-minute and 31-second featurette. It presents notes from Shyer, Pope, and actor Jude Law. They chat about the desire to update the original movie, casting and character issues, more about Alfie speaking to the camera, changes from the original, and the new one’s ending. Again, we hear some of this in the commentaries, but a fair amount of unique information appears. There’s definitely enough to turn this into a fairly useful program.
Another featurette pops up with the 12-minute and eight-second The Women of Alfie. It includes remarks from Pope, Shyer, Law, and actors Jane Krakowski, Marisa Tomei, Sienna Miller, Omar Epps, Nia Long, and Susan Sarandon. The show addresses updating the female characters, casting and character notes, working with the director, and more comparisons with the original. “Women” ends up as the strongest of the featurettes, largely due to those contrasts with the first flick. We get nice information about the older movie and see more fun material from behind the scenes; Miller’s casting tape is especially cool to watch. This is a strong piece.
Editor McKinley leads us through a Deconstruction of a Scene. This four-minute and 34-second clip looks at the movie’s opening sequence, as McKinley discusses shooting challenges, cuts and deleted bits, and other elements. The glimpses of the excised pieces are the most interesting, but the rest of it works well as it offers a snappy glimpse at the various aspects of the scene.
For something unusual, we find 124 seconds of Gedde Watanabe Dance Footage. This simply shows the actor as he goofs around between takes. It’s moderately amusing. We can watch this clip with or without commentary from Shyer and Pope. They give us some minor details about the silly segment.
For the disc’s final featurette, we head to Let the Music In. It fills 12 minutes and 33 seconds with information from Shyer, musicians Mick Jagger, Dave Stewart, Yolande Charles, Mike Rowe, Ali McErlaine and Chris Sharrock. They inform us about the songs and their work on the film. A few shots from the studio are cool, but it remains too superficial to turn into anything educational.
Eight Deleted Scenes fill a total of 10 minutes and 53 seconds. Most of these maminly fill out existing scenes or become redundant. The most interesting feature a deleted love interest of Julie’s. We can view these with or without commentary from Shyer and McKinley. They offer good notes about the scenes and concisely tell us why the segments got the boot.
Three stillframe sections follow. The Script Gallery allows us to look at the text for six segments of the movie: “Meet Alfie”, “Dressing the Part”, “Backseat Driver”, “Seeing Red”, “Word Around Town”, and “Doomed Relationship”. Production Gallery includes 19 images, as it combines photos of locations and plans for sets. Finally, the Storyboard Gallery offers drawings created for six scenes: “Meet Alfie” (31 frames), “Dressing the Part” (19), “Backseat Driver” (29), “Seeing Red” (17), “Word Around Town” (22), and “Doomed Relationship” (22). All together, these present a fair amount of depth about the various sequences and pad out the DVD well.
In addition to the film’s trailer, when the disc starts, we get a series of ads. The DVD includes promos for Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Suspect Zero and Coach Carter. These also appear in the disc’s Previews area.
Today’s annoying marketing decision: Alfie’s package sports a big sticker that reads “Over 4 hours of DVD bonus material including 8 deleted scenes”. I wouldn’t mind this sticker except for two problems. First, they adhere it straight to the case, not the shrink-wrap. Second, it’s put in one of the most awkward spots, as it lands right on Law’s mug! Maybe that’ll be different for others and my copy was unusual, but it makes the cover decidedly unappealing.
At least Paramount follow through with subtitles for the extras as usual. The vast majority of their titles provide this convenience, and I appreciate it.
Rather than offer an interesting personality study, Alfie prefers to provide little more than a standard chick flick. It takes a lively and intriguing character and turns him into a wuss, all in the interest of “growth”. Bah - the movie just panders to a certain segment of the audience with its dull exposition.
As for the DVD, it offers fairly average picture and audio along with a surprisingly broad and large package of extras. The latter definitely make this a more interesting set. Unfortunately, the movie itself falters too frequently for me to recommend it.