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In a World... Blu-ray Review

In a World... (2013) movie poster In a World...

Theatrical Release: August 9, 2013 / Running Time: 93 Minutes / Rating: R

Writer/Director: Lake Bell

Cast: Lake Bell (Carol Solomon), Fred Melamed (Sam Sotto), Michaela Watkins (Dani), Ken Marino (Gustav Warner), Demetri Martin (Louis), Rob Corddry (Moe), Alexandra Holden (Jamie), Nick Offerman (Heners), Geena Davis (Katherine Huling), Eva Longoria (Herself), Tig Notaro (Cher), Stephanie Allyne (Nancy), Jason O'Mara (Mr. Terry Pouncer), Talulah Riley (Pippa), Corsica Wilson (Stacy), Jeff Garlin (Himself - uncredited), Cameron Diaz (Amazon Warrior - uncredited)

Buy In a World... from Amazon.com: Blu-ray DVD Instant Video

Lake Bell has amassed a large body of film and television work over the past six years, breakout turns in soon-forgotten romantic comedies
giving way to additional supporting roles as well as cast regular status on Adult Swim's "Childrens Hospital" and HBO's lamented single season casualty "How to Make It in America." Still, no one could have easily seen her stepping behind the camera as quickly and effectively as she does in In a World..., an independent comedy she single-handedly wrote, directed and stars in.

After premiering at Sundance 2013, where it won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award, In a World... did okay business in limited release last August and earned highly favorable reviews. That reception was remembered months later when the movie wound up on the National Board of Review's Top Ten Independent Films list and snagged a nomination for Best First Screenplay for the upcoming Independent Spirit Awards.

Lake Bell wrote, directed and stars in "In a World...", an independent comedy set in the competitive world of voiceover.

The film is set in the world of voiceover artists, a world it establishes with clips from a documentary (convincingly updated to incorporate these fictional characters) explaining the void left by legendary movie trailer voice Don LaFontaine. Since his 2008 death, the industry hasn't touched his signature phrase (the title), nor has it found anyone able to rival his legacy. One of the most successful in his wake is the revered Sam Sotto (Fred Melamed), a man who's even published his autobiography.

The widowed Sam is about to have his 30-year-old girlfriend move in with him, which means his 31-year-old daughter Carol Solomon (Bell) now has to move out. Carol has been working as a vocal coach, getting called in to help Eva Longoria master a Cockney accent in postproduction when she's not building an archive with recordings of unusual dialects that catch her ear. Carol records a last minute temp track for a children's romantic comedy's trailer, which the studio likes enough to give her the job over dulcet golden boy Gustav Warner (Ken Marino).

That proves to be the first in a number of trailers Carol is asked to voice, a fairly unprecedented move in a male-dominated business. Speaking of moves, Carol relocates to the apartment of her sister, hotel concierge Dani (Michaela Watkins), and her neglected husband Moe (Rob Corddry), whose marital challenges involving a handsome Irish man (Jason O'Mara) Carol get our time and attention. Meanwhile, Carol is in the running for a potentially game-changing job, narrating the trailer for The Amazon Games, the first film in a much-anticipated quadrilogy adapted from a popular book series.

Carol's father, the accomplished Sam Sotto (Fred Melamed) decides it's time she moves out of his house. Carol (Lake Bell) surreptitiously records her sister Dani (Michaela Watkins) as she opens up about her marriage.

In a World... packs a lot of story into its brisk 93-minute runtime. Save for a couple of unknown shorts, this is the first writing Bell's done and she has plenty of ideas and a unique voice worth sharing. Apart from those shorts and four episodes of "Childrens Hospital", it's also Bell's directing debut.
Despite that and the fact that her cast is largely filled by television types (including Demetri Martin and Nick Offerman), In a World... is not too small for the big screen. It has a legitimate indie film sensibility and looks suitably cinematic in the wide 2.40:1 frame.

Though not uproarious or mind-blowing, the film definitely has its appeal. It's crafted with obvious care, wit, and personality. Bell brings an unmistakable respect for and knowledge of the universe she's exploring. Nichey as voiceovers are (and let's ignore the fact that most trailers forgo narration these days), the story seems to resonate with our vision of the sexist live-action film and television business, one that Bell has been a part of since a couple of 2002 "ER" episodes. In a World... may be more exciting in theory than in execution, for it announces the arrival of a young female writer/director, adding to a list that at the moment doesn't stretch much further than Sarah Polley and the bizarrely vitriol-inspiring Diablo Cody.

Though theatrically distributed by Roadshow Attractions, the film bears no sign of that Lionsgate subsidiary in the Blu-ray and DVD editions released this week by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

In a World... Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English, French), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Spanish)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: January 21, 2014
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Suggested Retail Price: $35.99
Blue Keepcase with Side Snap
Also available as DVD ($30.99 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Though produced independently and for only $1 million, In a World...'s Blu-ray meets the high standards of in-house Sony productions. The 2.40:1 picture is perfect, the only imperfections being the manufactured ones, like the documentary-resembling prologue. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack also is quite nice, unleashing some robust bass at times and conveying different vocal effects with apt clarity.

A clearer look at the movie starring Eva Longoria as a Cockney hood is included among the deleted scenes. You can bet funnyman Rob Corddry features in the gag reel.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray's extras begin with an audio commentary by writer/director/star Lake Bell. She pulls off the tough solo commentary act quite well, engaging with details and trivia of her filmmaking debut.
Her discussion of filming conditions, her castmates, music licensing, eating non-vegan foods for her art, and the subject matter's interest to her is nothing groundbreaking, but it does confirm that she didn't make this halfheartedly.

On the video side, where everything appears in high definition, we start with nine deleted scenes (14:23). They include an alternate opening of Carol doing an voice exercise with an annoyingly-voiced woman interviewing her in a bookstore, more of and on Dani and Moe's rocky marriage, a scene featuring an accomplished female voiceover artist (played by Melissa Disney), and a number of additional clips from the convincing fake reality dating TV show woven throughout the film,

A gag reel (3:57) preserves some hijinks and laughter between takes more than fumbled lines.

Fred Melamed pulls at his jowl in one of six "In a World..." promos. The Blu-ray's menu consists of teal squares and cast stills.

Last but not least we get six unconventional, mildly entertaining In a World... promos (5:20), which show cast members trying to sell the movie with headphones and microphone.
Unfortunately, the film's standard theatrical trailer is not among them.

The disc opens with a Blu-ray promo and trailers for Austenland, Cold Comes the Night, The Monuments Men, Inside Llewyn Davis, and I'm So Excited. The same trailers play from the menu's "Previews" listing.

The menu attaches score to a collection of cast stills in rectangles of different shapes and sizes between squares of differing shades of blue-green. Happily, the disc supports bookmarks and also gives you the chance to resume playback even after being ejected.

In a World... isn't joined by Sony's usual touches of UltraViolet or Sony Rewards points. No inserts of any kind are found inside the side-snapped keepcase, which does at least display reverse side artwork.

Louis (Demetri Martin) and Carol (Lake Bell) sing karaoke together in "In a World..."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

In my rankings of all the 2013 films I saw last year, In a World... placed 50th and though a few things I've seen have bumped it down since, it still remains among the top third of last year's offerings, residing in the "Good, Not Great" section. This is a good movie. It's witty, original, fun, and has more to it than your typical indie comedy. Probably the most exciting thing about the movie, though, is the launch of a writing/directing career for Lake Bell. There's enough of promise here to want to see her behind the camera again soon.

Though it doesn't come with a digital copy or a DVD, Sony's Blu-ray is otherwise likely to satisfy most with its terrific feature presentation and a decent collection of extras. It may or may not be something you revisit (I was glad to give it my second viewing in two months), but it is something you should see.

Buy In a World... from Amazon.com: Blu-ray / DVD / Instant Video

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Reviewed January 22, 2014.



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