• Parasite (Universal Pictures) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Universal Pictures
    Released on: January 28th, 2020.
    Director: Bong Joon-Ho
    Cast: Lee Sun Kyun, Cho Yeo Jeong, Jung Ziso, Jung Hyeon, Song Kang Ho, Choi Woo Shik, Park So Dam, Chang Hyae Jin
    Year: 2019
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    Parasite – Movie Review:

    Co-written and directed by Bong Joon-Ho, 2019’s Parasite introduces us to the Kim family - college aged Ki-woo (Choi Woo Shik), his sister Ki-jung (Park So Dam), their father Ki-taek (Song Hang Ho) and their mother Chung-sook (Chang Hyae Jin). They are, in a word, broke. When we meet them their cell service has been cut off and they’re trying to jack into the wi-fi at a nearby coffee shop. They’re so desperate for money that they take a crummy job folding pizza boxes in their cramped basement apartment, watching drunks urinate outside their window. They leave this same window open when an exterminator shows up outside, hoping that the bug killer will waft into their apartment where they have a stink bug problem. “Free fumigation”, Ki-taek tells them.

    Their lives change when a friend of Ki-woo named Min (Park Se-joon) shows up. He has to give up is job teaching English to Da-hye (Jung Ziso), the pretty high-school aged daughter of Yeon-kyo (Cho Yeo Jeong) and Dong-ik (Lee Sun Kyun) and older sister of Da-song (Jung Hyun-jun), a rambunctious boy obsessed with Native American culture. Min wants Ki-woo to take the job rather than one of his school buddies because he trusts him not to move in on Da-hye while he’s away. When Ki-woo explains that he doesn’t have the qualifications, he’s told not to worry about it because the mother is ‘young and simple.’ With some forged documents from Ki-jung in hand, Ki-woo aces his way through the interview and lands the job, quickly impressed by the insane wealth of his new employers, a family that has everything that his does not.

    When it comes to light that the Park family is interested in bringing in an art therapist to work with young Da-song, Ki-woo roles with it and makes a recommendation – a brilliant young woman that his cousin went to school with. When Mrs. Park says she’s interested, he prepares his sister for the interview, and things escalate rather quickly from that point on.

    “People who ride the subway have a special smell.”

    There’s a lot more to the story than the above synopsis lets on, but we’ll do our best to avoid spoilers in this review as this really is a movie you should see with as little beforehand knowledge of its plot as possible. Going in ‘blind’ (or at least without knowing anything more than you’d get out of the film’s trailer) makes the film’s magnificent twists and turns all the better – and Parasite really is a film full of surprises. More than just a simple tale of the ‘haves’ against the ‘have nots’ (although it is also that – class seems to be a recurring theme in the director’s work), the picture is a juggling act of sorts, balancing elements of dark comedy and social satire with some of the traits of a Hitchcockian thriller before bringing things to a pitch-perfect ending that is as poignant and inevitable as it is thoroughly unexpected.

    The script from Bong Joon-Ho and Han Jin-Won is remarkable but the cinematography from Kyung-pyo Hong is also fantastic. Clever camera angels foreshadow elements to come, though never telegraph them, and the use of color in the film really helps to bring us into this world. The set design and the camera compositions complement each other beautifully, really letting us take in the magnificence of the Park home, designed by a famous architect for himself, and the squalor of the Kim’s apartment.

    Of course, the performances are also of great importance and again, Parasite scores high marks all around. The cast tasked with playing the Kim family members are all uniformly excellent, Song Hang Ho (a regular in the directo'rs films at this point, having appeared in Memories Of Murder, The Host and Snowpiercer as well as Park Chan-Wook's Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance) is remarkable as the father. We feel for him, he’s funny and likeable even if, like the rest of his family, he’s pretty rascally. Choi Woo Shik does fantastic work as the catalyst for his family’s climb up the social ladder, while Park So Dam is remarkable in how she’s able to shift from one persona to the next once she’s hired on. Chang Hyae Jin is also great as the matron of the family and the source of quite a bit of humor. On the flip side of that, Cho Yeo Jeong does fine work as Yeon-kyo, she plays 'lovestruck' quite convincingly but is also believable as an occasionally moody teenager. Jung Hyun-jun isn't given as much to do as the others but he's solid as the rowdy kid. Cho Yeo Jeong is fantastic as the dimwitted mother and Lee Sun Kyun perfectly cast as the arrogant father - their 'love scene' together so telling in its way.

    Parasite – Blu-ray Review:

    Parasite comes to Blu-ray from Universal Pictures framed at 2.39.1 widescreen with the feature taking up just over 31GBs of space on the 50GB disc. The picture quality here is gorgeous. As the picture was shot digitally there’s obviously no print damage, dirt, debris or grain to discuss, the image is pristine. Detail is exceptional throughout, not just in the foregrounds and striking closeup shots but in medium and long-distance shots as well, you can really make out a lot in the background details. There are no noticeable issues with compression or edge enhancement problems while colors are reproduced perfectly. Black levels are nice and deep and skin tones look natural. There’s nothing to complain about here in terms of the picture quality, the movie looks fantastic. It’s a shame that Universal didn’t give North American fans a 4k UHD release, but this Blu-ray really does look great.

    The 24-bit DTS-HD 5.1 mix, in the film’s original Korean language, sounds great. Surrounds are used very nicely to spread the score around and it really helps to build tension and atmosphere in the picture. The levels are balanced perfectly, the dialogue is crystal clear and the multi-layered sound design employed in the film is really brought to life quite nicely in this mix. No problems to note here at all, this is a very rich track that does the film justice.

    The only extra of any substance on the disc is a nineteen-minute Q&A session with Bong Joon Ho shot at the 2019 edition of the Fantastic Fest film festival. It’s an interesting talk that sees the director waxing poetically about the merits of capitalism, discussing the allegorical staircases upon which the characters go up and down and to an extent what this represents, the characters themselves, how some of his own experiences in his younger days made their way into the film and more.

    Aside from that we get two trailers for the feature, menus and chapter selection. This release also comes bundled with an insert card for a Digital HD download version on the movie and a slipcover.
    Given the acclaim that this film has justifiably received, it seems like Parasite was short shifted in the extra features department.

    Parasite – The Final Word:

    Parasite is worthy of the hype, it’s a clever and very original thriller with some genuinely effective moments of dark humor filled with excellent performances. It’s also a beautiful looking film, and that translates to an excellent looking and sounding Blu-ray from Universal. The extras aren’t nearly as substantial as they deserve to be, but otherwise this presentation is great and the film absolutely worth seeing.

    Click on the images below for full sized Parasite Blu-ray screen caps!