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Grand Piano (Blu-ray Review)

Grand-PianoIt’s funny how film genres, trends, styles and such tend to come and go.  A film like Grand Piano would have possibly or even likely been an A-List title in the 90s.  It definitely would have been tops in the Hitchcock era of thrillers as well.  Now, this high concept thriller film is best suited to be a festival darling with limited theatrical release and its big wide viewing coming in the Video OnDemand format.  For someone like me who still loves this type of film, its sort of bittersweet.  I’d like more options like this in the theater, BUT this type of material is only enhancing the VOD new release catalog and making that option more of a force to be reckoned with.  Times are changing, and films like Grand Piano are making sure we pay more attention to and take the VOD market a bit more seriously.  Some of the year’s more interesting stuff is now falling to that avenue.

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Film 

A once promising piano player Tom Selznick is making his return to the big stage after years in the dark.  He had developed a sever case of stage fright that had him breaking down on stage.  When he begins playing at his return performance, he flips the page of his music to find a note that says if he plays one wrong note in the performance that he will die.

Grand Piano is a terrific little thriller in the vein of Alfred Hitchcock that takes a situational approach, vetting a mano y mano match between the film’s protagonist and its villain.  Its a game of wits, smarts and trying to unravel a mystery on one’s own without involving any other parties (because “or else, you die, your girlfriend dies, etc).  It’s the lowest of low key, but as tense as tense can be.

The setup and basis of the film reminded me of the Joel Schumacker film Phone Booth.  Worry not those who have seen it, Grand Piano is much better.  But, that film featured a man stuck on the phone in a phone booth, heckled by a killer unseen (voiced by Keefer Sutherland).  This one essentially pulls the same task, but has Elijah Wood’s Selznick trapped within the middle of a performance instead of a phone booth.  Many movies have done a similar thing, but that was the first that came to mind.  One of those “trapped” feeling movies with some rather big personal stakes at the forefront.

Elijah Wood and John Cusack are quite terrific in this film.  The movie succeeds or fails based upon its performers and they both come through ten fold.  Elijah Wood has been making some of the most interesting, adventurous and creative choices in his career the past few years and this is one of those big big highlights.  Also, there is some incredibly impressive visual sequences featuring some nifty and wowing camera work to float around the opera hall.  Eugenio Mira put himself on the map for me with this film as it takes quite a bit of talent to pull off a little film like this and he definitely comes through and then some.

If you’re a fan of thrillers, albeit Hitchock’s works, old school Hollywood thrillers, big time movies of the 90s, you know what I’m talking about, owe it to yourself to check out Grand Piano.  Its a little film that in a different world would have been a big wide release, but manages to pull of success in all facets, performance, directing, writing and keep you on the edge of your seat with such a simple concept.  There’s a lot of fun and enjoyment to be had here, and I hope this one spreads to more people to see.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2:40.1

Clarity/Detail:  Its a solid picture, with some normal levels of detail.  Overall it sort of has the aesthetic of a Korean movie.  Its  clear and clean, sharp picture, but does not go above and beyond being just that.

Depth:  Depth looks rather good, especially from the performer in comparison to the opera hall.  Also the scenes in the rafters look terrific.

Black Levels:  Blacks are a lighter, grayer tone.  They are dark where need be and intended, but none of it ever masks any detail or hampers it.

Color Reproduction: Colors come across solid and held a little in check.

Flesh Tones:  Consistent and detailed.

Noise/Artifacts:  None witnessed.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics:  There is a great presence and sense of space in Grand Piano’s mix.  You definitely get the fell of being in a concert hall.  It definitely helps that this is a very score based film.

Low Frequency Extension:  Some good work in the orchestra section as well as some crashes that happen throughout the film.

Surround Sound Presentation:  There is a good balance of crowd and music that adjusts and differentiates from shot to shot in the film.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Clear crisp, and audible at all times, no matter how loud the concert going on is.

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Extras 

The Making Of Grand Piano (HD, 16:50) – A nice behind the scene featurette featuring interviews with cast and crew.

Interviews – These interviews actually are completely different than the ones within the “Making Of” featurette.

  • Director Eugenio Mira (HD, 13:58)
  • Elijah Wood (HD, 2o:26)

Soundtrack (HD, 3:28) – A piece where the composer and director go over the influences and crafting the soundtrack and putting it to work within the film.

Coaches (HD, 5:01) – This shows Elijah’s process of learning how to play the piano convincingly for the film.

Following Eugenio (HD, 4:56) – Cast and crew discuss what its like working with the director.

Stunts (HD, 4:07) – Highlights the stunt coordination on the film and includes some shots of testing sequences.

Visual Effects (HD, 3:26) – A sequence on how they made the opera house using CG.

Wayne’s Shot (HD, 4:33) – A piece, including storyboards, on shooting one of the most difficult shots in the film.

AXS TV: A Look At Grand Piano (HD, 2:52) – A short EPK promo that aired on the AXS TV network.

Also From Magnolia Home Entertainment: Trailers for Nymph()maniac, Stage Fright, The Protector 2, Chideo, AXS TV

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 Summary 

Grand Piano is a terrific thriller and one that I think works like gangbusters especially for the home viewing crowd.  This Blu-ray comes highly recommended as it has a solid video quality with a pretty awesome audio mix.  Also, the film is loaded with plenty of extras.  I think while this film came out in 2013, its more of a 2014 film as it hasn’t been readily accessible to audiences til now.  And in that regard the film is definitely one of the year’s best and it’s Blu-ray is worth a spot in your collection.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

2 Responses to “Grand Piano (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    Really solid flick. Nice to see it has a solid Blu-ray release too.

  2. Brian White

    Yeah I loved the trailer of this flick. Reminded me so much of Phone Booth, which I liked! Great to see this is also a killer Blu-ray release too!