Hop is one of the most recent DVD offerings from Film Movement, a relative newcomer to the field. Essentially, Film Movement releases one title per month; but these aren't your average, run-of-the-mill Blockbuster releases...these are films from all over the world, covering a wide range of genres and cultures. While you can buy these releases directly from the official website (a link is provided below), the most beneficial option is membership: for a relatively low monthly fee, each release is shipped right to your door (sort of like a subscription-based Criterion Collection). If you ask me, it's a great idea, and I'm surprised this method hasn't been used more often. Hopefully, Film Movement will be able to establish a solid fan base in the coming months, as they really seem to be in it for the art of moviemaking.
Anyway, we have a DVD to review here, so back to business. Hop is a landmark achievement for the country of Belgium: Released in 2002, it was their first movie shot digitally (much like the recent Star Wars abominatio…I mean, prequels). While the technical aspects of this film almost overshadow the actual film itself, it's not a bad little story. Here's the basic plot outline: A young African boy and his father---both refugees from Burundi---are living illegally in Belgium. Through a series of events started by an incident with their neighbors, the boy ends up in trouble with the law, eventually ending up separated from his father. Naturally, the main objective is the attempted reunion between the two.
Overall, I found the story to be a little far-fetched, but still enjoyable and entertaining. That's not to say that these events couldn't happen in real life, it's just that the basic story here seems like an odd choice for a movie. I'll be honest here: the acting wasn't exactly the greatest, but at least the characters were interesting. Still, the photography is stunning, and it's easy to appreciate this film visually…even if the story isn't completely your cup of tea. The black and white images are nothing short of spectacular, and speak volumes for the production quality of the film. While I couldn't recommend Hop based on the story alone, there's much more to it than meets the eye. Additionally, Film Movement has put together a decent DVD release for this movie, and it makes for a solid overall experience. Let's see how this disc held up:
Quality Control Department
As expected for a digitally-shot movie, this looks very sharp and clear. Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, this black and white movie has a great overall appearance. Without the usual dirt and other debris which can mar traditional film transfers, Hop is as clean as it gets. While this isn't quite as pleasing on the eye as say, The Man Who Wasn't There, this is a very satisfactory presentation. In short, a fine effort by Film Movement…hopefully they'll keep up the great work!
Presented in Dolby Surround, the audio is quite good also. While Hop is heavy on the dialogue, everything is easily heard and comes through clearly. The surrounds are occasionally put to use for ambient sound and other atmospheric effects as well. Overall, this is a nice mix that really adds to the quality of the presentation…a weak mono track would have brought down the overall effect of the movie down, but this is luckily a much stronger effort.
Extras are a little on the skinny side. Included here are Text Biographies of the director and a few cast members, as well as the film's Trailer. There's also a few other extras which aren't related to Hop, but fall under the "Also available from Film Movement" category: a few pages of Advertisements and other info about the company, as well as a Trailer for The Party's Over, a political documentary starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman (see the review link below). The last extra is apparently a regular on Film Movement releases, the Short Film of the Month. This month's short film happens to be the directorial debut of Sofia Coppola, director of this year's Lost In Translation. This film (titled Lick The Star) runs 13 minutes, and was originally released in 1998. Like Hop, this was filmed in black and white, but the two are very different. This short film focuses on the lives of a few junior high school girls, one of which is the mastermind of a plot to poison the boys of the school. It's not the most interesting short film I've ever seen, but it was still a welcome surprise.
Menu design and presentation:
The menus and presentation for Hop were excellent, and very tastefully done. Animated scenes from the film highlight the easy-to-read navigation and layout of the main menu, while the main theme plays in the background. I don't have the outer packaging on hand yet, but I'm interested in seeing if any special efforts were made in that department. Overall, a nice job by Film Movement.
Should anything else have been included?
Well, while the extras here give us a taste of other releases from Film Movement, there should have been a bit more attention paid to the main feature itself. Interviews with the director or cast would have helped me appreciate the efforts more, and an audio commentary may have been a welcome addition (though I'm not sure of the extent of the language barrier). This was a visual milestone in Belgium cinema, so it would have also been nice to delve more into the production of the film. In any case, this disc is a little thin, all things considered.
The technical aspects of this disc really help the overall experience. While Hop wasn't the most engrossing film (foreign or otherwise) that I've seen recently, it wasn't a bad effort. Film Movement did a nice job on the disc, but the extras could have been punched up a bit for the film itself. In any case, you can consider this disc Recommended…it won't appeal to all audiences, but it's worth checking out so you can decide for yourself. While it's a little on the expensive side, the asking price of $29.95 is for non-members...subscribers can pay as little as $15 per film, shipped free. With that said, Film Movement is definitely a company to watch in the near future…while their current library may be a bit small, it's growing by the month. Check out more information by using the links below, and see if you can't find something you like.
The Official Film Movement Website
List of All DVD Talk Reviews for Film Movement Releases
Randy Miller III is a part-time cartooning instructor based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects and works in an art gallery. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, general debauchery, and writing things in third person.