Blu-ray Review Brazil Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Matt Hough, Dec 2, 2012.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    Terry Gilliam’s Brazil is a madcap satirical romp where serious commentary on rampant bureaucracy mixes with idyllic love fantasies and the threat of technological usurpation of humanity in equal measure. In typical Gilliam style, it’s alternately brilliant and frustrating, mystic and childish, comical and tragic with a definite lean toward the nihilistic. In short, it’s a film no admitted movie buff should ever deprive himself of seeing. He may not like everything he views, but he won’t be able to deny that a master filmmaker with perhaps too many creative ideas is at work. 





    Brazil (Blu-ray)
    Directed by Terry Gilliam

    Studio: Criterion
    Year: 1985
    Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1   1080p   AVC codec
    Running Time: 142 minutes
    Rating: R
    Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 surround English
    Subtitles:  SDH

    Region: A
    MSRP: $ 49.95


    Release Date: December 4, 2012

    Review Date: December 2, 2012




    The Film

    4.5/5


    In an unnamed time in the near future, a computer error in the Ministry of Information leads to the death of an innocent Mr. Buttle while the intended target Archibald Tuttle (Robert De Niro) continues to prowl the city with his insurrectionists battling the governmental bureaucrats whenever and wherever he can. In trying to rectify the Ministry’s error, mid-level civil servant Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) goes to the Buttle home to deliver a compensation check, and there he first encounters a mystical girl he’s been having heroic dreams about, Jill Layton (Kim Greist). Sam learns that because Jill saw the government haul away the innocent Buttle, she too is on the list to be eradicated, so he makes it his mission to somehow save her. To do this, he must come into direct conflict with his bosses Kurtzmann (Ian Holm), Warrenn (Peter Vaughan), and his best friend Jack Lint (Michael Palin) who has a higher ranking post at the ministry than he does.


    Gilliam’s brilliantly satirical script was additionally developed by Tom Stoppard and then later in conjunction with Charles McKeown (who has a devastatingly funny cameo role in the film as a slow-witted ministry clerk sharing side-by-side offices with Sam) resulting in a movie with so many ideas (both verbal and visual – the production design of the movie which was Oscar-nominated is indeed a mind-numbing triumph) it’s practically bursting at the seams. Governmental red tape and the corresponding drones who dutifully follow the company line come in for the most barbs, but there isn’t much about this nightmarish future society that Gilliam doesn’t skewer (the addiction to elaborate ducting no longer possible to hide behind walls, ceilings, and floors is especially prominent making for one of the film’s most visible and disturbing recurring images). Sam’s elaborate fantasies with him as a muscular avenging angel/warrior have the kind of lyricism that Gilliam adores contrasting with the bombastic, ugly reality that is Sam's everyday existence. Sam’s search for his idealized love object (who in real life is a down and dirty trucker who can toe the line with any man) sputters the plot forward constantly, but knowing Gilliam’s usual dramatic proclivities means it isn’t likely to end in idyllic fashion. As the film basically pits dreams versus nightmares throughout, its bittersweet tone and wrenching denouement make for a cinematic sock to the solar plexus that leaves one feeling rather pistol-whipped by the end. But the overall journey with its amazing visuals and the endless creative complexities of its conception continue to amaze with each trip to Gilliam's netherworld created by the ironic buoyancy of the movie’s title song.


    Jonathan Pryce makes for a very effective dweebish everyman, and his growing dissatisfaction with the bureaucracy that employs him is palpable as the film runs. Kim Greist is a fetching and plucky female warrior. Robert De Niro’s three scenes all involve heroic derring-do and feature exhilarating stunt work and the actor’s own brand of crinkly charisma. Michael Palin offers his usual flustered friend who grows more serious as the film plays leading to a great surprise revelation by the end. Also very effective are Ian Holm as the dithery incompetent boss who’s lost without Sam as his right-hand man, Bob Hoskins as a dim but proud low-level worker who is determined to have the last say when he feels he’s been insulted, and Katherine Helmond as Sam’s mother addicted to plastic surgery but whose satirical uses in the film aren’t fully realized.



    Video Quality

    4.5/5


    The movie has been framed at 1.78:1 for this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. It’s a stunning-looking encode with superb sharpness which offers tons of detail to the viewer and color saturation which is rich without ever going overboard. Flesh tones are very realistic and appealing throughout. While black levels may be a shade or two lighter than optimum levels, the wonderfully dialed-in contrast makes the most of the image quality and is by far the best the movie has ever looked on home video. The film has been divided into 20 chapters.



    Audio Quality

    4.5/5


    The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo surround track might not have the rich fidelity of more modern movie fantasies, but it plays quite well for the purposes of this movie. If the explosions lack a bit of depth and impact (and there are a fair number of them in the movie), the other sound effects and the music all come forth very well in this lossless transfer. Dialogue is always discernible and has been placed in the center channel when decoded by Dolby Prologic.



    Special Features

    5/5


    The audio commentary is the only bonus feature on disc one of this set. It’s by writer-director Terry Gilliam, and it is chock full of his views of the film’s strengths and weaknesses. He also states his own case for the final edit of the movie (covered elsewhere in the bonus materials) and seems proud in general of the final product.


    The Criterion Blu-rays include a maneuvering tool called “Timeline” which can be pulled up from the menu or by pushing the red button on the remote. It shows you your progress on the disc, the title of the chapter you’re now in, and index markers for the commentary that goes along with the film, all of which can be switched on the fly. Additionally, two other buttons on the remote can place or remove bookmarks if you decide to stop viewing before reaching the end of the film or want to mark specific places for later reference.


    The remaining bonus features are contained on disc two in the set. They’re in 1080i unless otherwise noted.


    “What is Brazil?” is a 29-minute overview of the movie’s themes and intentions featuring interviews with Terry Gilliam, film editor Julian Doyle, co-writers Tom Stoppard and Charles McKeown, and cast members Jonathan Pryce, Michael Palin, Katherine Helmond, and Kim Greist.


    The Production Notebook is a series of brief video essays and featurettes on different aspects of the film’s craft:


    • “We’re All in It Together” contains comments from the film’s three writers talking about their individual work on the movie focusing especially on how Stoppard’s work ethic did not jibe at all with Gilliam’s. It runs 10 ¾ minutes.
    • “Dreams Unfulfilled” focuses on eight fantasy sequences which didn’t make it into the final cut of the movie. They’re represented in storyboards and explained by Brazil expert David Morgan in this 21 ¼-minute featurette in 1080p.
    • “Designing Brazil details the collective work of production designer Norman Garwood, costume designer James Acheson, special effects supervisor George Gibbs, and models and props by Richard Conway. David Morgan’s narration highlights this 20 ¾-minute feature in 1080p.
    • “Flights of Fantasy” deals with Brazil’s special effects work especially in the fantasy sequences in this 9 ¾-minute piece in 1080p.
    • “Fashions and Fascism” takes a more detailed look at costume designer James Acheson’s look for several of the characters in this 7-minute 1080p vignette.
    • Brazil’s Score” is narrated by composer Michael Kamen who talks about his original music for the movie mixed in with various musical phrases from the song “Brazil” which he didn’t write but which is woven throughout the movie. This lasts 9 ¾ minutes.

    “The Battle of Brazilis the 55 ¼-minute documentary produced by Criterion in 1996 for the laserdisc release detailing the “war” between Universal head man Sid Steinberg and director Terry Gilliam when the studio refused to release the movie in the United States after Fox had successfully launched it in Europe.


    Brazil: the 'Love Conquers All' cut” is the 93 ¾-minute cut version of the movie which eliminates most of the satire of Gilliam’s film and turns the movie into as close to a standard love story as it could have been made. This also features optional commentary by David Morgan who details what’s been cut and how the cuts and added scenes or lines change the tone and theme of the movie. It’s presented in 1080i and a 4:3 aspect ratio.


    The theatrical trailer runs 2 ½ minutes.


    The enclosed 18-page booklet contains the chapter listing, the cast and crew lists, and critic David Sterritt's critique of the movie.



    In Conclusion

    4.5/5 (not an average)


    One of the great cult movies of the last quarter of the 20th century, Brazil is also one of the most salient satires of its time, a movie that plays even more effectively now than it did on first release, and a film that fairly glows in this new Blu-ray release from Criterion. Highly recommended!




    Matt Hough

    Charlotte, NC

     
  2. Peter McM

    Peter McM Supporting Actor

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    Borrowed this from the library once. Will get from BB this week while it's 50% off MSRP.
     
  3. bigshot

    bigshot Cinematographer

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    I'm sticking with the Universal release of this one. Even the theatrical version seems too long to me. 20 more minutes more would put me asleep long before the end comes.
     
  4. Steve Tannehill

    Steve Tannehill Ambassador

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    I still can't believe that the Love Conquers All version was the first version aired in syndication back in the 80's.
    Thanks for the review. I can finally retire the DVD set.
     
  5. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?
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    The other blu ray is a completely different cut?
     
  6. JoHud

    JoHud Producer

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    Yes, the theatrical cut is on the Universal disc and not included in the Criterion releases.
     
  7. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?
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    Ok thats what I thpught, thanks.
     
  8. dpippel

    dpippel HTF Premium Member
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    Thanks for your review Matt. One of my favorite films. Can't wait to check out the new Blu!
     
  9. Lord Dalek

    Lord Dalek Cinematographer

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    Well if you want a breakdown...

    US Theatrical Cut (132 Minutes) - Universal Blu-ray
    US "Love Conquers All" Cut (98 minutes) - Criterion Blu-ray (Note this is an upres from a standard def copy. it was edited electronically on videotape and remastering is impossible)
    US Criterion "Final Cut" (Approx. 141 Minutes) - Criterion Blu-ray
    INTERNATIONAL VERSION (142 Minutes) - I think this is officially withdrawn in favor of the final cut. Might be available in Japan as it was on Laserdisc there.
     
  10. Mark Walker

    Mark Walker Cinematographer
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    Thanks for the great review!
    This was my favorite DVD set for a long time. I look forward to the upgrade to Blu.
     
  11. LatheOfHeaven

    LatheOfHeaven Auditioning

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    Hello!
    I joined here for the specific purpose of asking this... :)
    I just read the review here and on Bluray.com about this new Criterion release of 'BRAZIL'; I have the Universal version on Blu-ray. Now I KNOW that the running times are different, that's fine. BUT, I think it's kind of weird that NO ONE is comparing the Video and Audio quality of these two versions. Almost ALWAYS on Blu-ray.com, for example, if there is an earlier version they will mention it and specifically state any comparisons in Video quality, etc. But like this review here, it's almost as if there ISN'T any other version, which I think is VERY strange considering that one is from Universal and this one is from Criterion.
    Sooooo, I would truly appreciate it tremendously if anyone here is well acquainted with both versions and if you could kindly comment on if there are any striking differences or things to note between the two versions, with the exception of the extra 10 minutes of course. Also, if you want to give your opinion as to whether you think the additional 10 minutes really adds to the film substantially, if it really makes much difference, or it you prefer the Universal 132 minute version. That would be most helpful!
    Thanks to all!
    ____________L@the Of Heaven
     
  12. Yorkshire

    Yorkshire Screenwriter

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    I have the UK Blu-ray Disc which is, unless I'm very much mistaken, the 'International Cut'. The UK Blu-ray Disc is Fox, the standard US disc is Universal, and this one (obviously) Criterion. My understanding is that each of these three companies currently holds the rights to the cut on their disc. I'll check out the running time of the UK disc when I get chance.
    I also have the Universal Blu-ray Disc, so when this arrives I'll have all 4 cuts.
    I believe there's a fifth cut, but I don't know what the other one is.
    Steve W
     
  13. Radioman970

    Radioman970 Lead Actor

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    I'm staying with what I have too, Universal BD. Last time I watched it I was stunned at how much better (in every way) it was than the single disc Criterion DVD I bought years back. I believe that was the director's cut. And I sold my VHS of the cut I was used to even before the DVD arrived in the mail. Hugely disappointed. But the Universal blu is exactly what I wanted to see again. I'll stick with it for aaaaall times. No more upgrades required, the film looks beautiful. Now, they can redo Time Bandits any day now. And tackle Jabberwocky too! I have 2 DVDs of Jabberwocky, but I'll gladly throw those in the closet for a bluray.
     
  14. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    If I owned the Universal Blu-ray, I most certainly would have done an A-B comparison, but since I didn't already have it, I had nothing to compare the Criterion to.
     
  15. joshEH

    joshEH Producer

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    Criterion actually upgraded most of the laserdisc supplements to 1080-rez? Huh. Pretty cool.
    Mine just shipped from Amazon, and should be here tomorrow-ish.
     
  16. Lord Dalek

    Lord Dalek Cinematographer

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  17. jeffsultanof

    jeffsultanof Extra

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    Did I read the dvdbeaver review correctly? The sound on the Criterion is 2.0 stereo, not surround? Why was this done I wonder? Wasn't this film originally released with a Dolby stereo soundtrack?
    I'll still be purchasing the Criterion. I've loved this film ever since it was shown for a week in New York to qualify for Oscars, during the time Universal was being pressured to release it. It may be Gilliam's masterpiece.
     
  18. Scott D S

    Scott D S Supporting Actor

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    My copy won't be here till Thursday but from what I've read, it looks like the still galleries from the LD/DVD are now automated slideshows with (new?) commentary by David Morgan.
    I trust Criterion... I just hope that the analyses of the various screenplay drafts are still included. It's all very educational. :)
     
  19. bigshot

    bigshot Cinematographer

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    The film was being edited right up to the release date. It went to theaters with a temp mix. It didn't get a surround mix until it was released to laserdisc.
     
  20. Lord Dalek

    Lord Dalek Cinematographer

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    Its surround, its just not flagged to switch your pro-logic on automatically.
     

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