Blu-ray Review Erin Brockovich Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Kevin EK, Jun 18, 2012.

  1. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Producer
    Reviewer

    Joined:
    May 9, 2003
    Messages:
    3,035
    Likes Received:
    494
    XenForo Template Erin Brockovich arrives on Blu-ray with a new 2K transfer that has some issues, and a port of the extras previously found on the original DVD edition.  The movie itself continues to entertain, anchored by an Oscar-winning performance in the title role by Julia Roberts, and helped greatly by the direction of Steven Soderbergh, who keeps matters from getting bogged down.  Viewers with smaller sets will have less of an issue with the new transfer, but anyone with an HDTV or projection system in the 80” or higher range will have real problems here.     http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007N31YQ6/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=htfreviews-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B007N31YQ6 Studio: Universal/Columbia/Jersey Films Year: 2000 Length: 2 hrs 12 mins Genre:  Drama/Court Case   Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 BD Resolution and Codec: 1080p, VC-1 (@ an average 33 mbps) Audio:  English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (@ an average 2.6 mbps), French DTS 5.1, Spanish DTS 5.1 Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish Film Rating: R (Language)   Release Date: June 5, 2012   Starring:  Julia Roberts, Albert Finney, Aaron Eckhart   Written by: Susannah Grant Directed by: Steven Soderbergh     Film Rating: 4/5   For a movie that’s ostensibly about a David vs. Goliath court case over some serious and tragic health issues, Erin Brockovich is a remarkably light and funny movie.  The reason is clearly the title character as played by Julia Roberts – an unskilled former beauty queen trying to figure out how to survive and support no less than 3 children as a single mother.  She’s a model of being a universe unto herself – she emits a wave of self-confidence while showing a layer of suppressed panic just beneath the surface.  And while she drops nearly as many f-bombs as Tony Montana, she also somehow manages to dazzle the other characters and the audience.   Watching the movie today, it’s no wonder that Julia Roberts earned an Oscar here.  Her performance is electric.  Of course, there is a real story going on at the same time, and it’s mostly based on the real events involved in a major lawsuit brought against PG&E by the residents of Hinkley, California.  And that story is compelling.  But what gives the movie its kick is the fact that the primary catalyst for the situation is Erin, who has to be the last person you’d expect to take on the role she eventually does.  Some notice must also be given to the great supporting work of Albert Finney as Ed Masry and Aaron Eckhart as Erin’s biker boyfriend.  And a nod should be given to Tracey Walters, whose heart-rending performance nearly steals a crucial scene from Roberts – which is no mean feat.   SPOILERS HERE:  There’s a refreshing ease with the way Steven Soderbergh has directed this film.  The story really moves along, even with the weight of all the reams of paperwork and evidence we see Erin carefully gathering as the lawsuit progresses into arbitration.  It’s a sign of Soderbergh’s skill that some of the most important dramatic scenes of the movie are also the funniest moments of the movie.  Erin’s showdown with the PG&E lawyers where she helpfully offers that the water they’re drinking was brought in just for them from Hinckley is a typical example of this.  Her big victory over her boss’ partners is marked not just by the fact that she’s collected over 600 consent forms by herself but by her flip reaction to her critics’ dismissal of her.  And Soderbergh is clever enough to have the movie end with Albert Finney actually getting the last laugh, in a neat reversal of a quote from the first five minutes of the movie.   That said, there’s one shot early on that I’m still trying to unravel.  In a single shot, with no visible cuts, we see Julia Roberts get in her car, pull off the curb and head into the intersection at Magnolia and Lankershim – and then the car gets pummeled by a speeding Jaguar running a red light.  Now, there’s no way that anyone would have actually put Roberts in a car and then put her in a terrible accident.  So there has to be a cut somewhere right after we last see her clearly in the car.  But that cut is very hard to spot – I think I’ve found it and that’s only after repeated viewings on freeze frame.   Erin Brockovich was released on Blu-ray on June 5th.  The new Blu-ray arrives with a new 2K VC-1 transfer, a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix of the sound, and the extras from the original DVD released in 2000.  To this has been added two 2012 Universal 100th Anniversary featurettes.  The packaging also includes the 2000 DVD and instructions for downloading a digital copy.  This is also the latest release to not have a regular Main Menu.  Instead, the movie starts up right away, and you’ll need to hit the pop-up menu to access any functionality.     VIDEO QUALITY  2 ½/5   Erin Brockovich is presented in a 1080p VC-1 1.85:1 picture transfer that looks like it was carried over from the 2007 HD-DVD but is actually a new 2K scan.  The problems show up right away in the opening interview scene, where hard digital noise can be seen on the walls of the room, and extra outlines can be seen on the hard straight lines of the windows behind the doctor.  When the scene cuts outside, the out-of-focus people walking away from Erin appear to be in a world of digital pointillism.  All of this is a sign of digital sharpening.  This doesn’t remain consistent throughout the movie.  Later close-ups of Erin show a satisfying amount of detail and don’t seem to have the same sharpening issues.  As I understand it, this transfer was approved by Steven Soderbergh.  All I can think is that he didn’t mind the digital look.   AUDIO QUALITY  3 ½/5   Erin Brockovich is presented in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that provides a great presentation to the dialogue and music filling the movie.  This is a movie about the dialogue and the mix delivers that very clearly.  The surrounds and the subwoofer get their cues from the Thomas Newman score and the songs that occasionally pop up.  French and Spanish DTS mixes are also included on the disc.   SPECIAL FEATURES   3/5   The Blu-ray presentation of Erin Brockovich comes with the same special features as the 2000 DVD, with a pair of the new 100th Anniversary featurettes added in.     My Scenes – The usual Blu-ray bookmarking feature is available here, allowing the viewer to set their own bookmarks throughout the film.   Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Steven Soderbergh (30:07 Total, 480p, Anamorphic) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON DVD & BLU-RAY) – About half an hour of deleted scene material is presented, with an option to listen to Steven Soderbergh’s commentary about why the material was cut out of the movie.  Most of the material is what Soderbergh rightly calls “shoe leather”, just extending the length of a scene or repeating a beat already done earlier in the movie.  The scenes are all presented in a pile – there is no division into their individual parts.  The other oddity is that this is the only commentary on the disc.  I would have thought that Soderbergh would have done a full commentary rather than just the deleted material.   Spotlight on Location: The Making of Erin Brockovich  (15:12, 480p, Full Frame) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON DVD & BLU-RAY) – This featurette, originally from the 2000 DVD, goes over the basics of the movie, including interviews with the producers, cast and the real people on whom the movie is based.  There’s a generous amount of on-set footage intercut with the usual interviews and mutual compliments.   Erin Brockovich: A Look a Real-Life Experience (3:58, 480p, Full Frame) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON DVD & BLU-RAY) – This short featurette, originally from the 2000 DVD, consists of additional interview material with the real Erin Brockovich and the real Ed Masry.   Theatrical Trailer (2:33, 480p, Non-Anamorphic Letterbox) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON DVD & BLU-RAY) –  A  letterboxed copy of the movie’s original theatrical trailer is included here.  If anything, it’s a good distillation of Julia Roberts’ performance..   100 Years of Universal:  Academy Award Winners (9:35, 1080p) (BLU-RAY ONLY) – This high definition featurette discusses the Universal movies that have won the Best Picture Oscar, and then gets into the various actors and creative people who have won for their work on Universal movies.  Most of the running time is taken up with clips from the movies in discussion.   100 Years of Universal:  The Lot (9:25, 1080p) (BLU-RAY ONLY) – This high definition featurette gets into the backlot itself and the various famous stages and settings.  The ever-present Studio Tour is mentioned in passing – one of the interesting parts of shooting at the Universal Backlot is that you will regularly see Tour trams roll by your set.  The famous “Phantom” soundstage where the set of the opera still stands is shown.  The Bates House is also shown, including some information on how it originally only had the two sides you saw in Psycho but was later augmented to finish it off.  Selected areas of the backlot exteriors are also shown, including the lake, the Western area, a Roman forum built for Spartacus and a pass by the other streets.  (For the record, the European Street is a very interesting construct on the side of a hill which both looks realistic and is fairly simple to film.)  But, of course, no mention is made about the fact that since the late 60s, it hasn’t been the movies but rather the TV shows that kept the lot constantly humming.  Speaking from the experience of my crew, I can attest that during the 1970s, there was a heck of a lot of TV work and feature work keeping that lot running like a factory.  In many cases, people actually worked for the LOT, and not for individual productions.  Construction workers would report to the mill and then be sent off to the various stages to do work assignments for the different TV shows, reporting back to the foremen when done with each task.  This is a part of the business we’ve lost over the years, and it’s one that probably hasn’t been documented that well.  It’s the same sort of idea mentioned in the Wizard of Oz commentary by Margaret O’Brien – how in the 1930s, actors would be under contract to a studio and would report to the Makeup Building at their calltime in the early morning before being dispatched to whatever stage their current movie was filming…   SD DVD – (1.85:1 Anamorphic Letterbox) – As a bonus, the package also contains the 2000 standard definition DVD of the movie.   This DVD contains the movie with an English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448 kbps) mix and a French Dolby Surround mix.  It contains the move-specific featurettes seen above, along with the deleted scenes and the trailer.  There’s also a menu listing other Julia Roberts and Steven Soderbergh films current to 2000, with trailers available for some of them.  The production notes and DVD-Rom extras typical for a 2000 release are also included.   Digital Copy – Instructions are included in the packaging for downloading a digital copy of the movie to your laptop or portable device.  The instructions include a deadline of December 31, 2013 for activation.    The movie and special features are subtitled in English, Spanish and French. The usual chapter and pop-up menus are present.  As I said, there is no Main Menu, but you can access everything you need via the pop-up option.  I do need to note again that this tendency is becoming a bit annoying, in that you have no option but to start the movie right away.  You can pause it in its first moments, but I’m not a fan of the idea of being thrown right in.  I’m sure that there are many readers who will have the opposite impression and would rather get on with it, but this is not a trend of which I’m a fan.     IN THE END...   Erin Brockovich is an entertaining movie that serves as a good reminder of how it was Julia Roberts captivated audiences only a few years ago.  The performances throughout are solid, as is the direction by Steven Soderbergh – taking what could have been a deadly serious idea and peppering it with humor in the most unexpected places.  It’s a shame that the Blu-ray has not been given anything more than what looks like a cursory 2K transfer with sharpness issues.  A little more TLC might have made a difference here.   Kevin Koster June 17, 2012.   Equipment now in use in this Home Theater:   Panasonic 65” VT30 Plasma 3D HDTV – set at “THX” picture mode Denon AVR-3311Cl Receiver Oppo BDP-93 Blu-ray Player PS3 Player (used for calculation of bitrates for picture and sound) 5 Mirage Speakers (Front Left/Center/Right, Surround Back Left/Right) 2 Sony Speakers (Surround Left/Right – middle of room) Martin Logan Dynamo 700 Subwoofer http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007N31YQ6/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=amazonbuyitnow-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B007N31YQ6
     
  2. Ted Van Duyn

    Ted Van Duyn Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2003
    Messages:
    200
    Likes Received:
    21
    Geez, it seems like every Universal title that gets reviewed is like spinning wheel on what's wrong with the disc. Nothing is consistent except that it disappoints.
     
  3. Radioman970

    Radioman970 Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2006
    Messages:
    6,878
    Likes Received:
    737
    Location:
    Could be anywhere
    Real Name:
    James Perry
    Refined reviewing.
    I always liked the look of this film. A shame they didn't get it right.
     
  4. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Producer
    Reviewer

    Joined:
    May 9, 2003
    Messages:
    3,035
    Likes Received:
    494
    I should address the issue of whether all the reviews are hyper-critical of Universal Blu-rays.

    I have tended to give the benefit of the doubt where I can, and most of my reviews have been fairly positive.
    I was very happy with the Blu-ray releases of To Kill a Mockingbird, All Quiet on the Western Front, Pillow Talk, etc. I was also happy with the catalogue release of The Deer Hunter earlier this year. I noted that Smokey & The Bandit had consistency issues, but that the movie still worked for me.

    In the case of The Sting and this release, there were noticeable issues that get more pronounced the larger the screen on which they are seen. Were I to ignore those issues, I would receive the same criticism I used to get when I was evaluating the releases with a 40" HDTV. I do make the point that if you're watching on a smaller HDTV, the problems will be less noticeable.

    As far as the current releases (meaning 2012 feature films at this time), my reviews vary based on the movies themselves. The picture and sound are usually great. I noted some noise in Big Miracle, but also allowed for that in the review without trashing the disc. On the other hand, if I have to sit through a movie like Contraband, Gone or Man on a Ledge, there's not much I can do other than warn the viewer away. Not because the transfer is bad, but because it's a great transfer of a bad movie.
     
  5. MattGuyOR

    MattGuyOR Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2001
    Messages:
    114
    Likes Received:
    0
    Should I hang onto my HD DVD? Does it look better?
     
  6. gomezfan69

    gomezfan69 Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2006
    Messages:
    135
    Likes Received:
    0
    Real Name:
    jason stocker
    I'm quite happy with the Sony release. It doesn't look like the caps for the Universal release that I've seen. Much more natural.
     
  7. FoxyMulder

    FoxyMulder 映画ファン

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2009
    Messages:
    5,236
    Likes Received:
    1,614
    Location:
    Scotland
    Real Name:
    Malcolm
    Here is the thing though, a very good transfer ( doesn't have to be great ) will look respectable on all screen sizes, if the studio does something it shouldn't then the transfer quality breaks down, especially noticeable if the screen size is larger, so maybe a review should be much more critical based on this very fact, i mean is it asking too much for them to just do the film scan and then make their 2K master and transfer the film to Blu ray with a nice quality encode without adding in any "enhancements" such as excessive de-graining or excessive sharpening tools which add edge enhancement, they call the latter "aperture correction."

    Other studio's consistently do it right these days, why is Universal not so consistent, that's the big question for me.
     
  8. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Producer
    Reviewer

    Joined:
    May 9, 2003
    Messages:
    3,035
    Likes Received:
    494
    I could certainly be much more critical about a lot of things in my reviews, but I try to stay consistent. There are Blus I have seen that I had problems with, and I have given specific reasons in every case. I believe that Universal doesn't have a single team working on every Blu-ray that comes out. Some are better than others, and I understand that they are listening to these concerns and trying to do better work. In multiple cases this year, we have seen good results. I continue to hope that we will continue to see them. If not, I'll be happy to indicate when I see a problem.
     

Share This Page