THE KING'S SPEECH Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Michael Reuben, Apr 12, 2011.

  1. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 1998
    Messages:
    21,763
    Likes Received:
    2
    The King’s Speech (Blu-ray)

    There’s no upside in defending a Best Picture winner, and also no need. Disappointed fans of a film that didn’t win (or wasn’t even nominated) will never be convinced, and why bother trying? The campaign is done, the vote is over and the statue has already been awarded. It’s almost a relief, because you can finally put aside the posturing and just watch the movie.

    The King’s Speech is one of those oddball films that looks like one thing, but turns out to be another. It has all the trappings of a prestige historical drama, the kind of big screen Masterpiece Theater series that routinely leaves contemporary audiences cold (The Young Victoria, anyone?). But The King’s Speech did spectacular box office, because viewers found something else: a classic buddy film (a “bromance”, as star Colin Firth called it) that was both moving and funny. This wasn’t a history lesson; it was a story about interesting people, one of whom happened to be royalty.


    Studio: AnchorBay Entertainment/The Weinstein Company
    Rated: R
    Film Length: 119 min.
    Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
    HD Encoding: 1080p
    HD Codec: AVC
    Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1
    Subtitles: English SDH; Spanish
    MSRP: $39.99
    Disc Format: 1 50GB
    Package: Keepcase
    Theatrical Release Date: Nov. 26, 2010
    Blu-ray Release Date: Apr. 19, 2011


    The Feature:

    As most people already know, The King’s Speech is the story of how England’s King George VI (Firth) overcame a crippling stammer with the help of an Australian speech therapist named Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). It would be a purely personal story, were it not for the fact that the stammerer involved couldn’t avoid public speaking and was destined (or, from the King’s point of view, condemned) to have history record those occasions.

    Then again, Albert, the Duke of York (or “Bertie”, as he was known to his family), was never supposed to be king. He spent his early life in the shadow of his older brother, David, the Prince of Wales (Guy Pearce). David cut a more traditionally royal figure and appeared to be the favorite of their father, the stern and commanding George V (Michael Gambon). Bertie served in the Royal Navy in World War I and would have been content to live a quiet life with his wife, the former Lady Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), and their two daughters, Margaret and Elizabeth (a little girl in the film, but currently England’s monarch). One of the many non-royal touches about Bertie and Elizabeth when we first meet them in The King’s Speech is their residence: not a palace, but a townhouse (admittedly, a very large one).

    But even a lesser member of the royal family must perform public functions. The film opens with Bertie’s disastrous attempt to give the closing address at the Empire Exhibition at Wembley in 1925 – and right at the outset, director Tom Hooper begins what he calls “subverting the cliches of royal drama”. The future king and queen are not attired or lit any differently from the rest of the crowd, nor are they positioned in any place of honor. Hooper includes enough long shots to provide a sense of the crowd’s size, so that Bertie’s stage fright is understandable, but most shots are close-ups suitable for a horror film. Either they show Bertie’s terrified point of view as he approaches or stares at the microphone, or they push in at an odd angle on Bertie’s face frozen with fear.

    When the stammer finally arrives, it’s almost an afterthought, because Hooper has already conveyed Bertie’s predicament visually. This is the story of a man who’s stuck and needs to get unstuck.

    It is Bertie’s wife, Elizabeth, who finds Logue and persuades him to see her husband (with, of course, absolute discretion). Here again, director Hooper goes against expectations. Less than 20 minutes into the film, he steers it into a nine-minute two-hander between Bertie and Logue. If you step back and think about it for a moment, the risk is breathtaking. How many major motion pictures just let characters talk to each other these days? And, as Geoffrey Rush wondered when they were making the film, who wants to see a movie about two middle-aged men becoming friends?

    A lot of people, as it turned out. Indeed, when you first watch this extended scene between Logue and the future king, you’re not even aware of the time passing. The situation is so odd, screenwriter David Seidler’s dialogue is so crisply efficient, and the energy with which Rush’s Logue and Firth’s Bertie thrust, parry and circle each other is so crackling and alive that the sequence keeps you fully engaged. (In a clever move, Hooper chose it for the first day of shooting, so that Rush and Firth brought all the nervous energy of starting the film to their characters’ initial encounter.)

    For the rest of the film, Hooper and editor Tariq Anwar take great pains to preserve the right balance between the evolving Bertie/Lionel friendship and the march of historical events that elevates the friendship’s importance to official status. Bertie’s stammer would have remained a minor public embarrassment, if his brother, after ascending the throne as Edward VIII in January 1936, had not turned around and abandoned it later that year to marry an American divorcee, Wallis Simpson (Eve Best). The result, often called “the Abdication Crisis”, threw the country into chaos. The British monarchy may be little more than a symbol, but it’s a symbol representing continuity, while governments come and go. No British monarch had ever abdicated, and certainly not for something so trivial as love. With limited screen time, Guy Pearce manages to convey a sense of David/Edward’s immense charm, along with the personal flaws that made him abandon his post at a crucial juncture for the country.

    Logue coaches Bertie through his coronation in 1937, but their greatest challenge lies ahead. When Hitler invades Poland in 1939, England and Germany go to war. The King is now expected to address the nation and the empire live by radio, precisely the sort of occasion that terrifies him with the prospect of freezing into speechless silence. “Get Logue here immediately”, he tells his staff.

    The speech that King George VI delivered on Sept. 3, 1939 does not contain any quotable rhetoric. It does not echo through history as does, say, Churchill’s “finest hour” address. The film makes it clear that the King did not even write it himself. The drama of the climactic sequence is whether Bertie can survive to the end and get all the words out – a question that was probably on the mind of many of Bertie’s listeners, since his speaking problems were common knowledge.


    Even here, the script and Hooper’s directorial approach are unexpected. Bertie’s delivery of the speech in a sound booth is preceded by what can only be described as a scene out of theater of the absurd, as Bertie and Logue rehearse using all of the unconventional techniques that Logue had developed. Colin Firth’s gift for physical comedy has been showcased before (in such films as Bridget Jones, Love Actually and Mamma Mia!), but nothing on his resumé matches the unsettling vision of a dignified man in a British naval uniform doggedly singing, waltzing and spitting out curses, all while trying to affirm the central tenets of Western civilization.

    When Firth steps into the sound booth, Hooper puts the camera right up against his face, as he did at Wembley, so that he can exploit the great gift for expressive minimalism that Firth demonstrated in films like A Single Man. But even as Firth’s expression struggles to contain the epic battle raging inside him, the antic vision of his rehearsal remains like an after-image, giving a concrete sense of the turmoil happening within Bertie over every single word. It’s one of the most unusual uses of montage in recent films.

    The King’s Speech ends at an interesting point. England is about to suffer a string of military defeats and a ruinous blitz from the Nazi war machine, but the mood is triumphant. One victory has already been achieved, and it’s the one for which the King and Lionel Logue have been working together privately for years.


    The film’s exceptional ensemble includes several standouts not already mentioned: Claire Bloom as Bertie’s emotionally frozen Queen Mother; Derek Jacobi as the Archbishop of Canterbury, who takes an instant dislike to Logue; Timothy Spall as the latest English actor to impersonate Winston Churchill; and, reuniting with Firth onscreen for the first time since Pride and Prejudice, Jennifer Ehle in the small but critical role of Logue’s wife, Myrtle. It is Myrtle who provides the sole occasion on which Logue shows fear to his royal friend and patient. Having failed to tell Myrtle about his famous client, Logue is panicked when she appears unexpectedly during a session. Bertie, who is no stranger to the terror that seizes a man at the prospect of upsetting his wife, suddenly finds himself in the unaccustomed position of being able to come to Logue’s aid. He is, after all, the King of England.


    Video:

    When The King’s Speech was in theaters, the “softness” of the film’s cinematography was a subject of comment on HTF, and that softness is evident on the Blu-ray. But “softness” is not the same as indistinctness. The Blu-ray image is fully resolved and finely detailed throughout, and the “softness” is the effect of a color scheme that favors pastels and faded tones, rather than saturated hues that pop off the screen. Black levels are exceptionally accurate and deep throughout the film, and this is crucial for the many tuxedos, deep blue naval uniforms and black and grey suits in which the film’s male characters are typically attired. One other indicator of how stable the black levels are is the complete absence of any “banding” on fades, dissolves and scene transitions.

    The film was finished on a digital intermediate, from which the Blu-ray was presumably sourced. However, unlike with many contemporary films, the DI process does not appear to have been used here to eliminate all traces of film grain. There is a minor but distinct presence of grain if one looks for it. It is particularly easy to spot in outdoor scenes, most of which reflect the stereotypical English climate of rain or fog. With only one lossless audio track and one commentary track, and most special features in standard definition, the bulk of the BD-50’s available space has been devoted to optimal image quality, which means a notable absence of any compression-related issues. This is one gorgeous Blu-ray.

    Audio:

    Since sound goes to the very essence of the film’s subject, one would expect the sound editing to be a critical element of the story, and it is. For example, the concluding sequence, as the perspective continually shifts from the subjective experience of the King giving his speech in a sound booth to various listeners hearing it all over the world from a variety of receiving devices – each with its own tonal quality – is a triumph of continuity. What could easily have become a choppy distraction instead becomes almost a meditation on the two aspects of Bertie’s existence: the public persona and the private struggle that made it possible. This is sound editing at its finest and subtlest.

    Other, more traditional examples show off the DTS lossless track, such as a flyover and landing by an airplane piloted by the future King Edward, or an air raid warning as Logue rushes to Buckingham Palace, or the intimidating echoes of Bertie’s voice at his disastrous 1925 speech at Wembley. Alexandre Desplat’s jaunty classical score floats pleasantly over and above the action, and several notable works by major composers are interwoven at key moments, notably that old standby, the Allegretto from Beethoven’s 7th Symphony, which is used to underscore the King’s radio address to the empire.


    Special Features:


    I don’t want to include a separate section on disc mastering, but it should be noted that AnchorBay has mastered this disc using BD-Java, while omitting the ability to set bookmarks. No BDJ-encoded disc should ever lack this capability. BDJ prevents the user from stopping playback and starting from the same position, and bookmarking is the only workaround. Its omission is inexcusable.

    Commentary with Director Tom Hooper. Hooper offers a wealth of information about locations, script revisions, technical details, editing choices and the contribution of various actors to the script as it evolved. He also alludes to various scenes that were either dropped or radically shortened during editing, which suggests that a future edition of the film might contain deleted scenes. For example, a funeral sequence for George V was filmed but omitted, because it would have taken the film too far away from Bertie’s story. There was also a much longer version of the scene in which Bertie discusses the abdication crisis with Prime Minister Baldwin (Anthony Andrews); it was deemed too heavy on exposition that wasn’t necessary for Bertie’s story.


    The King’s Speech: An Inspirational Story of an Unlikely Friendship (SD; 1.78:1, enhanced for 16:9) (23:39). This is the same behind-the-scenes documentary that has recently been playing on the Starz network, and it’s one of the better ones I’ve seen. Nearly every major actor is interviewed, along with Hooper, producer Iain Canning and screenwriter David Seidler. The comments have a definite PR quality to them, but they also contain insights into the characters and the approach to presenting them.


    Q&A with the Director & the Cast (HD; 1.78:1) (22:01). Taped for Matt’s Movies on radio KCRW in Southern California, the panel includes Firth, Bonham Carter, Pearce, Bloom and Hooper.
    Speeches from the Real King George VI. Included are the Sept. 3, 1939 radio broadcast that serves as the film’s conclusion (5:42), and a speech captured on newsreel on May 14, 1945 announcing victory over Germany (4:3; 2:29). The 1939 recording provides an opportunity to appreciate the precision with which Colin Firth captured King George’s particular rhythms and inflections and the slight mispronunciations that were among the remaining signs of his stutter under Logue’s tutelage. (The speech included here is complete; the version in the film has been shortened.)

    The Real Lionel Logue (SD; 1.78:1, enhanced for 16:9) (10:34). This interview with Logue’s grandson, Mark, describes how a previously unknown archive of Logue’s diaries, along with correspondence between the King and Logue, was discovered after the death of Logue’s youngest son (Mark’s father). Hooper notes elsewhere in the special features that certain exchanges between Logue and Bertie were taken verbatim from these sources.

    The Stuttering Foundation (PSA) (SD; 4:3) (1:03). This effective public service announcement is delivered by a several young victims of stuttering who have clearly made enormous progress in overcoming the impediment.

    Trailers. The film’s trailer is not included. At startup, the disc plays trailers for Blue Valentine and The Company Men; these can be skipped with the chapter forward button.

    In Conclusion:

    Is The King’s Speech the best picture of 2010? I have no idea. Oscar voting produces a snapshot of opinion at a moment in time among a relatively small group of people. But the film’s box office success ($137 million domestic; $247 foreign) is a matter of record, and when such an unlikely release generates such favorable audience reaction, attention must be paid.

    Given the track record of the Weinsteins at Miramax, there will almost certainly be a deluxe edition of The King’s Speech down the line. In the meantime, anyone who wants to experience the film in a high-quality presentation can watch the Blu-ray with confidence that this cleverly executed twist on the British royalty bio-pic has been well and truly represented.

    Equipment used for this review:



    Panasonic BDP-BD50 Blu-ray player (DTS-HD MA decoded internally and output as analog)


    Samsung HL-T7288W DLP display (connected via HDMI)


    Lexicon MC-8 connected via 5.1 passthrough


    Sunfire Cinema Grand amplifier


    Monitor Audio floor-standing fronts and MA FX-2 rears


    Boston Acoustics VR-MC center


    SVS SB12-Plus sub
     
  2. Cinescott

    Cinescott Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2010
    Messages:
    848
    Likes Received:
    162
    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    Real Name:
    Scott
    Great review. Day 1 purchase for me.
     
  3. Cees Alons

    Cees Alons Moderator
    Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 1997
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    289
    Real Name:
    Cees Alons
    Michael,


    Thanks for another exquisite review!

    Several very interesting points, including the ones about choices the director made for positioning the camera (to put it simply).


    Yes, I simply had to order it. My wife wouldn't allow me not too (... Colin Firth ...



    Cees
     
  4. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 1998
    Messages:
    21,763
    Likes Received:
    2
    Related viewing note: PBS stations in America are currently airing the new series of Upstairs, Downstairs, which is set in 1936, during the brief reign of Edward VIII. In the first episode, the latest owners of 165 Eaton Place give a huge party, to which the notorious Mrs. Simpson ends up being invited. Rumors abound that she'll be bringing the new King as her guest, and everyone is on edge. The story provides a fascinating alternate perspective on some key events in The King's Speech. Check your local listings.
     
  5. SD_Brian

    SD_Brian Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2007
    Messages:
    599
    Likes Received:
    18
    Real Name:
    Brian
    I'm a bit surprised they didn't include the new "Family-Friendly" audio track they re-released to theaters so they could show a PG-13 version. Not disappointed, mind you, just surprised.
     
  6. Neil Middlemiss

    Neil Middlemiss Producer
    Reviewer

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2001
    Messages:
    3,399
    Likes Received:
    851
    Real Name:
    Neil Middlemiss
    Thanks for the reminder on Upstairs, Downstairs. I heard a story on NPR a week or so ago about the new series and have been looking forward to it. My wife and I have been enjoying Downton Abbey, an ITV show that shares some similarities (though set a couple of decades before the new Upstairs, Downstairs), and now we have something else to look foward to when we reach the end of Abbey's first season.

     
  7. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2004
    Messages:
    26,646
    Likes Received:
    3,809
    Location:
    The basement of the FBI building
    I wasn't in love with The King's Speech when I saw it (it's a good movie and the performances are great) but Michael's review just gave me a new appreciation for the movie.
     
  8. marsnkc

    marsnkc Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2006
    Messages:
    515
    Likes Received:
    81
    Real Name:
    Andrew

    Amen! He's such a brilliant writer that I often wondered what he does for a living. Didn't want to put him on the spot in a PM in case he has relatives in Corleone and would rather not say. Relieved to find out today - from a post of his on 'the day the movies died' thread - that he's a lawyer. Explains his intellectual prowess and mastery of language. Envy, envy.....
     
  9. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
    Moderator

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2001
    Messages:
    38,494
    Likes Received:
    5,748
    Location:
    Rensselaer, NY
    Finally took the opportunity to watch this title.


    The film was wonderful and the blu-ray presentation sublime.

    My wife was disappointed the score did not win the Oscar. It all sounded so beautiful throughout the presentation. I was surprised that the film did not win the Oscar for cinematography. What a beautiful film indeed.

    I also found it ironic that the actress tapped to play American Wallis Simpson was actually British.
     
  10. Cinescott

    Cinescott Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2010
    Messages:
    848
    Likes Received:
    162
    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    Real Name:
    Scott

    Probably revenge by the British for Renee Zellweger playing their beloved Bridget Jones, although Wallis Simpson isn't very beloved. Maybe it was American Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice in 1995 with Colin Firth. Interestingly, Jennifer Ehle plays Geoffrey Rush's wife in The King's Speech.


    Now that I think more about the cast, Guy Pearce is Australian and plays King Edward VIII, although Australia is a Commonwealth, so maybe that's closer.
     
  11. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 1998
    Messages:
    21,763
    Likes Received:
    2
     
  12. Cinescott

    Cinescott Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2010
    Messages:
    848
    Likes Received:
    162
    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    Real Name:
    Scott


    Agreed. Besides, "The King's Speech" when studied alone, seems to have a lot of "incestuous" actors, for lack of a better word. Guy Pearce (Australian born in England) plays just about every nationality under the sun, Jennifer Ehle (American) plays mainly British parts since I believe she lives there. A great Irish actor Michael Gambon, who plays King George V, has done multiple American projects, including Kevin Costner's "Open Range" as an evil American land baron and a recent HBO project "Path to War," playing Lyndon Johnson. Geoffrey Rush (Australian) has played numerable Americans in film. Although in "The King's Speech," he's one of the few majors that seems to be playing his own nationality.


    Many of these actors are so good that upon learning their actual nationalities, I shake my head regarding how well they "transform" into their roles.
     
  13. Paul Penna

    Paul Penna Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2002
    Messages:
    592
    Likes Received:
    90
    An interesting mix-up in two of the bonus features; in each case, when Anthony Andrews (who played Neville Chamberlain) is mentioned, it's accompanied by a clip of David Bamber playing the little theater director. One is during the making of featurette and another I think was in the clips during the Q&A.
     
  14. marsnkc

    marsnkc Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2006
    Messages:
    515
    Likes Received:
    81
    Real Name:
    Andrew


    Coincidentally, both actors appear in what in my opinion are the two greatest mini-series ever, Brideshead Revisited and Pride and Prejudice - mastepieces that make the recent movies look sadly redundant (though the latter fares much better than the former, while both suffer from the savage editing imposed on them by time constraints). Bamber's bit in Speech is a sad reminder of how under-utilized some great perfomers are. His minister in P&P is not to be missed (nor Jennifer Ehle's Elizabeth Bennett - one of the greatest performances ever committed to celluloid).
     

Share This Page