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HTF Blu-Ray Review: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

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#1 of 23 OFFLINE   PatWahlquist

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Posted October 17 2008 - 03:29 PM



Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Blu-Ray)

Studio: Dreamworks Home Video
Rated: R (for graphic bloody violence)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
HD Encoding: 1080p
HD Video Codec: VC-1
Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 5.1; Spanish, French 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish; English SDH+
Time: 116 minutes
Disc Format: 1 SS/DL BD
Case Style: Keep case
Theatrical Release Date: 2008
Blu-Ray Release Date: October 21, 2008


Johnny Depp stars as Benjamin Barker, a barber, who is unjustly sent to prison and while there, he vows revenge on the man who sent him there, the evil Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman). Turpin had developed an infatuation with Barker’s wife and found a way to get Barker imprisoned. Barker comes out of prison with the new identity of Sweeney Todd and his revenge is motivated not only by his imprisonment but also the horrible consequences to his wife and daughter. He returns to London, pallid and mad, and he opens a barbershop with the express intent of luring in his captors and killing them with a straight-edge razor. However, Todd finds he has a flair for killing and his kooky landlord, Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter), becomes an enamored and willing accomplice, who creates macabre meat pies of the remains of Todd’s work. Todd must also do battle with a rival barber, the flamboyant Signor Adolfo Pirelli (Sacha Baron Cohen), who is wise to his competition’s acts. The razor’s bloody cut runs deep while Todd tries to kill the pain in his soul, ultimately finding it may not satisfy him.

This stage to screen transition is handled quite well by director Tim Burton who infuses his usual visual stamp on the production and reminds us his love of the oddball character. He dresses Depp’s Todd in makeup and clothing suggesting a later-in-life and corrupted Edward Scissorhands, while Carter’s Lovett conveys a twisted love for the most troubled Todd. Production values on the picture comes flying off the screen in the low-tech of the spraying blood to the smooth use of CG effects, especially interesting in the beach scenes. Depp and Carter, both novice vocalists, do suitably well here, while Rickman comes off as just a little flat. Burton’s dark humor is here, yet subdued, showing a maturing in him as a director and storyteller. All in all a good production that makes me want to see the next stage version.


Video:
Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 11-S1 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 1080p. I am using a Sony Playstation 3 Blu-Ray player while a Denon 3808CI does the switching and pass through of the video signal. I am utilizing the HDMI capabilities of each piece of equipment.

The Blu-Ray disc is encoded in the VC-1 codec at 1080p with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The overall picture is very dour and drab, where the actors take on this pallor to match the London setting. More mono-chromatic black and white and at times, sepia, than color per se, there are a couple scenes of stunning vibrancy as we see Barker and his family before they were imprisoned as well as Mrs. Lovett’s dreams of a life by the sea. These colorful scenes have a golden tint to them, but the flowers surrounding the Barkers are lush and vibrant, as are the costumes of Todd and Lovett on the boardwalk. The rest of the movie uses the grays to match the mood of the picture, with a constant work out for the blacks, which are inky and deep and show excellent detail and delineation. The picture also has very good depth of field making you wince when the jugular vein is sliced, sending brilliant red blood towards the viewer. Detail and sharpness are excellent. The transfer is free of dirt and debris and I noticed no edge enhancement, DNR or other processing. I had seen this movie theatrically and here it looks as good as it did in the theater.


Audio:
The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack was attained by the HDMI connection of the PS3 to the Denon 3808CI.

The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 takes full advantage of the extra bits to give us a lush surround field where the music envelops us, leaving the dialogue in the center. All of these elements blend together quite well, but the center channel can be a bit weak at times. There is almost constant activity in all channels and excellent panning effects. LFE’s get good and low providing some good rumbling to your room. Dialogue and vocals are crisp and clear and free of any distortion.


Bonus Material: all items are in HD unless otherwise noted.

Burton + Depp + Carter = Todd (26:08): the three participants, as well as Sondheim, producer Richard Zanuck and others discuss the process they went through to make the picture. Usually these pieces have the stars and directors gushing over each other, but they’re restrained here, showing more of a mutual respect generated over a number of years and projects. They also discuss the issues the actors had with singing as most of them had not done so in the past and coordinating it during filming.

Sweeney Todd Press Conference, November, 2007 (SD) (19:41): Burton and the cast field questions from the foreign press. Everybody is pretty jovial here keeping the panel light and funny.

Sweeney Todd is Alive: The Real History of the Demon Barber (20:08): various literature professors, historians and Burton examine the legend of the Demon Barber trying to determine if there is any truth to it

Musical Mayhem: Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd (12:05): Sondheim discusses how he was inspired to write his version of Sweeney Todd’s story, combining elements of the various stories of the past. Mike Higham, music producer for the movie, discusses how he translated Sondheim’s work for the movie. Sondheim is very engaging and very appreciative of Burton’s version of his work.

Sweeney’s London (16:16): a bit of a history of the socio-economic state and the living conditions of 19th century London at the time of Sweeney Todd. The picture of London depicted here is not too flattering, nor is the potential history of Todd. The doc then delves deeper into Todd’s origin and the places his story is set in.

The Making of Sweeney Todd The Demon of Fleet Street (SD) (24:03): after watching the “Burton + Depp + Carter = Todd” piece, this is pales in comparison, it being just the standard EPK stuff. Actually, I guess, you could put the two together for a fairly decent behind the scenes piece.

Grand Guignol: A Theatrical Tradition (19:16): some professors and critics discuss the type of theater Sweeney Todd belongs to, that of the horrific and macabre guignol.

Designs for a Demon Barber (8:56): Costume Designer Coleen Atwood, Cinematographer Dante Ferretti and set decorator Francesca Lo Schiavo discuss the look Burton wanted for the movie and what they did to accomplish it. The production values of the movie are outstanding and it’s great to see how it was put together.

A Bloody Business (8:53): the makeup, prosthetics and other practical effects are explained by those responsible.

Moviefone Unscripted with Tim Burton and Johnny Depp (SD) (11:36): a frightened Burton and Depp answer fan’s questions about the movie. The boys don’t seem too interested in being there, but play along like good sports.

The Razor’s Refrain (8:40): a couple of the songs set against a backdrop of productions stills from the movie make this a bloated video.

Photo Gallery: a collection of pre-production, behind-the-scenes and finished film stills of the movie.

Theatrical Trailer


Conclusions:
A fine stage to screen transition, along with a great looking and sounding disc with plentiful extras make for a good release and evening of viewing after a hearty meal of meat pies. Never mind the finger tips.
ISO "Lost" ARG prints from Kevin Tong, Olly Moss, Eric Tan and Methane Studios.  PM me if you want to sell!

All reviews done on a Marantz VP11S1 1080p DLP projector.

Displays professionally calibrated by Gregg Loewen of Lion AV.

#2 of 23 OFFLINE   Aaron Silverman

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Posted October 17 2008 - 05:34 PM

Nice review. I haven't seen the film yet, but I love the old production with George Hearn and Angela Lansbury. I'm looking forward to this, although I'm a bit concerned about the reports of the actors' singing abilities. That sometimes drives me nuts. (For example, I thought Across The Universe was a good movie that would've been a great movie had they hired actors who were better singers.)
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#3 of 23 OFFLINE   Mike Williams

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Posted October 18 2008 - 03:24 AM

Aaron, I have seen this movie many times already. I saw it only once in the theater, but have seen it probably a half dozen times already on Blu-ray, since I got the England import months ago. The movie is fantastic, the story heartbreaking, and the singing, though not bold and boisterous as it would be on Broadway, in my opinion is actually more suited to this movie, because it is far more internalized and restrained. I thought Johnny Depp's singing fit the character to a T. And none of them are bad singers. I think you'll enjoy it a great deal. It is quickly becoming my favorite Tim Burton movie, as well as one of my favorite musicals, although I'm not a HUGE musical fan.

#4 of 23 ONLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted October 18 2008 - 06:51 AM

Definitely getting this but still nothing beats Angela Landsbury =)

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#5 of 23 OFFLINE   Joseph J.D

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Posted October 18 2008 - 04:09 PM

I'm also getting this one as well. I'm really looking forward to watching this one.
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#6 of 23 ONLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted October 18 2008 - 04:19 PM

I've had this BD for months, having imported the UK version. It sounds like the US version is pretty much the same. The PQ & SQ are terrific.

Aaron: the singing by the cast is very well done. Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Alan Rickman are acquitted themselves nicely.

There's Jessie the yodeling cowgirl. Bullseye, he's Woody's horse. Pete the old prospector. And, Woody, the man himself.Of course, it's time for Woody's RoundUp. He's the very best! He's the rootinest, tootinest cowboy in the wild, wild west!


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#7 of 23 OFFLINE   Paul D Snyder

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Posted October 20 2008 - 01:38 AM

Is the Blu Ray actually 2.35:1 aspect ratio? I only saw it once in the movie theater and thought it was 1.85:1, but my eyes could've deceived me.

?
THANKS!
Paul

#8 of 23 OFFLINE   PatWahlquist

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Posted October 20 2008 - 02:51 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul D Snyder
Is the Blu Ray actually 2.35:1 aspect ratio? I only saw it once in the movie theater and thought it was 1.85:1, but my eyes could've deceived me.

?
THANKS!
Paul

No, it's 1.85:1. I've corrected the review. I apologize for any inconvenience.
ISO "Lost" ARG prints from Kevin Tong, Olly Moss, Eric Tan and Methane Studios.  PM me if you want to sell!

All reviews done on a Marantz VP11S1 1080p DLP projector.

Displays professionally calibrated by Gregg Loewen of Lion AV.

#9 of 23 OFFLINE   RomanSohor

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Posted October 20 2008 - 02:53 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul D Snyder
Is the Blu Ray actually 2.35:1 aspect ratio? I only saw it once in the movie theater and thought it was 1.85:1, but my eyes could've deceived me.

?
THANKS!
Paul

It says its 2.35:1 in the quick rundown up top but in the detailed video review it says its 1.85:1, so you are probably correct Posted Image
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#10 of 23 OFFLINE   Paul D Snyder

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Posted October 20 2008 - 06:02 AM

Thanks guys for the quick clarification! Posted Image

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#11 of 23 OFFLINE   Aaron Silverman

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Posted October 20 2008 - 06:30 AM

Thanks, guys! Restrained singing is fine with me as long as it's in tune. Posted Image
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#12 of 23 ONLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted October 20 2008 - 06:38 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aaron Silverman
Thanks, guys! Restrained singing is fine with me as long as it's in tune. Posted Image

It's Sondheim! How can you tell, anyway?!?









Posted Image Just kidding!!! But, seriously, on the one hand Sondheim's melodies would make the singing more difficult...yet, weirdly, on the other hand they almost seem to be easier for less-quality voices. THAT is not a good description of what I mean, but I think you'll catch my drift.

Anyway, Aaron, I'll be sure interested to hear your reaction now. Posted Image

And, BTW, if you haven't picked up the Blu-ray of the 2007 revival of Company with Raul Esparza...you are really missing out. That goes for anyone who might buy Sweeney Todd on BD and likes Sondheim and any stage musicals.

There's Jessie the yodeling cowgirl. Bullseye, he's Woody's horse. Pete the old prospector. And, Woody, the man himself.Of course, it's time for Woody's RoundUp. He's the very best! He's the rootinest, tootinest cowboy in the wild, wild west!


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#13 of 23 OFFLINE   Aaron Silverman

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Posted October 20 2008 - 06:55 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Frezon
And, BTW, if you haven't picked up the Blu-ray of the 2007 revival of Company with Raul Esparza...you are really missing out. That goes for anyone who might buy Sweeney Todd on BD and likes Sondheim and any stage musicals.

Seconded. The production (where the actors play instruments on stage and there is no separate orchestra) is a little iffy, and there are no subtitles or captions (the original PBS broadcast was captioned Posted Image), but overall it's very good. Plus it includes a neat interview with Sondheim that runs a good 40 minutes IIRC.
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#14 of 23 OFFLINE   Pete Lee

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Posted October 21 2008 - 04:49 AM

Can you clarify if the aspect ratio has been changed to 1.78? The reviews on AVForums says the U.S. version is 1.78 while the UK version is 1.85.

AVForums review of U.S. version:

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street Blu-ray review at AVForums.com

AVSForums review of UK version:

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street Blu-ray review at AVForums.com

#15 of 23 OFFLINE   Jesse Blacklow

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Posted October 21 2008 - 05:50 AM

From your thread cross-posted at AVS:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Josh Z
Both the US and UK discs are 1.78:1. It is the policy of both Paramount and Warner Bros to open the mattes on all 1.85:1 movies to 1.78:1. The difference is miniscule and does not affect the compositional intent of the photography.

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#16 of 23 OFFLINE   Pete Lee

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Posted October 21 2008 - 08:43 AM

Thanks for the clarification. I didn't know this was their policy.

#17 of 23 OFFLINE   Brian Borst

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Posted October 21 2008 - 09:15 AM

Quote:
Both the US and UK discs are 1.78:1. It is the policy of both Paramount and Warner Bros to open the mattes on all 1.85:1 movies to 1.78:1. The difference is miniscule and does not affect the compositional intent of the photography.

So if it is minuscule and doesn't affect the photography, why do they do it? I always wondered about that. It doesn't make any sense to me.
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#18 of 23 OFFLINE   DeeF

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Posted October 22 2008 - 05:32 AM

If a movie is 1.85:1, it's going to present a small black area top or bottom, which might present "burn-in" problems on some monitors.

Opening it up to 1.77:1 does the movie no disservice, and it fills the 16:9 screen.

#19 of 23 OFFLINE   Paul Arnette

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Posted October 22 2008 - 06:02 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete Lee
Thanks for the clarification. I didn't know this was their policy.

I did not know this either. And I must say it was driving me crazy, particularly on WB titles where the back of the case would say 1.85:1 and the picture was 'filling up my screen'. I kept saying, 'I know I have my display set to Dot-By-Dot, what gives'? Well, at least I know what gives now. Thanks.
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#20 of 23 OFFLINE   Pete Lee

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Posted October 25 2008 - 06:48 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by DeeF
If a movie is 1.85:1, it's going to present a small black area top or bottom, which might present "burn-in" problems on some monitors.

Opening it up to 1.77:1 does the movie no disservice, and it fills the 16:9 screen.

Is this really the publicly stated rationale of the studios or reasoned speculation of their motive? Because this rationale doesn't stand up to scrutiny. We're constantly being told not to worry about burn-in on today's sets so why would some studios alter the movie's aspect ratio to mitigate the risk of burn-in? Do the studios know something consumer electronic manufacturers don't? And if burn-in is a real enough possibility to justify altering the aspect ratio, then why do only Paramount and Warner do it? Sony, Disney, Universal, Fox don't care?

The fact that only two studios alter the aspect ratio on their 1.85 releases is a pretty good indication to me that the risk of burn-in is low, so low that most studios don't do anything about it. Let's concede that burn-in can occur even with the latest displays but it's simply not realistic to think that burn-in is going to occur during the couple of hours it takes to watch a movie (I'm talking about real burn-in that damages the set, not ghosting or temporary image retention that disappears after the set is turned off). Consequently, the risk of burn-in shouldn't override the first principle that a movie's aspect ratio should be maintained. Honestly, I just want the home video presentation to match its theatrical version. It is a easy, bright line rule to follow. I am not comfortable with some studios altering a movie's dimension on the grounds that the change "does the movie no disservice." Because that's one man's opinion - a defensible, reasonable one to be sure - and whether you agree or not depends on your perspective. From my perspective, altering a movie's aspect ratio does plenty of disservice to a movie because it alters a movie's theatrical dimension.

I can see why people don't consider going from 1.85 to 1.77 to be a big deal. It's a defensible, reasonable opinion. But I do think the default rule should be that studios shouldn't alter a movie's aspect ratio and if studios are going to make an exception to that rule, they should meet a high burden. The remote possibility of burn-in falls far short of meeting that burden.


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