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Blu-ray Reviews


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#1 of 16 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted November 09 2008 - 01:21 PM

Director's Cut

Release Date: November 11, 2008
Studio: Warner Home Video
Packaging/Materials: Single-disc "Digibook" case
Year: 1991
Rating: R
Running Time: 3h25m
MSRP: $34.99

Video1080p high definition 16x9 2.40:1May be in standard definition
AudioDolby TrueHD: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: English 5.1, French 5.1Audio standards my vary
SubtitlesEnglish and FrenchNone

Note: Portions of this review include material from Herb Kane's 2003 review of the two-disc special edition DVD and are in italics. The entirety of Kane's write-up can be read here.

The Feature: 4/5
New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) embarks on an audacious crusade - bring to trial those responsible for the murder of President John F. Kennedy, despite the definitive findings by the Warren Commmission that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. It's not that Garrison wants the publicity or the frustration that comes from such an endeavor, but the findings and evidence don't add up and the more he looks into the facts, the more he's convinced the Commission got it wrong. But it's not just a matter of poor investigation and specious conclusions. There seems to be a serious conspiracy at work, the revelation of which could bring to light the true powers-that-be in American society. But if they had the wherewithal to kill the president of the most powerful nation in the world, what chance does a city district attorney have?

Forty-five years after President Kennedy's assassination, who was involved and whether a conspiracy was in play remain hotly debated topics, though diminished somewhat now that 17 years have passed since Oliver Stone's controversial and debate-inducing "JFK." I was a freshman in college when the film hit theaters and I still have fond memories of my classmate waxing ecstatic over the theories presented in the movie. No one around us was spared from his enthusiasm and it wasn't long before he was known as the "JFK Guy." At the time I was largely disinterested in the topic and (believe it or not) movies in general; it wasn't until after college that I finally saw the film that had ignited such a passion in my friend and many others like him. Though much of the public furor had waned by then, the film still served as a thought-provoking examination of a grievous event in our national history as well as a curious artifact of modern film history for it's inciting of such strong opinion and reaction. Revisiting the film over 10 years later, my impression remains the same - it's a thought-provoking piece of work, certainly a well-told and artistically constructed piece of cinema, but something to take with a large grain of salt. Whether one embraces the truth presented, there's no doubt one will be entertained if not gripped by its implications.

Video Quality: 4.5/5
The film is accurately framed at 2.40:1 and encoded with the VC-1 codec. Using a variety of lighting and exposure techniques and film formats, the picture is quite variable in tone and appearance. Nevertheless, black levels are consistently solid and satisfyingly deep. Contrast varies depending on the cinematic flourishes, but there's never the sense that we've deviated from filmmaker intent. Colors also vary, usually according to time period (1963 has a highly desaturated quality) but sometimes according to mood and tone as well. Much of the film also has a diffused, filtered glow to it, which the three-dimensionality of the high resolution format presents impeccably well. Fine object detail is equally excellent, skin and clothing and various surfaces all standing out in their clarity. Grain structure and type varies depending on the film format used, but on the whole appears neither reduced nor unduly manipulated. Overall, the Academy Award winning cinematography gets excellent treatment and presentation.

Audio Quality: 4/5
The Dolby TrueHD audio mix has dialogue as its primary element and its presentation is consistently clear and intelligibile. However, supporting the Academy Award winning editing are some equally atmospheric and emotion-stirring surround effects. Perhaps the most compelling is the opening sequence, which starts with simple narration and score, builds to a heart-stirring crescendo of military snare and bass drums, and ends with the crisp crack of gunfire. And the lossless track shows off the mix with excellent clarity and detail. Though the use of surround effects and LFE is more measured in the rest of the film, their impact for punctuation, atmospherics or dramatic emphasis is no less effective.

The 640 kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 audio sounds more constrained and less detailed by comparison, but most would be hard-pressed to differentiate the two tracks without aggressive A-B switching. Those with lossless playback will obviously choose the former, but those without shouldn't feel short-changed.

Special Features: 4/5

With the exception of the DVD-ROM materials, the extras from the special edition DVD have been ported over to this Blu-Ray release. The awards and cast and crew information can now be found, in slightly different form, in the attached booklet.

Commentary by Director Oliver Stone: While it’s obvious that Stone is passionate about his film (as he should be), listening to him for three-and-a-half hours would be a rather arduous task. He does offer up some interesting information relating to the original parties involved, as well discussion of the integration process where actual actors were blended into old footage. This is thorough and interesting…and dry. If you can get through it all you’re a better man than I.

"Beyond JFK: The Question of Conspiracy" (1h30m): This is an excellent documentary featuring interviews with numerous witnesses to the actual event and actors from the film. Theories demonstrated in the film are also discussed.

Additional Footage (54m45s): Twelve deleted or extended scenes with optional commentary by Stone include:
  • Jack Ruby injected with cancer
  • Jim Garrison and Dean Andrews – extended
  • Jim Garrison and Liz Garrison at home
  • Jim Garrison and Colorado businessman
  • Beverly Oliver Interview – extended
  • Jean Hill Interview – extended
  • Jim Garrison in the book depository
  • Antoine’s restaurant: Oswald information – extended
  • Clay Shaw trial 1: Oswald information – extended
  • Clay Shaw trial 2: Oswald information – extended
  • Fantasy Sequence – Oswald from the grave
  • Alternate Ending
"Assassination Update - The New Documents" Multimedia Essay (29m40s): This documentary discusses the formation of The Assassination Records Review Board and records that surfaced after the investigation.

"Meet Mr. X: The Personality and Thoughts of Fletcher Prouty" Multimedia Essay (11m01s): A rather interesting interview with the real military man himself. He seems very credible and obviously has information that seems to back up the theory.

Theatrical Trailer (2m21s)

Collectible Booklet: Housed in the "digibook" case, the nicely printed booklet has a brief production history, cast filmographies and a short essay.


The Feature: 4/5
Video Quality: 4.5/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 4/5
Overall Score (not an average): 4/5

A controversial but finely crafted examination of the Kennedy assassination gets excellent audio and video treatment and a special features package that carries over the majority of items from the previous DVD release. Recommended.

#2 of 16 OFFLINE   David Wilkins

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Posted November 10 2008 - 05:05 AM

Thanks for the review, Cameron. It's good to hear your positive reaction. This is a title I've been anticipating on BD, and my copy is in transit.

#3 of 16 OFFLINE   Ron Reda

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Posted November 10 2008 - 06:34 AM

Can't wait for this one, one of my favorite films despite liberties being taken with the facts.
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#4 of 16 OFFLINE   PaulDA



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Posted November 10 2008 - 07:01 AM

I'll likely get this (even if it not among my favourite films--as an historian, I find its flaws to be quite serious--it is an important film in the genre of historical feature films, which is a major research interest of mine) but I would like to also find a copy of the theatrical cut (I'll settle for pan and scan VHS if I have to). Anyone have any idea if the theatrical cut was ever released on DVD (I have a region-free DVD player, so anywhere is fine)? I really wish this edition had the original cut via seamless branching (or as a bonus disc).
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#5 of 16 OFFLINE   Michael Reuben

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Posted November 10 2008 - 10:11 AM

The theatrical cut was released on DVD (in 2000 or thereabouts) as part of the "Oliver Stone Collection". It was also available separately. It's been a while since I watched it, but I remember it looking pretty good.
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#6 of 16 OFFLINE   Southpaw


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Posted November 10 2008 - 12:30 PM

Totally agree with this review. Exactly how I saw it, Cameron. Nice job!

#7 of 16 OFFLINE   Mike Williams

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Posted November 11 2008 - 07:12 AM

Has anyone found this? I live in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and not one single store in the entire city has a copy of it, although Best Buy did get the 3-disc JFK Ultimate Collector's Edition. Even DeepDiscount.com shows it to be out of stock. What is going on with this title?

#8 of 16 OFFLINE   JoshB


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Posted November 11 2008 - 08:12 AM

I looked everywhere for it also, and the only place I could find it at (and eventually bought it at) was Barnes and Noble. A pretty steep price there, and they only had one copy left. till went with it, since it is one of my all time favorite films.
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#9 of 16 OFFLINE   JoshB


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Posted November 11 2008 - 08:27 AM

One thing to note, that I thought was interesting...a typo in the booklet that is attached to the BD case. It states in the BIOs that Tommy Lee Jones received his third Oscar nomination for the Texas set film "No country For Old men", a performance considered among his finest...

He was in fact nominated that same year for In the Valley of Elah, but not for "No Country..." Just found that interesting... Posted Image
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#10 of 16 OFFLINE   Duncan Harvey

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Posted November 11 2008 - 08:35 AM

Bit harsh on the commentary! I found it to be a real tour de force by Stone staunchly defending what I feel to be his masterpiece.

#11 of 16 OFFLINE   EricW



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Posted November 11 2008 - 11:10 AM

i'm not a huge Stone fan, or movies "based" on fact, but he got this one right. shortest 3 hr movie ever.
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#12 of 16 OFFLINE   TonyD


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Posted November 11 2008 - 02:21 PM

nearly everything is oos there now because of the 25% off sale. I like the movie and look forward to seeing it in hd on blu-ray.

#13 of 16 OFFLINE   ManW_TheUncool



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Posted November 11 2008 - 03:05 PM

A bit embarrassed to say, but I *still* need to find time to actually sit down for the ~3.5 hours to watch the DVD in its entirety. Posted Image I was too tired and fell asleep about 1/4 of the way through the one time I tried ages ago (w/ the first non-16x9 DVD back in the early days of DVD). I can't stand breaking up a movie into 2 separate viewings, especially a quality one like this for my first full viewing -- and the rest of the family hasn't been too keen to let me try again either. Posted Image

Guess I'll probably eventually pick this one up at a "can't refuse" price while I try to find another time to give the 16x9 DVD a full spin -- yep, sad to say I even doubledipped on the DVD already, which is why I really should hold off now. Posted Image

And thanks for the fine review, Cameron! Posted Image


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#14 of 16 OFFLINE   TonyD


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Posted December 07 2008 - 04:51 PM

i just watched JFK. 3 1/2 hrs but i can't turn it off. I cold probably watch this with the other 55 min of deleted scenes put in. It's been a long time since i watched the dvd, I don't remember what that looked like. the blu looked really odd. even after adjusting the contrast and brightness i still had tons of banding and it was very distracting. I guess it was supposed to look that way.

#15 of 16 OFFLINE   David Coleman

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Posted December 07 2008 - 07:51 PM

I saw it last week and have to agree with the picture anomolies. I know it's not going to be a sharp looking film given the various film stocks and they way it was shot diffused, however there does seem to be excessive DNR on this release. I was however pleasantly suprised with the Truehd track. The score came through beautifully and while surrounds aren't fully engaged, when necessary in the film they came through clearly, dialogue was excellent and there was deep extension where necessary.

#16 of 16 OFFLINE   Edwin-S



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Posted March 01 2009 - 12:23 AM

I've never seen this film until last night. I have heard quite a bit about it and finally picked up as a blind buy. I was only going to watch a few minutes of it in order to check the quality of the transfer; however, I ended up watching the whole thing. It is a hell of a good film in that it never dragged. It is supposed to be a long film but it sure didn't feel like it. Too bad, nothing about its themes or theories can be discussed.
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