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HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Shawshank Redemption (Recommended)



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#1 of 22 Cameron Yee

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Posted November 18 2008 - 04:09 PM

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Release Date: December 2, 2008
Studio: Warner Home Video
Packaging/Materials: Single-disc "Digibook" case
Year: 1994
Rating: R
Running Time: 2h22m
MSRP: $26.98

MAIN FEATURESPECIAL FEATURES
Video1080p high definition 16x9 1.85:1May be in standard definition
AudioDolby TrueHD: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: English 5.1, French 5.1 (dubbed in Quebec), Spanish 2.0Audio standards my vary
SubtitlesEnglish, French, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and PortugueseNone

Note: Portions of this review include material from Herb Kane's 2004 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: 5/5
Despite serving two life sentences for the murder of his wife and her lover, Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) has the audacity to hope. And it's not that the Shawshank Penitentiary isn't trying its hardest to squash it, whether it's the ongoing molestation by "The Sisters" or the iron fist of Warden Norton (Bob Gunton) putting him in his place. But there's something in Andy that makes him persist, a quality that makes fellow lifer Red (Morgan Freeman) first take notice and then become his closest friend. Maybe it's that Andy maintains and wholly believes he's innocent of the crime he's in for; or maybe he's just crazy. Whatever the reason, Andy's sole source of strength spreads to those around him, incrementally improving their lives if not helping them feel like normal men once in awhile.

But two life sentences is a lot of time - to take abuse, to be made someone's lapdog - and it would take someone superhuman to not eventually crack, forego one's hopes and acquiesce to the fate he's been given. So maybe after 20 years at Shawshank, it's time for Andy to take a different tack.

Written and directed by Frank Darabont and adapted from a Stephen King novella, "The Shawshank Redemption" is what many would call "pitch perfect." Though undeniably sympathetic to its inmate characters, it avoids being overly scrutinized for that sympathy by being a period piece. Set between 1947 and 1967, the layers of time and nostalgia insulate the characters from our judgment. Of course it also helps that the warden and his chief guard (played by Clancy Brown) are bullies and really no better than those they oversee, though the actors' avoidance of caricature goes a long way towards making the situation believable. Robbins and Freeman also turn in exemplary performances, the former offering boyish innocence with quiet strength and the latter a pitch and weariness that lays bare his character's decades of incarceration. And though having a run time of almost two-and-a-half hours, no moment feels unnecessary or wasted - if anything we want more time with the characters. It's a swiftness of the minute hand I'm sure the Shawshank inmates would do anything to experience. Life in prison without its agonies, "The Shawshank Redemption" is highly recommended.


Video Quality: 4/5
Though labeled as 1.85:1 the image fills the entirety of my 16x9 display. The VC-1 encoded transfer is mostly devoid of blemishes and shows deep and consistent black levels, though contrast may vary a touch towards the end. With the naturalistic cinematography there is an abundance of shadows at any given time and detail in those areas is excellent. Fine object detail is decent, more so in close-ups than in wide shots, suggesting the application of some kind of filtering or noise reduction. The result is not egregious, but more discerning viewers will likely take notice. Though the color palette is earthy and muted, colors also show good depth and fidelity. Overall it's a very good transfer with mostly minor issues.


Audio Quality: 4/5
The Dolby TrueHD audio mix has dialogue as its primary element and its presentation is consistently clear and intelligible. Surround activity consists of support for the score and atmospherics, with few noticeable moments of directionality, though on the whole things are reasonably enveloping. LFE is also largely absent, though the low end sounds suitably full and rich with the score's bass parts. If there's one noticeable fault in the track it's that the center channel can sound a bit too discrete and localized at times, particularly with Freeman's narration. But few should have complaints about that element's clarity and detail, the familiar and soothing baritone of one our greatest, living actors coming across beautifully.

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

Audio Commentary by Writer and Director Frank Darabont: The director goes into great detail about the film, which includes everything from the conceptual process to various cast and crew information. He offers up a lot of terrific behind-the-scenes information about the film and he is extremely easy to listen to with little to no dead time. Overall, I was quite pleased with the commentary and found it entertaining and instructive.

"Hope Springs Eternal: A Look Back at the Shawshank Redemption" (31m01s): Comments and reflections from various cast and crew members, offering up some of their personal experiences during the production.

"Shawshank: The Redeeming Feature" (48m17s): British made-for-TV documentary in which Darabont discusses many of the greats that influenced him over the years, like George Lucas and Frank Capra, as well as the inspiration for some of the film’s characters.

"The Charlie Rose Show" Interview (42m21s): Roundtable discussion with host Rose, Darabont, Robbins, and Freeman. As always, Rose does a superb job, asking a number of great questions and eliciting a lot of informative responses from the guests.

"The Sharktank Redemption" (24m46s): Parody chronicles the life of two actors trapped within the Hollywood establishment as they discuss and plot an escape from their office confines. The spoof was directed by Natalie Van Doren and written by Doug Van Doren in 2000. Morgan Freeman’s son, Alfonso, plays a similar character as his father did in "Shawshank."

"Shawshank Stills" Gallery (15m58s): A variety of photos from production and storyboard images, set to various selections from the score. In high definition with stereo audio.

"Shawshank Collectibles" (1m22s): The Sideshow Collectibles promotional clip includes selections by artist Drew Struzan and Sebastian Kruger, who were among several artists commissioned to create pieces celebrating the film's 10th anniversary.

Theatrical Trailer (2m11s): In high definition with stereo audio.

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


Recap

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

A pitch perfect drama about hope and friendship gets very good audio and video treatment and a special features package that includes everything from the previous DVD release. Recommended.
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#2 of 22 Brett Halsey

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Posted November 18 2008 - 04:22 PM

Hey Cameron,

Thanks for the review.

I'm currently on the fence in regards to ordering this, as I wasn't a huge fan of Warner's snapper cases....is there any chance that you could please take some photos of the packaging?

Cheers...
Brett

#3 of 22 Cameron Yee

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Posted November 18 2008 - 04:49 PM

Here's one:

Posted Image

You can see the rest here:

Media - a set on Flickr
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#4 of 22 Sam Posten

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Posted November 19 2008 - 01:37 AM

Awesome. I think Shawshank is the best movie of all time, beating Godfather, so I can't wait for this. The novella is even better than the movie if you can believe it, and it shocks a lot of people who didn't know King wrote it... Like the DVDs before it tho I am sad that none of the extras have any interviews with King about this work...

Still, I can't wait for this disk!

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#5 of 22 ManW_TheUncool

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Posted November 19 2008 - 04:16 AM

This is likely my last preorder title from the WHV site given pricing trends of late on top of risks wrt PQ/AQ. Just very glad to hear this one will likely make a nice upgrade over my SE DVD. Hopefully, the Digibook packaging will work out ok for me -- I might just replace it w/ a regular BD case and store the book in a quality plastic bag (like I did for my old comic book collection).

And thanks much for another fine review, Cameron, and the pics showing the packaging to boot! Posted Image

_Man_
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#6 of 22 Mike Frezon

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Posted November 19 2008 - 05:51 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sam Posten
Awesome. I think Shawshank is the best movie of all time, beating Godfather, so I can't wait for this.

Great minds think alike, Sam... Posted Image

I'm glad to hear Cameron likes this presentation on Blu-ray. Thanks for the review! Posted Image

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 22 Loregnum

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Posted November 19 2008 - 07:06 AM

This is my all-time favourite movie and IMO the best (well considering the other movies that get mentioned which I have also seen) movie ever made.

I am so down for this blu-ray and while I don't like that it has apparently had a bit of noticeable DNR applied, I am still getting it because I like the movie that much that my general "anti dnr/no buy" stance takes a back seat to the film.

#8 of 22 TonyD

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Posted November 19 2008 - 10:05 AM

this is such a great movie.
I never understand those who say it isn't good or don't like it.
what do these people want from a mvie anyway.

I still have an order in on WHV.COM FROM Earlier this year when they prematurely posted it for pre-order, under $15.
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#9 of 22 Felix Martinez

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Posted November 19 2008 - 12:14 PM

Can't wait to pick this one up.

Funny thing...I re-watched Escape From Alcatraz (after a loooong hiatus) a few years ago, and had a feeling of deja vu...or maybe it's just me...

#10 of 22 Brian Borst

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Posted November 20 2008 - 07:29 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Felix Martinez
Can't wait to pick this one up.

Funny thing...I re-watched Escape From Alcatraz (after a loooong hiatus) a few years ago, and had a feeling of deja vu...or maybe it's just me...

I had the exact same feeling Posted Image. Only I thought Escape From Alcatraz was really mediocre (especially compared to The Shawshank Redemption).
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#11 of 22 Carlo Medina

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Posted November 20 2008 - 09:32 AM

With this on 12/2 and The Dark Knight on 12/9, Christmas is coming early for me! Posted Image

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#12 of 22 Felix Martinez

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Posted November 20 2008 - 11:51 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Borst
I had the exact same feeling Posted Image. Only I thought Escape From Alcatraz was really mediocre (especially compared to The Shawshank Redemption).

Totally agree!

#13 of 22 ManW_TheUncool

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Posted December 08 2008 - 01:03 PM

Hmmm... Anyone who preordered this from the WHV site *before* the digibook announcement and corresponding price hike actually received theirs yet? I usually get my preorders from them either early or on time, but haven't received this yet (and didn't receive any WHV emails about it either).

Thanks.

_Man_
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#14 of 22 TonyD

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Posted December 08 2008 - 01:45 PM

nope, still processing.
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#15 of 22 ManW_TheUncool

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Posted December 08 2008 - 03:48 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Man-Fai Wong
Hmmm... Anyone who preordered this from the WHV site *before* the digibook announcement and corresponding price hike actually received theirs yet? I usually get my preorders from them either early or on time, but haven't received this yet (and didn't receive any WHV emails about it either).

Thanks.

_Man_


Well, maybe the WHV folks are actually reading my posts since I just got an email w/ UPS tracking # for my copy to arrive in a couple days. Posted Image

_Man_
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"Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things..." (St. Paul)

#16 of 22 TonyD

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Posted December 08 2008 - 04:11 PM

hmm,

Thank you for shopping with WARNER HOME VIDEO.

Your order confirmation number is 58464539204989.

We have shipped your order for the following on 12/07/2008:
================================================== =====
QTYItem
1Shawshank Redemption, The (Blu-ray Book)
Blu-Ray

================================================== =====

Your order was paid as follows:

VISA$14.96
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#17 of 22 Brian Borst

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Posted December 09 2008 - 03:27 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sam Posten
The novella is even better than the movie if you can believe it,

Still, I can't wait for this disk!

I have to disagree with you on that. While the premise is the same in both, the movie clearly was given a heart by Darabont.

By the way, does anyone know if the picture was zoomed in as drastic as the SD SE?
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#18 of 22 Lou Sytsma

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Posted December 13 2008 - 03:26 AM

Really loved this release. The audio upgrade is worth it alone.

This is like the 4th or 5th time I have bought this flick. Goes without saying it is my all time favourite.
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#19 of 22 Ron Reda

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Posted December 15 2008 - 04:33 AM

I finally got a chance over the weekend to watch one of my favorite movies in the highest quality I've ever seen/heard it and I have to say, it was a fantastic experience all around. Thanks to Warner for finally bringing this masterpiece to BR. The video was excellent (I saw things I had never seen before in the background) and the audio was just as good. In listening for audio cues that I remember from numerous SDVD viewings, they sounded that much more clear and well placed within the soundfield. Good stuff!
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#20 of 22 Mike Frezon

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Posted December 15 2008 - 06:46 AM

Oh man. I have been trying soooooo hard NOT to double dip on films I already have on SD-DVD...but since this is one of my absolute top favorite films, I think I need to tell Santa it's got to go on my Christmas List.

Honestly, I've been good. Really.

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!


HTF Rules | HTF Mission Statement | Father of the Bride

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