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Blu-ray Reviews

HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: A History of Violence

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#1 of 4 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

Cameron Yee

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Posted February 21 2009 - 06:48 PM

A History of Violence

Release Date: Available now (released February 10, 2009)
Studio: New Line Cinema
Packaging/Materials: Single-disc Blu-Ray case
Year: 2005
Rating: R
Running Time: 1h36m
MSRP: $28.99

Video1080p high definition 16x9 1.85:1480i or 480p standard definition
AudioDolby TrueHD: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: English 5.1Stereo
SubtitlesEnglish and SpanishNone

Note: Portions of this review include material from Matt Stone's HTF review of the 2006 DVD release, the entirety of which can be read here.

The Feature: 4/5
Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) lives an idyllic, smalltown life. He has a beautiful wife (Maria Bello), two great kids, and his own business running the local diner. One evening two men with murder on their minds walk through the doors, and Tom...changes. He does what all of us would hope to do in that situation - protect the innocent, stop the bad guys - but in the span of a heartbeat he shows an uncanny skill in dispatching the attackers. Tom insists it was just luck, but when the tale of his heroism gets broadcast far and wide, men from his past show up with a different story.

Adapted from a graphic novel by the same name, "A History of Violence" is more about the people watching the movie than those in it. Using a straightforward plot, Director David Cronenberg poses a series of questions meant to examine our notions about violence, namely when is it condoned and how does it make us feel? Cronenberg doesn't offer any insights really. He's like a man in a white lab coat observing our reactions. So while some may find the film in itself underwhelming, particularly the ending, it might be worth pondering the reasons why. Cronenberg's cinematic psychology experiment may not make for the perfect film but it does amount to one fascinating session of self-examination.

Video Quality: 3/5
The film is accurately framed at 1.85:1 and presented in 1080p with the VC-1 codec. The image shows a noticeable hardness that comes from artificial sharpening; moderate ringing along high contrast edges is also visible through much of the film. Wide shots show a noticeable loss of detail, suggesting the use/overuse of filtering or noise reduction. Contrast also can be rather flat, particularly during the nighttime scenes. Color shows good depth and saturation however, and detail in medium shots and close-ups is decent, but they're slight qualities in a generally mediocre transfer.

Audio Quality: 3.5/5
Center channel activity dominates the Dolby TrueHD audio mix with consistently clear and intelligible dialogue. Surrounds are mostly used for soundtrack support with some slight environmental effects during the film's handful of action scenes. Though LFE is essentially non-existent, there's good bass response in a few moments involving a shotgun and assorted brutality. Overall the track sounds both balanced and sufficiently detailed, particularly with the sometimes-delicate orchestral score.

Special Features: 4/5
The special features include all the material from the 2006 DVD release, with only the deleted scene upgraded to high definition. Content review by Matt Stone.

Commentary with David Cronenberg: David Cronenberg is a very interesting guy that doesn’t have too much trouble talking about his films. He occasionally falls into the trap of narrating and there are a few quiet moments, but overall a very interesting commentary. He discusses everything from the film’s production, the acting, up through the thematic element. I haven't listened to a Cronenberg commentary before, but I may have to dig up my old DVDs and give them a spin.

"Violence’s History: United States Version vs. International Version" (1m23s): A very brief look at the differences (two very small changes) between the US (R-Rated) and international releases.

"Too Commercial for Cannes" (8m59s) This featurette looks at the film's screening at the Cannes Film Festival.

"Acts of Violence" (1h06m): This is an interesting feature. It breaks up the different acts of violence in the film and allows you to view a little analysis/documentary about each scene. You can also utilize a "play all" feature and have the sequence play as more of an all-encompassing behind-the-scenes documentary. There's a lot of interviews edited together with on-set footage. As a big fan of the movie and Cronenberg, I found this all to be very interesting. It's a very intricate look at the film’s production.

Deleted Scene: Scene 44 (2m46s): An interesting look at a deleted scene that was finished for the release (almost reminiscent of the Star Wars prequel DVDs), with an optional Cronenberg commentary in which he explains the reasons for dropping it.

"The Unmaking of Scene 44" (7m04s): A more detailed look at the previous deleted scene made up of on-set footage and interviews.

Digital Copy: Download a digital copy for playback on computer or portable video device. Compatible with both Mac and Windows.


The Feature: 4/5
Video Quality: 3/5
Audio Quality: 3.5/5
Special Features: 4/5
Overall Score (not an average): 3/5

A cinematic examination of our violent predilictions gets an average video presentation, decent lossless audio and a thorough special features package that carries over all the items from the previous DVD release.

#2 of 4 OFFLINE   Bruce Morrison

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Posted February 21 2009 - 09:33 PM

Thanks for the review. I've just got this BD, and there's another thing I noticed on the video that you haven't mentioned. A number of shots have noticeable rapid fluctuations of colour and/or brightness. You can see the colours oscillating quickly between two slightly different shades. I particularly noticed this in a number of shots during the climactic confrontation scene between Viggo Mortensen and William Hurt. I know it's not a fault with my equipment because, when I noticed the same effect in the recent BD of 'Unfaithful', I posted it on the Blu-ray forum with details of the exact shot where it happened and one of the BD reviewers checked it out and confirmed that he saw exactly the same thing on his copy and his equipment. I've seen the same problem on other BDs and on various DVDs as well, so it just seems to be an issue that arises during the telecine transfer process. Do you know why it occurs?
Bruce Morrison

#3 of 4 OFFLINE   Jason Adams

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Posted February 25 2009 - 04:08 PM

You know...i've noticed this too on my BD of Kill Bill, when Elle Driver walks into the hospital...the room appears to be greenish, then corrects it to be a white color...its odd.

#4 of 4 OFFLINE   Bruce Morrison

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Posted February 26 2009 - 05:09 AM

I've decided to order the UK edition of 'History Of Violence', which is coming out in March. It's being released by EIV, so it will probably be a different transfer from the New Line one, and hopefully better. EIV have already put out impressive BDs of 'Rendition' and 'The Notebook' in the UK, so I'm hoping this will be another one.
Bruce Morrison

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