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HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Doubt



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#1 of 25 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted March 29 2009 - 02:34 PM


Doubt (Blu-ray)
Directed by John Patrick Shanley

Studio: Miramax
Year: 2008
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080pAVC codec
Running Time: 103 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Portuguese
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Region: A
MSRP: $ 34.99

Release Date: April 7, 2009
Review Date: March 29, 2009


The Film

4.5/5

John Patrick Shanley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 2005 play Doubt comes to the screen through the auspices of its creator. Though Shanley may not have been the best choice to direct his own work (I might have gone with Sidney Lumet), he has cast the picture brilliantly, opened up his original four character stage piece by adding some interesting new characters (and allowing us to see people who were only spoken about on the stage), and filmed the play in original Bronx locations that give the breath of authentic life to the story. Despite some occasionally trundling direction, Doubt works beautifully as a movie.

Father Brendan Flynn’s (Philip Seymour Hoffman) motivations toward showing kindness and compassion to St. Nicholas Catholic School’s lone black student (Joseph Foster II) are called into question by the innocent and well-meaning Sister James (Amy Adams). The stern, antiquated principal of the school Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Meryl Streep) has herself noticed some suspicious aspects of the Father’s behavior toward the school’s male population and is determined to get answers, going even so far as enlisting the boy’s mother (Viola Davis) to back her play to have the priest in question removed.

The master stroke of Shanley’s original stage play and his screenplay for the movie is that the bigger questions of the film aren’t what it seems the story is building to at all. Guilt or innocence become relative terms once certain information is expounded and each side has had his or her say. And by the conclusion, the wrenching ideas of the poison of pre-conceived notions and the fleeting nature in the complex points of view about right and wrong simply take the audience’s breath away. Far from being a moral sermon about the ills of gossip or the justice concerning “innocent until proven guilty,” Doubt has as many different interpretations as there are audience members who view it. Shanley’s direction, unfortunately, often resorts to rudimentary framing: medium close-ups hog far too much of the film’s running time when one longs for extended takes with these exciting actors together in the shot while the camera explores their emotions as they play the scenes together. When it does happen, an explosive climactic confrontation between Streep and Hoffman, for example, it’s electric as these great actors thunder away at each other in the same shot adding vibrancy to the already passionate writing.

It’s no surprise that all four leading actors earned Oscar nominations for their work (with Meryl Streep taking home the Screen Actors Guild award for her performance). They are all magnificent, as individually precise and collectively proficient as great actors playing great roles can possibly be. Meryl Streep, playing the old guard nun who hates ballpoint pens as emblematic of the changing times she deplores, holds the screen with a calculated vengeance. Philip Seymour Hoffman shows many facets of this mercurial character, never quite giving the game away, just as it should have been played. Amy Adams does sweet and innocent as well as any actor today while Viola Davis, with only two scenes, delivers a haunting portrayal that will take many by surprise.


Video Quality

4/5

The film’s 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio is delivered in 1080p using the AVC codec. It’s a solid encode with good sharpness though the finest object detail is occasionally a bit weaker than expected. The picture has been slightly desaturated of color to suggest the 1964 era nostalgically, and the transfer handles this with no problems. The film has been divided into 16 chapters.

Audio Quality

4/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix does have a few occasions to fire up all of the channels with a couple of raging thunderstorms that exploit the surrounds well and make adequate use of the subwoofer. Elsewhere, Howard Shore’s delicate score gets channeled to the rears nicely with a fine, open presence.


Special Features

3/5

Director-writer John Patrick Shanley contributes a nostalgic audio commentary spending much of the track discussing his years in Catholic school which served as the inspiration for his story and the Bronx locations he grew up in and around and which were used in the movie wherever possible.

“From Stage to Screen” finds Shanley and actors Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Viola Davis discussing the adaptation of the play from stage to screen and their involvement in the project after being cast. This makes a good companion piece to Shanley’s audio commentary though there is, of course, some overlap. It’s in 1080p and runs 19 minutes.

“The Cast of Doubt is a 13 ¾-minute roundtable discussion with the four principal actors and moderated by host Dave Karger. The meaning of the play for each of them and their feelings about their working relationships are covered. It’s presented in 1080i.

“Scoring Doubtis a too-brief 4 ½-minute conversation with composer Howard Shore explaining the tones and textures he was going for in writing the music for the movie. It’s in 1080p.

“The Sisters of Charity” is an interesting piece interviewing four actual nuns of the Order featured in the movie including Sister Margaret McEntee who served as the model for Amy Adams’ Sister James. The sisters discuss the changes that have happened in their religious lives during their lengthy periods spent as Sisters of Charity. This 1080p featurette runs 6 ½ minutes.

The disc offers 1080p previews of Lost and The Proposal. The theatrical trailer for Doubt is not included.


In Conclusion

4/5 (not an average)

Doubt is unquestionably one of the best films of 2008, a thinking man’s drama about the nature of preconceptions and the damage such rigidity can cause. This one comes highly recommended!



Matt Hough
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#2 of 25 OFFLINE   zackscott5

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Posted March 30 2009 - 03:14 AM

Missed this one in the theatres but can't wait to finally see it.
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#3 of 25 OFFLINE   Yumbo

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Posted March 30 2009 - 12:42 PM

Meryl Streep should have won.

#4 of 25 OFFLINE   TravisR

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Posted March 30 2009 - 02:36 PM

And Philip Seymour Hoffman should have been nominated in the correct category.

#5 of 25 OFFLINE   Loregnum

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Posted April 01 2009 - 01:28 AM

How is the dialogue in this movie?

That may sound weird but quite frankly, I am getting sick and tired of current movie's having complete crap writing. The problem is many movies today seem to be written to reflect how society as a whole converses and the general mentality with people today is "I don't give a crap" so this then gets put into movies and all I see are characters basically saying "FU" to other characters. It is annoying to see.

I also notice in almost every movie these days some character whips out a "whatever" in reply to something/someone and that apparent "catch phrase" of today's society pisses me off to no end since it is the "posterboy" word/phrase for how lazy people have become with their ability to communicate and not sound like an idiot. Does this movie have any "whatevers" in it?

#6 of 25 OFFLINE   TravisR

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Posted April 01 2009 - 01:30 AM

^ The movie is set in the 1950's or early 60's.

#7 of 25 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted April 01 2009 - 01:32 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by TravisR
^ The movie is set in the 1950's or early 60's.

Um, actually 1964.

#8 of 25 OFFLINE   TravisR

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Posted April 01 2009 - 01:33 AM

I saw it a couple months ago so I couldn't remember the exact year. My point was that there's no modern slang in the movie.

#9 of 25 OFFLINE   Loregnum

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Posted April 01 2009 - 05:25 AM

Travis,

thanks. I'll have to pick it up.

#10 of 25 OFFLINE   Bryan Beckman

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Posted April 01 2009 - 05:49 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by TravisR
there's no modern slang in the movie.

Indeed. The dialogue in this movie is about the furthest thing from it.

This is one of my favorite movies from last year (and perfectly timed for the Easter holiday, too! "Hey Bill, happy Easter! Have some 'Doubt'!"). This would be a Day One pickup for me if the price were under $20. I have a feeling it's coming soon.
 

#11 of 25 OFFLINE   Dave H

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Posted April 11 2009 - 04:35 PM

I watched this the other night and have to say Streep gave an AMAZING performance. Hoffman's was nearly as good. Nice to see such great acting once in a while.

#12 of 25 OFFLINE   Cees Alons

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Posted April 14 2009 - 09:52 PM

The BD arrived yesterday and we watched it yesterday evening.
I'm still thinking over some of the aspects. We didn't see the film in the theater, nor - unfortunately - the play.

What great performances of all main actors. These are truly the current top. One simply has to mention Viola Davis specifically, because her screen time is so short we might overlook the fact that she's one of the leading actors. She's awesome, and so is her take on the realities of life (certainly those in 1964), her love for her boy and her concern about his needs.

Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman play their characters so precise, that there's simply no way their acting comes between the viewer and the screen character. Or the topics at hand. Very powerful performances, once more.

The movie appropriately leaves the audience with 'doubt' about the main accusation. It couldn't have been otherwise, because the real topics this film tries to discuss, on so many different levels, are not just that, but stem from a much wider realm and would not have come across otherwise. It lifts the film far above the usual 'Catholic Church Problems' type we see in so many other movies. I'm not a Catholic myself, but I think one doesn't need to be to grasp it all here, understand what moves the four lead characters and give it a few real thoughts.

I'm very happy to own this BD, and I certainly need to watch it a few times more.

The image (sharp and almost flawless) and the audio (conservative) are without any problems I could encounter.
We watched one of the extras and found director/writer John Patrick Shanley a tiny bit on the vain side (worrying about his looks, mentioning his many writing efforts: both film as well as stage play, 'interviewing' - almost questioning - Meryl Streep, and so on). But nevertheless a pleasant and informative 20 minutes. There are more minutes we didn't see yet.


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#13 of 25 OFFLINE   pitchman

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Posted April 15 2009 - 08:14 AM

Like Cees, my wife and I also watched the BD last night. I echo his sentiments. The acting in this film is uniformly top-notch, and the performance of Viola Davis in particular, is riveting! About the only thing I'll add is that although her role is not as "showy" as the other leads, I think Amy Adams did a fantastic job too. Her seeming innocence and restrained reservation is the perfect counterpoint to the (at times) overzealous Streeps and Hoffman. This is a terrific film and one worth visiting on Blu-ray!
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#14 of 25 ONLINE   lukejosephchung

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Posted April 15 2009 - 11:36 AM

I watched this last Friday night at a friend's house and was taken back to my days in the 1960s at Catholic parochial school, Kindergarten to 8th Grade...Meryl's character was just like my 3rd Grade instructor...what a battle-axe!Posted Image

#15 of 25 OFFLINE   Paul Hillenbrand

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Posted April 15 2009 - 12:00 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by lukejosephchung
was taken back to my days in the 1960s at Catholic parochial school, Kindergarten to 8th Grade...Meryl's character was just like my 3rd Grade instructor...what a battle-axe!Posted Image

Same here. In 1964 I was in Catholic parochial school 7th grade and think Meryl Streep's character and the principle of the school I went to were twin nuns.Posted Image Witnessed many a sister slapping the back of a boys neck to straighten-up.Posted Image Pinching the ear-lobe got a very effective reaction too.Posted Image

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#16 of 25 OFFLINE   Cees Alons

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Posted April 15 2009 - 12:08 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by pitchman
About the only thing I'll add is that although her role is not as "showy" as the other leads, I think Amy Adams did a fantastic job too.
Agreed.
And she is lovely.


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#17 of 25 OFFLINE   Yumbo

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Posted April 15 2009 - 03:46 PM

(Again) Streep should have gotten the Oscar.
Being raised Catholic, it's always amusing to see these school 'comedies', and still waiting for CATHOLIC BOYS to hit BD, let alone DVD.

#18 of 25 OFFLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted April 16 2009 - 04:44 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cees Alons
Agreed.
And she (Amy Adams) is lovely.

Cees and I are of like minds on many things. Posted Image

This is already on my shelf. My wife and I were sold on the trailers and missed the theatrical run (like we so often do). I have a tentative target viewing date of this weekend and am really looking forward to it!

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#19 of 25 OFFLINE   celica

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Posted April 16 2009 - 05:14 AM

is it really that good? i missed it on theater..

ok, i'll looks for it's BD on monday.. Posted Image
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#20 of 25 OFFLINE   Neil Middlemiss

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Posted December 07 2009 - 02:36 AM

I saw this for the first time last night. Incredible.

Matt - your review was spot on as always!
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