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HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Julie & Julia



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#1 of 20 OFFLINE   Richard Gallagher

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Posted December 06 2009 - 06:19 PM

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Julie & Julia

Studio: Sony/Columbia

Year: 2009

Rated: PG-13

Program Length: 123 minutes

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p

Languages: English 5.1 DTS-HD MA; English audio description track, French 5.1

Subtitles: English, English SDH, French

The Program

A magnet on my refrigerator reads, “I have a kitchen because it came with the house.” It is, therefore, reasonable to infer that I felt some ambivalence about viewing a film about culinary legend Julia Child. I knew very little about her, other than that she had written best-selling books and had a number of popular cooking shows on television. The most lasting impression I had of Julia Child was the famous parody of her done by Dan Aykroyd on Saturday Night Live in 1978. This, I am happy to report, is no longer the case. Julie & Julia is a thoroughly engaging and enjoyable film which can even be appreciated by someone whose culinary chops begin and end with a microwave oven. Those who enjoy doing real cooking are apt to like it even more.

Julie & Julia actually tells two stories, both based on fact, which take place five decades apart. Julie Powell (Amy Adams) is a frustrated, unpublished author who works for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, a joint venture of New York City and New York State which was established in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. She and her husband Eric (Chris Messina) have moved from Manhattan to Queens, where they can afford a larger apartment and he can be closer to his work. Julie’s job, which requires her to field telephone calls from people who lost loved ones on 9/11, is alternately aggravating and gut-wrenching. She discovers that the one thing which rejuvenates her after work is cooking dinner, a task which allows her to express her creativity. With Eric’s encouragement, she challenges herself to spend an entire year making all 524 recipes which appear in Julia Child’s magnum opus, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. At the same time Julie decides to create a blog where she writes a daily journal about her progress.

The film’s other story begins in Paris in 1949. Paul Child (Stanley Tucci), a United States Foreign Service officer, and his wife Julia (Meryl Streep) arrive in France, a post to which Paul has been assigned by the State Department. Julia had worked for the OSS during World War II, but in post-war France she finds herself without a job and with too much time on her hands. She loves Paris, but she has no children and she wants to do something with her life. She tries a few activities which are not particularly satisfying, so she ultimately decides to focus on something she really loves – eating. She takes a basic cooking class, but she quickly decides that she needs something more challenging. She then enrolls in Le Cordon Bleu, becoming the only woman student in a class of aspiring chefs. She quickly displays impressive aptitude for cooking. Along the way she meets two French women who have been working on writing a French cookbook in English. However, they are unable to find a publisher because the manuscript is deemed insufficiently accessible to Americans. The women prevail upon Julia to help, and she spends the next decade helping them re-write what would become perhaps the most famous culinary book ever published.

 

Julie & Julia, expertly directed by Nora Ephron, transitions easily from one story to the other and back again. Julie’s blog begins to attract readers, but she becomes so obsessed with her project that it adversely affects her work and puts a strain on her marriage. Julia is likewise committed to finish the book, which she originally expects to complete in two years but in fact takes much longer. Amy Adams is excellent as the charming but excessively self-involved Julie. Meryl Streep is utterly convincing as Julia, expertly mimicking Ms. Child’s distinctive mannerisms and sing-song inflections. This is no mere impression, however. Streep does a superb job of conveying Julia’s unrestrained enthusiasm for life, and there is real chemistry between her and Tucci, who adds another convincing performance to his distinguished career (Tucci, incidentally, is himself a gourmet, having for a time owned a restaurant in Westchester County, New York). Some of the supporting roles are filled by well-known actors such as Jane Lynch and Frances Sternhagen.

Viewers will no doubt be intrigued by the way Streep, who reportedly is 5-6” tall, has been transformed by the magic of filmmaking into the 6-2” Julia Child. It should also be noted that a clip of Dan Aykroyd’s iconic Saturday Night Live impersonation appears in the film.

Julie & Julia effectively conveys the fact that cooking can be as much an artistic endeavor as writing, or painting, or any other creative activity. It also demonstrates that the greater the enthusiasm of the artist, the better the result is likely to be. Julia Child loved to cook, and she turned her love of cooking into a career as author and television personality, a career which lasted for more than four decades. Julie Powell likewise found an outlet for her creativity in cooking, essentially channeling Julia as she worked her way through 524 recipes in 365 days. At the same time, this is also a very romantic film, particularly when it focuses on the very loving relationship between Julia and Paul. During a Valentine’s Day party, Paul proclaims in front of their friends, “Julia, you are the butter to my bread and the breath to my life.” Julie & Julia is witty, intelligent and thoroughly entertaining. As Julia Child would say, “Bon appetit!”

The Video

Sony has done a typically superlative job in transferring Julie & Julia to Blu-ray. The picture is extremely sharp and detailed. Colors are vivid and accurate, blacks and deep and solid, and shadow detail is excellent. Many of the exterior shots were filmed on location in New York and Paris, and those images are very nicely done. The interior shots are equally well-done. The entire program is satisfyingly film-like.

The Audio

 

The lossless DTS-HD MA soundtrack is a treat to listen to. This is not the sort of soundtrack which will give your audio system a workout, but the dialogue is reproduced clearly and there is excellent dimensionality to the music. The surround channels are effectively used to convey ambient sounds, whether it be the clashing of pots and pans, the fierce chopping of onions, or the noise of traffic outside the apartment in Queens.  

The Supplements

Blu-ray extras include a commentary by director Nora Ephron, who also wrote the script.

“Secret Ingredients: Creating Julie & Julia” is an informative 28-minute “making of” featurette which includes input from the real Julie Powell and all of the principal actors.

“Friends and Family Remember Julia Child” is a 48-minute featurette which gives many of Julia’s relatives, friends and acquaintances the opportunity to reflect on her life and achievements.

“Julia’s Kitchen” tells the story about how The Smithsonian convinced Julia Child to let the museum take possession of her entire kitchen, where it is now on display.

Five cooking lessons, including two by Julia Child and Jacques Pepin, will teach the viewer how to poach eggs, make hollandaise sauce, prepare scrambled eggs, cook braised short ribs, and prepare butter-poached Maine lobster.

Sony’s movieIQ feature allows the viewer to pull up windows with various Julia Child recipes while the film is playing. There will also be BD-Live features which will be activated on the release date.

Also included are previews of ten other Sony Blu-ray releases, including the upcoming Michael Jackson’s This is It.

The Packaging

The single disc comes in a standard Blu-ray keep case.

The Final Analysis

Julie & Julia is an engaging, intelligent, funny and romantic film which will both charm you and give you a deeper appreciation of the art of cooking.

Equipment used for this review:

Panasonic DMP-BD50 Blu-ray player

Panasonic Viera TC-P46G15 Plasma display, calibrated to THX specification by Gregg Loewen

Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver

BIC Acoustech speakers

Interconnects: Monster Cable

Release Date: December 8, 2009
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#2 of 20 OFFLINE   PatW

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Posted December 07 2009 - 01:02 AM

Great review. Will be a blind buy for me, but with Meryl Streep you can't go wrong.

#3 of 20 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted December 07 2009 - 03:07 AM

Great review, Rich.

I just remembered that Stanley Tucci gave us Big Night, a gourmet film that resulted in LOTS of viewers immediately going out to eat after watching the movie!

#4 of 20 OFFLINE   Richard Gallagher

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Posted December 07 2009 - 04:03 AM



Originally Posted by Kevin EK 

Great review, Rich.

I just remembered that Stanley Tucci gave us Big Night, a gourmet film that resulted in LOTS of viewers immediately going out to eat after watching the movie!
Tucci grew up in the same town as me and graduated from the same high school. Alas, he is twelve years younger than me and I do not know him.


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#5 of 20 ONLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted December 08 2009 - 05:26 AM

Excellent review to an excellent film, Rich!

This disc would SO be mine today...but I am finding the prices for this release ($25 to $28) to be WAY too high on release day. 

I will be exercising restraint and waiting for this to show up on sale down the road or in the used bin at one of my local stores. 

But make no mistake, this is a delightful film with another solid performance from Streep and marvelous work by both Tucci and Amy Adams.  I thought Ephron did a terrific job weaving the two stories into one. 

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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#6 of 20 OFFLINE   Rachael B

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Posted December 10 2009 - 09:39 AM

You make it sound good Rich but I won't be buying a copy till I can get it for $20 or less. I'll be simmering till then....

Rachael, the big disc cat is in real life Dot Mongur, Champion of the International Pacman Federation. You better be ready to rumble if you play Jr. Pacman with me. This is full contact Pacman and I don't just play the game, I operate it!


#7 of 20 OFFLINE   ManW_TheUncool

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Posted December 10 2009 - 07:42 PM

Watched this on rental the other night and really liked it.  I'll probably pick this up at some point when the price is much more attractive...

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#8 of 20 ONLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted January 06 2010 - 04:09 AM



Originally Posted by Mike Frezon 

Watched this on rental the other night and really liked it.  I'll probably pick this up at some point when the price is much more attractive...
Amazon has just lowered the price on this to $19.99 (probably matching a bestbuy.com price). 

But, hurry.  I wouldn't expect it to stay there too long. 


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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Dieting with my Dog & Heart to Heart/Hand in Paw by Peggy Frezon


#9 of 20 OFFLINE   Rachael B

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Posted January 06 2010 - 07:34 AM

I'm getting a copy. I exchanged a duplicate BD set I got for Christmas for credit and I'm getting Julie And Julia in the deal.

Rachael, the big disc cat is in real life Dot Mongur, Champion of the International Pacman Federation. You better be ready to rumble if you play Jr. Pacman with me. This is full contact Pacman and I don't just play the game, I operate it!


#10 of 20 OFFLINE   Richard Gallagher

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Posted January 11 2010 - 02:26 PM

Good for you, Rachael. Let us know how you like it.

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#11 of 20 OFFLINE   Edwin-S

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Posted January 11 2010 - 02:52 PM

Started out slow for me, but picked up steam as it progressed and finished up as a decent enough nights entertainment. In my case, it's a one watcher, not enough to attract repeat viewing. I found the Julia Child half of the story to be most compelling. Streep was quite impressive. She really seemed to catch the essence of Julia Child's character; although, ocassionally, it seemed like she was straining to maintain Child's vocal mannerisms. The rest of the cast did a good job as well, with Tucci coming in a close second portraying Child's husband. There was an unresolved thread near the end that left one with a bit of a sour taste about Child. I found it a bit jarring considering the relatively sympathetic portrayal of her.
"You bring a horse for me?" "Looks like......looks like we're shy of one horse." "No.......You brought two too many."

#12 of 20 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted January 11 2010 - 09:39 PM

I bought it for 19.99 from Amazon and will try to watch it this week.





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#13 of 20 OFFLINE   Rachael B

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Posted January 12 2010 - 04:55 AM



Originally Posted by Richard Gallagher 

Good for you, Rachael. Let us know how you like it.
I really liked the movie. It's such an odd story. If you tried to tell me that this plot was a good 'un for a film, I'd probably say you're k-k-k-kray-zee. I liked the Julia side of the film more than the Julie side. The "&" part glued the story together just enough. Meryl was terrific, Sometimes I thought some of the close-ups made her look too pretty compared to the real Julia. I'll enjoy watching this one again in a year or two when my memories fade a bit.

Rachael, the big disc cat is in real life Dot Mongur, Champion of the International Pacman Federation. You better be ready to rumble if you play Jr. Pacman with me. This is full contact Pacman and I don't just play the game, I operate it!


#14 of 20 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted January 12 2010 - 10:41 AM



Originally Posted by Edwin-S 

There was an unresolved thread near the end that left one with a bit of a sour taste about Child. I found it a bit jarring considering the relatively sympathetic portrayal of her.
Edwin,

Let's remember she was 90 years old at that time.  Who's to say what old age might have affected her state of mind and personality by then.




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#15 of 20 OFFLINE   Edwin-S

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Posted January 12 2010 - 02:20 PM



Originally Posted by Robert Crawford 




Edwin,

Let's remember she was 90 years old at that time.  Who's to say what old age might have affected her state of mind and personality by then.




Crawdaddy

 
You make a good point. When you take her age into consideration her action becomes more understandable. I should have thought of that myself. My bad.
"You bring a horse for me?" "Looks like......looks like we're shy of one horse." "No.......You brought two too many."

#16 of 20 OFFLINE   mattCR

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Posted January 12 2010 - 02:34 PM


Quote:
There was an unresolved thread near the end that left one with a bit of a sour taste about Child. I found it a bit jarring considering the relatively sympathetic portrayal of her.

Julia Child had real problems with what she thought was "cashing in on her name"    She had been subject of people for a long time trying to attach her name as "endorsing" a product or not; Julia Child had been very open from the early 80s on that she wouldn't endorse or back any product with her name, and that it had to stand on it's own merits.  She would have lost her mind at all the chefs now who sell their own cookware ..

Julia wasn't as bashing of Julie's efforts as you'd think.. she had acknowledged she hadn't read it.  It was relayed to her that someone was going through all of her recipies to recreate her book.  And she was concerned that someone was simply cashing in on her efforts.  And she said it.  I went back through and read the actual blog (it's archived at Salon.Com, you can look it up) and I have to admit, I hav ea much more "eh" feeling about the author of the book after reading the blog then I would from the movie.  Lots of events left out of the movie didn't paint her in quite the "good" light, and it did seem a bit of an "attention gimmick".  

Still, I enjoyed the movie, and Streep was phenomenal in it.

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#17 of 20 OFFLINE   Rachael B

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Posted January 12 2010 - 02:35 PM

By the time my grandma was 90, there were days she wouldn't speak English, just Swedish.

Rachael, the big disc cat is in real life Dot Mongur, Champion of the International Pacman Federation. You better be ready to rumble if you play Jr. Pacman with me. This is full contact Pacman and I don't just play the game, I operate it!


#18 of 20 ONLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted January 12 2010 - 03:05 PM

Nora Ephron took a lot of liberties with the Julie character in the sense of making her more likeable and sweet. 

The film did a poor job with the issue raised by Edwin.  It was the way it was left unexplained and unresolved which lead me to discover much of the same facts about it as mattCR. 

But, like Matt, I enjoyed the film immensely.  Streep & Tucci were both excellent.  And I like Amy Adams a lot anyway.

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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#19 of 20 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted January 12 2010 - 03:35 PM

There is an excellent featurette on the BRD that gives you a good sense about Julia Child and the points that Matt brought up her deep concerns regarding people cashing in on her name.  She really didn't concern herself making money because she could've made a lot more money if she wanted to by marketing herself even moreso and allowing her name to be attached to different products for endorsement purposes. By the way, I really liked the movie and thought the performances were very good.  Right now, I have a deeper appreciation for Julia Child than I had when I use to see her show on television back in the 1960s and 1970s. Crawdaddy

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#20 of 20 ONLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted January 12 2010 - 03:54 PM



Originally Posted by Robert Crawford 

There is an excellent featurette on the BRD that gives you a good sense about Julia Child and the points that Matt brought up her deep concerns regarding people cashing in on her name.  She really didn't concern herself making money because she could've made a lot more money if she wanted to by marketing herself even moreso and allowing her name to be attached to different products for endorsement purposes.

By the way, I really liked the movie and thought the performances were very good.  Right now, I have a deeper appreciation for Julia Child than I had when I use to see her show on television back in the 1960s and 1970s.
Glad you liked it, Robert!  My copy is on its way from amazon.

I had the chance to watch, last weekend, an episode of Julia Child's show which aired on my local PBS affiliate.  It featured Jacques Pepin.  What a hoot to watch the two of them prepare a full meal together.  Their chemistry was awesome.  They had so much fun and really played off of each other's personalities.  It was great fun and took me back to my memories of her old show. 


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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