Writer/Producer Akiva Goldsman's directorial debut adapts Mark Helprin's 1983 novel "Winter's Tale". Condensing a sprawling century-spanning American fairy tale of a novel into a two hour movie would be a daunting task for any director, let alone a first timer. In the face of this challenge, Goldsman attempts to stack the deck in his favor with big name talent both in front of the camera (Colin Farrell, Russell Crowe, and Jennifer Connelly) and behind it (Cinematographer Caleb Deschanel and Composer Hans Zimmer).
Studio: Warner Brothers
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD, Other
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Portuguese
Run Time: 1 Hr. 59 Min.
Package Includes:Standard sized 2-disc Blu-ray case in cardboard slipcover with foil enhancement
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer), DVD-9 (dual layer)
Release Date: 06/24/2014
The Production Rating: 2/5
Directed by: Akiva Goldsman
Starring: Colin Farrell, Jessica Brown Findlay, Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, William Hurt, Eva Marie Saint, Ripley Sobo
In Winter's Tale, Colin Farrell plays Peter Lake. Peter is the child of a Russian couple who left him to be raised as a foundling orphan in New York City when they were turned away by U.S. immigration officials at Ellis Island in 1895. 21 years later, Peter is an experienced burglar who has had a recent falling out with ruthless gang leader/mentor Pearly Soames (Crowe). When Peter decides to rob the seemingly empty home of millionaire Isaac Penn, he is surprised to discover Penn's consumptive daughter Beverly (Findlay) still at home. After their larcenous meet cute, Peter and Beverly are smitten with each other. Their improbable romance further infuriates Pearly, who is revealed to be a literal demon determined to prevent Peter from exercising "his miracle". Peter's love for the dying Beverly and Pearly's determination to thwart it ultimately has consequences that span centuries and intertwine the fates of Beverly's family with those of a mother (Connelly) and daughter (Sobo) almost 100 years in the future in present day New York.
Magical realism is a difficult aesthetic to pull off in film, and Winter's Tale, is a textbook example of what can go wrong if it is not done skillfully. Writer/Director Akiva Goldsman never finds the right mix of the fantastical elements of Mark Helprin's source novel with the very specific period New York settings he establishes in the film. Dramatic turns in the story feel unearned. Every experience by Peter in the film seems to be the results of his being used as a pawn in a game played by spiritual forces of good and evil. This undermines his appeal as a protagonist as he has little active responsibility for any of his own accomplishments or setbacks.
The only two elements of this awkward mishmash of a film that do work effectively are the romance between Peter and Beverly and Crowe's scenery chewing performance as Pearly. I cannot understate the charm and romantic chemistry exhibited by Farrell and Findlay. They sell their on-screen romance to viewers in the face of some terrible cliches. In addition to the awkward meet cute described in the synopsis above, Beverly has the type of life threatening tuberculosis that only occurs in the movies. It imparts to her an attractive glow and dramatically convenient fits of coughing without ever discouraging Peter from wanting to kiss her full on the mouth.
Crowe holds nothing back in his portrayal of Pearly, dancing up to and occasionally across the line of "over the top". Considering that the filmmakers, who are perfectly willing to intercut events 120 years apart or flash forward 100 years without explanation, are not willing to provide a single flashback scene to illustrate his relationship with Farrell's Peter, Crowe's scorched Earth approach to the character is the right choice to make him a memorable antagonist. The movie is frequently not much fun for the viewer to slog through, but Crowe's scenes are an exception. He seems to be having a ball hamming it up as an angry, vindictive, and frustrated demon, and that somehow spills over into the audience.
"Winter's Tale" Playlist
The film is beautifully shot by cinematographer Caleb Deschanel and rendered to home video skillfully by this 1080p AVC encoded encoding letterboxed to the appropriate theatrical ratio of 2.4:1. Despite the winter setting, Deschanel rarely includes pure whites in his palette, which visually conveys the film's mix of fantastic elements in a realistic setting with more style and skill than the film's plot, characters, and dialog. There are infrequent moments where contrast tweaking in the digital video realm seems a bit off, but overall, this is an outstanding visual presentation.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
The film's original soundtrack is presented via a DTS-HD MA lossless 5.1 encoding. The mix is fairly conservative, reserving use of the surrounds and LFE for infrequent moments such as a sequence involving a boiler on the verge of exploding. While the mix may be conservative, the lossless encoding renders it with outstanding fidelity which is particularly evident in the presentation of the film's lush romantic score composed by Rupert Gregson-Williams and Hans Zimmer. Alternate Dolby Digital 5.1 language tracks are available in French, Spanish, and Portuguese.
Audio Rating: 4/5
When the disc is first played, the viewer is greeted with the following promos:
Special Features Rating: 2/5
- Warner Ultraviolet Digital Copy promo
- The LEGO Movie Home Video Trailer
Being the Scenes: Characters of Good and Evil (9:14) focuses on the characters and the actors (human or horse) who play them in the film. Interviewees include Goldsman, Platt, Crowe, Findlay, Connelly, William Hurt ("Isaac Penn"), Horse Trainer Rex Peterson, and Horse Trainer Cari Swanson.
Additional Scenes (12:08) are presented with no individual menu selections or chapter stops, but with scene names on title cards preceding them.
- "Peter's Patents Sail Him Off to New York" Extended - includes the extended bits from the brief sequence from the film's prologue.
- "How Long Have You Been Doing This?" Extended - Two scene additions in present day NewYork involving Peter doing some under the table pump maintenance and returning home.
- "Athansor Breaks Free" Deleted - Magical horse escapes from confinement
- "I'd Snap Your Bones and Eat Your Eyes" Deleted - Pearly gives Cecil a beating and some tough talk
- "Peter Visits Humpstone John" Extended - trims from dialog scene that better establish their paternal relationship
- "Thems are Thieves" Extended - trim from scene where Pearly surveys some orphans
- "Peter and Isaac Penn discuss New Years" Deleted - Isaac discussed his desire to take Shirley to a New Years Eve celebration with her father
- "Yes, Baby" Deleted - brief conversation between Virginia and Abby while walking outside
- "We Have to Stop the Treatments" Extended - Virginia gets some bad news and indirectly discusses it with Abby
- "This One's Personal" Extended - Peter is spotted going into a building by some of Pearly's minions
- "Abby is Saved" Deleted - Virginia gets some good news and two alternate divergent scenes are presented
- "Sometimes We Are Saved" Deleted - A brief scene of Virginia hugging Abby over some narration.
This Blu-ray combo pack also includes a SD DVD of the film. The DVD includes Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks in English, French, and Spanish with available subtitles in English (SDH), French, and Spanish. It includes the same Winter's Tale: A Timeless Love featurette from the Blu-ray special features. When first played, the viewer is greeted with the following series of skippable promos:
- Ultraviolet digital copy promo
- Blended theatrical trailer
- The LEGO Movie home video trailer
- Veronica Mars home video trailer
- Transcendence home video trailer
- Edge of Tomorrow theatrical trailer
An insert in the packaging includes a code to unlock a high definition Ultraviolet Digital Copy of the movie. Using the code to redeem the digital copy allows the viewer to access high definition streaming versions of the movie on portable devices, smart TVs, and set-top boxes connected to streaming services such as Flixster, Vudu, CinemaNow, Target Ticket, and M-Go.
"A Love Story for the Ages"
A Winter's Tale is a beautiful looking mess of a movie that attempts to ground the fantastical elements of Mark Helprin's 1983 novel into realistic period New York City settings but winds up a disjointed and ultimately unsatisfying viewing experience. It is presented on Blu-ray with very good audio and video and a modest collection of extras highlighted by a collection of a dozen deleted or extended scenes.
Overall Rating: 2/5
Reviewed By: Ken_McAlinden
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