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Becoming Jane / Jane Eyre Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'Archived Reviews' started by Todd Erwin, Oct 31, 2012.

  1. Todd Erwin

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    Echo Bridge continues to release budget-priced double-feature discs of licensed Miramax titles. The biographical drama Becoming Jane is joined by new-to-Blu-ray Jane Eyre, with mixed results.



    Becoming Jane / Jane Eyre


    Studio: Echo Bridge (under license from Miramax)
    US BD Release Date: September 11, 2012
    Original Release Year: 2007/1996
    Rated: PG (Becoming Jane: for brief nudity and mild language. Jane Eyre for thematic elements and brief violence)
    Running Time: Becoming Jane: 121 minutes, Jane Eyre: 116 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: Becoming Jane: 2.35:1, Jane Eyre: 1.78:1
    Audio: Becoming Jane: English (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo), Spanish (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1); Jane Eyre: English (DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo), Spanish (DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo)
    Subtitles: None

    Movie:
    Becoming Jane: 4 out of 5
    Hollywood’s fascination with Jane Austen may have peaked in 2007 with director Julian Jarold’s biographical Becoming Jane. Anne Hathaway (The Princess Diaries, The Dark Knight Rises) stars as a young Jane Austen, a very independent-thinking and ahead-of-her time woman in late 18th century England, who wants to marry for love, rather than money and convenience, and in the process develops a romantic relationship with an equally penniless attorney, Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy). With her parents (James Cromwell, Julie Walters) facing financial ruin, she must decide whether to run away and marry Tom, marry the wealthy Mr. Wisely (Laurence Fox), or support herself through her writings.

    Becoming Jane features a talented cast delivering solid performances (Maggie Smith rounds out the cast as the wealthy and controlling aunt of Mr. Wisely), as well as beautiful cinematography by Eigil Bryld (In Bruges) of the Irish countryside doubling for 18th century rural England. The story does get somewhat stuffy and dry, much like that author’s work, and that is to be expected. Although not my typical cup of tea, I walked away with admiration and respect for what the film makers accomplished.

    Jane Eyre: 3 out of 5
    Orphaned at a young age and mistreated by her aunt, Jane Eyre is then sent to a strict boarding school for girls until hired as the governess for a young girl living at Thornfield, to whom Mr. Rochester, the master of the property, is her guardian. Strange things begin to happen at Thornfield. Maniacal laughs echo down the hallways, Mr. Rochester’s room mysteriously catches fire, and a house guest is attacked and critically injured. During these occurrences, Jane and Mr. Rochester begin to find themselves drawn to each other. But Mr. Rochester has a secret he’s been trying to keep hidden within the walls of Thornfield.

    Franco Zeffirelli is no stranger to adapting classic works of literature for the big (and small) screen. His adaptations of The Taming of the Shrew (1967), Romeo and Juliet (1968), Jesus of Nazareth (1977), Otello (1986), and, to some extent, even Hamlet (1990) are considered classics. One must then ask, what went wrong with his 1996 adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre? Well, for starters, Zeffirelli’s screenplay (with assistance from Hugh Whitemore) strays quite a bit from the book, and skips over some major plot points, as well (such as Jane’s graduation and internship as a teacher at the boarding school). Although most of the characters feel well-cast (especially Joan Plowright as Mrs. Fairfax, Anna Paquin as the young Jane Eyre, and Charlotte Gainsbourg as the adult Jane), William Hurt feels completely out of place as Mr. Rochester. Like Richard Gere, Hurt is an actor that does not always fit well into period pieces. Although the dreary and bland cinematography fit the piece and give it an added sense of the time period, it ultimately works against the film as a whole, making it even more difficult to watch.

    Video:
    Echo Bridge has included both films on a single BD50 Blu-ray disc.
    Becoming Jane: 4 out of 5
    Much of the BD50 disc has been devoted to Becoming Jane, with a very good 1080p transfer retaining the film’s intended aspect ratio of 2.35:1, using the AVC codec at an exceptionally high bitrate often hovering between 22 and 30 Mbps, and occassionally maxing out at 34 Mbps. As with most period pieces, colors are lush, especially the green landscapes. Flesh tones are consistent and accurate, detail is quite good (particularly in the textures of wardrobe fabrics and stone walls), with minimal crush in the blacks. Film grain is evident, but never distracting, and the print used is virtually free of any blemishes. This is a surprisingly good transfer for a budget title.

    Jane Eyre: 2.5 out of 5
    The same cannot be said of Jane Eyre. The film’s Blu-ray debut is a major disappointment. The 1080p transfer approximates the film’s intended 1.85:1 aspect ratio by opening up the frame to 1.78:1, and has been compressed using the AVC codec with an average bitrate of 18 Mbps. Overall, the image is extremely soft, with facial details becoming virtually lost in long shots, grassy landscapes appearing as green mush, and shadows disappearing into the black backgrounds. Colors are muted, and the print has a bluish tint throughout. To make matters worse, the print used contains a great deal of dirt and minor scratches. Owners of the previous Buena Vista DVD release may not see much of an improvement.

    Audio:
    Becoming Jane: 4 out of 5
    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is very good, with nice stereo separation and clear dialogue, using the surrounds mostly for music and ambient effects. Fidelity is also very good, even though the soundtrack’s bitrate appears fairly low for a 5.1 lossless DTS track (between 1.5 and 2.8 Mbps). Interestingly, the included DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo track sounds louder and the bitrate tends to hover between 1.9 and 2.3 Mbps.

    Jane Eyre: 3 out of 5
    The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo track (with an average bitrate of 1.8 Mbps) has decent fidelity, but lacks any low-end frequencies. Dialogue is clear and steered to the center channel, but occasionally sounds a bit thin. Matrixed surrounds are almost non-existent. It should be noted that the Spanish DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track listed on both the packaging and menu is a typo, as that track is actually a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo track with an average bitrate of 876 kbps.

    Special Features:
    Becoming Jane: 3.5 out of 5
    Most of the special features from the previous Buena Vista Blu-ray release have been ported over. Missing on this new Echo Bridge release is the subtitle trivia track.

    Audio Commentary: Director Julian Jarrold, writer Kevin Hood, and producer Robert Bernstein discuss many aspects of making the film and the involvement of the many financial sources (including the BBC, UK Film Council, and the Irish Film Board, among many others). The track is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo at an average bitrate of 1.0 Mbps.

    Deleted Scenes (SD, 19:24): 13 scenes are included, presented in 4:3 full screen with timecode markers. The deleted scenes show that the film was obviously filmed in Super35, with visible boom mics and added head room in many of the shots.

    Discovering the Real Jane Austen (SD, 16:55): A rather typical EPK piece taking a look behind the scenes of the movie, featuring interviews with key members of the cast and crew.

    Jane Eyre: 0 out of 5
    As with the previous Buena Vista DVD release, there are no special features on this portion of the disc.

    Overall: 3.5 out of 5
    For fans of Becoming Jane and/or Zeffirelli’s adaptation of Jane Eyre that failed to purchase the previous Buena Vista releases will be pleased to know that both films are now available packaged together at a budget price from Echo Bridge. Owners of those previous editions have nothing to gain, except possibly additional shelf space.

     

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