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Blu-ray Review Beginners Blu-ray Review - Recommended

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Kevin EK, Nov 13, 2011.

  1. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Producer
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    Beginners is a very personal film about grief and a chance for starting anew.  It’s a statement by writer/director Mike Mills about his own family history, and a showcase for some wonderfully shaded performances by Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer and Mélanie Laurent.  The movie may not succeed in all it attempts, but it’s a worthy effort.  The Blu-ray release provides a good video and audio presentation for fans of Mills and McGregor.  Beginners is Recommended for Rental.



    Beginners

    Studio: Universal/Focus Features/Olympus Pictures

    Release Year:  2010

    Length:  1 hr 44 mins

    Genre:  Drama/Romance


    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

    BD Resolution and Codec: 1080p, VC-1 (@ an average 30 mbps)

    Audio:  English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (@ an average 3.0 mbps), Spanish DTS 5.1,

    Subtitles:   English SDH, Spanish, French


    Film Rating:  R (Language and Some Sexual Content, Brief Nudity)


    Release Date:  November 15, 2011


    Starring:  Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, Mélanie Laurent, Goran Visnjic, Kai Lennox, Mary Page Keller, Keegan Boos

    Written and Directed by:  Mike Mills


    Review Rating:    3 ½/5


    Beginners has a palpable air of grief hanging over it, and yet it still manages to find surprising moments of light in the darkness.  The short version of this review is that it’s an interesting film with good performances by the cast, and that it moves at its own leisurely pace.  Fans of Mike Mills from his earlier work will definitely want to pick this up.  More casual fans of Ewan McGregor or of Mélanie Laurent will certainly want to rent this.  I’m going to recommend this one, just on the merits of its effort, in the hope that more people will discover it.


    SPOILERS HERE:   Beginners is closely based on events from Mike Mills’ own life.  In 1999, his mother died and his 75 year-old father declared he was gay.  Or to be more precise, he stopped pretending that he wasn’t gay.  And his father lived in this way until he died in 2003, leaving Mills to try to understand his parents’ relationship and his own life.  This film is the result of that meditation.  Ewan McGregor plays Oliver, whose father Hal (Christopher Plummer) does exactly what Mills’ father did.  But the movie’s focus  isn’t so much on the father as on the son.  The film is constructed in a series of interweaving flashbacks, both from Hal’s final years, and from Oliver’s childhood with his mother (Mary Page Keller).  These flashbacks are contrasted with a post-Hal story where Oliver adopts Hal’s dog Arthur and begins a romance with Anna (Mélanie Laurent), a free-spirited French actress.  The performances throughout are beautifully layered.  Ewan McGregor is remarkably restrained here, while Plummer’s more bombastic moments are usually marked by a deeper thought running just behind the eyes.  There are also some very funny moments, usually involving Oliver’s attempts to adapt to Arthur and vice versa.  There’s a minor running subplot about Oliver’s work as a graphic artist and his complete failure to generate some simple caricatures for a band (He instead tries to sell them on what looks like a magnum opus of pop art that they don’t want).  But the movie is primarily about twin cores – Hal’s attempt to live his final days in happiness and some kind of freedom, and Oliver’s attempt to maintain a relationship past the early days.  There’s a great feeling of truth to the film – particularly in the details of dealing with hospice care and with how one handles the mundane reality of the death of a parent.  As an expression of yearning, the film certainly works.  As an attempt to seriously address how people move on from grief, it’s a noble effort.  It doesn’t completely succeed – the film ends more on a tentative question mark and one wonders if the audience has perhaps learned more than Oliver has.  But there’s a lot more substance going on here than you’ll find in many other movies being released today.   One other note – don’t be thrown by the constant time reference to 2003.  This isn’t a flag of a later story moment.  It’s just that 2003 was the year that Mike Mills’ father died, and thus is the time in which the story occurs.


    Beginners is being released on Blu-ray and DVD this coming week.  The Blu-ray edition contains high definition picture and audio of the movie and a few extras.  The usual Blu-ray functionality is here, including pocket BLU and BD-Live. 



    VIDEO QUALITY   4/5

    Beginners is presented in a 1.85:1 1080p VC-1 encode that effectively translates what was a short, low-budget shoot on the Red HD camera.   For the most part, details and flesh tones are good, as are black levels.  There is one odd moment late in the movie – a car interior shot of Ewan McGregor has a bunch of digital vertical lines in it – but I believe this is something native to the shoot and not to the transfer or the encode.


    AUDIO QUALITY    4/5

    Beginners gets a fairly quiet English DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix, which places almost all of the sound in the front channels.  There’s some use of the surrounds for music, but this is not meant to be an immersive  mix.  Given the contemplative nature of the movie, that’s appropriate.


    SPECIAL FEATURES      3/5

    Beginners comes  with a few special features, including a director’s commentary, a brief graphic trailer and a custom featurette.  There’s also the usual Blu-ray functionality.


    Commentary with Writer/Director Mike Mills – Mike Mills’ scene-specific commentary tends to ramble, and he’s quite soft-spoken.  But there are some gems here if you listen for them.  Mills talks about the short schedule, about his work as a graphic artist, and his affection for the cast.  During the subplot about the graphic work, Mills comes to Oliver’s defense for trying to do something interesting rather than staying in his box.  Mills also admits we are seeing his hands drawing the images whenever we’re in close-up on the graphic work.


    A Short Film About Making Beginners  (14:32, 480p, Full Frame) – This is actually a black-and-white featurette, presented in standard definition and full frame, that covers a lot of ground with Mike Mills.  There’s a visit to his writing office, where the real dog on whom Arthur is based holds court.  There’s also a few telling glimpses of work on the set, where Mills can be seen wearing a suit and tie to work each day.  This is mixed with the usual compliments from the cast.


    Beginners Promo (1:01, 1080p) – This is a very quick graphic art trailer for the movie, featuring the art and narration of Mike Mills.


    pocket BLU – The usual pocket BLU functionality is present here.


    BD-Live – The usual BD-Live functionality is present, including a few online trailers that play as soon as you put the disc in your internet-connected player.


    The movie and the special features are subtitled in English, French and Spanish.  The usual pop-up menu is present, along with a complete chapter menu. 



    IN THE END...

    Beginners is a movie that deserves to be seen by more people, and not just fans of Mike Mills or Ewan McGregor.  The movie may not succeed at everything it’s attempting, but it’s got a lot of substance bubbling through and it may stay with you longer than you think it will.  The Blu-ray makes for a good presentation, and it is Recommended for Rental.


    Kevin Koster

    November 13, 2011.


    Equipment now in use in this Home Theater:


    Panasonic 65” VT30 Plasma 3D HDTV – set at “THX” picture mode

    Denon AVR-3311Cl Receiver

    Oppo BDP-93 Blu-ray Player

    PS3 Player (used for calculation of bitrates for picture and sound)

    5 Mirage Speakers (Front Left/Center/Right, Surround Back Left/Right)

    2 Sony Speakers (Surround Left/Right – middle of room)

    Martin Logan Dynamo 700 Subwoofer

     
  2. vansusa

    vansusa Auditioning

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  3. trashion456

    trashion456 Auditioning

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  4. trashion456

    trashion456 Auditioning

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  5. trashion456

    trashion456 Auditioning

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