HTF HD-DVD Review: Black Snake Moan

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by PatWahlquist, Jun 22, 2007.

  1. PatWahlquist

    PatWahlquist Supporting Actor

    Jun 13, 2002
    Likes Received:
    Black Snake Moan (HD-DVD)

    Studio: Paramount Home Video
    Rated: R (violence, sexual content, language)
    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
    HD Encoding: 1080p
    HD Video Codec: MPEG4-AVC
    Audio: English, French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
    Subtitles: English, French, Spanish; English SDH+
    Time: 115 minutes
    Disc Format: 1 SS/DL HD-DVD
    Case Style: Keep case
    Theatrical Release Date: 2007
    HD-DVD Release Date: June 26, 2007

    Southern tales of love, loss and redemption usually start off with someone paying a pretty hefty price, be it a death or dismemberment or what have you. Director and writer Craig Brewer’s steamy Black Snake Moan gives you every indication that’s just where this story is going, but then he makes a hard left into bondage and kidnapping (sort of), leaving us wondering what the hell will happen next.

    Brewer’s tale goes like this: a horny, hot trollop, Rae (Christina Ricci) has to say goodbye to her boyfriend Ronnie (Justin Timberlake) who’s shipping off to war. They bang each other like screen doors, but when it comes time to part, Ronnie is hit with anxiety, and Rae is hit by “the sickness”, which physically compels her to find the first available boy to…have sex with (since this is a family site, I have to tone down the true word that belongs here, but you catch my drift). She proceeds to party and “sleeps with” a couple local boys, only to be picked up, literally, by Ronnie’s friend, Gill (Michael Raymond-James). When she teases Gill just a little too much, he knocks her out and kicks the nymph (but not for him!) out of his truck, leaving her for dead in the middle of the road.

    The next morning, a recently dumped Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson) takes his garbage out only to find Rae in the road. He does what any God fearing, cop fearing-black-man-who found-a-white-woman-unconscious-in-the-road-in-the-south would do: he scoops her up and takes her home to treat her. Since his wife recently left him, Laz has some demons he needs to expel, and when he sees Rae go into one of her spells, he sees she does too. This is enough for Laz to decide he will make this girl right, and the power of Christ compels him to chain her up until he she’s fixed. Once Rae regains consciousness, she finds her new accommodations none too fine, and she scurries around the property, always half naked (in best B, C, or D move fashion), looking for a way out. Over the course of the next week, Laz treats Rae in many different ways, and each of them finding they are healing each other as well.

    Brewer wrote and directed last year’s awesome Hustle and Flow, which dealt with the rise of a hard workin’ pimp to rap star. Brewer revisits several of the themes from that picture in this one, basically, we all want a better life, and that sometimes comes in ways we don’t expect, nor do we necessarily know what to do with. He does a good job of steering his audience down a path we know, thinking Laz is about to subject Rae to some elaborate revenge scheme as a way to get back at his cheatin’ wife. Instead, Laz (or Brewer) bases his healing in the word of God as a means to heal his heart while at the same time fixing the psyche of a broken, young girl. Rae is quick to adapt to this situation in prime Stockholm Syndrome fashion, and when she finds her physical attributes cannot charm Laz, she learns to channel that angst to fighting her inner heat. Ricci and Jackson excel in this atmosphere and they seem to use this picture as a means to shake off their demons as well, one named Wednesday, the other named Mace, and reminds audiences they’re more than just a franchise. Brewer uses a great selection of blues tunes as a background soundtrack for the picture and the story in general. The story itself is one big blues riff that each of us can relate to: she done me wrong. In the course of the picture, Brewer shows us that even though she done wrong (meant on many different levels), faith in each other can truly set us free.

    Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 12-S4 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 720p. I am using a Toshiba HD-A1 for a player and utilizing the HDMI capabilities of both units.

    The picture is correctly framed at 2.35:1, and it is encoded in MPEG4-AVC at 1080p. Detail is exceptional showing great delineation in the small background objects. Contrast is great with deep blacks and plenty of noticeable detail in them. This picture has a wide array of colors and the HD encoding brings each of them out. Colors are vibrant and rich (bordering on over saturation) with excellent flesh tones. Edge enhancement was not noticed. I noticed a very minor amount of noise in the picture when I got right up on the screen, but from your viewing position, you will not notice this. This is a very recent picture, so it did not have any film dirt or debris. This transfer shows a beautiful clarity and spatiality in most of the scenes, including the darker ones. Another exceptional transfer from Paramount that’s damn near perfect.

    The Dolby Digital Plus soundtrack was attained by a 5.1 analog connection.

    I watched the disc with the Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 track engaged. This is a very active soundtrack with well utilized surround channels. Effects are almost continuously heard throughout the feature. There are numerous music cues throughout and they are reproduced clearly and accurately. I noticed some of the music starting in the fronts then doing a smooth pan out towards the rears to put us in the soundstage. Voices are natural and free of any boominess and ADR is rarely noticed. LFE’s come up quite often and they remain somewhat tame: during the numerous songs on the soundtrack, they blend in nicely to produce a rich, warm sound. This could have been a very aggressive soundtrack, but I’m glad Brewer and his sound designer held back to give us a very real presentation.

    Bonus Material:
    With the advent of HD-DVD, we are faced with several different audio and video codecs being used on each disc. Due to this, I have begun adding the encoding details as part of the explanation of bonus features when applicable and relevant. For this release, the extras are in MPEG-2 encoding unless otherwise noted.

    Commentary by Writer/ Director Craig Brewer: Brewer’s commentary contains a lot of personal information that he put into the film showing how close he is to his roots and how he wants to share that. The track does not reveal too much more about the picture, but it does reveal a lot about Brewer.

    Conflicted: The Making of Black Snake Moan (27:52): Brewer discusses how difficult it was to get Hustle and Flow made and how he got to this picture. The cast and other crew members join in to talk about what attracted them to the movie and how the shoot went.

    Rooted in the Blues (12:38): Brewer and his composer, Scott Bowman, discuss the music that inspired the film and went to make up its soundtrack.

    The Black Snake Moan (9:03): A history of the song brought to you by Bowman and Brewer and what the song itself means to the movie.

    Deleted Scenes (In HD) (12:17): Five deleted scenes with commentary by Brewer. Most of them add a little more richness to the existing scenes.

    Photo Gallery

    Theatrical Trailer (in HD)

    This is one picture that you shouldn’t take too seriously, because it doesn’t either, and that’s part of its appeal. Once you wrap yourself around that, grab a shot of hooch, keep the guitar at the ready, and enjoy the thunder of this story and it crashes down on you and let the beauty of the transfer wash away your blues…
  2. Ed St. Clair

    Ed St. Clair Producer

    May 7, 2001
    Likes Received:
    LUV'd the audio of this flick.
  3. ppltd

    ppltd Producer

    Aug 30, 2006
    Likes Received:
    Pat, after reading your fine review (and others) I have been convinced to give the disk a try. I am not sure where I was when this was originally released in the theaters, but it must have passed me right by. I will let you know what I think of it when I get an opportunity to view it this weekend.

    Again, thanks for posting the review.
  4. ppltd

    ppltd Producer

    Aug 30, 2006
    Likes Received:
    Just had an opportunity to view this movie. I wasn't sure what to expect for this film and am happy to say that it took me by surprise (pleasantly). I was looking forward to seeing the superb PQ that so many reviews are raving about on this release but got so engrossed in the film, I sort of forgot to examine the quality.[​IMG] I guess that is the way it should be.

    I am not sure how you reviewers can do it. I am not sure how you can watch a movie and examine the technical qualities of the release and still enjoy the films. My hats off to you guys for the fine service you perform for us.[​IMG] Thanks.
  5. Tim Glover

    Tim Glover Lead Actor

    Jan 12, 1999
    Likes Received:
    Monroe, LA
    Real Name:
    Tim Glover
    First of all, a tough film to watch. A really good one that I'll elaborate more in the actual movie discussion forum later. [​IMG]

    The HD DVD of Black Snake Moan might just be the best image I've yet seen in High Definition. Seriously. I know it's always a bit sketchy when we compare different films since there are so many other variables involved. But the detail, the contrast, depth, and silky smooth image was perfectly projected on my Mits DLP (720p-100'' 16x9)

    Excellent....Paramount has put out some seriously great looking discs lately.

    Highly recommended.

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