HTF REVIEW: "A Beautiful Mind" <HIGHLY RECOMMENDED> (with screenshots)

Ronald Epstein

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A Beautiful Mind




Studio: Universal
Year: 2001
Rated: PG-13
Film Length: 136 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1)



"I need to believe that something extra
ordinary is possible..."

I have a love-hate relationship with the Best
Picture winner, A Beautiful Mind. I am
not very happy with the fact that this film
overshadowed Moulin Rouge, a picture that
took more risks, energy and sweat to produce.
I suppose I felt that A Beautiful Mind too
much fits the formula for what would considered
to be Best Picture material, while Moulin Rouge
went outside the formula and succeeded in doing so.
It is not my intention to turn this review into
a debate of what film truly deserved the Academy
Award for Best Picture. Without any argument,
A Beautiful Mind stands on its own as an
original, intelligent and entertaining movie that
once again proves that Ron Howard is one of the
most creative and talented Directors in Hollywood.

Based on the life of John Forbes Nash Jr., "A
Beautiful Mind" tells the story of an extraordinary
man who overcame great obstacles in his life to
become a Nobel Prize-winning mathematician.

The film begins in 1947 at Princeton University
where we meet John Nash (Russell Crowe), a rather
reclusive individual whose distinct lack of social
skills contrasts with his utter brilliance. After
three years he has produced a 27-page dissertation
for his doctorate in which he greatly expanded the
field of Game Theory. John's revolutionary
discovery puts him at the top of the academic world.
He soon begins working and teaching at MIT where
he is discovered by William Parcher (Ed Harris)
who recruits Nash as a government code breaker.

While at MIT, Nash meets a student, Alicia Larde
(Jennifer Connelly), a brilliant, beautiful
woman with whom he falls in love. Unfortunately,
their relationship is tested by Nash's worsening
illness.

Not since The Insider has Russell Crowe
given a performance so outside his real-life persona.
Crowe brilliantly captures the quirky mannerisms
of the Nash character who is often arrogant and shy,
cocky and tongue-tied. It is also amazing to watch
the age progression of his character over the course
of 50+ years.
How is the transfer?
In general, the transfer looks great. The picture
remains clean and virtually free of any annoying
video noise. You can almost see hints of film
graininess in the picture. Colors don't generally
stand out, nor are they meant to. The only time
that color is emphasized is in Jennifer Connelly's
pink dress that stands out vividly when she visits
Nash in his office for the first time.
What I am somewhat bothered by is the orange color
that is cast over the entire transfer for the first
25 minutes of the film. I would suspect that Ron
Howard used this color cast to convey a look for
the time period it represents. The only problem
is, even when the picture becomes more normalized
in color, flesh tones often remain a little more
on the orange side. This is more a problem with
exterior scenes than it is with interior scenes,
where flesh tones look more normal. By the halfway
point of this film, it seemed that the colors in
the picture were no longer becoming a nuisance.

I am surprised that this DVD lacks a DTS track,
but am not really bothered by it since this isn't
a movie that demands a more extravagant sound mix.
I am always pleasantly surprised when a dramatic
film such as this produces a better sound mix than
would be expected. The rear channels provide a
nice supplement to James Horner's beautiful score.
You'll appreciate it right from the very beginning
of the film as a chorus of "whoo-ah-whoo" surrounds
the viewing area. The sound of piano keys can be
clearly heard from the rear channels complimenting
the rest of the score playing through the front.
During many of the outdoor scenes on the campus,
you can hear the sounds of birds chirping in the
trees or the faint sound of blowing wind. Inside
the school, you can hear the echoes of people
walking and chatting in the hallways. Even weather
elements such as a pouring rainstorm with claps
of thunder take on a sense of direction amongst the
different surround channels.
Special Features
Universal has released A Beautiful Mind in
a very special 2-disc "Awards Edition" that arrives
in attractive packaging with a 4-page booklet on
the inside cover. The booklet features Director
Ron Howard and Producer Brian Grazer talking about
the importance of shooting the film in exact order
sequence which is immensely helpful to the actors
in developing their characters. The booklet also
talks about the involvement of the real John Forbes
Nash, Jr. and how it gave the filmmakers the chance
to observe the mathematician.

Disc One contains the entire film which
can be played with the choice of two supporting
commentaries. The first commentary is with
Director Ron Howard. The second, with Screenwriter
Akiva Goldman.
As you select Deleted Scenes, you are
immediately greeted with a voice-over from Director
Ron Howard who invites you to take a look inside.
He explains that he normally does not include such
scenes on his DVD, but felt that the scenes were
interesting enough to include. You have the option
of playing these scenes with or without commentary
from Ron Howard.
There are almost 20 scenes in all which include:
* A scene showing a young John Nash riding
around campus on his bicycle as Howard explains
that the real Nash was known for walking aimlessly
around the campus grounds, taking to his bike and
riding around in figure eight circles.
* Nash's genius is further shown as we watch
him perfect a mathematical game that he invented
on the campus. In a following scene, Russell
improvises a moment where he jumps up on a
classroom table as he brags about the game he
had just invented.
* In a scene that Howard greatly regrets
cutting, Sol (Adam Goldberg) visits Nash at his home,
scolding him for missing conferences and briefings.
It is here that Sol takes a look at Nash's top
secret projects that he is working on.
* A dream sequence where Nash sees his wife
killed by a nuclear blast.
* Ron Howard's father was in an excised scene
at the sanitarium where Doctor Rosen (Christopher
Plummer) confronts John Nash about his confusions.
All the scenes are in unfinished form, generally
good condition with a few blemishes and a few
color timing issues.
Included Production Notes tell us the story
of a Vanity Fair article reaching the attention
of Producer Brian Grazer who had always felt that
Ron Howard was the perfect choice in telling Nash's
story.
Cast and Filmmakers not only gives us a
list of individual film credits, but some great
insight into the actors themselves.
The DVD-ROM features TOTAL AXESS which
through an internet connection, allows you to access
Universal's website to see exclusive interviews,
behind-the-scenes footage, and weekly updated news
about the film. A promo for this feature is included
on Disc One.

Disc Two reads like a laundry list of
bonus materials which I will briefly give you
a summary on.

A Beautiful Partnership dwells into the
the two talents behind the making of the film,
Ron Howard and Brian Grazer. Although many
Directors were interested in Brian's project
involving Nash's story, it was ultimately Ron
Howard who he had sought after for the longest
period of time. In a very relaxed and carefree
interview, both men talk about their very similar
ideas in filmmaking and yet their different
approaches in putting their ideas on film. There
are some great behind-the-camera footage shots
throughout this piece....and of course, Colleen
Benn's name on every credit.
(length: approx. 5 minutes)

Development of the Screenplay is a conversation
with screenwriter Akiva Goldsman. As we are
introduced to the real John and Alicia Nash (shown
on the set of the film), Goldsman tells us that
John has no memory of many of the ravages that took
place during his disease. This enabled Goldman
to create an "inner life" that provided a window
for the audience to sort of feel what it would
be like to suffer from this paranoid-schizophrenic
disease. Ron and Akiva are shown on the set
filming a scene, when Ron turns to Akiva asking
him if the scene was believable enough. Overall,
a very nice piece on screenwriting that is not
normally covered in Special Editions like this.
(length: approx. 7 minutes)

One of my favorite features is Meeting John
Nash. Ron Howard asked Mr. Nash if it was okay
to film him as he described his existence of
Equilibrium points in his thesis paper. We are
shown a videotape of the elderly John Nash, in
a classroom, as he describes mathematics that
most of us will never understand. Thankfully, key
points of his discussion are pointed out in
added subtitling. This is a very candid look at
Nash in his own element, very unshy, showing off
his genius ability.
(length: 8 minutes)
Stockholm, Sweden 1994. There is footage of
the real John Nash Accepting the Nobel Prize
in Economics. Not nearly as dramatic as
featured in the film (where is the speech?) this
is a very short clip of his Nobel acceptance.
(length: approx. 1.5 minutes)
Ron Howard explains how nail biting the casting
process is for him in Casting Russell Crowe
and Jennifer Connelly. Howard immediately
recognized a level of intelligence in Russell
Crowe that he knew would properly be translated
into the character of John Nash. Hundreds of
actresses and models had auditioned for the role
of Alicia Nash, but it was Jennifer Connelly's
performance in "Requiem for a Dream" that convinced
Producer Brian Grazer that she was perfect for
the part. She even looked somewhat like the
real Alicia Nash at a young age. The scenes
between Crowe and Connelly really clicked and
Ron Howard really felt that there was screen
chemistry between both actors.
(length: approx. 5 minutes)

Meet make-up artist, Greg Cannom. In the
featurette, The process of age progression,
we learn how the flow of gradual makeup aging is
so importantly presented in this film. We go
through the various stages of his age progression
using key clips of film footage where his changes
take place. Cannom describes how and where he
added subtle makeup to make the change progression
as fluid as possible without ever making it seem
like a huge jump from scene to scene. In all, 9
stages of makeup were done on Russell Crowe.
Face and neck molds as well as makeup tests are
shown in detail. Very nice!
(length: approx. 7 minutes)

In Storyboard Comparisons, we are shown
original storyboard drawings below a window of
completed film footage as you the viewer compare
how original artist inceptions are translated to
film. These comparisons are done for 3 key scenes
in the movie. There are also storyboard comparisons
presented for 2 scenes deleted from the film.
In Creation of the Special Effects, Ron
Howard and Brian Grazer talk about getting to
know effects designer Kevin Mack, who knows a
lot about math and science. Ron thought Mack
was the perfect choice for this project. Kevin
Mack personally talks about his creation of ideas
to show how John Nash's way of thinking. These
ideas translated into a shot of a tie in the
beginning of the film. We take a look at how
Nash's baby in a bathtub was shot with the baby
being placed in a dry tub and water, lighting and
refraction elements added separately to create the
illusion of a baby in a wet tub. Really cool stuff!
There are also many blue-screen effects that are
described in this piece, as well as adding pigeons
to a grassy campus area where none existed. One
of my favorite shots is a camera pullback from a
window where Nash is seen working from his desk
while snow falls in the foreground. This entire
shot is dissected with all the original elements
and how they were added in one-by-one.
(length: approx. 10 minutes)

Scoring the film is a homage to James
Horner, who has scored many of Ron Howard's films.
Horner had read the book a year before he learned
of the film, and was very eager about working on
the film. Horner's mind was whirling with ideas
on how to convey mathematical numbers through
music. We watch Horner on a large sound stage as
he conducts the orchestra alongside the film.
(length: approx. 5 minutes)
Inside A Beautiful Mind is one of those
cable channel promotional fluff pieces that
features an overenthusiastic narrative voice-over
that gives a general overview of the movie. Filled
mostly with clips of the film, there are snippets
of interviews from Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Russell
Crowe and Jennifer Connelly. There is also a very
brief comment from John Nash, himself. After you
have seen all the in-depth coverage of the previous
supplemental material, this fluff piece becomes
rather difficult to watch just because it merely
glosses over everything you already know.
(length: approx. 27 minutes)
This is really great! I wish there was more
of this sort of stuff on DVDs. What am I talking
about? The inclusion of Academy Awards reactions
from winners. Here it is folks, actual footage
from this year's Academy Awards show reactions
and acceptance speeches for Best Picture, Best
Director, Best Supporting Actress and Best
Adapted Screenplay. Kudos to Universal for
being able to snag this material for this DVD.
This is really worth the watch!
Rounding out the Special Features....
The film's original theatrical trailer
is presented.
A promotional trailer for A Beautiful Mind
Soundtrack.
A 48-second Universal Now Showing promotional
montage of all their latest and greatest DVD
product. Man, do I miss the wonderful promotional
pieces that used to show up at the beginning of
Universal DVDs. Where did they go?
In an interesting addition, you can not only
view the original trailers from Apollo 13,
The Family Man, K-Pax and Patch Adams,
but a secondary button features supplemental
material from those films including behind-the-
scenes footage and outtakes. Really great stuff
that I had not expected to be included!
Finally, further information is provided for
organizations dealing with schizophrenia and
mental health disease, including URL web addresses.
Final Thoughts
To date, I would rate this the Best DVD Release
of the year. Hands down, Universal has put
together a Special Edition package that truly
is as magnificent as the film itself. The added
material is as fun to watch as is interesting.
This DVD belongs in every personal collection.
I will not even debate the issue that this should
be bought sight unseen.
Release Date: June 25, 2002
 

Kyle McKnight

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Mar 8, 2001
Messages
2,504
While I have planned on picking this movie up on disc since I saw it in the theater, I can't help but say what an eye sore that cover is.
 

Tony Scello

Second Unit
Joined
Sep 8, 1999
Messages
318
Another great review Ron. This is a great film and, apparently, one of the best overall DVD sets of the year. Purchasing this is an absolute no-brainer. I can't wait.
 

Michael Dueppen

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Sep 19, 2000
Messages
217
Great review, Ron. Thanks.
I will definitely pick this one up. And as a bonus to the great presentation it seems to be one of the few discs that have really worthwhile extras.
 

Adrian_P

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Aug 24, 2000
Messages
83
Great review there Ron. I enjoyed this film immensely (thought Russell Crowes performances was amazing) and will most definately be picking it up.

Just a question can anyone find a link to the Widescreen version of this DVD at Amazon? Because at the time of posting this I can only find the full screen release.
 

Jason Hughes

Supporting Actor
Joined
Oct 17, 1998
Messages
883
Real Name
Jason Hughes
Thanks for the review, Ron. Brilliant movie. I think Crowe got bent over hard at the Oscars.
 

Tom Bley

Grip
Joined
Sep 14, 1998
Messages
22
Thanks for the review Ron. I can't wait for this movie, loved it in the theater. I noticed the color you mention in the theater so I think it's normal.
 

Gavin_L

Second Unit
Joined
Aug 24, 2001
Messages
266
thanks ron for the review, saw it last week, and thought it was great. will be picking this one up on dvd
 

Oscar

Second Unit
Joined
Apr 1, 2002
Messages
419
Whoa Ron you are fast!
I loved this one and i will definetly pick it up at where they sell DVD´s.

Also it seems to have very great extras.
 

Scott-C

Supporting Actor
Joined
Jul 23, 2001
Messages
863
Thanks Ron - nice review! A no-brainer for me...saw this movie in the theater and loved it, and I'd buy the DVD even if it were barebones (as long as it wasn't P&S!). The fact that it's a 2-disc loaded set is pure gravy!
 

Tom Oh

Second Unit
Joined
Jul 11, 1999
Messages
253
Great review as always Ron! I didn't really care for this film when I saw it in the theater, but your review just makes it so damn tempting to pick up...
 

Paul-Gunther

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
May 23, 2002
Messages
146
I wasn't sure if I was going to pick this one up, as I had mixed feelings about it after seeing it in the theater. I'd liked it initially, but the more I thought about it, the more I became bothered by it. But, after reading your review, I'll think I'll give it a try.
 

Scott Weinberg

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Oct 3, 2000
Messages
7,477
Ron,
You're on a roll with these reviews! It seems that Universal is ruling 2002 so far! After this release and Legend, they can do no wrong.
The A Beautiful Mind DVD sounds amazing. The only complaint I can think of is that jarring gold banner surrounding the poster art.

Can't wait to pore through Disc 2!
 

ace peterson

Second Unit
Joined
Jun 4, 2001
Messages
340
Thanks for the review, Ron! Sounds like a terrific DVD, but I don't think I'll buy it the day it releases. I enjoyed the movie in the theater a lot (my wife did not). But, I'm not sure I'd watch it over and over if I bought it. You know what I mean? I'll put it on my Christmas list me thinks.

Ace
 

Andrew Chong

Supporting Actor
Joined
May 7, 2002
Messages
739
Thanks for the revealing review, Ron.

One question: How were the feature-length commentaries? I've never heard a commentary by Ron Howard before. Were Ron Howard and Akiva Goldsman forthcoming with interesting information throughout the length of the movie?
 

Matt_Wizall

Agent
Joined
Mar 20, 2001
Messages
25
I never did catch this in the theaters unfortunately (too busy catching up on old stuff), but I can tell this will be an obvious blind buy for me.
 

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