DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Finding Neverland (Recommended)

Discussion in 'DVD' started by DaViD Boulet, Mar 21, 2005.

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  1. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    FINDINGNEVERLAND

    Studio:MIRAMAX Year:2004 RunTime:101 minutes Aspect Ratio:16x9 encoded 2.35:1 (OAR)Audio:5.1 DD English, French & Spanish Subtitles:English, French, SpanishSpecialFeatures:Feature Commentary, Deleted Scenes, Out-takes, Making-of documentary, more… ReleaseDate:March 22, 2005






    Feature...


    Finding Neverland is based on the early 20th Century life-story of struggling playwright James M. Barrie (played by Johnny Depp). James discovers widow Sylvia Davies (played by Kate Winslet) and the developing friendship with her and her children provides an escape (for better or worse) from his own marital difficulties and ultimately inspires him to write one of his most successful plays--“Peter Pan”.

    Finding Neverland is an uncommon modern-day film experience; it’s charming, heart-warming, authentic, and manages to tug at your heart strings without becoming maudlin or uncomfortably sweet. It’s also a showcase for some outstanding performances by Depp, Winslet, and Freddie Highmore (playing the young boy “Peter”). Depp restrains himself in this moving, yet understated role. Kate Winslet is equally adept at revealing her character, and both actors deliver performances that are believable; their “big Hollywood” status doesn’t get in the way of the subtlety that they are able to convey (if you want to be convinced of just how brilliant an actress Winslet is, try watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind right after Finding Neverland--you'll find it hard to believe it's the same actress). Young Highmore (Peter) gives one of the best child-performances I’ve seen since Haley Osment in the Sixth Sense. His characterization is outstanding, and quite convincing. Even moments of “drama”, the proverbial Achilles-heel of modern writing/acting, are handled with grounding and sincerity. Of course, what’s great acting without great writing…David Magee is to be commended for his tempered craft at giving voice to this beautiful story.

    As impressively as the story, writing, and acting come together, every detail of production serves to support the intent of this film. Sets are flawlessly executed…down to unmanicured grass in the city parks (lawn-mowing is a much more modern invention), unpaved roadways, high-gloss paint on the park-benches that has the appearance of old lead-based enamel…flawless. Costumes, interiors, and period furniture provide every pleasure of a period drama, though the film never loses the pure sense of wonder that it sets out to capture. And well worth appreciation, Finding Neverland has some of the most innocuous (effective) digital special effects I’ve seen. Digital effects are perfectly and seamlessly woven into the film’s fabric and never stand-out and draw attention to themselves and destroy the “trust” of the audience or the film’s picture-perfect period appearance. Bravo!


    Picture...


    Better than what you might have been expecting from Miramax, Finding Neverland ratchets-up the image-quality meter just a tad from the usual DVD-picture-quality I’ve seen from them lately. There still are some minor problems with the image…and they are the usual Miramax fare, but much lessened from what you might be used to and my overall impression of the film was quite pleasing on my projection system.

    Having not witnessed the projected 35mm print during its theatrical run, I can only surmise the intended look of the actual “film”. However, given that caveat I’m quite comfortable in saying that several aspects of this film appear very well served by this DVD. Colors have a striking range of hue, and vary scene-by-scene from deep sumptuous reds and greens to subtle, warmly-toned interiors to lush and saturated dream-sequences. This “range” of color suggests to me that the DVD is doing a fair job of representing the intended look of the film elements—something Miramax usually gets right. My viewing comrade noted that some scenes looked “too colorful”, however I suspect that these more brilliantly-saturated scenes are a device intended by the director to suggest an world that at times borders on becoming a dream—an illusion of the imagination.

    Black level is deep and the dynamic range of the image feels confident and bold—more than what is normally experienced with “period” films of this nature. Compression seems to be handled reasonably well and I noticed no obvious macroblocking or color-banding artifacting. Some scenes appear remarkably clean while others (usually interior) scenes exhibit a fair degree of natural film-grain (usally a good sign that a DVD hasn't been air-brushed too excessively).

    Viewed from an approximate 1.6 screen-width distance on my 106” screen, DVD images are forced to reveal their every nuance—like patients strapped-down under the bright light of a dentist's chair. Keep in mind that most viewers watch their monitors from more than 2 screen-widths away (typical “TV” viewing distance is usually more like 3 screen-widths or more in practice) and so chances are if you’re not watching “wide angle” or on a display that reveals very fine image resolution the anomalies in the DVD mastering may not present a problem for your viewing. The problems that I’m seeing are some minor edge-haloing, which more than producing an obvious “ringing” due to the soft-nature of the imagery, tends to exaggerate film-grain a bit and impart a digital signature to the image that’s subtle, yet erodes the film-like illusion of the DVD image on a wide-angle system. Image detail also appears slightly softened, though not as egregiously as many past Miramax transfers and despite what I presume to be some very slight softening (you wouldn’t confuse this with a Warner Brother’s DVD title, for instance), I’m actually pretty satisfied with the overall sense of “detail” and clarity. I’m not trying to be too critical here, and overall I’m quite pleased with the image of the DVD. I will repeat my never-ending wish that sometime soon Miramax would learn to master their DVDs in such a way that preserves the “film-like” illusion in a manner now commonplace with other major studios; if they could just lessen the sense of “digital glare”, however slight it may be, their DVDs would benefit greatly on revealing systems like front and rear-projection displays that are enjoyed by more and more enthusiasts.


    Picture Quality: 3.5 / 5

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    Rating Rationale...

    In the past I think I've been too ambiguous with my scoring or at least haven't applied it consistently from title to title, so I've endeavored to define my rating system more clearly to help make the scoring more meaningful (for all titles reviewed December 2004 and later):

    Rating Key:

    SCORE Description 1-2 An absolute abomination. Hurts to watch. Think "Outland" or MGM's R1 "Jean De Florette" (scan-line aliasing, chroma noise, dotcrawl, MPEG or PAL-NTSC conversion artifacts)-- truly horrid. 2-3 Has some serious problems, but one can at least watch it without getting a headache despite all the problems though you might try to talk your guests into picking a different movie to watch if you have a large projection screen. Think Cold Mountain or (the non-anamorphic) The Abyss 3-4 Good or at least "acceptable" on a big-screen, but not winning any awards and definitely room for improvement if you view the image wide-angle (though smaller-screen viewers may be quite content). Think Phantom Menace (great except for filtering and EE) the first extended cut of Fellowship of the Ring (also decent picture but still some HF filtering and some edge-halos) 4-5 A reference picture that really makes the most of the DVD medium and shows extraordinary transparency to the film-source elements. Non-videophile observers can't help but remark "WOW". Think The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the King, Shrek 2, or the Fifth Element Superbit (full “5” would be sans any edge-halo on 5th E.).





    Sound...



    I’m very pleased with the 5.1 mix on this disc. As you probably suspect, it’s not a show-case for “surround” effects like your Black-Hawk-Down DVD, but I was pleasantly surprised with a moment or two that engaged the full 5.1 mix to good “environmental” effect producing a satisfying 360-degree sense of acoustic space. The front mains spread the score satisfyingly wide, and all dialog is clear without ever sounding bright or irritating. My friend’s dog was convinced more than once that there was some audible threat that needed to be avoided (like sounds of thunder in the soundtrack etc.) and it took an extra-doggie treat or two to keep things calm. Regardless of not being the poster-child for wiz-bang surround effects, the fidelity of audio mix for Finding Neverland is outstanding, presenting a spacious and atmospheric mix that should satisfy most audiophile viewers.


    Sound Quality: 4 / 5


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    Special Features...




    We’ve got a nice little bundle of special-feature content for a single-disc set, and most of the bonus materials are genuinely interesting and should warrant the attention for serious fans and casual viewers alike.

    [*]Feature Commentary: Director Marc Forster, producer Richard Gladstein, and writer David Magee team up for a very informative commentary experience. Their style is playful and informal, and quite a bit of behind-the-scenes information is brought to the surface in their banter. Everything from casting to sets, to deleted scenes to special effects is covered in their conversation. Fans of the film or any of these creative folks should take the time to listen to the commentary track…
    [*]Deleted Scenes: There are three, all 4x3 lbxed, with or without optional commentary. Nothing momentous and the film was best served IMO by their excision, though I enjoyed watching them here.
    [*]Outakes: The usual “blooper” reel that pops up from time to time on these DVDs…cute but not life-changing.
    [*]The Magic of Finding Neverland: This 15-minute making-of documentary is outstanding; don’t let its brevity fool you. The behind the scenes info with the case and crew is illuminating, and many interesting facts about the making-of the film are covered. Even if you’re not a die-hard fan of the film or the actors/film crew, you’ll likely find this feature an interesting and well-spent 15 minutes of your time. Enjoy.
    [*]Creating Neverland: This five-minute featurette covers the topic of digital special effects and details one in particular. I recommend everyone take the time to watch this…it’s interesting you might be surprised just what was real and what was digital illusion in the final film.
    [*]On The Red Carpet: A 2.5 minute spot documenting the film’s Hollywood premiere. Some candid moments with the actors and even a quick-cameo with Hillary Clinton. I enjoyed this and 2.5 minutes isn’t too much of a risk if you’re curious.
    [/list]




    All Together...



    Finding Neverland is a marvelous movie that captures the innocence and purity of a bygone age of movie-making. Though it has the appearance of a period-drama, it charms like a fairytale, which I think was precisely what Director Marc Forster had in mind. Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Freddie Highmore (and others) deliver some of the finest acting I’ve seen of late, and their performances are understated, solid, and quite moving; keep the tissues handy, I required more than one before the credits rolled. Picture quality is better than expected, though it has the usual Miramax quirks (slightly softened image/EE and a slight digital “glaze”) but in spite of its imperfections I found myself dazzled by the beauty of this film’s imagery on my front-projection display. The audio mix is appropriately understated, though very well-recorded, and bonus materials seem ample enough to satisfy the desires of most fans.

    Having the opportunity to watch and review films like Finding Neverland is precisely what makes DVD reviewing so rewarding. If you haven’t seen this film, be sure to watch it now that it’s available on DVD. If you’re already in love with this film and you’ve been waiting for this release, the wait is over and most enthusiasts should be pleased.



    RECOMMENDED
     
  2. Max Leung

    Max Leung Producer

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    This movie snuck under my radar - I will check it out soon. [​IMG]

    As usual, thanks for the informative review!
     
  3. Bill Thomann

    Bill Thomann Supporting Actor

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    Loved it in the theater & will be picking it up first thing in the morning along with my free keychain at CC. Thanks for the great review.
     
  4. Dane Marvin

    Dane Marvin Screenwriter

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    Although I have to admit that "Million Dollar Baby" was better and that "The Aviator" and "Eternal Sunshine..." certainly give it a run for the money (and I'll need to have seen each one more than just the one time to make a final decision), I think "Finding Neverland" may have been my favorite film of 2004.

    Though quite the tearjerker through and through (I was able to resist tears in the theater, but maybe not in the privacy of my own home), it never felt manipulative. Depp and Winselt are a dynamite combo; in fact, they're probably my favorite current actor & actress in Hollywood right now. Just a wonderful film to sit down and enjoy.

    I wanted a grander scale DVD release for it, but I'm willing to upgrade if Miramax ever thinks it's worth doing (not holding my breath). Nice review though -- sounds like a winner!
     
  5. MikeEckman

    MikeEckman Screenwriter

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    This movie and Eternal Sunshine... were my two favorites of the year. I very much look forward to picking this title up later today. I had the opportunity to see it in the theater, and as DaViD mentioned, I needed Kleenex at the end of the film, which isn't something that often happens to me nowadays.

    Depp shows off his usual brilliant acting, Kate Winslet is as good as previously mentioned, but I think the biggest surprise is from Freddy Highmore. If that kid can keep his nose clean throughout adolescance, he really has a shot at having an amazing career. The amount of emotional range and maturity given by a child of his age just blew me away. I normally can't stand child actors, but this kid even makes Dakota Fanning (who I also think has a lot of potential) look like an amateur.

    I was a bit disappointed this movie didnt win more Academy Awards, but nevertheless, a movie doesnt need to win awards for me to appreciate it.

    I am glad its finally on DVD, and hope more people get a chance to experience it on the little round disc we all love!
     
  6. Haggai

    Haggai Producer

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    Highmore is great, and he's the focus of more of the big scenes than any of the other brothers, but really all of the young boys are very good in their roles.
     
  7. CraigL

    CraigL Screenwriter

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    Can't wait to pick this one up today...

    but...but...but....no trailer????
     
  8. Tim Glover

    Tim Glover Lead Actor

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    Nice review David. Neverland was my favorite film of 2004. Can't wait to run to my local Wmart later today and pick it up. [​IMG]
     
  9. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    I was in my local Target tonight....and not a copy of Finding Neverland to be found.

    Either they didn't get any in for today....or they sold a bunch...considering all the empty shelf space that was devoted to it. There WERE, however, tons of copies of Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason and Fat Albert. [​IMG]

    Probably just an isolated incident.
     
  10. Dane Marvin

    Dane Marvin Screenwriter

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    Not quite, Mike. Target in West Omaha was out of them by at least 5:00. Saw lots of shelf space where it belonged, too. Ended up having to pay $3 more at BB. But it was worth it.

    By the way, I cried this time. [​IMG]
     
  11. Tino

    Tino Lead Actor
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    I agree with others that Finding Neverland was 2004's BEST film.

    A wonderful, emotional heartfelt film with great performances and a excellent script.

    Hopefully this film will find a larger audience on DVD that it did in theaters.

    Thnaks for the in-depth review David.
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  12. Tommy G

    Tommy G Screenwriter

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    David, you really need to start asking for commission from these studios. You convinced me to purchase this dvd simply from your review. Originally, I was not planning on picking this up but now......sold. Great review! [​IMG]
     
  13. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Finding Neverland is one of the most delightful films to be found in theatres in a number of years. The performances are superb across the board.

    RAH
     
  14. Allen Hirsch

    Allen Hirsch Supporting Actor

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    I'll second Mr. Harris's comments. If ever there were a film that warranted a "blind purchase", this is probably it, especially since several B&Ms have it for less than $15.

    I initially had no interest in seeing this in the theater, until it garnered some nominations, and my wife wanted to see it. I'm so glad I did - I was thoroughly enchanted. Terrific set designs and costuming, fine performances throughout.

    You won't have many dry eyes in the house, by the end - it's that moving.
     
  15. Ron-P

    Ron-P Producer

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    Picked it up blind yesterday. Wanted to watch it last night but the family voted for Around the World in 80 Days. Hopefully, I can watch it tonight. Depp being my favorite actor sold me on the blind purchase alone.

    Thanks for the great review David! [​IMG]
     
  16. andrew markworthy

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    If you like the movie and want to explore the true story behind it further, you may be interested in the following site:

    http://www.jmbarrie.co.uk/

    It is by the author of an excellent biography of J.M. Barrie and contains a generous amount of material from the book.

    On the same theme, there is an extremely good BBC series covering the same ground as Finding Neverland called J.M. Barrie's The Lost Boys, starring Ian Holm. As far as I can recall, it's a little more historically accurate than the film (though that isn't to denegrate Finding Neverland, which I agree is excellent). However, I believe that The Lost Boys is only available in R2.
     
  17. Tim Glover

    Tim Glover Lead Actor

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    Got to watch the dvd last night. Agree with David's review. The image was rather great; only a few moments of ringing. Good stuff. Audio was also good.

    Finding Neverland was my #1 film for 2004. [​IMG]
     
  18. Ron-P

    Ron-P Producer

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    What an excellent film. Watched it last night and loved it. Great picture and sound as well.
     
  19. Donnie Eldridge

    Donnie Eldridge Supporting Actor

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    Saw this one in the theaters not knowing what to expect. What a fantasic movie, I had to pick it up this afternoon.
     
  20. Ryan L. Bisasky

    Ryan L. Bisasky Second Unit

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    I surely can't be the lone gun who hated this movie when it was in theaters. Hell, I even saw a sneak preview a week before it came out. there was nothing real special about the movie in my opinion and found it incredbly slow moving for my taste. (this here is a fan of lost in translation, which while slow was also funny, and a nice little character movie)
     

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