DVD Review HTF REVIEW: The Brothers Grimm: Recommended for FANS of the film

Discussion in 'DVD' started by DaViD Boulet, Feb 4, 2006.

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  1. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    [​IMG]

    The Brothers Grimm
    Studio:Dimension Year:2005 RunTime:118 minutes Rating:PG-13 Aspect Ratio:16x9 encoded 1.85:1 Audio:5.1 DD English & French SpecialFeatures:Director’s Commentary, Deleted Scenes, Making-of Documentaries ReleaseDate:Available






    Note: I was taken ill during the holidays when this title streeted on DVD so wasn’t able to get this reviewed prior to release… but I wanted to get a review up even if tardy to provide for discussion and give readers who haven’t purchased the title an opportunity to discover more about it.



    Film...


    The Brothers Grimm has the distinction of being the second Terry Gilliam film that has disappointed me (the first being the Fisher King). It’s not an out-right “bad” film. In fact, it’s relatively entertaining. But in comparison to many similar Gilliam works, and more importantly in comparison to what the film ought to have been, it falls a bit short. Part of the film’s challenge is overcoming the wake of Gilliam’s own success—it’s not easy to impress fan-base audiences who are familiar with works of true brilliance like Brazil, 12 Monkeys, Baron Munchausen and Time Bandits. However, I find that Grimm’s primary weakness is not an inability to distinguish itself from its preceding peers, but rather a lack of focus about what it sets out to do.

    To its credit, Brothers Grimm is a visual success. It paints an elaborate and imaginative world on the level Gilliam’s best fantasy works like Munchausen and Time Bandits. Gothic imagery mixes harmoniously with whimsical designs; imaginative sets engross even the stubborn viewer. However, the story, script, acting and directing never seem to pull the illusion together in a convincing way that compelled. Providing no aid, some obvious digital effects coupled with clumsily interjected comedy dampen whatever mythic-mystique might have otherwise gained root. And the few vestiges of believable fantasy left drifting are wholly dispelled in the vibration of the some of the most out-of-character mood-music since the synthesizer found its 1980’s way into the middle aged landscape of Ladyhawk. I’ll conclude my diatribe by stating that the film would have also been better served by a lead actor less “distracting” than Matt Damon. While his performance is fine, his presence somehow stands out among the rest of the cast and seems jarring. The skit song “one of these kids is not like the others, three of these kids are kind-of the same…” from Sesame Street comes lyrically to mind.

    That all sounds very harsh. And it’s not because Brothers Grimm is really a bad movie, because it’s not. What disappointed me is that it’s an entertaining but only mediocre movie directed by Terry Gilliam. I wanted another adrenaline-filled suspense like 12 monkeys. Or perhaps a portal to land of fantasy like Time Bandits. Or an edgy, challenging social and political statement like Brazil. Or I’d have gladly settled for something new, and done well. Instead I found a film that looks like Time Bandits, rehashes the same theme of “reason versus fantasy” from Munchausen, yet never quite seems to find the soul in which the other films feel solidly rooted.

    As always, I encourage and look forward to you sharing your own opinion in a manner that respects those of others.




    Picture...


    I always breathe a sigh of relief when I review Buena Vista DVDs released under the “DIMENSION” studios as they invariably look noticeably better than the usual live-action B.V. DVDs (Sin City was a DIMENSION title and that was practically a reference disc). The Brothers Grimm looks consistent with other DINENSION releases: Fine object detail is very good, Edge-ringing is minimal, and the picture looks satisfyingly “film like” when viewed wide-angle at 1.6 screen widths on my 106” diagonal screen.

    Gilliam’s signature style is evident throughout—and the image that this DVD delivers is faithful to the look and feel of other Gilliam films that I’ve been privileged to see projected via 35mm. Colors tend to be subdued lending the image a dark and mysterious tone. Contrast seems a bit restricted, and the image lacks bold dynamics and blacks tend to fade into “dark gray” and at times shadow detail can tend to suffer, but this is often the way prints of Gilliam’s films appear when projected so I’m confident that what I’m seeing on this DVD is faithful to the film source. However, I do want to stress that this “flattened” contrast might distract some viewers especially in the predominantly dark night-time forest scenes where my perceptions feel frustrated that the black level doesn’t extend more fully to provide a richer, more solid foundation (though I’m aware that the film-style Gilliam has chosen is one of artistic intent).

    Compression is handled superbly, which is a compliment given the challenging visuals of dark and complex-moving imagery. I noticed no instances of artifacting that pulled me out of the film-experience. Electronic artifacts are minimal and the only major improvement that could be afforded would be the enhanced resolution and color-space of a 1080P HD feed (which I look forward to reviewing on Blu-ray the moment it’s available!).

    If the lack of dynamic rage and deep blacks isn’t a stumbling block (again I’ll point out that this is most likely reflective of the print or IP from which the DVD is derived), I think that this DVD of The Brothers Grimm will satisfy most discriminating viewers…even those with wide-angle systems that typically reveal subtle mastering flaws rendered innocuous on smaller displays watched from viewing angles greater than 1.75 screen widths.


    Picture Quality: 4 / 5

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]


    Rating Rationale...


    Rating Key:

    SCORE Description 1-2 An absolute abomination. Hurts to watch even on a 32” 4x3 480I TV. Think Outland or Jean De Flourette (scan-line aliasing, chroma noise, dotcrawl, PAL-NTSC conversion artifacts etc.)-- 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 Kill Bill Vol 1. 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 the first extended cut of Fellowship of the Ring...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 limited only by DVD’s 720 x 480 resolution. Non-videophile observers can't help but remark "WOW" and ask you if they are watching HD. Think The Empire Strikes Back, the Fifth Element Superbit or the new Toy Story 10th Anniversary Edition.



    Viewing Equipment:
    Currently running DVDs on my OPPO DVD player (Faroudja deinterlacing) which scales to 720P, feeding my BenQ 8700+ PJ via DVI, projecting onto a 106” 16x9 Dalite HiPower screen, viewed from approximately 1.6 screen-widths distance. Well mastered DVDs produce a stunningly film-like image in this scenario, and lesser-mastered material quickly shows its flaws.






    Sound...



    Just like The Brothers Grimm looks like many other similar-themed Gilliam Films, it sounds like them too. Clarity and detail are very good, and there’s a nice abundance of ambient information in the mix. However, despite the 5.1 encoding the mix is decidedly front heavy, and lacks the visceral “spread” normally associated with fantasy films where the sound mix has the potential to play a strong role in supporting the on-screen context. Dynamics are restricted and the presentation sounds a bit compressed in comparison to most modern multi-channel mixes (though never shrill or harsh on the top-end).

    Surround sound is minimal and typically reserved for occasional acoustic fill…like the howl of wind through the forest trees. However, even when present, the surround sounds like “surround sound” I that the character of the rear channel is not integrated with the front mains in a seamless, coherent manner (overall, there were a few scenes where it was more seamless but by and large this wasn’t the case). The presentation felt “Pro Logic” like the days when your receiver sent marginally amplified, frequency-limited mono surround to the back of your room (and remember how excited we were about it at the time? [​IMG]). My opinion is that either the mixing engineer for Grimm was replicating the sound of Gilliam’s earlier works (by either convention or intention) or Gilliam may have a preference for audio mixes that are less attention-grabbing and that lack the “distraction” of modern surround-laden mixes. Whatever the case, I’m sure that the DVD is doing its job admirably, my criticisms are with the artistic decisions governing the mixing style in general.


    Sound Quality: 3.5 / 5

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]



    Listening Equipment:
    B&K AVR 212 processor/receiver driving my Onix-Rocket Loudspeaker system.



    Special Features...



    Bonus features are decent given the single-disc presentation of this release.


    [*]Director’s Commentary:Gilliam’s Commentary is interesting and comprehensive, and covers all the expected categories of casting, directing, screen-play decision, issues surround the filming of each scene etc. Fans of Gilliam will covet his words, but even casual viewers of the film might enjoy listening to the commentary especially for scenes that they found interesting or that left them with unanswered questions.

    [*]Deleted Scenes:There are like 12 deleted scenes. My gosh. The downside is that they aren’t 16x9 and many of them are in “rough” form and sourced from video recordings accompanied without post-production audio. However, if that’s the best way these scenes exist then I’m offering no complaints (and I actually enjoy listening to the original, un-polished audio recording from the actual shoot…quite a world of difference from the audio track of the finished film).

    Some of these scenes didn’t contribute to the film’s mission and so were culled for obvious reasons. However, several of them (like Angelina fighting the giant tree) seem to me to be sad omissions and I think that the movie, and the audience, would have been better served by leaving them intact in the feature film.

    [*]Bringing the Fairytale to Life:16:30 in length. This 4x3 video qualifies for the “behind the scenes/making-of” documentary and is quite interesting to watch: If you made it through the movie take the time and watch this feature. Yes, there’s the usual “it was such an amazing experience” self-congratulatory back-patting but there’s plenty of real content spread throughout to make the promo-dribble worth tolerating.

    [*]The Visual Magic of the Brothers Grimm:This 8.41 minute feature focuses on the digital special effects, and while I respect Gilliam and his team for doing their best to produce convincing digital effects in this film, I take issue with them about their lack of visibility in the finished work. In fact, one of the film’s biggest faults for me personally was the obvious digital effects work which seemed to dispel the darker sense of mystery of Gilliam’s digital-free films of the past. Tree roots that look like digitally-airbrushed cartoons reaching out to grab passers-by just don’t instill the same level of suspense and foreboding as traditional hard-copy props and puppetry. Gilliam states in this film that they first tried physical effects before moving on to digital solutions because the props weren’t convincing. I think I would have preferred the problems with the analog techniques instead.

    Has anyone else noticed how digital images just aren’t scary like “real” analog devices? I don’t know about you, but if my brain clues in that what I’m looking at is digitally synthesized, it bypasses all my “fear and suspense” circuitry. The Rancor from Return of the Jedi, with all of its matting and stop-motion artifacts, STILL strikes fear into me when I watch it even now.

    [/list]


    All Together...



    While I personally found the film to have weaknesses that prevented me from enjoying it as fully as I had hoped, I still see much to appreciate in Terry Gilliam’s latest film effort. At the very least, for those who enjoyed this film, Buena Vista’s DVD release has done a worthy job of presenting this movie in 720 x 480 digital form for you to enjoy in the privacy of your own home-theater. The image looks above-average for a “live action Disney DVD” with good detail and very little edge-ringing. The only “problems” with the video tend to be those that originated in the film original (like the restricted contrast and elevated black-levels) and are in keeping with Gilliam’s film style. Audio is similarly well mastered though the 5.1 mix tends to be front-heavy—it’s perfectly listenable though it won’t be the DVD you pull out to show off the subwoofer and surround speakers to your visiting guests. Bonus material is interesting and should please casual viewers and fan-enthusiasts equally well.

    While I might not recommend this title as a blind-purchase for someone who hasn’t seen the film (in which case I *would* recommend that you rent it if you’re at all curious) I have no difficulty recommending this DVD to anyone who enjoyed this movie or to any Terry Gilliam fan who desires to purchase it on the grounds of completionism for their Gilliam film collection.



    RECOMMENDED for fans of the film
     
  2. Stephen Orr

    Stephen Orr Screenwriter

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    Count me as a fan who will purchase the film as soon as I can get it for 9.99 or less...[​IMG]
     
  3. ChristopherDAC

    ChristopherDAC Producer

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    Frighteningly off-topic, I suppose, but Blade Runner and Star Wars still look more "real" to me than the stuff you get today — and this is comparing theatrical 35mm to letterboxed LD! There's just something which tells you you're looking at a real object… and no matter if it's really what it appears to be.
     
  4. Frank@N

    [email protected] Screenwriter

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    Did a blind buy on this for $10 used.

    Fell asleep during my first effort to watch, but I was fairly tired.

    Picked up halfway through on my second attempt and found the second half more interesting.

    The story and acting never threaten to excite, but the Gilliam’s visual creativity goes into overdrive during the second half.

    Too bad about the poor wolf CG. Anyway, I'm keeping it.
     
  5. Rakesh.S

    Rakesh.S Second Unit

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    i thought it was fantastic..I will take a movie like this over the terrible remakes and sequels we've been suffering through over the past few years.
     
  6. Todd McF

    Todd McF Second Unit

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    You went Oppo eh? I've dumped DVI altogether in favor of the older Panasonic XP-50. Way too many bugs in these budget DVI players in my opinion and I like the BenQ's deinterlacer (Sil504) it seems to handle everything thrown at it.

    I really don't see a difference in resolution and I never have to "worry" about Macroblocking or mechanical problems or whatever.

    How has your Oppo treated you?
     
  7. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    Hey Todd,

    I really liked using the BenQ's deinterlacer as well but I saw the "chroma bug" creating stair-stepping around reddish objectes like the clown fish in finding nemo. Bizzare I know...and my DVD player was a chroma-bug-free player at the time. Over at AVS people confirmed that the BenQ was known to produce this chroma-noise when fed a 480I input...go figure!

    In any case, the 720P signal via DVI from the oppo is the best image I've ever seen on the BenQ outside of HD. It's so detailed, so clean, so amazing with a good DVD.
     
  8. Todd McF

    Todd McF Second Unit

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    I notice chroma from my ancient Pioneer DV333 but not my XP-50, but maybe its just not as prevalent. It was VERY noticable on the Pioneer. You know this is a deja vu discussion!

    I'm actually surprised you bought a machine with the Macroblocking FL3210 chip. I'm not sure which is worse, chroma or macroblocking. I think macroblocking would be worse.

    But you really can't win can you? There is always something. How is that OPPO compared to the Momitsu?
     
  9. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    I know this is Off-Topic but I think it's probably nice for some folks to get exposed to a little bit of projector/upscaling-DVD discussion who might not normally go out of their way to read about it (or even know about it) so just a few more words on the subject...I hope the rest of you don't mind.

    Todd,

    I've tweaked the BenQ's callibration to help hide macroblocking to the point that I don't see it. My biggest problem with the image right now is actually that it's gotten too dim as my bulb has aged and I'm about to either get a new bulb or try to clean my color wheel or both.

    The Oppo is CLEARLY better than the Momitsu. I was amazed. The momitsu produced a great image...but it had a slightly flattened "digital" look that at the time I couldn't put my finger on.

    The OPPO's picture is smoother, MORE DETAILED, and more 3-dimensional (almost like a video version of the difference between Dolby Digital and DTS, if you can imagine). The subtle improvements of the OPPO make an appreciable difference for me...the images are more natural looking now and more film-like as a result. I'm actually amazed at how good the best DVDs look..."Near HD" is not an understatement. Toy Story 10th anniversary was so loaded with detail it almost hurts your eyes...though I know that real HD would look sharper still.

    The OPPO also introduces less edge-ringing...I noticed immediately that "edge enhancement" was less of an issue than with the (good) Momitsu. This is one of the reasons I got the oppo...I didn't want the player to introduce ringing that in my reviews I might mistake for disc-mastering flaws.

    I've heard from other people who have well set up HTPC systems that the OPPO delivers an as-good or better picture than their HTPC. I would agree. The only thing I really want improved is that the OPPO's zoom for 4x3 lbxed or shrinking for pillarboxed material is sub-par...they engineers weren't given all the codes for the Faroudja chip and so they couldn't impliment it properly. Hopefully a future firmware upgrade will fix that (they're trying) and they even are going to try to give the player 1080P output if they can swing it.

    And it's region-free.

    Definitely the best $200 DVD player I ever bought!
     
  10. Todd McF

    Todd McF Second Unit

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    Thanks for the write up David. Certainly sounds better than the Momitsu. And my bulb is dimming too - I've also noticed it dimming/brightening suddenly in movies but only on occasion.

    I'm thinking of getting the 8720 if the throw ratio is equivalent [​IMG]

    I guess we shouldnt take this discussion too far and derail the review but it was nice to get the recap.
     
  11. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    is the 8720 the new 1080P PJ or the improved 720P?

    I *really* want to upgrade to a nice 1080P machine like the RUBY. Problem is that I'm already steeped in credit-card debt and I'm trying to be a good boy and pay it down considerably before I allow myself a luxury item like that. Got to be strong! My buddy will let me use his 1080P JVC in the meantime to screen any high-profile Blu-ray titles that deserve a full 1080P review so I should consider myself lucky...

    [​IMG]
     
  12. Todd McF

    Todd McF Second Unit

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    720P. 10000:1 contrast ratio. Did I say 10000:1? YUP! Waiting for a quote from Jason Turk.

    I'm going to be late to the 1080P party I think. The Ruby looks pretty good but I've got my doubts about LCOS and the best single chip DLP offering is $16K? I think the 8720 is down around $5K.

    And David yeah be strong! Resist! My wife doesnt see the light yet on the 8720. But she doesnt know bulbs are replacable so....
     
  13. ChristopherDAC

    ChristopherDAC Producer

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    Having seen the Sony Qualia SXRD projector in action, on a 10-foot ultrawide screen [thanks to HTF member TedD] I can tell you that I have no doubts about the technology. It's the most transparent display I've ever seen, in the sense that it doesn't seem to add anything to or remove anything from the picture. It's made spectacular by its unobviousness. Much superior picture to the 720p DLP, a few years old, viewed on the same screen.
     
  14. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    IMO, except for absolute black-level, these new crop of SXRD/LCOS 1080P machines produce the most transparent image of any display device yet...including all but the very best 9" CRT projection. Stunning clarity, detail, and naturalness that, as you say, is made most obvious by the *lack* of conventional video reproduction artifacts we normally take for granted.

    My much loved 720P DLP looks "choppy" and grainy by comparison...which is astonishing given how smooth and clear it looks in comparison to what it replaced.

    One thing I really enjoy is the way high-end "audiophile" language is now becoming applicable to video reproduction as well. Words like "depth" and "transparency" that communicate an audio signal reproduced with as little change to the signal as possible start to make sense in the video realm now that we're obtaining signals and displays that can push the envelope of conventional film projection. I say "conventional" film projection in that a 35mm film negative projected side-by-side would look vastly more detailed with greater color range than even these excellent projectors and 1080P HD signals...but in comparison to the projected prints we see at our cinemas, the latest crop of 1080P displays, along with good 1080P software, can meet or even exceed "film" expectations.
     
  15. ChristopherDAC

    ChristopherDAC Producer

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  16. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    Yes...imagine putting it through a magic "reverse" filter so you could appreciate the detail of the very source...

    [​IMG]
     
  17. BrentJ

    BrentJ Second Unit

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    I'm about to watch this. I bought the HK dts-es version a while back. I tried watching it once already and passed out during the first 15 mins or so. Gonna try again. I'll post my opinions a little later tonight.
     

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