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Blu-ray Review The Giver Blu-ray Review (1 Viewer)

Matt Hough

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The Giver Blu-ray Review

An almost two-decade passion project for actor Jeff Bridges, Phillip Noyce’s The Giver is a good but not great science fiction thriller. There’s an extremely capable cast playing out this unique dystopian fantasy, and its many themes and morals should hit home for adults as well as younger viewers, but the film rushes through its major moments of revelation, and there are enough problematic aspects of its final quarter hour that one emerges from the viewing experience enlightened if not entirely satisfied.

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Studio: Weinstein

Distributed By: Anchor Bay

Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC

Aspect Ratio: 2.39.1

Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Rating: PG-13

Run Time: 1 Hr. 37 Min.

Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, UltraViolet

keep case with slipcover

Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)

Region: A

Release Date: 11/25/2014

MSRP: $39.99




The Production Rating: 3.5/5

In a sterile utopia of an undetermined future age where individual sensations have been eliminated to homogenize and equalize the experience of living, all human beings are assigned their life’s work tasks when they complete their education. While his best friends Asher (Cameron Monaghan) and Fiona (Odeya Rush) are given the regular jobs of drone pilot and nurturer respectively, overtly sensitive Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) is named Receiver of Memory, a one-of-a-kind job that carries with it particular perks (an unregimented wardrobe, freedom from always telling the truth, entry to secrets withheld from the general populace). His teacher is The Giver of Memory (Jeff Bridges), and during the course of their months of sessions, Jonas is introduced to such startling concepts as color, weather extremes, music, war, death, and, inevitably, love, all of which had been removed from society for its own good. So overwhelmed by these new sensations that he wants the others to share in their own realizations of them, Jonas becomes a threat to the placid way of life of this new civilization, and the stringent Chief Elder (Meryl Streep) must put an end to his commitment to revealing these secrets being kept safely away the calm, antiseptic life they have enjoyed for so long.Adapted from the Newbery-winning adolescent novel by Lois Lowry, the script by Michael Mitnick and Robert B. Weide does an excellent job in portraying this new kind of Shangri-La where there is no envy or hatred, no competition or bullying but also no passion, no richness, and no zest for life. Pictorially, the movie begins in black and white with either momentary flashes of color when Jonas’ senses are initially stimulated and then a gradual seeping into the picture of color as his eyes begin to be opened wider to the beauties, the pleasures, and the possibilities (good and bad) of life. But the film runs into some trouble later on when Jonas’ climactic actions are not only about freeing himself to enjoy all the things that had been denied to him and his “brother” but also that his crossing a barrier on the outside also reopens those thoughts and feelings for everyone else, an idea that seems to conflict with all that had gone before since those were ideas which had been withheld from the populace (so how could they return to people who never had them to begin with?). Phillip Noyce, who had done excellent work helming a couple of Jack Ryan action thrillers like Patriot Games and A Clear and Present Danger, does fine here as well navigating this strange land of indifference and noncompetitive behaviors, but he’s defeated by some strange choices late in the movie as Jonas and the infant he has taken with him to save from destruction traverse a landscape that seems to include the tropics, the plains, a desert, and snowcapped peaks all within a day or two’s journey. The movie was shot in South Africa, but this fictional Never Land would need about four different continents to actually exist and takes some of the fun out of the movie’s established locales in the process.Brenton Thwaites has the fresh-faced, wide-eyed look of a total innocent as Jonas, and that works fine early-on while Jonas is being introduced to concepts far beyond any of his prior experiences, but the sense of outrage and longing seems rather feeble and passive here in the later reels and needed to have been jacked up considerably for the film to have the powerful intended impact it so obviously is seeking. Jeff Bridges is excellent as the Giver who is weighed down with all this information and all these revelations (he’s also hiding a terrible secret from a decade prior which inevitably surfaces during the movie) and who makes no apologies for spurring within the lad a sense of curiosity and a yearning for learning. Meryl Streep’s wide range is tethered in tightly as the constricted Chief Elder who’s certain their current path is the correct one. Alexander Skarsgård and Katie Holmes are likewise restricted by their zombie-like presences as Jonas’ Father and Mother (though in name only in this society). Odeya Rush as Jonas’ love interest and Cameron Monaghan as Jonas’ best friend Asher are given only brief moments to shine. Taylor Swift has a brief but rather flaccid cameo as the Receiver of Memory who preceded Jonas.


Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA

The film’s 2.39:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully reproduced in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is outstanding throughout, and the transfer handles the early black and white and the gradual insertion of color without any notable digital anomalies. Flesh tones once they emerge are natural and appealing. Contrast has not been applied vigorously to the black and white sections so they appear a bit milky, but the picture quality is consistent throughout. The movie has been divided into 16 chapters.



Audio Rating: 4.5/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix gives a wide range to Marco Beltrami’s expansive score filling the fronts and rears with a full, rich sound. Dialogue has been well recorded and has been placed in the center channel. Sound effects get a more than decent spread within the soundstage with a few panning split effects of drones late in the movie which add power and emphasis to the action on-screen.


Special Features Rating: 4/5

Original Script Reading (39:47, SD): Jeff Bridges presents a home movie shot with members of his family (including his father and mother) reading from the original script which he had hoped to have directed as a film eighteen years ago.Making The Giver: From Page to Screen (21:39, HD): original author Lois Lowry, screenwriters Michael Mitnick and Robert Weide, director Phillip Noyce, producer Nikki Silver, and actors Jeff Bridges, Brenton Thwaites, Katie Holmes, Meryl Streep, and Alexander Skarsgård offer soundbites about bringing this special material to the screen.Jonas’ Harrowing Journey – Extended Scene (9:23, HD): the problematic climactic journey by Jonas across varying landscapes in its original length before being edited in the movie.Press Conference (35:31, HD): a question and answer session with the international press featuring all of the primary cast members, director, writers, producer, and original author held in August 2014 at the film’s premiere.“Ordinary Human” Featurette (2:43, HD): singer/songwriter Ryan Tedder from OneRepublic talks about his inspirations for the song written for the movie.Lois Lowry Interview (3:35, HD): the author of the original novel talks about the genesis for her book and reflects on the film’s changes and what she’d like to rewrite about her original work based on the film’s revisions of her vision.Study Guide: four different passages from the original book as portrayed in the film with teacher’s guides for class instruction in text form.Promo Trailers (HD): Vampire Academy, The Maze Runner.DVD/Ultraviolet: disc and code sheet enclosed in case.


Overall Rating: 4/5

An interesting if not altogether successful realization of a classic adolescent novel, The Giver offers thought-provoking viewing nevertheless and comes to Blu-ray with a beautiful video and audio transfer that brings out the movie’s singular vision. Recommended!


Reviewed By: Matt Hough


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Brian McP

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I thought this was a pretty good movie (I saw it during its theatrical run) but came in the middle of a sea of movies of adolescent heroes vs the elder heirarchy, whether it be a science fiction movie like this or a romcom or a genre movie about young love in urban settings, in the present or the past -- I think this may have been a reason why this movie didn't have the impact with moviegoers that it did with those who read the book.

Slightly off topic, but this movie was directed by Phillip Noyce, one of Australia's legendary directors. Do yourself a favour and pick up on dvd his greatest movie "Newsfront" (1978) starring Bill Hunter, Wendy Hughes, Gerard Kennedy, Bryan Brown and a galaxy of some of the great Australian character actors of the era.It is a movie about an Australian newsreel company dating from the end of World War II through to the advent of television and uses tons of actual newsreel footage as part of the movie itself (the opening scene has Chico Marx and a number of Australian soldiers singing "Waltzing Matilda").

This movie deserves to be as well known as "Picnic at Hanging Rock" is overseas and came at the high point of the Australian film renaissance of the 1970s. If there ever was a nominee for a future Criterion special edition, "Newsfront" would be it (and "The Alamo", naturally) -- knowing those who post here on the Forum, I think they would find Phillip Noyce's "Newsfront" a great experience.

Certainly, pick up a copy of "The Giver" on bluray, but while you're at it, go to your search engine and find a copy of "Newsfront" as well.
 

bujaki

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Newsfront is great. Thanks for reminding me of that movie. And Wendy Hughes is a knockout. In anything.
 

Ejanss

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Brian McP said:
I thought this was a pretty good movie (I saw it during its theatrical run) but came in the middle of a sea of movies of adolescent heroes vs the elder heirarchy, whether it be a science fiction movie like this or a romcom or a genre movie about young love in urban settings, in the present or the past -- I think this may have been a reason why this movie didn't have the impact with moviegoers that it did with those who read the book.

Getting back to the actual movie, it's a heretical step off of the original book--In the Lowry novel, the dystopian society is a red-state dream of small towns and family values, just that nothing's particularly...red, or any color.
Here, with the slick Frank Lloyd Wright future, the producers heard "Dystopian young-adult bestseller", and....no prize for guessing what they thought. :rolleyes:

(It's not as shameless for Walden Media as their attempts to "fix" The Dark Is Rising for screen, but it's pretty darn close.)

Also, good thing I'd already read the book in junior high before every single trailer spilled the "shocking" twist as part of the main plot.
 

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