Archive for the ‘Ben is Back (2018)’ Category

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Lionsgate Films

Release Date: March 05, 2019

Region: Region A

Length: 01:43:18

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Ratio: 2.39:1

Notes: This package also contains a DVD disc and a digital copy of the film.

I should probably say up front that I met Peter Hedges and had the opportunity to listen to him speak on two separate occasions. This was during the theatrical release of Dan in Real Life. The first was at Angelo State University and the second was at a benefit meal and screening of the film at a local cinema in San Angelo, Texas. He made an impression on my young mind, and I have followed his career with interest since that occasion.

I can say with certainty that Ben is Back is his strongest directorial effort to date. While certain critics have complained that the film can be “sentimental” (a criticism that has haunted Hedges throughout his career), it is difficult to understand what they could have been expecting. The film tells the story of an addict son (Lucas Hedges) and a mother (Julia Roberts) who refuses to give up on him despite the overwhelming odds against his chances of recovery. What honest rendering of this story could avoid the occasional sentimental moment?

Roberts gives one of the best performances of her career here as every look at her troubled Ben betrays a storm of conflicting emotions. The history of their entire relationship is written in her eyes. Lucas Hedges is equally impressive here as we understand that the guilt he feels about the pain and trouble he has caused is yet another trigger for his addiction. It never quite shows the hell of being an addict since Ben has been in recovery at a rehab facility for quite some time, but one does get a sense of his hunger.

We will admit that the film isn’t at all a cinematic masterpiece, but it is an engaging few hours of entertainment.


The Presentation:

3.5 of 5 Stars

Lionsgate protects the Blu-ray and DVD discs in a standard 2-disc Blu-ray eco-case. We are not fond of eco-cases and find that they do not offer adequate protection for the discs or the artwork. Luckily, the first printing of this title includes a slipcover that features the same artwork that appears on the sleeve enclosed in their case, and this further protects both the artwork and the discs contained inside. The cover art for this release is based on one of the film’s foreign one sheet designs. Frankly, the US one sheet was a superior image, but what we have here actually works quite well.

The animated menu features footage from the film accompanied by music. It is both attractive and intuitive to navigate.

Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Lionsgate’s 1080P transfer offers a solid rendering of the film’s original digital master. Fine detail is sometimes impressive and always on par with what one expects from the format. The transfer seems to represent the original cool color palette faithfully, and skin tones are always relatively healthy throughout the duration. Black levels might be less than perfect on occasion (darker scenes might show evidence of slight crushing), but this might very well be an issue with the original cinematography and not the transfer. There aren’t any issues that should distract the viewer from enjoying the film.

Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio offers a bit of surround activity without showing off or becoming overly aggressive. After all, this is a quiet film about a difficult but loving relationship between a mother and her son. This doesn’t leave a lot of room for sonic somersaults, but the film’s score and ambient sounds are well separated and engaging. It’s a solid but subtle track that supports the story being told.

Special Features:

3 of 5 Stars

Feature Length Audio Commentary with Director Peter Hedges

The only substantial supplement on the disc is this commentary with the film’s director. The track is consistently engaging and always articulate even if Peter Hedges sometimes falls into the habit of simply giving the viewer a play-by-play as to what is occurring onscreen instead of discussing the details of the shoot, the reasoning behind his writing and directorial decisions, and other pertinent information. We are given a few nuggets of information and the viewer is made to understand why this subject is a personal one to him personally.

Theatrical Trailers – (03:40)

There are two trailers here—a teaser and the theatrical trailer. It is nice to have these included here.

Ben is Back Image Gallery – (02:14)

Thirty-three images play as a slideshow with accompaniment from the film’s score. The first image is the original theatrical one sheet while the other thirty two are production stills. The main strength of this feature is that it provides a reference for anyone who may someday wonder what the original one sheet looked like.

One Sheet

Final Words:

Fans of Julia Roberts or Lucas Hedges will certainly want to add this to their collections.