Posts Tagged ‘Oscar Winner’

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Distributor: Warner Brothers

Release Date: November 15, 2016

Region: Region A

Length: 01:59:23

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 1.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio

Additional Audio:

1.0 English Dolby Digital Audio 1.0 Polish Dolby Digital Audio

1.0 Portuguese Dolby Digital Audio

Subtitles: English (SDH), Spanish, French, Czech, Greek, Hungarian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian

Ratio: 1.37:1

Bitrate: 30.65 Mbps

Notes: This title was previously released in various DVD editions and has been released on Blu-ray. The two previous 70th Anniversary Edition releases offer the same 4K restoration transfer of the film but include supplemental features that aren’t included with this 75th Anniversary Edition.

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“I got that good a contract because I didn’t want to make a film. And you know when you don’t really want to go out to Hollywood—or at least this was true in the old days or ‘Golden’ days of Hollywood—when you honestly didn’t want to go, then the deals got better and better. And in my case, I didn’t want money. I wanted authority. So, I asked the impossible hoping to be left alone. And at the end of a year’s negotiations, I got it—simply because there was no real vocation there. My love for film began only when we started work.” –Orson Welles (Monitor, Interview with Huw Weldon, March 13, 1960)

One can feel Welles developing a true love for film in every frame of Citizen Kane. It is one of those unusual stories that seem quite unremarkable upon hearing a synopsis but are uniquely rewarding due to rich characterization, subtext, and an innovative approach to storytelling. The film’s central character is Charles Foster Kane. Kane is a powerful publisher who eventually aspires to be president of the United States. He starts out with absolutely nothing and proceeds to acquire vast amounts of wealth and power without ever realizing that he is losing himself amongst his numerous acquisitions.

“I must admit that it was intended—consciously as a social document—as an attack on the acquisitive society and indeed on acquisition in general, but I didn’t think that up and then try to find a story to match that idea. Of course, I think the storyteller’s first duty is always to the story… It wasn’t at all a communist picture or a Marxist picture. It was an attack on property and acquisition of property.” –Orson Welles (Monitor, Interview with Huw Weldon, March 13, 1960)

If the film earned a reputation as “communist propaganda” it was most likely due to the efforts of a certain newspaper magnate named William Randolph Hearst who felt that Citizen Kane was a thinly veiled and slanderous account of his own life and sought to use his formidable muscle to halt the film’s production and distribution and ultimately to destroy Welles himself. However, the film’s production was always on extremely shaky ground due to the tumultuous political work environment at RKO.

“There was indeed a very definite effort to stop the film during shooting by those elements in the studio who were attempting to seize power. Because in those days studio politics—particularly RKO, and indeed many of the big studios in Hollywood were very much like Central American republics. And there were revolutions and counter-revolutions, and every sort of palace intrigue and there was a big effort to overthrow the then head of the studio who was taken to be out of his mind because he’d given me this contract which made the making of these films possible. And stopping me or proving my incompetence would have won their case. So, it wasn’t malice towards me. It was a cold-blooded political maneuver. It didn’t have anything to do with Mr. Hearst. That came later…” –Orson Welles (Monitor, Interview with Huw Weldon, March 13, 1960)

It did come a bit later, but when the trouble with Hearst arose it nearly stifled the release of one of cinema’s most cherished masterpieces. It eventually saw a release, but William Randolph Hearst and Hedda Hopper (aka the wicked witch of the west coast) managed to keep the film out of the larger theaters (such as Radio City Music Hall) and the Hearst chain of newspapers wasn’t allowed to advertise or write about the film. The result was relatively disappointing box office.

It was favorably reviewed (in publications that weren’t actually owned by Hearst), and the film went on to receive nine Academy Awards nominations—including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Score for a Dramatic Picture, Best Sound Recording, Best Art Direction (Black and White), Best Cinematography (Black and White), and Best Film Editing. Herman J. Mankiewicz and Orson Welles took home the statue for Best Original Screenplay, but legend has it that Welles was booed at the ceremony.

RKO soon locked Citizen Kane away in its archives and by the early 1960s, it had been out of circulation for many years. Luckily, AFI tastemakers selected it as the “Greatest Film of All Time.” Such arbitrary lists are ridiculous but their praise rejuvenated interest in the film.  Since then, Welles’ masterpiece has remained # 1 or # 2 on countless critics’ lists and other surveys including those from Roger Ebert, The BBC, Rolling Stone magazine, Pauline Kael, among many others. While it is easy to argue against the claim that Citizen Kane is the “best film of all time,” one cannot argue that the film isn’t an incredibly rich and rewarding experience, an innovative film, and essential viewing for both cinephiles and future filmmakers.

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The Presentation:

3 of 5 Stars

The disc is protected in a standard Blu-ray case with attractive film-related artwork. The overall result is rather underwhelming when one compares it to the film’s two previous releases—both of which utilized a more satisfying design concept.

The 70th Anniversary Edition was given two different releases. The first was labeled an “Ultimate Collector’s Edition” and it received ‘digi-pack’ casing with a stellar assortment of collectibles including a hardback book, reproductions of key art and advertisements on cardstock, reproductions of letters and memos from the production, and a reproduction of the opening night’s souvenir program. What’s more, it included two bonus DVDs with supplemental material not available with this release. The second release was given ‘digi-book’ packaging and included only one of the two bonus DVDs.

The point is that Warner Brothers seems to be downgrading each consecutive release.

 The menu utilizes a different design concept than the one utilized for the cover because it is essentially the same disc that was featured in the previous two releases—and the menu design reflects this fact.

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Sound elements from the film’s opening newsreel can be heard over the menu and the overall effect is really quite nice.

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Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Warner Brothers is capable of offering truly incredible Blu-ray transfers, and this is especially true when they are armed with a 4K restoration of the film in question. This particular disc is a case in point. Of course, one might say that Citizen Kane is one of their most prestigious catalog titles, and it deserves the best transfer possible. Their AVC encoded transfer is a beauty to behold. The shadowy chiaroscuro frames exhibit delectably rich black levels with what seems to be accurate detail in the shadows of the frame. What’s more, this is achieved without any distracting compression artifacts. Clarity is also beautifully rendered without sacrificing any of the film’s natural grain structure. There is little room for criticism, but some will no doubt notice a bit of ringing if they are looking for such things. However, this isn’t necessarily even worth mentioning. It rarely ever presents itself and it isn’t noticeable to any distracting degree when it actually does present itself.

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Sound Quality:

3.5 of 5 Stars

This lossless Mono DTS-HD Master Audio isn’t quite as impressive as its visual counterpart, but one feels that this might be due to the actual source materials. Recording techniques weren’t as advanced at the time of the film’s production as they are today. Minor distortion can rear its ugly head at times—especially during some of the film’s musical interludes. However, one can certainly praise the track for its depth, and Welles offers an impressive sound design for his debut feature—no doubt a holdover from his radio experience. It is nice that the original Mono mix is offered in favor of any faux stereo “upgrade.” Luckily, there aren’t any unfortunate anomalies such as hiss, dropouts, or hum. It is a very good transfer of the film’s original soundtrack—and this is all that anyone should expect.

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Special Features:

3 of 5 Stars

Why is the film’s 75th Anniversary release less substantial than its 70th Anniversary release? The original Blu-ray release of Citizen Kane was truly remarkable. In addition to the print extras discussed in the “Presentation” section of this review, the release included two DVD discs featuring two feature-length films about the production of Citizen Kane.

The first DVD was devoted to an Oscar-nominated documentary feature entitled “The Battle over Citizen Kane.” It provided fans with a decidedly comprehensive account of Hearst’s battle to rid the world of Citizen Kane. The film offered substantial biographical information about both William Randolph Hearst and Orson Welles while offering a comparison of their personalities. It was probably the best supplemental feature in the entire package, and it is sorely missed in this new release. As a matter of fact, this reviewer would gladly trade both commentary tracks for this single documentary.

The second DVD featured an HBO telefilm entitled RKO 281. While the program was admittedly less revelatory and substantial from an academic perspective, it certainly added quite a bit of value to the package. Of course, none of this ultimately matters because neither of these interesting films is included with this new release.

Luckily, Warner Brothers is still offering a relatively satisfying assortment of supplemental material in this new release:

Feature Length Commentary by Peter Bogdanovich

Peter Bogdanovich is an articulate speaker and an engaging storyteller, and his commentary track is probably the most substantial supplemental feature included here. His well-established friendship with Welles (if it can be called that) allows him to convey a number of revelatory information along with quite a few anecdotes and some technical details about the production. It isn’t the perfect commentary track because only Welles could give a comprehensive account of all aspects of production. Since he isn’t still alive to bestow his wisdom here, Bogdanovich will have to suffice.

Feature Length Commentary by Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert is known for his ability to engage a listener and for his general knowledge of cinema history. However, because he simply brings a general knowledge, his commentary is relegated to general background information, appreciation for Gregg Toland’s contributions to the film (which often involved revolutionary technical advances), and an overall appreciation of the film as a whole. However, this is an incredibly pleasurable way to spend a few hours.

Opening: World Premiere of Citizen Kane (01:08)

This short RKO-PATHE newsreel covers the world premiere of Citizen Kane. A title card informs us that the event was held at the Palace Theater on May 1, 1941. The vintage footage is an extremely interesting artifact, but one wishes that it were longer. There is barely any opportunity to absorb what is being shown here. The actual footage is barely over 30 seconds in length.

Interview with Ruth Warrick – (05:40)

Ruth Warrick is an engaging interview subject and her memories of her work on the film adds quite a bit of value to the disc. One only wishes that her recollections were less generalized and that she would provide a few specific anecdotes from the set (especially since she appears to be an articulate speaker).

Interview with Robert Wise – (03:04)

Robert Wise is equally articulate as he remembers how he came to edit Citizen Kane and the various issues surrounding the production. Again, one simply wishes that the interview was longer and a bit more comprehensive.

Theatrical Trailer – (03:46)

Oddly enough, the most interesting video-based supplement might be this unusual theatrical trailer for the film. Instead of showing audiences footage from the film, Orson Welles announces various cast members and teases the audience with contradictory descriptions of Charles Foster Kane. Even more interesting is the fact that Welles never actually appears in any of the footage. We are only shown a mic as it lowers from a boom into a close-up before hearing his familiar voice. This is obviously a tribute to his fame as a radio personality.

Photo Galleries:

The Production – (15:01)

There are three primary photo galleries included here (Storyboards, Call Sheets, and Still Photography), and they are shown as a video slideshow. No musical accompaniment is included, but the “Still Photography” segment (which clocks in at over ten minutes) includes a commentary by Roger Ebert. Ebert isn’t discussing the photos being shown, gives a general appreciation of the film and its place in cinema history. It is obvious that it is included here as an afterthought as his dialogue goes on much longer than the gallery of stills. It is frankly unnecessary as one would prefer that Ebert’s thoughts were presented in interview format along with the Ruth Warrick and Robert Wise interviews.

Post Production – (05:11)

The four photo galleries include in this section (Deleted Scenes, Ad Campaign, Press Book, and Opening Night) are largely textual in natures and include such things as letters and memos. However, there are a few interesting visual delights—such as a few interesting storyboards and still photographs from a handful of deleted scenes. The press book is also a highlight. All galleries in this section are shown as a video slideshow with no musical accompaniment.

It should probably be freely admitted that photo galleries and on-screen text-based features have never really interested this reviewer. They are nice but rarely feel substantial and it seems that these things would be better represented in some sort of collector’s booklet instead of as part of the disc itself. The inclusion of Ebert’s commentary might have made the Still Photography section more interesting, but it was poorly and awkwardly utilized. Frankly, none of these galleries add much to the overall supplemental package.

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Final Words:

With both of Citizen Kane’s 70th Anniversary Blu-ray releases out of print, this new 75th Anniversary Edition earns an enthusiastic recommendation for anyone who doesn’t already own one of the previous two editions of the film. However, those who already own either of these previous releases can rest easy in the knowledge that they own the better package.

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Review by: Devon Powell

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Spine #839

Distributor: Criterion Collection (USA)

Release Date: October 11, 2016

Region: Region A

Length: 02:45:27

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio (48kHz, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English (SDH)

Ratio: 1.85:1

Bitrate: 32.99 Mbps

Notes: This title was previously released by Paramount as a Blu-ray/DVD combo and in a standalone DVD edition. This Criterion collection represents a significant upgrade but doesn’t carry over Paramount’s two supplements. A 2 Disc DVD edition of the Criterion Collection is also available.

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“I had been a dad for about seven or eight years, and I wanted to express something about childhood. You know this now: when you have a kid, it puts you so much in the present tense with their lives, but you can’t help but churn through your own life at that age. It’s such an interesting refraction. So I was thinking a lot about development and childhood. I wanted to do something from a kid’s point of view, but all the ideas that I wanted to express from my own life were so spread out. I couldn’t pick one year, one moment. I was going to maybe write a novel—some little weird, experimental novel. And it hit me, this film idea: What if I filmed a little bit every year and just saw everybody, this family, age? The kids would grow up, the parents would age. In a way, it’s a simple idea, but so damn impractical.” –Richard Linklater (Interview Magazine)

Boyhood isn’t simply a remarkable film; it is a miracle on celluloid. Having recently won the Golden Globe for Best Drama Film, it isn’t terribly surprising that the film received as many as six Academy Award nominations (Best Picture, Best Director – Richard Linklater, Best Original Screenplay – Richard Linklater, Best Supporting Actor – Ethan Hawke, Best Supporting Actress – Patricia Arquette, and Best Film Editing – Sandra Adair). What Richard Linklater has accomplished with this film is nothing short of extraordinary. A few reviewers have noted a similarity with Michael Apted’s series of Up documentaries, but Boyhood is something very different.

The cast of Boyhood had to commit to a film that would take twelve years to complete.

“I called up Patricia [Arquette], who I had only met once, and she jumped aboard. I sat down with Ethan and told him what I was thinking, and he wanted to do it. Then I started casting, looking for kids. Lorelei, my daughter, demanded to have the part. I had the luxury of, every year, just tapping in. I would hang out with her and Ellar, the boy, and just try to pick up where they were at their age, what I felt they could do that year, and then work stories around all that. But pretty soon Lorelei was the sullen teenager who did not want to do it anymore… She’s like the person on the TV series who wants off. ‘Can you kill my character?’ [laughs] I’m like, ‘No. That’s a little too dramatic for this movie.’” –Richard Linklater (Interview Magazine)

Instead of writing a screenplay for his project, Linklater made a detailed outline of the major events that he wanted to occur. A short script was written every year for each individual shoot. This allowed Linklater to incorporate the personality of the actors into the film in an organic manner.

“All the marriages, divorces, moves, big stuff—I knew he’d go to college and I knew the last shot of the movie from the beginning. The photographer thing? I knew by high school he’d be expressing himself. I thought he’d be a writer. Knowing Ellar [Coltrane] himself at that point—he’s living in a music town, his dad is a musician; I thought he might be in a band. I thought I’d be filming band practice. The film would go where he wanted to some degree. That’s not what happened. He ended up with an interest in photography. I thought, ‘Great.’ I like that more. That’s closer to who I was [at that age]. I was taking pictures. I was observational. It was more fitting. That’s a good example of us going in his direction.” –Richard Linklater (Interview with Brian Tallerico)

Of course, there were many logistical headaches involved with a twelve year production model.

“I didn’t know that heading in, but you can’t contract for more than seven years—which is a good thing, especially when working with children. This was all a wing and a prayer. It was a life project that everyone committed to. Certainly, a few people shifted around. But we all make our life commitments—whether it’s to a family or a partner or a career.” –Richard Linklater (A.V. Club)

The cast and crew would shoot for about three days every year during the twelve year period. This might sound easy, but each shoot required a lot of preparation.

“Logistically, things were just off the charts. Crazy… Each time you have to get a crew, you’ve got to rent just for a three-day shoot, you still have to do all of that stuff: Get production insurance, tech-scout, [and] location-scout, cast the additional parts, get the crew together, [and] make deals. So weeks and weeks each year… We had a cast and crew of over 450 people who came through in various capacities for various times. We had a core crew that was there the whole time, with quite a few people who put in nine years or more. And there are probably 10 or 12 [people] who did either 11 or 12 years.” –Richard Linklater (The Dissolve)

This allowed Linklater to edit the film in the same piecemeal fashion that the film was shot. The editing process could then inform what he would shoot the following year.

“We would edit every year, attach it to whatever had gone before and then edit the whole thing again if we had the extra time. Then I could kind of hang out with that for a year, watch it, think about it, how to incorporate my incrementally aging cast, work that into my ideas and—it was just a fine life project. But that gestation time was incredible. Most movies, if you think about it, you put all your thoughts up front, and then you’re shooting, you’re on your toes, you’re making adjustments and dealing with reality, but you’re rendering what you conceived and then you’re editing that. This was in a much different order. I could edit, [and] then think, then I’m writing and shooting and editing again. So it was unlike any film ever.” –Richard Linklater (Indiewire)

It seems incredible that Linklater was able to find financing for such a project, and many studios passed without giving the project any real consideration. Fortunately, the director had worked on previous productions with IFC, and they agreed to finance the project. Their faith in the director has certainly paid off.

Boyhood defies articulate description. It isn’t quite like anything that has preceded it, and yet it seems vaguely familiar. It is difficult to account for the familiarity. Are we somehow reliving something in our own lives through the characters on the screen? The answer to this question is impossible to answer.

Those expecting the typical ‘coming of age’ melodrama might become irritated to some extent. Linklater shows the audience the small moments that make up a life. We are shown the little moments that people cherish in their mind, but that carry little to no importance to anyone besides the person who holds that particular memory. This is the film’s greatest achievement in many ways, because the viewer adopts these moments as he invests in the film. All of these things somehow become personal. We understand these little moments, even if they are different from our own memories. Somehow, we find ourselves adopting these moments (at least for the duration of the film). Perhaps this is due to the dreamlike nature of the film.

One might think that Boyhood would be rather episodic (perhaps with chapter headings that indicate each year). Instead, the film flows without interruption like memories played out in a dream. It is a dream that I plan to have again and again.

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The Presentation:

5 of 5 Stars

The Blu-ray disc is housed in the clear case that has become the standard for The Criterion Collection. F. Ron Miller’s original artwork is brilliantly conceived and is vastly superior to even the film’s original one sheet artwork—not to mention Paramount’s earlier Blu-ray art which utilized the same photograph as the aforementioned poster. An added bonus is the wonderful illustrated booklet included inside the case with the two Blu-ray discs which features an essay by Jonathan Lethem.

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The disc’s menus utilize footage from the actual film coupled with a song that featured in the film. I admit to not knowing the title of the song but it should be said that the result is quite pleasant. The passing of time seems to be the menu’s core theme and it is really a very nice little montage of moments that follow Mason’s growth and development.

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Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars 

As is their usual practice, the technical details of Boyhood’s transfer is detailed in the booklet provided in the disc’s case:

Boyhood is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. This new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on a DFT Scanity film scanner from the original 35mm original camera negative.” –Liner Notes

 The result is quite lovely. The filmmakers were able to maintain the continuity of the image’s texture throughout the twelve year production, and this 1080p AVC MPEG-4 encoded transfer accurately showcases this achievement. The texture of the film’s 35mm photography remains intact without ever becoming inconsistent. Actually—with the exception of the occasional fleeting scratch—there aren’t any problematic blemishes to report. Clarity is always excellent and color is vivid while remaining natural. There are no discernable digital artifacts to distract the viewer either. This seems to be a marginal improvement over Paramount’s transfer, and this is likely due to Criterion’s maxed-out bitrate. In any case, there is certainly no reason to complain with the fine quality of this disc’s image.

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 Sound Quality:

 4.5 of 5 Stars

Criterion’s lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track doesn’t sound much different than the one that Paramount offered on their 2015 release of the film. This isn’t particularly surprising because that track was quite solid. While the 5.1 mix isn’t likely to give high end speaker systems much of a workout, it does represent the filmmaker’s intentions. Boyhood is an epic drama with a very simple sound design that is appropriate for the film. The mix is made up of the same quaint sounds that viewers hear daily and these sounds are given some subtle separation that never calls attention to itself. Dialogue is heavily favored and is always clear and well-focused.

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 Special Features:

5 of 5 Stars

Criterion has given Boyhood a rather special 2-Disc release that is packed with interesting supplemental materials. There is well over 5 hours and 38 minutes of enlightening supplemental entertainment included in total (and over 2 hours and 53 minutes if one excludes the commentary track). Some might complain about the absence of the two Paramount supplements, but rest assured that the territory covered by those features is covered here as well and in more detail.

Disc 1:

Feature Length Audio Commentary featuring Richard Linklater (Writer/Director), Cathleen Sutherland (Producer), Sandra Adair (Editor), Rodney Becker (Production Designer), Beth Sepko-Lindsey (Casting Director), Kari Perkins (Costume Designer), Vince Plamo Jr. (First Assistant Director), Marco Perella (Actor – Professor Bill Welbrock), Libby Villari (Actor – Grandma) and Andrew Villarreal (Actor – Randy)

This engaging track was recorded in Austin, Texas in 2015. It would be reasonable to expect any commentary track running nearly three hours to be filled with lengthy silent stretches but the participants fill the time with plenty of information and anecdotes about the film’s unusual production. Some listeners might ament the absence of the principal cast, but these actors have plenty of opportunity to contribute during many of the other supplements provided on the disc. Actually, if the track has a weakness it is that the sheer number of participants might make deciphering who is actually speaking somewhat challenging (although this particular listener didn’t have this issue).

Disc 2:

Twelve Years(1080p) – (49:28)

Essentially a chronicle of the film’s massive 12 year production, this documentary primarily utilizes interviews and fly-on-the-wall production footage taken throughout the 12 year period. The interviews illuminate some of the unique qualities of working on such a project (such as vast changes in the personal lives of those involved). The actors are literally involving with their characters, and this seems to be reflected in the final film. In some ways, it might be said that the production is only discussed here in a rather general manner but the “behind the scenes” footage makes up for whatever one might find lacking otherwise. This certainly isn’t the standard EPK drivel that one might expect. This is well worth the viewer’s time.

Memories of the Present – (1080p) – (57:35)

This discussion featuring Richard Linklater, Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane, and moderated by John Pierson was recorded in Austin, Texas in 2015. It is a fairly standard panel discussion that somewhat resembles the 2014 Cinefamily discussion that graced the earlier Paramount disc. Similar territory is covered here as the participants candidly discuss the twelve year production. At almost an hour in length, the viewer is given all sorts of interesting information. It is wonderful to have this included on the disc and it is an adequate substitute for the aforementioned Paramount supplement (even when one takes into account the absence of Lorelei Linklater and Ethan Hawke).

Always Now – (1080p) – (30:10)

This is a surprisingly engaging conversation between Coltrane and actor Ethan Hawke. The two actors seem to be having a genuine conversation with one another about their time working on such an unusual production. It is a very nice addition to the disc.

Time of Your Life – (1080p) – (12:29)

Time of Your Life is a video essay by critic Michael Koresky about time in Linklater’s films featuring narration by Ellar Coltrane. Cinephiles who enjoy scholarly examination will find this short piece both instructive and engaging. Several of the director’s films are discussed throughout the length of the essay (Slacker, the Before trilogy, Boyhood). In some ways, this might be the most important supplement because it addresses how Boyhood works as a film. Linklater devotees will no doubt be pleased to have it included here.

Through the Years – (23:59)

This much more engaging than one might expect. A collection of production portraits by photographer Matt Lankes is narrated with commentary by Richard Linklater, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane, and Cathleen Sutherland. The various commentaries (and some of the photos) were originally published in Boyhood: 12 Years on Film but they somehow elevate the photography.

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Final Words:

Fans of Boyhood have been hoping for this release since shortly after the film hit theaters. As a matter of fact, Richard Linklater promised such a release in an interview with Hypable on early as July 13, 2014. When asked what fans could expect, he spoke enthusiastically:

“We’ve got a ton of behind the scenes stuff. We made this in the era where everyone has a digital camera so we unearthed an interview from year one with Ellar, Lorelai, Patricia and myself. Patricia interviewed me in 2002. I hadn’t seen this since we shot it, Ellar had forgotten quite a bit of it but he got to see himself as a wide-eyed six year old. For people who like the movie, I think there will be a lot of cool little treasures.” –Richard Linklater (Hypable, July 13, 2014)

Of course, a lot of people were disappointed when Paramount released their 2015 Blu-ray. Cinephiles were uncertain if the promised Criterion release would ever see the light of day. Luckily, it has finally surfaced with excellent results. Criterion’s release of Linklater’s critically lauded film is a definite upgrade.

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Review by: Devon Powell

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Distributor: Sony Pictures

Release Date: October 04, 2016

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:55:35

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: English Mono DTS-HD Master Audio

Alternate Audio:

Spanish (Castilian) Mono

Spanish (Latin American) Mono

French Mono

German Mono

Portuguese Mono

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish, French, German, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Dutch, Finnish, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, Hungarian, Turkish, Hebrew, & Arabic

Ratio: 1.37:1

Notes: This is the Blu-ray debut of this title, but it was previously released in various DVD editions.

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Frank Capra and Gary Cooper on the set of “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.”

“Beginning with Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, my films had to say something. And whatever they said had to come from those ideas inside me that were hurting to come out.‎” –Frank Capra (The Name Above the Title: An Autobiography)

Mr. Deeds Goes Town (based on the 1935 short story Opera Hat by Clarence Budington Kelland) is undoubtedly one of Frank Capra’s most celebrated films. It marks the beginning of a string of Capra films that honor and champion the struggles “common man,” and his efforts won the director his second Academy Award. (The film was also nominated in the Best Picture, Best Screenplay, and Best Sound Recording categories.) The New York Film Critics and the National Board of Review named it the “Best Picture of 1936,” and it is very likely that the movie deserved the honor.

The film follows Longfellow Deeds (Gary Cooper), a man living a simple and anonymous life until he inherits a vast fortune from a late uncle. A crooked attorney (Douglas Dumbrille) brings Deeds to New York City, where the unassuming heir is the object of unwanted media attention. When wily reporter Babe Bennett (Jean Arthur) gains the trust and affection of Deeds, she uses her position to publish condescending articles about him—until she actually comes to know him. Love blossoms between the two as Bennett’s big city cynicism withers into nothing. It is exactly the sort of “Capra-corn” that audiences would come to expect from the director.

It isn’t difficult to understand why depression-era audiences responded to a film that follows the story of a man who inherits a vast fortune and decides to redistribute the wealth among the less fortunate only to be double-crossed by his cynical big city lawyers (who actually try to have him declared insane so that they can control the wealth). Capra was preaching to the initiated.

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The Presentation:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town is the third release in Sony’s (hopefully) ongoing “Capra Collection” series which launched two years ago with Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Like their previous Capra releases, this disc is housed in attractive “Collectible Digi-book Packaging” with an all-new essay by Film Historian, Jeremy Arnold. The text is beautifully illustrated with rare photos from the film’s production, and this makes for a uniquely attractive package.

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The disc’s static menu is also quite attractive and features music from the film’s score. The overall result is an extremely elegant presentation that is easy to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Sony Pictures should be commended for their 4K 80th Anniversary restoration of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, which by all accounts was in desperate need of a proper restoration. Rita Belda explained this meticulous process in the liner notes:

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town fared a bit better than some films from that era, because the studio created duplicating negatives in 1935 and 1949 which were used to create prints. But in 2014, the original camera negative for Mr. Deeds was in poor physical condition with numerous notches and stressed perforations (making the physical element less stable and prone to breakage) and was missing footage in nearly every reel.

The 4K restoration of Mr. Deeds is not the first time this film has seen the loving care of preservationists. In the early 1990s, a comprehensive restoration was complete by the Library of Congress, using nitrate elements (primarily the nitrate dupe negative from the 1930s), creating preservation fine grains: the source for the video transfers previously available. This photochemical work was limited by the fact that much of the damage in the nitrate materials was printed across to the new safety materials, and in 2004 when Sony Pictures created a new HD transfer of the film, hours of restoration were needed to try to improve on printed in scratches and dirt, not to mention the softer image quality resulting from mutigenerational elements. Digital tools have developed over the years, and the fixes done ten and twenty years ago are easier to achieve. But the real achievement in the restoration of Mr. Deeds comes from the ability to scan the original negative as its source.

The duplicate original negative was evaluated, repaired and scanned at 4K by Cineric, in New York. Employing wet-gate scanning eliminated countless scratches in a tried-and-true technique developed in photo-chemical restoration but practiced by few facilities offering scanning services today. This provided a cleaner basis than any of the duplicate materials with their multitude of printed-in damage and utilized the best resolution material which made the digital restoration work (completed by Prasad) more efficient and effective. But there was still plenty of restoration work to be done, especially on the shorter sections of film that had been lost from the original negative—sometimes a few frames to nearly half a shot or more. For these materials, we turned to the duplicate nitrate negatives and were able, using digital restoration and color correction, to insert just the frames that had been lost from the alternate elements. Scott Ostrowsky, [the] colorist at Sony Pictures’ DI facility Colorworks, worked to minimize the difference in contrast, density and shading in the alternate materials, and blend the frames into the scenes, as well as grading of the final picture to bring out all of the details captured in the original photography.’ –Rita Belda (Liner Notes, “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” Restoration in 4K)

This painstaking work appears to have paid off in spades. If the result isn’t a perfect print, it is certainly a tremendous improvement over previous prints (and previous Home Video transfers). One doesn’t imagine that a better print will ever be forthcoming in the foreseeable future. This is a truly amazing transfer that can only be described as revelatory! The strength Joseph Walker’s cinematography finally reveals itself as the remarkable feat that it was (and is). Fine detail and clarity is incredible even considering the natural layer of grain that adds an old school film texture to one’s viewing experience (purists should be happy to find that this hasn’t been artificially scrubbed away). Contrast is well balanced and blacks are deep without crushing. There doesn’t even appear to be any pesky digital artifacts to mar one’s appreciation of the image. This is truly a beautiful job.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars 

Of course, the sound elements of the film were also given special attention by Sony’s restoration team.

“…and the transfer of the original variable density track was critical to the success of the audio restoration. This work was completed by Chace Audio by Deluxe, where special attention was given to maintaining the full dynamic range of the original recording, but minimalizing distortion and noise in key scenes, such as where Deeds and his new servants test out the echoes in the great hall.” –Rita Belda (Liner Notes, “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” Restoration in 4K)

 A film of this era is obviously going to have a number of limitations to its audio track, but this lossless 2.0 Mono track is a serviceable representation of the source. Dialogue is always clearly rendered and is certainly approved upon here. Those who have seen previous transfers of the film should certainly notice a marked improvement. Music sometimes needs more room to breathe, but this is really an issue with the original elements. Any sound issues are a result of the technological limitations of the 1930s and were simply impossible to fix. Listeners shouldn’t have any trouble enjoying this track.

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 Special Features:

4 of 5 Stars

Audio Commentary by Frank Capra Jr.

Those who have heard other commentaries from Frank Capra Jr. will know what to expect from this interesting track. His style is casual and conversational but focused as he discusses his father’s work on the film, and the background information about the production is consistently interesting despite a less than articulate disposition. Unfortunately, there are long stretches of film where he goes completely silent. This could have become bothersome if the film weren’t so engaging on its own. It is certainly worth the occasional listen.

Frank Capra Jr. Remembers Mr. Deeds Goes to Town – (11:11)

Frank Capra, Jr. discusses the circumstances surrounding the production of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and gives an overall appreciation of the film. Statements are illustrated with stills from the production, promotional artwork, and footage from the film itself as one expects from this sort of featurette, and the result is an engaging and informative conversation about the film. One might wish for a comprehensive documentary about the creation of this Capra classic, but such a program would be rather difficult to produce. Most of those with any “first hand” knowledge have now passed away.

Theatrical Re-release Trailer – (01:28)

The film’s re-release trailer is rather traditional in its approach as viewers are shown scenes from the film itself. This is a nice artifact and it is really nice to have it included here, but one wonders why the original theatrical trailer hasn’t been included.

Vintage Advertising Gallery

This is a small collection of stills (mostly lobby cards) that were used to promote Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. It is interesting to see how the film was marketed to the public.

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Final Words:

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town is one of Frank Capra’s most popular classics, and it is nice to see that Sony Pictures has seen fit to restore the film for future generations. This “collector’s” edition will be available exclusively through Amazon for some time before the film is given a more traditional wide release.

Review by: Devon Powell

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Distributor: Warner Bros.

Release Date: May 13, 2014

Region: Region A

Length: 126 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio

Alternate Audio:

5.1 French Dolby Digital
5.1 Spanish Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Ratio: 1.85:1

Notes: DVD and Ultraviolet copies are included with this Blu-ray disc. This title is also available in a DVD only edition.

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“…It definitely has a lot of ideas about technology and the way we live with technology, and the way technology helps us connect or not connect. But I think what I was really trying to write about was the way we long to connect with each other. I really tried to make more of a relationship movie—or a love story and a relationship movie in the context of right now.” – Spike Jonze (Interview Magazine)

Set in Los Angeles in the slight future, Her follows Theodor, a complex, soulful man who makes his living writing touching, personal letters for other people. Heartbroken after the end of a long relationship, he becomes intrigued with a new, advanced operating system, which promises to be an intuitive and unique entity in its own right. Upon initiating it, he is delighted to meet ‘Samantha,’ a bright, female voice who is insightful, sensitive and surprisingly funny. As her needs and desires grow, in tandem with his own, their friendship deepens into an eventual love for each other.

In some hands, this could easily turn into a mere gimmick. However, this is a Spike Jonze film, and he has delivered something altogether different. He has done such a fine job that the Academy saw fit to honor the film with 5 Oscar nominations (Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Production Design, Best Original Score, and Best Original Song). Jonze took home the Oscar for the Best Original Screenplay, and managed to take home a Golden Globe Award in that same category.

Joaquin Phoenix was cast as Theodor in the film and gives an incredibly layered performance.

“Within five minutes I fell in love with the idea of [Phoenix] being in the movie. Then we started rehearsing together, reading the script over and over and over again. We’d spend five days at a time, and I’d go off and write for a few months, then we’d meet up again. In that year we got to know each other really well.” – Spike Jonze (The Telegraph, February 3, 2014)

Phoenix actually had an incredible impact on the shape of the final film. Jonze would alter his script to fit Phoenix so that it was more natural for the actor to perform.

“We rehearsed a lot. Not necessarily like rehearsal where we’re acting out the scene, but rehearsal where we’re just reading the script together and stopping and talking after each scene about what worked—or didn’t work. It’s a rehearsal that’s more about both him understanding what my intention is, and me getting his reaction to the script and doing rewrites based on his comments—his gut instinct is so strong. So maybe he’ll say, ‘This doesn’t feel right,’ or ‘I don’t know about that …’ I mean, he never says anything should be changed, but I can tell when he doesn’t feel something or believe it, so I keep asking questions: ‘What did it feel like? What didn’t feel right?’ And he’ll tell me what it feels like, and sometimes he has a suggestion on how to fix something, but usually not. Usually, he’ll just say why it doesn’t feel right.” – Spike Jonze (Interview Magazine)

Scarlett Johansson was eventually cast as the voice of Samantha, but the role was performed by another actress during the film’s production.

“Originally, on set, we’d cast Samantha Morton as that character. So she was with us on set every day, and she was in [Joaquin Phoenix’s] ear, and he was in her ear. And she was in another room, and they were just speak-talking. And so a lot of what he did was listen to her.
Then in post-production we realized that what Samantha and I had done together wasn’t what the character needed, or what the movie needed. And so at that point we recast. And then, although Samantha’s not in the movie … her DNA is still really in the film, because she’s so much a part of Joaquin’s performance. But in post, when Scarlett came on, we basically re-created that same intimacy that we had on set, with Scarlett in the sound studio.” – Spike Jonze (NPR, December 16, 2013)

K.K. Barrett’s Oscar nominated production design on Her adds to the film’s overall feeling of isolation and loneliness.

“When we started designing the movie we realized that we didn’t need to make a movie about the future. We’re not predicting (but) creating a world that felt right for this story; creating, on the surface at least, this utopian setting for loneliness and isolation. That seemed particularly painful and poignant.” –Spike Jonze (Tampa Bay Times, January 7, 2014)

Her has enjoyed a mostly positive critical reception. Scott Foundas’ review in Variety is typical of the praise that the film has received.

“…A truly 21st-century love story, Jonze’s fourth directorial feature (and first made from his own original screenplay) may not be Middle America’s idea of prime date-night viewing, but its funky, deeply romantic charms should click with the hip urban audiences who embraced Jonze’s earlier work, with some cross-pollination to the sci-fi/fantasy crowd.

Not least among Jonze’s achievements here is his beautifully imagined yet highly plausible vision of a near-future Los Angeles (exact year unspecified), where subways and elevated trains have finally supplanted the automobile, and where a vast urban center crowded with skyscrapers sprawls out from downtown in every direction (a clever amalgam of location shooting in L.A. and Pudong, China). Just a few months after Elysium foretold an Angel City beset by enviro-pocalypse and class warfare, Jonze cuts the other way, envisaging a society where green living has triumphed and most of the world’s (or at least America’s) social maladies seem to have been remedied — save, that is, for an epidemic of loneliness…

…But what begins like an arrested adolescent dream soon blossoms into Jonze’s richest and most emotionally mature work to date, burrowing deep into the give and take of relationships, the dawning of middle-aged ennui, and that eternal dilemma shared by both man and machine: the struggle to know one’s own true self…

…And where so many sci-fi movies overburden us with elaborate explanations of the new world order, Her keeps things airy and porous, feathering in a few concrete details (a news report mentions an impending merger between India and China) while leaving much to the viewer’s imagination.

Working for the fourth time with production designer KK Barrett and costume designer Casey Storm, Jonze hasn’t just made a movie about how we might love in the years to come, but where we might live (in sleek high-rises decked out in leather, hardwood and modern furniture), what we might wear (beltless wool trousers seem to be all the rage for men) and where we might eat (in pretentious Asian fusion bistros, because some things never change). And through it all, we will still strive — in the words of one of the world’s telecommunications giants — to reach out and touch someone.” –Scott Foundas (Variety, October 12, 2013)

Richard Corliss wrote an equally flattering review in Time magazine.

“…With his new movie Her, which has its world premiere tonight as the closing attraction at the New York Film Festival, Jonze creates the splendid anachronism of a movie romance that is laugh-and-cry and warm all over, totally sweet and utterly serious. Or, if you will, utterly Siri. For Theodore’s girlfriend is a computer voice named Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). She’s his ‘IT’ girl…This is a movie about the nicest, prettiest people, and the love and hurt they dish out and take.

In a future Los Angeles so near-Utopian that no scene takes place in a car, the palette is gently muted — not broiling sun burning through corrosive smog but, as Jonze said at today’s press conference, ‘the colors of Jamba Juice.’ (Many of the city’s exteriors were shot in Shanghai.) The people in her take their behavioral cues from the color scheme. Theodore’s friend Amy (Amy Adams) her husband Charles (Chris Pratt), and his coworkers at BeautifulHandwrittenLetters are gentle, tender and affectionate, as if they had majored in the modulations of caring.

Of course, even among perfect people, nobody’s perfect. Marriages sunder and dates go wrong, especially for Theodore…

Like Sandra Bullock in Gravity and Robert Redford in All Is Lost, Phoenix must communicate his movie’s meaning and feelings virtually on his own. That he does, with subtle grace and depth. At one point in his bedroom, Samantha asks him, ‘What’s it like to be alive in that room right now?’ Phoenix shows us what it’s like when a mourning heart comes alive — because he loves her. And I loved Her.-Richard Corliss (Time, October 12, 2013)

Manohla Dargis joined the chorus and sang the film’s praises in the New York Times.

“…There are times when Her has the quality of a private dispatch, like a secret Mr. Jonze is whispering in your ear. Part of the pleasure of the movie is its modest scale, its hushed beauty and the deliberate ordinariness of its story. In contrast to the hard shininess of so many science-fiction movies, Her looks muted, approachable and vividly tactile, from Theodore’s wide-open face to the diffused lighting and the ravishingly lovely sherbet palette splashed with mellow yellows, tranquil tangerines and coral pinks. This is a movie you want to reach out and caress, about a man who, like everyone else around him in this near future, has retreated from other people into a machine world. In Her, the great question isn’t whether machines can think, but whether human beings can still feel.” –Manohla Dargis (New York Times, December 17, 2013)

Peter Travers went as far as saying that Scarlett Johansson’s performance was award-worthy in his review of the film for Rolling Stone.

“Some movies need to hold their secrets close. So I’ll tread lightly with Her, a love story between a man and technology, and a gloriously inventive gift from Spike Jonze. In his fourth feature, following Being John Malkovich, Adaptation and Where the Wild Things Are, director Jonze (in his first original screenplay) imagines a near-future where we live green and our digital commands can become as intimate as a whisper…

…Johansson’s vocal tour de force is award-worthy. So is the movie. Ignore the soft ending. Jonze is a visionary whose lyrical, soulful meditation on relationships of the future cuts to the heart of the way we live now.” –Peter Travers (Rolling Stone, December 18, 2013)

Rafer Guzman’s review also fell in line with the majority opinion.

“…Welcome to the very near future, as depicted in this strange, funny, slightly unsettling and utterly visionary film written and directed by Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich)… Her has moments of loopy humor (other voices come from Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader) and touches of cultural satire (the OS1’s manipulative ad campaign looks like a Zoloft commercial). But Jonze’s movie is nothing short of profound. Hoyte Van Hoytema’s vivid cinematography suggests a technology-infused future, but we get the feeling that it has already arrived. Nobody here seems worried about intelligent machines conquering humanity; nobody even quibbles much about the very definition of human. Her goes light-years beyond science-fiction clichés. As the story progresses further into unexpected territory, Her sometimes feels like an out-of-body experience…” –Rafer Guzman (Newsday, December 16, 2013)

Todd McCarthy praised the film as well, but took a more cynical tone and seemed to have plenty of reservations about the film. His main problem seems to be the film’s length.

“Visionary and traditional, wispy and soulful, tender and cool, Spike Jonze’s Her ponders the nature of love in the encroaching virtual world and dares to ask the question of what might be preferable, a romantic relationship with a human being or an electronic one that can be designed to provide more intimacy and satisfaction than real people can reliably manage. Taking place tomorrow or perhaps the day after that, this is a probing, inquisitive work of a very high order, although it goes a bit slack in the final third and concludes rather conventionally compared to much that has come before. A film that stands apart from anything else on the horizon in many ways, it will generate an ardent following, which Warner Bros. can only hope will be vocal and excitable enough to make this a must-see for anyone who pretends to be interested in something different…

… Although the final stretch is devoted to the resolution of Theodore and Samantha’s intimate relationship, the dramatic limitations of the film’s presentational one-sidedness become rather too noticeable as the two-hour mark approaches. The director’s visual panache, live-wire technical skills and beguilingly offbeat musical instincts work overtime to paper over what can only be conveyed in extended conversation. (Not collaborating with cinematographer Lance Accord for the first time, Jonze benefits from great work behind the camera by Hoyte van Hoytema, while the score by Arcade Fire casts a spell of its own.) The feeling at the end is that of a provocative if fragile concept extended somewhat beyond its natural breaking point…

…The film is beguilingly sincere and touching in how it approaches loneliness and the compulsion to overcome it, and it asks the relevant question of whether technology fosters distance from others, helps surmount it, or both. It also inquires into the different sorts of satisfactions, and lack of same, offered by human beings and machines in an age we’ve already entered.” –Todd McCarthy (The Hollywood Reporter, October 12, 2013)

Stephanie Zacharek was one of the few critics to write a negative review of the film. A close reading of her review betrays the fact that Zacharek interprets the themes in Her much differently than do most of the other critics.

“…In case you haven’t guessed, Theodore is using technology to avoid the pain of real human connection. And that’s the problem with Her, too: Jonze is so entranced with his central conceit that he can barely move beyond it. This is a movie about a benumbed person that itself feels chloroformed, zonked out, even in those moments when Jonze is clearly striving for depth of feeling. Its metaphors are more obvious than the bricks that cruel mouse Ignatz used to hurl at poor, lovelorn Krazy Kat, and yet not nearly as direct. Instead of just being desperately heartfelt, Her keeps reminding us — through cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema’s somber-droll camera work, through Phoenix’s artfully slumped shoulders — how desperately heartfelt it is…

…There are many, many feelings stuck into Her, pin-cushion-style, but the result is a kind of overstuffed stupefaction. Jonze and Van Hoytema take great care with the visuals, working hard to hit notes of longing and mournfulness. At one point, a shot of airborne, sunlit dust motes transmutes into a field of falling snowflakes. How serene! How lovely! But what do dust motes have to do with snowflakes? Sometimes a technical trick can be too gorgeous, so pre-visualized that it comes off as a contrivance.

Much of the dialogue sounds premeditated, too. (This is the first picture Jonze has written as well as directed.) There’s an old journalism rule about always using ‘says,’ never ‘opines’ or ‘sighs.’ Her opines and sighs all over the place. ‘Sometimes I think I’ve felt everything I’m ever going to feel,’ Theodore confides glumly to Samantha. ‘And from here on out, I’m not going to feel anything new. Just lesser versions of what I’ve already felt.’ In the guise of being direct, the movie is actually maddeningly coy…

…Johansson’s voice, as plush and light-reflecting as velveteen, is the movie’s saving grace; Samantha is the one character in Her who seems capable of delight. Samantha Morton was originally cast in the role and had completed the movie when, at the last minute, Jonze substituted Johansson. Morton is a terrific actress, but in this instance Jonze’s instincts were golden. The movie isn’t just unimaginable without Johansson — it might have been unbearable without her…

…Theodore, like James Stewart in Vertigo, is in love with an illusion. The difference is that this spectacle and all its ideas would fit on the screen of your iPod.” –Stephanie Zacharek (Village Voice, December 17, 2013)

Mick LaSalle was another critic that seemed to dislike the film, and his main problem seems to be the subject matter. It seems as if LaSalle took a philosophical dislike to the themes in the film.

“What can be said for a movie that’s a lot more interesting to think about than watch? Her, the latest from director Spike Jonze, embellishes its clever premise – about a man who is in love with his operating system – with little touches of the unexpected. Yet the best things in the movie aren’t transporting or diverting but merely incite intellectual recognition: Yes. OK. That’s amusing.

The story is too slender for its two-hour running time, and the pace is lugubrious, as though everyone in front and behind the camera were depressed. But the biggest obstacle is the protagonist (Joaquin Phoenix), who is almost without definition. He is just some average guy of the near future, totally bland, someone with no obstacle he needs to overcome and no powerful desire he needs to satisfy. As such, he is a storytelling problem, but he might be something more.

He might be where we’re heading, and that might be the point…

 Her is suggesting something awful, something truly ghastly, that our emotions might be just like our bodies – that it doesn’t have to be real, that all we need is a workout. Theodore (Phoenix) is a melancholy guy with romantic aspirations, who already sells fake emotion, working in a business that devises customized greeting cards. Still not recovered from a recent breakup, he gets a new operating system – the voice of Scarlett Johansson – and ‘Samantha’ becomes the center of his existence…

 …The film is glum yet light, an odd combination, and periodically it short-circuits its seriousness with flashes of half-hearted absurdity: ‘We haven’t had sex lately,’ Samantha broods. ‘And I don’t have a body.’

Though talk of an Oscar nomination for Johansson’s vocal performance seems excessive in the extreme – drummed up by unseen publicists and picked up by suggestible critics – her casting as Samantha was brilliant, for one simple reason: We know what she looks like. Hence, we buy into Theodore’s fantasy and start thinking, ‘If only.’

But if only what? She had a body? She were real? This were actually happening? Such thinking is demented, and that’s the idea. We’re getting there.” -Mick LaSalle (San Francisco Chronicle, December 24, 2013)

Her is a rare film that is rich enough to be interpreted differently by different people. These differences might even be quite contradictory in nature. Where one person might find the themes optimistic, another might see them as overwhelmingly pessimistic. This is because Jonze is wise enough not to try to answer the questions that the film raises. He is content to simply ask them. Spike Jonze addressed this issue in an interview.

“I think the other thing that’s been really exciting about it is that as I’ve talked to people, the variety of reactions for what the movie is about is wide. You know, like some people find it incredibly romantic, some people find it incredibly sad or melancholy, or some people find it creepy, some people find it hopeful.

That makes me really happy to hear, you know, because to me it’s everything. It’s all these different things I’m thinking about, and a lot of them are contradictory. And I like hearing what it is to you.” – Spike Jonze (NPR, December 16, 2013)

This statement perfectly sums up everything that is good about the film. If Her sounds like a film that would appeal to you, it probably will.

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

The Blu-ray and DVD discs are held in the standard Blu-ray case with film related artwork. A slip sleeve with the same artwork slides over the case. The animated menu features film-related footage and is easy to navigate. The footage used looks like it might be a sort of deleted scene from the film. In any case, it makes for an attractive menu.

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Picture Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

Warner Brothers offers a wonderful 1080P AVC transfer that does not disappoint. The picture exhibits a stunning amount of detail and clarity at all times. Jonze’s unusual color palette for the film is consistently accurate and the transfer makes good use of contrast. There are no digital anomalies to mar the transfer either. Everything here is as it should be.

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Sound Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

This 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is also quite impressive. The sound is quite immersive and spreads evenly and naturally across the speakers. The track is perhaps not as dynamic as one might expect from an action film, but it serves this film perfectly well. Dialogue is consistently intelligible (even as it is mumbled by Joaquin Phoenix), and is well prioritized.

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Special Features:

2.5 of 5 Stars

The Untitled Rick Howard Project – (HD) – (24:19)

There is plenty of ‘behind the scenes’ footage here from the production of Her, but there isn’t any interview material (or commentary) to put the footage into context. It is certainly nice to have the footage included on this disc, but it would have been nicer if it was edited in a more digestible fashion. A proper ‘making of’ documentary would have been preferable.

Her: Love In the Modern Age – (HD) – (15:10)

Various people are questioned about various aspects of love in the modern world. People expecting this to be a featurette about the film will be disappointed.

How do you Share Your Life with Somebody– (HD) – (3:55)
At a little under four minutes in length, this feature was never going to amount to very much. One might describe this best as a kind of trailer with snippets of ‘behind the scenes’ footage, and snippets of the film that play over two long dialogue excerpts from the film.

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Final Words:

With his Oscar winning screenplay, Spike Jonze has created a film that begs to be seen at least once. It will probably be an essential purchase for many people. The exceptional image and sound transfers make this Blu-ray purchase an easy recommendation.

Review by: Devon Powell