Tags: Allison Janney, Annette Bening, Barry Del Sherman, Chris Cooper, DreamWorks, DVD vs. Blu-ray Screenshot Comparison, Kevin Spacey, Mena Suvari, Paramount, Peter Gallagher, Sam Mendes, Sam Robards, Sapphire Series, Scott Bakula, Thora Birch, Wes Bentley
has an average rating of 8.6 on IMDb
1080p in AVC MPEG-4 on a 50gb disc
DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
are just DVD ports & HD trailers…
– 124 minutes
This uses 29.5GB for the movie out of 35.7GB total.
Street Date: September 21st, 2010
Overall Verdict – Not As Beautiful As It Could Be
— Review written by: Danielle Byington —
The Movie Itself is Directed by Sam Mendes (“Road to Perdition“, “Jarhead“, and “Revolutionary Road“), and written by Alan Ball (television series “Six Feet Under“, and also creator of television series “True Blood“).
The story centers on Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey), whose opening narration takes us into the calamity that resides within what would otherwise be thought of as perfect picket fence lifestyle. Lester is rather unhappy with his very stale job, and even more stale marriage to his wife, Carolyn (Annette Bening), whose gardening gloves match her gardening clogs by no accident, and is pretty certain that his teenage daughter, Jane (Thora Birch), hates him.
Suddenly, Lester begins to experience a bit of evolution from the kool-aid as a sequence of events leads him to an awakening of just how miserable he has been. The middle-aged suburban man begins to reflect upon the fact that he has been quite dead inside for years, and the gleaming muse that derails his lemming-like existence is non-other than his daughter’s sex-obsessed teenage friend, Angela Hayes (Mena Suvari). Lester‘s fascination with Angela takes flight as he is dragged along by Carolyn to watch Jane participate as a cheerleader at the school’s basketball game. Lester does not see the 8-count half-time dance number the squad performs, but rather his lust for his daughter’s best friend creates a mirage of her performing a semi-scandalous number just for him.
While Lester is thoroughly fascinated by a teenage girl, his disconnected family is getting their own kicks elsewhere. Carolyn becomes engaged in an affair with “the real estate king”, Buddy Kane (Peter Gallagher), having bonded over a lunch conversation in which Buddy explains that he is getting divorced as his wife argues that he is too focused on his job. This alone makes him a perfect for Carolyn, whose own materialistic and success-obsessed ways are an ingredient in the fuel that has driven her marriage to Lester into limbo. Jane, on the other hand, has captivated the eighteen year-old son of the new next door neighbors, Ricky Fitts (Wes Bentley). Ricky is wise beyond his years, though it translates into a peculiar manner, and after becoming somewhat captivated herself by his mellow confidence, Jane takes up with the home-movie-making boy.
Within these occurrences, Lester‘s “awakening” that has bloomed from the first sight of Angela has also been nurtured by Ricky who begins to sell him marijuana. Looking up to the odd teenager, Lester sees the confident and fearless individual he wishes that he could also be, and takes a leap into pursuing happiness.
In closing, it is boundless to figure where one should begin with an explanation for the many levels of sincerity and emotions that this film conveys. While you could interpret the many subjects of the film until the end of time, the argument that would materialize from this debate would itself become the exact nature of what the story takes stabs at; self-righteousness and self-centered obsession of allowing one’s ego to suffocate the beauty of the process of life that is passing us by. It does not matter what I think, what you think, or what the foreigner spamming comments with interracial porn thinks about the film; as each of us ignite every cell in our body to explain the perfect philosophical summary of this movie to prove one another wrong, we are left in the dust looking at the tail-lights of a vehicle that is towing an indescribable take on our society.
Many sources state that Alan Ball‘s inspiration for the screenplay began in the early 1990′s revolving around the Amy Fisher trial; and, if anything is ever a legitimate piece of irony regarding the themes portrayed in this film, it is the screenplay’s own inspiration regarding the 17 year-old mistress becoming an adult film actress nearly two decades later. Though, regarding this timeframe in which Ball grew the roots of “American Beauty“, you did not have as much of the entertainment industry liberally poking the truth-stick at the “perfect” people in the form of a film, television series, and so forth. This film probably would not have floated quite as easily in the early 1990′s; it took a few more years for our culture to taste its own corruption, and become more enlightened to just what was brewing over at “The Jones’” little house to really appreciate everything about this movie.
Video Quality on this release is in full 1080p using the AVC MPEG-4 codec on a BD-50 (50 gigabyte dual-layered Blu-ray Disc) in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. When this film was announced to be part of Paramount‘s Sapphire Series, certainly fans were excited, but also skeptical with the series’ track record of flaws. Below are some DVD vs. Blu-ray screenshot comparisons.
DVD vs. Blu-ray Screenshot Comparisons
Above, you can see that there are some small improvements in the video quality. The screenshot of Kevin Spacey‘s eyes serves as the exhibit with the most noticeable difference, and also brings up the point that close-up shots are really the only moments that you can detect an abundant amount of detail that was previously a bit smoother on the DVD. Within other scenes using medium shots, detail is still rather fair, with perhaps just a tinge of more distinguishable textures. For the most part, the enhancement of definition is there, but is mostly subtle through out the release.
It is also evident in these comparisons that the color palette appears just a hair more neutral to cool than before, mostly seen in the fleshtones and primaries, which does give the release’s video presentation a more balanced and realistic tone as far the contrast goes. There is vibrancy throughout; an excellent example being the reoccurring theme of the red roses, and the contrast of the red door against the white home of the Burnhams‘, which also exhibits bright whites within the picture, set-off by a black level that is sometimes very inky, but does persist to remain generally solid. Film grain is retained more so in some scenes, and virtually absent in others, which does have a connection to scenes that show-off a few more finer details, and scenes that are seemingly smoother, respectively. Also, there are a few artifacts of white specs through out. All in all, if only the video quality on this release were more consistent in presentation, it certainly has sequences that merit a higher rating; however, the final verdict is a “4 Star Rating“, as the video predominantly demonstrates this grade of quality.
So, back to what I mentioned above regarding the Sapphire Series. What exactly happened, Paramount? Does Technicolor have dirt on you that prevents you from arguing with the mediocre to average video quality that they have produced for you from time to time? It’s not that the video quality here is in the demeanor of the original “Gladiator” issued on Blu-ray (before all of the drama inspired a re-do), by all means, but anyone can Google “Sapphire Series” and find late articles online (such as this one in Home Media Magazine) in which statements were included from vice president of Paramount Pictures, Rob Moore, stating that “…the Sapphire Series will deliver the best pictures in the best picture.“. Well, that statement certainly did not guarantee every release; that was evident right out of the park. Seriously, Paramount, it’s not just that you swooned people with this special edition shiny blue hologram slipcover crap, but you have marketed a specific line of products which you suggested would be “elite”.
The other part of this problem is that it is not just random half-bit catalog junk that is involved; “American Beauty” is a modern classic. Conrad L. Hall contributed beautiful cinematography to this film, and fans are going to see this Blu-ray release and think to themselves, “Well, it isn’t bad, but it definitely is not elite.”. Furthermore, the inconsistency of quality is totally confusing to consumers; if they become familiar with the Sapphire Series name, they will remain on the fence of choosing to trust it or not. For example, “The Godfather Trilogy: The Coppola Restoration” (which of course looks amazing) now carries the Sapphire Series name on it, creating an even more vast range of quality within the releases that carry the SS name. This perhaps even makes film preservationist Robert A. Harris (who was involved with restoration of “The Godfather” films) uncomfortable, having the uncertainty of the Sapphire Series name on a product of his work, and what the Sapphire Series name may convey to consumers at this point. To wrap this up, if there is going to be this classy Sapphire Series, then there needs to be a point to it; not just an “okay” point, but an “elite” point. If you can not define this line, you are doing nothing more than bringing basic Hi-Def transfers of catalog titles (that just-so-happened to be Academy Award-winning) to Blu-ray, and claiming that they have exclusively received copious grooming and fine tuning; because, the shiny blue slipcover says so. This is also known as (or in some social circles, often referred to as) shitting in someone’s mouth, and calling it a sundae.
Audio Quality on this release is presented in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio. In regard to the content of this drama, the main bits of substance on this audio track are the dialogue and the score. The well-known original music, composed by Thomas Newman, sounds clean and bright within the 5.1 setup. On occasion, there is even a very slight reverb to some of the borderline metaphysical notes that chime in during a few scenes. While these light tones of course never become aggressive in presentation, the music does make use of the rear channels, offers some very subtle bass presence, and fills the front of the soundscape in a balanced fashion.
Then next to the original score, you’ve got the soundtrack with tunes accompanying the likes of the characters, such as “The Seeker” by The Who, and “Don’t Rain On My Parade” by Bobby Darin; these tracks, as well as others, do provide a bit more vivid life to the audio presentation, being much less quiet in nature. The dialogue is conveyed from the center front channel, and presents no issues of being inaudible under other elements of sound, and remains balanced with no flaws of distortion or any other possible complaints. Foley is sometimes more distinguishable, and occasionally presents itself from an assigned channel within the 5.1 setup in respect to on-screen actions, such as the slamming of a door, and passing traffic. Environmental soundeffects create the on-screen atmosphere nicely, such as the rainstorm in the final quarter of the film, which fills both the fronts and the rears. While the audible content itself is pretty simple, fans should be pleased with the audio track on this release as it offers a solid performance worthy of a “4 Star Rating“.
Bonus materials are presented in Standard Definition using Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, with the exception of the Trailers which are presented in High Definition, using Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround.
- “Commentary By Director Sam Mendes and Screenwriter Alan Ball“
- “‘American Beauty‘: Look Closer…” (21:52, SD)
- “Storyboard Presentation With Sam Mendes and Director of Photography Conrad L. Hall” (1:01:20, SD)
- “Theatrical Trailer 1” (3:00, HD)
- “Theatrical Trailer 2” (1:22, HD)
Overall, the bonus materials are DVD ports, and it is rather disappointing now that “American Beauty” has made it to Blu-ray, in Paramount‘s Sapphire Series non-the-less, that no new material could have been provided. Originally, Paramount had implied that Sapphire Series releases would be two-disc special editions, and the lack of supplements for the Hi-Def release of such a large-title film makes this look more like an ordinary catalog title release. Hiss.
Blu-ray Disc packaging:
NOTE: The full-sized 1920×1080 files are in a .PNG file format and uncompressed. Bare with the slow loading times, keep in mind these files are at least 1MB (1 megabyte) in size each.