Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Out of Africa: 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Review

Disc Size: 41.3 GB
Film Size: 36.6 GB
Film Rating: PG
Region: ABC
The Video
Out of Africa celebrates its 25th anniversary with a 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 video presentation on Blu-ray. Upon first impression, I was quite pleased by the high-def image. Unfortunately a first impression was just that and when I took the time to watch the film in whole, my opinion changed drastically.

While certain scenes can look quite good (the ones I did see at first), many scenes are filled with some hideous levels of DNR and Edge Enhancement. In order to have a ‘crystal clear’ image, all grain is removed from the picture and a significant amount of detail is lost.

If being waxy was not bad enough, there is some Edge Enhancement throughout which is used to make the film look like it still retains some detail, but really it just makes it look rough and worse than had DNR just been applied.

There are quite a few scenes which are visually appealing to the eye, colors are generally very strong and black levels remain solid throughout. The image certainly looks better in motion, but the bigger the screen you are using the bigger the issues become.

It’s actually a bit funny that the presentation looks the way it looks as the Blu-ray disc’s menu features the presentation we should have received. The video sequences in the menu feature plenty of fine detail and grain, far from amazing, but still looks much better than the actual presentation on the disc.

So are there any positives? Well yes. I for one will definitely be holding on to my copy of the film as it blows always all previous releases of the film. While the movie isn’t visually appealing, it only takes about 5 seconds with the DVD counterpart to realize the upgrade that is still to be had. The DVD is just a mess and much uglier than the Blu-ray version.

The Blu-ray presentation does appear to be a quick port, featuring plenty of dirt and scratches throughout as well. The release may appeal to Meryl Streep though as her face looks flawless, she literally looks like a wax museum figure at times.

I don’t consider it to be as big of a mess as Gangs of New York (which is a much more recent film), but I really can’t defend the transfer like I wish I could. There are certain moments which I did find impressive, but mostly the transfer is quite mediocre. The Blu-ray release will likely appeal to grain haters as aside from occasional dirt, the image is literally clear as can be.

So should you get the Blu-ray version even with all these issues? That depends on your financial situation and how much you love the movie. Personally I love Out of Africa and while the presentation is rather ugly, it is miles better than the DVD release.

This presentation was not expected from a Universal Studios Home Entertainment Blu-ray release, but unfortunately this is the case. The presentation clearly had DNR and Edge Enhancement applied, but is technically free of any glitches. While I would love for Universal Studios to go back and include the grain-filled film, it looks like that will come with possibly a 30th anniversary release.

Overall, the image is clearly high-def from beginning to end. The upgrade in clarity is nice, despite lack of fine detail. Some scenes look good, others look terrible (pictured above). Out of Africa is certainly one of the most disappointing high-def releases I have come across lately and I do have to say it was unexpected. 5/10.

The Audio
An English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is the lossless option, also included is a French 5.1 DTS track. Optional subtitles include English SDH, Spanish and French.

The audio is about what I expected. For a 25 year old film I really was not expecting much and on this Blu-ray release we don’t get too much to rave about. The audio is of course dated, but does sound quite appealing overall.

Dialogue is front and center, remaining clear as can be throughout. The film’s audio effects are quite front heavy, but do make surround use appearances throughout. The film’s music also comes through clearly and is generally quite impressive.

Overall the mix is good, aside from some moments where it really shows its age. I wasn’t expecting miracles and if you set your expectations accordingly, there really is no reason to be disappointed. The film really isn’t going to sound much better than it does now. 6.5/10.

The Extras

Audio Commentary
With Director Sydney Pollak.

Deleted Scenes (15:02) (SD)
Fifteen minutes of deleted scenes are included and are presented in standard-definition.

A Song of Africa (1:12:46) (SD)
This is an extensive documentary on the making of the film.

Theatrical Trailer (3:00) (SD)

My Scenes
Save your favorite scenes and return to them later.

What’s New! (Powered by BD-Live)
Check out the latest trailers from Universal Studios Home Entertainment via BD-Live.

DVD Copy of the film
Flip the disc over to watch the film on DVD. This is the second wave of Universal flipper discs and I had no issue in playing either version of the film.

The extras included are nice, particularly the making of and audio commentary. That being said, the extras should have at least been slightly updated for this '25th Anniversary Edition' release. I'm glad things aren't missing at least. 5/10.

The Movie
Out of Africa is on Blu-ray for the first time, marked as a 25th anniversary edition of the film. Out of Africa was quite the critical success when it released, winning a total of seven Academy Awards including Best Picture.

It has been a few years since I have last seen the film so my excitement level to watch the Blu-ray release was pretty high. Revisiting the movie was great and I actually liked it more than I remember. The film is one many consider being overrated, but I certainly enjoyed it.

The film is directed by Sydney Pollack and stars Meryl Streep, Robert Redford and Klaus Maria Brandauer. If that is not enough to get you to watch the movie, the story and locations are absolutely beautiful. The acting is also very strong, featuring another Oscar worthy performance from Meryl Streep (but of course she didn’t win, she never wins).

The film is based on the autobiographical book Out of Africa written by Isak Dinesen. I admittedly have never read the book, but everything I have read about it say the film is only loosely based on it. The film is relatable to many epic love stories such as Gone with the Wind and the more recent Australia (which wasn’t that great of a movie, but epic nonetheless).

The movie is one which I do recommend anyone see at least once. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say they hated the movie, aside from some respectable complaints about the film. The film’s 2 hour and 41 minutes runtime is relatively enjoyable, but there are some slower unnecessary scenes featured throughout.

If you haven’t already seen the film, do yourself a favor and watch it! There are very few films like Out of Africa which make it that much more enjoyable. The story is beautiful and the acting is superb. While the film does have some runtime issues, that really is just a minor complaint for such an enjoyable film. 9/10.

The Blu-news Summary
Out of Africa is a beautiful film with an unfortunately ugly video presentation. The audio is decent and there bonus features are fairly strong. While I can’t recommend the Blu-ray video presentation, at least it is much stronger than the DVD presentation. The film alone makes this one at least ‘Worth A Look.

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