The Butler (Blu-ray) Official AVSForum Review - AVS Forum
Forum Jump: 
 
Thread Tools
Old 12-28-2013, 01:31 PM - Thread Starter
Blu-ray Reviewer
 
Ralph Potts's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Middletown NY
Posts: 9,515
Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 210 Post(s)
Liked: 688
700
The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )

Film: attachment.php?attachmentid=109945&d=1210373692

Extras: attachment.php?attachmentid=109943&d=1210373647

Audio/Video total rating:

( Max score: 100 )
87





Studio and Year: The Weinstein Company - 2013
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 132 minutes
Genre: Drama

Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.85:1
Resolution: 1080p/24


Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Starring: Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Mariah Carey, John Cusak, David Oyelowo, Cuba Gooding Jr. Lenny Kravitz, Terrence Howard, Jane Fonda, James Marsden, Robin Williams, Liev Schriber, Alan Rickman, Vanessa Redgrave
Directed by: Lee Daniels
Written by: Danny Strong
Region Code: A

Blu-ray Disc release Date: January 14, 2014







"Inspired by a true story"


Film Synopsis:

Lee Daniels' The Butler tells the story of a White House butler who served eight American presidents over three decades. The film traces the dramatic changes that swept American society during this time, from the civil rights movement to Vietnam and beyond, and how those changes affected this man's life and family.

My Take:

As someone that tends to enjoy films based on not only true stories but those with historical significance I eagerly awaited the arrival of The Butler for review. The film is inspired by the true story of Eugene Allen a black man that worked in the White House as a butler from 1952 to 1986. The term “inspired” is operative as the filmmakers caught wind of the Eugene’s story after reading an article in the Washington Post by Will Haygood. The article summarizes his career, family life with his wife and son (along with details about other African American/White House interaction/experiences in the 20th Century). Included are interviews with both Eugene and his wife of 60 plus years along with photos and accounts of his interaction with the seven presidents he served during his tenure.

The film dramatizes the events of his life using the civil rights movement/period as a focal point/backdrop. It begins at the end and is narrated by the main character, Cecil Gaines, via a full circle narrative beginning with his childhood. The topic of racism can be a tough one and as it is an innate part of our culture seeing it depicted onscreen is nothing new however for me it is something that I never get accustomed to. The storyline follows Cecil from his days as a boy in the south through to his arrival in Washington DC as a young man getting his first job as a waiter in an upscale hotel. This segues into the opportunity for employment at the White House as a member of the service staff. Co-mingled is the introduction of Cecil’s wife, two sons and a mix of additional characters made up of co-workers and friends/neighbors. The early parts of the film establish the relationships between the characters with Cecil’s home life and work life having a seemingly solid foundation. Then there is a dramatic shift with the emergence of problems at home between Cecil and his oldest son Louis who upon graduation from high school has aspirations to go to college in order to pursue a calling that will develop into the civil rights movement. That is followed by marital stress due to Cecil’s long hours and devotion to work.

Cecil’s tenure at the White House began during the Eisenhower administration during racial tensions surrounding the attempts at school integration. As the story plays out it moves back and forth between matters at home and work with the civil rights matters evolving through each presidential administration with each having its own small snapshot which includes Cecil’s perspective on the headlines of the period. With the passing of time there are a variety of subplots that revolve around Cecil. This includes his relationship with his wife Gloria, son Louis, his co-workers and Louis’ involvement in the civil rights movement and beyond.

Looking at The Butler simply as a drama there is an unevenness to the narrative that waters down the focus, which to me is story of this character and what was seen through his eyes while working in the capacity that he did as well as the effect that he had on those he served. With that I think there would be a natural flow that would highlight the trials/tribulations of the day without the need to overcrowd the plot. In and of itself the depiction of Eugene’s middle class African American family bearing witness to the civil rights chronology as a minor subplot to the main theme would have been enough. What we are left with is an over ambitious script that is a bit too broad to be thoroughly engrossing.

However there is a fundamentally sound message at the heart of the film which imbues a historical relevance and emotional transference that revolves not only around the racism/civil rights movement but the familial strife which is an aside that can have connective tissue for any family. In addition the performances by the ensemble cast beginning with Forest Whitaker, through to a wonderful assortment of cameos from the likes of Liev Schriber, Alan Rickman, Robin Williams, John Cusack, James Marsden, Terrence Howard and Clarence Williams III, there is rewarding balance that underscores the thematic events. The only real quibble that I had with the casting (other than the presence of Mariah Carey) was the decision to have 37 year old David Oyelowo portray the character of Louis beginning from the age of 17. Other characters in the story were portrayed by younger actors where appropriate and this was plainly obvious and a bit of a distraction. As he aged it was fine and as with the other members of the cast he was solid.

Unfortunately the film takes some rather deleterious and unnecessary liberties with the personal life of the real man that inspired the film. Luckily it adheres to the primary facts surrounding his tenure and work at the White House including the affection shared by those who knew him. In that light I found The Butler to be an interesting and poignant film that was well worth my time.



Parental Guide:

The rating is for some violence and disturbing images, language, sexual material, thematic elements and smoking.



AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**


Audio: 84

(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)


  • Dynamics: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

  • Low frequency extension: attachment.php?attachmentid=109945&d=1210373692

  • Surround Sound presentation: attachment.php?attachmentid=109945&d=1210373692

  • Clarity/Detail: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373699

  • Dialogue Reproduction: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373699



Video: 90

(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)


  • Resolution/Clarity: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373692

  • Black level/Shadow detail: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

  • Color reproduction: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373692

  • Fleshtones: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373692

  • Compression: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373692


The Butler comes to Blu-ray Disc from Anchor Bay Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 28 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 2.8 Mbps.

This is a pleasing video presentation that boasts plenty of high level detail, enriching contrast, natural colors and dimensionality. Blacks are punchy and stand out when onscreen with mixed content. Visual perspective in low lighting and darkened areas is estimable. The combination gives dark scenes appreciable depth. Images are dynamic, vivid, and perfectly suited for the source material while exhibiting no signs of video related artifacts.

The lossless DTS-HD MA soundtrack presents the film’s source elements with aplomb. The quality of the dialogue is unwavering as vocal reproduction is clear and tonally balanced. Dynamic range is very good which lends subtle distinction to low level sounds and gravity to broader ones. A large portion of the film has little need for this as dialogue, atmospheric ambience and musical enhancement is readily conveyed by the front channels. However there are several sequences that enlist the rear channels to create a bit of audible immersion. Overall this soundtrack provides a gratifying listening experience that complimented the video presentation quite nicely.


Bonus Features:

  • (HD) Lee Daniel’s The Butler: Behind the scenes – 22 minute documentary

  • (HD) 9 deleted scenes

  • (HD) The original Freedom Riders – 3 minute featurette

  • (HD) “You and I ain’t nothin’ no more” – performed by Glady Knight and Lenny Kravitz

  • (HD) Gag reel – 5 minutes

  • Bonus DVD

  • Ultraviolet Digital Copy




Final Thoughts:

Inspired by a true story The Butler is an engaging and poignant historical drama that is predominantly faithful to its primary theme while making excellent use of a stalwart ensemble of actors. It comes to Blu-ray from Anchor Bay Entertainment featuring a technically solid high definition audio/video presentation mated with a middling supplemental package that left me wanting. The Butler isn’t a perfect movie but it’s a rewarding experience that isn’t to be missed by film enthusiasts. Put it at the top of your rental queue and give it a spin on Blu-ray.



attachment.php?attachmentid=109949&d=1210373731






Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews





Reference Review System:


JVC DLA-RS55 3D Ready 1080p High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6 Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16x9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV8801 11.2 Channel Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies - 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo BDP-103D Universal Disc/3D capable Blu-ray Player (With Darbee video processing)
Panasonic DMP-BDT310 3D capable Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton "Ergo" Series speakers
Axiom Audio QS8 Quadpolar speakers
SV Sound PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
APC AV S15BLK Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components - CP-CP102 cooling package


Ralph C. Potts
Blu-ray Reviews
AVS Forum
My Home Theater
My DVD/HD DVD/Blu-ray Collection
Ralph Potts is online now  
Sponsored Links
Advertisement
 
Old 12-28-2013, 11:28 PM
Member
 
bullpuss's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 155
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 5 Post(s)
Liked: 51
Ok flick but not a buy for me.............thanks for the review Mr. Potts
bullpuss is offline  
Old 12-29-2013, 01:01 PM
Member
 
Aus1095's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2011
Location: Indiana
Posts: 188
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 10
Looking forward to this one. I didn't expect it to score high with PQ or SQ but looks like a overall good movie.
Aus1095 is offline  
Old 12-29-2013, 04:07 PM
AVS Special Member
 
Reddig's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: Hays, KS
Posts: 1,676
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 36 Post(s)
Liked: 174
May give it a rent some day.

JBL Pro Cinema
Reddig is offline  
Old 12-30-2013, 01:59 AM
Advanced Member
 
Phrehdd's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 522
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 31 Post(s)
Liked: 109
"Inspired" is a good word to use given that it is loosely based on some real people and their circumstances. Beyond this, it is historically grossly inaccurate as far as history and the actual events/people portrayed. This is a shame given that the real person, the real people were more than enough for a great movie. Somehow, after learning more about what went on during the times of the center character I felt cheated. He is one to be admired without cheap political and racial fictitious story lines.

Sometimes I couldn't help but think of films like Avatar and Titanic where some characters have to be painted in such an ugly light, you feel the "heroes" are victims rather than simply trusting the audience to figure out they might feel on their own compassion, sympathy and for some empathy for the main hero characters. Oh well...Hollywood again doesn't trust us enough and had to add the garbage and cheapen the story.
GeorgeAB likes this.
Phrehdd is offline  
Old 12-30-2013, 09:23 AM
AVS Special Member
 
GeorgeAB's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: Denver, CO
Posts: 3,320
Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 21 Post(s)
Liked: 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phrehdd View Post

"Inspired" is a good word to use given that it is loosely based on some real people and their circumstances. Beyond this, it is historically grossly inaccurate as far as history and the actual events/people portrayed. This is a shame given that the real person, the real people were more than enough for a great movie. Somehow, after learning more about what went on during the times of the center character I felt cheated. He is one to be admired without cheap political and racial fictitious story lines.

Sometimes I couldn't help but think of films like Avatar and Titanic where some characters have to be painted in such an ugly light, you feel the "heroes" are victims rather than simply trusting the audience to figure out they might feel on their own compassion, sympathy and for some empathy for the main hero characters. Oh well...Hollywood again doesn't trust us enough and had to add the garbage and cheapen the story.
An inside perspective on the story by someone who was there for part of it, and knew principle characters: 'The Butler From Another Planet.' Hollywood has thoroughly proven long ago its consistent compulsion for needlessly embellishing and/or grotesquely distorting otherwise legitimately compelling history.

Best regards and beautiful pictures,
G. Alan Brown, President
CinemaQuest, Inc.
A Lion AV Consultants affiliate

"Advancing the art and science of electronic imaging"
Phrehdd likes this.
GeorgeAB is offline  
Old 12-30-2013, 11:17 AM
AVS Special Member
 
Dave Vaughn's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Vacaville, CA
Posts: 4,361
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 57 Post(s)
Liked: 109
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phrehdd View Post

"Inspired" is a good word to use given that it is loosely based on some real people and their circumstances. Beyond this, it is historically grossly inaccurate as far as history and the actual events/people portrayed. This is a shame given that the real person, the real people were more than enough for a great movie. Somehow, after learning more about what went on during the times of the center character I felt cheated. He is one to be admired without cheap political and racial fictitious story lines.

Sometimes I couldn't help but think of films like Avatar and Titanic where some characters have to be painted in such an ugly light, you feel the "heroes" are victims rather than simply trusting the audience to figure out they might feel on their own compassion, sympathy and for some empathy for the main hero characters. Oh well...Hollywood again doesn't trust us enough and had to add the garbage and cheapen the story.

I couldn't agree more. I'm reviewing this title for an upcoming issue and have to figure out a way to get my point across in 420 words (plus talk about the audio/video quality smile.gif )

David Vaughn

Blu-ray Reviewer / Technical Writer

Sound & Vision Magazine (Print & Online)

Dave Vaughn is online now  
Old 12-30-2013, 12:32 PM
AVS Special Member
 
yadfgp's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Meridian, Idaho
Posts: 2,072
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 27 Post(s)
Liked: 42
Based on the last 3 posts, my year long dilemma of whether I should watch this or not has just been decided for me.

Thanks guys for your input. smile.gif

1 Mitsubishi WD-82642 82" TV
1 Onkyo TX-NR929 11.4 setup
2 Emotiva XPA-5's
1 Emotiva XPA-100
1 Definitive Technology CLR 3000 (Center)
2 Definitive Technology BP2004TL's (Mains)
2 Definitive Technology ProMonitor 1000's (Heights)
6 Definitive Technology BPX's (Rears Wides Sides)
4 CHT VS-18.1 Subs
yadfgp is offline  
Old 12-30-2013, 05:07 PM
AVS Special Member
 
BrolicBeast's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: Charles County, MD
Posts: 3,049
Mentioned: 2 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 258 Post(s)
Liked: 353

Although the Mrs. went to see this in the theaters, I skipped it, thinking to myself: how on earth can an entire film be made surrounding a butler?  When she told me about the film, part of me wished I had gone with them to see it.  I generally get an odd discomfort (faithlessness in humanity, perhaps? OK--off the soapbox) from films in which examples of blatant inequality--be they racial (racism and the reactionary civil rights movement), religious (The Crusades), or ethnic (The Holocaust)--are key components.  That being said, contrary to what the theatrical previews led me to believe, this film is about more than just the civil rights era. I did promise Mrs. Brolic that I'd watch this movie after she gave me a tear-filled synopsis of the film; this is a definite buy for me--not necessarily for the content, but because I have to see it anyway, and she loved it so much.  It certainly helps that it has great dimensionality; there may be a few reference scenes on there suitable for testing the mettle of projectors over the next few years.

BrolicBeast is offline  
Old 12-30-2013, 08:37 PM
Newbie
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 6
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 4 Post(s)
Liked: 18
I think it succeeds in telling a good, historical story. I don't know enough about Cecil and company to make accurate judgements towards credibility, but regardless it's certainly an eye opener. I think you were spot on about the over ambitious script though, dad.
Ralph Potts likes this.
mattp24 is offline  
Old 12-31-2013, 03:45 AM
Advanced Member
 
Phrehdd's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 522
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 31 Post(s)
Liked: 109
Quote:
Originally Posted by mattp24 View Post

I think it succeeds in telling a good, historical story. I don't know enough about Cecil and company to make accurate judgements towards credibility, but regardless it's certainly an eye opener. I think you were spot on about the over ambitious script though, dad.

The problem with this film is that there was a GREAT story to be told but some folks insisted on cheapening the memory of this individual by portraying history with a more than large dose of inaccuracies with respect to surround important key figures. This is no more history or a biography than is Inglorious Basterds. It is very skewed and obtuse by portraying various other true to life characters in a false manner. There was no need to do this. The gentleman who the story is LOOSELY based upon was someone to be admired and respected on his own merit. Hollywood or the politicos who wrote the script (whatever) decided to sacrifice a real story to be told with the one that made it to the screen. - Shameful.
Phrehdd is offline  
Old 12-31-2013, 08:24 AM
AVS Special Member
 
comfynumb's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2012
Location: Northeast PA.
Posts: 4,804
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 409
Ralph thank you for the review. Ive heard good things about this one and I enjoy pretty much everything Forest Whitaker is in, so I'm looking forward to this one.
comfynumb is offline  
Old 12-31-2013, 10:02 AM - Thread Starter
Blu-ray Reviewer
 
Ralph Potts's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Middletown NY
Posts: 9,515
Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 210 Post(s)
Liked: 688
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phrehdd View Post

The problem with this film is that there was a GREAT story to be told but some folks insisted on cheapening the memory of this individual by portraying history with a more than large dose of inaccuracies with respect to surround important key figures. This is no more history or a biography than is Inglorious Basterds. It is very skewed and obtuse by portraying various other true to life characters in a false manner. There was no need to do this. The gentleman who the story is LOOSELY based upon was someone to be admired and respected on his own merit. Hollywood or the politicos who wrote the script (whatever) decided to sacrifice a real story to be told with the one that made it to the screen. - Shameful.

Greetings,

I agree with your sentiments. I opted not to read anything about the real story until after I'd seen the film. My comments in the review are related to my initial reaction to the film not its interpretation based upon what I learned afterward.


Regards,

Ralph C. Potts
Blu-ray Reviews
AVS Forum
My Home Theater
My DVD/HD DVD/Blu-ray Collection
Ralph Potts is online now  
Old 12-31-2013, 12:42 PM
Advanced Member
 
Phrehdd's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 522
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 31 Post(s)
Liked: 109
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ralph Potts View Post

Greetings,

I agree with your sentiments. I opted not to read anything about the real story until after I'd seen the film. My comments in the review are related to my initial reaction to the film not its interpretation based upon what I learned afterward.


Regards,

Ralph - I think your review was excellent as far as the film itself is concerned and thus, my comments were more about the story/script. As always, your reviews remain one of my best sources before deciding to buy/rent/stream and that doesn't change.

To you and yours, a happy and joyous New Year!
Phrehdd is offline  
Old 12-31-2013, 02:48 PM - Thread Starter
Blu-ray Reviewer
 
Ralph Potts's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Middletown NY
Posts: 9,515
Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 210 Post(s)
Liked: 688
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phrehdd View Post

Ralph - I think your review was excellent as far as the film itself is concerned and thus, my comments were more about the story/script. As always, your reviews remain one of my best sources before deciding to buy/rent/stream and that doesn't change.

To you and yours, a happy and joyous New Year!

Greetings,

Thanks Phrehdd, I got that but wanted to clarify for others joining the discussion. wink.gif

Happy New Year to you and your family as well. smile.gif


Best regards,

Ralph C. Potts
Blu-ray Reviews
AVS Forum
My Home Theater
My DVD/HD DVD/Blu-ray Collection
Ralph Potts is online now  
Old 01-20-2014, 08:09 AM
AVS Addicted Member
 
thebland's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Detroit, Michigan USA
Posts: 24,022
Mentioned: 5 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 319 Post(s)
Liked: 167
I enjoyed the film up until the end with the insertion of Obama's election. That made thing as overtly political and off the scale in terms of being overly trite. He was long gone form the white house and I think the added Obama portion took away from the overall message of the film and distracted from his difficult relationship with his son (and wife). It seemed more like a 'docu-drama' at that point than a genuine story of the 'butler'. The story between the father and son was more gratifying than the shoe horning in every significant historical event of the African americans plight for equality. Just about every significant event was weaved in and in the end it was just too much going on and took away from what I thought was a good story of the butler. Many said 'The Butler' was snubbed from the Oscars, but I don't see it as a snub at all.

Great review and I agree on the technical aspects with Ralph.

My Home Theater of the Month- Le Petit Trianon

There are more than a handful of [op amps] that sound so good that most designers want to be using them as opposed to discreet transistors. Dave Reich, Theta 2009
thebland is online now  
 

Tags
Lee Daniels The Butler Blu Ray Combo
Thread Tools


Forum Jump: 

Posting Rules  
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off