Stranger Than Fiction Special Edition (Blu-ray) Official AVSForum Review - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 10 Old 11-26-2008, 08:33 AM - Thread Starter
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The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )

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

Extras: attachment.php?attachmentid=109944&d=1210373692

Audio/Video total rating:

( Max score: 100 )


Studio and Year: Sony Pictures - 2006
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 113 Minutes
Genre: Drama

Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: MPEG-2
Video Aspect: 1.85:1
Resolution: 1080p/24

Audio Format(s): English/French Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French
Starring: Will Ferrell, Dustin Hoffmann, Emma Thompson, Queen Latifah, Maggie Gyllenhaal
Directed by: Marc Forster
Music by: Britt Daniel & Brian Reitzel
Written by: Zach Helm
Region Code: A

Blu-ray Disc release Date: December 2, 2008

"Truth is stranger than fiction"

Film Synopsis:

Will Ferrell stars as Harold Crick, a lonely IRS agent whose mundane existence is transformed when he hears a mysterious voice narrating his life. With the help of Professor Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman), Harold discovers he's the main character in a novel-in-progress and that the voice belongs to Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson), an eccentric author famous for killing her main characters in creative ways. Harold must quickly track down Eiffel and stop her before she conjures up a way to finish him off.

My Take:

There have been few of Will Ferrell's films that have appealed to me. Those who read my review of his most recent film are already aware of this. Its funny but I find Jim Carrey's movies to be very much the same. Anyway, Stranger than fiction is a movie that garnered a rather tepid reaction from me when I saw it theatrically. I wasn't sure what to expect going in and the concept just didn't work for me at the time. I did feel as though I needed to give it another look but quite frankly I never got around to it. After watching it again I came to appreciate it and found it rather entertaining. I thought that Ferrell did a very good job in his portrayal of the compulsive, exacting, and somewhat morose Harold Crick. From a conceptual standpoint, I thought this film was smart, coherent and interesting. Obviously it stretches the limits of imagination but that's okay as long as it succeeds at creating characters that we care about as part of a cohesive story. It was great to watch Harold as he slowly evolved over the course of the film. As the central figure in the story it was imperative that Ferrell allow Harold to draw the audience in on an emotional level and he certainly did that. I liked the interaction between Harold and Ana. Maggie Gyllenhaal was well cast in the role and the chemistry between herself and Ferrell worked. The pacing seems perfectly attuned to the odd nature of the story and its character establishment. I really like how it becomes sort of a romanticized fantasy that depicts how life can pass you by unless you take the time to stop and figure out what is most important to you and go for it. Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman are terrific in their brief but integral roles. I would like to see more of this side of Will Ferrell as an actor because I really enjoyed his performance here.

Parental Guide:

The rating is for some disturbing images, sexuality, brief language and nudity.

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.**

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

Audio: 82

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

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

  • Surround Sound presentation: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

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

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

Video: 88

(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=109947&d=1210373692

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

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

Stranger than fiction Special Edition comes to Blu-ray Disc featuring 1080p MPEG-2 encoded video that has an average bitrate of 31 mbps and lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 channel audio that has an average bitrate of 2.3 mbps.

This disc utilizes the same video encoding as the version released last year on Blu-ray. The 1.85:1 framed video features good high definition detail and resolute sharpness which brings out lots of subtle nuance in close and medium camera shots. The long range shots of the city look just as good with excellent dimensional quality and crisp object detail. Colors are noticeably reserved with a limited palette that seems a perfect match with the tone of the film. They aren't overly vibrant but are rendered quite well and appear naturally pleasing. Contrast is elevated which gives bright images a punchy, dynamic quality while blacks are respectably deep with good gradational structure in dark areas and shadows. Fleshtones are delineated well but tonally speaking they aren't as natural looking as I would like. I saw some minor background noise in one or two scenes but otherwise thought this was a very clean transfer. The original release featured a lossless PCM soundtrack. Sony offers a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 sound mix here and it sounds great. This is a dialogue driven film so its ability to clearly render that aspect is important. Voices were reproduced with transparent realism and lucid texture that appropriately dominated the front soundstage. This surround mix properly utilized the sound platform to derive the films elements. I found it to be subtly engaging as it recreated the many acoustic sounds associated with environments portrayed onscreen. The rear soundfield offers an ambient rich mixture of background sounds and music that characterizes the impression and mood of the scene. I was impressed with its implementation and how good it sounded.

Bonus Features:

  • Director and cast commentary

  • Filmmakers commentary


  1. Actors in search of a story
  2. Bulding the team
  3. Words on a page
  4. Picture a number: The evolution of the G.U.I.
  5. On the set
  6. On location in Chicago

  • (HD) 9 deleted and extended scenes

  • (HD) BD Previews: Talledega nights: The ballad of Ricky Bobby, Lakeview Terrace

  • BD-Live enabled

Final Thoughts:

I found that Stranger than fiction had more appeal for me the second time around. I thought that Will Ferrell gave a strong performance that when coupled with the somewhat unusual but well written and directed story was entertaining and a little thought provoking. Sony has re-released it on Blu-ray Disc in a special edition package that offers a few additional bonus features and BD-Live access. It includes the same MPEG-2 video encoding as the original Blu-ray release and a now features a Dolby TrueHD lossless soundtrack. Having not seen the original Blu-ray version I can't offer a quality comparison however I thought that overall quality in both regards was excellent. I honestly can't see a compelling reason for an upgrade from the earlier Blu-ray release but for fans who don't already own this film in high definition this is a no brainer.


Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

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JVC DLA-RS1x 1080p High Definition Front Projector
Carada Precision Brilliant White 96" Screen
Oppo 970HD universal disc DVD Player (480i HDMI)
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Panasonic DMP-BD55K Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
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Denon AVR 5308CI THX Ultra 2 Preamp/Video Processor
B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 seven Channel amplifier
Canton "Ergo" Series speakers
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SV Sound PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
APC AV S15BLK Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Furman SPR-20i Stable Power Regulator
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post #2 of 10 Old 11-26-2008, 07:23 PM
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I wish Will Ferrell would do more movies like this. He's a really good actor which he seems to be wasting away

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post #3 of 10 Old 12-02-2008, 10:07 AM
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I love this film. I upgraded because I was able to sell the old one for what I had in it. It's a shame it's still an MPEG-2 encode.
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post #4 of 10 Old 12-02-2008, 11:05 AM
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waiting for Old School 2

Add your favorite bass-heavy movies here;
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post #5 of 10 Old 12-02-2008, 05:02 PM
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I loved this movie. I saw it at the theater. I look forward to seeing it on blu-ray as well. Probably won't buy it - will just rent it, only because it's not really the type of movie you can watch again and again.

My Blockbuster Video store has a pretty decent blu-ray section now. Can rent them for $5.
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post #6 of 10 Old 04-19-2009, 04:40 PM
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For the math geeks out there, this film's story is a "Klein Bottle." As Emma Thompson's character says in an interview seen on the tv in Dustin Hoffman's office at one point, it's about "interconnectivity" which unexpectedly becomes truer than she intended, as she herself gets ensnared in the web she's weaving around Will Ferrell's character.

This film is a paradox with heart. Hal Linden, who played Barney Miller in the squad room sitcom of that name, once described his character as "the Mary Tyler Moore" of the show - the straight man surrounded by comic characters. Will Ferrell plays that role here, the too-tightly-wrapped IRS auditor whose vision is restricted to numbers and the Internal Revenue Code, who discovers that he's a character in a story being narrated by an unseen voice.

All the supporting characters are wonderful high-functioning nuts: from the neurotic author, to the touchy-feely company psychologist, to the shrink who evokes Dr. Ruth as the film somehow makes seem funny her straight-laced recommendation that Ferrell "take prescribed medication," to the literature professor (Dustin Hoffman) who sees nothing of interest in Ferrell's plight until Ferrell mentions - as he's being shoved out the door - that the last thing he remembers the narrator saying was "Little did he know that this seemingly insignificant event would inevitably lead to his imminent death." That piques Hoffman's interest - "I've taught entire seminars on "little did he know"" - so he teams up with Ferrell to try to figure out what kind of story Ferrell is in - and who might be writing it.

One character is not played for laughs - the tax-protesting baker (Maggie Gyllenhaal) Ferrell is sent to audit - and the relationship between the two of them becomes the key to Ferrell's freeing himself of the tunnel-vision he's lived with his whole life. In the process, the author and the literature professor are forced to recognize that life is not a story that one can watch from the outside and that we are all, unavoidably, involved.

It's a lot subtler than Groundhog Day, and it's just as philosophical.

PS I have the original Blu-ray release of this film, and its lossless PCM soundtrack is subtly amazing, with nearly-subliminal touches like a few nearly-inaudible heartbeats and intakes of breath at points when Ferrell starts to fall for Gyllenhall, and rain on the pavement outside during a quiet conversation. The image is pristine as well, so the set design's contrast between Ferrell's (and the author's) white-walled, decoration-free environments and the baker's (and the professor's) much more colorful and cheerfully chaotic environments is well-conveyed by the crystalline quality of the cinematography and the Blu-ray transfer.


I'm glad you gave the film a second chance. I see new things in it every time I watch it.

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post #7 of 10 Old 04-22-2009, 04:16 PM
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I actually really enjoy this movie. But based on this review on don't think it's worth an upgrade to a special edition Blu. I think I'll just stick to a used DVD for my collection, perfect to loan to a friend if they've never seen it. [IMG]*************************[/IMG]
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post #8 of 10 Old 04-22-2009, 04:50 PM
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Originally Posted by StanDaMan View Post

I actually really enjoy this movie. But based on this review on don't think it's worth an upgrade to a special edition Blu. [IMG]http://www.***********************/track/img/3358/s09v0317fvxp/00.gif[/IMG] I think I'll just stick to a used DVD for my collection, perfect to loan to a friend if they've never seen it.

I have yet to see this particular one. Ever since I bought the Blu Ray player, I've been spending too much money on movies ... lol I'm picking this one up.
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post #9 of 10 Old 06-15-2009, 09:40 AM
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Originally Posted by StanDaMan View Post

I actually really enjoy this movie. But based on this review on don't think it's worth an upgrade to a special edition Blu. I think I'll just stick to a used DVD for my collection, perfect to loan to a friend if they've never seen it. [IMG]*************************[/IMG]

No, no, no. That's what you do with the DVD after you've bought the Blu-ray!

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post #10 of 10 Old 06-15-2009, 10:14 AM
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Originally Posted by Galley View Post

It's a shame it's still an MPEG-2 encode.

Why does that matter? Ralph mentioned the average bit rate is 31 Mbps, which is plenty high enough for MPEG2 to look as good as a more recent codec.
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