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Miracle At St. Anna (Blu-ray) Official AVSForum Review

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
attachment.php?attachmentid=132006&d=1233452712
The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )

Film: attachment.php?attachmentid=109942&d=1210373647

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

Audio/Video total rating:

( Max score: 100 )

84






Studio and Year: Touchstone/Disney - 2008
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 160 minutes
Genre: War drama

Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.35:1
Resolution: 1080p/24


Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, French/Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
Subtitles: English SDH, French, and Spanish
Starring: Derek Luke, Michael Ealy, Laz Alonso, Omar Benson Miller, Pierfrancesco Favino, Valentina Cervi
Directed by: Spike Lee
Written by: James McBride
Region Code: A

Blu-ray Disc release Date: February 10, 2009







"World War II has its heroes and its miracles"



Film Synopsis:

From Touchstone Pictures and A Spike Lee Joint comes the powerful and uplifting World War II epic Miracle At St. Anna, directed by acclaimed filmmaker Spike Lee. Stationed in Tuscany, Italy, four members of the U.S. Army's all-black 92nd Infantry Division, the Buffalo Soldiers, are trapped behind enemy lines after one of them risks his life to save a traumatized Italian boy. Separated from their unit, they find themselves in a remote Tuscan village where they experience the tragedy and the triumph of war. Based on the highly praised novel by James McBride, and filled with exceptional battle scenes and action, it's a gripping and inspiring story drawn from a real incident that will touch the goodness within us all and never let go.



My Take:

Miracle at St. Anna comes from the true story of four African American soldiers stationed in German occupied Italy during World War II. Separated from their unit and trapped behind Nazi lines, ranking officer Aubrey Stamps ( Luke), hot-headed Bishop Cummings (Michael Ealy), radioman Hector Negron (Laz Alonso) and gentle giant Sam Train (Omar Benson Miller) survive a shocking massacre, rescuing a young Italian boy in the process. The five make their way to the nearest village, where they join forces with the local partisans, risking their lives and gathering intelligence for a nation that considers them second-class citizens. An inspirational look at the heroic exploits of the all-black 92nd Buffalo Soldier Division of the U.S. Army.

The story is told in three stages and opens in 1983 with Hector working at the Post Office. It kicks off when a patron comes to his window and asks him for a 20 cent stamp.

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Spoiler  
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Hector then pulls a 9mm luger from below the window and blasts him into the next world. He is arrested and the police begin an investigation into why a war veteran who has never been in trouble would commit murder. In the process a rare Italian artifact is found in his apartment.
This stirs controversy that makes international news. Hector speaks to no one until he is visited by a reporter (Gordon-Levitt) and utters the words I know where the sleeping man is. Things switch to 1944 during WWII in Italy where the bulk of the story is told. The last act continues in 1983 and details the conclusion of the events that started in 1944. I realize that this film is based on actual events but there were aspects of this story that seemed like a stretch. The little boy Angelo possessed abilities that bordered on sheer clairvoyance. According to the film this came from his ability to see his friend Arturo who was invisible to everyone else. The renegade German soldier who risks all for an italian boy he doesn't know and the German Officer with the defend yourself luger that still works after nearly 40 years later just didn't sit right with me. I haven't read the book so I don't know how faithful the film is to it. I thought that the four Buffalo Soldiers came across feeling genuine enough and I thought the cast did a credible job. I liked Matteo Sciabordi and thought he gave a solid performance as young Angelo. Omar Benson Miller might have tried just a little too hard in his portrayal of the large, superstitious, overtly honest and seemingly dull-witted Sam Train. The romance could have been left out as it didn't add anything viable to the script. I don't think that directing battle sequences are a strong point for Spike Lee. The build up and visceral perspective was lacking and they felt flat as a result.

When things wrapped up I felt as though I should have had more of an emotional connection to the story but I didn't. The ending was okay but like other aspects of the movie there were portions of it that didn't add up. The main cast members did a find job, as did those such as Kerry Washington, John Turturro, John Leguizamo, DB Sweeney, and Josep Gordon-Levitt who had cameos. I appreciated the homage to the Buffalo Soldiers and the brief glimpse of what things were like for them. I looked forward to finding out what the answer was to the sleeping man. When it was revealed it just wasn't that fulfilling. Unfortunately the film was simply too long at over two and a half hours and the potential inherent in the story felt watered down.







Parental Guide:

The rating is for strong war violence, language, and brief sexual content/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: 86



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

  • Low frequency extension: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&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: 82


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


  • Resolution/Clarity: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

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

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

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

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

Miracle at St. Anna comes to Blu-ray from Touchstone/Disney featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 25 mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 4.3 mbps.

This video presentation has two distinctive looks and offers good not great overall image quality. The WWII portions which make up the majority of the movie use grain and muted colors to give it a gritty texture and rougher visual style that has a dated aesthetic. Grain is presented with a prominent consistency that becomes heavier during darker segments. Fleshtones are tonally neutral among the Caucasian actors and less delineated among the black actors. This is directly related to the filtering applied and it coincides with the look of the rest of the video. The sepia and earth tones used in the period clothing and scenery are rendered with good tonal balance and depth. Resolution fluctuates and is scene dependent. There are many instances where detail is clearly resolvable with discerning visual perspective. On the other hand there are equally as many instances where perspective and sharpness is less tangible and defining. This appears to be intentional and is not attributable to the encoding. Blacks are appreciably dynamic with viable depth and contrast is punchy without negatively affecting detail perception. The segments that take place in 1983 offer crisp high definition detail with vivid colors and lively flesh tones. The video has a bright, two dimensional, and film like quality that looks great and decidedly different from the WWII segments.

*CIH users will be pleased to hear that the subtitles are contained within the picture area.*

Disney has consistently supported lossless audio encodings on their Blu-ray disc releases. Lately they have begun offering DTS-HD Master Audio sound which some feel offers an improvement over uncompressed PCM or Dolby TrueHD lossless soundtracks. Whether that is true or not is a topic that always seems up for debate. Regardless I am glad to see it offered as an option on Blu-ray Disc titles. This audio presentation featured extended dynamics built around a nicely balanced surround mix that sounded great. This isn't what I consider to be an aggressive soundtrack. Dialogue and music play more of a role than then the short but bombastic battle sequences but there are several engagements that allow this mix to flex its dynamic muscle. Clarity and detail are exemplary which reveal lots of subtle nuance in the recording. Bass isn't pulse pounding but it definitively augments the richness and tangibility of small arms fire and the potency of large artillery and grenade blasts/explosions. Dialogue was crystalline with excellent intonation and descriptive character. The beautifully crafted music sounded smooth, and airy with a deep, room filling quality that was engaging.



Bonus Features:


  • (HD) Deeds not words - A discussion with Director Spike Lee, Author James McBride and WWII veterans - 17 minutes

  • (HD) The Buffalo Soldier experience - The history, struggles, and first hand accounts of the Buffalo Solider during WWII - 20 minute documentary

  • (HD) 9 deleted scenes




Final Thoughts:

Miracle at St. Anna is a film that is based upon actual events that took place during WWII in Italy. It depicts the experiences of a group of Buffalo Soldiers from the 92nd regiment who encountered a small community in need of a miracle. While there were moments in this film that I found entertaining there were others that seemed to require just a bit too much belief on the part of the viewer. Having not read the book I can't comment on the spin that Hollywood may have placed on the story. I think it runs longer than necessary and includes details that offer no significant value to the story and could have been left out. Its lossless high definition audio is excellent and its stylized video presentation isn't the type that offers demonstration quality video but it plays well to the director's intention. The bonus features are rather slim in content but decent in quality and are worth a look. My advice would be to give this one a rent as I think it does have something to offer from a historical standpoint.









attachment.php?attachmentid=109949&d=1210373731






Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews





Reference Review System:


JVC DLA-RS20 1080p High Definition Front Projector
Carada Precision Brilliant White 96" Screen
Oppo 970HD universal disc DVD Player (480i HDMI)
Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Panasonic DMP-BD55K Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Marantz DV7001 Universal Disc Player
Denon AVR 5308CI THX Ultra 2 Preamp/Video Processor
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post #2 of 19
Thanks ,good review,when I read your reviews I must spend money to buy the BD all the time and you never let me down.
post #3 of 19
Ralph, thanks for the review. I'm a little disappointed that the film may not be as good as it appears in the trailer. I was planning on seeing it in the theaters but never got around to it. But it's still a (Netflix) must-see for me.
post #4 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr.G View Post

Ralph, thanks for the review. I'm a little disappointed that the film may not be as good as it appears in the trailer. I was planning on seeing it in the theaters but never got around to it. But it's still a (Netflix) must-see for me.

Greetings,

It is worth checking out and I look forward to hearing your impressions..

Cheers,
post #5 of 19
Ralph, I saw the movie and enjoyed it for the most part. I thought the acting was very good, but also thought some of the dialog was too contemporary. Was the N word used as liberally back then as it now? I'm not referring to the bigots, but by the soldiers to each other.
I personally enjoyed Omar's take on Sam Train. He was strong yet compassionate.

I was off-put by some of the preachiness, but it did show good and bad from all ethnic groups depicted.

Art
post #6 of 19
Seen the movie and it's definitely a collectors item.
post #7 of 19
I only made it through the first hour of this movie. Just couldn't get into it. Maybe because I tried to watch after BofB. Big shoes to fill.
post #8 of 19
Hi,

I just watched St. Anna on blu-ray. I had read mixed reviews of the film, prior to seeing it. I was pleasantly surprised at how good a move it is. I think the tension leading up to the battle/river crossing, was extremely well done.

The massacre at the Village, the scene with the priest, was riveting and quite frankly unforgettable. I thought the story was believable. The character development was quite good. I think the film showed aspects of war that often are not seen. The suffering of the ordinary citizen, the inherent fear in soldier's lives, the hunger that seemed to be everywhere.

I am glad I purchased this one. I will definitely watch it again. The picture quality/ sound quality is excellent. I would rate it a 9/10. Excellent work Mr. Spike Lee !
post #9 of 19
Spike Lee has some trouble with pacing a film.

His film bio of Malcolm X had this same snag. Great 2 hour film that took almost 3 hours to watch.

In this film, I felt this was demonstrated in the opening WWII sequence, where the soldiers are walking through a field. Nothing else happens, other than some nerviousness being displayed and some banter between the trooops.

This seems to go on forever. Spike, we get it - the soldiers are on edge and they are going towards some likely conflict with the enemy. We don't really need to see them go a mile through the weeds to get this point.

I think Spike Lee is a good film maker, as evidenced by his catalog of work. He does seem to be making too much of an effort to make epics rather than films.

I'd recommend this as a rental. Unless you have a lot of patience, it is probably not a film that has a lot of rewatch potential.
post #10 of 19
Great review Ralph, thnx
post #11 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by swiftprods View Post

Great review Ralph, thnx

Greetings,





Cheers,
post #12 of 19
Waow, Am I having a defective copy from netflix. I've NEVER seen a picture quality so ugly from a BD or HD-DVD. Even upscaled DVD's are looking 10 times better.

Tons of Grains, no definition, bad colors, no depth of field.
Seriously it looks like a movie directly from the 40's
post #13 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by sokh1985 View Post

Waow, Am I having a defective copy from netflix. I've NEVER seen a picture quality so ugly from a BD or HD-DVD. Even upscaled DVD's are looking 10 times better.

Tons of Grains, no definition, bad colors, no depth of field.
Seriously it looks like a movie directly from the 40's

Maybe Spike should wear his glasses next time.

I agree that this film did not look anywhere near what it could have, or should have.
post #14 of 19
Yeah I mean I don't know if it was Spike desire to have that kind of image since I haven't seen the movie in theaters. But if so. that's just retarded. I mean I understand Grain, Black & White ... But this
post #15 of 19
Thanks for taking the time to offer such a lengthy, well-written, thorough review Ralph. It pains me to take this position considering the amount of work you put into your reviews...


However, this movie is awful.
post #16 of 19
I love war pictures, it is one of my favorite genres. Unfortunately this movie did nothing for me. I too watched about an hour then turned it off. Glad it was a Blockbuster rental and not a blind buy.
post #17 of 19
I've had it for a week now from Netflix and never watched it. Guess if I haven't by now I probably will not especially with nice weather is forecasted this whole week. I don't like spending time watching if the outdoor's call!
post #18 of 19
Sending this film back to Netflix unviewed is like buying back 2 hours of your life.
post #19 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by tattootearz View Post

Thanks for taking the time to offer such a lengthy, well-written, thorough review Ralph. It pains me to take this position considering the amount of work you put into your reviews...


However, this movie is awful.

Nice summation.
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