The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Paramount - 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 165 Minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.40:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, English/French/Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish
Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Taraji P. Henson, Julia Ormond, Jason Fleming, Elias Koteas, Tilda Swinton
Directed by: David Fincher
Music by: Alexandre Desplat
Written by: Eric Roth & Robin Swicord based on the short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: May 5, 2009
"Life isn't measured in minutes, but in moments"
I was born under unusual circumstances. And so begins The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, adapted from the 1920s story by F. Scott Fitzgerald about a man who is born in his eighties and ages backwards: a man, like any of us, who is unable to stop time. We follow his story, set in New Orleans, from the end of World War I in 1918 into the 21st century, following his journey that is as unusual as any man's life can be. Directed by David Fincher and starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett with Taraji P. Henson, Tilda Swinton, Jason Flemyng, Elias Koteas and Julia Ormond, Benjamin Button, is a grand tale of a not-so-ordinary man and the people and places he discovers along the way, the loves he finds, the joys of life and the sadness of death, and what lasts beyond time.
The curious case of Benjamin Button is a wonderful and engaging film that is based on the short story of the name by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It is about a seemingly ordinary and good man who is born, grows up and experiences life to the fullest. The only thing that would make him different from the next is that is he was born an infant with an 80 year old body that with each passing year gets younger. Benjamin is born into the world under difficult circumstances. His mother died giving him life and his father simply couldn't deal with that and Benjamin's apparent birth defect. He left Benjamin on the steps of a nearby nursing home where he was found by the home's care taker Queenie. She takes him in and raises him within the confines of the nursing where he feels right at home among the other old people. Suffering from chronic problems like arthritis, a failing memory, and poor vision Benjamin grows up in a loving and ostensibly peaceful environment. People come and go (literally) and Benjamin learns about the circle of life at an early age. As the years pass Benjamin notices that his thin white hair is growing darker/thicker and that he muscles are becoming more sinewy. He is befriended by a frequent visitor to the nursing home, a young girl by the name of Daisy. She regularly visits her grandmother and the two become friends. His outward appearance doesn't bother Daisy because it is obvious to her that he is very much a peer rather than an elder.
When Benjamin is in his mid teens he meets a tugboat captain by the name of Captain Mike. Benjamin is immediately drawn to the carefree and charismatic Captain and at the age of 17 (or thereabouts) he decides to leave home and go to see with Captain Mike on his tugboat The Chelsea. Benjamin and Daisy remain close and he writes to her often. As Benjamin sails through life he encounters a variety of people, places and experiences. This includes his first love affair. A number of years pass and Benjamin returns home a much different man both inside and out. Queenie is thrilled to have him home. He runs into Daisy who is now a woman and accomplished dancer. She has settled into her life in New York notices that she feels something for Benjamin when she sees him. He feels very much the same but neither of them acknowledges or acts upon their feelings. It isn't until a significant and near tragic event that Benjamin and Daisy come together. Daisy, like Queenie, Captain Mike and a few others who are close to Benjamin, loves him unconditionally. The fact that he is growing younger is much less of an issue not only because of their love but also because they are close in age. The two begin a life together that is filled with love, defining moments and commitment. Unfortunately time is not on their side and with each passing year the inevitable fate that they have tried to ignore literally stares them in the face. Benjamin has to make a difficult decision. He has learned how to love, to accept that life can sometimes be unfair, and that selflessness is an essential element when you care for someone. He has learned these things from the two most important people in his life. Benjamin Button is not just an ordinary man and every single person that has crossed his path knows it.
I thought this was a wonderful film. It is told through a long series as flashbacks and running narrative that is based upon Benjamin's diary as read by Daisy's daughter Caroline to her dying mother. The film's epic scale served to carefully depict Benjamin during the various stages in his life. It helped to provide a stable platform for a connection not only to him but to the integral roles that Queenie, Daisy, Captain Mike and Elizabeth played in his life. I chuckled each time the elderly gentlemen living in the nursing home would recount one of the seven times in his life when he was struck by lightning. Each telling was accompanied by a filmed (using a dated period style reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin) black and white flashback that depicted it. Make no mistake that this is a grand production that is extremely well executed and is highlighted by superb make-up and excellent visual effects. I think that the cinematography and use of lighting are marvelous. David Fincher's passion for this project is clearly obvious. It was nominated for 13 Academy Awards and took home Oscars for Best visual effects, make-up and art direction. Brad Pitt gave one of his best performances to date and I thought that Taraji P. Henson was brilliant. I think that Cate Blanchett is one of the best actresses of her generation but I never really warmed up to her in this role. Regardless, the cast as a group helped to make this film special. Its story has a unique and genuine appeal that I found intriguing. If I have any complaint to make it would be that the movie plays too long (especially in the second act). That is a minor quibble in an otherwise excellent film that is surely worth seeing.
The rating is for brief war violence, sexual content, language 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.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
The curious case of Benjamin Button comes to Blu-ray Disc from Paramount featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 36 mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 3.3 mbps.
This is a high bitrate reference quality high definition transfer that looks spectacular. Images are transparent with exquisite detail and a near infinite sense of depth. Fidelity is never in question regardless of perspective. At times I found the visual style to be breath taking. Colors are kept within the scope of the historical time frame which means lots of browns, grays, greens and blacks. The sepia toned colors have a succulent quality that reveals plenty of subtle delineation. Blue and gray tones permeate several of the CGI based background elements. The various shades of gray/light blue have appreciable gradational steps that enhance depth. Skin tones are lustrous, tonally rich and chock full of fine textural nuance in all but a few instances where the make-up effects made them appear a bit chalkie, balmy or both. Blacks are inky, dynamic and stable. Contrast is bold and punchy without overdriving whites/grays and washing out detail. This is an impressive, three dimensional, and definitively resolute video presentation that features impeccable high definition imagery.
The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack features frequent use of the entire surround platform which occasionally bombards the listening position with activity that is intricately placed within the sound field so as to provide a feeling of total immersion. This is a highly detailed presentation that has excellent dynamic potential which enables it to be bombastic at one moment and intricately nuanced the next. Dialogue is definitive and appreciably lucid through the center channel as it reaches far into the room. It's located just slightly in front of the left/right speakers within soundstage. I never had any trouble distinguishing even the slightest changes in the pitch or inflection of voices. Front channel separation is excellent. This draws out both large and small sound elements and allows their directional correlation based upon the onscreen events to be definable. There isn't perpetual use of the rear channels and subwoofer however when applied the effects are totally involving and surreal. The opening segment features a crowded street celebration that includes a fireworks display. Focus and imaging are on point as the blossoming explosions of the fireworks ebb and flow through all channels and the low level but crystal clear sounds on the street have excellent proportional spacing within the acoustic environment. This is the case throughout the course of the film as the various venues and locations are aurally replicated with stark realism. Dynamic range is extended and robust which enriches the deep, authoritative and room shaking low frequency effects contained in the mix. There are several demo worthy scenes that bass heads will appreciate. The first comes right around the 53:56 minute mark as Benjamin and young Daisy are on the deck of The Chelsea and a large ship is passing by. The ship blasts its fog horn which produces a deep low frequency rumble that slowly builds as it increases the sound pressure level in the room. This is immediately followed by a snap back to current time as Hurricane Katrina is making landfall and Caroline is at the window in Daisy's hospital room. There is a lightning strike followed by a powerful thunder clap that produces a short but prodigious burst of bass that reaches infrasonic levels that are sure to rattle your neighbor's china. Lastly, the entire sequence that takes place aboard The Chelsea during its engagement with the U-Boat sounds incredible. This is indeed a reference quality presentation due to the superb elements that comprise the total sum of its parts.
- Disc 1:
- Audio commentary with Director David Fincher
- Disc 2:
- The curious birth of Benjamin Button - presented in three segments:
- (HD) First trimester:
- Development and pre-production
- Tech scouts
- Storyboard gallery
- Art direction gallery
- (HD) Second trimester:
- Production - part 1
- Production - part 2
- Costume design
- Costume gallery
- (HD) Third trimester:
- Visual effects - performance capture:
- The Chelsea
- The simulated world
- Sound design
- Desplat's instrumentarium
- (HD) Birth:
- Production stills
- (HD) Theatrical trailers - 1 and 2
The curious case of Benjamin Button represents cinema on a grandiose scale that not only provides a rewarding experience from an artistic perspective but also as from a theatrical one. Its epic style run time is on the long side but the payoff is well worth it. Its Blu-ray Disc presentation from Paramount comes in a Criterion Collection package that is worthy of the grandeur and style this is the film itself. It features excellent reference quality audio/video and a wonderfully comprehensive set of bonus supplements (all in high definition) that provides an in depth look at the production. This is must have addition to the collection of every serious film fan.
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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
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Sherbourn Technologies - 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
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SV Sound PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
APC AV S15BLK Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Furman SPR-20i Stable Power Regulator
Wireworld, VizionWare, Audioquest, Best Deal Cables - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components - CP-CP102 cooling package