The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Paramount - 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 116 Minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.35:1
Audio Format(s): English Dolby TrueHD, French/Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Robert Downey Jr., Catherine Keener, Tom Hollander, Lisagay Hamilton
Directed by: Joe Wright
Music by: Dario Marianelli
Written by: Susannah Grant based on the book by Steve Lopez
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: August 4, 2009
"Life has a mind of its own"
Academy Award® nominee Robert Downey Jr. and Academy Award® winner Jamie Foxx star in an extraordinary and inspiring true story of how a chance meeting can change a life. The Soloist tells the poignant and ultimately soaring tale of a Los Angeles newspaper reporter who discovers a brilliant and distracted street musician, with unsinkable passion, and the unique friendship and bond that transforms both their lives.
Columnist Steve Lopez (Downey) is at a dead end. The newspaper business is in an uproar, his marriage to a fellow journalist has fallen apart and he can't entirely remember what he loved about his job in the first place. Then, one day, while walking through Los Angeles' Skid Row, he sees the mysterious bedraggled figure Nathaniel Ayers (Foxx), pouring his soul into a two-stringed violin. At first, Lopez approaches Ayers as just another story idea in a city of millions. But as he begins to unearth the mystery of how this alternately brilliant and distracted street musician, once a dynamic prodigy headed for fame, wound up living in tunnels and doorways, it sparks an unexpected quest. Imagining he can change Ayers' life, Lopez embarks on a quixotic mission to get him off the streets and back to the world of music. But even as he fights to save Ayers' life, he begins to see that it is Ayers - with his unsinkable passion, his freedom-loving obstinacy and his valiant attempts at connection and love - who is profoundly changing Lopez.
I thought that this made for a great human interest story but its translation to film didn't really move me. I wasn't captured by the relationship between Nathaniel and Steve and the script's fragmented flow didn't help matters. I didn't see where Steve's relationship with his estranged wife (whom he also works with) had a place and to me it only served as a distraction. I appreciated the depiction of these two men and Steve's early struggle to effect change for Nathaniel and how he finally came to realize that their ability to communicate wasn't really through words but through the power of music. Character development for Nathaniel and Steve was excellent and I felt that both actors gave strong performances which helped give the film depth. Downey has a way of delivering his lines with just the right amount of wit so that even if the situation doesn't really call for it, it doesn't feel out of place. Foxx has become an accomplished dramatic actor and was very convincing as the erratic, schizophrenic and supremely talented Nathaniel. I really enjoyed the musical set pieces featuring Beethoven's music and the L.A. Philharmonic. I didn't dislike The Soloist but my reaction to it would best be described as tepid.
The rating is for thematic elements, some drug use and language.
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 Soloist comes to Blu-ray Disc from Paramount featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 33 mbps and lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 channel audio that has an average bitrate of 3 mbps.
This is a solid looking high definition video presentation from Paramount. It features high level detail, strong contrast, deeply saturated primary and accurate secondary colors, that appear picturesque and vivid. Skin tones are tonally distinguishable with warm, lifelike complexional characteristics. Images are resolute and sharp which enhances dimensional perspective and long range acuity (especially during the brightly lit exterior sequences filmed in the city). Both interior and exterior scenes that are shot at night or in limited lighting lack the visual pop and depth of those mentioned earlier. Blacks aren't inky but display good dynamic range and appreciable gradational highlights (this is scene dependent but quality is rarely questionable). Overall I found this to be a pleasing and pristinely rendered video encoding that is reminiscent of today's films that are released on Blu-ray.
The lossless Dolby TrueHD soundtrack has good dynamic range and detail rich clarity that enables the detection of low level and subtle background sounds within the recording. There is much to discern during the orchestrated set pieces that take place in the Disney Concert Hall. The massed strings and wind instruments are spread over the entire system as primary focus remains up front with rear channel extension. The soundstage is broad and instrument placement within the simulated acoustic environment is estimable. Beethoven's music flows through the room as its orchestrated elements envelop the listening and stimulates the aural senses. The rear channels are active on several occasions and help to generate a balanced and stable surround experience that can be engaging. Dialogue is firmly planted in the center channel and clearly renders voices and effects with appropriate distinction and balance within the front soundstage. Low frequency effects aren't intense but the subwoofer is kept busy as it works in tandem with the rest of the system to convey the low level bass and impact as dictated by the story's elements. I thoroughly enjoyed this audio presentation.
- Commentary track by Director Joe Wright
- 5 Deleted scenes
- (HD) Kindness, courtesy, and respect: Mr. Ayers + Mr. Lopez - 5 minute feature
- (HD) An unlikely friendship: Making The Soloist - 19 minute featurette
- (HD) One size does not fit all: Addressing homelessness in Los Angeles - 9 minute documentary
- (HD) Julliard: The education of Nathaniel Ayers - 4 minute feature
- (HD) Beth's story - 2 minute animated short
- (HD) Theatrical trailer
The Soloist is a film based on the real life story about an L.A newspaperman and a homeless street musician who develop and unlikely and unshakable bond that changes both of their lives. I found this to be a poignant and inspirational human interest story that when translated to film wasn't as engaging and moving as I had hoped. The performances by Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx provided tangible association with their real life counterparts which added depth to the film. Its arrival on Blu-ray disc from Paramount comes day and date with DVD and features technically strong audio/video quality and a decent set of bonus supplements. It is worth checking out but I would recommend a rental prior to purchase.
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