The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Touchstone/Disney - 2000
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 107 minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Video Aspect: 2.35:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Starring: George Clooney, Tim Blake Nelson, John Turturro, John Goodman, Charles Durning, Holly Hunter, Michael Badalucco, Stephen Root
Directed by: Joel Coen
Music by: T Bone Burnett
Written by: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Region Code: A,B,C
Blu-ray Disc release Date: September 13, 2011
"They have a plan, but not a clue"
Fed up with crushing rocks on a prison farm in Mississippi, the dapper silver-tongued Ulysses Everett McGill (Clooney) busts loose . . . except that he's still shackled to two misfits from his chain gang: bad-tempered Pete (Turturro) and sweet, dimwitted Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson). With nothing to lose and buried loot to regain, the three embark on a riotous odyssey filled with chases, close calls, near misses and betrayal. Populated with strange characters, including a blind prophet, sexy sirens and a one-eyed Bible salesman (John Goodman), O Brother, Where Art Thou? will leave you laughing at every outrageous and surprising twist and turn!
Set in 1937 rural Mississippi during the Great Depression, O brother, where art thou? is a modern satire loosely based on Homer's Odyssey. It is a character driven, comedic adventure that follows the exploits of Everett Ulysses McGill, Delmar O'Donnell and Pete Hogwallop, three escapees from a chain gang. Armed with only their wits and a halfcocked plan they are trying to reach Everett's home to recover the buried loot from an armored car heist. Along the way they are relentlessly hunted by the law (the man with no eyes), while encountering a series of bizarre characters. Among them are three treacherous sirens, a thieving cyclops, notorious bank robber (and cow hater) George Nelson, a Ku Klux Klan lynch mob, and a blind prophet who foretells their future.
Like many of you reading this I am a fan of Joel and Ethan Coen's films. I can't say that I have seen them all but I have seen most and have yet to find one that I haven't liked. I picked up O brother, where art thou? as a blind buy when it was first released on DVD. I was instantly hooked. When questioned about my choice of favorite films O brother is among my top twenty. The Coen's describe this film as The Three Stooges on an epic scale combined with Homer's Odyssey. I am not so sure about that but the writing is brilliant and features a plethora of wonderfully drawn characters set to a sort of hayseed themed road trip narrative that just works. I will admit that the bumbling antics and simpleton like behavior occasionally borders on slapstick but it's the superbly crafted banter and its pitch perfect execution that I enjoy most. The majority of this revolves around the interaction between Everett, Delmar and Pete (kudos to George Clooney, John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson) but not exclusively. I find that each set of circumstances/characters is given the opportunity to shine and does thanks to a well chosen cast of supporting actors. This includes Charles Durning's Pappy O'Daniel (and his entourage), Frank Collison's Cousin Wash, Stephen Root's blind Radio Station Man (perhaps my favorite outside of the principles), and last but not least John Goodman's Big Dan Teague. The remaining character that is equally deserving of recognition is the film's music which is incredibly entertaining and integral to the proceedings. From beginning to end O brother, where art thou? is filled with playfully rewarding moments, off beat comedy, and cleverly infused references/characters. In the hands of Joel/Ethan Coen and a marvelous cast of acting talent the result is a memorable, laugh out loud comedy that is among my personal favorites.
The rating is for some violence 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:
O brother, where art thou? comes to Blu-ray from Disney featuring 1080p VC-1 encoded video that has an average bitrate of 24 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 4.7 Mbps.
This film has a distinctive visual style that utilizes a light sepia toned chromatic that permeates the images onscreen. The collaborative decision between The Coen's and cinematographer Roger Deakins to use digital color correction marked the first time a digital intermediate was used on the entirety of a first-run Hollywood film. The work was done by Los Angeles based Cinesite utilizing a Spirit DataCine for scanning at 2K resolution, a Pandora MegaDef to adjust the color and a Kodak Lightning II recorder to output to film. The result is a purposefully dry, dustbowl overlay that works surprisingly well as a thematic conveyance. I recall that it took a little getting used to the first time I saw it. This presentation sports re-timed color elements that in my opinion make for a marked improvement over the original DVD. While the original baseline is retained there is a deeper gradational emphasis that delineates certain chromatic elements which makes them appear a bit more natural and probably closer to what was originally intended. Comparing this directly to the DVD makes the difference quite obvious (in a good way). Fleshtone reproduction receives a benefit as well as they appear slightly warmer and less neutral.
On DVD this film doesn't have an eye catching level of sharpness and I would say that innate quality is present here although the improvement over standard definition is notable. Resolution is excellent as images are clearly rendered with appreciable detail and discerning nuance visible during close ups. The cinematography is gorgeous and has never looked better. Contrast is boldly applied but not at the expense of white detail reproduction which can occasionally be an issue on the standard definition presentation. Blacks are rich with excellent dynamic range that really helps them pop during dark sequences that contain mixed content (flickering torches, camp fires etc.). O brother has a minimally soft and light grainy aesthetic that gives it a filmic quality that is naturally rendered in this high definition presentation. I saw no overt signs of image degrading artifacts or unwanted digital manipulation. I have always found this film's stylized visuals to be appealing. I am happy to report that this high definition presentation improves upon it in every way and looks terrific.
I love this film's soundtrack and looked forward to experiencing it in lossless surround. The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack features dialogue that is presented with crystal clear intonation, full bodied vocal texture, and discerning room penetration. Imaging across the front of the room is excellent as the mixture of sounds, dialogue and music is integrated with precision. The soundtrack's blue grass/folk music is distributed through the main speakers and surrounds which accents presence. There are moments where the track springs to life (such as the barn escape, crack of thunder at the opening of chapter 13or the valley flood) and each is charged with robust dynamics, tactile bass response and involving envelopment. The musical set pieces have an enriching clarity and sweet sounding mid range that help define the source material. This is an excellent audio presentation that transparently and positively reinforces the high quality inherent in this rewarding film's recorded elements.
- Making of O brother, where art thou? - 8 minute featurette
- Two storyboard to Scene comparisons
- I am a man of constant sorrow music video
- Theatrical trailer
O brother, where art thou? is considered a classic among the members in my household. It is a personal favorite that sees its share of play whenever the mood strikes. Kudos to Joel and Ethan Coen on its wonderfully crafted script that continually engages via playfully rewarding moments, off beat comedy, and cleverly infused references/characters. Add to that a memorable soundtrack and marvelous cast and your left with a quirky and highly entertaining comedy that has a special place among its fans. It makes its way to Blu-ray from Disney featuring 1080p high definition video (that boasts retouched color elements) and resplendent DTS-HD Master Audio sound that both make for a marked improvement over the DVD release. The bonus supplements (minus the excellent Painting with pixels featurette) are ported over from DVD and include a brief making of documentary, two storyboard comparisons and theatrical trailer. I have been anticipating this release since the inception of the Blu-ray format. I am pleased with the results and can't recommend it highly enough for fans. Enjoy!
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews
Reference Review System:
JVC DLA-RS50 3D Ready 1080p High Definition Front Projector
Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100 16x9 Screen
Onkyo PR-SC5508 THX Ultra 2 Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies - 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Disc/3D capable Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
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 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
Furman SPR-20i Stable Power Regulator
Wireworld, VizionWare, Audioquest, Better Cables, Best Deal Cables - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components - CP-CP102 cooling package