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Water For Elephants (Blu-ray) Official AVSForum Review

post #1 of 25
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=109945&d=1210373692

Audio/Video total rating:

( Max score: 100 )

87






Studio and Year: 20th Century Fox - 2011
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 120 minutes
Genre: 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, Spanish/French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, Christophe Waltz, Hal Holbrook
Directed by: Francis Lawrence
Music by: James Newton Howard
Written by: Richard LaGravenese based on the novel by Sara Gruen
Region Code: A

Blu-ray Disc release Date: November 1, 2011







"Life is the most spectacular show on earth"



Film Synopsis:

Academy Award winners Reese Witherspoon and Christoph Waltz join Robert Pattinson (The Twilight Saga) for this epic tale of forbidden love based on Sara Gruen's acclaimed best seller. Against all odds, a veterinary student (Pattinson) and a beautiful circus performer from a bygone era (Witherspoon), meet and fall in love through their shared compassion for a special elephant. But their secret romance incurs the wrath of her dangerousely volatile husband (Waltz).



My Take:

Devastated by a tragic event in his life, a young dreamer, Jacob Jankowski (Pattinson), abandons his veterinary studies at Cornell University. With no house, and no money, Jacob stows away on a train carrying the circus performers of The Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Hired as a veterinarian to care for the troupe's animals, Jacob is temporarily filled with the promise of an exciting life that comes with a traveling circus troupe. However, as he builds a rapport with and becomes closer to the star of the show, Marlena (Witherspoon), they become prey to the circus's owner Marlena's violent and abusive husband August (Waltz). As the circus begins to crumble from within and against all odds, Jacob and Marlena come together through their compassion for a special elephant named Rosie. With her help, Jacob and Marlena come to a crossroads that will forever change their destiny.

My wife read the novel and loved it. She eagerly awaited its arrival on blu-ray to see how well the film adaptation would hold up. My grandmother took me to the circus when I was around 8 years old. It was Ringling Bros./Barnum & Bailey and she insisted that the circus was something that every child should experience. She was absolutely right and I loved it. Water for elephants is a period love story that uses the 1930's circus train life as a backdrop. I expect that this is very much like the type of circus that my grandmother would have seen when she was a girl and it's easy to see its allure for the audience, especially during that time. The plot is seemingly straight forward and revolves around a young man who through happenstance finds himself onboard the circus train and suddenly an integral part of the troupe by way of his veterinary training. This leads to direct exposure to the star of the show, Marlena, whose act is built around performing horses. Marlena's husband, August, owns the circus and is a cunning, domineering and violent task master who sees Marlena as a prized possession. He quickly senses the attraction between his wife and young Jacob which sets the stage for his villainous behavior. When the circus takes on a 40 + year old elephant named Rosie from a fledgling circus it represents not only a new act but will lead to the series of events that will change them all forever.

The narrative has an enriching depth that speaks to love not only between people but to that between people and animals. The romance in the story doesn't define it but serves as an element blended with the story's sense of adventure, reflection, and devotion that rises from the bonds formed by the experiences of the characters. A film like this lives or dies by the credibility of its villain. Christophe Waltz (Inglorious Basterds) never misses a beat and serves as the catalyst that drives the film's best moments. I am a Reese Witherspoon fan and have been ever since seeing her in 1991's The man in the moon. I was never sold while watching her interaction with co-star Robert Pattinson (not a fan) but it didn't really have an adverse impact on the proceedings thanks to the decent development/integration of the story's remaining elements. This is a beautifully crafted film that combines both subtle and overt cinematographic components that express the filmmaker's vision. The film has an entertaining throwback feel and while not perfect I found much to like in the characters and story. My wife thought that the adaptation successfully conveyed the spirit of the novel and made for an enjoyable experience.



Parental Guide:

The rating is for moments of intense violence and sexual content.






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: 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=109947&d=1210373692

  • Compression: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373692
Water for elephants comes to Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 18 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 4 Mbps.

This is a solid high definition presentation that is indicative of a newer release film. Detail is readily apparent as images are firmly resolute with crisp edges, defining sharpness, and two dimensional depth that enhances dimension. Colors are beautifully rendered with revealing delineation and tonal warmth. The long range shots of the earth toned colors of the rolling hills and countryside look terrific. Fleshtones appear lifelike with natural tonality and complexional delineation among the cast. Contrast is boldly applied and blacks exhibit good dynamic range with discernable gradational highlights and excellent depth of field during low level scenes. The lossless sound mix features definitive front channel separation and opulent clarity. Soundstage depth and imaging across the left, right and center channels is quite good. This enhances directional sounds and dialogue, allowing deep room penetration, high level perception of detail, and appropriate near field placement. The surround channels effectively extend the front soundstage by adding spatial ambience, directional pans and discrete sound placement. Dynamics and low frequency effects have solid weight and tangible authority that resonate well in the room. The combination enhances the film's active segments and results in a decent surround sound experience.



Bonus Features:


  • Audio commentary with director Francis Lawrence and writer Richard LaGravenese

  • (HD) Raising the tent - 15 minute featurette

  • (HD) Secrets of the big top - 12 minute featurette

  • (HD) The star attraction - 9 minute featurette

  • (HD) Robert Pattinson: Spotlight - 4 minutes

  • (HD) Working without a net: The visuals effects of Water for elephants - 22 minutes

  • (HD) Feature performer: Reese Witherspoon - 2 minutes

  • (HD) Theatrical trailer

  • BD-live: Live Extras Exclusive - Stars of the circus

  • D-Box Motion Code enabled

  • Digital Copy Bonus Disc




Final Thoughts:

Adapted from Sara Gruen's novel of the same name Water for elephants is an entertaining drama that succeeds more than fails via a flawed but workable script, well drawn characters (including Rosie the elephant), and excellent production elements that combine to give it a throwback feel that I found enjoyable. It comes to Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox in a well rounded package that features rewarding high definition audio/video and a decent supplemental offering that looks behind the scenes at the production. Water for elephants is definitely worth checking out so toss it into your rental queue and take it for a spin.









attachment.php?attachmentid=109949&d=1210373731






Ralph Potts
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
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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)
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System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
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post #2 of 25
Will definitely be collecting this.

Thought this was a great film and story and Reese and Rob played their part very well.
post #3 of 25
Thanks Ralph,

This film looks very intriguing to me and can't wait to see it. I was on a plane on a business trip a few weeks back and they played this. I didn't have headphones but was drawn into the beautiful period filming. I tried not to look as I knew I wanted to see it but kept peeking as I was interested. I did see the final ten minutes ugh...so that is spoiled but look forward to seeing the film (with sound and in my theater).

Thanks for the review...

Edit: And Reese is so dang beautiful. She could have lived in that era beautifully..

Rick
post #4 of 25
Fine Blu-Ray with spot on color and great sound. I enjoyed the story so much, I wanted the film to be better. Robert Pattinson is a fine looking young man, but he lacks the charisma and danger that a young Mel Gibson might have brought to the part. I never belived the attraction between him and the excellent Reese Witherspoon. She did most of her own stunts and looks great in circus tights. Nice review of an intriguing, off beat film. Actually shot in anamorphic Panavision!
post #5 of 25
My wife is eager to see this, and since I am a Reese fan, I am looking forward to it also. Thanks for the review, Ralph.
post #6 of 25
I read Sara Gruen's novel, Water for Elephants, and fell in love with the story. This made me really look forward to the film, although I worried that the mid-30s Reese Witherspoon playing a character who had been written as being in her early to mid-20s and playing opposite an actor who was 10 years her junior might be a problem. It was but I'll save why until later.

I saw Water for Elephants in the theater when it first came out and watched the BD this evening. I had the same reservations I will describe here both times.

I loved the look and sound of the film, as well as its many wonderful performances, including those of Hal Holbrook, Paul Schneider, and, of course, Christoph Waltz. I thought Robert Pattinson was just fine, too, as the star crossed vet.

Alas, Reese Witherspoon just didn't work for me. Not only was she 10 years too old for her role, I didn't perceive the slightest romantic spark between her and Pattinson. Part of that may have been the writing but I would have expected the talented and charming Witherspoon to bring a little more to bear than I saw in her performance.

Despite my reservations, Water for Elephants is still a great story and while I was disappointed the movie didn't entirely do it justice, it had its moments and was well worth my time. 7 Stars out of 10.
post #7 of 25
Being in show bussiness years ago I had to rent this. My step father managed and operated movie Land Animals in Riverside Ca. I remember working for Circus Vargas for a while. I finally watched it last night and liked the movie. My mother read the book first. I must admit that Reese Witherspoon was mis cast. She was not the right female lead for this movie in my opinion. And you've gotta love old Hal Holbrook!
I think this is a buy for me.
post #8 of 25
Great looking Blu-ray disc!!

I was fearful that once the story went from the present to the past that the film makers would revert to the old trick of making the video look like it was shot in the time the story was being depicted. Too often stories from the past look like there were no colors in olden times.

Fortunately, the excellent pq continued for the entire film. Great colors, textures, and sounds throughout.

I thought Reese Witherspoon was just fine in the role. She split the age difference between her lover and husband. She is one beautiful woman.

I thought Hal Holbrook stole the show. He still has his acting talents fully engaged.

If there was a weak link in the cast, I thought Robert Pattinson had a few of those "deer in the headlights" moments. He was probably thinking about the rest of the cast being real actors, not just flavors of the month.
post #9 of 25
I enjoyed this one, as well....far more than I expected, actually. I can certainly understand the point that you guys made with regard to Reese being too old for the part. There was definitely a chemisty issue between them. The relationship between Reese and Christoph Waltz's character felt more believable, but it was believable in its dysfunction more than anything else. But alas, I found the story to be very interesting and I thought the cinematography was excellent. I truly felt as if I were being transported to the days of the early traveling circus. Also very much agree about Hal Holbrook, by the way...have always enjoyed his excellent work.
post #10 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Summa View Post

I enjoyed this one, as well....far more than I expected, actually. I can certainly understand the point that you guys made with regard to Reese being too old for the part. There was definitely a chemisty issue between them. The relationship between Reese and Christoph Waltz's character felt more believable, but it was believable in its dysfunction more than anything else. But alas, I found the story to be very interesting and I thought the cinematography was excellent. I truly felt as if I were being transported to the days of the early traveling circus. Also very much agree about Hal Holbrook, by the way...have always enjoyed his excellent work.

I've been looking at this movie every time I go to the video store. I might have to bite the bullet and give it a go.
post #11 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Franin View Post

I've been looking at this movie every time I go to the video store. I might have to bite the bullet and give it a go.

Water For Elephants is well worth a rental. Go for it, you won't be sorry. The film falls far short of being deathless art but it's entertaining nonetheless.
post #12 of 25
Buy the book. Rent the movie.
post #13 of 25
Rented this for my daughter 2 weeks ago, she being a big Pattison fan. Me being a fan of The Notebook, I knew who Hal Holbrook's character was the moment he showed up. Robert Pattison, IMO, cannot carry a film alone outside of the "teenybopper" stuff.

But the glue that helps hold it together is the actor (don't know his name) who portrays the ringmaster (Meronvingian? ). And I've never seen Ms. Witherspoon play a "bad girl" before; she was convincing. In the end, it comes up a little short, but is worth a rental and even a second look.
post #14 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by rezzy View Post

But the glue that helps hold it together is the actor (don't know his name) who portrays the ringmaster (Meronvingian? ). And I've never seen Ms. Witherspoon play a "bad girl" before; she was convincing. In the end, it comes up a little short, but is worth a rental and even a second look.

The Austrian actor, Christoph Waltz, played the ringmaster, August. Waltz won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance as an evil Nazi in Quentin Tarantino's wonderful Inglourious Basterds.
post #15 of 25
Guess I need to rent that, as he's an excellent actor.
post #16 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by rezzy View Post

Guess I need to rent that, as he's an excellent actor.

Christoph Waltz has a unique ability to make the characters he portrays simultaneously scary and charming. Great examples of this are a couple of scenes in Inglourious Basterds, one set in a French farmhouse and the other in the manager's office in a movie theater. Those who have seen the film will remember them immediately, I guarantee.
post #17 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by gwsat View Post

Christoph Waltz has a unique ability to make the characters he portrays simultaneously scary and charming. Great examples of this are a couple of scenes in Inglourious Basterds, one set in a French farmhouse and the other in the manager's office in a movie theater. Those who have seen the film will remember them immediately, I guarantee.

He immediately became one of my favorite actors after seeing "basterds". That performance was so effective that I contemplated it for weeks after seeing the film. Just a fantastic actor.
post #18 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by gwsat View Post

christoph waltz has a unique ability to make the characters he portrays simultaneously scary and charming. Great examples of this are a couple of scenes in inglourious basterds, one set in a french farmhouse and the other in the manager's office in a movie theater. Those who have seen the film will remember them immediately, i guarantee.

+1
post #19 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Summa View Post

He immediately became one of my favorite actors after seeing "basterds". That performance was so effective that I contemplated it for weeks after seeing the film. Just a fantastic actor.

Waltz's great performance was an important reason why I decided to add the Inglourious Basterds BD to my highly selective BD collection. I plan to watch it again soon because a recent re-viewing of Tarantino's Pulp Fiction has made want to see Inglourious Basterds again.
post #20 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by gwsat View Post

Waltz's great performance was an important reason why I decided to add the Inglourious Basterds BD to my highly selective BD collection.

I have to agree 100% there gwsat. That was my reason there too. Another great scene was in the restaraunt where he had to talk to Shosanna about the security of her movie complex.
post #21 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by gwsat View Post

Waltz's great performance was an important reason why I decided to add the Inglourious Basterds BD to my highly selective BD collection. I plan to watch it again soon because a recent re-viewing of Tarantino's Pulp Fiction has made want to see Inglourious Basterds again.

Understandable, GW! Pulp Fiction is one of maybe three movies I've seen where I watched it again almost immediately upon finishing the first viewing. I had no idea what was going to happen next and I loved every minute of that movie. In fact, I love what Tarantino brings to the movie industry in general. He is a genius in terms of dialogue and there's never anything conventional or cliche about his work. He's up there with Jim Jarmusch on my list of favorite directors.
post #22 of 25
Finally got a chance to pick this up will watch tomorrow night.
post #23 of 25
This film was fantastic. Never judge a book by its cover and important really glad i took some of you advice to watch this. Christoph Waltz did an outstanding job as usual and I really thought Robert Pattison and Reece played there part very well too.

Thank you for the recommendation of this film.
post #24 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Franin View Post

This film was fantastic. Never judge a book by its cover and important really glad i took some of you advice to watch this. Christoph Waltz did an outstanding job as usual and I really thought Robert Pattison and Reece played there part very well too.

Thank you for the recommendation of this film.

Glad you enjoyed it, Frank. As noted in earlier posts, I liked it too but was a little put off by how much too old Witherspoon was for her role. I read Water For Elephants in 2010 and thought it was a wonderful, wonderful book. This gave me high hopes that the film would live up to the novel's promise. Alas, it didn't, but objectively viewed, it was still an entertaining movie. I agree entirely with your assessment of Waltz and Pattinson's performances. Waltz, of course, has become celebrated for his great portrayals of charming creeps but Pattinson was a pleasant surprise.
post #25 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by gwsat View Post

Glad you enjoyed it, Frank. As noted in earlier posts, I liked it too but was a little put off by how much too old Witherspoon was for her role. I read Water For Elephants in 2010 and thought it was a wonderful, wonderful book. This gave me high hopes that the film would live up to the novel's promise. Alas, it didn't, but objectively viewed, it was still an entertaining movie. I agree entirely with your assessment of Waltz and Pattinson's performances. Waltz, of course, has become celebrated for his great portrayals of charming creeps but Pattinson was a pleasant surprise.

I thought Witherspoon suited that role well but then again i never read the book to compare it too. Still im very happy from i what seen.
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