The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Universal - 2013
MPAA Rating: NR
Feature running time: 434 minutes
Genre: TV Drama
Disc Format: BD-50
Video Aspect: 1.78:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
Subtitles: English SDH
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Freddie Highmore, Nestor Carbonell, Max Thieriot, Mike Vogel, Nicola Peltz, Olivia Cooke
Directed by: Tucker Gates
Music by: Chris Bacon
Written by: Various
Region Code: A,B,C
Blu-ray Disc release Date: September 17, 2013
This re-imagining of one of Alfred Hitchcock’s beloved masterpieces weaves a web of deception, murder, and unexpected twists in a small town where nothing is what it seems.
After finding his father dead, teenager Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) and his mother, Norma (Vera Farmiga), purchase a motel and move to White Pine Bay in search of a new life, but they soon discover this idyllic seaside town hides some deadly secrets. Unable to trust anyone but each other, the two indulge in a deeply twisted relationship that raises the question: does mother really know best?
I didn’t catch Bates Motel during its inaugural TV season but heard good things about it from others and being a fan of Hitchcock’s “Psycho” I requested it for review. I like the premise which allows us to put a face (literally) on Norma Bates, the woman that raised the maniacal Norman, as well as having the opportunity to see a take on the beginnings of one of the most iconic characters in movie history. Right from the start the rather bizarre relationship between Norman and “Mother” is established. The first few episodes are really quite good in setting up the characters, interpersonal relationships and darker thematic tone that will involve not only the Bates’ but the goings on in their new home town.
The show starts off with a bang when the previous owner of the motel, having lost it to bank foreclosure, shows up and attempts to intimidate Norma into vacating the premises. Needless to say she won’t be so easily swayed and what follows leads to a series of subplots that play out over the course of the season. Along with Norman and Norma is the inclusion of Dillon, Norma’s son and Norman’s bad boy half brother who adds another element to the familial dysfunction. The series primary theme is Norman’s smoldering mental stability which occasionally ignites revealing signs of the Norman Bates we all know and love. This is exacerbated by his infatuation with high school beauty Bradley, his skewed perspective of his relationship with his mother based on her dependence/controlling nature and his desire for “normalcy” in a less than perfect world.
The positives in his life, such as best friend Emma (who makes no bones about her crush on him), English teacher Ms. Watson (their relationship is quite interesting) and like him or not brother Dillon (who watches out for him) are overshadowed by the “mother knows best” relationship he has with Norma. We liked the show, especially the first six episodes which keep interest high via several storylines that feature both Norman and Norma separately as well as together that setup plots that will continue in season two. Episodes seven and eight go off the rails a bit but episode nine and the season finale get thing right back on track. I found Norma to be well drawn and as the season progressed you’re left wondering just how responsible IS she for what Norman eventually becomes? There are indications that even though controlling and doting to a fault she may or may not be the twisted mess you think she is. Vera Farmiga is spot on and clearly the standout among the cast. Freddie Highmore has a limited dramatic range and I don’t find that he scratches the surface of the characters potential but we’ll see what season two offers.
Bates Motel is conceptually rewarding and shows promise in its efforts to re-image the iconic character (s) taken from Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece “Psycho”. It was the most watched original drama series debut on cable TV’s A&E Network last season and I will be tuning in for season two in 2014.
Bates Motel comes to Blu-ray with its 10 episodes spread over two BD-50’s, with the bonus material found on disc two. The keep case is of the amaray type (with a corresponding slipcover). Also included for a limited time are a set of collector cards featuring artwork from the show (“Jiao’s Sketchbook”).
Season one contains thematic material, drug use and sexual content including a scene of rape.
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:
Bates Motel Season One comes to Blu-ray from Universal Studios HE 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 3.5 Mbps.
This is a solid video presentation that offers excellent refinement during close ups and discernibly crisp definition within objects during mid level camera pans. The color range perfectly sets the film’s somber tone and has a reserved aesthetic that rarely offers bright, eye catching hues. Rendering is clean and depth is appropriate. Fleshtones keep pace with the look of the rest of the film and have a balmy but natural texture. Spot on contrast yielded crisp, bright whites and blacks are stable but slightly elevated which leaves them appearing less dynamic and occasionally flat. I didn’t see this as a problem based upon the visual style of the film. This is a pristine encoding that showed no obvious signs of video related artifacts or anomalies.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mix features dialogue that is full bodied with defining tonal characteristics and prominent soundstage position. High level detail is readily apparent as subtle sound effects, music and voices were rendered with superior clarity and depth. There is little call for active surround activity and extended dynamics however there is effective use of atmospheric sounds that broaden the soundstage in support of the venues being depicted onscreen. The presentation has an open and balanced presence that helps drive the films thematic elements.
- (HD) Deleted scenes
- Paley Center Panel Discussion with the cast and creative team – 45 minutes
- Ultraviolet Digital Copy
Bates Motel is a re-imaging of Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece thriller “Psycho” and successfully draws from its troth in bringing the iconic characters of Norman and Norma Bates to life via a continuing episodic narrative that effectively captures the essence of what fans would envision their relationship to be. It comes to Blu-ray featuring satisfying high definition audio/video and a barebones supplemental package that left me wanting. I enjoyed the show and look forward to season two which premieres next year.
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Reference Review System:
JVC DLA-RS55 3D Ready 1080p High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6 Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16x9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV8801 11.2 Channel Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies - 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo BDP-103 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 Pro 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
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components - CP-CP102 cooling package