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post #1 of 6 Old 11-02-2009, 11:43 AM - Thread Starter
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The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )

Film: attachment.php?attachmentid=109944&d=1210373692

Extras: attachment.php?attachmentid=109941&d=1210373637

Audio/Video total rating:

( Max score: 100 )


Studio and Year: Magnolia - 2009
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 97 minutes
Genre: Romantic dramedy

Disc Format: BD-25
Encoding: VC-1
Video Aspect: 1.78:1
Resolution: 1080p/24

Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Starring: Jeff Daniels, Lauren Graham, Lou Taylor Pucci, Olivia Thirlby, Kat Dennings
Written & Directed by: John Hindman
Music by: Teddy Castelucci
Region Code: A

Blu-ray Disc release Date: November 3, 2009

"Who is Arlen Faber?"

Film Synopsis:

Arlen Faber (Daniels) is the reclusive author of "Me and God," a book that has redefined spirituality for an entire generation and has been translated into over 100 languages. On the eve of the 20th anniversary of his still wildly popular book, Arlen is still sought after as the man who has all the answers. Arlen's life collides with Elizabeth (Graham), a single mom raising her seven year-old son, and Kris (Taylor Pucci), a young man fresh out of rehab who is searching for meaning. Both Elizabeth and Kris are hopeful that Arlen has the answers, but the truth is, he hasn't got a clue.

My Take:


I have said this before and will say it again, one of the aspects of reviewing movies that I find particularly enjoyable is the exposure to films that I have never heard of that turn out to be quite good. The answer man is just such a film. Arlen Faber (Daniels) is an eccentric, reclusive and sought after author that wrote a book twenty years ago which seemingly changed the lives of everyone that read it. At his own insistence no one outside of his personal circle knows where he lives or what he looks like. He is ill tempered, compulsive, socially stunted and not very good with people. Elizabeth (Graham) is a single, overprotective, and insecure mother when it comes to her 7 year old son Alex. She has recently moved to town, opened a chiropractic office and is looking for a fresh start. Kris (Pucci) is an alcoholic that has just been released from a 28 day treatment program. He owns a failing bookstore which he manages along with his girlfriend Dahlia (Dennings). Kris lives at home with his father who is also an alcoholic and has never sought treatment. Arlen meets Kris when he comes to the bookstore looking to unload some of the many books that clutter his home. Kris can't pay him for the books and refuses to take them for nothing when Arlen offers. Arlen later decides to try and secretly leave them on the store's shelves and makes a scene when Kris confronts him for it. While at home Arlen throws his back out and ends up on the floor helpless for hours before finally crawling on his hands and knees (literally) to the closest help he can find, which turns out to be Elizabeth's office. Arlen is extremely secretive about his identity. He is clearly smitten with Elizabeth and sets up another appointment and purposefully reveals his real name. She has no idea who he is but her office manager Anne (thirlby) does and later references his famous book Me and God which Elizabeth picks up and reads. After meeting Elizabeth Arlen feels a renewed interest in life and asks her out. Of course in his mind his new lease on life only extends to their relationship. Meanwhile Kris inadvertently learns of Arlen's true identity and goes to his home seeking spiritual advice/answers to help him with his troubled life. The two come to an agreement that Arlen will provide him with the answers to questions on each visit in exchange for Kris' acceptance of his unwanted books. Later when tragedy strikes Kris comes to Arlen seeking solace. The problem is that Arlen is truly in no position to console/help those seeking his counsel regardless of how they interpreted his book. Maybe he is just a man looking for answers of his own. For he, Kris and Elizabeth perhaps those answers can be found together.

This was a surprisingly good film. It is darkly comedic, intelligently written and well directed. These are interesting, and likeable characters that fit well with the script's clever dialogue and occasionally far reaching but not outlandish situations. As the story progresses it takes on more of a dramatic tone that doesn't feel out of place. The ending is decidedly clichéd but I thought all things considered it worked. Jeff Daniels isn't much of a leading man type but the film's light romantic aspects worked just fine. His portrayal of Arlen's impulsive angry outbursts and sarcastic demeanor are priceless. I thought that Lou Taylor Pucci gave a very strong performance as Kris and was the standout among the cast . That isn't to take anything away from Daniels or the wonderful and underrated Nora Dunn. She plays Terry, Arlen's publisher, and really only has a couple of scenes but steals every one. I haven't seen a lot of Laura Graham's work (but do remember her as the barmaid/girlfriend in Bad Santa!) and thought she did a credible job here. This is an entertaining film that is both stirring and funny. Writer/director John Hindman does a marvelous job of engaging us with sympathetic, interesting characters, intelligent, witty dialogue and a story that aptly combines those elements. Going into it blind I didn't have high expectations but found it to be an enjoyable experience.

Parental Guide:

The rating is for language (frequent use of the F bomb).

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: 78

  • Dynamics: attachment.php?attachmentid=109945&d=1210373692

  • Low frequency extension: attachment.php?attachmentid=109944&d=1210373692

  • Surround Sound presentation: attachment.php?attachmentid=109945&d=1210373692

  • Clarity/Detail: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373692

  • Dialogue Reproduction: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373692

Video: 86

(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=109946&d=1210373692

  • Fleshtones: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

  • Compression: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373692

The answer man comes to Blu-ray disc from Magnolia HE featuring 1080p VC-1 encoded video that has an average bitrate of 25 mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 3.7 mbps.

This is a great looking high definition video presentation from Magnolia. Images are resolved with appreciable detail that reveals plenty of discernible texture during close up camera shots. The exterior pans of the Philadelphia cityscapes are clearly rendered while offering lucid long range visual acuity that allows the physical structure of buildings, cobblestone lined streets and objects in backgrounds to be discernible. The film doesn't utilize an extensive chromatic palette but tonal balance is on the money which leaves colors looking quite natural and pleasing. Fleshtones are on the warm side but appear lifelike in depiction. White and black levels are appropriately balanced which provides punchy whites and stable blacks. Grain is apparent and appears in fine, even layers that give the video a film like texture.

The lossless DTS-HD MA soundtrack is above average for a dialogue driven film like this and features lively dynamics, clearly articulated dialogue, in an open sounding and airy presentation. The film's music was spread over the entire system with primary instrumental focus being delivered by the front three channels with ambient extension (with the exception of the sequence where the choral and drums are discretely placed in the rear channels) bled to the surround speakers. I thought this surround mix was perfectly suited for the film and sounded wonderful.

Bonus Features:

  • Commentary with writer/director John Hindman, producer Kevin Messick and Lauren Graham

  • Characters of The answer man - 10 minute featurette

  • The Answer man: From concept to creation - 10 minute featurette

  • (HD) HDNET: A look at The answer man - 4 minutes

Final Thoughts:

The answer man isn't a deeply thought provocative or poignant film although it examines personal and social issues that may have more impact for some than others. It provides a somewhat exaggerated perspective on the oft strange and unpredictable nature of life and the need to search outside of ourselves rather than within for its meaning. As has typically been the case with Blu-ray Disc releases from Magnolia HE it boasts a strong high definition video presentation and engaging lossless sound quality. The bonus content isn't comprehensive and only offers a cursory glimpse into the production via cast/crew interviews and limited behind the scenes footage. This one has plenty to offer so I'd recommend that you throw it in the queue and take it for a spin on movie night.


Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS20 1080p High Definition Front Projector (Calibrated by Jeff Meier)
Carada Precision Brilliant White 96" Screen
Anthem AVM50v THX Ultra 2 Preamp/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies - 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo BDP-83 Universal disc/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)
Oppo 970HD universal disc DVD Player (480i HDMI)
Philips TSU9400 Pro Series Touch Panel 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, Best Deal Cables - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components - CP-CP102 cooling package

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post #2 of 6 Old 11-03-2009, 07:34 AM
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Thanks for the review...this will definitely be going in my Netflix Queue for a night when I have the HT to myself.
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post #3 of 6 Old 11-03-2009, 09:34 AM
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Saw the trailer on this and was contemplating on it. After seeing the trailer a few times it just didn't appeal to me.
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post #4 of 6 Old 11-13-2009, 01:53 PM
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Thanks for the comprehensive review, Ralph. We watched it last night and really liked it. I think the video was a little better than you rated it, but I had just touched up my calibration so that may be the reason.

Thanks again.
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post #5 of 6 Old 11-13-2009, 03:11 PM
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Ralph, thanks for the review and the reminder to put this on my movie queue, something I forgot to do after listening to the Jeff Daniels interview on NPR.

All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten Movies
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post #6 of 6 Old 11-14-2009, 07:54 AM - Thread Starter
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Not a problem guys.


Ralph C. Potts
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