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post #1 of 3 Old 07-27-2015, 09:04 AM - Thread Starter
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The Casual Vacancy (Blu-ray) Official AVS Forum Review

Check out our review of this adaptation of J.K. Rowlings bestselling book about Pagford, a seemingly idyllic English village with a cobbled market square and ancient abbey. Behind the pretty facade, however, is a town at war: rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils. Pagford is not what it first seems.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )



Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )



Studio and Year: Warner - 2015
MPAA Rating: NR
Feature running time: 182 minutes
Genre: Drama

Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC
Video Aspect: 2.40:1
Resolution: 1080p/24

Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Starring: Michael Gambon, Monica Dolan, Keeley Hawkes, Rufus Jones, Rory Kinnear, Simon McBurney, Julia McKenzie, Abigail Lawrie
Directed by: Jonny Campbell
Music by: Solomon Grey
Written by:Sarah Phelps based on the novel by J.K. Rowling
Region Code: A,B,C

Blu-ray Disc release Date: August 4, 2015

"Some fences need mending more than others"

My Take:

Based on the global bestselling novel by J.K. Rowling, the HBO and BBC coproduction The Casual Vacancy is a three-part mini-series, written by Sarah Phelps and directed by Jonny Campbell. Set in Pagford, a picturesque West Country British village, this story revolves around a clever centerpiece: a casual vacancy, an opening on the Pagford Parish council. When Barry Fairbrother drops dead of an aneurysm, his death sets off a chain reaction. Barry, a lifelong resident and strong supporter of keeping Sweet Love House, a center for the underprivileged living in and around Pagford, open, he is opposed on the council by a smug, aristocratic businessman and his wife who want to rid the village of the “undesirables” by converting Sweet Love House into a Spa/Retreat, in the hopes of attracting a better “class” of people to Pagford. Barry’s unfortunate demise is the catalyst which not only causes a crisis at the parish council but directly and indirectly effects the personal lives of those surrounding him. As the story unfolds with the race for his replacement, the question becomes evident, who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

The Casual Vacancy is author J.K. Rowling’s first adult book. As adapted by Sarah Phelps, I found it to present an intimate look at the sometimes stifling and sometimes satisfying constraints of small town life. Its multilayered storyline is of the character driven variety and features contemporary themes with a universal perspective that blends dark humor and tragedy. Definitely not what I was expecting, the various subplots speak to the human condition via traditional archetypes, familial discord and relationship drama aired to the social commentary derived from the primary plotline.

I watched the three one hour episodes with my wife and we both had the same reaction to the narrative. It’s initially a slow burn but once the characters are introduced the stage is set for story’s thematic elements. We were quickly drawn in by the variables surrounding several of the characters as told from a fly on the wall perspective that allowed you to see things through their eyes, no matter if you liked them or not. There is a genuineness to the personal nature of the storyline, especially in their world where agendas abound. The comedic aspects are lightly sprinkled throughout and can be hit or miss, depending on one’s sense of humor. I haven’t read the book but found the film to be engaging, spirited and stirring. I am not familiar with all of the members of the ensemble cast but felt that everyone put forth performances that complimented the film.

The Casual Vacancy means to reach us on various levels and does so successfully. Some may find its message to be a bit too pointed but I didn’t and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Parental Guide:

The series contains thematic material, sexuality, drug use and language that would be inappropriate for young audiences.

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.**

Audio: 80
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Dynamics:
  • Low frequency effects:
  • Surround Sound presentation:
  • Clarity/Detail:
  • Dialogue Reproduction:
  • Low frequency extension * (non-rated element): NA
  • DSU Rating * (non-rated element): NA

Video: 86
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Resolution/Clarity:
  • Black Level/Shadow Detail:
  • Color Reproduction:
  • Fleshtones:
  • Compression:

The Casual Vacancy comes to Blu-ray Disc from Warner Brothers 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 3.9 Mbps.

This high definition video presentation offers clear, refined images that boast a relatively de-saturated level of color. This is intentional and conveys he show’s thematic underpinnings. The rendering of fine detail can range from exquisite to moderate. This leaves certain long range and midlevel shots with less dimensionality but not to the point of appearing soft. Black levels fluctuate similarly however with the stable contrast and subdued chroma this wasn’t problematic and worked well with the visual style of the series. I didn’t see any signs of video related artifacts/anomalies.

The multi-channel lossless audio won’t test the limits of your surround sound system but it capably delivers the elements present in the show’s soundtrack. Dialogue is tonally rich with excellent room penetration and defining clarity. Dynamic range and bass response is appropriate in support of the track’s recorded elements. The front channels handle the bulk of the audio and presents an open two dimensional soundstage with the surrounds supplying ambient detail. I think the mix mates perfectly with the source material and sounds great.

Bonus Features:
  • (HD) An introduction to The Casual Vacancy – 8 minute featurette
  • (HD) Adapting The Casual Vacancy – 9 minute featurette
  • (HD) Casting The Casual Vacancy – 13 minute featurette
  • Digital HD Copy

Final Thoughts:

Based on the book by J.K. Rowling The Casual Vacancy is an earthy three hour dramatic miniseries that hits more than it misses. It comes to Blu-ray from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment featuring gratifying high definition audio/video and a fair supplemental offering that looks behind the scenes. I rather enjoyed [i[The Casual Vacancy[/i] and recommend it to discerning genre fans looking to check out something new.

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS4910 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 AV8802A 13.2 Channel Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies - 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo BDP-103D Universal Disc/3D capable Blu-ray Player (With Darbee video processing)
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" and In-Ceiling series speakers
Axiom Audio QS8 Quadpolar speakers
SVS PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components - CP-CP102 cooling package
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post #2 of 3 Old 07-27-2015, 10:36 AM
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I'm interested now. Thanks Ralph.
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post #3 of 3 Old 07-27-2015, 11:08 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mo949 View Post
I'm interested now. Thanks Ralph.

Sure thing mo949.


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