Ralph Potts reviews this film adaptation of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize winning play about a working-class African-American father trying to raise his family in the 1950s, while coming to terms with the events of his life.
Studio and Year:
The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Paramount - 2016
Feature running time:
English DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio
English, English SDH, Spanish, French
Viola Davis, Denzel Washington, Russell Hornsby, Stephen MCKinley Henderson, Jovan Adepo, Mykelti Williamson, Saniyya Sidney
August Wilson based upon his play
March 14, 2017
"Some Fences Can’t Be Mended"
Denzel Washington and Viola Davis star in the film adaptation of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play. Set in the 1950s in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Fences
centers on a black blue collar worker named Troy Maxson, who is bitter that baseball's color barrier was only broken after his own heyday in the Negro Leagues. Maxson sees his life from a short-sided perspective and is prone to taking out his frustrations on his loved ones.
I wasn’t familiar with the play or any of August Wilson’s works, prior to the release of this film. Wilson died in 2005, but his legacy, and body of work, lives on. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in the late 80’s Fences
is a character driven period story that takes a snapshot of African American life, drawn from the well of people, coping with the trials of their time/upbringing, and its cyclical complexities, which can impact familial life. This is a personal story that digs below the surface, via a culturally underscored narrative, that speaks to the human condition, through the eyes of these wonderfully drawn characters that have an earthy essence.
Taken from the stage play, the screenplay is narrow in scope, delivering its drama/melodrama via compelling dialog, strong thematic framing, and the preservation of those elements required to maintain the theatrical essence. Both Denzel Washington and co-star Viola Davis won Tony Awards for their performances in the 2010 revival of the play. Stephen Henderson, Russell Hornsby, and Mykelti Williamson were part of the same production, and reprised their roles here with aplomb. As I watched it I was reminded of people that I knew from my childhood, who were either friends or relatives connected to my parents.
I found Fences
to be an emotional, and stirring film that successfully reaches the audience, not only through its subject matter, but through the marvelous performances of its ensemble cast. If I had only one minor nit to pick it would be the film’s runtime. It just seemed to run a tad too long, with certain scenes dragging out a bit longer than necessary. It’s evident that Director Denzel Washington, the cast, and production crew are passionate about the material, and have the utmost respect for its creator. The outcome is a gritty drama, that, despite its period specific story, has a timeless appeal, with roots that can touch generations.
The rating is for thematic elements, language and some suggestive references.
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)
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency effects:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
- DSU Rating * (non-rated element): NA
Fences comes to Blu-ray Disc from Paramount Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 30 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 4 Mbps.
- Black Level/Shadow Detail:
- Color Reproduction:
This high definition video presentation looks great and features a distinctive visual aesthetic that utilizes a reserved chromatic palette which makes use of sepia tones and muted primary colors. Certain sequences/elements make bolder use of color with deeper saturation. Contrast and brightness are well balanced which results in distortion free and satisfying image quality. Blacks appear deep and punchy but delineation in low level scenes can range from very good to average. Flesh tones are a bit on the bland side but retain enough complexional variety to avoid appearing lifeless. Close ups offer appreciable texture and subtle refinement. Wide angle shots, especially those shot in the natural light of day, have excellent depth, with resolute definition quality that is rarely questionable. I didn’t notice any signs of compression or video related artifacts.
The DTS-HD 7.1 MA surround mix features dialog 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 are rendered with excellent clarity and appropriate depth. There is little call for active surround activity and extended dynamics however there is use of atmospheric sounds that utilize the entire soundstage in support of the exterior/interior venues depicted in the film. The end result, is a complimentary audio presentation that renders the soundtrack’s elements with aplomb.
- (HD) Expanding the Audience: From Stage to Screen – 9 minute featurette
- (HD) The Company of Fences – 9 minute featurette
- (HD) Building Fences: Denzel Washington – 7 minute featurette
- (HD) Playing the Part: Rose Maxson – 7 minute featurette
- (HD) August Wilson’s Hill District – 6 minute featurette
- Digital HD Copy
Based on the August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning play of the same name, Fences
is a reverent film adaptation that appears to capture the essence and spirit of play, making for a compelling and stirring drama that resonates. It comes to Blu-ray from Paramount Home Entertainment featuring solid technical quality mated with a worthwhile supplemental package that includes insights from the cast/crew. Fences
deserves a spot at the very top of your Blu-ray rental queue, and comes highly recommended for theater and cinema fans.
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JVC DLA-RS500 3D/4K Ready High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16x9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic 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 UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton "Ergo" and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
SVS PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
SVS SB-13 Ultra (Piano Gloss finish)
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components - CP-CP102 cooling package