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· Blu-ray Reviewer
15,921 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·

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



Audio/Video total rating:

( Max score: 100 )


Studio and Year: Magnolia - 2008
MPAA Rating: PG
Feature running time: 90 minutes
Genre: Dramedy

Disc Format: BD-25
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.85:1
Resolution: 1080p/24

Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Starring: Colin Hanks, John Malkovich, Emily Blunt, Steve Zahn, Ricky Jay, Adam Scott, Tom Hanks
Written & Directed by: Sean McGinly
Music by: Blake Neely
Region Code: A

Blu-ray Disc release Date: July 21, 2009

"Greatness is a state of mind"

Film Synopsis:

Once upon a time, Buck Howard (John Malkovich) spent his days in the limelight as a mentalist extraordinaire! Nowadays, it's clear to everyone except Buck that his act has lost its luster. Convinced his comeback is imminent, Buck needs a new road manager and personal assistant. Recent law school drop-out and would-be writer Troy Gable (Colin Hanks) needs a job and a purpose. Working for the pompous, has-been mentalist fills the former requirement, but how it satisfies the latter is questionable. Nonetheless, with the aid of a fiery publicist (Emily Blunt) and a bold stroke of luck, Buck lands back in the American consciousness, taking Troy along for the ride.

My Take:

Once upon a time, Buck Howard (John Malkovich) spent his days in the limelight. His mind-boggling feats as a mentalist extraordinaire – not to be confused with those of a mere magician - earned him a marquee act in Vegas and 61 appearances on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. In his own humble opinion, his talents go far beyond simple sleight of hand – he can read minds and hypnotize not just a single soul but an entire room of people! But nowadays, it’s clear to everyone but Buck that his act has lost its luster; he performs in faded community centers and hasn’t sold out a theater in years. Yet, with a hearty handshake and a trademark “I love this town!,” Buck Howard perseveres, confident in his own celebrity, convinced his comeback is imminent. He just needs a new road manager and personal assistant. As it turns out, recent law school drop-out and unemployed, would-be writer Troy Gable (Colin Hanks) needs a job and a purpose. Working for the pompous, has-been mentalist fills the former requirement, but how it satisfies the latter is questionable, especially to his father (Tom Hanks), who still assumes Troy is in law school. Nonetheless, with the aid of a fiery publicist (Emily Blunt) and a bold stroke of fate, Buck surprisingly lands back into the American consciousness, taking Troy along for the ride of his life. As the coveted spotlight again shines on the great Buck Howard, Buck becomes the unlikeliest of teachers as Troy learns a few tricks he couldn’t possibly have picked up in law school.

This is a funny, sort of delayed coming of age story for Troy, as his experiences working for Buck allow him to realize what it is he wants to do with his life. Malkovich absolutely nails the oft-deluded Buck Howard who is firmly entrenched in his own belief that he is still not only on the top of his game but that the world still recognizes him as such. This film clearly belongs to John Malkovich as his portrayal of this capricious and dense character yields several truly priceless and hilarious moments. The satirical narrative about an over the hill stage performer/mentalist as he is seen through the eyes of an impressionable young man never gets too serious a turn but does have an air of warmth that gives it substance. The establishment of the relationship between Buck and Troy moves quickly but isn’t truly the story’s central focus. Writer Director Sean McGinly based Buck’s character (predominantly his stage act) on real life mentalist The Amazing Kreskin. Supporting players Emily Blunt and Steve Zahn give quality performances that play well against Malkovich’s. Cameos by Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, Jon Stewart, George Takei, Regis & Kelly, and Tom Arnold add to the fun. I liked Colin Hanks just fine but honestly didn’t feel his portrayal contributed much to this film. The cameo by his father Tom felt opportunistic but as a fan I can’t really complain. Prior to receiving this I had never heard of this film. It premise and straight forward story doesn’t conceptually offer anything new but nevertheless it was a pleasant surprise that gave me a few good laughs which easily made it worthy of it 90 minute runtime.

Parental Guide:

The rating is for some language including suggestive remarks and a drug reference.

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: 80

  • Dynamics:

  • Low frequency extension:

  • Surround Sound presentation:

  • Clarity/Detail:

  • Dialogue Reproduction:

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 great Buck Howard comes to Blu-ray from Magnolia HE featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 22 mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 3.5 mbps.

This video presentation boasts excellent clarity and discerning refinement that enhances textural nuance. Images are resolute with crisp lines and viable dimension that occasionally offers a near infinite visual perspective. The color palette is somewhat limited and with the exception of red those used in the sets and clothing utilized neutral shades and passive hues that were rarely eye catching. This was of course intentional and the range of colors used, appear natural and tonally balanced. Fleshtones have a light, balmy quality that doesn’t appear out of place considering the fact that these characters had little time for absorbing sunshine. Complexions have noticeable texture and tonal variation that don’t appear unnatural. At times the video has a washed out and hazy look that I assume is innate to the photography. Contrast is stable with respectable blacks and gradational detail that is appreciable in dark areas and shadowy backgrounds. Grain is present and appears in moderately consistent layers throughout the course of the presentation. I thought this film looked great on my large screen.

I applaud Magnolia for their continued support of lossless DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks on their Blu-ray releases. This isn’t the type of film that requires extended dynamic range, frequent surround use or deep bass but it certainly benefited from lossless audio’s higher fidelity. The front heavy sound 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 are rendered with superior clarity and depth. There is little call for discrete surround activity or room filling dynamics however the scenes that take place at the various interior venues open up nicely as the music and acoustics within the large spaces has good atmospheric presence and discernible low level detail.

Bonus Features:

  • 3 deleted scenes

  • 5 extended scenes – Martha Stewart/Regis & Kelly/Jon Stewart/Conan O’Brien/Total request live

  • Outtakes – 3 minutes

  • Behind the scenes – 9 minute featurette with cast/crew interviews

  • HDNet: A look at The great Buck Howard – 4 minutes

  • The Amazing Kreskin – 5 minute feature on the real life mentalist from whom Buck Howard’s show is based

Final Thoughts:

The great Buck Howard is a funny two part coming of age story about a young man looking for his lot in life and a pompous, over the hill stage performer who hasn’t realized that he is no longer in the limelight. Writer/director Sean McGinly carefully drew from the real life persona of stage performer The Amazing Kreskin to create Buck Howard and John Malkovich gave an effervescent and laudable performance in the title role. I enjoyed the interplay between the characters and thought that its satirical depiction of show biz life and its lasting effects on Buck and his fans was perfectly executed. Magnolia Home Entertainment brings this film to high definition Blu-ray Disc in a technically sound package that features good quality video and lossless DTS-HD Master Audio sound. The bonus package isn’t a comprehensive one but it’s the same one offered on the DVD release which includes a behind the scenes feature that is worth checking out. This is worth adding to your collection if you’re a John Malkovich fan. Otherwise I would highly recommend it as a rental if your in the mood for an offbeat comedy.

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

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)

Denon AVR 5308CI THX Ultra 2 Preamp/Video Processor

Sherbourn Technologies - 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier

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

· Premium Member
6,502 Posts
Thanks for your review. I had seen the trailer for this film but wasn't particularly interested in seeing it until reading your review. I'll pop it into my BB rental queue and give it a look.

· Registered
3,948 Posts
I got this as a rental from BB and found it a delight.

John Malcovich is excellent as Buck. I'd guess that his performance is not too far off from many show biz personalities.

I thought Colin Hanks did a great job in his role. His role is clearly the 2nd bannana to Buck's and he doesn't over or under play his importance.

I know Tom Hank's Playtone company made this film and they probably threw in his cameo to generate some viewership. I felt this was a mistake. Anybody could have played the father role, and using Tom made it look like was taking away from his son's 2nd bannana role, almost making him the 3rd bannana behind his famous dad.

Great rental for sure, if just to see Malkovich in great form.

· Blu-ray Reviewer
15,921 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·

Originally Posted by Lee Weber /forum/post/17520274

I had never heard of this until I looked into some of Ralph's older reviews. I watched it last night based on this review and i was really surprised!! My wife and I and a few friends all really dug it.


Glad to hear that you all enjoyed it Lee..

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