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A charismatic young Irish guitarist and a sheltered young cellist have a chance encounter one magical night above New York's Washington Square, but are soon torn apart, leaving in their wake an infant, orphaned by circumstance. Years later, performing on the streets of New York and cared for by a mysterious stranger who gives him the name August Rush, the child uses his remarkable musical talent to seek the parents from whom he was separated at birth.
For more about August Rush and the August Rush Blu-ray release, see August Rush Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on April 26, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Freddie Highmore, Keri Russell, Terrence Howard, Robin Williams, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, William Sadler
Director: Kirsten Sheridan
» See full cast & crew
August Rush Blu-ray Review
An unforgettable cinematic achievement falls short of perfection on Blu-ray.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, April 26, 2008
When I'm alone, it builds up from inside from inside me, and I think if I could learn how to play it, they might hear me, they would know I was theirs, and find me.
August Rush borrows all that is good from several genres and creates a unique, fascinating, and touching film all its own. We've never witnessed anything quite like this, and anything that can be labeled as "refreshing" in 21st century Hollywood is a good thing. While we've seen all the elements from this movie before, they have not been approached and spliced together quite like this, where the sappy romance movie meets child prodigy movie, and the two together meet the fantastical, mystical, and magical movie. There is a bit of something here for everyone, and while the movie is undeniably too fantastical and mystical and magical (or is it?) to be believable, there is never any questioning or doubting the story. It's so well designed, played, and felt, with the magical elements definitely present. The material is presented to us through the eyes of a child so matter-of-factly that we can ignore the sheer impossibility of the story and go with it, accepting all as fact and completely possible anyway, and that, my friends, is the mark of fantastic storytelling. One of the most original and heartwarming films in years, maybe decades, maybe ever, August Rush perfectly balances every element, elements that alone or overplayed would make for a disastrous film, but are combined here to create a magical world, a believable world, a world we desperately want to be involved in and see flourish and come together in indisputably perfect harmony, a world that shows us the darker side of us all but also allows that spark of wonder and honesty and goodness to shine, to grow, and to overcome any wrongs and misdeeds along the way, turning the world into a place we wish it could be.
Louis Connelly (Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Alexander) is an Irish rocker who has a chance encounter with talented young cellist Lyla Novaceck (Keri Russell, Mission: Impossible III). The two instantly fall in love and realize they are meant to be together, but Louis' band mates and Lyla's father manage to keep them apart, and their first meeting seems like it will be their last. Lyla soon finds she's pregnant, but when she is in an accident near her due date, her father tells her the child was lost, a lie so she can go on with her life as a cellist and not be hindered by a fatherless child. That child is Evan Taylor, an eleven year old boy living in an orphanage who swears he can hear his mother and father through the music of nature. He escapes to meet them and winds up in New York City and is eventually taken in by "Wizard" (Robin Williams, Mrs. Doubtfire), a man who watches over poor, homeless, yet musically gifted children living in an abandoned concert hall and has them play on street corners for tips. Realizing Evan's talent, Wizard gives him the stage name "August Rush" and tries to book him at clubs for big paydays. Evan, now August Rush, still longs to find his family and is convinced he can do so. He must first escape the servitude of The Wizard, find new and more friendly allies, and do all he can to reunite himself with his parents, parents whom he knows are listening and waiting for him to call out to them the way he knows best -- through the magic of music.
I believe that once upon a time, long ago, they heard the music, and followed it.
I enjoyed August Rush when I saw it theatrically several months ago, and after this second screening on Blu-ray, I found I adored it. This is a movie that definitely plays better with repeat viewings, and despite knowing exactly what would happen this time, just being able to let it play out in front of me all over again and revel in the magical wonderment made it all the better. The movie really hides nothing and everyone in the audience knows where it is going from the get-go, but that makes no difference. It's the journey it takes us on along the way, a journey that shows us the world both as it is and as it could very well be if we just listened inside of us for that spark, for that voice, be it music or not, that guides us through life. That's the theme here, belief in ourselves and one another, music simply a metaphor for what it is we believe in -- spirituality, our families, whatever -- that will take us where we need to be, guide us through the good times and the bad, and make us not only believe in, but come to realize, our dreams and enter into a state of complete joy.
The music is all around us. All you have to do is listen.
August Rush Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in 1080p high definition and framed at 2.40:1, August Rush doesn't quite live up to the expectations for the visual quality I envisioned for this film. Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of this image are the (at times) dreadful black levels. Some scenes looks so bad and phony, others average, and a few good, that I wonder if some of the worst offending shots are not intentional. The "you're a freak" scene at the beginning of the movie exhibits questionable blacks, the darker background looking far too bright and unnatural, the result a washed-out look that doesn't do the scene justice. The problems is even more noticeable in a following scene when Louis is sitting on the roof of a building, the night sky behind him. He appears almost ghostly, an aura around him that, combined with the poor blacks, makes him look like a cheap visual effect from twenty years ago, not just as a man in a basic shoot of a modern film. The quality of black levels fluctuates the rest of the way, but this scene is definitely the worst offender in the entire movie. Having a cinematographer or director commentary might have answered the question as to whether this odd look was intentional.
The remainder of the image is also hit or miss, but thankfully more of a hit than a miss. Some scenes scattered here and there are downright beautiful and of excellent overall quality. A medium wide city shot of Chicago, for example, features robust color, notably in the blue of Lake Michigan, and the image is crystal clear and vibrant, looking strikingly real. Another wonderful example is at the beginning of the film when Evan is in a wheat field. Simply brilliant. At times, we can see wonderful detail, such as scuffs and markings on the guitars, but at other times the image is mostly flat and lifeless, with dull colors, and many bright shots retain that washed out look seen in many of the dark scenes. Flesh tones are generally natural in well-lit scenes, and most off-color flesh tones appear to be more a result of environments oddly lighting characters than anything else. The print is of course pristine, never marred by any nagging speckles or other annoyances. Overall, this is a good image, not great, but certainly passable and watchable, one that looks fine when it wants to, and one that looks paltry at best at other times.
August Rush Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Presented in Dolby True HD 5.1 lossless surround sound, August Rush is movie material that screams for a perfect soundtrack, something that should be trend and standard setting, reference material through-and-through. What we get here is most certainly good, but like the video, left me wanting and somewhat let down by the final product. The soundtrack itself is wondrous, and what makes it work is the way music is integrated into absolutely everything. The scene where Evan first arrives in New York City left me amazed at what was done with the sound mix. A veritable cacophony of city sounds -- from a jackhammer being used on a construction site to revolving doors being spun at an office building to fire engine whistles blaring as the truck rolls past to steam rising from the underground to roller skates on pavement to several birds flapping their wings to a plastic bag blowing in the breeze -- all come together in a crescendo of superbly blended sounds, a perfect means of letting us hear the world as Evan does, perhaps the finest moment in a film jam-packed with memorable moments.
As for the TrueHD mix -- I was pleased but not overjoyed. There are several great moments, however. Even as the studio logo is still on the screen, ambience emanates from all around us, building to a harmony of sound, focused in nature and scored to bring the entire orchestra to a rousing crescendo. Nevertheless, there were several spots where I couldn't help but think that the sound could have been a bit more robust. For example, a scene where Evan is taken to the old concert hall where Wizard's "children" stay features several instances of yelling and laughter. One would expect such noises to reverberate with quite a bit of authority and noticeable echo. There is indeed a hint of an echo, but its so underplayed that is just doesn't feel all that natural, almost like our brains are asking where a sound we expect to hear is, but is nowhere to be heard, at least not as clearly as we would expect it. Dialogue is oftentimes low in volume and had me fiddling with the remote quite often. Like the video, there seem to be spikes in the quality of this sound mix. It'll go from average to "wow" and back to average. A scene where Evan plays the organ in a church is one such "wow" moment; a scene near the New York subway rumbles the subwoofer and I felt the reverberations in my seat (who needs D-Box?). Sadly, such truly amazing moments are only to be found here and there, and while this is definitely a good track, I was hoping for (and expecting) 5-star material.
August Rush Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Sadly, a movie ripe for a plethora of supplements disappoints in a big way. Everything from a commentary track (or two; I would have loved to hear Mark Mancina) to an isolated music score would have been worthwhile and completely appropriate, but Warner has certainly skimped here, much to the chagrin of this reviewer who is generally nonchalant when it comes to extras. The only available supplements are seven "additional scenes," presented in 480p, and they range in length from just under a minute to a bit over two minutes.
August Rush Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
This movie has so many positives going for it, from its uplifting message to its feel-good nature, excellent acting, mesmerizing music, and fantastic pace and direction, that its no wonder it's one of my favorite movies of 2007. While some may cringe at the sentimentality, laugh at the predictability, or refuse to accept the mystical elements of the film, those that choose to take the film at face value and see it for what it is -- a story of hope, of inspiration, or love, of reaching for your dreams and using your inherent talents to get you to where you want to be in life will find the movie to be an excellent journey. Taking us there is this Blu-ray from Warner Brothers that could have been much better than it is. With only acceptable video and less-than-stellar audio, the disappointments in these areas are only overshadowed by the next-to-nonexistent supplemental materials. Nevertheless, if you go into this movie with an open and accepting mind, I think you'll enjoy August Rush a great deal. Recommended on the strength of the film.
August Rush: Other Editions
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August Rush Blu-ray, News and Updates
• August Rush Announced for Blu-ray - January 17, 2008
Warner Home Video has announced that they will bring 'August Rush' to Blu-ray on March 11th, day-and-date with the DVD release. Video will be presented in 2.4:1 1080p video with Dolby TrueHD audio. Extras are limited, with only a group of alternate scenes.
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