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Charlie St. Cloud(2010)
Accomplished sailor Charlie St. Cloud has the adoration of his mother Claire and his little brother Sam, as well as a college scholarship that will lead him far from his sleepy Pacific Northwest hometown. But his bright future is cut short when a tragedy strikes and takes his dreams with it. After his high-school classmate Tess returns home unexpectedly, Charlie grows torn between honoring a promise he made four years earlier and moving forward with newfound love. And as he finds the courage to let go of the past for good, Charlie discovers the soul most worth saving is his own.
For more about Charlie St. Cloud and the Charlie St. Cloud Blu-ray release, see Charlie St. Cloud Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on November 11, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Zac Efron, Ray Liotta, Kim Basinger, Charlie Tahan, Amanda Crew, Augustus Prew
Director: Burr Steers
» See full cast & crew
Charlie St. Cloud Blu-ray Review
The further education of a 'High School Musical' star...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, November 11, 2010
Can Zac Efron make the leap from Disney Channel pretty boy to respected leading man? Despite its faults, director Burr Steers' Charlie St. Cloud suggests it's a very real possibility. Strip away the film's sucralose sentiment, weepy melodrama, uneven pacing, predictable twists and turns, manipulative script, frazzled focus and ever-shifting tone (I know, quite a list), and buried there beneath all the rubble you'll find a never-say-die actor itching to prove his worth. Efron just needs the right script and the right opportunity... two things Charlie St. Cloud simply doesn't provide. I have no doubt Steers' sappy supernatural romance will find an audience -- those who enjoy derivative tear-jerkers for what they are shouldn't be ashamed to grab a box of Kleenex and embrace its terse emotional trappings; it isn't that bad -- but even the most excitable guilty-pleasurists will be left with an overwhelming sense of been-there, cried-at-that.
Based on Ben Sherwood's 2004 novel, "The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud" (a far classier title in my humble opinion), Steers and screenwriter Craig Pearce's somewhat loose adaptation tells the somber tale of Charlie St. Cloud (Zac Efron), a high school senior whose future is cut short when a car accident kills his younger brother, Sam (Charlie Tahan), and leaves him with the ability to commune with the dead. Five years later, life has moved on, but the St. Clouds haven't. Charlie, having turned down a full scholarship to Stanford, works in the local cemetery where his brother's body is buried, while Sam's spirit, hesitant to turn his back on the physical world, dwells in a nearby forest. The two meet every evening at dusk for a game of catch; Charlie is determined to maintain their relationship, whatever the cost, and Sam is desperate to keep his big brother's attention, whatever the cost. But when an old classmate named Tess (Amanda Crew) catches Charlie's eye, the St. Clouds are forced to face the realities of Sam's existence and the necessities of letting go.
Somewhere deep within the fabric of Charlie St. Cloud -- amidst all the painterly sunsets, amber-cast tree lines and lingering closeups of Efron's baby blues -- is a heartfelt story crackling with poignance and punch. The death of a child is an unimaginable, seemingly unbearable burden, and a parent or sibling's subsequent grief is a difficult, seemingly insurmountable storm to tame. Steers and Pearce have noble intentions, that much is clear, and they draw narrative strength from their cast's convincing performances. But the result is so riddled with supernatural plot holes, contrived encounters, awkward humor, lurching character development and Nicholas Sparks-esque heartstrings that their intent inadvertently begins to ring false. Sam's condition and Charlie's curse are really just catalysts used to bring two star-sailing lovers together. I've never had to deal with the loss of a child, but I can only imagine paper-thin theatrics in a paint-by-numbers genre pic would be infuriating.
Maybe I'm being a bit too hard on ol' Charlie. After all, audiences spend untold billions watching carbon-copy films they've seen hundreds of times before. But beyond Efron, Tahan and Crew's valiant attempts to ground and enrich Pearce's slushy screenplay, St. Cloud has a hard time distinguishing itself from the genre pack; so much so that its third act is as transparent and predictable as any I've seen. Surprise! Charlie literally has to choose between life and death. Surprise! Tess is put in danger so her new boyfriend can overcome his festering grief. Surprise! Kim Basinger and Ray Liotta pop up for a few minutes of veteran-vying then disappear. Surprise! The orchestra swells every other minute and tissues are offered at a ludicrous rate.
Sentimentality isn't always a four-letter word, but Steers and Pearce pepper every minute of their film with so many S-bombs, H-strings and T-jerks that a Cinefile Advisory is probably in order. I don't mind when movies leave me in tears. I don't even mind when a film leaves me in emotional disrepair. What I do mind is hearing the faint, fleeting voice of a filmmaker or screenwriter chanting cry, cry, cry. Ultimately, the best aspects of the film -- the young cast members' performances and their characters' relationships -- will be enough to help many a viewer overlook its lesser qualities (and just enough to leave husbands everywhere grumbling). Not that its staying power matters. If Efron continues to evolve as a dramatic actor, Charlie will soon be forgotten anyway.
Charlie St. Cloud Blu-ray, Video Quality
Universal's 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer isn't going to attract much criticism -- colors are warm and evocative, black levels are fairly satisfying (minus a few easily explained instances), contrast doesn't falter and skintones, full of life or otherwise, are spot on -- but it also isn't going to earn much high praise either. That's not to suggest anything is particularly wrong with the encode itself, just that Charlie St. Cloud suffers from some (presumably) inherent inconsistencies. Detail is remarkable on the whole, but a bit of prevailing softness becomes a slight distraction; closeups boast nicely resolved fine textures, but wider shots aren't as crisp; and object definition is sharp, but minor ringing appears here and there. Still, the presentation excels again and again, and retains its filmic qualities. Moreover, significant artifacting, aliasing, smearing, crush, banding and other eyesores are nowhere to be found, and the film's faint veneer of grain has been preserved throughout. Will the Blu-ray edition of Charlie St. Cloud leave videophiles wiping tears from their eyes? Not quite. Even so, I seriously doubt anyone will be disappointed with Universal's efforts.
Charlie St. Cloud Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Charlie St. Cloud's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is another matter altogether. Not only is Universal's immersive lossless mix a faithful representation of the film's engaging sound design, it actively envelops the listener in the earthy chorus of serene forests, the soft whisper of distant seas, the crash of frothy waves and the howling winds of a violent storm. Rear speaker activity is both convincing and surprisingly aggressive -- a rarity when it comes to romantic dramas -- and ambience is prevalent and authentic. Likewise, LFE output is restrained but commanding, granting palpable strength to the ocean and disturbing weight to a car wreck and its tragic aftermath. Through it all, dialogue is clean and perfectly prioritized, directionality is precise and Rolfe Kent's score fills the soundfield whenever called upon. In all, it's an excellent track; one that stands as the high point of the release.
Charlie St. Cloud Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Blu-ray edition of Charlie St. Cloud isn't exactly strapped for special features, but its supplemental package is thin and listless nonetheless. Fans will find a tiresome director's commentary, a half-hour of spit-shined EPKs, ten minutes of deleted scenes and... little of note. It's more than adequate, mind you. It just doesn't add much value to the release.
Charlie St. Cloud Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Chances are you already know if Charlie St. Cloud is the sort of film you (or your significant other) will enjoy. Trust me, it's exactly what you think it is. Universal's Blu-ray release of Steers' romantic tear-jerker is far better, so long as you're willing to look past its lackluster supplemental package. I'd still recommend renting Charlie St. Cloud long before you consider a blind buy, but its video transfer and exceptional DTS-HD Master Audio track will please anyone and everyone, regardless of whether they reach for a box of tissues or reach for the remote.
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Charlie St. Cloud Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Charlie St. Cloud Blu-ray Announced - September 9, 2010
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has announced Charlie St. Cloud for Blu-ray release on November 9. This romantic drama, based on a best-selling novel by Ben Sherwood starring Zac Efron as a young man who survives an accident that lets him see the world in ...
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