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Meet Joe Black(1998)
Bill Parrish (Anthony Hopkins) has it all - success, wealth and power. Days before his sixtieth birthday, he receives a visit from a mysterious stranger, Joe Black (Brad Pitt), who soon reveals himself as Death. In exchange for extra time, Bill agrees to serve as Joe's earthly guide. But will he regret his choice when Joe unexpectedly falls in love with Bill's beautiful daughter Susan (Claire Forlani)?
For more about Meet Joe Black and the Meet Joe Black Blu-ray release, see Meet Joe Black Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on April 27, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins, Claire Forlani, Jake Weber, Marcia Gay Harden, Jeffrey Tambor
Director: Martin Brest
» See full cast & crew
Meet Joe Black Blu-ray Review
"To make the journey and not fall deeply in love, well, you haven't lived a life at all."
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, April 27, 2012
I'll go to my grave defending Meet Joe Black, and I've never seen fit to apologize for it. There are movies that move us, all of us, and take us to places we've never been; journeys of the heart and imagination that pave the way to breathtaking worlds, startling ideas, and rousing visions. I'll be the first to admit Meet Joe Black is not one of those films. Director Martin Brest's divisive, critically panned box office bomb is most notable for a very young Brad Pitt's impish turn as one of the oldest creatures in creation: Death. Most, though, were more than anxious to declare it DOA: Three hours?! It's too long! Too slow! Nothing happens! It's pretentious! Get on with it already! Bah, I say. Bah. There are indeed movies that move us. All of us. But there are also movies that only move some of us, perhaps no more than a few. So rather than bend to consensus, rather than bow my head and cry pardon, I have something of a love letter to pen. And it starts like this...
Contrary to the criticism some have leveled, Pitt's performance is a suitably dark dervish of reticent restraint, childlike wonder and bottled supernatural menace. But it isn't Pitt's blithely brooding manifestation of Death that steals scene after scene, it's Anthony Hopkins' William Parish, the stoic but kindly billionaire who begins having severe chest pains in the days leading up to his 65th birthday. When Death first arrives in the flesh (well, in the flesh of a recently deceased young man whose body he's commandeered), he offers Parish a proposal the old man can hardly refuse: entertain Death and continue breathing on borrowed time, or decline and die of the fatal heart attack brewing in his chest. The only rule? Bill isn't allowed to tell anyone who, or rather what, his new friend is. Parish isn't thrilled with the opportunity or the ultimatum, but he agrees, if only to earn enough time to tend to a crucial business merger and to say his goodbyes to his daughters, Allison (Marcia Gay Harden) and Susan (Claire Forlani). Death, dubbed Joe Black by Parish, joins his new host for family dinners, follows Bill to work, and even starts wandering off on his own, discovering the joys of life, companionship and... peanut butter. But something other than life piques Joe's curiosity. Something else catches his eye. Something Bill isn't happy to see Joe growing so fond of: Susan.
The drama and romance that unfolds does so slowly but grandly, as if William's every breath and Susan's every happiness depended on it, and it's a testament to Brest's best efforts that, even at three hours long, the story doesn't lurch to a halt or claw its way toward the end credits. There's something innately good and intensely likable about most everyone we meet -- even Joe, who sometimes behaves like an impetuous child, and Bill, the warmest, wisest, most fatherly billionaire and media mogul Hollywood has ever given us -- and the film retains both a fairy tale quality and dose of overtly poetic humanism, despite its spiritual and supernatural trappings. Brest shoots with purpose and sets a steady pace too, however slow, and nary a scene goes by that doesn't cultivate the strained friendship that develops between Death and Parish or the romance that blossoms between Joe and Susan. The supporting actors -- among them Jake Weber as Bill's second in command and Susan's jealous boyfriend, Jeffrey Tambor as Allison's naive but dutiful husband, and Lois Kelly-Miller as a sweet old Jamaican woman Joe visits in the hospital -- follow Hopkins and Pitt to hell and back as well, and only Harden, whose weepiness grows a tad tiresome, and Forlani, stiff and wooden throughout the first act, have trouble landing their dialogue and sparring with the film's leading men.
As William makes the most of his most unusual last will and testament, the film's never-quite-separate storylines dance their dance with stirring grandeur and aching romanticism, but very little in the way of soppy sentimentality. Parish has a deep, genuine love of life and family, sure, and everyone flashes quite a bit of emotion, particularly as Bill's clock winds down. But there's a dignity and grace to their struggles and passions; a streak of dark wit, wry humor and budding joy in Joe's Earthbound encounters; a notion of timeless love and unflinching nobility that burns white hot in Bill and Susan's souls. Yes, some will scoff at the leisurely spectacle of it all, but others will be moved to tears. Some will grow terribly, terribly bored, while others will be entranced. Some will chuckle at the seriousness with which Brest seems to approach almost everything (Parish is perishing, hardy har), while still others will lose themselves in the sincerity of it all. Even an ongoing subplot involving Drew's attempt to deliver Parish Communications into the hands of a faceless Rupert Murdoch-esque media mogul pays off in the end, giving Joe a chance to bear his teeth (your heart is made of stone if you don't cheer when Death plays his last hand), William a shot at tying a neat little bow around his life's legacy (stone if you haven't fallen in love with the dear old man yet), and both men a fitting send-off (and stone if Bill and Joe's final farewells to the world of the living don't leave your eyes puffy and red). As I said before, the film has its flaws, and not everyone will respond as emphatically as others. (Last year was a year of great loss for me, something that made it all strike home even more this time around.) But I'm a sucker for grand tales of love and loss, and Meet Joe Black gets me every time.
Meet Joe Black Blu-ray, Video Quality
Rampant edge enhancement will be the death of me one of these days, just wait and see. Meet Joe Black would look fantastic (does look fantastic, many will no doubt argue) if it weren't for a single unfortunate issue: the presence of glaring edge halos. It isn't the worst I've seen, far from it, but it's hard to miss and sometimes amounts to a sizable distraction. For a moment, I even considered docking the video score a bit more. But I soon calmed down, realized I was only dealing with one major issue in an otherwise solid presentation, and settled on a nice, judicious 3.5 instead. Needless to say, if you aren't sure what an edge halo is, thank the gods; you'll probably fall head over heels for Universal's 1080p/VC-1 encoded transfer, which is identical to its 2007 HD DVD counterpart.
Colors are strong -- with a welcome hint of the cinematic opulence Brest and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki infused in each romantic rendezvous -- even if contrast is too hot for its own good (with stark, crushed whites that rob the image of its intended richness during daytime scenes) and skintones are sometimes either a touch too pink, slightly sun-bleached or both. That said, primaries deliver, delineation is decent, and black levels are, for the most part, deep and billowing, draping Death in long, inky shadows. Meanwhile, detail is excellent, with crisply resolved fine textures and a never-ending lineup of lovely closeups. Exactly how much of the resulting clarity is attributable to artificial sharpening is a bit of a mystery but, again, the halos that appear are the only thing that take any serious toll. Artifacting, banding, smearing and other unwelcome guests never crash the party, and a faint veneer of grain is intact and unobtrusive. All in all, I was quite pleased with the presentation, despite the fact that creating a new, more faithful master would have done wonders for the film and its subsequent transfer.
Meet Joe Black Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Meet Joe Black enchants with a pleasantly enveloping DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. Dialogue is clean, clear and well-prioritized throughout, and the film's scampish soundscape is bristling with delicate effects and convincing diners, board rooms, mansions and birthday galas. The rear speakers are coy but playful, working a fair amount of magic despite the fact that Brest's romance mainly involves conversations, conversations and more conversations. (Oh, and did I mention hushed conversations?) Whirring helicopters, bustling hospital halls, and crowded parties stand out, but Parish mostly frequents spacious rooms, lonely studies, and quiet offices, immersive as each one turns out to be. Thomas Newman's score is the real highlight of the mix, though, filling the soundfield with stirring strings, dancing from speaker to speaker, tapping into the resonance of the LFE channel, and sweeping listeners away in the grand romance of it all. Ultimately, Universal's lossless efforts are an exercise in precision and restraint. If you have any love of the film, you'll thoroughly enjoy what its sprightly mix offers.
Meet Joe Black Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Meet Joe Black Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Meet Joe Black isn't for everyone, but what movie is? For those willing to give themselves over to its meditations on life, love and loss, though, it can be a beautiful film, full of grandeur, wisdom, and good, old fashioned character-driven storytelling. Both Hopkins and Pitt are magnetic, the tone strikes a careful balance between wit and sorrow, and it's capable of softening the hardest of hearts. Flawless? No. Absorbing? Absolutely. Fortunately, its Blu-ray debut -- while hindered by some rather apparent edge enhancement -- features an eye-catching video transfer and a delightful DTS-HD Master Audio track. There aren't many extras to speak of (box office bombs aren't usually teeming with special features after all), but it hardly matters. If you haven't had the pleasure, take a chance and Meet Joe Black. You may find it to be as enchanting as I do.
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Meet Joe Black Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Meet Joe Black Blu-ray - February 9, 2012
As part of its 100th Anniversary this year, Universal Studios Home Entertainment will offer re-issues of catalog titles, and the Meet Joe Black Blu-ray will arrive in the May wave. A remake of the classic Death Takes a Holiday, this whimsical dramedy stars Anthony ...
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