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Hank, an embittered prison guard, lives with his aging racist father, Buck, and his own twenty something son, Sonny. Hank and Sonny work for the local prison where they are preparing the electric chair for a black inmate. After the man is executed, Hank falls in love with Letitia, the inmate's widow. This emotionally charged affair forces Hank to re-evaluate how deeply prison work and his father's infectious hatred have affected his soul.
For more about Monster's Ball and the Monster's Ball Blu-ray release, see Monster's Ball Blu-ray Review published by Sir Terrence on November 6, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Heath Ledger, Halle Berry, Peter Boyle, Sean Combs, Mos Def
Director: Marc Forster
» See full cast & crew
Monster's Ball Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Sir Terrence, November 6, 2008
I do not think I have seen a movie that made me sadder and depressed as Monster's Ball did. Everything about it was just so bleak, dark, sad, hateful, with the good having to dig itself out of a deep hole just to be seen. Monster's Ball is a tough watch. It's gritty, ugly, and shows the worst in humans, and how any human can change if they either put their minds to it, or have a life changing event fuel it. I understand why Halle Berry got an Oscar for this film. While she still looked hot, I found her ability to create hopelessness, and the realities of a hard life very compelling. Heath Ledgers performance was short, but highly effective. Billy Bob Thornton's performance was also noteworthy, and I dare to say not a single actor was weak and unconvincing. Even Sean Combs did a believable job in his role. This film is about people, and people lives, and how someone can overcome a negative background or circumstance, and change into a better person, or at least a different one. This film really shows the pliability of the human spirit, and it also shows how good modern day Hollywood filmmaking can really be.
Widower Hank Grotowski (Billy Bob Thornton) and son Sonny (Heath Ledger) are correctional officers in the state of Louisiana. They live with Hanks ailing father Buck (Peter Boyle), a confirmed racist whose wife committed suicide. Ordered to assist in the execution of murderer Lawrence Musgrove (Sean Combs), Sonny is overwhelmed by the process, gets sick to his stomach, and begins to vomit as he is leading Musgrove to the electric chair. Later Hank begins to berate Sonny and hits him. Sonny begins to lash out waving a gun at Hank. The struggle ends in their living room with Sonny killing himself. After the funeral Hank quits his job, and burns his uniform in his backyard.
While Lawrence was in prison, his wife Leticia Musgrove (Halle Berry) has been raising their son Tyrell by herself. Tyrell is very talented, but big as a house. Being a single parent is so stressful for Leticia she begins to drink too much, looses her job, and cannot support herself, or take care of Tyrell. Out of desperation, she takes a job at a coffee shop. One night Leticia and Tyrell are walking down a very wet road on a very rainy night, Tyrell is struck by a car. Leticia frantically summons help as Hank drives by her, sees her with her injured son, passes by them and heads down the road. Eventually he turns around, picks them up, and takes them to the hospital. Tyrell dies at the hospital, and a reluctant Hank ends up taking Leticia home. While at Leticia house the two have a few drinks, which leads to a sexual encounter. This encounter leads to an affair, as both share their grief of the deaths of their sons and begin to emotionally support each other. Later Hank finds out that Lawrence Musgrove was her husband, but does not tell her he participated in his execution. As Hank brings Leticia around his father, his father becomes verbally abusive. Hank responds by sending his hateful father to a nursing home. Later Leticia discovers Hank was a part of her husband death, but decides to stay with Hank.
Monster's Ball Blu-ray, Video Quality
Lionsgate brings Monster's Ball to Bluray in a 1080p/AVC encoding framed at 2:35:1 aspect ratio that quite frankly is dogged by a bit by the use of DNR and edge enhancement. The images on screen do justice to the storyline as often the film is under saturated, skin tones pale, and often monochromatic in look. Black levels were stable, very deep and inky without being crushed. Shadow detail was only average though, as some scenes didn't look fleshed out going into the darker areas of the picture. I also detected some print master related issues as it appears to have sporadic speckles, pops, and film scratches. It's not like it right in your face, but it certainly is noticeable on occasion. It's not that the picture quality is horrible, but the flaws are in your face, and its hard to miss them. Once again, for film the images are just too clean, devoid of any film grain which makes it look like a good video tranfer, instead of film. In the end the picture quality isn't horrible, it just does not stand up to the best tranfers that I have seen, and the use of DNR and edge enhancement keeps it from being a really good transfer.
Monster's Ball Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Monster's Ball is about characters, and as such the audio is about dialog. The 5.1 Dts-HD Master Audio takes care of this nicely, as it is always clear and never crushed by the other elements within the mix. You are treated to a great deal of scene by scene ambience that is subtle, but noticeable. Silence is used often as a vehicle for emotions, and it comes from a deep acoustical darkness which shows extremely low track noise. The music while appropriately haunting, does not come into the room clearly. It sounds veiled, slightly low fi, but does convey the darkness and hopelessness of the picture. LFE is used infrequently, though the surrounds are used pretty effectively in the music. This track is not going to make your sub sing, or push your main speakers to the edge of their existence, but it does get you in the right mood for the picture.
Monster's Ball Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Lionsgate has chosen to include a fairly decent assortment of extra, but its missing some content include on the 2002 DVD. But at least we get a new Commentary from Director Marc Forster, and screenwriters Milo Addica and Will Rokos. While it really get's into the films message, characters and themes, it bored me to tears with its dryness and lack of dynamics. Next we get Behind the Scenes (18 minutes) which I found really good, and really worth the watch. This is by far the best extra material on this disc. Following that is Interviews (20 minutes) which is just what it is, interviews with the cast and crew. Another piece I liked in particular was Music for the Film (8 Minutes) which touch on the creation of the film score. Deleted Scenes (4minutes) is a port over from the 2002 DVD, and as I have said in other reviews, I understand why they ended up on the cutting room floor. And lastly we get On the Set (4 minutes) which is nothing more than a bunch of performance mistakes and blunders. Also included is a Theatrical Trailer (2 minutes) , which rounds out the compliment of extras on this disc. They are all presented in standard definition video.
Monster's Ball Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
As a minority in this great country we call America, this movie was tough to watch. One thing I did walk away with is that God (and for some of you fate) knows just when, and where to place us on this planet. I as a person could not have survived this Louisiana during this period. My god mother did, and her stories were just as ugly as this film portrays it. This cast took me to that period, and that place. I cared about each of them; I shared their pain, and watch them evolve. When a film can transport you at that level, then it is a total success as far as I am concerned. Anyone that was associated with this production deserved the awards they won. No one and nothing was weak here. If you do not like powerful, thought provoking filmmaking, stay far, far away from this picture. This Bluray comes highly recommended, especially for those who already own the DVD. The trade up in quality is certainly worth it.
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Monster's Ball Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Monster's Ball; Universal Soldier Get Specs - October 2, 2008
Lionsgate Home Entertainment have announced the technical specs and special features for the upcoming Blu-ray releases of 'Monster's Ball' and 'Universal Soldier', which are both scheduled to hit store shelves on November 4th. Both titles will feature 1080p video ...
• Monster's Ball Announced for Blu-ray - August 15, 2008
Lionsgate Home Entertainment has announced that they will bring the Billy Bob Thornton and Halle Berry film 'Monster's Ball' to Blu-ray on November 4th. No technical specs have been announced at this time, but expect the typical AVC high definition video and DTS-HD ...
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