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The Lovely Bones(2009)
Susie Salmon, a young girl who has been murdered, watches over her family -- and her killer -- from heaven. She must weigh her desire for vengeance against her desire for her family to heal.
For more about The Lovely Bones and the The Lovely Bones Blu-ray release, see the The Lovely Bones Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on April 6, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Stanley Tucci, Susan Sarandon, Rose McIver
Director: Peter Jackson
» See full cast & crew
The Lovely Bones Blu-ray Review
"Lovely" describes the quality of Paramount's transfer, too.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, April 6, 2010
I wasn't looking beyond yet; I was still looking back.
It's amazing to watch how the career paths of some Hollywood's elite directors evolve. Who knew that Steven Spielberg, after his little made-for-TV movie Duel, would go on to helm some of the most cherished films in history -- E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, Schindler's List, and Saving Private Ryan -- or that high school dropout and video store clerk Quentin Tarantino would rise to the top to become one of the finest Writers and Directors in generations? Then there's the story of New Zealand-born Peter Jackson, who enjoyed a cult following as the director of several grotesque B-level Horror movies like Bad Taste and Dead Alive in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He entered the mainstream with the well-received The Frighteners in 1996, and managed to several years later find himself behind the camera for a little movie called The Fellowship of the Ring based on some old book by a guy named J.R.R. Tolkien. Indeed, his work on The Lord of the Rings trilogy propelled him to the top faster than he could say, "my precious," and he followed up that series with the grossly underrated King Kong, that film one of the finest and most convincing period pieces ever made, not to mention a hallmark of special effects and serving as the very definition of "epic spectacle." That brings the Peter Jackson timeline pretty much up-to-date; his latest picture is The Lovely Bones, a departure of sorts from the director's recent string of excessively long and epic films, but at the same time it stays true to his panache for delivering a mystical and grand feel to the proceedings while also intermixing plenty of deeper undertones for audiences to ponder amidst the striking visuals.
Young Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan, Atonement) leads a normal life in 1973 Pennsylvania. She comes from a loving home, enjoys spending time with her friends, has her eyes set on her schoolmate Ray Singh (Reece Ritchie), and has aspirations of growing up to be a famous wildlife photographer. It seems that nothing can keep her down, until she's murdered. Returning home from school one day, Susie is lured to her death by her uncouth oddball neighbor George Harvey (Stanley Tucci, Julie & Julia). Following her death, Susie finds herself in "the in-between," an area between Heaven and Earth where she can watch over a world she can't yet let go of -- the world she's left behind -- even though Heaven and all its majesty await her arrival, which must be scheduled on her own timeframe. Back on Earth, Susie's parents, Jack (Mark Wahlberg, Shooter) and Abigail (Rachel Weisz, The Mummy), face the pain of their loss in different ways. Meanwhile, George attempts to conceal his guilt and the evidence of the crime from a suspicious Jack and a local police detective (Michael Imperioli, "The Sopranos"), but he can't hide from what Susie is able to learn about him in "the in-between," information that might allow Susie to put her death behind her while in some way allowing her family to return to a sense of normalcy.
What to make of The Lovely Bones? The picture is oddly -- and uniquely -- intoxicating, but it's also something of a downer in many ways while also treading into borderline oddball territory; Peter Jackson gives the picture an appropriately mystical and dreamlike feel that reinforces both the themes of the story and the juxtaposition of light and dark that plays so prominently in the film. Also related to its visual style, The Lovely Bones remains a fairly captivating journey through the world of cinematic manipulation, Jackson able to absorb his audience in a film that's almost angelically bright and vibrant while dealing with painfully dark, disturbing, and depressing realities. Jackson also proves a master manipulator through his ability to create nearly unparalleled suspense and drama by drawing from his audience senses of apprehension, anger, and disappointment as they relate to character actions and story developments, building Susie to a point where, despite the foreknowledge that she's to be killed, viewers almost forget the pending tragedy as they live and dream with her as she becomes absorbed in her photography and dreams of building a relationship with Ray. It is here that the film earns its "uniquely intoxicating" stripes, proving capable of doing so much to sway the viewer in several directions through a story that's not just linear and predictable, but through one where some secrets are flat-out made known to the audience within minutes of the film's open. Indeed, The Lovely Bones is a film of wonderful contrasts on many different levels, and it is there that Jackson earns his greatest success with the picture.
The Lovely Bones, then, features a kind of reverse-psychology where the film's better half holds no surprises and its lesser half is the one that ventures as deeply into the unknown as its first half traversed through a story that's telegraphed from the get-go. Indeed, the second half lacks the vitality of the first; it loses touch with the personal feel of the first but also somehow manages to capture a more standard approach despite its foray into an otherworldly realm. The surreal imagery of "the in-between" -- which often ties in to what's happening in the real world -- can be any number of things; it could be just as it is described, a nether-region for souls not quite prepared to leave the living behind. It could be a flash in Susie's mind as she registers what's happening to her the instant she's killed, a fleeting moment in time but that might seem otherwise an extended period in its representation as her final thoughts before death. Obviously, the first is what the film would have the audience believe, but such a surreal situation almost demands one's own interpretation of the events, and indeed, the colorfully rich and abundantly unique imagery that populate's Susie's space within "the in-between" is certainly valid. It might anger, confuse, or satisfy viewers, but ultimately, it's but a simple representation of what might be in such a place and at such a time. Indeed, artistic license is all one has to go on in any depiction of what at all -- if anything -- defines the afterlife, the greatest mystery of them all.
The Lovely Bones might not be instantly-recognizable as a Peter Jackson film, but closer inspection finds his fingerprints all over it. A departure from the grand, sweeping epics that have come to define the last several films on his resumé, The Lovely Bones still shows him at the top of game as a master filmmaker, lending an unparalleled sense of visual spacing and storytelling to the film. His filmmaking instincts are keen and sharp, and the picture's mystical quality, bright coloring, and dreamlike camerawork all set a tone and standard that's unmistakably Jackson. Additionally, his cast members all deliver top-flight performances that lend to the movie something different while all reinforcing its themes, whether Stanley Tucci's frightening take as, externally, an everyman with something about him that's just a bit off that makes his character completely terrifying even in his most quiet and unassuming of moments, or the way Mark Wahlberg so delicately portrays a proud papa at the beginning and a grieving, lost, and ultimately vengeful father later in the film. The acting is simply superb, with both Tucci and Imperioli disappearing into their roles. Saoirse Ronan's voiceover is a weak spot, but it's a necessary component when a film's lead character is as detached from the goings-on as hers. Ultimately, The Lovely Bones isn't a bout its actors; it's about how Jackson handles such a difficult story, and even when it doesn't quite work, it still proves a mesmerizing and engrossing experience if only for his ability to build a film of so many unique contrasts.
The Lovely Bones Blu-ray, Video Quality
Paramount's 1080p, 2.35:1-framed transfer of The Lovely Bones is, simply, magnificent. The image practically leaps from the screen in every shot; it's fantastically vibrant with bright and bold but natural coloring across the board, whether in clothing, grasses, leaves, furniture upholstery, random nicknacks, or practically any item in the film. The picture also features a heavy golden tint to it that's more prominent in some sequences than in others, which somewhat influences the absolute look of the color palette and flesh tones, but never to the detriment of the image. Additionally, the transfer delivers what is nothing short of positively startling amounts of fine detail. Overhead shots of a farm house and a nearby sinkhole where the texture of the building's wood grains and chipped paints and the surrounding grasses that are both highly distinguishable and positively clear even from a distance simply amaze. Yards covered in scattered fallen leaves practically allow the viewer to make out the fine lines, ridges, and edging on each leaf. Building textures, whether exterior shots of homes or even the bland interior of a school building, look amazingly lifelike and dimensional. Even more mundane objects are wonderfully displayed: the texture of an orange peel or the intricate knitting of a winter cap simply startle in the absolute definition afforded them by this transfer. There's also a remarkable sense of depth to the image; backgrounds remain largely focused and sharp, and even softer backgrounds only allow for an even clearer foreground. Black levels are spot-on in every appropriately dark scene. A faint hint of banding may be seen around a couple of light sources against darker backdrops, but it's not at all a detriment to the overall image, particularly considering how masterful it is elsewhere. The print is in pristine condition with nary a single blemish to be found, and a fine layer of film grain rounds out what is a transfer that's so pristine that there just aren't enough superlatives to describe how handsome it is. So far, this is the must-see transfer of 2010.
The Lovely Bones Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Though not on the same level of excellence as the reference-grade picture quality, The Lovely Bones' DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack is nevertheless a high quality offering. The track is generally reserved and contemplative, light and enveloping, but more pronounced and powerful when need be, making it a perfect companion for a film of this sort. The track incorporates a wonderful atmosphere into many of its scenes; the ambient chatter and footsteps as heard in a mall scene in chapter one or, later, ringing telephones and the sounds of an old typewriter hard at work inside a police station both prove excellent examples of the track's ability to harness the power of subtle yet important audible material in creating through the track an actual living, breathing environment and not simply a collection of sounds spilling from a random speaker. Various effects -- particularly those that are a bit more aggressive -- effortlessly maneuver around the listening are to create a wider sense of space and realism to the experience. While lacking a plethora of more pronounced action sound effects, The Lovely Bones' lossless soundtrack delivers its share of attention-grabbing moments, such as a thunder and lightning barrage as heard in chapter eight. Brian Eno's (For All Mankind) score is handled with precision, and dialogue reproduction is consistently intelligible and strong, whether in conversations or voiceover narration. While not a track that's going to be used to break in a new subwoofer or demonstrate the intensely powerful effects some of the best action-oriented Blu-ray discs have to offer, listeners that are appreciative of what a more nuanced approach can lend to a dramatically-oriented film will fine plenty to like about Paramount's latest lossless DTS offering.
The Lovely Bones Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
As with Paramount's other major April 20th release, Minority Report, The Lovely Bones contains no commentary and thusly its entire supplemental package is found on a second Blu-ray disc. The supplements begin with Introduction By Peter Jackson (1080i, 1:09), featuring the director discussing the arrangements of the special features, which are laid out chronologically as the film was shot, taking the viewer inside the "week by week" schedule that was the shoot. Filming 'The Lovely Bones' (1080i, 2:57:18, and with optional English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles) is a three hour, three-piece documentary that chronicles the making of the film, divided into three segments: USA Principal Photography (1:27:50), New Zealand Principal Photography (59:43), and Visual Effects Photography (29:45). The first, USA Principal, is broken down into eight segments, each chronicling a week's worth of shooting. As is the case with the next segment, New Zealand Principal -- which is broken down into five additional weeks of filmmaking -- this is simply a massive but extraordinarily well put-together piece that does report on everything about the shoot, from the weather to the scenes shot on each day. There's always a marker on-screen to denote both the scene and take number and the day of the shoot. Peter Jackson dominates the voiceover narration, though Screenwriter/Co-producer Philippa Boyens also shares their thoughts on what's happening throughout the piece. There's just too much information here to provide a blow-by-blow or even a week-by-week breakdown of the treasure trove that is these first two segments; they are nothing short of massive, perhaps even a bit intimidating, but nevertheless prove completely engrossing and exceptional watches as they truly immerse the viewer in the world of how a movie is made. Just as engaging as the first two segments' focus on the principal photography is its third, which looks at the two-week process of shooting the film's extensive visual effects sequences which are aided by blue screen backgrounds and computer-generated imagery. Unfortunately there's nothing else -- no trailers or commentary tracks -- but the sheer mass and depth of this fabulous documentary alone makes this disc is worth the price of admission, and it's something that will appeal to anyone interested in the filmmaking process, fan of The Lovely Bones or not.
The Lovely Bones Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Lovely Bones is a movie that's going to divide audiences. It ultimately has more going for it than not, particularly in Jackson's master craftsmanship and ability to manipulate his audience even through a premise that's not just assumed but bluntly stated early on in the movie. The picture wanders a bit after a strong first half and delves into an odd combination of hunt-and-chase on Earth while also fixating on a "purgatory"-like afterlife that seems like something straight from the mind of Tim Burton or Terry Gilliam, but the contrast between cheery and bright visuals and a disturbingly dark subject matter at least give the film a wonderfully unique flair. Supported by some standout performances, The Lovely Bones is a must-see film; that doesn't mean that it's for everybody, but with a picture that's as different and genre-bending as this, there's not much with which to compare it and, by extension, assume certain segments of the movie-watching public will feel one way or another towards it. As hotly debated as the film may be, there's no dispute as to the quality of Paramount's Blu-ray release. To sum it up, it's fantastic, reference quality through and through, with its picture quality in particular a stunning achievement that simply must be seen to be believed. Also featuring a second disc's worth of exceptional bonus materials, fans can lay their cash down on release day with confidence, but newcomers are encouraged to rent both to judge the film for themselves and to awe at what might very well be the new reference-standard 1080p Blu-ray picture quality disc.
The Lovely Bones: Other Editions
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