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A view from the Blu (-ray) on DVDBeaver by Leonard Norwitz


A Little Background     Openers     


    Modus Operandi     The Scorecard:     

Emotive Connection      Audio     Operations    Extras     The Movie     Equipment





The Bucket List [Blu-ray]


(Rob Reiner, 2007)







Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: Warner Bros. Pictures

Blu-ray: Warner Home Video



Region: A

Runtime: 97 minutes

Chapters: 23

Size: 25 GB

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: June 10th, 2008



Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: VC-1



English DD 5.1 Surround, French DD 5.1 Surround, Spanish DD 5.1 Surround



Feature: English, French, Spanish



• Exclusive to Hi-Def: The Bucket List Trivia Track

• Rob Reiner Interviews the Stars (Rob & Jack: 21:43) (Rob & Morgan: 16:47)

• Writing a Bucket List, with Screenwriter Justin Zackham (5:33)

• John Mayer Music Video: Say

• The Making of...



The Film: 6.
I have a good friend who joined a group a few years ago, when he was about 72. The group was called "A Year to Live." It was a smallish affair � maybe 4-6 couples � that met once a month to talk about what they would do if they had only a year to live and � as much as feasible � do those things. At the end of the year, the group met for their funerals. Bob told me during that year, and afterward, that the whole process was extremely liberating � for so much is left undone by the time we die, assuming even we have the time to live a reasonably long life. We make so many half-hearted promises about what we'll do, and where we'll go, and with whom. And what we'll say � and to whom. So the idea of writing a work of fiction on the subject struck me as inevitable, and finding a couple of ageing actors that wouldn't mind showing their age � or even reveling in it � might even work, despite the cancer and/or inevitable death.

Mike LaSalle, writing for the S.F. Chronicle, felt the execution in Rob Reiner's movie false and maudlin at its core, but fascinating as an exploration of the persona of one of its stars:
"The Bucket List" is about two likable old guys with terminal cancer, and the movie is about as fun as that sounds. Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman play fellows who get up from their sickbeds and, with their remaining time, go out to do things they always wanted to do, like skydiving and race car driving. One by one, they tick the items off a list - things to experience before they kick the bucket.

The movie has virtues, but they're intermittent, while the problems are pervasive. That it's medically false - these desperately sick guys are in amazing shape - is no big deal, but the movie is emotionally false, too. It's sentimental to the point of trivializing the awfulness of what these men are facing, even as the plot shoehorns them into behavior that doesn't quite make sense. Ultimately, the movie is caught in the crossfire of its two missions - to celebrate the universal things that "really matter" in life (friendship, family) and to celebrate what it means to live like Jack Nicholson.

To a large extent, "The Bucket List" is about Jack in winter. In the movie he plays a hospital tycoon, but the lifestyle and the attitude are pure Nicholson. He's a multimillionaire who lives life on his own terms. He's impish, has had lots of women and has been faithful to none of them. But no one is mad at him, because he never pretends to be anything but who he is. He's all about good times and following impulses, admitting what you want and going after it. Not everybody gets to live like that, but if a guy can, why shouldn't he? That's Eddie, the character Nicholson plays in "The Bucket List," but it's also the character he plays when he sits in the front row of the Academy Awards with some beautiful young thing. That's what Nicholson has come to mean in American life.


Image: 8/9
(I am now using a new scoring system for the Image with this review in order to have the first number rationalize with the other scores.) The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray DVDs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVDs, including SD 480i.

There are three areas that we would not want to be disappointed: We want to see old guys looking like old guys: check. We want to see lots of detail and rich color during the travelogue phase: check, check. And we want the arctic scenes to retain crystalline clarity without becoming transparent: check. While the hospital scenes are not particularly demanding, a good deal of the shots on the road are, especially in that they are photographed to underscore the sense of new-found color and light in their lives, especially Eddie's (Nicholson). It's these striking scenes that offer the movie an opportunity to come alive in purely cinematic terms, and Reiner and his crew do well here, as does the Blu-ray image.














Audio & Music: 7/8
The case for the audio mix here is much the same as for the image: things only begin to come alive, so to speak, when Eddie and Carter hit the road, and atmospheric sounds become more important, though the standard 5.1 mix is not up to the shading required to place us right in the middle of things. In the hospital, we need only have the dialogue, often soft spoken or grunted, be clear enough to be understood, with background and foreground hospital noises appropriately placed. The need for all this is not nearly so great as in a action/adventure/thriller type movie, but it's all better than adequate.

Operations: 8
As usual, Warner separates itself from those self-promoting DVD studios with their endless "Coming on Blu-ray" previews that we have to endlessly click past by getting right to the business at hand. Bravo, Warner! As for the menu operations, there are no tricks, no particularly creative solutions to getting from here to there. We can return to the main menu from a bonus feature with ease.


Extras: 5
I'm not sure what we ought to expect from extra features for a movie like The Bucket List. A blow-by blow of the mechanics of movie making doesn't seem to be quite what is required, though we get a touch �a very light touch - of that in the pop-up trivia track (in place of the more common audio commentary) that offers occasional, widely spaced notes about the background of how this film came to be. Perhaps you might prefer a dialogue about what it's like for ageing actors to play characters with life-threatening illnesses that naturally come with the ageing process. Yes, that would be nice. Rob Reiner interviews Nicholson in a living room setting and Freeman remotely via a video feed. Between them there are some 38 minutes about how the actors came to part of this enterprise, which naturally would have led to my question.

There is a sedate music video that makes ample use of clips from the film. It's titled "Say" and it's written and sung and guitared by John Mayer. It works nicely for the movie, both as a music video and as backup for the film itself. The brief "making of" featurette is not, thankfully, about the making of the video, but of the song, and how Mayer approached it and how he was
approached by the filmmakers to write it.

Curiously, two of the three bonus features exclusive to the high-def DVD, are not in HD at all: Rob Reiner's interviews and John Mayer's "making of" clip. The music video itself and the screenwriter's segment are both common to the SD edition.



Bottom line: 7
At one point in the movie Jack asks his new hospital roommate, "What are you doing here?" Carter replies, "Fighting for my life. You?" Much later, when surveying the wealth of confidence, and sense of worth about his place in the journey of life that accrues from crossing things off the list, Eddie says to Carter something like, "It's too bad I didn't know you when we were alive." It's that kind of movie, sometimes. I think I liked this movie better than LaSalle, even with all its facility with the death and dying thing. Maybe it's just because I enjoyed seeing Jack and Morgan do what they do well. Maybe it's because I need the prod once in a while to get going on my own Bucket List. O.K. it's not a great movie, but it got to me, sometimes. The picture quality is much better than merely satisfactory. But rent it first.

Leonard Norwitz
June 10th, 2008








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