H D - S E N S E I

A view on Hi-def discs by Gary W. Tooze


Introduction: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 7500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction. So be it, but film will always be my first love and I list my favorites on the old YMdb site now accessible HERE.  

Gary's Home Theatre:

Samsung HPR4272 42" Plasma HDTV
Toshiba HD-A2 HD-DVD player (firmware upgraded)

Sony BDP-S300 1080p Blu-ray Disc Player (firmware upgraded)
Sony DVP NS5ODH SD-DVD player (region-free and HDMI)

Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

Gary W. Tooze







The Secret Life of Bees Blu-ray

(Gina Prince-Bythewood, 2008)



Review by Gary Tooze


Studio: 20th Century Fox - Region 'A'



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Chapters: 34

Feature film: 1080p / MPEG-4 AVC

Disc Size: 43,893,334,580 bytes

Feature Size: Theatrical: 25,782,478,848 bytes / DC: 26,284,474,368 bytes

Time: Extended: Theatrical: 1:49:49 / DC: 1:53:51

Total Bitrate: 30.78 Mbps






DTS-HD Master Audio English 3509 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3509 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio English 3648 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3648 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
DUBs: Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps
Commentaries: Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps



English, French, Spanish, none



• Theatrical cut of the film
• Director's Extended Cut Featuring Never-Before-Seen Footage

• Commentary With Director/Writer Gina Prince-Bythewood, Producers Lauren Shuler Donner and Joe Pichirallo, Actors Dakota Fanning And Queen Latifah
• Commentary With Director/Writer Gina Prince-Bythewood and Editor Terilyn Shropshire
• Eight Deleted Scenes with Director/Writer Gina Prince-Bythewood and Editor Terilyn Shropshire optional commentary (9:55 in HD!)
• The World Premiere (3:28)
The Women And Men Of The Secret Life Of Bees
Adaptation: Bringing The Secret Life of Bees To The Big Screen (12:34 in HD!)
Inside The Pink House With Sue Monk Kidd (10:10 in HD!)
Beekeeping 101 Featurette featuring Dakota Fanning (7:33 in HD! - BD Exclusive)




Standard Blu-ray case

Release Date: February 3rd, 2009


Description: A heartwarming and empowering story based on the celebrated best-selling novel by the same name, The Secret Life of Bees arrives on DVD and Blu-ray disc February 3 from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. The Secret Life of Bees stars Dakota Fanning (Charlotte’s Web, War Of the Worlds) as Lily Owens, a 14 year-old girl who is haunted by the memory of her late mother. To escape her lonely life and troubled relationship with her father, Lily flees with her caregiver to a South Carolina town that holds the secret to her mother’s past. Taken in by the Boatwright sisters, Lily finds solace in their mesmerizing world of bees and honey and inevitably discovers what it truly means to be a family.

Based on the award-winning novel by Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees was on the New York Times best-seller list for two years and sold over 4.7 million copies. The film features a critically acclaimed supporting cast including Academy Award-winner Jennifer Hudson* (Dreamgirls, Sex and the City), Oscar̉-nominees Queen Latifah (Best Supporting Actress, Chicago) and Sophie Okonedo (Best Supporting Actress, Hotel Rwanda) and 16-time Grammy Award-winner Alicia Keys.





The Film:

When it comes to movies that touch the heart, few have a more delicate yet undeniable impact than Gina Prince-Bythewood's The Secret Life of Bees. Adapted from the novel by Sue Monk Kidd, the production achieves something few literary interpretations succeed at: bringing out the inner voice of a character without resorting to an incessant voiceover. This is due in no small part to the mature, nuanced performance of Dakota Fanning, whose talent continues to develop as she ages. By resisting the temptation to over-emote, Fanning makes Lily an individual worthy of sympathy and admiration.

The story unfolds against the backdrop of the Civil Rights tumult of 1964 in the South. The film's approach to bigotry and discrimination is unflinching. By not softening the edges of some of the racially charged confrontations, The Secret Life of Bees earns a PG-13 rating. In recent years, there has been an upswing in movies dealing with this period of American history (most of them about the integration of sports), but few have presented as honest an appraisal as this one. Often, elements are toned down in order to attain a PG rating. (The Express, for example.)

Lily Owens (Fanning) is a wise-beyond-her-age 14-year old whose primary education has been at the School of Hard Knocks. As we see in a prologue, she accidentally killed her mother when she was just four years old, and that event has shaped her life for a decade. Her father, T. Ray (Paul Bettany), is frequently drunk and more frequently neglectful. Her sole source of affection is her nanny, Rosaleen (Jennifer Hudson). It's a lonely life for Lily, but she endures because she has no choice.

Excerpt from James Berardinelli at Reelviews.com located HERE




Image :       NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.


Firstly we are given the choice between the 'Theatrical version' (running 1:49:49) or the 'Director's Extended Cut' (running 1:53:51). Both have 24 chapters and DTS-HD Master audio. Looking at the disc's file structure it appears to be 'branched' showing the same scenes with the duplicate image transfer quality. I watched the 4-minute longer version. The Secret Life of Bees on Blu-ray looks competent with a smooth transfer and very bright colors. Detail is strong and there is a smattering of grain nicely balancing the 2;35 framed image. The feature takes up over 26 Gig on the dual-layered disc. The film's art-direction precisely captures the era and cinematography frequently displays dusk sunlight for shadows and aura. It has some beautiful shots. This Blu-ray looks fairly flawless with colors being the standout of the The Secret Life of Bees' visual attributes.   















Audio & Music: The DTS-HD track is not beneficially utilized for 'Surround' as the film's audio is at the passive end of the scale. There are some nice subtle effect noises and a gentle original score by Mark Isham. Dialogue is crisp. Overall, I suspect the track faithfully carries the intended audio expression. There is a Spanish DUB and optional subtitles.

Extras: The disc is stacked with extras starting with two optional commentaries - the first with Director/Writer Gina Prince-Bythewood, Producers Lauren Shuler Donner and Joe Pichirallo, Actors Dakota Fanning And Queen Latifah and the 2nd, more technical, with Director/Writer Gina Prince-Bythewood and Editor Terilyn Shropshire. Suffice Gina Prince-Bythewood has a lot to say and it is beneficial to further appreciating the film experience. Those less familiar with the book will probably get more out of the commentaries although there is a lot, as well, specifically on the film production. There are also 8 deleted scenes - again with optional commentary from Director/Writer Gina Prince-Bythewood and Editor Terilyn Shropshire. They are in HD and run almost 10 minutes long. We have a brief pieces on The World Premiere, The Women And Men Of The Secret Life Of Bees, 12-minutes in HD on the Adaptation: Bringing The Secret Life of Bees To The Big Screen, Inside The Pink House With Sue Monk Kidd (10:10 in HD!) and finally a Beekeeping 101 Featurette featuring Dakota Fanning (7:33 in HD!) - the latter noted as a BD Exclusive. There is quite an overwhelming amount to cover and fans should feel sated at the completeness.



BOTTOM LINE : Regardless of the 'chick-flik' moniker this is still a well-structured, impressive and engaging storyline - beautifully told onscreen. I don't think you'd need to have read the book (I didn't) to appreciate The Secret Life of Bees The Blu-ray is wonderful covering a fabulous transfer with competent audio and extensive extras. This is definitely the way to see this film - that is full of beauty and an unselfish look at the human condition. Certainly both film and Blu-ray are recommended! 

Gary Tooze

January 31st, 2009



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