H D - S E N S E I

A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze


The Great Buck Howard [Blu-ray]


(Sean McGinly, 2008)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Magnolia Pictures

Video: Magnolia Home Entertainment



Region: FREE! (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:30:11.406

Disc Size: 20,300,690,322 bytes

Feature Size: 17,124,108,288 bytes

Video Bitrate: 19.98 Mbps

Chapters: 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: July 21st, 2009



Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 3612 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3612 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps



English, Spanish, none



• Commentary with Sean McGinly and Colin Hanks

• Deleted Scenes

• Extended Scenes (9:44 - SD)

• Outtakes (3:35 SD)

• Behind the Scenes (9:35 SD)

• HDNet: A Look at The Great Buck Howard

• The Amazing Kreskin (5:47 SD)

• Previews (in HD!)





Description: Once upon a time, Buck Howard [John Malkovich] spent his days in the limelight as a mentalist extraordinaire! Nowadays, it s clear to everyone except Buck that his act has lost its luster. Convinced his comeback is imminent, Buck needs a new road manager and personal assistant. Recent law school drop-out and would-be writer Troy Gable [Colin Hanks] needs a job and a purpose. Working for the pompous, has-been mentalist fills the former requirement, but how it satisfies the latter is questionable. Nonetheless, with the aid of a fiery publicist [Emily Blunt] and a bold stroke of luck, Buck lands back in the American consciousness, taking Troy along for the ride.



The Film:

Is there anyone better than John Malkovich at barely containing his temper? He gravitates toward characters who do not suffer fools lightly, and that would include the Great Buck Howard, who once was Johnny Carson's favorite guest. Buck was dropped from Johnny's guest list and now tours the provinces, taking his magic act from small stages to smaller ones, but he still has his dignity.

"I love this town!" he shouts with outstretched arms in Akron, and Akron still loves him. He is famous for his "signature effect," in which his evening's fee is given to an audience member, and he uses his psychic powers to find it. He has never failed, and no one has ever discovered how he does it. Buck was named "The Great" by Carson and still maintains a facade of Greatness, even in front of Troy (Colin Hanks, Tom's son), his newly hired road manager. Malkovich invests him with self-importance and yet slyly suggests it's not all an act; you believe at some level Buck really does love that town, and also when he says, as he always does, "I love you people!".

Excerpt from Roger Ebert at the Chicago Sun-Times located HERE



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

There is nothing overly remarkable about the image quality on the Blu-ray of The Great Buck Howard. It's competent - both grain and noise are present but, as I've said before, a superior image doesn't make the jokes any funnier. There are some surprising moments of clarity with close-ups of Malkovich. It's single-layered with about 20 Mbps for the video bitrate. Nothing is dramatically above-average but there really are no flaws to pick over either. Colors and contrast support the film adequately. Many of the scenes are dark venues with lit stages and this is where the noise surfaces to minute levels. The prize here isn't the image quality anyway - it's the film.















Audio :

The DTS-HD Master 5.1 at 3612 kbps is basically wasted as there are no strong moments of effect noise like explosions or gunplay. It's a very passive track with minimal, almost non-existent separation. Like the video - it supports the, mostly dialogue-driven, film appropriately.  There are optional English or Spanish subtitles and my Momitsu tells me it's a region FREE disc.



Extras :

It's a decent and laid back commentary with McGinly and Colin Hanks but many won't find the desire to indulge. We get about 30-minutes of SD deleted, and extended scenes, plus outtakes and some behind the scenes soundbytes but nothing is really of any importance. There are preview of Magnolia films in HD but the best thing was the 6-minutes with The Amazing Kreskin - he remains 'something else'.



Who wasn't fascinated with The Amazing Kreskin? - cheesy and geeky in his own way... but he had this dynamic hold over a crowd - almost like a old-time roadshow evangelist in a large tent in the deep south. There really is no one like him and this film evokes his on-stage spirit so well. His boisterous handshakes with that glowing grin on his face were more of his quirky charm. I just realized that so many 'younger' people will have no idea who Kreskin is. Their loss. Malkovich is awesome in the role - but the film's weakness is in the closing. It just doesn't evolve definitively although the story is such a magnificent concept. It's still VERY entertaining and enjoyable. The underwhelming Blu-ray
does it's job - I'd have loved some old Kreskin TV shows as an extra but this is a cool little film that seems tailor-made for a niche following. I strongly suggest seeing it.

Gary Tooze

July 18th, 2009





About the Reviewer: 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
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
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








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