directed by Mark Pellington
USA
2008

"Henry Poole Is Here" achieves something that is uncommonly difficult. It is a spiritual movie with the power to emotionally touch believers, agnostics and atheists -- in that descending order, I suspect. It doesn't say that religious beliefs are real. It simply says that belief is real. And it's a warm-hearted love story.

It centers on a man named Henry Poole (Luke Wilson), who has only one problem when he moves into a house. He is dying. Then he acquires another problem. His neighbor, Esperanza Martinez (Adrianna Barrazza), sees the face of Jesus Christ in a stain on his stucco wall. Henry Poole doesn't see the face, and indeed neither do we most of the time, even if we squint. It's a hit-or-miss sort of thing.

Wilson plays Henry as hostile and depressed. Well, he has much to be depressed about. "We hardly ever see this disease in the States," the doctor tells him. "It steamrolls through your system." Patience (Rachel Seiferth), the nearly blind checkout girl at the supermarket, gives him dietary hints when she notices he buys mostly vodka and frozen pizza. Although her glasses are half an inch thick, she's observant: "Why are you sad and angry all the time?"    

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

Posters

Theatrical Release: January 28th, 2008 Sundance Film Festival

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Comparison:

Anchor Bay - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Anchor Bay - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

Anchor Bay - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT vs. Anchor Bay - Region 'A' - Blu-ray RIGHT

DVD Box Cover

Distribution Anchor Bay - Region 1 - NTSC Anchor Bay - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Runtime 1:38:39 1:38:48.923
Video 2.35:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 4.42 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 28,728,160,531 bytes

Feature: 25,495,830,528 bytes

Video Bitrate: 27.94 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:  DVD

Bitrate:  Blu-ray

Audio English (Dolby Digital 5.1)  Dolby TrueHD Audio English 2972 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2972 kbps / 24-bit (AC3 Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps)
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz /
192 kbps / Dolby Surround
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz /
192 kbps / Dolby Surround
Subtitles English, Spanish, None English, Spanish, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Anchor Bay

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1

Edition Details:

• Commentary by director Mark Pellington and writer Albert Torres

• "The Making of Henry Poole Is Here" (15:47)
• Two Music Videos (3:31 and 3:40)
• Theatrical Trailer (2:21)
 
DVD Release Date: January 20th, 2009

Keep Case
Chapters: 20

Release Information:
Studio: Anchor Bay

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 28,728,160,531 bytes

Feature: 25,495,830,528 bytes

Video Bitrate: 27.94 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Edition Details:

• Commentary by director Mark Pellington and writer Albert Torres

• Commentary by director Mark Pellington and DOP Eric Schmidt

• "The Making of Henry Poole Is Here" (15:47)

• Deleted Scenes with optional commentary (6:34)

• All Roads Lead Home - Music Video (3:34 in HD!)

• Theatrical Trailer (2:21)
 
Blu-ray Release Date: January 20th, 2009
Standard
Blu-ray Case
Chapters: 20

 

Comments:

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

Firstly, I watched Henry Poole is Here when the DVD first came out early in 2009. I liked the film but, I suppose, not enough to bother reviewing. Recently I had the inclination to watch it again and I thought much more highly of it - enough to want to see it on Blu-ray. When the 1080P disc arrived I watched it three more times (one for the film and then the 2 commentaries). I have really grown to become a big fan. This is a much better film than many critics give it credit for. Roger Ebert was insightful enough to give it 3.5/4 but most others are rather indifferent. So, right away I'd like to endorse the film - it is quite detailed and very well made as well as being a conceptually wonderful story. 

There is quite a discrepancy between the two image transfers as the DVD shares the disc with the pan-and-scan 1.33 version so the video bitrate is appallingly low (about 1/6 that of the Blu-ray) and the visual quality suffers with less detail, more artifacts and poorer rendering of colors. Standing alone the Blu-ray is quite good - with the feature taking up over 25 Gig on the dual-layered disc. Colors are bright and true and close-ups show marvelous detail. The transfer supports solid contrast and the image is reasonably tight - especially as compared to the less effectual DVD. This Blu-ray looks very impressive for a film that might be lumped into the category of not supporting such attentive visual quality. I was surprised at how strong it appears.

Audio obviously leans to the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 at 2972 kbps. Aside from the film's, sometimes heavy-handed, music - "On An Ocean", "Song 2", "Promises" and Dylan's "Not Dark Yet" the track doesn't come into play with any notable successes. It's essentially dialogue-driven with optional subtitles on both editions and my Momitsu tells me this disc is Region 'A'-locked.

 

The Blu-ray has more supplements - with a second commentary - quite technical, on production, especially cinematography - with director Mark Pellington and DOP Eric Schmidt. It's quite good for those keen on learning about those particular facets of filmmaking. Also the Blu-ray has a pile of deleted scenes not available on the DVD. They run with an optional commentary and last over 1/2 an hour.  Both editions share the Pellington and writer Albert Torres commentary which is fairly light but brings up some salient points of interest about the story - it's original form and how it was changed for the film (and why). Both also have the standard 15-minute Making of...  with a trailer and music videos.

Solid film and solid Blu-ray that advances well beyond the $2 more it is asking, over the DVD, with a vastly superior image, audio and further, relevant extra features. The film was a very pleasant surprise upon re-visitation and the 1080P presentation offers the much better package. Absolutely recommended!       

Gary W. Tooze

 


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