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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

The Answer Man [Blu-ray]

(aka "Arlen Faber")

 

(John Hindman, 2009)

 

 

 

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Kevin Messick

Blu-ray: Magnolia Home Entertainment

 

Disc:

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

Runtime: 1:37:03.567

Disc Size: 24,951,716,822 bytes

Feature Size: 21,074,282,496 bytes

Video Bitrate: 23.51 Mbps

Chapters: 13

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: November 3rd, 2009

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Video codec: VC-1  / 1080p / 23.976 fps

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 3595 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3595 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps

 

Subtitles:

English SDH, Spanish, and none

 

Extras:

• Commentary by Writer/Director John Hindman, Producer Kevin Messick and Actor Lauren Graham

• Characters of The Answer Man – in SD (10:14)

• The Answer Man: From Concept to Creation – SD (9:57)

• HDNet: A Look at The Answer Man

 

 

The Film: 5
Twenty years ago, in 1988, Arlen Faber (Jeff Daniels) published his book "Me and God," a quasi-autobiographical dialogue with God that some took as Gospel, others philosophical. The book immediately became a best seller, was translated into a halfzillion languages, spawned dozens of books by other writers spinning off on its ideas, and pretty much cornering the "God market."

The trouble is that Faber hasn't been heard of since. He refuses public appearances and hasn't written another word – either about his own book or toward a new one. He has become increasingly reclusive, living alone, caring for neither pets nor plants, speaking only to his publisher (Nora Dunn) – and, then, only when absolutely necessary. Though he lives in an upscale apartment home in Philadelphia, Faber goes to considerable lengths to keep his identity secret. While the mailman suspects the truth, even he is uncertain.

When his back goes out, he crawls to the local chiropractor (Lauren Graham), single mother of young Alex (Max Antisell). Elizabeth has recently moved to Philadelphia following her husband's having left Alex and herself one day a few years earlier – a loss she has not been able to come to terms with, especially for her son. She and Arlen, therefore, make for your typical odd couple as they attempt to negotiate the quicksand of a relationship where need and resistance are equally palpable.

About ten or fifteen minutes before the end of the movie I wondered if I hadn't misconstrued Hindman's basic premise about the book: It seems as though the public in general actually believes that Faber has a direct connection with God, as his publisher tries to sell the relationship, and I assumed that while some folks would be that gullible (I'm being nice here), most saw Faber and his disappearance as one big question mark, and his book, just a book, however insightful. People actually thought he had THE answers to life's difficult questions – answers that he received by way of a direct pipeline to the Creator – and, again, while a good many people would like to have such a person be their personal guru, it struck me as unbalanced for the story between Arlen and Elizabeth to be a stand-in for Mary Magdelene and Jesus. I exaggerate, yes, but I found it troublesome to find myself in the final act in what seemed to me a different movie than the one I thought I was in from the start. I returned to watch the opening act again (God bless home video!) and remained convinced that Hindman had taken a turn without signaling. Your experience might be different.

 


 

Image: 8/8    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

What a clean and pleasing image Magnolia has offered us for this Blu-ray – so clean that I felt I could eat off the sidewalk. And everyone is so pretty: the three featured women, (Graham, with a twinkling smile that could melt icebergs; Olivia Thirby, ditto that with smaller icebergs; Kat Dennings, whose hat fools no one) and the one other adult man with anything to say (Lou Taylor Pucci - what does he need three names for?) Jeff Daniels, once something of a matinee idol (Purple Rose of Cairo) still looks good at 54.

With such an appealing cast, and especially Daniels and Graham giving their all for the war effort, it is not surprising that Hindman wants to photograph them in their best light- a light that is generally favorably captured on this transfer. I found a couple of minor instances of edge enhancement, waxy flesh, and more grain that I thought useful. The image was inconsistently soft at times, as in the longer shots; the contrast was also variable, sometimes flattish, though mostly very agreeable. Color seemed just about perfect. A good, if not stellar transfer with a high bit rate that takes advantage of a large portion of the single layered disc available.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 7/7
Aside from a ridiculously loud exit music volume, the uncompressed DTS HD mix is, as expected for this movie, largely front-directed, with crisp, clear dialogue, if not entirely always suited to the acoustic space. The score opens up the soundstage some to offer some dynamic texture to the audio.

 

Operations: 5
Magnolia has elected pump up the volume during the previews that you will almost certainly have to manage things from your remote. I also found that my remote was made impotent coming out of one of the bonus features and couldn't return to the menu without rebooting the player.

 

Extras: 4
Not much here – just a couple of short EPK segments, though you don't want to watch these before you watch the movie. Why two anyway, why not just one? To make it look like we're getting more for our clicks, perhaps? On the other hand, the commentary with the writer/director, producer and one of its two stars (Daniels is conspicuously absent – maybe he didn't know the answers) enjoys an entertaining, roundtable discussion about everything you'd ever want to know about the movie. Nothing much about God, though. There is also an HDNet segment – more EPK -coming in just under 5 minutes.
 

 

Bottom line: 6
The Answer Man was, for me, enjoyable for the first hour or so of its run, even if I was distracted by the subplot about a recovering alcoholic bookseller (Pucci). Daniels and Graham almost make it work. The transfer is good. Can't imagine why you wouldn't want the Blu-ray if you think you'll like the movie.

Leonard Norwitz
November 14th, 2009

 

 

 

 

 

About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.


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