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

Jennifer's Body (Unrated) [Blu-ray]

 

(Karyn Kusama, 2009)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Dubiecki/Novick/Reitman

Blu-ray: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

 

Disc:

Region: A

Runtime: 1:47:29.979

Disc Size: 47,122,004,358 bytes

Feature Size: 26,985,363,456 bytes

Video Bitrate: 25.82 Mbps

Chapters: 24

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: December 29th, 2009

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 3803 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3803 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core:
5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio French 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Portuguese 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps

 

Subtitles:

English ,Chinese (traditional and simplified), French, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai, none

 

Extras:

• Audio Commentary with Director Karyn Kusama and Writer Diablo Cody (Theatrical Cut)

• Audio Commentary with Director Karyn Kusama (Extended Cut)

• Deleted Scenes – HD (13:55)

• Gag Reel – SD (4:55)

• Video Diaries – HD (12:50)

• Megan Fox is HOT – HD (0:55)

• Megan Fox "Peer Pressure" PSA – SD (0:40)

• Fox Movie Channel Presents: "Life After Film School" with Diablo Cody - SD (26:25)

• Jennifer's Body: The Dead Pool – HD (13:50)

• Digital Copy Disc

 

 

The Film: 4
Fox Atomic, director Karyn Kusama (Girlfight), writer Diablo Cody (Juno), and actors Megan Fox (a name I was amused to learn the Transformer actress was given at birth) and Amanda Seyfried (Mama Mia) ask – and answer – the question if it is possible to make a successful horror/demon/slasher movie without suspense, scares, skin, sex, score, stunts or special effects? It's not that Jennifer's Body doesn't have these things, only that they don't seem to do what they're supposed to. But, we should ask if the intention was, instead, to make a campy, sexless, creepiless homage of some sort – perhaps even a comedy. Hmmm. For in addition to having precious little of the seven S's going for it, Jennifer's Body – you gotta give these gals points for the title, yes – doesn't have much humor either, though that it is its strongest suit.

So while the title – and, especially, the "Unrated" tag on the cover - turns out to be something of a tease ("Unrated" here simply means that no one ever rated the extended cut of the movie), it has to be said that any opportunity to feast one's eyes on a hotty such as Megan Fox, who gives a creditable performance here considering the material, counts for something. And then there's Amanda Seyfried as "Needy", Jennifer's best friend since their sandbox days: Are we supposed to be fooled by those Clark Kent glasses she wears into believing she is not the adorable creature we know from Mama Mia! Amanda may not exude the primal sex appeal that emanates from Ms. Fox, but she's got to be the second best looking girl at the high school.

A brief summary of the plot – and there is a plot: Jennifer and Needy attend a late-night concert at a local tavern so that Jennifer can pick up the band's leader. But the place burns down in mid-song and Jennifer is swept away by the band for an unanticipated night of ritual murder. Jennifer returns all demony and sets about eating various boys at school – mostly innocent ones, I'm sorry to say. Needy, whom I neglected to mention narrates this story from her solitary confinement cell at the local nuthouse, is quite alarmed at the change her once best friend assumes, so the question is: will Needy turn Jennifer in or . . . ?

Jennifer's Body isn't really a bad film. It just doesn't deliver much for our time and money. My main complaint is that the serial killings are antagonistic, rather than, say, counterpoint, to what I take to be the main theme of the story: "sisters" - their loyalties and jealousies. Both lead actresses acquit themselves well, Amanda being the more accomplished actress with much more on her plate in terms of character development. She also turns out to be a very good narrator – a task at which many a good actor (think Leonardo DiCaprio in The Beach) fails miserably. The cinematography is sometimes seductive but the effects are generally, perhaps intentionally (how can we know?), ludicrous - I’m thinking here of Jennifer’s projectile puking scenes, which are not so disgusting, which might have been OK, as they are pointless. My feeling is that a poorly done effect doesn't make it satire.


 

Image: 7/8    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.

In the opening shot, in what I took to be a psychiatric facility for the criminally insane, I felt that shadow areas were a brightened, offering more detail, but sacrificing contrast. This may not have been the fault of the transfer, if indeed it is a fault, but a decision in post-production. In any case, it wasn’t a deal breaker, and I can’t say that the issue persisted, since later scenes retained good black levels while permitting just enough of a peak into the shadows to worry our attention. The color palette and the saturation accorded it is eye-catching and varied, but there is some inexplicable grain that shows up now and then. Sharpness is good – I think I learned more about how Megan’s eyebrows are trimmed than I wanted to know. When the light is right, skin tones are very good. I didn’t catch any problematic transfer artifacts, DNR or edge enhancement.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 7/7
I expected more in the surreal sonics department in what promised to be an atmospheric movie. Perhaps it was all too subtle for me, but I found the only scene worth the trouble of an uncompressed surround mix was the impressively staged destruction of the roadkill tavern, which was bodaciously ferocious with its whooshing bass and dizzying fiery effects. Curiously, the band, here or in their final appearance, does not sound convincingly amplified. There is little of that enveloping concert feel to the sound, which was more front-directed than it should have been. Jennifer’s attacks are given their fair share of ferocious, riotous scream, however. The music score opens up the soundstage some, but effects and ambiance are minimal. Diablo Cody’s sassy dialogue is crisply articulated. I liked the music the band plays – reminded me of Sunnydale's Bronze.

 

Operations: 4
This hidden menus thing is really getting to be annoying, but the Blu-ray for Jennifer's Body does the idea proud. In addition to the usual Play, Set-Up and Extras buttons on the main menu page is one titled "Search." "Scenes" or "Chapters" is not good enough – now we have to re-invent the wheel. As it happens, "Search" includes an item or two more than a go-to menu for scenes. But why bother! The scene selector doesn't show all of them at once so you still have to guess or search one at a time for what you are looking for. Who thinks of these things! BTW, if you pause during the feature film, a time line appears so you know where you are (good), but it never goes away until you hit play again (bad).

 

 

Extras: 6
There are two commentaries: the one that accompanies the feature film with the writer and director: it’s all about sisterhood and girl-power in substance and execution. The other commentary is for the Extended Cut, where the director speaks to the five minutes worth of differences between the two cuts. The deleted scenes, gag reel and video diary are skippable. The minute-long stare at Megan Fox is merely a series of clips from the feature film that plays to the title of the segment. "The Dead Pool" is what amounts to the making-of featurette by looking at production considerations for the movie's climactic scene – pretty good, actually. In the half-hour Fox Movie Channel segment, film students interview Diablo Cody.

 

 

Bottom line: 6
Alas, Jennifer's Body does not rise to the level of a guilty pleasure for me, though I can understand why some find it cult-worthy. Image and audio quality are both good without being of demonstration quality. Extra features are hit and miss. I suspect if you warmed to the girl-power aspects of Juno and you want to see how far it can go on a certain wavelength (as in: so you have the nerve to entertain thoughts of Megan Fox without her clothes, then prepare to have your lungs handed to you) this might be just the ticket.

Leonard Norwitz
January 3rd, 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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