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

Sherlock Holmes [Blu-ray]

 

(Guy Ritchie, 2009)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Wigram Productions

Blu-ray: Warner Home Video

 

Disc:

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

Runtime: 2:04:50.607

Disc Size: 38,400,175,270 bytes

Feature Size: 27,188,656,128 bytes

Video Bitrate: 19.61 Mbps

Chapters: 13

Case: Standard Blu-ray case w/ slipcover

Release date: March 30th, 2010

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: VC-1 Video

 

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 3787 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3787 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
DTS Express English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / 16-bit

 

Subtitles:

English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, none

 

Extras:

• Maximum Movie Mode with Walk-Ons by Guy Ritchie, and others in PIP

• Sherlock Holmes: Reinvented – HD (16:17)

• 8 Focus Points – in HD (31:17)

• DVD/Digital Copy Disc

• BD-Live

 

 

The Film: 7
As much as I was unfavorably disposed to this movie after being barraged with endless trailers of Sherlock, the pugilist and action hero, amidst an occult threat to Great Britain and beyond, I have to admit I was entertained by the actual film, though I still had a couple of significant reservations.

I rather liked the "re-imagining" of Holmes by Guy Ritchie and Lionel Wigram (who doubles as one of the movie's more important producers.) As performed – I think that might be the right word – by Downey, I can see Holmes as a man of action, not just theory and deduction. Holmes isn't Nero Wolfe, after all. I like, too, that as smart as Holmes is here, he doesn't know everything about everything, and is perfectly willing to be surprised and delighted by some newfangled invention whose purpose and machinery escapes him.

And if you can accept Downey's idea of Holmes, then Watson must surely approximate Holmes in some ways. He must at least be fearless. (Watson is described by Conan Doyle as being an athlete in his prime, a crack shot, and having been recently and prematurely retired from service in Afghanistan after a serious injury. I think Watson sees himself as in his mid-to-late thirties when he first encounters Holmes.) Jude Law makes sense. Interestingly, though Law is a Londoner, and Downey a New Yorker, their spoken "Received" English is tailored to suit. Their banter is lively – sometimes screwball, sometimes adjunctive, sometimes adversarial – but their friendship and mutual respect and support is always tangible.

And here we come to my first and only difficulty with the casting: Rachel McAdams, who doesn't strike me as having been nearly aged enough to account for her history, even as offered in the movie. She's champagne rather than Pinot Noir. McAdams does well in the action scenes and she has a certain feminine spark that we can believe Downey would respond to. But she seems entirely too young, even high schoolish, hardly the one woman who beat Holmes in some previous encounter (cf. "A Scandal in Bohemia.") Interestingly, the age thing is an illusion. Downey looks ten years older than 44 and McAdams could pass for ten younger than 31. But it's the way she carries herself and speaks (Irene is not English so that is not the issue) that either works or doesn't. For me, she's eye candy, easily devoured in one gulp by any man with a speaking part in this drama. The same goes for Kelly Reilly, who plays Watson's love interest. I had the feeling that Reilly could have dispatched McAdams with a glance if they were adversaries. Now that I think of it, Reilly would have made a better Irene. (I think it's safe to deduce that the choice of Ms McAdams was informed by the same wisdom that assured us that Jack Black would be the ideal Carl Denham.)

Whatever we might think of the re-imagined Holmes, Ritchie & Co. do not wreak anywhere near the damage to the accepted canon as does the latest Star Trek movie (the destruction of Vulcan, indeed!) And speaking of destruction, how about the big CG at the docks - equaled in ambition only by its audacity and willingness to destroy without consequence – or maybe getting off with a night in jail is the way they did things back then. It may just as well have been a parking ticket!

But what would a Sherlock Holmes adventure be without a mystery to solve – better yet: two intersecting puzzles at the same time? The key mystery to be solved is the apparent resurrection of occult serial killer, Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong, in a performance that would have done Dracula proud), who is hung at the pleasure of the Crown at the beginning of the movie. It's a trick, of course, that even takes in Watson, who pronounces him dead. But how and why – and how does Irene's reappearance in the great detective's life connect with Blackwood once it is revealed that the man she wants Holmes to locate turns up in Blackwood's coffin.


 

Image: 8/9   NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken 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.

Warner's VC-1 transfer to high definition retains the painterly look of the film's theatrical presentation. There's nothing glossy or refined about the image. It's all a little murky and modestly grainy, with textures suggesting, rather than defining themselves. Contrast is high but well under control, blacks are deep and noiseless, shadow detail is sufficient, but is easily swamped by the general lack of resolution. (There are exceptions: check out the close up of Blackwood at Capture #11.) Color is desaturated for stylistic reasons, flesh tones are agreeable, with flashes of color that peek through from Irene and Mary's costumes. Since a not inconsiderable part of what we see is CG, the difference between its comparatively high resolution and the feature film is a little disconcerting, but this is not the fault of the transfer. However, Maximum Movie Mode seems to take up so much file space that bit transference for the feature film appears potentially compromised, but even with MMM, there's plenty of room left on this dual layer disc for a more robust rendering.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 9/7
From the opening shot of horse-drawn carriages rumbling down the streets in a rush, passing our point of view from behind, we know this is going to be a carefully planned soundscape. Indeed, this movie simmers with opportunities galore for the sound mixer – all convincingly blended in uncompressed DTS-HD MA 5.1 with the music and dialogue – the latter always crisp and clear (I never even needed to resort to the subtitles.) And, as much as I deplored the shipwreck scene for all sorts of reasons, the audio does its part to pull our chain good and proper.

 

Operations: 9
One of the best menu designs ever, especially when we get to the Special Features section, where each segment is given a brief summary with timings. After loading, there are two (only two) forced, but skippable previews. The eight Focus Points can be viewed as a Play All. These guys seemed to have thought of everything but animated menus. I took a point off for its meager 13 chapters.

 

 

Extras: 10
In place of the familiar feature commentary is Warner's Maximum Movie Mode, and what distinguishes this particular presentation, and raises it well above the level of your usual PIP production, is the presence of Guy Ritchie who walks onto his stage a few seconds before the start of the movie, all Cecil B. De Mille like, and guides us through a kind of Power Point presentation. He does this off and on throughout the movie – and every time it's like our going to film school. He's really good at this. When Ritchie's not on, the movie careens its merry way, supported by about an hour's worth of PIP bits helmed by whomever has something to say. These bits may be more garden variety in form, but they are nonetheless informative and entertaining.

 

 

Bottom line: 8
OK, I have reservations about the movie, but I can't say it wasn't diverting. I was never bored and always entertained, even when not entirely happy. There are huge dollops of humor, romance, mystery, and fantastic imagines of London 150 years ago. I should place this Blu-ray in nomination for Best Special Features. Great sound. An image that does proper justice to the intentions. So, if you're not sure of a purchase, rent it first, but make sure you check out the Extra Features. Thumbs Up.

Leonard Norwitz
March 27th, 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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