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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Awakenings [Blu-ray]


(Penny Marshall, 1990)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Columbia Pictures Corporation

Video: Image Entertainment



Region: 'A'-locked (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:00:41.234

Disc Size: 21,506,247,913 bytes

Feature Size: 21,190,004,736 bytes

Video Bitrate: 19.94 Mbps

Chapters: 16

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: March 22nd, 2011



Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 2154 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2154 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)



English (SDH), Spanish, none



• None





Description: Based on the true story of a research physician who uses an experimental drug to 'awaken' the catatonic victims of a rare sleeping sickness. The first patient to receive the drug (De Niro in an astounding performance) is filled with awe and enthusiasm that teaches the introverted doctor to value life's simple pleasures. Academy Award Nominations: 3, including Best Picture, Best Actor--Robert De Niro, Best (Adapted) Screenplay.



The Film:

"Awakenings" is cause for rejoicing, a literate and compassionate film in this season of chintz and barbarism. A sweetly stirring drama in the spirit of "Rain Man," it explores the mutual gain in a union between an emotionally handicapped man and his neurologically disabled friend. Featured here are Robin Williams and Robert De Niro, attuned as bow and fiddle in their roles of a clinical psychiatrist and the catatonic patient he awakens from a sleep of 30 years.

Based on the book by Oliver Sacks, the story takes place in 1969 in a Bronx chronic-care hospital for those with the most profound neurological diseases. Williams plays Malcolm Sayer, an absent-minded, gentle genius partly modeled on the celebrated medical writer. He is a retiring soul, a wallflower turned inward, whose last job was to extract one dekagram of Milontin from four tons of earthworms.

Excerpt from Rita Kempley at the Washington Post located HERE

In a display of subtle acting, his most subdued yet, Robin Williams is terrific as a painfully shy, retiring research physician who finds himself reluctantly practicing in a chronic hospital in 1969 in "Awakenings."

Despite his terrific performance, however, Williams is no match for his co-star, Robert De Niro, as the patient who is the film's primary focus. It is a brilliant star turn and could well mark the actor's third Oscar after "The Godfather" and "Raging Bull." (Oscar-voters love stars who play handicapped characters, as two recent wins attest, Dustin Hoffman for "Rain Man" and Daniel Day-Lewis for "My Left Foot.")

Excerpt from Chris Hicks at Deseret News located HERE

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

Awakenings appears fairly modest looking on Blu-ray from Image Entertainment.  It is quite clean with some grain but while looking superior to SD doesn't test the boundaries of this newer format.  This is only single-layered and has a middling bitrate and nothing gets dynamically sharp or displaying an abundance of depth. It is progressive and 1080 resolution and I suspect any limitations in the appearance are more to do with the source and original stock than any fault of the transfer. There is some marginal improvement in the colors (skin tones seem a shade warm at times) but contrast is more subdued than we usually see from Blu-ray. By modern standards this is fairly tame visually but as a representation of the original - I doubt much more could be done. This un-manipulated Blu-ray probably looks like the film Awakenings - which is about all we can ask.


















Audio :

Image Entertainment have supplied a competent DTS-HD Master 5.1 at a reasonable 2154 kbps. The film doesn't support any aggression or, really, any notable separations. Dialogue is all very clear and Randy Newman's score isn't his most memorable but is replicated with some crispness. There are optional subtitles (sample below) in English or Spanish and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.


Extras :

Nutt'in - not even a trailer.



I had never seen Awakenings before - and I guess I was in the mood as I liked it well enough despite not being a big Robin Williams fan. Any time De Niro strays from a crime/gangster film character - I am intrigued.  He is very good here as is the story. Penny Marshall doesn't venture too far in any direction - making the film excessively cloying or inappropriately humorous. Yes - it is MOR territory but that doesn't have to be a strong negative. No extras at all is a detraction but a solid selling feature for the Blu-ray is the price. If you haven't seen Awakenings before - this may be a decent option to pick up. 

Gary Tooze

March 16th, 2011


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 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 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.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
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)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze






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