Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Blu-Ray Review: Love Happens (Ultimate Edition)

When self-help author Dr. Burke Ryan (Aaron Eckhart) arrives in Seattle to teach a sold-out seminar, he unexpectedly meets florist Eloise Chandler (Jennifer Aniston), the one person who might be able to help him help himself. But will two people who may have met the right person at exactly the wrong time be able to give love a chance? If they can, they'll find that sometimes, when you least expect it…love happens.

Audio / Video (4.5 out of 5)

This Ultimate Edition of Love Happens is sleek to the say the least! Upon initial boot-up, the disc displays a computerized HUD with a map of North America. If your Blu-ray player is profile 2.0 compatible and connected to the internet, the HUD displays your location, the time of day, time zone, the current weather in your location, and the name of your ISP. Clicking "Continue" takes you to the disc's main menu, where you can access the feature as well as a ton of extras.

Through the magic of seamless branching, this dual-layered 50-gigabyte BD contains both the 109-minute theatrical and 105-minute "inflight entertainment" cuts of the movie, as well as the 135 minute "International edition" (released only in select Latin American markets, and the Phillipines). But that's not all. Choosing "Select Version" from the disc's main menu, highlighting the asterisks at the bottom of the expanding menu, and entering the code "5558345" (Eckhart's character's cellphone number) will add a "Play All Editions" option to the menu. This allows you to watch all three versions of the film at once via split-screen (the shorter cuts both play at respectively slower speeds so they will all play out to the international cut's 135 minute running time.) The 1080p VC-1 transfer on all three versions of the movie offers a stark improvement over this month's previous DVD release of the theatrical cut. Color accuracy and black levels are superior, as is detail. The image is pristine, showing no signs of dirt or damage. Unfortunately, the transfer suffers from an overuse of digital noise reduction, resulting in a smooth, glossy image that is a tad weak on textural details (especially in close-ups) and suffers from minor moiré effects. Whatever the case, Love Happens ultimately delivers the kind of stable image that squarely positions the next-gen HD formats above over-the-air high-def broadcasts, which often can't handle 'meet-cute' sequences and suffer from excessive pixelization.

The default audio option is an absolutely bombastic DTS-HD lossless mix in 6.1 surround. Fine detail and spatial imaging are excellent. The dating montage sequences deliver the noise in the form of elevator bell-rings, champagne corks popping and slamming car doors. The mix is a huge improvement over the standard, vanilla DTS track on the original DVD. And both the EX and ES tracks benefit from the placement of the extra surround center channel; granted, pans across the rear soundfield are not as seamless or abundant as on, say, Must Love Dogs, but their presence at all is impressive for a remix. Other audio options include a Dolby 5.1 EX track (in English), Dolby stereo surround tracks in French, Spanish, Korean and Brazilian Portuguese, a special headphone mix in English, a Dolby 5.1 TheaterVision option that includes an audio description for the visually impaired, and an isolated 'music and effects only' track. Subtitle options include English, Spanish, Dutch, German, Malay, Korean, Big 5 Chinese, French, and English for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. The International Cut is presented with English, Spanish and Tagalog audio and subtitle options.

(Note: some users have experienced poor image quality when viewing this Blu-ray on the Samsung first-generation BD-P1000 Blu-ray disc player when connected via the deck's HDMI output. Apparently these problems, including decreased resolution and diluted color reproduction, are largely corrected when switching to the BD-P1000's component outputs. It has also been confirmed that both Samsung and Sony have been made aware of the issue, and the problem most likely stems from a faulty internal scaler chip in the BD-P1000. Samsung is reportedly working to fix the problem on future shipments of the unit, and plans to soon issue a firmware patch upgrade to correct the problem on current players.)

Extras (5 out of 5)

It is in the extras that this Blu-Ray edition of Love Happens really shines. Besides two commentary tracks from director Brandon Camp (both feature-length and scene-specific tracks), there is also a commentary track bringing together over 60 of the actors (pretty much everyone who had a speaking part gives insight on their performance methods), a commentary from director of photography Eric Edwards that serves as a cinematography masterclass in itself, over forty deleted/extended scenes, a feature-length making-of documentary by Laurent Bouzereau documenting the film's nearly three-year long incubation process, a one-hour documentary on the founding of the city of Seattle (the film's location) and an informative featurette focusing on the painstaking digital work that went into making Jennifer Aniston's hair look so lustrous (and natural!) on-screen (yes, computers were involved!). Rounding out the list of featurettes are a short doc on the preparation of the inflight entertainment edit of the film, a brief biography of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (who developed the '5 stages of grief' model on which the plot here hinges) and a special round-table discussion on the influence of this film on contemporary American culture, recorded at the Museum of Modern Art in November 2009 featuring pop sociologist Malcolm Gladwell, Professor of Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Dr. George Bonanno, and Chief of Investigative Projects for ABC News, Christopher E. Isham. Twelve television spots, three trailers and the little-seen red-band trailer are also included, as well as an international poster gallery and downloadable PDFs of nearly 75 international newspaper reviews and thinkpieces about the film thrown in for good measure. In all, there are nearly nine hours of bonus material included on this disc.

Final Thoughts:

I happen to love Love Happens, and with such a wealth of extra material and three different editions of the film to choose from, you might as well get rid of all your other Blu-Ray films, pop this disc in the player, weld the tray shut, tie your remote control to your wrist, and never leave your house again. Love Happens has redefined home entertainment.


Bob Hopeless said...

This is one of the funniest things I have ever read. I am a little embarrassed to admit that it wasn't until I read the bit about the seminar at the Museum of Modern Art that I was fully convinced you were kidding. Because things are becoming just that inane.

GraphicMatt said...

Holy hell this is funny.