Finding Neverland (Blu-ray)
This is a plausible, compelling look at the artistic process and inspirations behind J.M. Barrie's writing of Peter Pan. It features complex and convincing acting from Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet and the still luminous Julie Christie. Not to mention the wild boys, led by Freddie Highmore. Worth mentioning too that director Marc Forster also did 2001's Monster's Ball and last year's sadly underrated Stranger Than Fiction. A filmmaker worth watching.
Finding Neverland is as captivating from beginning to end as its subject matter, which is really Peter Pan and his creator, Barrie. This has become something of a classic in our household. We've watched this movie several times since its DVD release a few years ago, and while I loved it the first time I saw it, I like it more and more each time I see it. I was thrilled to see it show up in HD on Blu-ray so early in the game.
Disney has released Finding Neverland in 1080p using MPEG-2. I wish I could say the results met my expectations. I've come to expect a lot from Disney's Blu-ray Discs, as I think that studio has been as consistent in getting producing top rate HD transfers as any studio. This transfer isn't overtly bad in any wya, it's just surprisingly soft, and uninvolving. The production design is rich in detail, but this transfer is more reminiscent of excellent DVD than great HD. This what I'd expect from HD over cable, not Blu-ray. Respectable but nothing more.
The sound is miles ahead, presented here in uncompressed 24-bit/48kHz PCM. This is not an active mix, and its most impressive attribute is its lush, wonderful and wonderful sounding score. A much deserved Oscar was won for this music, and the uncompressed PCM soundtrack is full, rich and warm. Very nice stuff, if not earth or window shattering.
Extras are DVD-ish but solid- running commentary by the director, writer and producer, a Making Of and outtakes and deleted scenes. Again, solid but not scintillating.
Finding Neverland on Blu-ray isn't quite what I'd hoped. If you love this movie like I do, then you'll get it anyway as it is a small but perceptible improvement over the DVD. If you're on the fence, rent it and wait until they do better with this one.
Picture: 7 out of 10
Sound: 8 out of 10
Video reviewed on Marantz VP-11S1 1080p DLP projector, 80" wide Stewart Filmscreen Studiotek 130 screen. Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD player and Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray Disc player via HDMI to Anthem AVM 50. Audio sent as PCM over HDMI to Anthem AVM 50. Ayre MX-R monoblocks and Theta Dreadnaught power amps, and Vandersteen loudspeakers. All video cables by Bettercables, all audio cables by AudioQuest