Cinderella Man (Blu-ray)

Seeking a second chance to provide for his family and for his own personal redemption, professional boxer Jim Braddock (Russell Crowe) turns a fortuitous chance into a bout against legendary boxer Max Baer (Craig Beirko). With the nation knee deep in the Great Depression, Braddock gives the folks someone to cheer for.

Who would have thought when watching The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days that little Ronny Howard would turn out to be one of the best directors of his generation? His credits include Cocoon, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind—which won him Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Picture—and the popular Dan Brown adaptations The Da Vinci Code and Angel & Demons. Cinderella Man isn't his best film, but it ranks near the top thanks to the outstanding performances by Russell Crowe, Paul Giamatti, and Renee Zellweger as well as a terrific screenplay by Cliff Hollingsworth and the inspiring true story of Jim Braddock.

The VC-1 encode is a perfectly fine HD presentation, but it isn't necessarily pretty. Cinematographer Salvatore Totino chose a warm golden palette, muted colors, and dark backdrops to depict the depressing times—and it worked. Black levels are inky and deep, but shadow detail isn't the greatest due to the low lighting, so the finer detail in the backgrounds is mostly obscured. In brighter scenes, the encode certainly shines, especially during the boxing sequences when the spotlights are on the ring. Detail comes alive with glistening sweat on the competitors, clarity in the crowds, and textures in clothing.

The DTS-HD MA soundtrack has some stellar moments, but it's the quieter passages that keep it from being a top-tier audio experience. The highlights include any of the boxing matches, which feature ample ambient crowd noise, tight bass—especially when a punch lands—and a wide soundstage across the front speakers. Unfortunately, the dialog-driven scenes have some issues. Although they are clearly intelligible, there's virtually no surround activity when indoor conversations take place—no street traffic or kids playing outdoors.

There is a plethora of bonus features, such as three separate audio commentaries, nearly 40 minutes of deleted scenes, 12 behind-the-scenes featurettes and documentaries, and a photo montage—unfortunately, they're all in standard definition. The disc is also BD-Live capable, but the only goodies available are some downloadable trailers.

Ron Howard certainly knows how to tell a story, and Cinderella Man is no exception. Normally, I cringe when I see a movie over two hours, but the pacing here is excellent and it never drags. Unfortunately, the creative choices in the audio and video keep this from being an ultimate-demo showpiece, but it's still quality entertainment. Recommended.

Release Date:May 26, 2009
Studio: Universal

Movie: 9/10
Picture: 8/10
Sound: 8/10

Review System

Oppo BDP-83 Blu-ray player

JVC DLA-RS1 projector
Stewart FireHawk screen (76.5" wide, 16:9)

Onkyo Pro PR-SC885 pre/pro
Anthem PVA-7 power amplifier
Belkin PF60 power conditioner

M&K S-150s (L, C, R)
M&K SS-150s (LS, RS, SBL, SBR)
SVS PC-Ultra subwoofer

Monoprice HDMI cables (source to pre/pro)
Best Deal analog-audio cables
PureLink HDC Fiber Optic HDMI Cable System (15 meters) from pre/pro to projector

Acoustical treatments from GIK Acoustics