Liberal Arts (Blu-ray) (2012)

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Released 17-Apr-2013

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Romantic Comedy Calibration Signals-DTS-HD Master Audio Sound Check : 5.1 / 7.1
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2012
Running Time 97:23
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Josh Radnor
Studio
Distributor
BCDF Pictures
Icon Entertainment
Starring Josh Radnor
Elizabeth Olsen
Richard Jenkins
Allison Janney
Elizabeth Reaser
John Magaro
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $19.95 Music Ben Toth


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English DTS HD Master Audio 7.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Titles from 1:35 to 6:30 into action.

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Plot Synopsis

     Josh Radnor has had considerable success as the star of TV's How I Met Your Mother. No doubt with the financial clout this popular success has given him, the mid 30s actor has embarked on a big screen career. His first effort was 2010's happythankyoumoreplease, which won the Audience Award at The Sundance Film Festival, as well as a nomination for the Grand Jury Prize. With this modest success behind him we now have available his second effort Liberal Arts, which premiered at last year's Sundance Festival.

     Written by, directed by and starring Radnor the film tells the story of Jesse Fischer (Radnor) a college admission officer in NYC. The thirty-five year old daydreams through admission interviews, ruminating over the best years of his life, those spent at his Ohio - unnamed - college. Those were days spent lolling on lawns, reading and discussing poetry and otherwise immersed in the world of language and literature. Jesse receives an invitation from his old college English professor Peter Holbert (Richard Jenkins) to attend his impending retirement ceremony. Jesse readily accepts the invitation and returns to his alma mater to roll around on the green lawns and gaze poetically at blue skies. At a dinner party after the ceremony Jesse meets old friends of the professor and their lovely nineteen-year-old drama student daughter, Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen). The following day the couple spend strolling around campus discussing life, literature and music. Jesse also meets up with his old romantics teacher (Allison Janney), his favourite teacher, and brilliant but troubled student Dean (John Magaro). Jesse and Zibby are attracted, despite the sixteen year difference in ages, and after his return to NYC the two exchange handwritten letters which become more and more intimate and personal, though their topic is frequently classical music, a world which Zibby is opening to Jesse. Will these two mismatched lovers - at least as far as their ages go - overcome the odds and find lasting happiness, or will their relationship founder on the sixteen years which separate them?

     This is a charming and likeable film which is generally filled with moments of comedy and warmth. Depth is added by the character portrayed by Richard Jenkins (TV's Six Feet Under), a man who has second thoughts about his retirement and sums up pithily the pain of remaining nineteen inside while the image reflected in the mirror ages relentlessly. Also potent is the excellent turn by Allison Janney (TV's The West Wing) who delivers her lines with sophisticated wit. Even John Magaro scores with his few scenes. Less effective is Zac Effron as a sort of beanie wearing, wisdom spouting leprechaun (???) encountered by Jesse on the college lawns. Also a little too pat is the more age appropriate bookstore clerk (Elizabeth Reaser), who offers a very convenient alternative to the young Zibby. Totally charming, though, is the performance of Elizabeth Olsen ( Martha Marcy May Marlene), who glows with youth and intelligence neatly side-stepping what could have become sugary cliché. She even manages to make the obsession with vampire novels acceptable, a writing misfire by Radnor. Generally though the screenplay is very strong, nicely balancing the comedy with the more serious theme of the film. The pervasive thread is the transition from youth to maturity and the acceptance of what life offers. This is handled with delicacy by the youthful writer, allowing the ideas to come from his character's experiences and with a minimum of overt exposition. As an actor Radnor delivers a well-paced, balanced performance that never outstays its welcome, despite the fact that he is rarely off screen.

     The film looks beautiful, the college campus as glowing as in the hero's memory, with consistently lovely colour throughout. The photography by (Seamus Tierney) is totally unobtrusive and provides attractive, postcard images from beginning to end. The original music by (Ben Tosh) is also attractive, frequently with surges of either piano, strings or guitar. Also worth noting are the gorgeous classical music excerpts which abound through the narrative.

     This film was a delightful surprise. It is literate and intelligent, and it was a pleasure to sit for ninety minutes and listen to people whose concerns were, at least partially, of the mind. I think refreshing might be a very appropriate adjective to use to describe Josh Radnor's second feature.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Liberal Arts has been given an extremely attractive Blu-ray transfer.

     The film is presented at the aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the original ratio having been 2.39:1. The image is 16x9 enhanced.

     From the first widescreen frame to the last this is a flaw free transfer. The image is sharp, smooth and clean, with great detail in every scene. The opening NYC street scenes are a mass of detail, as are the interiors, the gorgeous college campus exteriors and the close-ups. The colour palette is wide and vivid, but never garish, with consistency throughout. The skin tones are amongst the best I've seen. Nothing ever "pops off the screen", instead there is an absolute consistency throughout. There is not a trace of enhancement or manipulation.

     There are excellent English Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired, with dialogue white and centred at the foot of the screen. Effects are differentiated by the use of colour.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     There are two audio streams, English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, and English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1. Unfortunately I have not graduated to a 7.1 installation, so had to make do with the excellent 5.1 soundtrack.

     The disc opens with an outstanding 49 second DTS-HD Master Audio promotion.

     The soundtrack is limited only by the nature of the film. That accepted, this is an excellent audio experience. Dialogue is front and centred and beautifully clean, sharp and clear. Not one syllable of the extensive dialogue is in doubt. There are no sync problems. The surrounds are employed primarily for ambience, placing us amidst the sounds of the opening New York street scenes, campus life, restaurants and dinner parties. The attractive original score from Ben Tosh surges with piano, strings and guitars from all channels, while a variety of classical excerpts sound most impressive given the full channel treatment. The sub-woofer does exactly what it should when the music provides the opportunity.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     The local release has nothing extra apart from the sound check.

Menu

     The menu is presented at the foot of a full screen montage of scenes from the film, accompanied by the song "Another Day on the Subway".

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The local Blu-ray release misses out on :

     The Region A Blu-ray misses out on the 7.1 soundtrack.

Summary

     Liberal Arts is a comedy/drama that successfully combines its elements, with a couple of minor misses. Overwhelmingly though, this is a thoughtful, funny look at the problems of maturation and making adult decisions in life. The youngish star, writer and director are all one - Josh Radnor - and he makes us look forward to his next project. There is a fine supporting cast, excellent photography, perfect colour, a good soundtrack and a glowing HD transfer. It's a pity that we are not given any extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Wednesday, June 05, 2013
Review Equipment
DVDSONY BLU RAY BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA55A950D1F : 55 inch LCD HD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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