Beautiful Creatures (2013)

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Released 26-Jun-2013

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Fantasy Trailer-x 3 for other films
Deleted Scenes
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2013
Running Time 118:38
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Richard LaGravenese
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Alden Ehrenreich
Alice Englert
Jeremy Irons
Viola Davis
Emmy Rossum
Thomas Mann
Case ?
RPI ? Music Thenewno2


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich) is in the last year of high school in the small town of Gatlin, South Carolina, which has more books on the banned list than in the town library. His ambition is to finish school and get away, anywhere, from the narrow minded, God fearing, bigoted townspeople, whose ire is mostly directed at the wealthy Ravenwood family. That family live in a decaying mansion outside of town and are rumoured to be devil worshippers, which is not that far from the truth. The current head of the family, Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons), is a recluse and has not been seen for some time. Ethan lives with his widowed father and is having recurring dreams about a girl he is unable to recognise; and at the end of each dream he is killed.

     After some years living away from Gatlin, Macon Ravenwood’s 15 year old niece Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert) returns to live with her uncle and comes to school on the first day after the summer break. The girls in the class, especially Emily (Zoey Deutch), who sees herself as Ethan’s girlfriend, are extremely hostile and aggressive towards Lena, who unwittingly under stress causes all the class windows to blow in! However, Ethan is fascinated by her, and soon they fall in love, much to the distress of Uncle Macon.

     As their relationship grows Ethan becomes more involved with Lena’s family but it seems he is not really in control. For her family members have supernatural powers; they are “Casters”, and on Lena’s 16th birthday in December she will be inducted into either the dark or light side. Within the family Lena’s mother Sarafine (Emma Thompson) and cousin Ridley (Emmy Rossum) became dark casters, and they believe that Lena can be the greatest dark caster of them all and manipulate Ethan and his best friend Link (Thomas Mann). Opposing them is Macon, who believes that Lena can have a choice to become light, rather than dark, and the Seer Amma (Viola Davis), who was a friend of Ethan’s mother. Complicating things further is the existence of a curse upon the family. This terrible curse dates from the American Civil War and is a result of the last Ravenwood woman who fell in love with a mortal man; a curse that requires the death of a loved one to be lifted.

     Beautiful Creatures is based upon the novel of the same name by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, the first novel in the four book Caster Chronicles series, the fourth book being published in late 2012. It is acknowledged by the authors that the books resulted from the popularity of the Twilight series, and so I guess comparisons are inevitable and seem to be mentioned in most reviews. I have not read the books of either series, nor seen the Twilight films. I don’t know if that qualifies, or disqualifies, me from reviewing Beautiful Creatures but it does mean that I can look at the film as a stand-alone film with romance and supernatural elements. I did however watch it with my daughter, who is in her early 20s!

     This is one case where I think some knowledge of the book is useful, for the nature of the supernatural powers of Lena’s family are not very clear and there are a lot of characters, especially within her family, whose role and purpose is confusing. In addition to Sarafine and Ridley, there is Macon’s mother and grandmother and young boy Larkin, not to mention Genevieve Duchannes, the creator of the curse. Indeed, the addition of the curse to the plot, on top of the emerging love story and the pending choice for Lena on her birthday, means that for the casual film watcher there is far too much to understand. There are also other relationships that are just hinted at but not explained, such as Macon and Ethan’s mother, while the powers and background of the character of Amma, who is a combination of two characters in the book (the seer and the librarian), is very obscure. It is likely that the film was intended, like the book, to be the first in a series in which these things are explained and expanded. Director Richard LaGravenese, who also wrote the screenplay, is indeed better known as a screenwriter, with films such as The Fisher King (1991), The Bridges of Madison County (1995) and The Horse Whisperer (1998) to his credit, so he has adapted novels before. But I feel that with Beautiful Creatures there was too much that needed to be explained. Most people know a bit about vampire lore so some can be taken for granted; but if an author creates an entirely new group, such as casters, exposition is required which can be confusing, slow the plot development and take away from a central romance.

     It does not help that the acting is uneven. Alice Englert (daughter of New Zealand born director Jane Campion) is not too bad, although her romance with Alden Ehrenreich (who was a last minute replacement for Jack O’Connell) lacks much spark, while Jeremy Irons could do this stuff in his sleep, and probably did. Perhaps the only one who seems to be having some fun is Emma Thompson, playing the dual roles of Sarafine and Link’s mother.

     Beautiful Creatures does have its moments. It is well made, looks stunning with the southern landscapes and beautiful vibrant colours, and there are some funny lines amid the dialogue, although not as many as the filmmakers’ probably though were funny. From the trailers, which looked interesting, I was expecting more from Beautiful Creatures, but I guess this is one instance where knowledge of the book source helps. I must add that my daughter, who has read the book, was not impressed with the film. Perhaps she is already too old.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Beautiful Creatures is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the original theatrical ratio. The film is 16x9 enhanced.

     The print is sharp with nice detail and beautiful natural colours, except when deliberately altered during the flashback scenes. The southern landscapes looked especially stunning. Skin tones are good, contrast and brightness consistent. Blacks are solid, shadow detail very good. There was occasional slight ghosting with movement plus some aliasing against rails but otherwise artefacts were absent.

     The layer change at 51:32, resulted in a very slight pause.

     English subtitles for the hearing impaired are available.

     A good looking print, without issues.

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

Audio

     Audio is choice of English Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 Kbps, Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded at 224 Kbps, and an English descriptive audio track by a female voice, also Dolby Digital 2.0 at 224 Kbps.

     I listened to the 5.1 audio track. Dialogue was occasionally a bit hard to understand due to the southern accents adopted by some of the cast (although Jeremy Irons was always crystal clear) or music coming over too loud in the mix, but there were the subtitles. The surrounds were used frequently for ambient sound, such as the alligator noises, and music; during the car crash or the battle / re-enactment they were lively, with musket sounds in the rears. The sub-woofer supported the score, added bass when needed to explosions, the fire and gunshots.

    Lip synchronisation was fine.

     The original score was by Thenewno2. It was good in places but at other times was obvious, manipulating the audience in romantic moments and sounding soppy.

     The audio was good.

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

Extras

     On start-up the following trailers play and need to be skipped: Goddess (2:25), Silver Linings Playbook (2:21) and Safe Haven (2:12). They cannot be selected from the menu.

Deleted Scenes (7:53)

    Four deleted scenes. Interesting although nothing essential.

R4 vs R1

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

     The Region A Blu-ray release of Beautiful Creatures includes in extras a number of short behind the scenes featurettes (approx. 24 min), the deleted scenes, some trailers and a TV spot for the film. The Region 1 US DVD is listed as being in an aspect ratio of 1.77:1 and to have no extras, but I cannot confirm this as all the reviews are of the Blu-ray. The Region 2 UK DVD is to be released 17 June 2013.

     For DVD probably stay with the local release, unless the US release it is in the correct aspect ratio and has the same extras as the Blu-ray.

Summary

     Beautiful Creatures, based upon the novel of the same name, is a teen romance with supernatural elements. It is a confusing film and I think this is one instance where knowledge of the book helps.

     The video and audio are fine. There are deleted scenes as extras but we miss out on the additional extras available in the US.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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