The Hours (2002)

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Released 3-Feb-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore (Actors)
Audio Commentary-Stephen Daldry (Director) and Michael Cunningham (Novelist)
Featurette-The Music of The Hours
Featurette-Three Women
Featurette-Filmmakers Introduction
Featurette-The Mind And Times Of Virginia Woolf
Featurette-The Lives Of Mrs. Dalloway
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 110:06
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Stephen Daldry
Studio
Distributor

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Meryl Streep
Julianne Moore
Nicole Kidman
Ed Harris
Toni Collette
Claire Danes
Jeff Daniels
Stephen Dillane
Allison Janney
John C. Reilly
Miranda Richardson
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $34.90 Music Philip Glass


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian
Italian Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    The Hours is a thought-provoking movie, which is not always easy to watch, but which is ultimately hugely satisfying. Be prepared, as this film starts slowly, and a little confusingly as the action switches rapidly between three seemingly disparate stories and three different time periods. Bear with it however, as by the time the second reel rolls around you will be mesmerised by the quality of the acting and the intensity of the storytelling.

    This film deals with the themes of isolation and mental illness. It ties together the lives of three women by using the novel Mrs Dalloway, written by Virginia Woolf (a tormented British author in the 1920s and 1930s). In the novel, Clarissa Dalloway appears to be the perfect hostess - the successful wife of a politician - but in reality is depressed to the point of, seemingly inexplicably, taking her own life. The first thread of the story focuses on Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman), from when she begins writing the novel up to the point she places a large stone in her coat pocket and walks into a river to drown herself in 1941.

    The second story element is the seemingly idyllic life of an American housewife in Los Angeles, 1951. Laura Brown (Julianne Moore) is outwardly the ideal wife and mother but feels trapped with a loving husband who she cannot bear, and with a son she seems unable to love. Perhaps because of reading the aforementioned novel, suicide has suddenly become a viable escape from the confines of a life that she simply cannot continue to face.

    The final thread of this story takes place in New York in 2001, where Clarissa Vaughan (Meryl Streep) appears as a modern incarnation of Mrs Dalloway. Indeed, her ex-lover Richard (Ed Harris), now dying from AIDS, frequently refers to her as such. As per the Woolf novel, Clarissa is preparing to host a party, and the entire film (from her perspective) takes place within the space of just one day.

    Kidman, Streep and Moore all put in magnificent performances, and the acting is rounded out superbly by an accomplished supporting cast, particularly Ed Harris as Richard Brown. The three female leads are all exceptional with Moore particularly surprising, as I had not rated her too highly before. Streep reminds you of why she has been nominated for thirteen Oscars, and the truly unrecognizable Kidman delivers a wonderfully controlled performance well deserving of an Oscar, as Virginia Woolf, ever teetering on the edge of a depressive abyss.

    The Hours is an extremely good film - one of the very best dramas I have seen in the past several years. Nicole Kidman deserved the Oscar she won for her performance, with Streep almost as deserving to my mind. I found the film to be unsettling as it confronts depressive illness in a frank and mature way, without too much sugar coating. This is no popcorn movie; it is an intelligently written, beautifully shot and well acted piece which demands some patience at the start - but which will reward you deeply if you persevere. Whilst it can seem somewhat dour on first viewing, it provokes so much thought and so many emotions in the viewer, that to label it depressing is selling it way short. Excellent stuff which is very highly recommended, provided you are prepared to work with it a little.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video quality of this transfer, whilst not bad by any means, is a touch disappointing for such a recent and high profile movie. It is presented 16x9 enhanced in a ratio of 1.85:1, which is the original theatrical aspect ratio.

    The overall transfer, while generally very good, is marred by some distracting grain, particularly noticeable against bright backgrounds such as the sky (for instance at 3:42), but also against windows, walls, shirts and even on faces for example Kidman's at 7:20. I did wonder if this had been intentionally added, to provide an period feel to the film, but it is still present in the modern-day New York scenes, so it would appear to be inherent to the film stock. Sharpness is generally very good, with some slightly soft-focus scenes appearing to be a deliberate artistic choice on the part of the director.

    Black levels are deep and solid, with a good level of shadow detail evident. Low level noise was not noticed as a concern. The colours used in the film range in palette, and intensity, depending on which character thread is on screen at the time. The 1930s are presented with lots of greens from garden backdrops, ivory and deep brown wooden panelling and splashes of vivid colour from the flowers which feature heavily. In the 1950 LA shots, there is a much warmer feel, with yellow sunshine filling windows, slightly orange skin tones and once again bright primaries for the floral decoration. In a wintry New York of 2001, the palette changes to make use of cold blues, whites and autumnal browns and once more, cut flowers providing the brightest splash of primary colours. The attention to set design, and in particular the colours chosen lends a wonderfully stylish tone to the film.

    I noticed no significant MPEG artefacts. Edge enhancement was not something that I noticed and aliasing was not a problem - if you look very hard there is a shimmer on some straight edges from time to time, but it really is minimal. There is some telecine wobble evident in the titles, and occasionally during the film (for example on the mantelpiece shot at 2:34) and there are occasions of noticeable vertical jumps in the picture (between 53:20 and 54:20 in the New York kitchen scenes).

    The transfer does suffer from a number of film artefacts, which is perhaps surprising for such a recent film, but they are always fleeting and not really irritating - just disappointing. The worst artefact is a large vertical scratch at 78:58.

    The standard English subtitles are well timed and highly legible, being presented in a large, clear typeface. They drop very few words and are extremely close to the spoken dialogue at all times. The English subtitles for the Hard of Hearing provide additional audio cues, and are again very good indeed.

    This disc is single sided and dual layered RSDL formatted, with the layer change evident at 67:55, and whilst it is noticeable, it is reasonably well placed at a pause between dialogue.

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

Audio

    The overall audio transfer is very good, being clean and clear at all times.

    The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is encoded at 448 kbps. It is free from major defects at all times, with no clicks, pops or dropouts noticed. Dialogue was always crystal clear and is never overpowered by the marvellous musical score. The audio sync was perfect throughout. Unusually, the disc also features an English Audio Descriptive track, in which the dialogue is complemented by a well spoken narrator, who describes the action between dialogue. Presumably for visually impaired viewers, this is a marvellous addition.

    The original music is credited to the highly accomplished Philip Glass (Candyman, Powaqqatsi). It is a wonderfully evocative score, and one of the best I have heard in recent years. The score complements the tone of the film immensely well, with a manic urgency to the piano passages alternating with some unbearably tense, stressful strings section. Excellent stuff indeed.

    The soundstage is fairly enveloping, with the surrounds used to support the top class musical score very well, and some occasionally striking surround ambience (for example the flowing river at 1:00). The front speakers do the bulk of the work however, with the dialogue nicely centred and some subtle spread across the front soundstage. There are some occasional examples of localised sound effects (the door closing at 41:35 or the buzzer sounding at 73:55 for instance).

    Despite the case and disc stating that this is a 5.1 encoded track, the subwoofer is totally unused throughout. My subwoofer did not detect a signal at any point - in fact I double-checked to make sure it was switched to its normal "auto" setting. I suspect that this is in fact a 5.0 soundtrack.

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

Extras

    There are some significant extras present, both in terms of the quantity - and more importantly, the sheer quality.

Menu

    The main menu is a beautifully animated affair, with rose petals tumbling down the screen past video images of the main characters, accompanied by the theme music. The options available are playing the feature, selecting one of (a rather small, considering the feature length) seventeen chapter stops, language and subtitle selection or viewing the fairly extensive extra features:

Audio Commentary

    Kidman, Streep and Moore provide a very interesting and revealing commentary track. Much like the film, they do not appear together, but each provide a commentary on their scenes, which are then blended together to provide an overall track. Well worth a listen or three.

Audio Commentary

    This one is only slightly less interesting, with director Stephen Daldry and novelist Michael Cunningham providing further insight into the film. This time they do appear to be in the same room! Worth a listen - but perhaps just the once.

The Music of The Hours

    Running for 7:09, this is presented at 1.33:1 with letterboxed inserts from the feature. The director and screenwriter (David Hare) describe the origins of the score, while Philip Glass himself describes how he approached the creation of the music. Interesting stuff, with an audio track in Dolby Digital 2.0 encoded at 192 kbps.

Three Women

    Running for 15:57, this featurette is presented at 1.33:1 and with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 192 kbps. It includes behind the scenes footage and interviews with the director and the three leading ladies. A nice inclusion, particularly when Kidman, Streep and Moore are chatting together on the sofa.

Filmmakers Introduction

    Stephen Daldry provides a short (2:05) overview of the film and how he tried to meld the three component stories together, and how he believes DVD will allow it to be enjoyed multiple times, with different points of interest to be noted on subsequent viewings. Presented at 1.33:1 with an audio track in Dolby Digital 2.0 encoded at 192 kbps. Mildly interesting.

The Mind and Times of Virginia Woolf

    Running for 24:37, this substantial extra allows various learned experts on Woolf to discuss her life, writing and unique problems. It is presented at 1.33:1 with an audio track in Dolby Digital 2.0 encoded at 192 kbps. Slightly dry, but very substantive and sure to be treasured by fans of the film and of Woolf.

The Lives of Mrs Dalloway

    The novelist, director and screenwriter provide their own experiences with the original Mrs Dalloway novel. This extra is again very informative, particularly the way the Woolf novel inspired Michael Cunningham to become a writer himself. Once more presented at 1.33:1 with an audio track in Dolby Digital 2.0 encoded at 192 kbps, and running for 9:43.

Theatrical Trailer

    Running for 2:25, this is presented at 1.33:1 with a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack encoded at 448 kbps.

R4 vs R1

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

    The extras on the Region 1 versions of this film appear to be identical to our own, with minor changes in subtitle and language options. The film is available separately as a widescreen (1.85:1) and a full frame release (1.33:1) in Region 1. Unless you particularly want a full screen version, I would suggest you buy whichever widescreen version can be found cheaper.

Summary

    The Hours is a very powerful film. The complex, challenging but ultimately superb screenplay is delivered by an ensemble cast of consistently high calibre. The acting of Kidman, Streep and Moore is exemplary. A wonderful musical soundtrack and a great package of extras, with a video transfer let down slightly by excessive graininess. A must-see film, and for many people a must-own disc which will be viewed many times over. Top drawer filmmaking.

    The video quality is very good, but is spoiled slightly by some excessive grain.

    The audio transfer is very good, with a sterling musical score - albeit with no .1 channel at all.

    The extras are of a high quality and form a worthy addition to a great film.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel O'Donoghue (You think my bio is funny? Funny how?)
Wednesday, September 17, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDHarmony DVD Video/Audio PAL Progressive, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic TX-47P500H 47" Widescreen RPTV. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR600 with DD-EX and DTS-ES
SpeakersJensenSPX-9 fronts, Jensen SPX-13 Centre, Jensen SPX-5 surrounds, Jensen SPX-17 subwoofer

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