Freedom Writers (2007)

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Released 19-Sep-2007

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Hilary Swank and Richard LaGravenese
Featurette-Making 'A Dream'
Featurette-Freedom Writers Family
Featurette-Freedom Writers: The Story Behind the Story
Deleted Scenes
Gallery-Photo
Trailer-Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2007
Running Time 117:53
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (74:52) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Richard LaGravenese
Studio
Distributor

Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring Hilary Swank
Patrick Dempsey
Scott Glenn
Imelda Staunton
April L. Hernandez
Mario
Kristin Herrera
Jacklyn Ngan
Sergio Montalvo
Jason Finn
Deance Wyatt
Vanetta Smith
Gabriel Chavarria
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI ? Music Mark Isham
Will.i.am


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
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
Danish
Dutch
Finnish
Norwegian
Swedish
English Audio Commentary
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement Yes
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Racial tensions in the USA were particularly strained during the early to mid 1990s. Incidents such as the Rodney King beating had a nation near boiling point. One of the many attempts to unify the population was to force a racial balance in schools, often this involved bussing kids significant distances in order to create racially diverse classrooms. English teacher Erin Gruwell (Hilary Swank) started her teaching career at one such school, Wilson Classical High School in Long Beach, California. Over the course of her time at Wilson, Erin found herself teaching tolerance and understanding to her kids more than coursebook English. Erin had each of her students keep a personal journal as part of her course. Entries from those journals would be edited into The Freedom Writers Diary (a play on the name "Freedom Riders" - a group in the 1960s who campaigned for desegregation of buses), the book upon which this film is derived.

    Erin was faced with two dilemmas upon arriving at Wilson Classical High School. Firstly, her class of at-risk teens (which seems to be a euphemism for "the thick kids") are organised into racial gangs who are constantly feuding with one another. Secondly, the rest of the English department are not interested in giving the at-risk students the opportunities for learning that they deserve. English department head Margaret Campbell (Imelda Staunton) going as far as refusing to provide the students with books or excursions. Erin gets a second job to pay for the things her students need and organises her own books and activities, with the aid of her kindly father (Scott Glenn). Though this all puts a lot of strain on Erin's personal life, and to an extent the lives of her students, Erin slowly inspires her students to be better people.

    If the general description of Freedom Writers makes it sound like dozens of other inspirational teacher movies (there are practically enough out there to form their own genre nowadays), then it is accurate. Freedom Writers really is an inspirational drama by numbers. That said, it does what it does very well. No particular aspect deserves singling out as the whole film hangs together very well. There is not a weak link in the cast and the story flows quite well even though it is very formulaic. The film looks and sounds good, capturing the look and feel of the era quite well.

    Freedom Writers delivers exactly what it offers. Anybody whose interest is piqued by the concept or the cast is unlikely to be disappointed. Anybody weary of the idea would be wise to steer clear as the film is unlikely to convert you.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, which most will find close enough to the film's theatrical 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The video is quite sharp. Shadows and dark areas contain a good level of detail. There is no noticeable film grain or low level noise.

    The colour in the video is both bold and natural. Skin tones look authentic.

    There are no MPEG compression-related artefacts visible in the transfer, nor are there any film artefacts or other nasties noticeable.

    The film features English subtitles for the hearing impaired that are white with a black border. The subtitles appear accurate and well timed, based on the few minutes I sampled.

    This is a RSDL disc. The layer break occurs at 74:52 but was not noticeable on my equipment.

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

Audio

    One English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448 Kbps) audio track is present.

    The dialogue is clearly audible throughout and well synchronised to the video.

    The soundtrack is a mixture of functional, but completely ignorable, orchestral score, early 90s hip-hop and the theme tune A Dream by Common and Will.i.am. The 90s hip-hop choices are fairly obvious for the period (Tupac, Naughty By Nature) and fit well, but A Dream (despite being quite a catchy tune in itself) is used to death and begins to grate a little by the end.

    The surrounds are put to reasonable use throughout the film and create a reasonably involving environment, particularly in the classroom scenes. The LFE channel gets a reasonable workout from the score, but it is unlikely you would notice it unless you were paying particular attention.

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

Extras

Audio Commentary with Hilary Swank and Richard LaGravenese

    A dull as dishwater commentary from the director and lead. The pair have little to say, which leads to a lot of dead air, and what they do have to say is pretty dull.

Deleted Scenes (10:58)

    Four deleted scenes. Each scene provides a little more character building for the kids in the movie, which is interesting but non-essential stuff.

Making 'A Dream' Featurette (5:26)

    A brief featurette in which Common and Will.i.am discuss the making of the theme song A Dream. Moderately interesting stuff but, despite running only around five minutes, this one has trouble justifying its running time.

Freedom Writers Family Featurette (19:23)

    A look at the characters in the film and the actors who play them featuring interviews with the cast, crew and the real Erin Gruwell. Fans will probably enjoy this one, although it doesn't cover much that isn't pretty obvious from the film itself.

Freedom Writers: The Story Behind the Story Featurette (10:04)

    A mixture of explaining the factual basis behind the film and "Making Of" featurette. This featurette plays like a continuation of the Freedom Writers Family featurette and like that other featurette contains little that couldn't be derived from the film itself besides confirmation of the story's authenticity.

Theatrical Trailer (2:25)

    A fairly generic trailer for the film

Photo Gallery

    A large series of production stills, navigated using the remote.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 1 edition of Freedom Writers is identical to the local release in terms of video content, but features an additional French Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track to the Region 4 edition. The Region 4 edition boasts a much wider variety of subtitles, however. This one is essentially a draw.

Summary

    Freedom Writers delivers exactly what it promises; A well-made "inspirational teacher" movie. Fans of the genre will thoroughly enjoy it, but it is unlikely to convert anybody that dislikes the genre.

    The disc features a decent swag of extras that will appeal to fans.

    The video and audio presentation is excellent.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Adam Gould (Totally Biolicious!)
Monday, October 15, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDSony Playstation 3, using HDMI output
Display Samsung 116cm LA46M81BD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderPioneer VSX-D512. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX2016AVS
Speakers150W DTX front speakers, and a 100W centre and 2 surrounds, 12 inch PSB Image 6i powered sub

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