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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
Emma (Blu-ray) (1996)

Emma (Blu-ray) (1996)

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Released 3-Nov-2009

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Romantic Comedy None
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1996
Running Time 120:43
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Douglas McGrath

Icon Entertainment
Starring Gwyneth Paltrow
James Cosmo
Greta Scacchi
Alan Cumming
Denys Hawthorne
Sophie Thompson
Jeremy Northam
Toni Collette
Case ?
RPI ? Music Rachel Portman

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English dts 2.0 (1536Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    It is a day and age where the class system well and truly dictates the day to day goings on in society, and the wealthy seem to be able to go about their lives without any need to work to maintain their fabulous wealth. Emma Woodhouse (Gwyneth Paltrow) is a young society type who fancies herself as a matchmaker in her small town of Highbury, having recently set up her governess (Greta Scacchi) with the eligible older gent Mr. Weston (James Cosmo), though she declares no interest in herself ever marrying. After her good friend Mr. Knightley (Jeremy Northam) declares that he is sceptical of this talent, Emma sets about setting up her dowdy new friend Harriet Smith (Toni Collette) with the the local rector Mr. Elton (Alan Cumming), a man somewhat higher in the social food chain than Miss Smith. This also involves dissuading Miss Smith that she should shrug off the advances of local working-farmer Mr. Robert Martin (Edward Woodall).

    As these things usually go, Emma's schemes never quite go to plan. Along the way she becomes infatuated with Mr. Frank Churchill (Ewan McGregor in a dreadfully silly wig thanks to his having no hair left following the filming of Trainspotting - isn't every lady infatuated with Ewan McGregor?!), the estranged son of Mr. Weston, and finds herself competing for attention from all corners of society with ever-perfect newcomer Miss Jane Fairfax (Polly Walker).

    Emma is one of Jane Austen's more frequently adapted tales (particularly for television). To put this claim into perspective, the year prior to this film it was used as the basis for teen-sensation Clueless. The same year this version was produced also saw a similar traditionally-set TV version starring Kate Beckinsale. It is easy to see why this is the case after watching just about any of the versions. Emma is probably the most accessible and lightly-plotted of Austen's novels but does not sacrifice any quality in being as such. The story also has a smart sense of humour about it.

    This particular adaptation is quite a good one, thanks primarily to its impressive ensemble cast. It is both set in its originally intended period and told with period dialogue, though it is quite easy to follow. The sets and costumes are exquisite (the latter of which enough so to earn an Oscar nomination). The story unfolds at a leisurely pace, but remains engaging throughout. Fans of costumey things will love Emma. Anyone else dragged into watching will likely enjoy it more than they are willing to let on.

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Transfer Quality


Disclaimer: Please note that this disc has a video resolution of 1080p. It has been reviewed on a display device with a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL). More information can be found here.

    Yikes. Having viewed 200-odd Blu-rays since the introduction of the format, I can honestly say that no other disc has looked as bad as Emma. The worst Blu-ray transfers generally look like an upscale of a DVD. This looks like an upscale of a particularly bad DVD.

    The film is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect, cropped slightly from the film's 1.85:1 aspect ratio, in 1080p/60Hz. The cropping is moderately noticeable in one or two scenes, particularly the film's signature archery scene which loses a degree of its majesty with the edges of the tightly composed image, but otherwise this is the least of problems with the image. The 60hz presentation has introduced a level of judder to the image that can be seen in many of the film's tracking and panning shots.

    The image is awfully focussed throughout. The foreground imagery is soft and marred by excessive edge enhancement. The background imagery is horribly blurred in every scene. Worse still, the focus is frequently uneven across the frame, creating a hotspot effect in some scenes where some bits that appear equidistant to the main point of focus appear to be in different focus. A harsh level of grain is present in the image.

    The colours washed out, awfully balanced and lack depth. Skin tones, even those on tanned characters look horribly pale and a bit pink. Blue skies look washed out with a pale grey (enough so that I initially confused the season of one sunny picnic scene late in the film as the colour made the clear skies appear clouded over). There is little contrast in the image, even in the better shots. Shadow detail is utterly non-existent. As soon as anything starts to appear dark it gets engulfed into a big flat black mass. Worst of the lot is Alan Cumming's black outfit, which he wears in every scene he appears. There is so little detail discernable in the outfit that it looks like Cumming's detached head is floating atop a black cloud most of the time. Even worse than the crushed blacks are the particularly bright areas, as there is a considerable amount of light-bleed from light parts of the image to dark parts of the image. Anyone wearing a white outfit (such as Emma herself in ever other scene), particularly when outdoors, is surrounded by a thick ghostly glow.

    The films credits open with some particularly unpleasant telecine wobble. Whilst it does ease off fairly quickly, occasional wobble is noticeable throughout the feature. Similarly, the first few minutes of the film are marred by a large number of film artefacts, many of them particularly large, which ease off, but there are occasionally some rather large bits of grime and dust visible throughout the rest of the film.

    Aliasing is noticeable in a few scenes. I found it particularly distracting in scenes near ponds and streams, where it was visible in the ripples on the water.

    English subtitles are available for the film. Based on the portion sampled they appear to be accurate and reasonably well timed.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The film features a single English 2.0 DTS (1.5Kbps) audio track, which barely fares any better than the awful video transfer. Take the DTS encoding here with a grain of salt, as it sounds very much like a re-encode of an inferior format. As the old epithet goes, you can't polish a t***.

    The audio barely sounds as though it is in stereo and as though it was recorded inside a tin can. The dialogue is clearly discernable but muddy. The track is over-compressed to the point that every character sounds as though they are lisping the letter 's'. There is a faint background hiss present in the audio for the duration of the film. The audio sync appears to be very slight off for the duration of the film, though it is only really noticeable when looking directly at the characters lips.

    The film features an academy award winning orchestral score written by Rachel Portman, which fits the film to a tee but sounds far from great in the muddy mix.

    There is no surround usage at all, nor any bass deep enough to give the subwoofer anything to play with.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Nothing, unless you wish to count the unskippable anti-piracy trailer the film opens with (a variant on the "Australia makes great films" one that, amusingly, seems to have finally comes to the realisation that we don't).

R4 vs R1

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

    Emma is not yet available in Region A on Blu-ray.

    The film has had a rather unfortunate history on DVD. Fans have yet to see a definitive home version. The Region 4 DVD was a 1.33:1 pan and scan effort with a handful of token extras (read our review of it here). The Region 1 DVD was bare-bones with a non 16x9 enhanced 1.85:1 presentation. The Region 2 DVD was bare-bones with a 16x9 enhanced 1.85:1 presentation. All had Dolby Digital 2.0 audio tracks.


    Emma is one of the better costumey things from the Miramax-led soft-arthouse boom of the 1990s. The film is filled with charm and wry humour, and it has aged rather well.

    Alas, the Blu-ray transfer afforded to the film is a shocker. It both looks and sounds awful and has no extra content whatsoever.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Adam Gould (Totally Biolicious!)
Monday, December 07, 2009
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 VSX2016AVS. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX2016AVS
Speakers150W DTX front speakers, 100W centre and 4 surround/rear speakers, 12 inch PSB Image 6i powered sub

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