Precious (Blu-ray) (2009)

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Released 8-Jun-2010

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Audio Commentary-Commentary from director Lee Daniels
Featurette-A Precious Ensemble
Featurette-From Push to Precious
Featurette-Oprah and Tyler: A Project of Passion
Featurette-A Conversation with Author Sapphire and Director Lee Daniels
Deleted Scenes-The Incest Survivor Meeting
Interviews-Cast-Reflections, PSA's with Gabby, Lee & Paula
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2009
Running Time 110:05 (Case: 115)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Lee Daniels
Studio
Distributor

Icon Entertainment
Starring Gabourey Sidibe
Mo'Nique
Paula Patton
Mariah Carey
Sherri Shepherd
Lenny Kravitz
Stephanie Andujar
Case Amaray-Opaque-Secure Clip
RPI ? Music Mario Grigorov


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 (1536Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (256Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (256Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

"Everything is a gift of the universe."

†††† Adapted from the novel Push by Sapphire, Precious tells the story of Clareece Precious Jones (Gabourey Sidibe), a sixteen year old, heavily obese, and frightfully abused African-American girl living in 1987 Harlem, New York. Repeatedly raped from childhood by her father, she is mother to a downs-syndrome toddler and is now pregnant again to her father. Her terrifying mother Mary, magnificently played by Mo'Nique, spends her days smoking and watching TV in their run-down and dingy apartment. She bears a deep-set resentment towards Precious and constantly ridicules, abuses, assaults and treats her daughter like a slave. Living on the welfare payments coming in for Precious and her granddaughter, mum is determined that Precious will never improve herself.

†††† Despite appearing to show no interest in school classes and being illiterate, Precious shows aptitude in maths and is apparently more intelligent than appearances would suggest. After being expelled from school she is encouraged to attend an alternative education institute where, under the guidance of the sympathetic teacher Ms Rain (Paula Patten), she begins to grow in confidence and ability. After the birth of her baby boy, and despite further devastating setbacks, it appears that at last there is some hope for Precious and her children.

†††† Undoubtedly this is a grim story, told at times in a semi-documentary fashion complete with shaky handy-cam type camera work. What makes this movie exceptional, however, is the universally fine acting by the ensemble. Sidibe is a revelation as the abused teenager however the performance of Mo'Nique as the mother-from-hell is just outstanding. Whether either of these actors manage to repeat the quality shown here remains to be seen. At times Sidibe seems cold and wooden as the troubled teen, but as the story progresses we see how this is an important device in illustrating her survival mechanism. We also have fine performances from Patten, an almost unrecognisable and remarkably effective Mariah Carey as the social worker, and Lenny Kravitz as the sympathetic hospital nurse John.

†††† Fortunately, the film does not become a caricature of hope overcoming despair but portrays the characters and events in a believable and compelling fashion. The blackness of the story and surroundings could have become oppressive in a film handled less skilfully; however in this case the gritty realism is a necessary component and handled perfectly by director Lee Daniels. The only flashes of cheer come from strategically placed fantasy sequences and a rather symbolic red scarf - reminiscent of the red coat in Schindlerís List, albeit with a different purpose. This movie is not a pleasant cinematic experience and is definitely deserving of its MA15+ rating. As a demonstration of fine film-making, compelling story-telling and great acting it should be seen by all movie fans.

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Transfer Quality

Video

††††As you would expect this blu-ray is presented in 1080p and in its cinematic 1.85:1 aspect. Shot on a comparatively low budget using 35mm film the outdoor scenes have a gritty and grainy look which is probably intentional. It's in the facial close-ups where we see the sharpness and detail available with the blu-ray format - where every bump and wrinkle and facial pore is clearly defined, even when in shadow. The colours are subdued apart from the previously mentioned fantasy sequences where we have deep vibrant hues of red and gold deliberately contrasting with the real world. There is no evidence of colour bleeding, however there is some flare from bright lights. Flesh tones are very good in close-up with no patchiness or uneven detail. Low light levels make the interior apartment scenes a bit hazy through the cigarette smoke but again this was probably as the director wanted. Overall the video quality, while not outstanding for blu-ray, is still very good and appropriate for this type of film.

†††† The transfer is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The picture detail was sharp throughout with facial close-ups especially detailed.

†††† There were no film artefacts.

†††† This is a dual layer disc but I saw no sign of the layer change on my equipment.

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

Audio

††††The default DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is encoded at a variable rate of around 1,569 Kb/s (up to 2,500 Kb/s for the fantasy scenes) with an English subtitle option available. The Dolby Digital stereo audio track encoded at 256 Kb/s was selected periodically to compare with the default. Being a dialogue centric sound track the surrounds and subwoofer are not utilised extensively with notable exceptions during the fantasy sequences. The volume levels and audio saturation also rise significantly at these times which I imagine was the directorís intent and in keeping with the change in colour palettes. One problem for me was that the dialogue was often hard to discern - especially from Precious. The reason for this is that Precious is often mumbling (in keeping with character) and the African-American New York accents are very broad. Contrasting with this however the voiceover narrative is always crystal clear. There were no significant synchronisation issues however I did feel that it times it wasnít quite perfect.

†††† The front sound stage was very good with main voices coming from the centre channel and effects from the left and right speakers. Surround channel use was not extensive except in outside scenes and the fantasy sequences. The subwoofer use was limited to musical numbers - especially in the fantasy sequences.

†††† This audio track is definitely not reference quality but it is very good. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is clearly superior to the two channel offering.

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

Extras

Menu

†††† The menu featured looping video and audio.

Director's Commentary

†††† Intelligent commentary by director Lee Daniels who reveals a lot of insights into the making of Precious and notes how personal the project became for him. An interesting aside is how some of the more confronting scenes were lightened with humour on set which made it easier to handle for the actors. Watching the film you'll see how necessary this must have been. This commentary is well worth a listen.

†††† All the following extras were presented in 1.78:1 video aspect with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio at 256 Kb/s.

A Precious Ensemble (18:33)

†††† Interesting featurette where Daniels, Sapphire and the major characters describe their thoughts on filling the roles interspersed with excerpts from the film and audition tapes. Most revelatory of all is how Gabourey is completely opposite in character to how she portrayed Precious.

From Push to Precious (15:22)

†††† An interview with Sapphire describing how the novel of Push was created and its subsequent adaptation into a motion picture. Quite interesting in that it covers the urban issues at the time and how they formed the concepts included in Push such as incest, aids and racism. Daniels and screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher also describe how Push was adapted for the screen and their collaboration with Sapphire.

Oprah and Tyler: A Project of Passion (9:33)

†††† Executive producers Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey talk about their involvement with the film including comments from Daniels. Quite illuminating in that it revealed (to me at least) that Perry and Winfrey's involvement was only in promoting the film after completion rather than helping with its creation. Makes the billing of "executive producers" seem a bit grand to me.

A Conversation with Author Sapphire and Director Lee Daniels (8:28)

†††† Somewhat illuminating but covered a lot of the same ground as previous features.

Deleted Scene: The Incest Survivor Meeting (1:46)

†††† I think it was good decision to delete this scene as it would have taken away a bit of the emotional edge to the film's ending. Nicely acted, however.

Reflections, Public Service Announcements with Gabby, Lee, Paula, and Gabby's Screen Test (5:13)

†††† Three short reflections from Daniels, Sidibe and Patton which were fine followed by very short clips providing "inspirational" messages which I found annoying. The audition scene however is very powerful and shows immediately why Gabby was cast in the title role.

Previews

†††† A selection of trailers.

Censorship

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R4 vs R1

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

††††The US version includes Spanish subtitles and there are varying descriptions of aspect ratios ranging from 2.35:1 to 1.78:1. However, I believe the correct aspect is 1.85:1 as included here. Extras and audio options apart from language and subtitles appear identical across the available versions.

Summary

†††† Precious is not a pleasant way to spend a hundred minutes by switching off the brain cells and putting the feet up. This film demands your attention and its distressing themes with moments of despair, hopelessness and anguish will perhaps be too much for some viewers. That said, any film that provokes your emotions and leaves you thinking about it for some time afterwards is worthy of respect. The performances are universally excellent and turn what could have become a caricature of good and evil into a believable and ultimately inspiring example of the resilience of the human spirit. Highly recommended.

††††The video quality is very good. The audio quality is very good. Extras are very good.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Mike B (read my bio)
Monday, June 07, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-3910 and Panasonic BD-35, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic TH-58PZ850A. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
AmplificationDenon AVR-3808 pre-out to Elektra Theatron 7 channel amp
SpeakersB&W LCR600 centre and 603s3 mains, Niles in ceiling surrounds, SVS PC-Ultra Sub

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