Stage Beauty (Blu-ray) (2004)

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Released 31-Aug-2010

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 105:25 (Case: 110)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By Richard Eyre
Studio
Distributor
Icon Entertainment Starring Billy Crudup
Claire Danes
Rupert Everett
Tom Wilkinson
Zoe Tapper
Richard Griffiths
Ben Chaplin
Hugh Bonneville
Edward Fox
Derek Hutchinson
Mark Letheren
Jack Kempton
Alice Eve
Case ?
RPI $24.95 Music George Fenton


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080i
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

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Plot Synopsis

     Early in the life of a new format, such as DVD or even HD-DVD, there tends to be a clamouring for certain blockbuster titles to be released, for example there is no release to date of the Star Wars films on High Definition. Seemingly to add to the annoyance felt about these injustices on internet forums, little known films seem to quite often get a release on these new formats before some of the big titles do. The subject of this review is no exception. Stage Beauty was released to cinemas back in 2004, taking a minuscule $2 million globally. It was released locally on DVD in 2005 by Magna Home Entertainment and now that the rights to the Dendy catalogue have passed to Icon, they have released a Blu-ray version (the first globally).

     So, does the fact that this film is little known (I was not aware of it before deciding to review it) and little seen mean that it is a bad film? On the contrary, it is a long way from being a bad film as it features some excellent acting from a great ensemble cast, well written dialogue and an interesting story. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of this film and enjoyed watching it. It was directed by Richard Eyre who previously directed Iris and has since directed Notes on a Scandal. The story is based on a play Compleat Female Stage Beauty by Jeffrey Hatcher who also wrote the screenplay. He has also written the screenplays for two other films I have reviewed over the last couple of years, The Duchess. and Heath Ledger’s Casanova. The story is based around characters who really existed during the period in which the film is set but is fictional.

     The film is set in The Restoration period of English history during the reign of King Charles II (a wonderful Rupert Everett) and revolves around the change which occurred during that period relating to the laws governing the performance of plays in theatres. Up until that time it was illegal and considered improper for women to act in plays and all parts, male and female, were played by men. The most famous actor playing women at the time was Ned Kyneston (Billy Crudup) who is starring as Desdemona in Othello. His dresser, a young woman called Maria (Claire Danes), wants desperately to be an actress, despite the illegality. She agrees to appear in a non-theatre based play as Desdemona and immediately creates a sensation in London. She quickly becomes the toast of the town and after some prompting by his mistress Nell Gwynn (Zoe Tapper) Charles II decides to allow women to appear in plays. Other characters include the famous diarist Sir Samuel Pepys (Hugh Bonneville), theatre owner Tom Betterton (Tom Wilkinson), First Minister Hyde (a hilariously droll Edward Fox), Sir Charles Sedley (Richard Griffiths), a fop and theatre patron and the Duke of Buckingham (Ben Chaplin), Kyneston's secret lover. The film follows Kyneston's fall from grace as he struggles to adapt to male parts and ultimately his redemption.

     This is a dramatic and yet witty film about the nature of acting and actors combined with a costume drama, coming together to make for a worthwhile experience for fans of quality cinema.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The video quality would be quite good for a DVD but is nothing special in Blu-ray terms. The feature is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio which is not the original theatrical aspect ratio, which was 2.35:1. I think this may have been a version cropped for television presentation as it also seems to be an upscale from an SD source, based on my Blu-ray player recognising it as 1080/50p (rather than a 24p source).

     The picture was reasonably clear and sharp throughout and I would guess a significant improvement over any previous DVD version, however unspectacular for Blu-ray. There was some light colour bleeding which affected the sharpness. Also, some scenes had a smoky look to them, sometimes in different camera angles in the same scene. The colour was quite good without leaping off the screen as some Blu-rays do. There were no other noticeable artefacts.

     There are subtitles in English for the Hearing Impaired. They were clear and easy to read.

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

Audio

     The audio quality is very good but not up with the best Blu-rays. This contains two audio options, an English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack and a DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. These tracks are both very big and full, highlighting the quality score by George Fenton. Dialogue was mostly clear and easy to understand although some lines were a little challenging.

     The score by George Fenton features some wonderful passages, pretty and dramatic as required.

     The surround speakers were used mostly for atmosphere and music, although there were some directional effects such as voices. The subwoofer was used for music support.

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

Extras

    No extras and the movie plays as soon as the disc loads. There is a pop up menu allowing scene selection and setup options.

R4 vs R1

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

    This seems to be the only globally available Blu-ray version at this stage.

Summary

     An enjoyable entertainment for those interested in costume dramas or the nature of acting. The video quality is nothing special for Blu-ray and is in the wrong aspect ratio. The audio quality is very good. No extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSONY BDP-S760 Blu-ray, using HDMI output
DisplayLG Scarlet 42LG61YD 106cm Full HD LCD. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt into BD player. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersMonitor Audio Bronze 2 (Front), Bronze Centre & Bronze FX (Rears) + Sony SAW2500M Subwoofer

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