How Do You Know (Blu-ray) (2010)

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Released 8-Jun-2011

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Romantic Comedy Audio Commentary-Director Brooks, Cinematographer Kaminski
Audio Commentary-Select Scenes: Brooks, Owen Wilson
Featurette-Making Of-Extra Innings
Outtakes-Blooper Reel
Interviews-Crew-Brooks and Hans Zimmer
Featurette-"The George"
Deleted Scenes-With Optional Commentary: Brooks
Script
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2010
Running Time 116:00 (Case: 121)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By James L. Brooks
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Reese Witherspoon
Paul Rudd
Owen Wilson
Jack Nicholson
Kathryn Hahn
Mark Linn-Baker
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $44.95 Music Hans Zimmer


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English
Italian
Spanish
Catalan
English Descriptive Audio
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
English Descriptive Audio
Italian
Hindi
Spanish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

     The television program Air Crash Investigations provides an experience that is both terrifying and ultimately, surprisingly, hopeful. Each week the show profiles a disaster involving a sleek expensive piece of modern machinery, a marvel of aeronautics, and tries to piece together the evidence to work out exactly what went wrong. With luck, the process of investigation prevents the tragedy from occurring all over again.

     It's possible to apply the same forensics zeal to How Do You Know, the latest project from sophisticated rom-com writer and director James L Brooks. Despite having a creator whose past films have seduced the critics and conquered the box office - Broadcast News, Terms of Endearment, As Good As It Gets - and a cast of major Hollywood talent the film, like a state-of-the-art passenger jet, crashed to earth. It not only crashed, it took most of the $120 million budget with it, becoming one of the biggest flops of all time. Did it deserve this fate? Is it an almost unprecedented disaster? No, and yet it is not difficult to see the flaws in this film, flaws that will make it appealing perhaps only to James L Brooks diehards, fans of the quartet of stars involved and perhaps those romantic comedy tragics who are painfully aware that, as deficient as this film is, it still represents one of the better romantic comedies of 2010.

     Lisa Jorgensen (Reese Witherspoon) is a world-class athlete, playing for the mighty Team USA softball team. At 31 she is the oldest player on the team. Such is her devotion to her sport that her love life is in a shambles. She is "kind of" dating big-time athlete Matti Reynolds (Owen Wilson), a larger-than-life pitcher for the Washington Nationals baseball team. Whilst training with the team she gets a call from George Madison (Paul Rudd), a mid-level executive in a business run by his father Jack Nicholson. George, in his quirky and cute fashion, is calling Lisa to tell her that he cannot meet her for a blind date, set up by one of her team-mates, as his relationship with another woman looks like it is getting serious. In fact, George's whole world is getting serious. At the beginning of the film he receives a very frightening notice to produce documents to a court. The company is under investigation for potential fraud by using false information to bolster the company's stock value. It is clear that the clueless George would have had no hand in any fraud but that may not prevent him from being indicted and going to jail.

     George and Lisa both have their Worst Day Ever. Lisa is cut from the softball team for the first time and realises that her career is over. George is cut off from the company and forbidden to speak to anyone including a very pregnant, very caring assistant Annie (Kathryn Hahn). When George and Lisa decide to get together for a date it is a date from hell, when both of them are at the bottom of their own private barrels. Convinced that they will never meet again Lisa goes back into a relationship with the high profile sports star Matti but has to negotiate the lifestyle that comes with fame, including his vague ideas of monogamy. Will Lisa go for the successful, very rich sports star, still in the prime of his career or will she follow the strange workings of the human heart and give her love to the downwardly mobile George?

     There is a good film lurking within How Do You Know. Like a good air crash investigator however it is possible to see the tell-tale flaws in this vessel. The film is too populated with big-money stars; the cast fees alone came to over $50 million. Although James L Brooks talks about his long-running desire to make a film about a professional athlete there is actually very little examination of that world in this film. Apart from some moments right at the beginning there is no idea given of Lisa's sporting prowess or her drive to succeed. It is interesting that the scene where we as audience members learn that Lisa has been cut from the team was shot in post-production and snuck into the beginning of the movie. We already know she is doomed from the start. The story meanders and drifts along without any real focus. There are some great scenes to be had particularly with the very funny Wilson, whose professional ball player is both the dumbest and most insightful character in the movie. The first date scene with Rudd and Witherspoon is a delight both funny and unpredictable.

     The characters seem to act to, and not with, each other and it is telling that the most well acted and dramatically interesting scene features a minor cast member. Jack Nicholson, so good in As Good As It Gets, flounders badly here, resorting to huffing and puffing to sell his scenes. Brooks admits in the commentary track that he had trouble with the group scenes, particularly the office scene, and it shows. Ultimately the cause of the crash was an unfocused and frequently unfunny script combined with limited direction. Brooks seemed continually looking for the real narrative thread of the movie and had difficulty establishing a tone. From anyone else it would be yet another average rom-com, from Brooks it is a major disappointment which, combined with his losses on his last film, Spanglish, may see the septuagenarian not helm another major movie. A pity.

     How Do You Know is one of those films that you are desperate to like more. As it is the film can only be recommended for a Friday night ugg boots and hot chocolate evening.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     How Do You Know is presented on Blu-ray in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio.

     The opening of the film was shot on the Genesis camera but the rest was shot on film. James L. Brooks and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski strove for, and achieved, a clarity and sharpness of image quality whilst retaining a shallow focus, putting the characters front and centre. As a result there is a glow to the characters, particularly Reese Witherspoon that recalls classic cinema and a softness in the background. The colours are bright and vibrant and very accurate. The flesh tones are gorgeous and shimmering.

     There are no technical defects with the image.

     There are subtitles in English, English Descriptive Audio, Italian, Spanish and Hindi.

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

Audio

     There are a range of audio options available on this Blu-ray. For the English speakers there is a prime DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. Italian and Spanish speakers also get a DTS-HD track and Catalan speakers get a 5.1 track running at 640Kb/s. There is also a descriptive audio track.

     This is not really a movie to test the power or range of a High Definition audio track. It is mostly dialogue. The dialogue is rendered clearly and there are no technical problems with the track. The surrounds and sub-woofer don't really get much of a workout, which is a reflection of the film rather than the transfer.

     The audio sync is perfect.

     Music is by German now Hollywood wunderkind Hans Zimmer. His track is nowhere near the power and bombast of his Dark Knight and Inception work but it does provide some quirky and appealing backing to the action.

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

Extras

     The How Do You Know Blu-ray features a wealth of extras.

Audio Commentary: Writer/Director James L. Brooks and Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski

     These old friends take us through the making of the film providing more of a running discussion than a detailed, well organized commentary.

Select Scenes Commentary (1080p, 32:55)

     James L. Brooks sits down with star Owen Wilson to discuss a selection of his scenes being :The Decision, Perfect Guy, A Sweet Guy is Born, Homemaking, His Place, Crawling Back, The Note, Anonymous Sex, Engaged to be Engaged, and Boy Loses Girl. It is an affable experience but when Wilson points out that he hasn't seen the movie you can understand why the level of insight is a little lacking!

Deleted Scenes (1080p, 29:29)

     When a film has almost 30 minutes of Deleted Scenes it usually means two things. Firstly, fans of the movie will get to enrich their experience through viewing the added moments. Secondly, the filmmakers shot everything they could and hoped to make a watchable experience in the editing room.

     There are 13 deleted scenes on offer. None are truly essential: Lisa's Childhood, Too Rough Stair Hopping, Point 4 Seconds, The Office Scene, Cries in the Night, The Hat, Play-Doh Plant, Anxiety Attack, Mr. Opposite, Pomposity, Baseball Agent, Annie & George and Sandwich Bit.

     Actually, a couple of the scenes are extended versions of those in the movie, including a painfully drawn out office scene which seems mishandled in the final product and diabolical in extended form. Finally, the Original Ending and an Animatic of the ending is included. James L. Brooks provides a selectable commentary track for the scenes, explaining why they "had to go".

Blooper Reel (1080p, 1:57)

     Not enough bloopers!

Extra Innings (1080p, 15:02)

     This is effectively the making of featurette. It is not bad, combining interviews providing insight into the film and some behind the scenes material.

A Conversation with James L. Brooks and Hans Zimmer (1080p, 25:59)

     Long time collaborators Brooks and Zimmer discuss their approach to the score of this movie and also their previous instances of working together. Something of a fireside chat this is actually an entertaining session, even if the score for this film was a little forgettable.

Interactive Script Gallery (1080p)

     This feature allows you to read the entire script from the film. Maybe that's a good thing. Maybe not ....

"The George" (1080p, 1:36)

     George makes a cocktail in the film. Brooks provides a selectable commentary on the drink.

R4 vs R1

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

    This is identical to the Region A version of the film. Buy our Region!

Summary

     In a bleak year for romantic comedies How Do You Know was one of the only barely acceptable examples of the genre. That didn't help people to see it at the cinema but maybe it has another life on home video.

     The film carries a top Blu-ray transfer both in sound and vision terms and fans of the movie will not be disappointed at the weight of extras on show. As a film I give it a bare pass but the overall quality merits a 3.5.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDCambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer SC-LX 81 7.1
SpeakersAaron ATS-5 7.1

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