Tuesdays with Morrie (1999)

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Released 21-Nov-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Menu Animation & Audio
Featurette-A Word From Oprah
Gallery-Photo
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1999
Running Time 85:10
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Mick Jackson
Studio
Distributor
Harpo Films
MRA Entertainment
Starring Jack Lemmon
Hank Azaria
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI ? Music Marco Beltrami


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Some of us, maybe even most, live hectic, frenetic lives that are full of commitments, deadlines and schedules. How many of us pause to reflect on what life really is all about, or even spend time with our loved ones? How many of us are equipped to handle the impending death of someone close to us?

    Mitch Albom (Hank Azaria) was just such a person. A successful sports writer and commentator residing in Detroit, he spent his days rushing from airport to airport chasing the next big sports event and had weekly deadlines to submit his columns. His relationship with his girlfriend Janine (Wendy Moniz) suffered because he was fearful of commitment and never had any time for her.

    ...until one day he accidentally learns from a TV documentary that one of his favourite college professors from Brandeis University, Morrie Schwartz (Jack Lemmon), is dying from ALS - also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

    ALS, which stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, is a neuromuscular disease that progressively weakens muscles, resulting in paralysis, but it does not affect the mind. It is a fatal disease, with 50% of all patients dying within 18 months of diagnosis. It is also known as Lou Gehrig's disease after the famous New York Yankees baseball player who died from the disease in 1941.

    In Morrie's case, he was an active, high-spirited person who loved talking, teaching, food and dancing. You would expect the disease to hit him badly, but instead he decides to make the best of it by spending the last months of his life teaching the world one final lesson - reflections on the meaning of life, relationships, aging, forgiveness, and what it is like to live through a period of impending death by rejoicing in all the good things in life - like love and friendship.

    All this was covered in the TV documentary, which struck a particular chord with Mitch. He guiltily remembers promising that he will stay in touch with the Professor after graduation, but he never did. On the spur of the moment, he visits Morrie's home in Boston, over 700 miles away. Thus begins a pattern of weekly visits, where over the course of over three months Morrie and Mitch re-establish their friendship as well as their student-teacher relationship in which Morrie imparts his accumulated wisdom into their joint "final thesis." In between, Morrie learns how to better relate with Janine, and how to cope with grief and fear, and how to better balance work and personal commitments.

    These were hard lessons for someone like Mitch to learn, and he eventually documented them in a book called Tuesdays With Morrie, which he wrote out of taped recordings of his time spent with Morrie. Written initially to help fund Morrie's medical expenses, the book became a surprise bestseller, selling over 3 million copies worldwide (in 26 countries) and lasting over 84 weeks on The New York Times' best-seller list for non-fiction hardback.

    Oprah Winfrey was so enthralled by the book that she produced a made-for-TV movie based on it. Billed as Jack Lemmon's last film, it is now being made available as a Region 4 DVD (ahead of Region 1!).

    So, what did I think of it? Well, to be honest, this is the kind of homespun dumbed-down pop psychology that Americans love, and it does come across as being too saccharine sweet and full of home truths that on reflection sound a bit banal and obvious. But if you look past that, it is actually a well-produced and well-acted film and the story is worth watching. And at the end of the day, what's wrong with celebrating life and love and relationships? Sometimes even if the messages sound trite and banal they are still right and it doesn't hurt for you to listen to them every now and then.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Given that this is a made-for-TV movie, it is presented in the intended aspect ratio of 1.33:1. I'm not sure if there is a widescreen version, but I wouldn't hold my breath for it.

    Whoever who did the transfer for this film must have really liked it, because the transfer is excellent. It's not perfect, because the transfer appears just a tad soft, and colours could do with just a little bit more vibrancy. However, the quality of the transfer is easily as good as or even surpasses broadcast TV quality so I suspect this is probably as good as it'll ever be.

    Obviously for a film as recent as this (1999) the condition of the film source is very good indeed and certainly I did not notice any film marks or video noise. I suspect the film was not directly shot onto video due to the slightly muted colours.

    I did not notice any video or compression artefacts, which is a good sign as it probably indicates that this is not an NTSC-to-PAL conversion.

    Even though this is a single sided single layered disc, for some reason the transfer is split across two titles (one 32:55 minutes in duration and the other 52:15 minutes) and there is a noticeable pause as the DVD player transitions across titles. Luckily, this transition occurs during a screen blank in between scenes (at a spot where there would normally be a commercial break I suspect) so it is not too intrusive but I wish the DVD authors had encoded this as a single title.

    There are no subtitle tracks accompanying the feature.

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

Audio

    There is only one audio track on this disc: English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded (448 Kb/s).

    The audio track has been mastered at a very high level (I had to turn the volume almost 5-6 dB below normal listening level). The audio track is very pleasant to listen to and dialogue was easy to understand. I did not notice any audio synchronisation issues.

    However, being a dialogue-focused movie obviously there aren't many sound effects and these are mainly front centre focused as well. Indeed, the audio track does not have a large dynamic range - which is probably one reason why it has been encoded at a relatively high level.

    I didn't notice or remember much of the original music by Marco Beltrami at all. Right at the beginning, there is some music during the introductory sequence explaining Morrie's love for dancing. Morrie must also be an opera fan, and specifically a Puccini fan, because there are multiple scenes featuring him listening to excerpts from Puccini arias (at least two instances from La Bohème and one from Gianni Scicchi). Either that, or the film crew was paying homage to other movies like Awakenings and Shawshank Redemption, both of which also featured Puccini excerpts.

    Although the audio track is surround-encoded, I did not really notice any surround channel usage at all. Needless to say, the subwoofer is not used at all and remain switched off for the duration of the film.

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

Extras

    The extras on this disc are pretty minimal, but at least we did get some extras.

Menu

    The menu is full frame but features animation and background audio.

Featurette-A Word From Oprah (0:36)

    This is a very short segment with Oprah Winfrey introducing the film, presented in full frame. The opening titles seem to last longer than Oprah's words.

Gallery-Photo

    This is a set of 9 stills of Hank Azaria and Jack Lemmon. The navigation of these stills leave a lot to be desired, as you can't sequence through the stills without going back to the menu. Selecting a still pauses the player for a delay period during which none of the DVD controls work before going back to the menu.

R4 vs R1

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

    This title does not appear to be released yet in Region 1.

Summary

    Tuesdays With Morrie is a film about a man rediscovering the meaning of life through weekly encounters with his old college professor, who is dying of Lou Gehrig's disease. It may be hard for some to swallow (particularly if you can't stand the peculiarly American brand of sentimentality and pop spirituality combined) but it is well-intentioned and features some strong acting performances. It is definitely watchable. It is presented on a DVD with excellent audio and video transfers - just don't expect any special effects or explosions. Extras are minimal.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Christine Tham (read my biography)
Monday, December 24, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-626D, using Component output
DisplaySony VPL-VW10HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationDenon AVR-3300
SpeakersFront and rears: B&W CDM7NT; centre: B&W CDMCNT; subwoofer: B&W ASW2500

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