PictureWell you can't complain about the transfer because, even though this is not the kind the movie that immediately leaps out and proclaims “I am hi-def glory!”, August Rush looks just fine in its 1080p VC-1 incarnation. We aren't talking breath-snatching three-dimensionality here, although the image is still very sharp, because the style just doesn't lend itself to eye-embracing screen-pop in the first place. But, having said that, the picture is actually quite glorious in its own low-key manner. Edges, barring some very slight enhancement, are crisp throughout and detail is actually wonderfully presented. The urban settings of wintry New York and Chicago are spellbindingly captured with myriad people, vehicles, store-fronts, buildings and parks ravishingly splashed across the screen. The 2.40:1 image looks nice and spacious, too, with the cinematography positively inviting you to scrutinise the cityscapes. The source is pristine and there is only a very slight sprinkling of grain to be seen against some of the skyline shots.
Whilst blacks are very good - fine detail in the shadows of Wizard's theatre - contrast can occasionally rise too high, leaving skin tones a little overblown. But this is not a major problem and the image, in the main, is highly engaging. The scenes in the crisp white snow around Evan's orphanage are quite brilliantly sharp and clean. Detail in close-ups is terrific, with faces and eyes, clothes and surfaces all revealing ample finite information. Backgrounds are better than average, too, with scenes set in the theatre, or the park, or the childrens' play area offering up much more detail than I expected. Although not soft at all, I did, however, find that the image still felt somehow flat, with the many street sequences refusing to lift from the screen.
It must be said, though, that August Rush has a great looking picture that fans of the film will be extremely happy with. This gets a very good 8 out of 10.
SoundGot to say that I am quite surprised by how good this Dolby TrueHD track is. Your first thoughts going into this would probably be along on the lines of my own - that it would be talk-heavy and full of slushy, warm strings that play about across the front soundstage but totally neglect the rears. Well ... erm ... wrong. August Rush has been furnished with a very rewardingly active mix that utilises all the speakers and a decent LFE channel often and convincingly. First of all, the film is set in the big city, and the disc is at pains to have you hear it. Vehicle sounds, sirens, voices, babble and good old fashioned New York hubbub fill the mix during the majority of the film. Maybe it is precisely because I wasn't expecting anything in the way of surround that the effects arising from over my shoulder - cars, voices, general ambience etc - kept making me look around back there. Now that's not bad for a TV Movie of the Week style heart-string-tugger, is it?
Naturally, as well, for a film that takes the power of music as its core ingredient, the twanging of notes on a guitar, piano, church organ or orchestra are exquisitely well presented with total clarity and very decent harmonics. Louis' band sound great - well, the songs stink, but you know what I mean - and the sweep of full symphonic splendour is marvellously rich, warm and detailed. High ends are extremely clear - just listen to the tinkling wind-chime - and the mid-range is smooth and expansive.
There is even a reasonably cool and authentic sounding rainstorm with some decent placement around the room and several ominously heavy peels of thunder rumbling overhead.
Overall, I was very impressed by the sound design and the TrueHD mix does a great job of wrapping the film around you. It doesn't have to be bombastic and rife with explosions to deliver an immersive aural experience.
ExtrasThere isn't much to discuss here, folks. All we get are fourteen minutes-worth of Additional Scenes which, although nice to see, wouldn't really add much to the film. There are seven of them in all, with a Play All option. Although it is Williams who benefits the most from these snippets, his extended philosophies and character building don't really supply anything you didn't already know.
So, not a great deal offered up for the fans there, I'm afraid.
VerdictAlthough not totally impressed with this sugary-sweet modern-day fable, I still found August Rush to be a reasonably entertaining diversion for its duration - although Jonathan Rhys Meyers' pouting brood would test the patience of a saint. The narrative is dependent wholly upon the most glaring of contrivances and the situations depicted don't really carry enough weight to support the emotions portrayed by the leads, but this doesn't mean that there isn't some degree of heart-warming empathy elicited by a cast that are trying their damnedest to tweak the tear-ducts. Highmore is engaging enough though he is not utilised to put that lump in your throat almost as much as you would expect him to be - which, to be honest, is a blessed relief. Rhys Meyers and Keri Russell have a peculiarly thankless task as the errant, circumstance-wrenched parents, but still can't manage to acquit themselves without being too cloyingly saccharine, and Williams just ambles along in the simple pleasure that he can now add yet another oddball character to his resume.
This Warner BD release has fine AV quality - very clear and detailed in both sound and vision - but is only half-heartedly catered-for in the extras department with a handful of additional scenes. Overall, this is light and charming on the plus side, unbelievable and contrived on the negative. But, with the right frame of mind, August Rush probably hits enough of the right notes to get by in the awww-cute stakes.
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