Black Snake Moan Blu-ray Review
PictureBlack Snake Moan hits Blu-ray with another great High Definition 1080p video presentation, in the movie's original theatrical widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Detail is excellent almost throughout, the picture often having that 3D quality that viewers love to see on all the latest High Definition releases. There is very little softness indeed, and grain is kept to an absolute minimum, not even becoming an issue during some of the darker sequences. The colour palette is quite broad and sumptuous, depicting the hot, humid Deep South setting realistically, with vivid greens and reds amongst the dilapidated, faded houses - both inside and outside. The sun-drenched daytime scenes probably look the best, but it would be difficult to falter much with the visual presentation of this movie, with solid blacks allowing for decent shadowing and rounding off one of the better visual renditions that I have come across recently.
SoundIn aural terms, I was marginally disappointed to find that this new Blu-ray release of a 2007 production does not get Uncompressed PCM 5.1. Instead all we get is a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 track which, whilst still serving its purpose, is surely not as potent as an Uncompressed audio track, which would more fully utilise the capabilities of Blu-ray. Still, dialogue comes presented clearly and coherently throughout, from the shouts and screams that dominate the first act, to the more quiet, contemplative offerings and then even the singing later on. It all generally comes from the frontal array, with little here making it through to the surrounds. The effects don't tend to broaden the range either, with nothing requiring any extensive dynamics across the surrounds or rears, just the sounds of heavy metal chains, trucks on the road, and the crickets and birds chirping in the hot outdoors. In fact, the track's most potent aspect is the score, which includes several background songs early on, as well as blues tracks sung by the two leads towards the end. The tracks, particularly in the house and in the bar, are powerful and dominating, giving up a little towards some surround expression and even offering up some bass action. The track does everything it needs to, yet still seems someone restrained in comparison to an Uncompressed equivalent.
ExtrasFirst up we get an Audio Commentary by the Writer/Director Craig Brewer, the man behind the interesting but slightly clichéd Hustle and Flow. This is actually one of the most interesting Commentaries that I have come across recently, Brewer making for a captivating narrator who provides just the right mix of background into character/story, and anecdotes about the production itself. The best bits are the personal bits, where he talks about Jackson's own ideas for the movie, his own observations on real-life situations and the production antics. If you like the movie then you have to sit down for this commentary, it is well worth listening to.
Conflicted: The Making of Black Snake Moan is nearly half an hour in length and takes an in-depth look at this production, with comments from the crew: the writer, director, the composer and the producers, all talking about the almost fantastical movie that they were trying to create, and how they set about forging it. There is plenty of behind the scenes footage injected it - far more than there is final film shots - and the discussions over the blues roots, the sexual themes and the characters depicted are quite interesting. Jackson, Timberlake and Ricci provide on-set interviews, offering their viewpoints as well, and this is quite a refreshingly honest, down-to-earth Documentary that never seems fluffy.
Rooted in the Blues takes out twelve minutes to look specifically at the soundtrack that they created for this movie, the blues artists that they put together and the music that they wanted to produce. There is plenty of Behind the Scenes footage, as well as contributions from most of those seen on the previous Making-Of and this makes for a nice companion Featurette. The Black Snake Moan Featurette takes a ten-minute specific look at the Black Snake Moan song that is brought to life halfway through the movie and how they created their perfect rendition of it.
There are also 6 Deleted Scenes, all presented in glorious High Definition. Totalling nearly fifteen minutes of cut footage (all with optional Commentary by the Director explaining why they were excised), they vary from scene extensions with more religious overtones, to advice that Lazarus seeks from his friends, to flashbacks to how Rae met her true love. There's nothing particularly interesting to watch here and even avid fans are unlikely to want to view the extra scenes more than once. That said, it is nice to have them included here, and looking especially good in High Definition. Finally there's the Theatrical Trailer to round off the disc.
VerdictBlack Snake Moan is quite a gritty, dark drama about exorcising personal demons and finding redemption in the Deep South. It has two solid performances from the ever watchable Samuel L. Jackson and the surprisingly versatile Christina Ricci, and a dramatic story, with equal parts of depth and shallowness that make it average out into what is, overall, a decent watch. Video presentation is pretty excellent and audio is disappointing only in its technical specifications, and not in terms of actual performance. There are several solid extras to round off the disc and fans should not hesitate in picking this Blu-ray release up, although newcomers who are tempted should probably consider a rental first, unless being a Samuel L. Jackson fan compels you to blindly add it to your collection.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £18.57
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