Junebug Blu-ray Review
PictureJunebug presents itself to us on Blu-ray with a 1080p image encoded using the AVC codec and framed within a theatrically correct original aspect ratio of 1.78:1.
Being filmed using Super 16mm, Junebug has a distinctively indie feel to it. The result is a display that is slightly lacking in the detail one would associate with mainstream blockbusters converted to the format, whilst a secondary side effect is the pronounced grain. It adds to the art-house feel of the piece and is generally in keeping with the atmosphere - if anything I'd say that a presentation that was too clear of such things would be betraying the nature of the film - the problem lies when some exterior shots against sky show it up to be decidedly heavy or when the interior lighting falls towards the ambient rather than the crisp.
The overall palette leans more towards the pastel shades than bright fluorescence. They are handled well and appear cleaner and better defined than those found on the DVD, with a greater contrast between the extremes of the spectrum. This is still low compared to mainstream fodder but in comparison to the aforementioned previous DVD it is a distinct improvement. This adds a depth that was also a little lacking in the standard definition iteration of the film. The one caveat to this assessment of colour would be that of skin tones, which I found verging on the ruddy at times and slightly fluctuating from scene to scene.
This is very much a disc that betrays its roots to viewers and the bump to Blu-ray was never likely to give us an image comparable to the best the format has to offer. Once you get past the shallow blacks and slight softness though, viewers familiar with the film will instantly notice the improved shadow detail, greater depth and colour on show.
SoundSound options are all English and comprise DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and plain Dolby Digital 2.0.
The oddity seems to be the film's lack of punch with either of the lossless formats. Dialogue was often muddy and muffled as if something was obstructing the path of the centre channel speaker. Given the film's major reliance upon the script, such a misstep is a little perplexing. The bass in the track is light and feels less than tight though this was never likely to be a seat shaker of an experience.
The higher frequencies similarly find themselves less than uniformly responsive with regards sound effects but once music is introduced the result is altogether different. The score by Yo La Tengo and the myriad of different pitches have a delicacy to them that far outperforms the rest of the mix. The final oddity of the audio on this disc is that of the Dolby Digital 2.0 track which improves intelligibility of the speech markedly so and though flat, was actually my preferred choice for listening which is not what I wanted from a Blu-ray, no matter how low budget the source material.
Amy Adams (Ashley) and Embeth Davidtz (Madeleine) take us through their experiences on set and let us into a little of the process of shooting. It would have been nice to hear from the director Phil Morrison or the writer Angus Machlachlan but the two central female leads give listeners a pleasant insight. They over enthuse sometimes, with Davidtz by far the worst offender, but their overall tone is that of extreme pride and enthusiasm for the film which is refreshing. There are a few interesting titbits but mostly they focus on their own experiences in scenes and the characterization.
Deleted scenes - 480p - 21:24
Ten scenes omitted from the film are played for us here in chronological order. It is entirely understandable why these were cut as they tend to cover the same ground as other shots and thus take away from some of the impact of particular nuances. Rhythm was clearly paramount to the director and these scenes prolong some important moments beyond that which was necessary.
Behind the scenes - 480p - 17:36
Divided into five segments; places and faces (3:34), singing a hymn (5:25), meerkats gone wild (3:08), Ashley (2:38), and all about Peg (2:51). They take us through the sets used, Nivola practising his singing, McKenzie's take on the brotherly relationship, Adams explaining her character and finally Celia Watson's opinion of the matriarchal role. All the pieces have a relaxed atmosphere to them but are hardly packed with information and could have been a fair bit longer.
Amy Adams question and answer - 480p - 21:35
As the opening blurb says, “filmed in London at The Soho Hotel on 12th March 2006 especially for this special edition”, the only minor point being that the special edition in question was the Eureka two disc DVD rather than being an exclusive feature of the Blu-ray as it might be perceived. It is the longest feature and although some of the questions are a little befuddled and gushing there are some nice insights into the preparation of the role and Adams' take on the universality of the character she portrayed.
Casting sessions - 480p - 21:20
Split into two sections, this shows us the early footage from the casting process of both Amy Adams (14:00) and Ben McKenzie (7:20). Both show how little improvisation was needed as the end result was clearly already well laid out on the written page. The takes are fairly long though and compared to other screen test footage it is among the better acted, and more relaxed than most. The roots of Adams' superb portrayal of Ashley as a character of note are evident even at this early stage.
Ann Wood - 1080p - 5:08
This is a slide show of paintings created for the film by trained artist Ann Wood, with the help of the writer and director to give her guidance on what was needed. Given the striking nature of the art, this by rights should have been a great feature. Unfortunately the black background is decidedly washed out and thus the interior frame showing the artworks themselves lacks a visual punch. They are also far too small to have any impact and therefore this extra seems to serve little purpose other than for completionist's sake which is a real pity.
VerdictJunebug is an odd Blu-ray to sum up. The film itself is a delightful character study that fits in so many well woven complexities of familial relationships that it could have fallen in amongst the collection of such indie films that follow the same well trodden path of utilising kinship angst and small town America as a backdrop. Luckily, the writing has an air of authenticity to it that never strays too far towards the outright comedic based upon stereotypes and the direction ably takes this baton and runs with it. Morrison injects moments of subtle reflection which break up the bickering conversations and inane chatter thus creating a beautiful ebb and flow to his work.
The disc gives us an image that is certainly better than the previous DVD but still falls below the standard Blu-rays which have more affluent productions and glossy source material. Depth and detail are increased but the inconsistent grain and slight softness that appears occasionally show the roots of the film clearly. Sound quality does little with the lossless audio on offer and the fact that a 2.0 mix even crosses my mind as being the better option should speak volumes. It is far from diabolical but the 5.1 tracks should have offered far clearer speech.
Once you factor in the extras that are exactly the same as the previous two disc DVD, the idea of an upgrade becomes less than a must. However, for those yet to sample the delightful story of Junebug, this Blu-ray's budget price and superior picture should at least be considered.