Milk Blu-ray Review
'Milk' is presented in widescreen 2.35:1 with VC-1 1080p coding.
The slightly oversaturated, muted and gritty palette that Sant has chosen for 'Milk' aims to transport the audience back to the 70's and while he does achieve this, the resultant Blu-ray transfer is somewhat restricted in its capabilities. The colour balance is skewed towards red causing an orange hue in some of the scenes although this choice suits the content of the movie. The brighter outdoor scenes, while appearing slightly oversaturated, can look impressive with some nice definition. The detail in these brighter scenes also serves to draw attention away from the grain in the picture, which appears greatly reduced in these sequences when compared to some of the darker segments.
While facial close-ups can be impressive, with Penn's wrinkled brow standing out with some nice definition, if you are looking for superlative image depth and three-dimensionality you may look elsewhere! In saying that, the image is very clean and displays naturalistic skin tones with accurate colouring for the most part, and the courtroom scenes do demonstrate some depth. There is also plenty of detail on show with the texture visible on the patterned wallpaper of Milk's abode, marbling visible on the walls of the mayor's office and text on Harvey's campaign posters legible. The clothing is also well represented with the faded blue denim and brown fabrics of Milk's suits being fine examples. The contrast ratio is strong with nice black levels, which also serve to enhance the primary colours throughout this presentation.
As is to be expected from a movie that is based on 1970's styling's, coupled with the fact that Sant attempts to emulate the feel of the archive newsreel segments, grain is present to varying degrees in many of the scenes. Whilst for the most part organic and unobtrusive, some of the darker night time scenes (such as the gay beating scene) are marred by its softening effects which reduce visibility. Overall this is a serviceable presentation that achieves the look and feel that Sant intended but at the expense of the picture quality at times.
'Milk' is encoded with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track.
This audio presentation, while sounding slightly limited at times, does demonstrate some nice effects, such as the accurate representation of the echo in Scott and Harvey's Castro residence. Dialogue, especially the eloquent speeches from Milk, is crystal clear throughout. As this is predominantly is a dialogue orientated movie there is not very much surround activity aside from some ambient crowd effects during Milk's rallies. When Cleve is making his calls to gather support, ringing phones and conversations rattle around the room creating a nice, wide soundstage. Apart from these scant instances, the score is the only other facet of this presentation which envelops the listener.
Removed from his usually dark and gothic comfort zone, Danny Elfman has composed a very uncharacteristic score for “Milk”. Largely carefree and upbeat, the score fits perfectly with on screen proceedings. Interludes such as the “La La La” segment, which plays as Scott and Harvey move to San Francisco, really serve to enhance the free love ideals of the era. Other segments skillfully empathise with Harvey's cause in the latter stages of the movie, with beautiful orchestral intonations audible during the march scenes which rise and fall with the chants of the crowd. The score sits perfectly in the mix and while never really dominating the soundstage, demonstrates nice bass tonality with a reasonable level of surround bleed. With some nice variation ranging from operatic styling's to 70's style happy tunes, Elfman has done another fine job and has demonstrated yet another aspect of his impressive capabilities. As always, Elfman's composition is excellent but at times these rousing moments would be more suited in a super hero movie than during a gay march. There are also a couple of tracks from the magical 70's era thrown into the mix, which are well realised, a highlight being “Everyday People” by Sly and the Family Stone (although this is disappointingly short lived).
Like the video presentation this is a serviceable audio track which is restricted by the quality of the source material.
The extras content is a little lacking with only three featurettes on offer. A commentary featuring Penn and Sant would have been a welcome addition but alas this is not present. There's an option to set-up the disc menus for control with a Playstation 3 dualshock pad which is a nice feature and caters for the large number of PS3 owners who use their machines to watch Blu-ray's. We've also got a user guide on how to navigate through the disc's menus and BD Live, featuring the usual collection of HD trailers and news on up and coming high definition releases. “My Scenes” is also included on this release which allows the viewer to save their favourite scenes for playback. I still think that this feature is only useful for releases that contain some stunning demo material, which unfortunately 'Milk' does not have, so I'm not too sure how useful this feature will be to the public on this particular disc.
“Remembering Harvey” (HD 13mins) - Insight from campaign writers/photographers and former San Francisco supervisors on Harvey Milk and how he started the gay rights movement. Anne Kronenberg also features as she gives her thoughts on working with Milk and the financial difficulties of running their campaigns. Anne and Cleeve Jones also give input on how they coped following Harvey's death and the legacy that Milk created.
“Hollywood Comes to San Francisco” (HD 14mins) - A feature on Milk and the pioneering work that he began in San Francisco. Comparisons are drawn with Ghandi and Martin Luther King as Milk was another political figure who sacrificed his life for his beliefs. There's expansion on the role that Cleeve Jones played following Milk's assassination and the consulting work that he did on this production. There's also insight into techniques for bringing the emotion of this story to the silver screen from Sant, the cast/crew and historical consultants. The producers also explain how they used the actual locations where Milk was based in the Castro in the 1970's during filming. The extras used during the rally sequences were unpaid and many took part in the original marches. An interesting and informative feature.
“ Marching for Equality” (HD 7mins ) - A brief look at the march sequences from the movie with input from Cleeve Jones and other historical consultants who worked on the movie. They expand on their experiences regarding the part they played in the original marches, how powerful these actions of political activism were back in the late 1970's and the accuracy of Sant's vision.
'Milk' is an interesting historical biography that accurately charts Harvey Milk's progression from oppressed homosexual to outspoken gay activist and politician. Sant's authentic visual depiction of 70's San Francisco is impressive, with the inclusion of vintage newsreel footage and newspaper articles bolstering realism. The narrative featuring Milk as he records his final thoughts is poetic and really adds to the storyline which spans six years in two hours. An enjoyable movie that features Sean Penn in his most impressive performance to date.
Serviceable is the term that springs to mind with regards to the audio and video presentations on this release. While not containing any moments of jaw dropping high definition excess, both do have a few moments in which they can impress but the quality and content of the source material does serve to limit capabilities.
The extras package is somewhat lacklustre containing only three short featurettes. Sant and Penn are absent from these which is a major omission, as is the lack of a commentary track. Overall this is an acceptable package that is supported by the quality of the main feature.
“My name is Harvey Milk, and I want to recruit you!”
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £39.98
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