Secondhand Lions Blu-ray Review
'Secondhand Lions' ambles on to Blu-ray with an acceptable 1080p VC-1 transfer, framed in the 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio. We are presented with generally natural looking colours throughout with good skin tones and fairly deep blacks. In the flashback sequences, the colours take on greater brightness and depth - perhaps to suggest that a more rosy picture is being painted in the telling of a tale. Contrast is good throughout and there is a decent amount of detail on show. What we have is something that resembles a good 35mm print of the period and we're reminded of this source by the occasional appearance of grain in some wide sky shots, but this is no bad thing. It would be wrong to say that it has the fabled 3D 'pop' because it's not that type of movie. Some close-ups may appear a tad soft, but this looks to be the result of the use of in camera filters - maybe to hide a few lines. Oops - did I say that out loud?
Overall the transfer is pleasing with little to offend the eye. It may not be as good as a recent release or a restored classic but it certainly stands up well to the scrutiny of projection on a large screen. I'd call it a good looking image.
The audio on 'Secondhand Lions' comes in a Dolby TrueHD 6.1 surround flavour which may come as a bit of a surprise for a film of this type. There is considerable use of the surround effects from the very opening as the two wayward brothers fly an old aeroplane in their attempt to grow old disgracefully. The surrounds also help place the audience in the thick of the action during the recounting of their adventures, be it the clash of steel on steel in a swordfight or bullets whizzing by in the Foreign Legion.
The main stereo pair swell nicely with Patrick Doyle's rousing score that also spreads to the rear channels on occasion.
The dialogue is generally clear and crisp throughout, allowing Michael Caine's narration of the flashback sequences to be heard above the action.
It's actually not from the blockbuster movie school of sound mixing, but it serves its purpose well and fits in with the style of the piece. Nice one.
- Commentary with Director Tim McCanlies
Here, Tim McCanlies flies solo with an interesting comm. track that provides some in-depth insight into the production of the film together with more detail on the characters. He covers almost every element of the picture, from scoring and construction of sets to the problems encountered while shooting within tight spaces such as inside a pick-up truck. One for film production fans.
- One Screenplay's Wild Ride to Hollywood (26 mins, SD)
This fairly chunky documentary follows the film from its creation in Tim McCanlies' mind to getting it up on the screen. We hear of the problems associated with getting a movie made in Hollywood without it being ruined by studio interference. It discusses the producer's desire to make the two older leads look more heroic to appeal to superstar actors, defending the script against Warner Bros. proposed rewrites, and the passing up of the script by big stars. We hear from many of the producers as well as McCanlies in some very frank interview clips. Fascinating.
- On the Set with Secondhand Lions (26 mins, SD)
This featurette takes us on-set with the cast of 'Secondhand Lions' in Austin, Texas. Director McCanlies tells us about his concerns in teaching "Alfie" Caine a Texas accent by explaining that words "lean" on each other. Also Haley Joel Osment discusses his high-pitched squeaks due to his voice dropping. We hear about the crew of animal stars on the picture, from dogs and pigs to the lion. A very nice doco.
- Haley Joel Osment: An Actor Coming of Age (13 mins, SD)
Here, the young actor talks about his early experiences in acting including his first job with a one-line delivery in a Pizza Hut commercial, before moving on to his relationship with his father. He also talks about the responsibility faced by an actor in the public eye as well as Secondhand Lions being his own coming-of-age picture in real life.
- Visual Effects Comparisons (2 mins, SD)
Split screen is used to show the pre and post composited scenes for the 'From Austin to Marseille" and "Digital Soldiers" sequences. Very impressive stuff.
- Deletes scenes (42 mins, SD)
A fine selection of deleted scenes which don't really add much to the movie and only slow the pace so you can see why they were cut. Many are extensions of existing scenes but there are a few that have been completely removed. The original ending is interesting but not as good as the one in the final cut. There's an optional commentary for those interested.
We get the theatrical trailer (2 mins 32s, SD) as well as seven TV spots (3 mins 42s, SD) for the movie.
'Secondhand Lions' prowls on to Region free Blu-ray with an acceptable 1080p VC-1 transfer framed in the 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio. Colours are natural in a subdued way during the 'real life' sequences but take on a brighter 'Technicolor' look during the flashbacks. Decent contrast and detail are displayed throughout.
The Dolby TrueHD 6.1 soundtrack makes good use of the surround speakers to involve us while dialogue is clear throughout as the Patrick Doyle score fills the main stereo pair and sometimes the surrounds
A fine selection of featurettes and deleted scenes together with a fascinating director's commentary from Tim McCanlies make this great for production buffs.
As a movie, it has great charm with fine performances from Robert Duvall, Michael Caine and Haley Joel Osment in this coming of age story. Nice, gentle comedy that reminds us we are all human.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £17.97
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- Commentary with Director Tim McCanlies