The Jane Austen Book Club Blu-ray Review
PictureSony presents this transfer in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 in a 1080P encode. Some of Sony's transfers have been sparkling, but this transfer mirrors the film perfectly in being a total wash out.
OK, so it's not the nadir of HD transfers, but it is certainly amongst the worst I have had the misfortune to see. There is a complete lack of 3D Pop here, a complete lack of detail, and even the colours do not impress.
The good side of things is represented by the fact that the source material is pristine, but this is as it should be for a recent release. There is no noise, no artefacts, and no dirt. But the transfer seems almost overly compressed.
It is difficult to put a finger on exactly what is wrong here, but it does not look much better than a decently upscaled DVD. The picture is sharp, but I have seen DVDs that have more colour than present here, and as previously mentioned the whole image lacks that 3D pop we are used to. The whole result leaves the image strangely flat and bereft of the level of detail we are used to.
SoundAmazingly, after seeing many action films given compressed soundtracks, The Jane Austen Book Club gets a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track. Now, on my EP 35 TrueHD soundtracks always come across slightly quieter than their compressed cousins. On the Playstation 3, however, decoded within the console and sent to my Onkyo 605 TrueHD soundtracks can sound stunning with no notable volume differences. What on earth, then, has gone wrong here?
The first thing you notice when firing this disc up is that the volume is unbelievably low. I had to raise the volume substantially just to hear the dialogue. Then the music kicks in and suddenly it is like some second rate cheesy Californian rocker is bashing you over the head with his guitar. At this point you find yourself constantly reaching for the remote to adjust the volume every time the music kicks in. This is frustrating as anything.
So, the dialogue is muffled and muted, and the music over mixed. Do the rears and subs compensate? Well, maybe they would if they were used at all, but the makers seem to have decided that they are completely unnecessary.
Listening to this film is as unpleasant an experience as watching it.
ExtrasFinally some positives! The Commentary featuring the director, editor, and a couple of stars is funny, witty, and interesting. Providing an equal mix of information and entertainment, this is possibly the only occasion where watching the film with the commentary on is a more enjoyable experience than with it off.
The quality of the extras soon drop though, as a succession of fluffy promotional pieces hove into view. There are three featurettes lasting between 12 and 21 minutes. One of them The Real Jane Austen is actually an interesting if thin introduction to the life of the author, whereas the other two would not be out of place on one of those HBO first look specials which provides zero information about the actual filmmaking process.
The final “featurette” Walking the Red Carpet is actually just a three minute fleeting glimpse of interviews carried out on the red carpet at the premiere. Finally we have some Deleted Scenes and some trailers for current Blu ray and cinema releases.
VerdictI really do hate to say it but this is quite simply one of the worst discs I have had the misfortune to review. The film is dire, the picture and sound awful, and the extras scant - apart from an excellent commentary.
Sadly, the films that are likely to appeal to a more female demographic on HD so far have been a little lacking and unfortunately this is yet another addition to that list. The genre deserves better, and HD deserves all the discs to receive the best possible treatment. Discs like this don't do the format any favours.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £38.96
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