PictureThis lavish new Blu-ray release of The Notebook comes presented with a glorious High Definition 1080p rendition in the film's original theatrically broad aspect ratio of widescreen 2.4:1. Detail is fantastic throughout, bringing the predominantly period-set material to the screen in the best possible way - the authentic setting given that extra air of realism by beautiful cinematography and a picture-perfect transfer. Clarity resounds from start to finish, avoiding anything more than a hint of (arguably intentional) grain and softness, whether on the longer shots or the close-ups (something particularly usual for a classically stylised romance) and the picture is completely devoid of digital defects. The colour scheme is rich and vivid, assisted by the sumptuous settings and superior shots, with a gorgeous (almost impossibly beautiful) red/orange sunset marking just one striking image in a movie peppered with visual life. Greens and browns dominate, and blacks are solid and deep and allow for decent night sequences and shadowing. Although the modern scenes are slightly more clinical and 'clean', this only makes them look suitably authentic. Overall this is a standout video presentation for a movie that you would not necessarily associate with superior visuals.
SoundAs with the video, the studio appears to have gone all-out on the audio front, giving us an outstanding Dolby TrueHD 5.1 package that certainly presents the soundtrack is the best possible way. Dialogue - from the arguments to the quiet whispers and musings on love - gets good air across the front and centre channels, and the effects - whilst almost entirely ambient - are observed so keenly that you really get a fantastically authentic atmosphere to embellish the material. The rainy boat-ride scene stands out, with the downpour really making you wonder whether it might be pouring down outside your window as you're watching the flick, and the night sequences are as peppered with chattering wildlife as the day party scenes are littered with chatter. The score is fairly standard, but suitably passionate for this kind of vehicle, falling into the 'nice' category even if it does not wildly stand out, and offering up the icing on the cake. Bass may be limited to a couple of thunder strikes and a thunderous shelling attack (the score certainly doesn't give the LFE channel anything to do) but this is still a superior audio track considering the limited romantic material.
ExtrasThe Notebook comes presented in extremely Valentine's Day-friendly packaging, a lavish big book-size box that contains all manner of girl-oriented material that should score you brownie points. It may be a little teen, and a little over-the-top, but girls will probably lap up the movie photo album - complete with stills and a film synopsis, and even a few spare pages at the end for you to add your own photos (now that bit seems utterly pointless) - as well as the bookmarks, the photo corners, stickers and the special notecards. As a gift, all this fluffy stuff is a welcome girlie treat.
The Extras themselves are identical to the previous DVD incarnation, but that is not necessarily such a bad thing as they mark quite a substantial selection. We get not one but two full length Commentaries - the first by the Director Nick Cassavetes, which is rich, informative, occasionally eccentric but generally good (we get to hear about the cast, the settings, the course of the production, the cuts that had to be made to secure a younger audience and so forth) and the second is with the writer of the original novel, Nicholas Sparks, who offers up some insight into his art, his ideas behind writing, structuring, characters and the whole period dynamic, and brief comments on his literary work as a whole. If you like Sparks' books then you'll probably favour the latter, but the Director's contribution is slightly better tailored for the film's fans. We get four short Featurettes covering the casting, the (period) location, the director (and his family) and the story. Most of it is fairly insubstantial, fluffy promotional stuff (and most of the bases were already covered in more depth by the Commentaries) except perhaps the slightly more visually interesting look at creating the 40s Southern environment. We also get a 3 minutes screen test to accompany the casting Featurette, which sees just what the relatively unknown Rachel McAdams had to offer. Perhaps the most substantial extra, the Deleted Footage, fleshes out the characters a little more (literally too, as some of them offer us more graphic versions of the film's love scenes - which were shortened in the final cut to secure a lower rating) and fans will want to trawl through this half hour of deleted material to see what is on offer. Finally we get a trailer to round off the disc.
VerdictThe Notebook is one of the best straight-played romances that I have ever seen and, as such, probably graduates into the realm of must-see movies from all genres. Packed with rich, interesting characters that are rounded by superior, believable performances, and given a sweet period setting, this movie takes an ostensibly standard love story and presents it in a way that at least feels both fresh and new. On Blu-ray we get the best possible video and audio specs, as well as all the previous - fairly comprehensive - extras all presented in a girlfriend-friendly package. Valentine's Day may have passed but this one will probably go down well as a present - and a date movie - any day of the year. Recommended.
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