'Precious' is presented in widescreen 1.85:1 with MPEG-4 AVC 1080p coding.
Whilst this transfer is a decidedly unattractive one, a choice made to highlight the gritty nature of Precious's existence, there is some good detail on show. During the brighter portions of the movie, such as during the outdoor based scenes, the presentation is crisp and clean, displaying the nuances of the streets of Harlem. Although the contrast ratio is not very strong indoors (a facet that is not helped by the lighting choices), there is plenty of shadow detail on show in the Jones' dingy and decrepit flat. Dank and soiled wallpaper, damage to the walls and Precious's sad looking collection of posters on her bedroom wall, are all clearly visible through the gloom. These scenes, however, are understandably nowhere near as sharp and well defined as the outdoor portions. The grain presence varies from scene to scene and is always organic and never overly obtrusive.
Facial close-ups, when not shrouded in darkness, can expose detail such as the yellowing teeth of Mary, her underarm hair and acne. The transfer also exposes a hint of mustachio on the normally immaculately groomed Mariah Carey - Shock! Horror! That being said, many of the scenes are so dimly lit that Precious's face simply becomes and almost unrecognisable dark blob; this is solely due to the low contrast ratio (although conversely the blacks can display some nice depth during some of the scenes) and intentional gloomy lighting choices. On other occasions the many subtle expressions of Precious shine though, indicating that intentional cinematography techniques during some of the scenes have led to this indistinguishability, rather than a poor transfer.
The palette is somewhat restricted by the browns and other dour colours, which dominate for the duration, such as gaudy colours of the ghetto and the almost brown interior of the Jones' abode. This choice of colouring, however, really suits the piece to a tee. There are some moments, such as during the fantasy segments, where the palette springs to life, producing some very solid primaries, such as the vibrant red of Precious's scarf.
This is not a transfer that will wow or impress but it does enhance the gritty and drab nature of Precious's life, as the director intended, and so comes recommended.
'Precious' comes with a dts HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track.
This is largely a vocal heavy piece and all of the strong ethnic accents and NYC twang of the culturally diverse characters are locked to the centre channel and never difficult to follow. Even the whispers of Mary, the low mumblings of Precious and her more solid voice over narrative, are all crystal clear. The presentation, for the majority, firmly dwells in the realm of the front channels and although stereo reproduction is good, the surround channels are never used to any great effect. Even during the rainy portions, the surrounds are disappointingly inactive, only really making their presence felt during some of the busier outdoor/city based portions. There are a few moments which provide some adequate bass interjection but these are restricted to the few scenes where Precious lives out her fantasies in her own mind to the accompanying pumping soundtrack.
Like the rest of the presentation, the score is also front heavy and while it does feature some suitably funky tracks, it's not overly impressive or original. There is some surround bleed and bass interjection but these aspects are very low in the mix indeed.
Overall this is an adequate surround track that does a solid job with the source material but ultimately this factor restricts the mix from even making it into the demo material waiting list!
I was impressed by the amount of available extras on 'Precious'. For a low budget production, one could have forgiven a slim selection of additional supplements but this is not the case. It's also worth noting that all of the extras are presented in high definition. In addition to the features listed below, we've also got a director's commentary by Lee Daniels. Obviously very passionate about the source material, Daniels speaks with gusto about the entire project. He goes into detail on the casting process and also the difficult task of converting the disturbing source material into a fully fledged feature presentation. The scenes are deconstructed and explained and he draws comparison between Precious's life and how many are also suffering just like her. Although there are a few breaks in the track, Daniels speaks intelligently and competently, making this essential listening for fans of the movie.
“A Precious Ensemble” (18mins HD) - This “casting” documentary takes a look at how all of the primary actors became involved with the project. Beginning with the difficult process of casting its supersized star, the rest of the cast are gradually introduced. Lee Daniels, Sarah Siegel-Magness (producer), Paula Patton, Sapphire, Mariah Carey, and Gabourey Sidibe, all give their thoughts on working with each other and their experiences on the set. It's interesting to get the two main stars take on some of the more difficult scenes that they had to portray. Excerpts from the movie feature throughout, with Daniel providing a link between all the interview segments. This is a nicely put together feature and is worth a watch.
“From Push to Precious” (15mins HD) - This feature focuses on the novel on which the movie is based. Sapphire, the author of the novel, recounts her life experiences which form part of this movie. She goes into great depth about the real life people on which the characters in 'Precious' are based, her input into the finished product and also why she waited for so long before allowing the movie to be made. Lee Daniels and Geoffrey Fletcher (screenplay writer) also provide their thoughts on how they adapted the novel for the big screen. Overall this is another interesting feature.
“A Conversation with Lee Daniels and Oprah Winfrey” (9mins HD) - Daniels, Tyler Perry (executive producer) and Oprah Winfrey all speak about the movie. All draw comparisons between their own lives and the life of Precious. They are all very passionate about the movie and it's refreshing to see so much energy surrounding a movie project, especially when it seems to be genuine and not simply to make lots of money (although you can never really tell with Oprah!).
“A Conversation with Lee Daniel and Sapphire” (8mins HD) - This fetaurette contains a dialogue between Lee Daniels and Saphhire. Both recount some of their life experiences, which surface in both the novel and the movie. There is great discussion on the characters (especially the evil Mary) and Sapphire speaks about the harrowing HIV outbreak in the early eighties, which she personally witnessed. There is some overlap with the “From Push to Precious” feature but there is some worthwhile content in here.
This strange collection of clips features Daniels, Patton, Sa as they beiefly account what 'Precious' means to them and then they all spew forth “advice for audience” in a highly repetitive fashion that was obviously meant for tv spots etc. The final portion of this feature is the screen test of Gab
Deleted Scene (2mins HD) - This deleted scene features Precious as she attends an incest survivors meeting and talks about her harrowing experiences at the hands of her own father.
Reflections on 'Precious' and Gabourey Sidibe's audition (4mins HD) - Lee Daniels, Mo'Nique and Gabourey Sidibe all give a short statement about the message that we should take from precious. Then we move onto a strange collection of clips featuring Daniels, Patton, Sapphire and Sidibe as they spew forth “advice for audience” in a highly repetitive fashion that was obviously meant for TV spots etc. There's also some short lived audition footage of the star of the feature presentation. Not really worth the effort in my opinion!
'Precious' was released in 2009 and was directed by Lee Daniels. Many of you may have heard of this title due to the fact that it picked up an award at this year's Oscars and for the critical praise that is has received over the last couple of months. The movie charts the harrowing and unenviable life of Precious, an obese and illiterate sixteen year old from Harlem, NYC. Every single day is a struggle for survival and it's only when Precious attends an “alternative school” that a ray of hope appears in her miserable existence. A story of hope, courage and spirit in the face of terrible adversity, this is not one for the faint hearted but is a very engrossing drama, with some stunning central performances and so comes recommended.
The transfer is for the most part dark and dingy, perfectly recreating the atmosphere of Precious's horrendous situation. There is some good detail on show but some of the scenes can suffer due to the lighting choices and low contrast ratio. Like the transfer, the audio presentation is somewhat unspectacular, with very sparse use of the surround and subwoofer channels but this is not a mix that was designed to blow your socks off. The extras portion contains some worthwhile extras but some of the features are a little short lived. Overall this is a fine package and contains enough additional supplements and a solid audio/video presentation that should keep everyone happy.
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