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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Phillip Noyce
Cast:
Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Brenton Thwaites, Cameron Monaghan, Odeya Rush, Alexander Skarsgård, Katie Holmes, Taylor Swift
Writing Credits:
Michael Mitnick and Robert B. Weide

Synopsis:
In a seemingly perfect community, without war, pain, suffering, differences or choice, a young boy is chosen to learn from an elderly man about the true pain and pleasure of the "real" world.

Box Office:
Budget
$25,000,000.
Opening Weekend
$5,253,000 on 2,805 Screens.
Domestic Gross
$43,838,601.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English

Runtime: 97 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 11/25/2014

Bonus:
• “Making The Giver: From Page to Screen” Featurette
• “Press Conference with Filmmakers and Cast”
• “Highlights from the Original Script Reading”
• Extended Scene
• “Ordinary Human” Featurette
• “Author Lois Lowry on The Giver” Featurette
• Study Guide
• DVD Copy


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


The Giver [Blu-Ray] (2014)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 18, 2014)

If current trends continue, by the year 2020, 98 percent of all feature films will be based on “young adult” novels. For a new look at that burgeoning trend, we go to 2014’s The Giver.

Set in 2048, we learn that after “The Ruin”, humans built “The Communities”, places protected by a boundary and the erasure of all memories related to prior strife. “The Communities” seem idyllic but they also come across as sterile and conformist.

On the eve of his high school graduation, Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) frets about the future, largely because he feels out of place in this one-dimensional society. At a ceremony, Jonas learns that he’s been assigned to be the Receiver of Memory, the one person who maintains all the society’s history.

This situation places Jonas in direct contact with the Giver (Jeff Bridges), the one who acted as the prior Receiver. Jonas learns all those now-ignored memories and encounters a variety of challenges that may upturn the staid society in which he lives.

For a while there, the “young adult” emphasis mainly pursued vampire/supernatural movies, as Twilight led that charge. Since the success of Hunger Games, though, these kinds of films have tended more toward futuristic, dystopian societies, and that’s the path Giver clearly walks.

It may not seem fair to view Giver as a follower in the footsteps of Hunger Games and others, if just because it comes from a source that predates those efforts. Lois Lowry’s novel hit shelves in 1993, so one can’t call Giver a rip-off of more recent “young adult” tales.

Well, we can’t accuse the book of imitation, but the film shows pretty strong antecedents. Clearly it reflects the same notions as its modern peers, and it also demonstrates attachments to earlier efforts in other genres.

If I needed to write a simple blurb about Giver, I’d call it “Logan’s Run meets Pleasantville”. Whether intentional or not, Giver really does play as a combination of those two films – and given my lack of affection for those movies, this doesn’t present to me as a particularly good thing.

Though at least Giver lacks the smug self-satisfaction of Pleasantville, which is a good start. Still, it comes across as so derivative that it struggles to make a name for itself. Add a strong serving of 1984 to the already-cited flick and Giver rarely feels like its own film; it just comes across as a conglomeration of influences, a trend that seems ironic given its pursuit of individuality.

Derivative though it may seem, I can’t say that Giver lacks entertainment value. After a slow, pedantic start, it gets moderately interesting as Jonas digs deeper into his education. Eventually he makes literal life and death discoveries that influence his choices, and those moments add some tension to the affair.

For a while, at least, as eventually the film becomes bogged down in its own themes to the detriment of story/character development. Much of the time Giver feels more like metaphor than movie, so it can drag as it sacrifices standard elements to advance its themes.

I don’t know if others think the same way, but I must admit the nature of the essentially “emotion-free” society perplexes me. On one hand, we’re supposed to see The Community as flat and sterile and without any feeling, but on the other, the characters clearly display emotions. They might be understated and with a tendency toward light happiness, but they’re there – and mildly negative feelings exist as well, so it’s not like everyone’s just on a literal anti-depressant high.

This inconsistency becomes a problem for me, as it seems to undercut much of the movie’s thematic thrust. If we want to view Jonas’s actions as genuinely revolutionary, shouldn’t the society have been even more bland and clinical than it is? I guess those involved felt the need to advance concepts of friendship more than they wanted to maintain logic, but these emotional discrepancies undercut the overall impact.

Even with these complaints, The Giver offers moderate entertainment – and at least it comes with a suitable ending, not one that makes it feel like nothing more than the first part of a multi-movie series. Unfortunately, the film comes with too many problems to deliver more than spotty entertainment.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus B

The Given appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though not stellar, the image mostly looked positive.

The most unusual aspect of the image came from its palette – or frequent lack thereof. At the start, Giver went with black and white visuals, but it introduced color along the way. Parts of Jonas’s education boasted dynamic hues, while much of the movie went with a more gradual involvement of colors, as Jonas’s view of The Community went from black and white to sepia to broader hues.

These worked well, as the movie brought out the colors in an appropriate way. However, the visual techniques necessary to bring about the unusual palette affected sharpness, as some moments could be a bit soft. These issues remained minor, so most of the movie seemed tight and well-defined, but occasional instances of mild softness could appear.

I noticed no jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes remained absent. Print flaws also failed to appear; as one would expect from a brand-new movie, the image looked clean. Blacks were dark and tight, and shadows gave us good delineation. I thought the black and white segments seemed a little “off”, though, again due to photographic techniques. Overall, this was a pleasing image but not a consistent one.

More consistency came from the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, that I can’t claim it dazzled. The movie’s focus meant the soundscape often stayed restrained, though it opened up more as Jonas’s journey progressed. This meant a mix of elements that used the various speakers well and immersed us in his experiences. Only occasionally did the track become genuinely immersive, but it still showed a mostly solid sense of place.

Audio quality worked well. Speech appeared distinctive and natural; looping seemed a bit obvious at times, but that kind of made sense for the artificial feel of the movie’s universe. Music was bright and full, and effects showed good range and impact. This became a satisfying soundtrack.

When we move to the set’s extras, we start with Making The Giver: From Page to Screen. In this 21-minute, 39-second piece, we hear from author Lois Lowry, screenwriters Michael Mitnick and Robert Weide, producer Nikki Silver, director Phillip Noyce, and actors Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges, Brenton Thwaites, Katie Holmes, Alexander Skarsgard, and Odeya Rush. We learn about the movie’s slow path to the screen as well as story/character areas, cast and performances, and Noyce’s work on the film. Despite a few decent notes, most of “Screen” remains promotional – which makes its overly-revealing nature perplexing, as it gives away some spoilers.

Next comes a Press Conference with Filmmakers and Cast. It lasts 35 minutes, 31 seconds and provides info from Lowry, Bridges, Weide, Noyce, Thwaites, Streep, Holmes, Rush, Mitnick. Silver and actors Taylor Swift, Cameron Monaghan and Emma Tremblay. The conference talks more about the tale’s route to the big screen, script, story and characters, visual design, locations, and effects, cast and performances. Despite the obvious existence of the event as a way to sell the movie, it comes with mostly interesting comments, so it’s worth a look.

Highlights from the Original Script Reading goes for 39 minutes, 47 seconds and comes with an introduction from Jeff Bridges. He tells us that the extended Bridges clan conducted the reading in the 1990s, which means it includes patriarch Lloyd Bridges in the role Jeff would play in 2014. “Reading” gives us a cool little archival piece and also allows us to view some of the differences between the movie and the source novel.

Called “Jonas’s Harrowing Journey”, an Extended Scene runs nine minutes, 23 seconds and shows more of the lead’s journey toward the end of the film. I think we see enough of this sequence in the final film, so the longer version doesn’t give us anything more satisfying.

With Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, Ordinary Human fills two minutes, 43 seconds with the musician’s thoughts. He discusses the song he wrote for the film. A few minor nuggets of info emerge but not much.

In the three-minute, 35-second Lois Lowry on The Giver, the author covers the novel’s inspirations as well as aspects of the story and characters and changes for the film. Despite the reel’s brevity, Lowry gives us some good thoughts.

Finally, we locate a Study Guide. It uses scenes from the movie as ways for teachers to work with kids. I have no idea if anyone will do so, but it becomes an interesting way to expand the tale into the classroom.

The disc opens with ads for Vampire Academy and The Maze Runner. No trailer for Giver shows up here.

A second disc presents a DVD copy of The Giver. It features the same extras as the Blu-ray except for the press conference.

After more than 20 years since the novel’s publication, The Giver makes it to movie screens – and lands with something of a thud. While the film provides occasional glimmers of life, it seems too inconsistent and derivative to become a strong experience. The Blu-ray comes with good picture and audio as well as a reasonably informative set of supplements. Though professional and sporadically enjoyable, The Giver never makes much of a memorable impact.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main