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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Nora Ephron
Cast:
Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, Chris Messina, Linda Emond, Helen Carey, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Jane Lynch
Writing Credits:
Nora Ephron, Julie Powell (book, "Julie & Julia"), Julia Child (book, "My Life in France"), Alex Prud'homme (book, "My Life in France")

Tagline:
Passion. Ambition. Butter. Do You Have What It Takes?

Synopsis:
A culinary legend provides a frustrated office worker with a new recipe for life in Julie & Julia, the true stories of how Julia Child's (Meryl Streep) life and cookbook inspired fledgling writer Julie Powell (Amy Adams) to whip up 524 recipes in 365 days and introduce a new generation to the magic of French cooking. Stanley Tucci co-stars in director Nora Ephron's delicious comedy about joy, obsession and butter. Bon appetit!

Box Office:
Budget
$40 million.
Opening Weekend
$20.027 million on 2354 screens.
Domestic Gross
$93.723 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French DTS-HD MA 5.1
Subtitles:
English
French
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 123 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 12/8/2009

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Nora Ephron
• “Secret Ingredients: Creating Julie & Julia” Featurette
• “Family and Friends Remember Julia Child” Featurette
• “Julia’s Kitchen” Featurette
• “Cooking Lessons” Featurette
• Previews


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EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; 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


Julie & Julia [Blu-Ray] (2009)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 4, 2009)

Has Meryl Streep become the Official Queen of Summer Counter-Programming? Maybe. Over two consecutive years, Streep starred in movies that contrasted the standard big summer blockbuster mentality. 2008’s Mamma Mia! took in $143 million, and then 2009’s Julie & Julia grossed $93 million. No, the flicks didn’t threaten either year’s biggest hits, but they still showed that there’s a real audience for summertime flicks that go against the standard seasonal mindset.

Just because those two made money doesn’t mean they’re actually any good, however. I thought Mamma Mia! was an utter disaster, but I hoped for more from Julie. This one tells an unusual interlocking tale. On one hand, we follow legendary chef Julia Child (Streep). We meet her in 1949 as she and her husband Paul (Stanley Tucci) move to France. With little to occupy her time, Julia decides to convey her love of French cuisine. She takes classes at the Cordon Bleu and helps develop the first English language cookbook to cover French food.

The other half of the movie looks at Julie Powell (Amy Adams). She finds herself in a rut as she turns 30. All her friends are super-successful, but she’s stuck in a cubicle in a dead-end job. Once the editor of her college’s literary magazine, Julie decides to write a blog: over a year, she’ll cook her way through all 524 recipes in Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and discuss her experiences. Thus launches the “Julie/Julia Project”.

Whatever charms Julie boasts come from the Child sequences. It’s a cliché to heap praise on Streep, but damn if she doesn’t lose herself in the role. On the surface, she’s wrong for the part. She doesn’t look much like Child, and she’s much older than Julia as depicted in the flick. Tucci is exactly the right age for Paul, but Streep is off by decades; while Child was 11 years younger than her husband, Streep is 11 years older than Tucci.

None of which matters a whit, as Streep fully embodies the famous chef as a younger woman. Perhaps her performance works because we’re more accustomed to the older Child; intellectually, we know Streep’s much older than 37, but since we never saw this younger Child ourselves, Streep’s age matches the public Julia well enough to satisfy us.

Or maybe it’s just because Streep’s a fine actress. Whatever the case, her performance works. She totters on the line of Dan Aykroyd-style parody – the elephant in the room that actually appears briefly in the film – but Streep simply possesses too much dramatic skill to make Child a cartoon character. Streep’s Child can be a hoot, but she’s also surprisingly believable as a person.

When Julie sticks with Julia, it’s fairly entertaining. Tucci – so delightful with Streep in The Devil Wears Prada - doesn’t get much to do, but his presence helps ground things in a satisfying way. As Julia’s sister, Jane Lynch pops up in a fun cameo as well.

Unfortunately, the Julie segments come as a consistent drag. Maybe I just hate the sight of the lovely Adams all frumped up with a super-dowdy haircut; I’m sure it’s an accurate depiction of the real Powell’s look, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Even if Adams looked gorgeous from start to finish, however, the Julie sequences would still fall flat. I can’t quite figure out why I’m supposed to care about Julie and her narcissistic little quest. Obviously many people do find her cooking marathon to be of interest, but I don't know why. The woman made a lot of food over a year – and…?

Perhaps there’s more to the story as it really happened, but as depicted in the film, that’s about it. Julie cooks a lot and that’s about it. Oh, she occasionally spars with her Eric (Chris Messina), her bland lump of a husband, but mostly we see a lot of shots in the kitchen as Julie follows her quest.

Yawn, yawn, and yawn again. The film presents the Julie/Julia stories as parallels, and they are; both women try to figure out who they are and what to do with their non-relationship lives. The difference? Child is a fascinating character, while Powell is just a whiny chick with fatuous friends and the dullest husband ever found. I constantly hoped that a meteorite would hit them and end the misery. Alas, that doesn’t happen, so at least half of Julie is a tedious bore.

Which is a shame, as the Child segments are actually quite interesting. I’m no fan of writer/director Nora Ephron, but she handles the Child side of things pretty well. I can’t even blame her for the problems with the Powell segments; maybe Ephron botched the source material, but I can’t quite figure out how Julie’s story could become anything interesting. It’s a self-absorbed mope who cooks a lot – where do you go from there?

To the remote so you can fast-forward through all the Powell scenes, of course. That’s really the only way to enjoy Julie & Julia: stick with the Child segments and you’ll have a good time. Stick with the Powell sections and you’ll want to jump off a bridge.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A-/ Audio C+/ Bonus C+

Julie & Julia appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. The movie boasted a strong transfer.

Sharpness excelled. The movie always looked concise and accurate, without a hint of softness on display. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I saw no signs of edge enhancement. Source flaws also were absent, as I witnessed no specks, marks or other defects.

Colors fared very well. The movie featured a warm natural palette that delivered some sumptuous hues. The tones showed terrific vivacity and looked great. Blacks were dark and firm, while shadows showed nice smoothness and clarity. This was a simply terrific image.

Expect a pretty restrained mix from the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Julie. The flick failed to demonstrate a lot of activity, which made sense given the film’s character-based tale. In truth, the track focused on general ambience and little more. We got some decent environmental material from streets and whatnot, but this was a consistently subdued piece.

At least audio quality seemed fine. Music worked best, as the score appeared lively and dynamic. Effects also showed good range and clarity, though they rarely did much to establish themselves in a prominent manner. Speech was concise and crisp. Overall, this was a decent track but not anything memorable.

When we move to the set’s extras, we open with an audio commentary from writer/director Nora Ephron. She provides a running, screen-specific look at sets and locations, cast and performances, and various facts and liberties.

That’s a pretty limited overview, and Ephron never does much to make this an engaging commentary. The veteran of many similar tracks, she knows how these work, but that experience doesn’t show in her dull conversation. Tons of dead air appears, and we only occasionally find interesting nuggets. The piece does improve a bit as it progresses, but it remains a generally boring, uninformative commentary.

A few featurettes follow. Secret Ingredients: Creating Julie & Julia goes for 27 minutes, 44 seconds as it provides notes from Ephron, producers Eric Steel, Laurence Mark and Amy Robinson, My Life in France co-author Alex Prud’homme, Julie & Julia author Julie Powell, Dorothy Cousins’ daughter/Julia Child’s niece Philadelphia Cousins, culinary consultant Susan Spungen, executive chef Colin Flynn, production designer Mark Ricker, costume designer Ann Roth, and actors Jane Lynch, Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Chris Messina, Stanley Tucci, and Mary Lynn Rajskub. “Ingredients” examines the project’s origins and development, how Ephron came onto the film and adaptation notes, cast, characters and performances, the food featured in the flick, set and costume design, cinematography, and the movie’s themes.

With almost half an hour at its disposal, one might expect a pretty good level of depth from “Ingredients”. Alas, that doesn’t hold true. Sure, we learn a few nice tidbits here, especially in terms of some technical details. However, way too much of the show does little more than praise the flick and all involved. Too much happy talk and too little information makes this a mediocre featurette.

Family and Friends Remember Julia Child goes for 47 minutes, 39 seconds. It features Prud’homme, Cousins, the Julia Child Foundation coordinator Susy Davidson, Mastering the Art of French Cooking editor Judith Jones, TV host/Gourmet magazine’s executive chef Sara Moulton, cookbook author/La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine founder Anne Willan, chef/cookbook author/PBS cooking series host Jacques Pepin, French Culinary Institute founder/CEO Dorothy Cann Hamilton, Bon Appetit Management Company director Jim Dodge, and PBS TV series executive producer Geoffrey Drummond. The participants discuss Child’s life and career.

Don’t expect a particularly objective, concise discussion of Child here. Instead, “Remember” essentially just acts as a fairly random collection of invariably positive thoughts about Child. I don’t mind the glowing viewpoint – I figured “Remember” would consist of that attitude – but I don’t think we get a particularly good summary of Child here. While we find some interesting tales, there’s not enough to keep us interested over 47 minutes.

Next comes the 22-minute and 31-second Julia’s Kitchen. It features Prud’homme, Drummond, Cousins, Jones, Moulton, Pepin, Smithsonian Institution project manager Nanci Edwards, Smithsonian project director/curator Rayna Green, and Smithsonian curator Paula Johnson. We learn how the Smithsonian acquired Child’s kitchen for display and take a tour of it. This is one of the more interesting components here, as we get a nice look at Child’s workplace.

Finally, we get some Cooking Lessons. Five clips appear: “Poaching Eggs with Julia Child & Jacques Pepin” (4:14), “Making Hollandaise Sauce with Julia Child and Jacques Pepin” (2:38), “Mark Peel Prepares Scrambled Eggs” (4:50), “Suzanne Goin Prepares Braised Short Ribs” (5:44), and “Steven Lewandowski and Drew Nieporent Prepare Butter Poached Maine Lobster” (5:26). If I were to write a cookbook, it’d include chapters such as “baking a frozen pizza” and “heating a can of soup”. This should indicate that my interest in cooking lessons is next to nil. Because of that, only the first two clips possess any value for me, solely because they let us see a little of the real Child. It’s too bad the disc doesn’t provide any excerpts from Child’s famous TV series; the shots here show her very late in life, so it’s more difficult to compare that Child to the one seen in the flick.

Nonetheless, it’s fun to see Child as she cooks and interacts with Pepin. As for the other three “Lessons”… well, maybe someone will enjoy them. They do nothing for me.

Under Previews, we find ads for Angels & Demons, Michael Jackson’s This Is It, Coco Before Chanel, An Education, Every Little Step, Whatever Works, Bewitched, The Holiday, Made of Honor, Damages Season One and Blu-ray Disc. No trailer for Julie appears here.

Meryl Streep seems destined to receive her umpteenth Oscar nomination for her fine performance in Julie & Julia - and she deserves it, as she delivers a rich turn that easily could’ve become nothing more than parody. Unfortunately, Streep’s side of the movie fills half – or maybe less – of its running time; otherwise we’re stuck with a boring tale of a narcissistic blogger. Man, I’m living that; why would I want to see it on my TV?

As a Blu-ray, Julie works acceptably well. It provides lovely picture quality along with adequate audio and a mix of fairly unexceptional extras. This is a pretty good Blu-ray, but the movie itself only succeeds half the time. If you watch it, keep the remote handy so you can zip through the “Julie” segments; stick with “Julia” and you’ll enjoy it much more.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.6666 Stars Number of Votes: 3
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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