Milk appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The movie featured a generally good transfer with a few issues along the way.
Sharpness usually satisfied. I noticed some mild edge enhancement, and that led to some softness in wider shots. Much of the flick looked fine, though, as the majority of the film provided acceptable delineation. I noticed no concerns with jagged edges or shimmering, and source flaws remained absent. Some shots tended to be a bit grainy, though I felt many of those went that direction to better fit in with archival footage.
Colors appeared up and down. The movie went with a fairly subdued but natural palette. Some shots exhibited vivid tones, while others came across as somewhat flat. Most of the elements demonstrated acceptable clarity, though. Blacks were dark and tight, but shadows seemed mildly erratic. Some low-light shots appeared less open than I’d expect. In the end, this was an acceptable transfer but one with enough variation to end up as a “B-“.
As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Milk, it exhibited its own concerns. My main complaint came from the localization of speech. Quite a few lines bled to the side speakers in a distracting way. The delineation was imprecise and became a nuisance.
Otherwise I had no problems with the soundscape. The movie’s score featured showed good stereo presence, and the effects provided nice spatiality. This wasn’t a movie with a lot of involving sequences, but it offered solid environmental material and opened up when necessary. That occurred most obviously during political rallies, as those were the only scenes that used the surrounds in any meaningful way. Overall, this was a mediocre soundfield.
I noticed no concerns with audio quality. Despite the distractions of the bleeding speech, the lines seemed reasonably natural and concise. A few came across as somewhat thick – likely due to recording methods – but I thought the dialogue usually appeared positive. Music was full and warm, while effects showed good clarity and accuracy. Again, they failed to boast much punch, but they fit the track. While I didn’t think this was a bad mix, the concerns left it as a “C”.
Only a minor collection of extras pops up here. Three Deleted Scenes run a total of three minutes, 46 seconds. These include “Recurring Dream”, “Jack Throws Pottery” and “Harvey the Clown”. “Dream” reinforces Harvey’s conviction that he’d die before he turned 50, while “Pottery” reminds us again that Jack’s unstable and a loose cannon. Neither offers anything necessary for the story.
And then there’s “Clown”. In this one, Harvey dresses up like a clown to pose for the local paper and campaign. It’s one of the most embarrassing things I’ve ever seen and was a very good cut.
We also find three featurettes. Remembering Harvey goes for 13 minutes, 21 seconds and provides notes from former San Francisco city supervisor Carol Ruth Silver, campaign writer Frank Robinson, campaign photographer Daniel Nicoletta, campaign manager Anne Kronenberg, Coors boycott organizer Allan Baird, and historical consultant Cleve Jones. We learn a little about the facts behind the movie’s story as well as Milk’s legacy.
The most pleasing aspect of “Remembering” comes from the presence of some of the real people depicted in the movie. It’s good to hear their memories first-hand after seeing them portrayed on screen. The information doesn’t throw out much we don’t learn in the flick, but it’s still nice to get a better feel for the real-life participants.
Hollywood Comes to San Francisco lasts 14 minutes, 32 seconds and includes Jones, Kronenberg, screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, producers Bruce Cohen and Dan Jinks, and actors Josh Brolin, James Franco, Diego Luna, Lucas Grabeel, Alison Pill, Stephen Spinella, Denis O’Hare, Joseph Cross, Kelvin Yu and Brandon Boyce. We learn a bit about the script and development, how Gus Van Sant came on board as director and his work on the film, cast and performances, and sets and locations.
“Hollywood” provides a decent overview of the production. On the negative side, it’s too bad Van Sant and Penn don’t show up here; they’re the two most prominent names attached to the film, so their absence disappoints. Nonetheless, the others pick up the slack and make this a reasonably informative program.
Finally, Marching for Equality occupies seven minutes, 58 seconds and presents notes from Jones, Nicoletta, historical consultant Gilbert Baker, and extras Mick Pitash and Charles Leavitt. The show looks at the shooting of one of the film’s march scenes as well as the history behind it. The latter element dominates, and the program tends to favor the laudatory side of things more than it offers distinct details. Still, it remains nice to hear from those involved with Milk and his movement, so those components give the piece some oomph.
A few ads open the DVD. We get promos for Changeling, Role Models, Brokeback Mountain and Focus Features. No trailer for Milk appears here.
Well-intentioned but one-dimensional and stale, Milk does a disservice to its subject matter. Rather than give us a three-dimensional view of pioneering politician Harvey Milk, we find a portrait without nuance or depth. Only Sean Penn’s stellar lead performance makes the film watchable. The DVD provides acceptable picture, mediocre audio, and a few interesting supplements. If you want to know more about Harvey Milk, skip this flawed movie and rent a documentary instead.