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Beauty and the Beast
SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • English Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English DTS-HD 7.1 Surround
  • French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • French DTS-HD 7.1 Surround
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Spanish DTS-HD 7.1 Surround
  • English subtitles
  • French subtitles
  • Spanish subtitles
  • 2 Discs
FEATURES
  • Enchanted Table Read
  • A Beauty of a Tale
  • The Women Behind ³Beauty and the Beast
  • Making a Moment with Celine Dion
  • From Song to Screen: Making the Musical Sequences
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Extended song
  • Music video

Beauty and the Beast

Dual-Format Edition
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Bill Condon
2017 | 127 Minutes

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.99 | Series: Disney
Buena Vista Home Entertainment

Release Date: June 6, 2017
Review Date: June 17, 2017

Purchase From:
amazon.com  amazon.ca

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SYNOPSIS

The story and characters you know and love come to spectacular life in the live-action adaptation of Disney's animated classic Beauty and the Beast, a cinematic event celebrating one of the most beloved tales ever told.


PICTURE

Walt Disney Home Entertainment presents Bill Condon’s live-action remake of the Disney animated feature Beauty & the Beast on Blu-ray in a new dual-format edition (it also includes a digital copy code). The film is presented on the dual-layer Blu-ray disc in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1 with a 1080p/24hz high-definition encode.

The film was shot digitally so no surprise the image on the Blu-ray looks very good. Though the film is loaded with a barrage of CGI effects (it has a dancing and singing candelabra for starters), to Condon’s credit he uses physical sets and objects where he could and it’s these scenes that are most striking in their delivery of details and depth. The village sets and the castle interiors are quite striking in the level of clarity available, and both long shots and close-ups have no problem rendering them. Unfortunately it does become clear when we’re looking at CGI thanks to obvious artificiality to what we’re looking at. Though it looks like a lot of the castle interiors are sets (with the digital equivalent of matte work to fill in some spaces) most of the exteriors of the castle are obvious CGI, and despite the best efforts of the Disney artists who do put in an impressive amount of work into the finer details of the settings the CGI objects all have the artificial look to them and the clarity of the picture makes it more obvious. The same can be said for the Beast. Though Dan Stevens did actually perform in his scenes the final result in the film is a complete CGI rendering, and as impressive as the creation is, right down to very emotive facial features, he still has a slightly waxy, not-really-there look. Of course this is all a byproduct of the film effects so doesn’t really have much to do with the actual presentation but I guess I felt it was worth mentioning. Still, when clear the image really delivers the details and depth.

Colours look really good, very bright and vibrant, with some brilliant blues and the reds on Gaston’s outfit pop without any rendering problems. Black levels are also strong, which really help in the dark interiors of the castle. There are a handful of times where the blacks are a little bit murky and I think it’s either related to the digital photography or possibly a side effect from some of the CGI work (some shots of the Beast in the shadows for example) but outside of these moments I still found the black levels strong.

Since the film comes from a digital source there are no print flaws to speak of and film grain isn’t present. But the image is always clean and stable, free of noise or digital artifacts. As I pretty much expected it looks really good.

9/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The film’s primary English presentation is a DTS-HD MA 7.1 surround track (there is also a descriptive audio track along with French and Spanish 5.1 surround tracks, all of which are presented in Dolby Digital). I’m currently only set up for 5.1 surround.

In the end this is essentially a big musical and it delivers what you more or less expect. The musical numbers are loud and they spread the audio rather brilliantly between all of the speakers. There are noticeable splits and pans (most impressive between the fronts) and the movement between the speakers is clean and natural. Sound quality is super sharp, dialogue very easy to hear, and the range is very wide with great lows and sharp highs that don’t come off edgy or distorted. It works the system nicely.

9/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Disney’s editions for their live-action features, especially as of late, are usually laborious ventures when it comes to their supplements, most of the material feeling like filler and/or advertisements for something else. Despite a surprisingly decent audio commentary on their edition of Pete’s Dragon nothing else stood out. The material here, though, was actually a bit of a surprise. They are certainly not up to the level of a third-party home video companies like Criterion, Arrow, Shout!, or Indicator yet I still felt the supplements here, on the whole (there’s still some garbage), were actually trying to give an idea as to what it’s like to make one of these big budget, effects-laden films.

Of course, after having said all of that, the first feature, called an Enchanted Table Read, sounds interesting in theory but ultimately doesn’t do much. The video is a 13-minute compilation of a table read done for the film, though it’s a far more elaborate table read than others I’ve seen. For those unaware of what a table read is it, at its most basic, allows the performers and possibly other members of the crew to get together to do a run on the script. Most of the ones I’ve seen footage one is literally the actors just sitting there reading their lines in character without much more to it. This one has that but they also perform the musical numbers and various choreography. It’s all fine and dandy but as a feature it’s not terribly compelling, especially since it really whips through the thing and spends most of its time trying to convince you that this is something so incredibly groundbreaking when really it’s just a rehearsal.

Better is the 27-minute making-of A Beauty of a Tale. This actually proved to be far more interesting than it probably had any right to be. It does go through the motions, covering the various stages of the production from adapting the original Disney animated film (including how to redo the musical numbers), to the design and the casting. These topics are actually interesting but I was actually surprised with the last portion that goes over the effects. Computer effects don’t offer much in the way of surprises anymore so seeing how they’re done has become less and less interesting, but this feature, to an extent, does actually try to show you what it’s like filming these scenes from the actors’ perspectives. The Beast, in the end, is a computer rendering in the final film but Dan Stevens did act out the scenes, but in a ridiculous bulked up motion capture suit while standing on stilts. He then had to redo his facial expressions later on during post-production to help the final CGI rendering emote more naturally. Also, Watson admits that the most boring scene she has ever filmed was the “Be Our Guest” number because it was literally her just sitting at a long table reacting to nothing, a little LED light to direct where her attention should be. We get to see the raw footage of this and behind-the-scenes footage and it is really bizarre. I’m more than certainly over-selling this aspect, because like everything else it’s only focused on for a minute or two, but it’s rare for a feature like this—especially on a big studio release—to even slightly focus on the more mundane aspects of filmmaking.

The next feature is a good natured, inspirational feature, aimed at young women. The Women Behind “Beauty & the Beast” focuses on the women that worked on the film and features interviews with actor Emma Watson, production designer Sarah Greenwood, set decorator Katie Spencer, costume designer Jacqueline Durran, casting director Lucy Bevan, and editor Virginia Katz. The cynic in me originally figured the 5-minute feature would be just a simple “hey! We have women working on our film, we are so, so progressive” type of deal, but it’s not at all that superficial and quite good for its short running time. The participants explain their jobs in decent detail and how they came about discovering these jobs existed and how they worked their way to them, even offering advice on how to get into the industry if one so desired. Katz talks a bit about working with director Bill Condon on this film and others, explaining the working relationship between a director and editor. It also features footage of women working in the various departments, like camera operator, grips, lighting, make-up, carpentry, set design, and more. What surprised me, though, is the feature, as short as it is, is being genuine, aimed more at kids than adults naturally.

From Song to Screen is 13-minutes’ worth of featurettes going over a few of the musical numbers, offering details on choreography, planning, adapting from the original animated feature, and they even go over the sets and the original intentions of actually shooting on location in a French village, but it would have proven too difficult. There’s a bit more on the mundaneness of shooting effects scenes, and Condon talks about his desire to not depend entirely on CGI, though obviously he was going to have to go that route (singing candelabra). Surprisingly I found all of this material rather good as well.

The disc is so far on a decent streak for features and it continues on with an extended song sequence for “Days in the Sun,” which proves to be an interesting addition. The sequence itself, though edited differently with a different actor as the child that appears in the finished film, isn’t the most interesting aspect, but what is is the reason the sequence was reshot and re-edited. In an introduction Condon explains that he messed up by casting an actor that looked a lot like another actor in the film, so screening audiences were completely confused by the sequence, and it wasn’t something anyone noticed during the entirety of the production.

Following that are a collection of deleted scenes running 6-minutes, with 8 in total. Two of the scenes feel like complete sequences, one with Gaston getting a bit more aggressive with Belle and another with Belle giving bread to Agatha, while the rest are mostly just trims, primarily from the final battle inside the castle. Interestingly Stephen Merchant had a role, which was completely cut out. I like Merchant, and he’s fine for what his role calls for, but it was probably wise cutting his character out as it’s a bit groan-inducing (I’ll just say it involves a talking toilet).

Celine Dion shows up for a 3-minute interview to talk about recording the title song for the original animated film and the song she did for this film. It means well, as Dion tries to explain how important that time was to her and her late husband, though it feels like something just tacked on. We then get a new music video for a new recording of the Beauty and the Beast song featuring Ariana Grande and John Legend, followed by a 2-minute making-of. They’re fine for what they are.

The disc then closes with a typical Blu-ray standard, a jump to a song feature that essentially just plays the musical number from the film with sing-a-long subtitles.

There are also “3 ways” to watch the film, as a sticker on the slip sleeve promises, though this proves to be a fairly minor addition. Essentially you can either watch the film the “normal” way (just the regular theatrical feature), or with an “Overture” (a 3-minute musical opening), or as a “Sing-A-Long” (with stylized subtitles over the musical numbers with yellow highlighting to aid in singing along). The kids might like the Sing-A-Long though I’m unsure of the Overture opening and why it exists; I can’t find if this is how the film played in theaters.

Ultimately I was actually surprised by the features on here. They seem to be aimed at younger audiences, which makes them hurry through things a bit, but I found them to be rather intriguing, a surprise for standard making-of material. I admittedly usually dismiss the features on live-action Disney releases but these, for the most part, with rather good.

6/10

CLOSING

Unsurprisingly the presentation is good but I was actually pleasantly surprised by the features, which overall offered a fairly interesting look into the making of the film.




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