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The BFG (Blu-ray Review)

BFGThe BFG, a big time collaborative effort to bring Roald Dahl’s classic story to the big screen in live action form seems like it would be a big deal, but maybe it was just past the time for excitement.  Maybe its not something for this current generation.  Its got a lot going for it with Steven Spielberg helming and reteaming himself with the writer from ET.  A couple of great trailers as well as very good reviews couldn’t help get people to plop down the money for it or make it their choice over Finding Dory.  Every summer we get more and more tentpoles and tentpoles against tentpoles in an almost weekly showdown, things get lost among the fold.  The BFG was one of those, one of the biggest let downs and bombs.  Critically, Spielberg is still on his run, but box office-wise its now come to a screeching halt.

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Film 

A girl named Sophie encounters the Big Friendly Giant who, despite his intimidating appearance, turns out to be a kind-hearted soul who is considered an outcast by the other giants because, unlike them, he refuses to eat children.  “The BFG” unites the talents of three of the world’s greatest storytellers – Roald Dahl, Walt Disney and Steven Spielberg – to bring to life the classic tale of a courageous little girl named Sophie (newcomer Ruby Barnhill) and a gentle and charming Big Friendly Giant (Oscar®-winner Mark Rylance) who introduces her to the wonders and perils of Giant Country.

Let’s all take our collective hands and slap ourselves for skipping this one at the theater.  Steven Spielberg’s take on Roald Dahl’s “other” classic story is an adventurous family delight that imbibes everything we like about going to the movies.  Its not only a great fantasy that allows for escape, but its scale, spectacle and effects are the reason movies of this stature should be witnessed on the biggest screen in your town.  They’ve done quite a marvelous job with this film.

I was highly captivated by the motion capture / CGI work in the film.  Every time the BFG was on screen or Jemaine Clements’ Fleshlumpeater and his pack come in, you just can’t help but stare at everything and almost believing you can touch it.  You can see and know that its some fake effects, but you almost know what its like to touch one or be in their presence.  A tremendous job and I really hope this one doesn’t get looked over when the visual effects Oscar nods come in the next few months.

Mark Rylance follows up his first Oscar with quite a wonderful turn as the title character.  He’s all in and insanely believable as the lovable “runt”.  It helps that he’s got a pretty strong co-star in that of Ruby Barnhill as Sophie.  Barnhill is our key into this whole thing and she handles it with the prestige and experience of a veteran actor.  Oh, and yeah, any time someone casts Rebecca Hall, I’m more than happy.  She doesn’t get enough work and she’s one of the best around.

Steven Spielberg does it again.  Though, honestly, its very rare when the man doesn’t.  He’s got an incredible range of a catalog and here he’s making something both familiar and different.  Also, I really can’t praise this film’s visual effects on the giants enough.  Its truly impressive, and I truly wish I would have been able to make it to see this one at the theater to have experienced it like that.  Shame that this movie lost a lot of money, because it really deserved to make a lot of it.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail:  The BFG comes to Blu-ray in an insanely impressive video transfer.  This image is incredibly crisp and sharp.  The special effects port over tremendously, looking very detailed and very lifelike in appearance and in movement.  Worlds and environments also look luscious and real in this given climate.  You’ll be amazed with how rich this image is.  Its just so disappointing that Disney isn’t releasing on 4K UHD yet, as this would have been a spectacular title to see in the format.

Depth:  The depth work here is pretty impressive.  I can’t recall if this was 3D in the theater (Though I’m betting it was).  Distances in the giant world and inside BFG’s home look very multidimensional and distant.  Characters move freely, cleanly, clearly and with confidence throughout the every frame of the film.  Background imagery finds good detail and definition.

Black Levels:  Blacks are rich and deep.  The BFG features some really good shading, shadows and definition work with its black to provided a wealthier picture.  Details still shine through on dark and black objects, surfaces, fabrics and hair.  No crushing witnessed during this viewing.

Color Reproduction: There are a lot of nice, bright flashy colors on display every time we see the dreams in action or in jars.  They are vivid and make me REALLY wish I was watching this with HDR.  Shame.  Greens look quite gorgeous and the red jack Sophie puts on is really well defined and displayed here in this image.  Color is a very rich, beautiful strong suite on this Blu-ray.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and maintain the look from the beginning to the end of the film.  Facial details are available from any given distance.  I normally don’t comment on animated characters, but damn the detail on the giants is insanely impressive.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Dynamics: Had this been just a 5.1 track, maybe I’d be a little kinder.  But, this 7.1 track just merely serves as “all right”.  The volume seems to be set a little lower.  Things are still immersive and clear, its just not top notch and I kind of expect that from a Spielberg Blu-ray.  Last year’s Bridge of Spies was a little more impressive to me and that wasn’t a fantasy about giants, just a period drama.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  There is a lot of giant stomping in this film.  And each step is uniquely rendered and delivered from the subwoofer.  Other things like big doors opening, farts, things scuffling around or big giant voices rumble the room.

Surround Sound Presentation: There are plenty of moments where things get fully realized here with movements and action, but it felt very front heavy.  Back and side speakers bring some really good ambiance, but I was wanting some more form them.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is a little lower, but clear and crisp.

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Extras 

The BFG comes with the DVD edition and an UltraViolet Digital Copy that gives you Disney Rewards points when you redeem it.

Bringing The BFG To Life (HD, 27:09) – Ruby Barnhill hosts the behind the scenes of the film with interviews from many of the cast and crew including Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall.

The Big Friendly Giant and Me (HD, 1:55) – This is sort of a short film that brings to life the drawings that Sophie finds in the film.

Gobblefunk: The Wonderful Words Of The BFG (HD, 3:16) – A little course on the unique words and slang used by the giants in the film.

Giants 101 (HD, 4:57) – Jemaine Clement and Bill Hader lead the charge on this behind the scenes with the giants.  This piece goes into the work of the motion capture in the film.

Melissa Mathison: A Tribute (HD, 5:54) – Kathleen Kennedy and others on the film pay tribute to the late screenwriter who passed before the film was released.

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Summary 

The BFG is quite the terrific fairy tale-family film with some eye popping visuals.  Its represented quite well here in this terrific looking and very good sounding Blu-ray release.  The bonus features are of the kind of usual fare for the Disney releases, but there are some good things within them.  Pick this up, its the one we should kick ourselves for not going to this summer.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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