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Big Eyes (Blu-ray Review)

Big EyesFrom director Tim Burton, BIG EYES tells the outrageous true story of one of the most epic frauds in history.  BIG EYES was up for two additional Golden Globe® nominations including Best Performance by an Actor in a Musical or Comedy and Best Original Song. The film has garnered numerous accolades including an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Screenplay and BAFTA nominations for Best Leading Actress and Best Production Design.  The back of the case proclaims it as “One of Tim Burton’s Best Films” (Scott Mendelson, Forbes), and if you take a look back at the last 13 years or so, its really an eye opener (Or maybe not so much) to see how true that very statement is.  

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Film 

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, painter Walter Keane had reached success beyond belief, revolutionizing the commercialization of popular art with his enigmatic paintings of waifs with big eyes. The bizarre and shocking truth would eventually be discovered though: Walter’s works were actually not created by him at all, but by his wife Margaret. BIG EYES centers on Margaret’s awakening as an artist, the phenomenal success of her paintings, and her tumultuous relationship with her husband, who was catapulted to international fame while taking credit for her work.

While this isn’t his best work, Tim Burton’s latest is a breath of fresh air.  Its the type of film we’ve been pleading for him to make over the last ten years plus.  Its an interesting enough bit of drama, made even more interesting and more majestic by having Burton’s touch added to it.  We’ve seen his interpretation of a biopic previously with Ed Wood and it goes again into Big Eyes.  Burton cultivates a reality that fits the personality of the main subject and crafts a reality fitting of Margaret Keane.   In short or more direct phrasing, he’s able to show us the world through not only their eyes, but as created by their stamp on culture and influence on the part in the world.

This was supposed to be a big Academy Awards nominee worthy performance by Amy Adams, and she’s quite good in the film.  Its a performance that I don’t think we’ve seen before from her, displaying yet even more range to a richly varied career.  On screen she’s usually one of confidence and radiating charisma.  Here, she’s got a blonde bombshell look to her, but there’s a timidness and reserve that we don’t see often from her.  And Adams is so deep in the role, that you buy into and are ready to put your hands together in moments where she shows strength and stands up for herself.

Across from her is the always charming Christoph Waltz.  And here, he definitely starts out in that fashion.  Heck, he’s almost playing into the exact parody character Taran Killam does on Saturday Night Live for most of the first act.  But things take quite a deceitful and vile turn for him after the first act.  This is probably the most “rat bastard” kind of role we’ve seen him in since most of us first met him in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds.  However much a dickhead he may be, Waltz still makes for good entertainment and is enjoyable in watching him lose his mind and become the film’s villain.

In terms of style here, which started getting into above, its rather tame.  But there is a beauty in Burton’s restraint.  Its probably his most “normal” a film he made looked since Big Fish.  This one though has a vividness and slant of weird here that I think fits for a Burton “normal”.  I do love when it veers off and we see characters representative of the paintings.  Also what I like is the slightly embellished look of the interiors of the homes in the film.  There are shots and scenes in this movie that look absolutely beautiful.

Big Eyes is Tim Burton’s best in what feels like forever.  Like Big Fish before, it feels as if this is going to start a new chapter, but as we’ve recently learned with his live action Dumbo film announcement, it looks like its back to the same ‘ol same ‘ol.  Its not that I want one him to “return to the form” or mock the films of when he was a hands down favorite of mine, but its more wanting him to take on interesting and challenging projects (Not in a technical sense, because I’m sure Alice In Wonderland wasn’t easy to do).  I’d like to be once again excited and  “looking forward to the next Tim Burton film”.  This film felt like a step in that direction, but outside knowledge has only deflated that balloon for the time being.  Anyway, we just got Big Eyes and it is terrific!

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Clarity/Detail:  Being a modern Anchor Bay title, you should know there’s a 98% chance the image looks terrific.  Add in that its a film from a longtime filmmaker of high note and this is a no brainer.  The image is sharp, vivid and ripe with detail.  As this movie deals with painting, I’ll let you know that brush strokes look marvelous, as well as brush bristles and even every little spec remnant of a moment where Amy Adams scratches off some paint.  There’s a red leather couch at one point in the film and ever little scratch, crack and smudge is clear as day on it.  And this is a dimly lit scene mind you.  Everything here looks quite great.

Depth:  Depth is solid.  Background action when focus is on a foreground character is still pretty distinct and clear.  Exteriors fair better in the wow’ing 3-dimensional department.  Characters move freely with little to no blur.

Black Levels:  Blacks are natural and lifelike.  No real details are hidden and there is a good palette of shading using whether it be in lighting or artistry on a painting.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are the best thing about this.  They come across very strong and vivid.  Greens, reds and blues pop right up off the screen and look marvelous without bleeding or  being too much.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and consistent.  Details like freckles, wrinkles and makeup are all nicely accounting for.

Noise/Artifacts:  Nothing incredibly harmful to report.

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Audio 

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

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics:  Not a very action heavy movie, so most of the film relies upon its dialogue.  The score, however, is pretty loud in this mix.  Its sounds rich and full, but at times (Mainly early on) it steps on the vocals and they’re a tad muffled and hard to hear behind it.  Everything in this mix does sound nice, clean and distinct.

Low Frequency Extension:  LFE helps to bolster the music and make it to fill the room and come to life.

Surround Sound Presentation:  Good ambient sounds come from the rear speakers.  In scenes featuring large gatherings of people its particularly full of character.  The front represents volumes levels and movements quite well.

Dialogue Reproduction:  While it does feature some moments of being hard to hear early on, its not a fault of its own.  Dialogue is crisp and clean.

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Extras 

Big Eyes comes with an UltraViolet digital copy of the film.

The Making Of Big Eyes (HD, 21:33) – A nice look back at the history of the subject matter and the production of the film with interviews from Burton, Adams, Waltz, Margaret Keane and more.  The presentation of this behind the scenes feels somewhat of a relic, like a late 80s/early 90s VHS demo tape for rental stores.

Q&A Highlights (HD, 31:55) – Margaret & Jane Keane sits with the writers and Amy Adams for a question and answer session following a screening of the film.

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Summary 

Big Eyes is the best thing I’ve seen from Tim Burton is years.  While I was a fan of Sweeney Todd, I think this film goes beyond that in terms of what we’ve been wanting to see him do.  The film is some of what he has done best before, a biopic with his own flair, making you feel as if no one else could have told the story better and couldn’t imagine it any other way.  The disc features very strong technical merits and the extras pack you with plenty of information both on the film and the real life events that took place.  Its a really good little movie and I’d definitely recommend seeing it on the soft side of blind buying.

Big Eyes Blu-ray

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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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