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Saved! (Blu-ray Review)

SavedA group of talented young actors including Jena Malone (Sucker Punch, deleted scenes of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice), Mandy Moore (A Walk to Remember) and Macaulay Culkin (The Good Son) headline the darkly comic Saved!  Directed by Brian Dannelly (Struck by Lightning) from a screenplay by Dannelly and Michael Urban, Saved! features Patrick Fugit (Almost Famous), Chad Faust (Descent), Eva Amurri (The Life Before Her Eyes), Heather Matarazzo (Welcome to the Dollhouse), Martin Donovan (Agent Cody Banks) and Mary-Louise Parker (Fried Green Tomatoes) in supporting roles.  Olive Films will be helping Saved! to make its Blu-ray debut when they release it on August 23rd!

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Film 

Christian high school student, the devout Mary,  will have her world turned upside down when her boyfriend Dean reveals that he’s gay. Try as she may, Mary can’t pray … or sleep … the gay away. Much to her surprise (not to mention Dean’s), Mary discovers that she’s pregnant. Ostracized by her holier-than-thou schoolmates, led by the pious Hilary Faye, Mary will find acceptance from kindred spirits: the school’s geeks, including the wheelchair-bound Roland and Cassandra.

When I saw Saved! on opening night in 2004, I connected with it on a very big level.  Expecting to enjoy a silly comedy was one thing, but winding up getting something that was a big brutally honest commentary on the people and things I had to deal with from middle school through high school was a revelation.  Growing up in the Midwest and going to a smaller high school brought me into contact with various degrees of religion and the cliques, groups and organizations (Aside from church, in my case it was something called Campus Life) that came along with it.  It was all super self important and a big deal.  It was full of hypocrites and crazies as depicted in the film.  Some you could spot right away, a lot of it I didn’t realize or had my mind opened up to with watching this film.

From the moment Martin Donovan’s character showed up onscreen, I recognized so many “leaders” that were just like this guy.  How pathetic, and how embarrassing is it to be that person.  The sad thing is…they have no idea and probably still don’t to this day.  Mandy Moore’s Hilary Faye, I may not have known anyone like that, but she seems a combination of many stereotypes and personalities thrown into just one awful human being.  The school, everything reminded me of my past and still did on this viewing.   No, I didn’t attend a religious school, but when you’re sorta in the country, not a city school, and the population is small…the whole religious angle is everything to people.

Jena Malone is terrific here in the lead, and wanders through her arc with no sweat off her back.  How this girl isn’t in superstardom at this point is beyond me.  She’s been an ace in everything she’s ever been in.  Playing her mom is Mary-Louise Parker, who I just swoon every time I see her in something.  Macauly Culkin and Eva Amurri are the scene stealers here.  They both get the most fun roles in the film, but they also just nail their parts and have outstanding chemistry with one another as well as Malone and Moore.  In a smaller role, Chad Faust is actually incredibly genuine, sweet and gives a nice turn on things.

Saved! still held up for me quite a bit.  I hadn’t seen it in probably 10 years, so I was worried as to whether it was going to hold up for me or not.  Fortunately it did.  I still love (even more today) the hypocrisy and harmful nature of things that overzealous religious nuts can bring upon our youth.  What helps as well, is that the film is actually very funny at the same time!

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  Saved! swoops into Blu-ray praying it could have a better transfer.  This is just rather disappointing in appearance.  Its lacking detail and most of it looks pretty smooth.  Color timing is also very inconsistent scene to scene.  Its not like this isn’t watchable, but damn, the movie is only from 2004, this should look so much better.

Depth:  Average.  Slower movements are smooth and cinematic with some blurring behind it.  

Black Levels:  Blacks are solid and provide some decent shading while also masking detail on darker surfaces, clothes and hair.

Color Reproduction:  Colors prove dingy and murky where they should have been a bit more bright, vibrant and jovial.  

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones take on different appearances throughout, changing scene to scene and with different lighting schemes.  Facial details suffer from some smoothness issue, even in close up shots.

Noise/Artifacts: Some ugly blocking in places to go along with some dirt/specs in the print.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics:  Saved!’s  5.1 track doesn’t fare much better than the video.  Its kinda a bass’y muffly bit of sound.  Overall, its a solid-average presentation, but could be much crisper, looser and better.  Deep sounds get some love here, but overall its just sorta good enough.

Low Frequency Extension:  Music, car crashing and doors slamming are some of the things that go bump bump bump in the sub.

Surround Sound Presentation:  Front heavy mix.  Back channels get some ambiance and unique noise in some assembly sequences and the like.  Movement is accurate to screen.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is a bit muffly and lower in the mix.  Its probably the weakest portion of it.  Still plenty audible, but should have been much better.

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Extras 

While encoded in HD, the Deleted Scenes, Bloopers and Revelations segments are all pretty poor video quality.

Audio Commentary

  • With Brian Dannelly (Co-Writer & Director), Sally Stern (Producer) and Michael Urban (Co-Writer)
  • With Mandy Moore & Jena Malone

“Heaven Help Us” Featurette (HD, 4:15) – A quick little EPK featuring some interviews that feels like it would air between movies on HBO or Showtime.

Deleted/Extended Scenes (HD, 17:35) 

Bloopers (HD, 2:37)

“Saved! Revelations” Featurette (HD, 2:30) – Some little snippets of scenes in the movie featuring peoples inner thoughts or snapping at one another.

Trailer (HD, 2:03)

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Summary 

Saved! still managed to hold up for me since I last saw it some 10 or so years ago.  I still believe it can speak volumes for teens today.  Unfortunately not holding up is the video transfer here, which is a bit of an inconsistency and just doesn’t really look very good.  The audio doesn’t fare too much better either.  Its rather disappointing.  Extras from the DVD release are carried over but nothing new is here to speak of.  Some may just want to hold on to their DVD.  If you don’t have it already, wait for the right price to pick it up.

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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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