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Song One (Blu-ray Review)

Song-OneAcademy Award® winner Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables, The Devil Wears Prada) and Johnny Flynn (Something In The Air) star as strangers who connect under unlikely circumstances when Song One releases on Blu-ray and DVD March 24 from Cinedigm (NASDAQ: CIDM) and The Film Arcade. The film has been available on Digital HD since January 23.  Set against the backdrop of Brooklyn, New York’s vibrant music scene, the “delicate drama” (Variety) is written and directed by first time filmmaker Kate Barker-Froyland and produced by Hathaway and Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs). Also starring Academy Award® winner Mary Steenburgen (The Help) and Ben Rosenfield (“Boardwalk Empire”), Song One features original music composed by indie duo Jenny Lewis and Johnathan Rice, with live performances by a vast group of popular artists within the thriving New York music community, including Sharon Van Etten, The Felice Brothers, Paul Whitty, Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens, Cass Dillon and Lola Kirke.

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Film 

Franny, a PhD candidate in anthropology, has not spoken to her brother Henry, a struggling musician in Brooklyn, in six months because she strongly disagrees with his career choices. However, when she receives a phone call that Henry has been in a terrible accident leaving him in a coma, she returns home to her estranged family to mend the broken wounds. Unsure if Henry will ever wake up, Franny uses her brother’s journal to indirectly try and understand his world. While learning more about her brother’s life by visiting the local music hotspots he frequents, Franny finds love in the least likely place, a musician.

Song One is a film that had me worried at first.  Its a pretty dour movie about some indie music.  The movie that feels too cool to smile and reeks of pretension.  However, as we move along through the film, things begin to liven up and the characters open themselves to fun that equate to the coping of the tragedy at the forefront of the film.  Its actually a kind of natural progression to the stress and trauma dealing the brother in the coma.

This one’s story and set up seems very very very been there done that.  You can see the growth and second act of the movie play out right as Hathaway and Flynn’s characters meet.  However, its in the performances and direction that this film actually rises above and classes things up to make it not so much a snoozer painting by numbers, but actually something fresh and stable.  Its mainly set with Anne Hathaway, Johnny Flynn and Mary Steenburgen and the three of them fill their characters out quite well and form a good bond among themselves, making scenes really click and fly.

While I praised the movie for not being an also-ran kinda film, I’m sure many will paint it in that corner.  Which is fine, its not one that’s going to speak to everyone.  But, one can’t deny that its well acted and pretty well directed.  There are also some very interesting music numbers in the film that help carry it on (There’s no score, only music during live performances or where a character plays something).  A decent film if you’re in the mood for a romance or moody drama (or if you like Anne Hathaway, like I do).

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1o80p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  Song One features a sharp clear image.  Most of it takes place in a nicely lit hospital featuring a bit of blue tinge to it.  Detail is pretty high as everyone’s hair follicles are clearly visible and distinct.  The tape on Henry’s face in the hospital, you can see through and you can also make out wrinkles and patterns in fabrics.

Depth:  Movements run pretty smooth and background image show through with decent clarity.  For the most part, objects and people feel loose in their environments.

Black Levels: Blacks can be pretty overbearing in many of the concert sequence, which are very darkly lit.  Detail is hard to make out in some of those scenes.  In well lit scenes, blacks still feature discernible patterns and detail.

Color Reproduction:  In much of the movie, colors come across very natural, though in some scenes they do pop more.  Blues and bold yellows stick out quite well.  There is a very good, well rounded palette on display and really every color looks pretty when given the opportunity.

Flesh Tones:  Skin looks slightly cold and consistent (mainly due to the blue filter in a lot of scenes).  Faces can appear a bit too smooth at some points, but in a lot o fit you can make out freckles, moles and blemishes.

Noise/Artifacts:  Clean, with some minimal blocking/crushing at times.

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Audio 

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

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics:  The music in the film is well represented in this mix.  The rest of the film is mainly just decent and okay.  Granted, the story doesn’t call on the track to pull much off, but some of the hospital and apartment scenes could have had a little more to them.  In terms of voice, effects and the music, there is a good loose feeling of all three being separate and on their own.  A good balanced mix.

Low Frequency Extension:  There’s not much of a demand in terms of action for the subwoofer, but it does assist the music wonderfully where need be.

Surround Sound Presentation:  Musical numbers come across and full and lively throughout the room.  In outdoor city scenes there is some really nice ambiance while indoors is very empty.  Movements and volume placement is accurate to onscreen action.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are crisp, loud and clear.

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Extras 

Trailer (HD, 1:47)

Behind The Scenes Recording Of The Soundtrack (HD, 16:02) – Just some raw video of the recording session of songs from the film and I suppose on the soundtrack.

Deleted Scenes (HD, 4:17) – “Franny & James Walking”, “Clint & James”, “Backstage”, “James Writing Silver Song”

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Summary 

Song One doesn’t hold a wholly original sort of story.  You’ll feel at many times you know where things are going before the movie does.  However, its in the detail, execution and performances that acknowledge and sort of a rise a little bit above being tired.  Hathaway, Flynn and Steenburgen elevate this above what could have been a boring also ran.  The performance from the film’s technical side are strong and there are a little bit of decent extras provided.  The film’s price is pretty low, so if you’re a fan, you’ll be very happy with your purchase.

Song-One-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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