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Winter’s Tale (Blu-ray Review)

Winters TaleSet in a mythic New York City and spanning more than a century, Winter’s Tale is a story of miracles, crossed destinies and the age-old battle between good and evil. Peter Lake (Farrell) is a master thief who never expected to have his own heart stolen by the beautiful Beverly Penn (Brown Findlay). But their love is star-crossed: she burns with a deadly form of consumption, and Peter has been marked for a much more violent death by his one-time mentor, the demonic Pearly Soames (Crowe). Peter desperately tries to save his one true love, across time, against the forces of darkness, even as Pearly does everything in his power to take him down – winner take all and loser be damned. What Peter needs is a miracle, but only time will tell if he can find one.  

 

Winters Tale

Film

It has been a while since they’ve released films with the “love conquers all” moniker, so long in fact, that I can’t actually remember the last love story that featured that clichéd selling point. Winter’s Tale is the story of Peter Lake (Colin Farrell), a burglar who unwittingly breaks in and tries to rob the home of a wealthy heiress named Beverly (Jessica Brown Findlay). Unbeknownst to Peter she’s very sick and does not have very much time left. Peter is literally smitten upon first sight of Beverly and she is as well. All is not well though due to Pearly (Russell Crowe) actively chasing Peter for past transgressions against him and his gang of criminals. From I could tell Pearly is a powerful kingpin who has a beef with Peter for wanting to leave the organization. Oh, and did I mention that Pearly is a demon? Yeah, it’s really cool stuff on paper but it’s too bad the film squanders the fantasy element. Let us count the ways.

When I first saw the trailer for Winter’s Tale in theaters I didn’t really know what to make of it. I thought it looked like a fairytale version of Highlander due to the characters being alive in the 1800’s and then flashing forward into the present and the same characters still being alive and fighting against each other. It’s no spoiler that (or is it?) that Beverly dies and that Peter’s love for her was so strong that he survived the grave and now walks the Earth trying to discover a way to bring her back. This is touched upon and the ultimate resolution is not satisfying, because it’s rather creepy, in my opinion.

The saying “style over substance” gets thrown out a lot for horrible films that are aesthetically pleasing even if the material is weak. I would consider Winter’s Tale to be style over substance but this may have something to do with it being writer-director Akiva Goldsman’s (Batman and Robin) feature film debut. I do believe that if Winter’s Tale had been in more capable hands the film may have worked. The book is 768-pages long and the film is slightly under two hours. I know that tons of material had to be excised and that’s where getting a more competent screenwriter and director should have come into play.

I don’t want this review to be and endless rant against the film but in a nutshell these are some of things that I didn’t care for in the film. Russell Crowe’s character chewing up the scenery literally. Pearly sounds like an Irish pirate. Why? By making him a cartoon cut out you’ve totally made me not be afraid of him. An unnamed cameo by a popular superstar that shall remain nameless plays Lucifer. Yes, Lucifer. I like when directors can call in favors. It’s an extremely jarring cameo and someone who could do that type of evil justice should have filled it. I could not get jiggy with it. The incongruence of the fantasy elements was annoying, because it’s confusing as hell. You have demons that walk the Earth along with angels or emissaries of God (I think) and then you have people whose should live on, as stars and these demons need jewels in order to capture light or something. They literally threw everything but the kitchen sink into the mythology. Hell, the super horse Pegasus makes an appearance!

All is not lost, however, because Colin Farrell and Brown Findley are great together and they’re great when they’re apart. It’s because of them that the film does itself does not get a lower grade. They play the smitten couple as if they were an actual couple in love and it’s very believable. The production and visual FX work is great but as I watched it just looked like one big copy and paste type of movie. I was like wait, what’s this now and how did we get here? It’s shame, because I really did want to like the film.

 

Winters Tale

Video

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Clarity/Detail: One thing is for sure and that’s that you won’t hear a peep out of me with regards to this Blu-ray release. This is a fine looking Blu-ray that borders on reference. Yes, contrast levels were slightly teamed in postproduction but it calls for it in the aesthetic.

Depth: Softness creep up here and there but there was never any indication that DNR was used to soften and or turn people into wax. I’m happy that they didn’t mess around with the transfer.

Black Levels: Black levels are deep and inky and no crush was detected.

Color Reproduction: Color levels are muted here and there but the palette is not a very colorful one. It’s not a bad thing but don’t expect a color explosion.

Flesh Tones: Flesh tones are clean and no one that didn’t have to look sick looked sick.

Noise/Artifacts: Just a brief smatter of an artifact or two but nothing major was detected.

 

Winters Tale

Audio

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

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese

Dynamics: Like its predecessor this lossless soundtrack does not go down without a near reference fight. All things considered for being a love story there are many scenes that require a more dynamic sound field and the Blu-ray handles it all flawlessly.

Low Frequency Extension: The LFE is very active and somewhat aggressive giving the action scenes some added punch.

Surround Sound Presentation: The surround sound channels do their best damage when Pegasus swoops around in the sky flying from back to front and front to back. It’s pretty neat.

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is unfortunately very clear. I say that with a bit of tongue-in-cheek, because listening to Crowe’s pirate accent in all its clarity was harsh. In other words the dialogue prevention on this Blu-ray is stellar.

 

Winters Tale

Extras 

I would have appreciated an audio commentary by Akiva Goldsman seeing as he likes to participate in commentaries when acting as a producer on someone else’s film but no. We get some dleetd scenes and two very short making-of featurettes – nothing special at all.

  • Winter’s Tale: A Timeless Love (HD, 6:08) – Here’s the standard fluff piece on why everyone wanted to work on the film, blah, blah. Been there, done that.
  • Characters of Good and Evil (HD, 9:14) – This featurette focuses on the characters of the film that make an appearance, with the exception of Lucifer. We really can’t talk about him, because he’s a “surprise.” They also shine light on how difficult it has been to adapt the book into the film. It was a seven year journey to get it made.
  • Additional Scenes (HD, 12:08) – This is a bunch of scenes that were shot and never inserted into the final film. Good.

 

Winters Tale

Summary 

 Winter’s Tale is an unfortunate misfire on everyone’s part. There’s skill in front and behind the camera and it’s pretty much squandered on the weakness of the script and sloppy direction. If you’re at all curious about checking the film out then by all means rent it and see for yourself. I may pick up the book and see where they went wrong. I’m hoping the book is even darker than the film. The Blu-ray looks and sound great but the extras are less than stellar. Still, if you must see the film then the Blu-ray is the only way to see it.

 

Order Winter’s Tale on Blu-ray!

Winters Tale

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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

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