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A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Marielle Heller’s A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood was one of 2019’s best reviewed and praised films while also being a box office success story. The film warmed and won over both critics and audiences alike, and when you think of who the subject of the film is, its just kind of fitting that this would be a film where everyone gets along in times when there seem to be many anti-critic enthusiasts out there. A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood only found itself nominated for Best Supporting Actor (Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers) at the recent Academy Awards ceremony, the award ultimately going to Brad Pitt for his role as Cliff Booth in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood.  Sony will be putting the film onto 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray (With the overblown “IMAX Enhanced!” tag; it just means it has a DTS:X audio track).  The film is available now, having been release on February 18th. The Amazon purchase link in this review is a paid Associate’s Account.

Film

Lloyd Vogel is an investigative journalist who receives an assignment to profile Fred Rogers, aka Mr. Rogers. He approaches the interview with skepticism, as he finds it hard to believe that anyone can have such a good nature. But Roger’s empathy, kindness and decency soon chips away at Vogel’s jaded outlook on life, forcing the reporter to reconcile with his own painful past.

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood is truly a touching, educational, great feeling film that you can’t ignore the how clever and well done it is. It probably isn’t given enough credit for how great it is and certainly deserved more love from the Academy than the obvious Best Supporting Actor nod. When looking at the film and seeing the full understanding, that one award nomination for supporting actor makes you wonder if they just tossed that out there for what they thought the film was, rather than actually digesting the thing and having a grasp on what it really is.

Fantastic and masterful in its telling of a segment of Fred Rogers’ life, Marielle Heller’s film goes beyond that angle and honors the man’s legacy by not making the film about him, but about the power of his message and his influence. Lloyd Vogel goes in to do a piece on Fred Rogers, only to learn what he’s really needing to hammer out is his own life and find a voice to help him wade through some of his most difficult personal demons. Much like Lloyd, a majority of movie-going audiences are drawn in to see the life and recreation of Fred Rogers only to be given a refresher of his impact and simple, patient and effective perspective on growing up. That we are never done with growing up, we just have more experience and face more difficult challenges.

While a lot can be said about the performances in this movie, which are great from top to bottom, the common factor on all of them because of that quality line is Marielle Heller. She credits herself as a director that lets her actors go, but she is pulling outstanding performances out of everyone on the screen. Everyone feels incredibly genuine. When it groups up like this, its YOUR doing, Marielle! Take a bow. Everyone in this film never tries to stand above the character they are playing or the actor they are sharing the frame with. The spotlight is on Tom Hanks, and he just exudes being iconic, but what makes him great is his patience and ability to admire whoever it is (Mostly Matthew Rhys) he is sharing a scene with. Susan Kelechi Watson’s performance is one that reflects so much natural realism, she could be overlooked. Lastly, Chris Cooper is pretty sensational here as well. Its a wonder this film’s performers that aren’t named Tom Hanks weren’t recognized for more awards.

Heller’s brilliance doesn’t just stop in delivering her harness of getting wonderful performances from her actors. She has a great collaboration with cinematographer Jody Lee Lipes that is just as impressive. Seeing a nicely performed film decently captured is one thing. Seeing the recreated sets and attire for Mr. Rogers Neighborhood is nice and all. But, its the way in which its brought to life and informs the story this movie is really telling is where it rises above. One of the biggest surprises in the film is how impressive it is visually. It doesn’t go overboard and isn’t super abstract, but its in keeping with the focus of the story and the feeling of Fred Rogers. One might be curious as to the movie maybe deciding to completely taking the form of the PBS program’s look and challenging itself in that manner. I had that feeling as well. But ultimately, this is about two worlds coming together and informing one another, and Heller knows that and manufactures a brilliant blend of the two that never finds itself jarring or out of sync with the story. It flows quite well and as easily as the Trolley car traveling from Fred Rogers foyer to the Land of Make Believe and back.

My personal life was becoming a bit more challenging times for me when A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood was released and I wasn’t able to make the time for it in theaters, though it was on the list of wanting to see. In the time and mental state I was in, I may not have been able to have clearly taken it in or appreciated it in a fair manner like I have now for this review. Had I seen it then, I may have put it away for a long while, while here now I see an absolute beauty in it that I’m eager to return to. Its made me excited for the work of Marielle Heller and I’m excited to see what corner she turns next. I’ll be there in the theater opening weekend (Assuming whatever it is she does opens wide or in my city) when it does. A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood was a movie you just correctly assume will be quite good, and it is, but you’ll be completely appreciative of experiencing that “quite good” as it occurs to you in ways you may not have been expecting as well as ways you could anticipate and appreciate.

Video

Screen captures displayed in this review are from the redeemed Movies Anywhere 4K UHD presentation included in this set.

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood arrives on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray as a…NATIVE 4K title! It was finished with a 4K digital intermediate. And this thing looks absolutely gorgeous. This carries and nice, cozy image that is crisp but with a real flush, bold image with striking realness and a nice collection of texture and detail that are quite clear and clean in this image. We’ll get into in the motion department, but it does have a bit more of a fluid, quicker-like work to its movement. All in all, viewers (Either by rental or purchase) can expect a gorgeous image.

Depth: The film features a pretty well above average depth of field with some three dimensional areas downright entrancing. The set of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood comes across the most impressive with great pushback and fluidity and spacing between objects, people and background. Motion finds itself a little interesting as it plays itself some where between a typical high definition film and that of the “soap opera effect” BBC drama. It all feels quite intentional and maybe a decision to link between the 4:3 NTSC tube PBS television aesthetic and the “real life” one.

Black Levels: Blacks are quite rich, natural and deep. There is an apartment scene early on in the dark that seems like it could have translated a little better, but overall is a little bit of a nit pick, all the other darker moments look great. No real troubles with hidden details and no crushing was witnessed.

Color Reproduction:  Most of the film is of a natural and realistic palette. Where the real gushing of color comes from is on the set of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood as it bursts with Fred’s sweaters, fabrics, Land of Make Believe blues and the like. HDR really gives a nice push and added well-roundedness to every object.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and flush with good skin color, keeping consistent from start to finish of the film. Every wrinkle, freckle, stubble and make-up line is quite clear and discernible from any real framing distance. Early on, Matthew Rhys has a gash on the bridge of his nose and is wearing an adhesive strip that is almost invisible (And kind is in the standard Blu-ray presentation), but you can make out its outline and own texture here.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.

Audio*

Audio Format(s): English DTS:X, English Audio Descriptive Service, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, French Audio Descriptive Service, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, French, Korean, Spanish, Thai

Dynamics: A 12.1 DTS:X MA track?  Seriously?  Okay so let’s just state the obvious here.  That’s simply overkill!  You know from the title and subject matter you’re not getting a big action movie from the get so please don’t be disappointed when jet planes don’t go screaming from one overhead speaker to the other.  Now that’s not to say what we have to work with here isn’t fine because it is!  You actually do have a very wide soundstage here and it’s much appreciated considering this is your basic drama.  So a lot of attention to design and detail of this audio track has happened here not to mention a wide sounding score employed too.  However, it’s far from being demo worthy and nothing you would want to show off to all your friends bragging about a 12.1 surround track if you get my drift.

Height: Please tell me what I’m missing, but other than sounding full and wide I’m not really able to chronicle any examples of how the height channels are utilized here.

Low-Frequency Extension: Here is where the track actually goes boom.  There’s plenty of low end and rumbles to have fun with here in this surround track thanks to Nate Heller’s musical score.

Surround Sound Presentation: The rears do exist, but are mostly reserved for the atmospherics of the situations onscreen here.  There’s a nice separation to the channels, but really nothing prevalent to dial into for the sake of this review.

Dialogue Reproduction: Because it’s a drama film hearing the dialogue is ever so crucial.  Therefore, it pleases me to report that dialogue is easily intelligible and understandable throughout the presentation.

*Audio spec review written by Brian White

Extras

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood comes with the Blu-ray edition and a Movies Anywhere digital code.

Audio Commentary

  • With Director Marielle Heller and Director of Photography Jody Lee Lipes

Deleted & Extended Scenes (HD, 16:45) – 8 scenes

Blooper Reel (HD, 1:38)

Tom Hanks As Fred Rogers (HD, 1o:29) – Marielle Heller and Tom Hanks discuss their both coming to the project and how easily it is they came to working together. They both discuss the “aim was always authenticity” and not becoming an “SNL” version of the character. Its an interesting dissection on find who Fred Rogers was in how he came off, his mannerisms and trying find what becomes him and the simplicity in the make-up and just letting Tom Hanks translate through performance. Others from the crew, cast and real life relations with Fred Rogers give contributions and praise as well.

The People Who Make A Neighborhood: The Making Of (HD, 15:23) – Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers introduces the featurette by sending us through Picture-Picture.  This Making of gives us a brief version of the “Tom Hanks As Fred Rogers” featurette and digs into the movie focusing first on Marielle Heller’s talents and focus with the film and then starts to go character by character/actor by actor with Heller giving us fantastic insight on her direction. After we turn focus to crew and the recreation of the original sets and lighting from the Mr. Rogers Neighborhood program.

Dreaming Big, Building Small: The Puppets & Miniatures (HD, 8:37) – The miniatures team, along with puppets lead us through how they went about recreating the show’s little characters and teaching Tom Hanks to perform. The puppeteers discuss the technique and how they approached it with Tom. Marielle Heller and Susan Kelechi Watson interviews as well.

Daniel Tiger Explains: Practice Makes Perfect (HD, 2:42) – Daniel Tiger (The puppet) introduces Tom Hanks discussing the difficulty of performing and getting down the opening sequence of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Its accompanied with some outtakes.

Summary

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood isn’t a game changer or even the best film of 2019, but its the biopic done the right way. It goes beyond that and delivers quite a moving and reflective story. Not to mention the technical and visually effective aspects of it as well. Sony delivers with an absolutely beautiful native 4K presentation. The Blu-ray disc also features a nice, tight and effective array of bonus features that are an entertaining compliment to the film. Heller is quite and engaging interviewee, I’d love to see her on discs for Criterion and the like discussion films that she loves or inspire her. This may be just a rental for some, but for the trifecta of film, presentation and bonus features, this is a terrific pick up.

This is a paid Amazon Associates link

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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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