Jamesy Boy (Blu-ray Review)

Jamesy-BoyNow, this is what you call a fast turnaround.  The film with which I’m about to give you a Blu-ray review has had a Surviving Christmas like run.  Jamesy Boy debuted on the internet (streaming services, I presume) in early January.  The film then had a theatrical run that started January 17th.  And now, here on February 25th, it is already coming home to you on Blu-ray.  So, if you wanted to see this one and it wasn’t playing near you or you just couldn’t find the time to get to it before it left your local arthouse (I’m guessing), fret not.  Here it is already.  You didn’t even need to practice any patience to wait on it.  So, let’s dig right on in to this little one, shall we?

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Jamesy Boy is the true story of a man named James Burns.  James was a trouble youth who wound up doing hard time from age 14-18.  The film deals with paralleling his last few months in prison with the days that got him put behind bars.  It’s a film that also deals the challenges of a reformed ex-con trying to make a good living in the world after prison.

This was a little of a surprising film in that I was quite stunned at the performances by some of the film’s veteran players.  It was really obvious this was a small project that basically only had these actors for a couple days.  So one would think it was that type of light-work big paycheck job.  But, alas, James Woods, Mary-Louise Parker, Ving Rhames and Taissa Farmiga are all beyond fantastic in the film.  Ving Rhames is the best I’ve seen him in years.  James Woods also brings a great level of bravado and intensity that manages to never become over the top or campy.  Mary-Louise Parker brings her usual self to the table but has great level of commitment and sympathy that truly make you feel for the character.  I was really impressed with Taissa Farmiga.  While, I never bought for a second on paper that her character would at all be interested in dating James, she did her best to make it work.

Performances like these from the smaller players enhanced and hampered the film as well.  Like I said, all of them are much smaller roles disguised like they are bigger ones.  But, every time one of them is acting with a member of the main cast, they entirely (unintentionally) put the person to shame.  Much of this weighs on the film’s lead, Specner Lofranco.  Lofranco is solid and may be a good actor one day, but shows he’s got much to learn as he comes across as very amateur amongst the vets and it hurts your overall thoughts on him throughout the film (even Black Eyed Pea member “Taboo” shows him up at times).  One of the lesser known actors in the film who I really enjoyed was Michael Trotter as “Roc”.  This guy had the thug thing down and also brought a great deal of menace and creepiness to the film.

Something that felt very weird to me when watching this movie was its aesthetic.  This is a film that deals with some darker subject matter.  Crime, prison, drugs, murder, guns, domestic problems and the like.  Yet, it’s told in this very safe, clean and pedestrian manner.  It looks almost like an ABC Family movie with the way its told.  I guess I just feel it would have been in the film’s best interest to go a little more raw and dirty with the filmmaking.  Even when a character is beat up and wounded or the character is a low down gangster or trashy female, they look too nice and pretty to be taken seriously.  Everyone in this world takes 3 showers a day and pulls their laundry straight from the dryer before they go out.

James Burns’ story is a very interesting one that desires to be more than it is, but winds up being in a “paint by numbers” style of story for what it is.  It features some great performances by veteran actors that will open your eyes as to what kind of professionals these folks can be.  Jamesy Boy is a very neat looking story about some darker and dirtier subject manner.  It’s an enjoyable film if you’re going to give it the time, but ultimately you’ve seen plenty similar to this one, so it’s a matter of how well they pulled it off.  And in this case, they’ve done a good enough job to draw you in and keep you emotionally invested and entertained for the duration.

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Encoding:  AVC MPEG-4

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2:39.1

Clarity/Detail:  During scenes outdoor in the daylight, particularly the penitentiary yard, things are very sharp, clean and clear.  The nighttime scenes and indoor locations prove more a mixed bag, and while still sharp are much less than that out of the discs high points being the penitentiary yard.

Depth:  Overall the film has a solid 3 dimensional appearance.  Its not awe-inspiring but its far from flat.  There are some good examples during some of the date scenes with Taissa Farmiga present that highlight its depth.

Black Levels:  The film gets dark and black, but with the ability to show great ranges of shade and not blanket everything in its darkness.

Color Reproduction:  Due to the nature of the storytelling, the film ranges of being a bit bleached and devoid of color (penitentiary, exteriors by Taissa Farmiga’s home), to having a nice little pop with the colors (Roc’s house, the strip club).

Flesh Tones:  Skin is consistent throughout.  The highlight being a shot of Ving Rhames sitting on some bleachers in the penitentiary yard where you can make out  every pore, wrinkle and texture on his face while giving off a very natural color.

Noise/Artifacts:  There were none to speak of on this disc.

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Audio Format(s): English 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1

Subtitles:  None

Dynamics:  This was a very monotonous track with one real set volume.  There wasn’t really any sort of range with the track.  Most of it felt front and center heavy.

Low Frequency Extension:  I was really disappointed as there was a sever lack of the use of my subwoofer.  It was pretty much not present.

Surround Sound Presentation:  As with the subwoofer, nothing to speak of, it was all front loaded.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue was clear and center focused.  The track was set at a lower volume, but once turned up to an appropriate level it was fine.

What more can I say?  It’s pretty disappointing when they opt for compressed audio tracks instead of a lossless one.  If this was a DVD, I would have been more forgiving.  But, this is Blu-ray with a glorious 1080p picture.  It should have great audio to match.  I’d much rather prefer a lossless mono track than a compressed multi-channel one.

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There’s a little bit of extra material provided here.  It would have been cool to have something included that had the guy this story was based off of as a part of it, but that is nowhere to be found.

Director’s Commentary – Trevor White discusses bringing this story to life and his work with big names in the cast.

Cast Interviews – These brief little clips involve on-set interviews with the cast answering similar questions in their own words.

  • James Woods (HD, 7:33)
  • Mary-Louise Parker (HD, 3:27)
  • Ving Rhames (HD, 1:15)
  • Spencer Lofranco (HD, 1:57)
  • Taissa Farmiga (HD, 2:43)

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:37)

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Jamesy Boy is a solid drama that I don’t think you’re going too wrong if you make the choice to check it out.  I really think the film is highlighted and lifted up above others of its ilk by its namesake performances that they exploit on the poster art.  This release has a solid video presentation but the disappointing choice of a compressed audio track.  The extras are kind of the bare minimum here.  I recommend you see the film, much as a rental, before deciding if you’d really want to buy it.



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