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Selena (Blu-ray Review)

Hard to believe, but until last month (May 19th to be precise), the popular and well regarding biopic of the 1990s late Tejano pop sensation Selena had never made it to Blu-ray. The 1997 famously launched icon Jennifer Lopez from a supporting player to a lead star all on its own and also put her musical talents to the forefront as well. There are many a strange late additions or still not on Blu-ray titles out there and some even surprise me as I research this stuff constantly and do a wishlist piece on them every year. The film debuts on the format with a new transfer and a ported upgrade over its 2007 DVD special edition with its bonus features intact and offering up two separate editions of the film (Theatrical and Extended Edition). If you’ve been wanting to own Selena on Blu-ray, as always, feel free to use the paid Amazon link following the review. It both helps our site and helps you to get the product for which you’ve been seeking.

Film

The nuts and bolts of the irresistibly danceable music called Tejano are pop, rock, polka, R&B and Latin influences. To millions of fans there’s another vital ingredient: the dynamic singer Selena. Selena is the vibrant story of the Grammy-winning singer whose life ended at its creative peak. Pulsating with Selena’s voice on the soundtrack, the film is powerfully authentic. In the title role, Jennifer Lopez captures the warmth and electricity of a beloved entertainer. Edward James Olmos, Jon Seda and others also shine in “a poignant, heartwarming movie that deserves a standing ovation” (Jules Peimer, ~~WKDM-Radio/New York).

I recall when I was 13 and hearing of the death of pop singer Selena. Being a 13 year old, grunge “Alternative rock rules!” white midwestern kid, I wasn’t hip to the Tejano music so while sad, it didn’t quite land as it did with Kurt Cobain the year before. We had a news program called Channel One News (Which produced the likes of Anderson Cooper and Lisa Ling) in my school and they covered it as well as MTV. Her music became more familiar when her posthumous crossover album released the hits “I Could Fall In Love” and “Dreaming of You”. Then came this film, which seemed very quick, which we watched in my Spanish class.

Gregory Nava tells a story of a young, inspiration, humble girl that was on the verge of conquering the world with her music. It tells both the story of a father demanding dedication and perfection to hopefully succeed where he came up short in his youth and his talented young daughter. While Selena falls into that paint by numbers life story biopic that tends to bore and become tedious, this one really doesn’t have too many a route to take as the singer lost her life at age 23. Her life wasn’t long enough, and watching her grow up, engage with her family and build new relationships and slowly build her fame while remaining true to herself is an important aspect in telling who this person was in life. Its essential and works for this one.

In an odd twist of fate, Selena launched Jennifer Lopez onto the path of superstardom. No, this wasn’t Lopez first film, but she had not been a full blown lead before. The film showcased her acting chops like never before, while also allowing her to display dance moves and singing ability. Something that wasn’t happening in Money Train. Lopez has said the film gave her the spark to start the music side of her career and 2 years later, her first album On The 6 debuted and she later became a damn icon (Who had a hella cool Super Bowl Halftime show a few months ago).

The film is wonderfully performed, endearing and has some solid performances (And a damn fine one by Edward James Olmos). However, it isn’t without a few bounces here and there. Some of the acting is a little goofy at times and the dialogue and presentation of it is just a little wonky, forced or a bit too stagey at times. At times, it almost needs some big cliffhanger score to go with it. The film is stronger than those pieces, but it is noticeable and what keeps it very good and holds it back from being top flight.

No matter how hard you try not to let it, Selena will get to you in the end. There is a lot of bouncy fluff, but that’s who Selena was. But she was also strong willed, determined and fully focused while not realizing how she had just become larger than life. Where would our world be with her today? How humongous would she have become? We’ll never know, since she was tragically murdered. And I’ll say, Gregory Nava has some vision on this without going overly stylist, but he truly nails the end of the film. Its a gut punch and unfortunately reflective all too much of the real life experience.

Video

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Selena debuts on Blu-ray, but there is no information regarding its transfer. However, don’t worry about those specifics, the image looks great. Its crisp, filmic in appearance, leaving a nice layer of grain. Details and texture run pretty rampant, with colors finding good saturation and bursting in nice places.

Depth:  Spacing here is very well above average in this depth of field. Scale comes across quite easily whether it be a big crowded restaurant or a sold out concert. Movements are cinematic, smooth and have no issues with distortions.

Black Levels:  The film has a nice, darker, leaning toward natural appearance to it. No real issues with information hiding out on surface, shadows or clothing. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction:  Colors really lift off the screen and find some specific areas when they can energize the image. Reds, most of all, really bolden any time they appear on lipstick, fabrics or flowers. Some colors really glow in darker areas, shadows or nighttime sequences as well.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish of the film. Facial features and textures really stand out and give a nice look at pore, wrinkles, scars, make-up lines and lip texture with ease.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.

Audio

Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: Selena‘s Blu-ray debut features a pretty outstanding 5.1 track. It really gets the dialogue capture and experienced quite well. The musical numbers fill the room in concert and lift it off. Overall, an experience with nary a complaint.

Height: N/A

Low-Frequency Extension:  Bass in the music bumps pretty well and there is a good range of normal doors shutting, engines rumbling and such from the subwoofer.

Surround Sound Presentation: This hangs out up front a good chunk, but doesn’t forget the rear and fills up stadiums and crowded places with crowd, unique sounds and amplified concert experiences.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp, with really good attention to actor diction. Singing vocals do have a different level and sound within the mix that separates from the dialogue feel at times.

Extras

Selena features both the Theatrical cut of the film and the Extended Edition. This release ports over bonus material from the 2007 DVD special edition for the film’s 10th anniversary.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:27)

Selena: Queen of Tejano (SD, 18:56) – Family and tour musicians discuss the journey of bringing Selena’s music and live act together then dives into her recording and humility as a person.

The Making of Selena: 10 Years Later (SD, 30:25) – Family, actors, the director and more tell the story of the film through the phenomenon on the insensitivity of so many entities trying to cash in on Selena’s death, casting, studying personalities, Jennifer Lopez, relationships, secrets and reactions to the finished film.

Outtakes (SD, 12:09)

Summary

Selena‘s celebration of a powerful young life taken away so early really pops and hits with great effect no matter how cynical one might be. Warner Archive Collection’s release of the film is a great performance with terrific picture and audio quality and keeps together the extras for the full package. Fans will definitely want to upgrade or pick this up for the first time.

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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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