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Still Alice (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

In the 1990s, independent films were on the rise and studios like Miramax were at the forefront of distribution. Many studios created a separate wing to focus on and gather the independent, documentary, art house and international films under a single banner away from the blockbusters and bigger star studded fare. Sony Pictures developed Sony Pictures Classics for this very reason in 1992. And for the 30th Anniversary of the studio’s formation, they will be putting out a 4K Ultra-HD box set with 11 films from the course of their history, including 10 that are making their debut on the format. This review covers the 2015 film, Still Alice, that landed Julianne Moore what seemed like a long overdue Oscars statue. You can order yourself a copy of this impressive box set, which would make a fantastic gift for that special cinephile in your life, using the paid Amazon Associates link below.

Film

Dr. Alice Howland (Julianne Moore) is a renowned linguistics professor at Columbia University. When words begin to escape her and she starts becoming lost on her daily jogs, Alice must come face-to-face with a devastating diagnosis: early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. As the once-vibrant woman struggles to hang on to her sense of self for as long as possible, Alice’s three grown children must watch helplessly as their mother disappears more and more with each passing day.

Still Alice is the type of film that many would slap the label “Oscar bait” onto. And well, they did bite the hook for the Best Actress category for that year. Unfortunately, yes, the film does fit the type. But more often than not, there’s a good reason as a lot of those “Oscar bait” types are pretty damn good or at least rock solid. Sorry if you only live on tentpoles and popcorn. And while this is probably not sniffing a Best Picture type film, there remain plenty of reason to check it out.

Julianne Moore has been one of our finest performers for decades now, but it took a while for her to finally take home a statue for it. Some might say long overdue. And while this might be one of those roles that on paper was like “this’ll get you a nomination at least”, it still takes execution to land it. She’s really damn good at this tale of Alzheimer’s withering away a once brilliant person. Its incredibly sad to watch her just slowly disintegrate from who she is at the start of the film. Its almost hard to believe and you want her to snap out of it and come back. And that’s what I imagine those with a loved one who goes through this might feel. Therein lies the power of her performance.

Moore is not alone in being terrific here. She’s got a wonderful supporting cast. This is some of Kate Bosworth’s best work here in the film as one of her daughters. Kristen Stewart plays the other daughter in the film and as always, she takes whatever was on the paper and elevates it into something more than it may have been an feels like a full fledged honest to Zeus human. Alec Baldwin is also fine here as the husband in part that he makes both endearing and slightly challenging for the audience to maybe both be compassionate for and question.

This is an incredibly sad, heartbreaking tale. There’s moments that make you feel hopeful and like “we are going to get through this”. But the film really brings the reality of it all to the forefront with the performances to match that just break your heart. Its got a very tough to see happen scene that sticks in your head of wondering if its right or not. While its no feel good film, its one that certainly delivers in being more than “Oscar bait”.

Video

Disclaimer: Screen captures used in the review are not from the 4K UHD Blu-ray disc and do not represent its image quality. They are also not of my own capturing. If you feel they are yours and you do not condone their usage, please contact the site and we will have them removed. 

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-100

Clarity/Detail Still Alice is the first of the films in this set that was shot digitally. Its transfer really looks pretty dashing and has some nice depth, clarity and crispness to it. Fine details are impressive, especially in the realm of hair follicles. The film features a really nice color palette that shines on with a good bold look here.

Depth: Depth of field is pretty nice and impressive here. There’s great spacing and some nice pushback in the cinematography that really shines here in this transfer. Movement is smooth and natural with no issues from blur or jitter in scenes with a bit more quick motion or cuts.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and natural, with good saturation and great accenting to bring out some of the best in details, colors and clarity. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: This movie has a rather beautiful looking color palette with great saturation. Blues, greens, reds and more really pop out like you wouldn’t expect with a sort of nice pastel touch. HDR helps in showcasing some good vividness in contrast and also illuminating a glow on some displays.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish of the film. Facial features like freckles, wrinkles, make-up brush strokes, lip texture, stubble and blemishes come through clear as day from any given distance in the frame.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.

Audio

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English Audio Descriptive Service, French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish

Dynamics: Still Alice maintains its 5.1 track found on the standard Blu-ray for the film. This isn’t a demanding film, but its a pretty involved and engaging mix. There are good moments where the score builds and carries the feel of the film. Vocals primarily lead it and feel natural in any given environment thanks to some good balance, depth and layering.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: The subwoofer primarily gets its biggest hums from the strings, horns, bass and drum in the score. Sound effects maintain a more complimentary, natural impact.

Surround Sound Presentation: This is a rather front heavy track, though there are some good rear channel contributions to help fill out rooms with ambiance or off screen activity. Sound travel is accurate and the mix has nice volume placement.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Vocals are clear and crisp.

Extras

Still Alice 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray comes only as a part of the Sony Pictures Classics: 30th Anniversary Collection.

Directing Alice (HD, 8:40)

Finding Alice (HD, 9:20)

Interview with Composer Ilan Eshkeri (HD, 6:29)

Deleted Scenes (HD, 6:08)

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:13)

Summary

Still Alice is a pretty terrific performance by Julianne Moore (which landed her a long deserved Best Actress Oscar) surrounded by a rather rock solid movie with some intriguing sections. Its included only in the Sony Pictures Classics: 30th Anniversary Collection for this 4K Ultra-HD release. This features a rather outstanding video transfer that I wasn’t expecting to go along with carrying over the same audio and extras as before.

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a 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. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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