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My name is Benjamin Button,
and I was born under unusual circumstances.
While everyone else was agin', 
I was gettin' younger... all alone.

Loosely adapted from the short story of the same name by F. Scott Fitzgerald, THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON ($40) is a marvel of a movie from director David Fincher. The lengthy screenplay by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord melds beautifully with Fincherís mesmerizing vision, and the most challenging aspects of the story are brought to life with impressive digital trickery that make the film worthy of its multiple Oscars. Running nearly three hours, THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON has something of an epic sweep, as it spans the entire life and adventures of its title character. However, at its simplest level, THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON is a fantasy drama filled with insightful and sometimes wry commentary on the nature of life, death, youth, old age, love, longing and loss.

The premise of THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON tells the story of a man who ages backwards, unlike the normal way that the rest of us do it. Told in flashback, Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) is born in 1918, just as WWI ends. His mother dies in childbirth, and his father is unable to bear the sight on an infant that has the appearance and physical afflictions of a man in his eighties. Benjamin is deposited on the doorstep of a nursing home, and is adopted by Queenie (Taraji P. Henson), who is unable to have a child of her own. Throughout his childhood, Benjamin resembles the other denizens of the nursing home and is accepted as one of their own. However, when Benjamin is twelve years old, he meets a young girl named Daisy (Elle Fanning), whom is destined to love for the rest of his life.

While Daisy is indeed a young girl at the time of their first meeting, Benjamin resembles a man in his seventies; yet the two do form a friendship that lasts the years. Then, as the ever-younger Benjamin sets out to see the world, he maintains his friendship with Daisy by keeping his promise to the girly by writing to her. Eventually, Benjamin is reunited with the adult Daisy (Cate Blanchett), who has become a successful young dancer in New York City, while he has come to resemble a middle-aged man. However, the physical dissimilarities in their age remains the biggest obstacle for Benjamin and Daisy to overcome in terms of their having a romantic relationshipÖ The cast of THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON also features Julia Ormond, Elias Koteas, Jason Flemyng, Mahershalalhashbaz Ali, Jared Harris, Sonya Leslie-Shepherd and Tilda Swinton.

Paramount Home Entertainment via The Criterion Collection has made THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. Shot largely with high definition cameras, the 1080p presentation is nothing short of glorious. I have to say that flawlessly replicating this type superb material is exactly the reason that the Blu-ray format exists and THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON is all the better for it. Image sharpness, clarity and fine detail are truly excellent, as every bit of texturing on objects is plainly visible, as are the fine lines in the actors faces- that is, when they havenít been digitally manipulated to make the actors appear younger than actually are. The picture is also highly dimensional, even when digital elements are introduced. Color reproduction is also quite excellent, despite the shifting pallets assigned to different eras and different locations. When warm hues are fully saturated, they are perfectly replicated, but even the colder, less saturated and sepia influenced sequences look amazing. Blacks usually appear quite deep and the whites are completely stable. Contrast and shadow detail can be impressive. Coming off of a digital source, the only "print damage" one will find in this presentation are the intentional bits added to specific sequences to give an aged film look. Additionally, there is no true film grain present, other than intentional additions to the picture.

THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Sonically, the Blu-ray release of THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON is a perfect complement to the impressive visuals. While much of the film plays in the talky drama mode, there is a lot of subtle complexity in the sound design, especially when it comes to creating realistic sonic environments. There is an effortless quality to the sound, which is also rich and enveloping. Additionally, THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON also contains a few showy moments where highly directional, aggressive sound effects make terrific use of all the outlying channels. Fidelity is truly excellent, with the music and sound effects greatly benefiting from the lossless encoded. The bass channel also offers a few surprises. Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to understand. French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials, which have been spread across both discs of this set. On disc one is a running Audio Commentary by director David Fincher. Moving on to disc two, one will find the remainder of the supplemental programming. The primary supplement on disc two is The Curious Birth Of Benjamin Button a three-hour, multipart program that looks at the production of the film in extensive detail. The program is broken up into the following sections Preface, First Trimester, Second Trimester, Third Trimester and Birth. Within First Trimester, one will find Development & Pre-Production and Tech Scouts. Within Second Trimester, one will find Production Part 1, Production Part 2 and Costume Design. Within Third Trimester, one will find Visual Effects Performance Capture, Benjamin, Youthenization, The Chelsea, The Simulated World, Sound Design and Desplatís Instrumentarium. Within Birth, one will find Premier. Theatrical Trailers and an assortment of Still Galleries close out the supplements.

As I stated above THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON is a marvel of a movie. The Blu-ray presentation is virtually flawless. Absolutely recommended.



The Curious Case of Benjamin Button [Blu-ray] (2008)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2009 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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