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When I was growing up, television choices were limited to three networks, three local stations and PBS. It was during my youthful quest to find, something to watch that I first encountered Julia Child and her cooking show, The French Chef, which was a regular staple on my local PBS station. There was something about Julia Child’s on air personality that I found amusing, plus the fact that I loved to eat, even then, made it fun to watch her whipping up the day’s menu. As more broadcasting choices came to television, and the medium became awash in cooking shows, Julia Child remained a personal favorite- with her subsequent television programs remaining a regular staple in my television diet.

My fondness for Julia Child is probably the reason that I was eager to see writer/director Nora Ephron’s film JULIE & JULIA ($40). Combining two stories, JULIE & JULIA tells how Julia Child (Meryl Streep) came to become a cooking icon, and how aspiring writer Julie Powell (Amy Adams) attempted to cook all 524 recipes from Child's cookbook, Mastering The Art Of French Cooking, during a single year. Although the two stories are interwoven, JULIE & JULIA tends to feel a little like two separate movies, with one being more engaging than the other. Maybe I am biased, but I found the story of Julia Child more enjoyable, more fun and certainly tastier than the story of Julie Powell, which had moments that I found a little stringy, chewy and indigestion inducing.

The story of "Julia" is taken largely from Child's autobiography, My Life In France, and finds her arriving in France in 1949 with her husband Paul Child (Stanley Tucci), who was posted to Paris by the United States Foreign Service. Armed with a love of food and a yearning to do something meaningful with her free time, Julia enrolls in the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris. Proving herself fearless in the kitchen, Julia quickly begins mastering the art of French cooking, which ultimately leads to her collaboration on the cookbook of the same name. The story of "Julie" is taken from Powell’s blog, The Julie/Julia Project, which details her yearlong odyssey into cooking every recipe contained in Child’s cookbook, while working a fulltime job in Manhattan, within the bureaucracy that was dealing with the 9/11 aftermath. Although the blog starts out as a means for Julie to focus on an attainable goal, it develops a sizable following who become interested in her cooking triumphs, travails and occasional meltdowns. The cast of JULIE & JULIA also features Chris Messina, Linda Emond, Helen Carey, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Jane Lynch, Joan Juliet Buck, Crystal Noelle and George Bartenieff.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has made JULIE & JULIA available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. While not a perfect visual feast, JULIE & JULIA comes with a 1080p presentation that is certain to satisfy most appetites. As a movie, JULIE & JULIA has slightly different visual styles that represent two time periods and separate stories. Almost all of the time, the picture is very sharp, dimensional and offers up very nice levels of fine detail and texturing. Colors are very nicely saturated across both stories, although the "Julia" sections appear a bit more sumptuous. Blacks are fairly inky, while the whites are crisp and stable. Contrast is fairly silky, while the level of shadow detail is quite nice. The elements from which JULIE & JULIA have been mastered are virtually perfect. A fine veneer grain is present throughout and adds an organic quality to the presentation.

JULIE & JULIA is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Considering the nature of the material, one isn’t going to overindulge on the sonics. JULIE & JULIA plays in the talky dramedy mode; therefore a lot of the sound is localized front & center, and doesn’t make overwhelming demands on one’s home theater system. Still, there are plenty of ambient and incidental sounds, as well as wonderful atmospherics and musical fill to spread throughout the soundstage. Thanks to the lossless encode, fidelity is strong and the track has a more than respectable bottom end. Dialogue is warmly reproduced and is always easy to understand. An English Audio Descriptive Service in Dolby Digital 5.1 and a French Dolby Digital 5.1 track are also included. Subtitles are available in English and French.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the disc's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some supplements. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with writer/director Nora Ephron. Featurettes and other programs include the following: Secret Ingredients: Creating Julie & Julia (twenty eight minutes), Cooking Lessons (twenty three minutes), Julia's Kitchen (twenty three minutes) and Family And Friends Remember Julia Child (forty eight minutes). JULIE & JULIA is also BD-Live enabled (requires a Profile 2.0 player). Sony’s MovieIQ feature is available through BD-Live, which provides the viewer access to a continuously updated database of additional information about the film, its cast, crew and soundtrack, as well as other trivia. Bonus Trailers close out the supplements.

Most of the time, JULIE & JULIA proves itself to be a wonderful recipe for entertainment and I think it also features one of Meryl Streep’s most delicious performances. The Blu-ray fairly is mouthwatering and certain to please those with discriminating tastes. Recommended.



Julie & Julia [Blu-ray] (2009)


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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