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MILK ($40) is definitely on of the best screen biographies that I have seen in recent years, thanks to the Academy Award winning performance of Sean Penn, who plays Harvey Milk, the assassinated gay rights activist, who was the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California. Penn's performance was so incredibly good that I had to keep reminding myself that this was the same guy that was in my favorite teen movie FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH. As much as MILK is a movie dominated by Penn's incredible performance, it is also a film about a time and a place in history. The narrative of the film begins in 1970, on the eve Harvey Milk's fortieth birthday and follows him as moves from a closeted life in New York to San Francisco, where he openly embraces who he is.

Upon his arrival in San Francisco, Harvey and his partner Scott Smith (James Franco) open up a camera shop on Castro Street. Seeking acceptance for his, and other gay owned businesses in the neighborhood, leads Harvey into political activism, which gives rise to the ambition to seek public office. Over the years, Harvey runs for office on several occasions, but loses. However, each loss shows Harvey to be gaining in popularity and political traction. Harvey ultimately wins a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. As a result of his new position, Harvey has dealings with fellow Supervisor Dan White (Josh Brolin), a political and social conservative, who dislikes what Harvey represents. This dislike turns to downright resentment, as Harvey scores more political successes, as well as and favorable press. As Harveyís political star continues to rise, it eclipses White, which results in the politician becoming increasingly unstable. The cast of MILK also features Emile Hirsch, Diego Luna, James Franco, Alison Pill, Victor Garber, Denis O'Hare, Joseph Cross, Stephen Spinella and Lucas Grabeel.

Universal Studios Home Entertainment has made MILK available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. The 1080p presentation is very good, but the material isnít perfect. Director Gus Van Sant has turned MILK into something of a multi-media presentation, which incorporates, film and video footage of the era, much of which is not in pristine condition. However, principal photography comes across with a crisp and clear image quality. Fine detail is strong, but this isnít quite demo material. Colors are slightly subdued, and to a certain degree, emulate the palette of a seventiesí era movie. Blacks appear accurate, as do the whites. Contrast is fairly smooth and the level of shadow detail isnít cause for complaint. There is a definite grain structure throughout the course of the film, which is appropriate to the material and the stylistic choices of the director.

MILK is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. While this is not a showy soundtrack by any stretch of the imagination, this is a good quality track anyway. The sound design does all it can with the dialogue driven material, which includes highlighting Danny Elfmanís atypical, but otherwise excellent score. There are some channel separations across the front, as well as ambience and musical fill finding its way to the rear channels. Bass adds weight to the track, but there arenít many opportunities for the lower frequencies to show off. No other language tracks have been included on the DVD, but English, French and Spanish subtitles are provided.

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 extras. Featurettes include: Hollywood Comes To San Francisco (fourteen minutes), Remember Harvey (thirteen minutes) and Marching For Equality (seven minutes). MILK is also BD-Live enabled (requires a Profile 2.0 player).

MILK is a terrific screen biography, which is made all the more memorable, thanks to the Academy Award winning performance of Sean Penn. Although light on supplements, the Blu-ray release provides a very solid presentation.



Milk [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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