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Ten years down the line, I stand by my original assessment of MAGNOLIA ($29) and say- wow, what an incredible movie. MAGNOLIA served as writer/director Paul Thomas Andersonís character driven follow-up to his breakout feature BOOGIE NIGHTS. Running slightly more than three hours, MAGNOLIA immediately grabs the viewerís attention and never lets go. Heck, the first time I sat down with MAGNOLIA, I was stunned when the three hours were overÖ and I still left wanting more. MAGNOLIA has never been an easy film to describe; letís just say that it tells a story that runs its course during a single day in the San Fernando Valley, yet it interweaves the experiences of a core group of characters, who live on the fringes of each otherís existence.

As a film, MAGNOLIA is intricately constructed and beautifully edited; smoothly moving back and forth between people and places. In this way, MAGNOLIA is like an actual flower; with each petal being an individual, yet they are all part of a whole. Paul Thomas Anderson has assembled the perfect ensemble cast to bring his mesmerizing portrait of a diverse group of people to life. Tom Cruise has never been better than in the role of Frank T.J. Mackey, the ultimate male self-help guru. Cruise makes a lot of his dialogue, which must have looked preposterous on paper, actually work. To say any more about Cruiseís character would spoil the fun of watching him in action. MAGNOLIA also features wonderful leading performances from Julianne Moore, William H. Macy, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Melora Walters and Jeremy Blackman. The filmís first rate cast also includes Jason Robards, Melinda Dillon, April Grace, Luis GuzmŠn, Philip Baker Hall, Ricky Jay, Orlando Jones, Alfred Molina, Michael Murphy, John C. Reilly, Michael Bowen and Henry Gibson.

New Line Home Entertainment has made MAGNOLIA available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. The 1080p presentation is really quite good for a decade old film. Image sharpness and detail are strong; even fine details like individual hairs and texturing are rendered with more than respectable clarity. Sure, the picture is a hair softer than a brand new movie, with some shots appearing a bit more diffuse than others, but I think it all holds up exceedingly well. The level of dimensionality displayed in the image is also quite nice. Colors are fairly vibrant and produce attractive flesh tones. Blacks are deep and whites are crisp. Contrast and shadow detail are very good, although the film isnít overly demanding in this area. The elements from which MAGNOLIA has been transferred appear quite clean. A fine sheen of grain is noticeable throughout.

MAGNOLIA is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. Thanks to the lossless encode, MAGNOLIA is afforded some sonic improvements over what was heard on the DVD release. However, due to the fact that MAGNOLIA is a dialogue driven film, the sound design is somewhat simplistic for most of the presentation. A good portion of the time, sonic activity is localized to the forward soundstage; however, there are moments where the surround channels ferociously spring to life. Dialogue is crisp and precise, although there were a couple of instances where the music threatened to overshadow the actorís voices. Jon Brionís musical score and Aimee Mannís songs have a very strong presence in the mix, taking full advantage of the lossless nature of the format. There is little call for the bass channel to make its presence actively known, yet the soundtrack never sounds anemic. An English Dolby Digital 5.1 channel track has also been provided, as has a Spanish 2.0 channel track. Subtitles are available in English and Spanish.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some supplements, which have been ported from the DVD release. The biggest and best supplement is the Magnolia Video Diary, which runs seventy-two minutes and documents the making of the film. This substantive program is not to be confused with the glossy kind of production featurette that usually accompanies home video release. This is a true documentary that takes a very gritty and very real look at the creative process at work during the production of MAGNOLIA. Look for an extended version of the Frank T.J. Mackey Seminar, which appeared as part of the film. Some may benefit from the "how to" ideas presented in this extra footage. The complete Frank T.J. Mackey Infomercial is also provided and just keeps getting better every time I watch it. If only it were a real productÖ The Paul Thomas Anderson directed Music Video for Aimee Mannís Save Me is also featured amongst the discís supplements. Note that Save Me was shot on the MAGNOLIA sets, with Mann singing the song while she appears in frame with many of the filmís stars. A Teaser Trailer, Theatrical Trailer and nine TV Spots close out the supplements.

MAGNOLIA made a lot of film critic top ten lists for best movies of 1999. In my opinion, it deserved its place on all of those lists. The Blu-ray offers a terrific upgrade to DVD. Highly recommended.



Magnolia [Blu-ray] (1999)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2010 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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