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But we loved with a love that was more than love
I and my Annabel Lee,

Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

When one thinks of Edgar Allan Poe, one's mind immediately goes to the horror fiction for which celebrated American author was so noted. However, Poe also wrote The Murders In The Rue Morgue, The Mystery Of Marie Rogt and The Purloined Letter three early and important examples of modern detective fiction. While one might be inclined to expect THE RAVEN ($40) to be another horror movie based upon the works of Edgar Allan Poe, the film instead proves to a reasonably enjoyable mystery thriller in the vein of Poe's detective fiction. Offering a fictionalized account of the last days Poe's final day, THE RAVEN finds Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack) to be a penniless drunkard residing in Baltimore, Maryland, where he tries to eke out a living writing literary criticism for a local newspaper. Poe's financial desperation is only made worse by the fact that he is in love Emily Hamilton (Alive Eve), with the two carrying on a secret relationship because Emily's father Captain Hamilton (Brendan Gleeson) despises Poe, and has threatened the destitute author and poet with physical violence on a number of occasions.

Then Poe's fortunes only take a turn for the worse, when he is brought in for questioning by Baltimore Police Inspector Emmett Fields (Luke Evans), in regards to a series of murders that emulate the grisly deaths from a number of the author's stories. Of course, the bottom really drops out when the police make Poe a consultant on the case, and the serial killer kidnaps Emily; making her a pawn in a game of cat and mouse the killer plays with the police... but more importantly, with Edgar Allan Poe. Leaving a series of clues for the author to deduce, along with additional bodies, the killer attempts to draw Poe into his sick little game with the missing Emily as the prize. As expected, Cusack makes for a very good Poe, and he makes the film fun to watch, even if everything else in the film doesn't quite gel. The cast of THE RAVEN also includes Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Kevin McNally, Sam Hazeldine, Pam Ferris and John Warnaby.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has made THE RAVEN available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. As you might expect from the title, THE RAVEN and the subject matter, the movie can be a very dark and gloomy affair; however, thanks to a pretty sweet 1080p presentation, the image is well represented on Blu-ray. Image sharpness, clarity and dimensionality are all generally very good despite the oppressively dark cinematography. Additionally, fine detail and texturing hold their own, in the midst of all the darkness. Hues tend to be rather subdued throughout, as though the cinematography were trying to emulate black and white in a color film. Blacks are pitch perfect, and the whites are clean and crisp. Contrast is fairly smooth, although shadow detail is intentionally allowed to fall into the abyss much of the time, which adds an oppressive visual quality. The elements from which THE RAVEN has been mastered are free from flaws. A modest veneer of grain appears throughout, which maintains the organic quality of this solid presentation.

THE RAVEN is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Despite the period setting THE RAVEN is an engagingly mixed offering. All the discrete channels are well implemented for sound effects placement, plus the effects move about around the sound field effectively. Sure, it's not an action movie, but 19th century Baltimore is alive with sonic information. As expected, there is plenty of atmosphere, not to mention plenty of small sound effects, which draw the audience into the world the characters inhabit. Music is also effectively integrated into the sound field and is well represented across the discrete channels. Thanks to the lossless encode, film’s music demonstrates terrific clarity, plus the track delivers fully convincing sound effects. The bottom end of the track also has a surprising amount of force. Voices are warmly recorded, plus the English language dialogue is always completely understandable. No other language tracks have been included on the disc, but English 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 supplements. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with director James McTeigue and producers Marc D. Evans, Trevor Macy, and Aaron Ryder. Featurettes and other programs include the following: The Raven Guts: Bringing Death To Life (fourteen minutes), The Madness, Misery, And Mystery Of Edgar Allen Poe (ten minutes), Behind The Beauty And Horror (two minutes), The Raven Presents John Cusack & James McTeigue (three minutes) and Music For The Raven: The Team (five minutes). A Theatrical Trailer, plus Deleted/Extended Scenes close out the standard supplements. Disc two offers a DVD copy of the movie for those who are on the fence about making the upgrade to Blu-ray. An authorization code is provided for a Digital Copy of the film, which is just a download away.

THE RAVEN is a reasonably enjoyable mystery thriller with a good performance from John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe. The Blu-ray presentation can't be faulted.


Raven [Blu-ray] (2012)


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright 2012 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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