Tuesday, 1 March 2011

"Meet Joe Black". A Review Of The 1999 Film Now Reissued On A 2011 BLU RAY.

"...I Heard A Voice In My Sleep Last Night. What Did It Say?
It Said 'Yes'…"

"Meet Joe Black" is the kind of film that elicits derision and affection in equal measure - well if it’s one of your guilty pleasures – then you need to own it on BLU RAY.

I've had the now defunct HD-DVD format of Martin Brest’s 1999 movie for a while now to have the film in High Definition – and this Blu Ray reissue uses the same menus and extras. But it's the print-quality that will be the big draw here. With an aspect that fills the entire screen, the transfer is lush, detailed and a pleasure to look at practically all of the time. In short – “Meet Joe Black” is beautiful on Blu Ray...

Mixing the supernatural with romance could have been awkward and even 'silly' in places (it sometimes is - Pitt speaking jive in the hospital to a black woman who knows he’s the Grim Reaper is cringing), yet Brest has achieved an assured beauty throughout. This is a nice film in so many ways. And possibly because of its themes of death and loss and how we live our lives, it manages real warmth and a rare intelligence. The growing attraction between Claire Forlani (as Susan Parrish) and Brad Pitt (as Joe Black) is nicely set up in a cafĂ© at the beginning of the film and then played out against preparations for her father’s 65th birthday in his mansion throughout the film (Death has taken over his body and is being shown around by a reluctant Hopkins). Thomas Newman’s lovely score also adds a classy feel to the film too and is used when it’s needed.

But it’s the cast that make you watch - Claire Forlani is luminously beautiful as Daddy’s ‘too busy to be in love’ daughter – she has eyes that could make most men literally lose their balance – while Anthony Hopkins as the corporate mogul William Parrish brings a sheer decency to the piece that gives it a beating heart (his dialogue above). The scene where he gets a heart attack in his office and the voice of death condescends and ridicules his advice to his daughter – is brilliant. You ‘feel’ his terror and disorientation. Throw in great supporting roles for Jake Weber as the dastardly boardroom schemer Drew, Marcia Gay Harden and Jeffrey Tambor as William’s sister Allison and his bumbling but honest friend Quince – and it zips along very nicely indeed despite its 3-hour length. Pitt is hugely impressive too - handsome, sinister, controlled and funny too. He may be eye-candy to some, but there’s real talent there – and often.

Apart from a 'Photo Montage' (still photographs of the cast and crew on location and on sets), there’s a lone extra called "Spotlight On Location" that features interviews with all the key people. It's barely 10-minutes long (and very lo-fi in terms of picture quality) but its hugely entertaining. You can literally feel the awe and affection with which Anthony Hopkins is held by the entire cast - and short as it is, the featurette provides genuine insights into why and how the movie got made.

Audio is English 5.1 with Subtitles in French and English For The Deaf And Hard Of Hearing.

“Meet Joe Black” is never going to trouble an Oscar List or be a discussion point at the next MENSA Annual General Meeting (too gushingly romantic), but for those who have been touched by its themes of enjoying life while you have it – and love getting another chance – on BLU RAY it’s a winner.

“I want to see you get swept away…” William Parrish says to his daughter. Well, now you can…

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