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Being John Malkovich [Criterion Collection] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (23.976Hz)
  • Audio Codec: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit)
  • Subtitles: English SDH
  • Region: A (Region-Locked)
  • Rating: R
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
  • Run Time: 113 Mins.
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • Blu-ray Release Date: May 15, 2012
  • List Price: $39.95

Overall
[Rating:4.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3.5/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:5/5]

Being John Malkovich tells the story of unemployed puppeteer Craig Schwartz (John Cusack), living in New York City in a kind of odd marriage with his pet-obsessed wife Lotte (Cameron Diaz). In hopes of trying to better himself, he takes a job on the 7 1/2 floor of an office building, as a filing clerk. Soon he develops an attraction to his co-worker Maxine (Catherine Keener), who plays along flirting with him every step of the way. While filing papers one day, a folder drops behind a cabinet, leading to the discovery of a small door. Obviously curious, Craig enters the door only to find himself in the mind of none other than actor John Malkovich. Craig soon informs Maxine of this, who feels the best way to handle this new discovery is to charge viewers $200 a pop. While this may sound like fun at first glance, Craig and everyone soon find themselves having to deal with Mr. Malkovich himself! What results is a charming, quirky little film that definitely is one of the best films to have come out of the 90s.

I remember when Malkovich was released in theaters, back in 1999. I was 14 years old and had an interest in seeing this one as I was a fan of both Malkovich and director Spike Jonze. Having not received the widest release, I went to a local (now closed) theater and watched the movie with my brother and uncle. To my shock, there were only (and I’m not joking here) six people in the theater….including the three of us. Regardless of this, I sat back and was pleased with what I saw. The film was a little odd at times, but that helped to bring the sense of charm home.

The acting here is excellent as Cusack, Keener, and especially Malkovich all shine. I don’t think any other actor could have really captured the essence of Craig other than Cusack. He has that style to his acting, that kind of wanting to find not only himself, but everyone surrounding ideal in his role. He doesn’t necessarily see traveling into Malkovich’s world as something fun to do. Rather, he sees it as a kind of escape from the mundane routine he’s found himself in. Keener, wow, I can’t even say much here besides that Keener, perhaps, is the best actor here. Her role has a kind of twisted, devilish feel. She sees that she has Craig wrapped around her finger, controlling his every move. She only releases him (sort of) once she realizes she just might be able to control the great Malkovich. Oh, and wow, wow, wow, wow, Malkovich here is excellent. He has undeniable humor, wit and perfection to his performance. Truly, all three actors help to make this film the little, quirky gem that it is. The kind of gem that everyone should see immediately.

(For a different take, read Being John Malkovich [Criterion Collection] Blu-ray Review by Brandon DuHamel)

Video Quality

[Rating:4/5]

Presented in an 1:85:1 aspect ratio, AVC MPEG-4 encoded transfer, Being John Malkovich looks quite good for an older catalogue title. The film’s color palette features a wide ranging palette, from your dark blacks of the initial trip into Malkovich’s mind, to the grays of Craig’s suit. Clarity is mostly sharp, as are facial close ups. Detail impresses as well, particularly that of the textures are the outfits worn by varying characters. Overall clarity can range from scene to scene, but nothing in a manner that might have you wonder if this is the DVD of the film, not the Blu-ray. There’s no real anomalies to speak of. All in all, this is a transfer fans will definitely appreciate.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

Even more impressive than the aforementioned video, is the film’s included DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Having seen the film a handful of times on DVD, I never thought this would sound this great. Dialogue, as expected, is well reproduced throughout. Atmosphere, especially that of the initial entry into Malkovich’s mind, is great. Little discrete effects like the speeding up ‘woosh’ or the deep LFE that accompanies this scene, impressed me. This isn’t a pure demo track like the high octane action flicks. Rather, this is the kind of track that fans of the film will certainly appreciate.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:4/5]

The included supplements are featured in High Definition:

  • Trailer – The film’s trailer (2:02) is shown.
  • An Intimate Portrait of the Art of Puppeteering – This runs roughly 8 minutes in life and is a somewhat short, but highly interesting look into the world of puppeteering.
  • “American Arts & Culture” – This is a mini documentary, running 5 minutes, hosted by Mr. Malkovich himself.
  • 7 1/2 Floor Orientation – This is a brief 3 minute look into how the 7 1/2 floor concept came to be.
  • Spike’s Photos – In this 16 minute piece, Director Spike Jonze informs us how exactly the film’s concept originated.
  • John Malkovich and John Hodgman – Recorded in November of 2011, this 28 minute piece is an interview by John Hodgman where he asks Malkovich a series of questions about the film ranging from script, to working with Spike Jonze.
  • All Noncombatants Please Clear The Set – In this 34 minute piece, filmmaker Lance Bangs documents what the shooting process was exactly like.
  • Selected-Scene Commentary – This is a scene-selected commentary hosted by Spike’s friend and fellow Director Michael Gondry.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4.5/5]

Being John Malkovich is a quiet, little film that most have probably never heard of, which is a true shame. Criterion, as per all their titles, has given this great film an excellent Blu-ray release, one which comes highly recommended.

Additional Screen Captures

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Purchase Being John Malkovich [Criterion Collection] on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

Related Articles:

Brendan Surpless
Brendan is a home theater enthusiast of nearly 10 years now, having stepped into the interest when his brother purchased a (then state of the art) Sony WEGA HDTV in 2001. He's always been at the forefront of technology having purchased his first Blu-ray and HD DVD players from Samsung and Toshiba immediately upon availability. Since then, his interest has increased ten fold as has his collection (roughly 600 titles). He graduated from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in 2007 with a degree in Literature and Criticism and has written for a few different sites, each which have helped him hone his writing skills and interests. His favorite film of all time would be Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List simply for the raw power and emotion that film brings out in the viewer.

Brendan's Reference System:

Sony KDL55NX720 55" LED 3D HDTV
Panasonic BD-310 3D Blu-ray
Toshiba HD-A30 HD DVD (yep, still have this one)!
Onkyo 605 6.1 Receiver
Bose surrounds
Elemental Design A5-350 10" Sub
Monster Cable wiring
Avatar
Brendan Surpless
Brendan is a home theater enthusiast of nearly 10 years now, having stepped into the interest when his brother purchased a (then state of the art) Sony WEGA HDTV in 2001. He's always been at the forefront of technology having purchased his first Blu-ray and HD DVD players from Samsung and Toshiba immediately upon availability. Since then, his interest has increased ten fold as has his collection (roughly 600 titles). He graduated from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in 2007 with a degree in Literature and Criticism and has written for a few different sites, each which have helped him hone his writing skills and interests. His favorite film of all time would be Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List simply for the raw power and emotion that film brings out in the viewer. Brendan's Reference System: Sony KDL55NX720 55" LED 3D HDTV Panasonic BD-310 3D Blu-ray Toshiba HD-A30 HD DVD (yep, still have this one)! Onkyo 605 6.1 Receiver Bose surrounds Elemental Design A5-350 10" Sub Monster Cable wiring

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Brendan Surpless
Brendan is a home theater enthusiast of nearly 10 years now, having stepped into the interest when his brother purchased a (then state of the art) Sony WEGA HDTV in 2001. He's always been at the forefront of technology having purchased his first Blu-ray and HD DVD players from Samsung and Toshiba immediately upon availability. Since then, his interest has increased ten fold as has his collection (roughly 600 titles). He graduated from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in 2007 with a degree in Literature and Criticism and has written for a few different sites, each which have helped him hone his writing skills and interests. His favorite film of all time would be Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List simply for the raw power and emotion that film brings out in the viewer.

Brendan's Reference System:

Sony KDL55NX720 55" LED 3D HDTV
Panasonic BD-310 3D Blu-ray
Toshiba HD-A30 HD DVD (yep, still have this one)!
Onkyo 605 6.1 Receiver
Bose surrounds
Elemental Design A5-350 10" Sub
Monster Cable wiring
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