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Waiting for “Superman” Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24
  • Audio Codec: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish
  • Rating: PG
  • Region: A (B? C?)
  • Discs: 1
  • Studio: Paramount Vantage
  • Blu-ray Release Date: February 15, 2011
  • List Price: $39.99

[amazon-product align=”right”]B003Q6D28W[/amazon-product]

BestBuy.com:
Waiting for "Superman"

Purchase Waiting for Superman on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:5/5]

Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG  thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:5/5]

Back around 1992 or ’93, I read Jonathan Kozol’s Savage Inequalities, a book about the deteriorating public education system in the United States and how racial and socio-economic lines that inhibit the possibilities for an equal education in this country. It’s two decades later, and not much had changed in the nation’s school systems. There are still inequities, U.S. Students are still falling in the rankings around the world when it comes to proficiency in math, reading, and science, and barely any administrative reorganizing or functional changes have been made in the country’s public schools.

Director Davis Guggenheim’s documentary, Waiting for “Superman” goes beyond just simple theories on social status, class, and money to explain the problems facing education in U.S. schools today. Following a small group of real kids in the public school system throughout the country, his thesis on why our educational system is broken settles on one glaring flaw, the inability for school systems to drop poorly performing teachers due to the powerful teachers’ unions. That, in addition to all of the other problems facing students in certain areas, like overcrowding, poverty and violence, or the antiquated ideas on education stretching back to the 1940’s, like student tracking, leaves the country’s schools falling way behind, and it is only getting worse.

The endless bureaucracy and inability to change, according to the film, have left students’ hopes for a better education in the hands of fate, literally. Lotteries for charter schools, the few public education facilities allowed to operate somewhat outside of the status quo that are outperforming not only the schools in their own districts, but throughout the country, have to resort to lotteries to select from the hundreds of students applying for the extremely limited openings. A true sign that the schools are terribly broken comes when Waiting for “Superman” spotlights a seeming, dream-school in a higher income neighborhood in Silicon Valley. The fully-equipped school, with its own performing arts center, intra-school video system and state-of-the-art computer lab is still pushing out students below average, forcing parents there to try to get their children into the charter school, a low-profile, dull looking building that outperforms the normal neighborhood school in student proficiency.

Waiting for “Superman” is at once heartening and eye-opening. It is a groundbreaking call to arms. A wake up call to the nation that shines a light on the truly scary outcome of this whole dilemma, and that is the nation’s inability to compete in an increasingly crowded global economy by pushing out under qualified, poorly educated workforce.

Video Quality

[Rating:4/5]

With its 1.78:1 AVC/MPEG-4 1080p encoding on Blu-ray, Waiting for “Superman” looks stronger than usual for a documentary of this nature. Although some of the archival footage, obviously taken from standard definition sources or low-res 16mm film, is of  noticeably lower quality, the overall look and encoding of Waiting for “Superman” is clean, and detailed. There are strong, natural flesh tones, life-like color reproduction, and no major artifacts to get in the way.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

The audio is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack that is simple, but effective. Most of the sound stays in the front three channels with some love-level ambience and the occasional discrete atmospheric sound effect in the surrounds. The musical soundtrack, such as John Legend’s “Shine” is punchy with good “air” around instrumentation and a bit of ambience in the surround channels to open up the soundstage, but low frequency extension is limited.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:2/5]

The supplements on Waiting for “Superman” are a mixture of further information on the film and public service announcement-type featurettes.

He supplements provided with this release is:

  • Commentary by Director Davis Guggenheim and Producer Lesley Chilcott
  • Changing the Odds (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 0:05.34)
  • Updates – Updates on some of the folks featured in the documentary.
  • A Conversation with Davis Guggenheim (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 0:01.44)
  • The Future is in Our Classrooms (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 0:02.09)
  • The Making of “Shine” (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 0:07.02) – A look at musician John Legend as he creates the theme song for Waiting for “Superman.”
  • Deleted Scenes (1080p/24) – A few brief segments cut from the final cut of the film.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

Its straightforward and easy to identify with story make Waiting for “Superman” one of the better documentaries to come along in a while. Highly recommended for anyone with a stake in their children’s and the country’s future.

Additional Screen Captures:

[amazon-product align=”right”]B003Q6D28W[/amazon-product]

BestBuy.com:
Waiting for "Superman"

Purchase Waiting for Superman on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:5/5]

Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2/5]

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