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Blu-ray Review: The Notebook – Limited Edition Gift Set

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Most of the Nicholas Sparks novels adapted for film are sappy, over-the-top, chick flicks that are only geared for one thing – making women cry. But, The Notebook is a much deeper, much better film than the others. The Notebook exists on more levels than just the emotionally tugging one.

The Show
The film starts out with an elderly couple sitting alone. The man, played fabulously by James Garner, is retelling a story to a woman with Alzheimer’s disease. Gena Rowlands plays the woman, who tragically cannot remember who the man is that is talking to her. But, she enjoys the story he is telling her. The story whisks us back to the ’40s to tell us the love story of Allie and Noah.

Allie (Rachel McAdams) is an affluent young woman. Noah (Ryan Gosling) is blue-collar sawmill worker. They fall madly in love with each other, but their love doesn’t come without its difficulties. Allie’s mother is too proud and rich to have her daughter fall in love with such riff-raff. They also fight. A lot. But, each time they fight, they make up and their relationship becomes stronger because of it.

Like I said before most of the movies adapted from Sparks’ novels are focused on the tear quotient, but Nick Cassavetes adaption is inherently character-centric. Even with all the romantic film clichés thrown in it still works, in part because of the story, but mostly because of the fine actors. McAdams and Gosling are great together. They have visible chemistry on screen. Even when they are fighting they seem like the genuinely care for each other. But, Garner and Rowlands steal the show in their few scenes. They are sweet and endearing characters, and for anyone that actually has a loved one going through the stages of Alzheimer’s you’ll realize that Rowlands has it exactly right.

The Packaging
This special edition set is huge. It’s a matte-finished cardboard box about as wide as five regular Blu-ray keepcases side-by-side. It will definitely take up a big share of shelf space, so be prepared. It opens like a book and is jam-packed with all sorts of extras only a girl would love.

The first is a nifty little spiral bound diary-like scrapbook with information about the film and cast. The actual movie disc is nestled away in the back of the book in a digipack plastic tray.

Also included are two bookmarks (apparently to use while reading other work by Mr. Sparks), sappy stickers that say things like “Smile” and “True Love,” corner stickers that will hold your photos on a scrapbook page, and a little stationary set.

While the scrapbook is that holds the film’s disc is nice the rest of the stuff seemed a little bit useless, even to my wife. Even with all of the included stuff, there’s still no reason why the package should be as big as it is.

The Quality
The high definition of The Notebook is presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. 

The outdoor scenes are where the HD quality really shines through. The nature of scenic South Carolina is very detailed. It reminded me of what it’s like watching the Planet Earth series in HD. The 1080p presentation also enhances the deep color palette of the '40s. The reds, blues and greens are rich and vibrant. Rachel McAdams cherry red lips stand out in every scene she's in.

My favorite visuals of the film were looking at the many classic cars. The sleek lines on the cars are perfectly presented against the backgrounds. When it comes to the detail of the cars, I couldn't detect any aliasing.

While I did detect some film grain, blips, and edge enhancements, here and there, they’re nothing that will detract from the beauty of the film.

The audio has also been upgraded to TrueHD 5.1. The film is heavily dialogue so the front channels have their work cut out for them, but the voices are clear and concise. The only time the sound veers off into the rear is for the soundtrack, but when it does it gives you a great sense of being enveloped by the movie.

Special Features
With this special edition I would’ve expected more in some more in depth special features created for it. But, instead it’s all the material that was included in the 2005 DVD edition of The Notebook. This truly is a shame, seeing that if you bill something as a must-have special edition, it doesn’t count just to put it in a pretty box and include a few stickers.

For those of you that don’t know the special features from the DVD edition you’ll get two commentaries. One from Nicholas Sparks and the other from director Nick Cassavetes. Most of Cassavetes commentary is peppered with information about basic filmmaking like why he positioned his camera in a certain place and the motivations of the actors included in the scene.

Sparks on the other hand sticks to just telling a two-hour story about how the film and the book are similar and where they differ in places. His commentary rarely follows what is happening on screen, but it’s nice in a way, because Cassavetes already covers all scene-by-scene information.

The rest of the extras are just mini-features like one that follows Cassavetes around, which is just over 11 minutes, with him talking about his methods of filmmaking and the choices he made for the movie. The other focuses more on Sparks more or less congratulating himself for writing such an amazing story that was so well received by critics and audiences alike. If you’re into watching people boast in roundabout ways then this is the feature for you.

Twenty-nine minutes of deleted scenes and a theatrical trailer are also included. None of the special features have been upgraded to HD. They are just direct transfers from the standard definition version.

Ending Thoughts
The film looks great in HD, but be warned you're not actually getting any sort of special edition upgrade of the film itself, meaning no new extras or different cuts of the film. This "gift set" is all about the stickers and stationary, and has nothing to do with the special features. Maybe this is what was meant with this set, and in that case this may be a great Valentine's Day gift for that woman in your life that loves The Notebook, but also loves cheesy movie-themed scrapbook material.

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  • http://blogcritics.org/ Phillip Winn

    Sparks is one of the worst writers I’ve ever read, but this movie is first-rate, just as you describe.

  • Adrian

    Hi there. Is this Blu-ray compatible with a UK/region B Blu-ray player?

  • Aaron Peck

    Adrian,

    I couldn’t find anything that says that it would. It doesn’t mean it wouldn’t I just can’t find anything that says it would.

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