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Blu Ray Review - "A Better Life"

A Better Life - Now on Blu Ray!
by Jason Whyte

"A Better Life" is a movie that snuck up on me. What at first appeared to be a story on the immigrant and day-laborer situation in Los Angeles instead turns out to be a powerful story on a hopeful father and son trying to do the right thing. The story centers around Carlos (the outstanding Demian Bichir, giving one of the best lead performances of the year), an illegal immigrant who works as a gardener to rich Los Angeles residents. He has a 15 year old son Luis (Jose Julian) who is getting into trouble at his school. Carlos, with his head on his shoulders, has much bigger plans to better his life and in turn, his son's. But as they quickly learn, the American Dream is not exactly that easy to attain.

"A Better Life" is directed by Chris Weitz, who is known to many for much bigger pictures like "Twilight: New Moon" and "The Golden Compass". Here, he has stepped far back into smaller territory with this character driven piece. Based on a screenplay by Eric Eason, you can really tell his heart is in this story and knew it was one worth telling. I loved how the film refused to take the easy way out and follows the father and son through a lot of troubles during the story. And I for one hope Weitz continues to tell more human stories, and ones less involving forbidden love among vampires.

Picture: EOne Films presents "A Better Life" in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio with a 1080p transfer. There is really not much standing in the way of being a near perfect picture. Being a more recent production and shot on 35mm, the transfer here is I'm assuming what the film looked like projected in theaters. Much of the film is exterior and takes place in sun-baked Los Angeles, and a lot of the natural lighting comes across really well. Some of the interior shots show a bit of noise and excessive grain, but it contributes well to the overall look. There are occasional English subtitles for Spanish dialogue and they are nicely framed and sharp.

Sound: The DTS-HD master audio in 5.1 surround is simply fine. Some surround activity with music and on the street scenes, but mostly all the action takes place on the front soundstage. This is by no means a disc to show off one's audio system, but it represents the theatrical audio well. There is also a Spanish 5.1 track on the disc (surprisingly, no French dialogue track or subtitles, which is usually the norm for Canadian releases. Aside from a few logos on the disc, this release mirrors exactly the Summit Pictures release in the United States).

Extras: "A Better Life" has a Featuring an audio commentary by Weitz and a few deleted scenes. There is also a music video for one of the songs that plays during the end credits of the film.

Bottom Line: A solid, powerful film that says so much by saying so little. "A Better Life" came and went from theaters quickly so I'm hoping that there will be an audience for the film in the home video and digital realm. Also available on DVD and digital download, I recommend the Blu Ray release with its solid transfer. It's a really great way to watch the film and will definitely satisfy.

Jason Whyte,

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originally posted: 11/04/11 05:04:14
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