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Winter's Tale (2014)

Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 6/24/2014

All Ratings out of



Review by Mike Long, Posted on 6/19/2014

I don't want to offend anyone, but if you don't understand the importance of winning an Oscar, then you need to go back to bed. There is a reason that actors and studios campaign for the prize. An Oscar will change someone's life. Even if an actor has a cameo in a movie, they will show up in the trailer with the moniker "Academy Award Winner". One has to assume that having an Oscar also gives someone in Hollywood new clout and allows them to be more selective in their work and, most likely, more demanding. However, I can't help but wonder if an Oscar can opens doors in the industry which should have remained closed. While watching Winter's Tale, this notion kept crossing my mind.

Winter's Tale focuses on Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) an orphan who grew up in New York City. His parents were immigrants who weren't allowed into country due to illness, so they set Peter adrift in a model boat near Manhattan. The action picks up in 1916, where a now adult Peter is a skilled thief who has ended his employ with Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe). This doesn't sit well with the controlling Pearly, so Peter is formulating a plan to leave town. He cases a house and decides that the family has gone on vacation. When he enters the residence with an intent of robbing it, he encounters Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay), a young woman who is very ill with Consumption. Peter is immediately attracted to Beverly and the two spend hours talking. When Beverly is targeted by Pearly, Peter rescues her and the two retreat to her family's home upstate. While Peter is getting to know Beverly and her family, little does he know that Pearly is plotting his payback -- a scheme which will effect Peter for centuries.

At least once a year, we get a big Hollywood movie which becomes a huge flop and leaves viewers scratching their heads as to what went wrong. Winter's Tale is not in the same league budget-wise as say John Carter or The Lone Ranger, but it is no less confounding. As noted above, Oscar-winning Writer Akiva Goldsman Wrote and Directed this movie, which is based on an epic novel by Mark Helprin. Along with the actors mentioned above, we get William Hurt and cameos by Jennifer Connelly, Matt Bomer, Eva Marie Saint, and one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. Yes, despite this clout, Winter's Tale is a confusing mess.

The first thing that you need to know about the film is that while it may look like our world, in Peter's New York, there is an undercurrent of magic and the supernatural. Pearly is not what he seems and a magical winged horse is sent to help Peter. The movie drops hints about angels and demons, but little of it is concrete. We get that there is a parallel to Oliver Twist going on here, as a young Peter was taken in by Pearly and taught to be a thief, but there is apparently much more at stake here when Peter decides that he wants to leave that life. There is a lot of talk of miracles and people being able to do miracles, but this is never fully explained.

Oh, did I mention that Peter is apparently immortal? Yes, the last third of the film takes place in 2014, where Peter is still alive and pining over Beverly. How is Peter able to live so long? You tell me. I'm still stuck back on how a boat which was basically a toy was able to be seaworthy. The movie (sort of) delivers an explanation on what is happening with Pearly, but it expects us to accept Peter's story at face value. The movie jumps around leaves much unexplained. The problem may lie in the fact that the movie is based on a novel which runs about 700 pages. Having not read the novel, it appears that Goldsman took the high points from the book and left any true substance behind.

Add Winter's Tale to the list of movies which are well-shot and feature A-list actors, but the final result is a train wreck. The movie failed miserably at the box office, grossing about $12 million on $60 million budget. This was most likely due in part to the confounding trailer which made the film look like it was about time-travel. It probably didn't get much help from the people who actually saw it and came out scratching their heads. The movie doesn't know who its target audience is either. It's ostensibly a romance, but it won't appeal to that crowd and it's not family fair either. The fantasy elements are too vague for the YA enthusiasts. In short, Winter's Tale fails on every front and makes one wonder: Don't the money people actually watch these movies before they release them onto the public?

Winter's Tale is apparently about a dog dressed like a horse on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 24 Mbps. The image is extremely sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good, although we don't get many bright tones here, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of details is very good, as we can see textures on objects, and the depth is admirable. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track delivers clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are well-done and show good separation. During the action oriented scenes, the subwoofer effects kick in and show nice detail at times. The subwoofer effects aren't as prevalent, but they arrive during teh supernatural scenes.

The Winter's Tale Blu-ray Disc contains only a few extras features. "Winter's Tale: A Timeless Love" (6 minutes) contains comments from Akiva Goldsman and the cast, who discuss the film's love story. We here learn that the book is nearly 1000 pages, which may explain why the film feels incomplete. "Characters of Good and Evil" (9 minutes) explores the elements of good and evil in the film, and how the actors bring out the emotions in the story. The Disc contains twelve ADDITIONAL SCENES which run about 12 minutes. Most of these are quiet brief and feel like excised moments from scenes in the finished film. There is an extended version of the opening which shows how Peter got to New York.

Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long