Erin Brockovich (HD DVD)

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Along with being the first movie of the new millennium to gross more than $100 million dollars, it stars Julia Roberts. You may have heard of her. Julia Roberts has made somewhat of a comeback here in the last few years. With movies like “I Love Trouble” and “Michael Collins” behind her, she did what she was best at…went back to romantic comedies. Don’t get me wrong, movies like “The Pelican Brief” and “Sleeping with the Enemy” are very good, but it’s that smile that we all love! In what was, and very well could be, an Oscar-winning role, Julia Roberts ditched her usual high profile demeanor and played the title role of Erin Brochovich. Brochovich is a real person and the story is based on the events of her life. That’s part of what makes it so interesting…We’re not used to seeing Ms. Roberts ths way, as a normal everyday person. She wears outfits that are one size to small, push-up bras that reveal more than we’ve ever seen of her and she smokes…not the Julia Roberts that we’re used to seeing. So it’s with her latest effort that we try and get to know the real Julia…

We first meet Erin (Julia Roberts) as she has just been declined for yet another job that she’s applied for. The camera follows her out of the building and then ‘SMACK’! She’s broadsided by a Jaguar at a stoplight. Erin, not being rich, but having every right…sues the guy. She loses the case and in turn storms into the offices of Ed Masary (Albert Finney) with an attitude and style that’s all her own. One thing we learn about Erin is that she’ll speak what’s on her mind regardless if it’s to be heard or not. She let’s Ed have it and in a turn of compassion, he offers her a job. Erin isn’t exactly the type that fits in, certainly not in an office environment, so it’s understandable that her co-workers and her never really get along. Aside from her personal life, which is really going nowhere, she is trying to secure enough money to eek out a decent living (and provide her kids with food). Erin doesn’t lead a fairy tale life, that’s for sure. It’s by some random chance that she comes upon a case involving water, which the story takes off. Remember, this is all a true story.

It’s seems that residents in a Northern California town have been slowly getting sick and it’s some strange mystery as to why. Erin, given special permission from Ed, pursues the case and slowly starts to figure out that it’s the content of Chromium in the water that is making the residents sick. Of course fighting a company like PC & E isn’t exactly easy. They waltz in with their high-priced, slick lawyers and everything is all but said and done. Aside from her personal life, this marks a great change in Erin Brochovich’s life.

It’s no secret that Julia Roberts gave one of her finest performances in this film. Director Stephen Soderbergh has pulled off what can only be described as a “hat trick”, with his recent directorial efforts that include “Out of Sight”, “The Limey” and now “Erin Brochovich “. It’s a reassuring sign that real life dramas are interesting and especially this one. A great supporting cast including Aaron Eckhart (who turned in a great and unforgettable performance in “In the Company of Men”) and almost a living legend, Albert Finney make this one to watch. Universal has also done this movie right by loading it up with features.

Video: How does it look?

The film is presented in a very fine-looking VC-1 HD transfer that, when compared, looks superior to the standard DVD that came out several years ago. The 1.85:1 image is very crisp and clear, though some of the indoor shots leave a bit to the imagination. Flesh tones seem very warm and it’s complimented by the whole nature of the film – which is abundant with warm hues of yellow, brown and green. While the movie is now seven years old, it’s not as eye-popping as one might think on HD DVD. Yes, the edge enhancement is gone and yes the detail is bumped up a few notches but for me, it just didn’t cry out as being a very memorable transfer. Is it an improvement over the standard DVD? Of course.

Audio: How does it sound?

The Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 track is essentially a little better version of the 5.1 track found on the original disc. As with a lot of Steven Soderbergh’s films, dialogue is the key focus and it does sound very true-to-life. There aren’t a lot of abundant surround sound effects and I’ll be the first one to tell you that if you’re picking up this movie because of the soundtrack, you should probably have your head examined. The track serves its purpose, plain and simple. There’s not a lot else to say, surrounds do kick in from time to time but even the opening car crash scene pales in comparison to other films. There’s just not a lot going on here on the audio front. It sounds just fine, but don’t expect to be blown away.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Those looking for some extra features will be disappointed. The exact same features are present here as was present on the standard DVD from 2000. All are presented in 480p video as well. In Universal’s effort to give us nearly every good catalog title of theirs, they’re sacrificing quality for quantity. That said, what is lacking is a Stephen Soderbergh commentary…sort of. Soderbergh gives a commentary for the deleted scenes, which number in the teens. His comments make sense and give us some insight as to why they were cut to begin with. I can’t really imagine why they wouldn’t have made a commentary as he has made tracks for both “Out of Sight” and “The Limey”, but I suppose there’s a reason. As if that weren’t enough, there is a fifteen minute “Spotlight on Location” as is for most Universal’s titles and also a documentary entitled “Erin Brokovich: A look at real life” which is an interview with the real Erin Brokovich. Also included are some production notes, a theatrical trailer and cast bios for the major stars.

Disc Scores

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