Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Serena Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Allie Schembra
George (Bradley Cooper) and Serena Pemberton (Jennifer Lawrence) are love-struck newlyweds building a timber empire. Serena soon proves herself to be equal to any man: overseeing loggers, hunting rattlesnakes, even saving a man’s life in the wilderness. With power and influence now in their hands, the Pembertons refuse to let anyone stand in the way of their inflated love and ambitions. However, once Serena discovers George’s hidden past and faces an unchangeable fate of her own, the Pemberton’s passionate marriage begins to unravel leading toward a dramatic reckoning.

Film (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star as George and Serena Pemberton, a couple in 1929 North Carolina, who own a logging company. George Pemberton is a logger from the North, who, with his partner Buchanan, owns and runs a logging camp in the Smokey Mountains. When George returns home to take care of his loan with the bank, he meets Serena, a woman who he is immediately drawn to. They quickly marry and George brings Serena back to the logging camp. Serena, having grown up in her father’s logging camp in Colorado, immediately feels at home and begins working next to George as his partner and wife. Buchanan realizes that he’s losing his position to Serena and decides to betray George and turn in the cooked books which prove the company has been bribing officials.

As Serena makes herself at home, she actively avoids the woman who George had a baby with. When Serena becomes pregnant, her jealousy begins building and she works hard to ensure her relationship with George. However, tragedy strikes and Serena loses the baby. After she’s recovered, she returns home with George and tries to get her life back together. She finds that nearly impossible though with George’s baby and his mother around and with the business falling apart. She befriends Galloway, one of the leads, who pledges his life to her after she saved it. Galloway begins doing Serena’s bidding as she goes farther and farther over the edge.

When George finds out what Serena has been up to, he leaves her and goes to find his son and his mother in order to keep them safe. He goes to the local sheriff to turn himself in and makes a deal with him – his confession and arrest if he’s given time to find his son. What he doesn’t know is that Galloway has already found them and is going after them. He arrives in time to help them and once he knows they are safe, returns home where he goes hunting for an elusive panther that has been plaguing the camp.

When I first started watching Serena, I wasn’t sure about it. But very quickly, I became engaged with the story and found myself really into it. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence were both excellent in their roles and I really enjoyed watching them together. They have good chemistry as this is not the first film they’ve made together. The director really made some good choices with the path of the story and at all flowed really well. The soundtrack is haunting, but I really enjoyed it. The music really brought the whole story together and it really made the movie just that much more interesting. It having been a novel prior to the film was also really interesting and I really want to read it, now. I’ve since added it to my book list and will head on over to Barnes and Noble to make that purchase.
Video (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Serena is presented in 1080p High Definition and the picture is really good. Being a period movie, everything looked realistic and flowed well together. Since most of the movie takes place in a logging camp, there was just enough dirtiness to make it seem like the viewer is there and the colors were all authentic. I enjoyed watching this movie with this great picture.
Audio (2 1/2 out of 5 stars)
I was really disappointed in the English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio presentation. The sound was really uneven and I had to adjust the volume multiple times. The dialogue was really soft, but the music and background sounds were super loud, which made the whole thing a little annoying. I’d rather watch the movie and not have to worry about the volume by holding the remote in my hand. When I could hear it, the dialogue was clear and intelligible; you just have to turn up the volume. The English and Spanish subtitles might come in handy if you don’t want to turn up the sound so much.
Extras (3 out of 5 stars)
The special features could have been grouped together into one behind the scenes featurette. I appreciated breaking it up though because otherwise, I would have become bored. By breaking it up, it held my interest. I especially enjoyed the deleted scenes and the piece comparing the book to the movie.
  • Deleted Scenes – Eighteen minutes of deleted scenes from the movie. I enjoyed watching these as they were not extended scenes, but actual deleted scenes. All the scenes were interesting and a few even gave a bit more background on the story.
  • The Making of Serena: The Story, Direction and Characters – Behind the scenes of the movie, complete with interviews with the filmmakers and cast. All the interviews talk about the story and talk about how they brought the book to the screen and kept it true to the story. The cast talks about their characters and bringing them to life.
  • Exploring the Production Design and Time Period – Just under 10 minutes of discussion about the time period and bringing the time to life. With a movie that takes place in the late 1920s and early 1930s, there is a lot of design that must go into the sets. It was interesting to hear that the team built as much of the sets as possible in order to not have to rely on visual effects.
  • Following the Screenwriting: Comparing the Film and the Novel – This is a short five minute look at the novel and how it became a film. I really enjoyed watching this because usually when movies are made from books, the viewer never hears what the screenwriters were thinking and how they brought that to the screen. This feature really made me want to pick up the book. So much so that I’ve added it to my list of books to read.
  • Breaking Down the Set: Kingsport Tanners, Train Station and Main Street – This is a little under five minutes of the design team talking specifics about the town sets and what they did to make them and how they came up with them.
  • Also from Magnolia Home Entertainment – A replay of the previews from the beginning of the disc.
Summary (3 out of 5 stars)
Despite the problems with the volume, I enjoyed watching Serena. It was an interesting story with some great actors in the roles. I know I will watch it again and recommend it to anyone who is looking for a period piece. Sit down with a cup of tea and enjoy the story.

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