Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Green Book 4K Ultra HD Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
Peter Farrelly’s Green Book is available to own on all formats.  Green Book shows the genesis of an unlikely friendship between an African American pianist and an Italian (New York) driver.  A trip through the deep South in the 1960s is eye opening for both men and leaves them both forever changed.

Film (4 out of 5 stars)
Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) is an accomplished pianist who lives above Carnegie Hall. He is about to undertake a tour in the Southern States in 1962. Tony “Lip” Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) is a rough Italian from New York who is out of work while the club that employs him is under renovation. Money is tight and Tony Lip makes spare cash hustling and even betting on how many hot dogs he can eat. As the movie begins, Tony is shown to be downright racist, while his wife Dolores (Linda Cardellini) is rather open-minded. Tony is the kind of guy that throws away glasses because the repairmen who drank from them are not white.

Dr. Shirley shows right away that he is not what Tony expects from a black man. He is cultured, intelligent and successful. Tony was hired by the studio and is cautioned that the tour must be completed for him to receive his full pay. The Negro Motorists Green Book is given as a guide for the trip.  The Green Book details the friendliest locations to eat and sleep in the country. The studio representative explains that in some locations they can stay in the same hotel and in others they will have separate lodging locations. It doesn’t seem like Tony gives that much thought as the trip commences.

Along the way the two men teach each other a lot. Tony convinces Dr. Shirley to try his first piece of fried chicken, which he enjoys. Tony sees that the same people who hired Dr. Shirley to play for them won’t let him use the restroom or dine with them.  Dr. Shirley helps Tony write touching letters to his wife and Tony earns an appreciation for the talent Dr. Shirley possesses. The trip isn’t easy but both men return to New York different than who they were weeks before. 

Having seen the film, I cannot imagine better casting for either primary role. Viggo Mortensen plays the Italian New York bouncer with amazing authenticity. His speech patterns and delivery truly sell the character. I stopped to think “wow, this is the same guy who played Aragorn in Lord of the Rings?” Mahershala Ali brings sophistication and an attitude representative of the real life Dr. Shirley. It’s easy to see why this trip and the lasting friendship was important to both men, and was a story Tony Lip’s son was involved in telling.
Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The Green Book UHD version is relatively similar to the above average Blu-ray experience. Where is excels is in clarity. Skin and clothing textures show a remarkable refinement on 4K. Dr. Shirley’s robe when the two men meet shows more detail. Inside the car or in the dark at night, 4K is the preferable format.  Stability is good in both formats. Color intensity is improved on UHD, especially if you compare stark whites. It’s usually the bright blues I notice but in this film white and black is as telling as primary colors usually are.
Audio (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
As expected, music is a key element to the film. The Dolby Atmos soundtrack allow you to hear different pianos and different facilities react differently. The opening Copacabana music comes across vividly. Exterior elements like road noise, tires churning, crowds gathering. With one of the main characters being a musician, it's no surprise that music is a critical component to Green Book. Universal's Dolby Atmos soundtrack supports the film with grandeur and grace alike, delivering a first-rate listen that supports both the generalized sonic atmosphere and the thematically enriching music, often that played by Shirley and his fellow musicians in several concert stops. 

The film opens with some impressive musical beats flowing off the Copacabana stage. Terrific width, full and balanced surround implementation, and a quality low end depth give a significant verve and enjoyable, immersive presence to music right off the bat. Concert scenes yield wonderfully melodic details as the three instruments present with recognizable individual character and sonic signature while merging into symphonic bliss; the Atmos track effortlessly pulls the listener into any of the several venues along the way. 

Environmental effects are filling and nicely defined. The track recreates several distinct locations: bustling city exteriors, a diner, a restaurant, a kitchen, a motel courtyard. Each one finds effortlessly engaging and perfectly balanced location recreation, easily drawing the listener into every stop during the journey. The overhead channels are never used to discrete effect but they do support music and environmental details, with special emphasis on a scene featuring driving rainfall in chapter 15 that offers the most obvious top layer implementation to be found. Dialogue is clear, center-focused, and well prioritized for the duration.
Extras (1 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The following brief list of bonus features is available on both 4K UHD and Blu-ray discs:
  • Virtuoso Performances (4:10) – A look at the two primary roles and the actors who play them. This feature included character and actor profiles, on and off screen chemistry and capturing the spirit of the real-life people.
  • An Unforgettable Friendship (5:09) – A look at honoring the real-life friendship, the music and the themes of love and acceptance.
  • Going Beyond the Green Book (4:21) – An explanation of the Green Book and the cultural sensitivities of the time.  This featurette touches on history and relevance.
Summary (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Green Book was a character driven story that was much better than I’d expected. The story of two dissimilar men on a road trip turns out to be much more than that. The film was perfectly cast with the two main actors showing versatility. I truly believe that those who knew the real Dr. Shirley and the real Tony Lip would be proud of the authenticity. Green Book is very light on bonus content but what they offer is well done and worth watching. The audio and video presentations are both above average. Recommended.

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