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Michael Hoffman
James Marsden, Michelle Monaghan, Luke Bracey, Liana Liberato, Caroline Goodall, Gerald McRainey
Writing Credits:
Will Fetters and J. Mills Goodloe (screenplay), Nicholas Sparks (novel)

A pair of former high school sweethearts reunite after many years when they return to visit their small hometown.

Rated PG-13

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 118 min. (Theatrical Cut)
116 min. (“Tears of Joy” Edition)
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 2/3/2015

• Both Theatrical and “Tears of Joy” Edition
• Audio Commentary with Director Michael Hoffman
• Five Deleted Scenes
• “Along for the Ride” Featurette
• “Nicholas Sparks Interviews Michelle and James” Featurette
• “Nicholas Sparks Interviews Liana and Luke” Featurette
• Music Video
• Previews and Trailer


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


The Best of Me [Blu-Ray] (2014)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 8, 2015)

If it’s true that we define insanity by doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, then we have proof that I’m nuts. How else can you explain my decision to watch 2014’s The Best of Me, yet another movie adapted from a Nicholas Sparks novel? I didn’t like the other Sparks flicks I viewed – why would I think Best would break that streak?

In truth, I can’t say I expected Best to suddenly change my opinion of Sparks-based films, but heck, hope springs and all that. Off the coast of Louisiana, oilrig worker Dawson Cole (James Marsden) nearly dies in a disaster. Once he recovers, he learns that surrogate father Tuck Hostetler (Gerald McRainey) died and he included Dawson in the will. This leads to a reunion with Amanda Reynolds (Michelle Monaghan), his girlfriend from decades earlier.

From there we head back to 1992 to meet Dawson (Luke Bracey) and Amanda (Liana Liberato) in their younger incarnations. We view their relationship in the 90s, what happened to them and how they interact in “modern times”.

The more I watch movies based on his novels, the more I suspect Nicholas Sparks doesn’t exist – at least not as a human. Instead, I now believe “Nicholas Sparks” is a book-writing computer program, and not an especially complicated one.

How else can one explain the relentless sameness found in Sparks’ work? It takes little challenge to detect the “Sparks clichés” on display here. You have the coddled rich girl whose snobby parents shelter her. You get the poor boy from the wrong side of the tracks who becomes sensitive, smart and strong despite God-awful parenting. You have the artificial plot devices constructed solely to keep the star-crossed lovers apart.

Heck, Best even throws in the standard Sparks “kiss in the rain” shot. If this movie manifests any deviations from the Sparks template, I can’t find them; the tale checks off every box in its melodramatic, absurd manner.

Perhaps it’s not fair for me to harp on the sameness of Sparks’ stories, as it’s not like I don’t enjoy other tales that come with their own surfeit of clichés. Take the Bond movies, for instance – can I honestly claim that those flicks offer a whole lot more creativity than the Sparks romances?

Maybe not, and maybe this makes me the wrong person to judge the Sparks movies. Because I enjoy action flicks, I can look past the clichés in the Bond films and appreciate them for what they are and how they differ. Because I’m not the audience for mushy romantic melodramas, I find it much tougher to appreciate whatever positives the Sparks tales may offer.

So perhaps those with an affinity for Sparks’ works can differentiate among the various tales, but I sure can’t. Best presents such a relentless series of predictable moments and notions that it becomes tough not to laugh at the absurdity of the whole thing.

Take the lead characters’ families, for instance. Best can’t allow any sense of nuance there, as it needs to present Dawson’s redneck clan and Amanda’s arrogant father as one-note baddies. They become amusing in the hackneyed way the movie depicts them; you’ll see better fleshed-out villains in a Saturday morning cartoon.

Of course, Best also makes Amanda’s husband a simplistic jerk as well. It needs to show him as a douche so the audience will better accept “older Amanda’s” inevitable renewed romance with Dawson. God forbid the story offer any form of nuance – no, it’s much better to present the simplest, least inventive characterizations possible, right?

Not that other Sparks efforts lived in the real world, but Best stretches credulity well beyond the breaking point – and just keeps on going. The third act offers such insanity that I find it nearly impossible to believe the filmmakers intend us to take it seriously. They had to understand how ridiculous and absurd this material became.

Actually, that might make Best a little more entertaining than other Sparks movies, as it comes with ample camp value. It plays like such a parody of the genre that I find it to offer entertainment as a comedy. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re supposed to see it that way.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

The Best of Me appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Overall, this was a positive image.

Virtually no softness marred the presentation. At all times, it showed nice clarity and definition; even wide shots remained distinctive. Jagged edges and moiré effects failed to appear, and edge haloes remained absent. Print flaws also stayed away from this clean image.

In terms of palette, Best went with a golden tint typical of this sort of romantic drama, though it threw in a fair amount of teal as well. Overall, the hues were fine for their visual choices. Blacks showed good depth, while low-light shots boasted nice clarity. This was a solid “A-“ presentation.

As for the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, it gave us competent sonics most of the time as well as a little pep on occasion. A quiet drama like this didn’t need to boast a rock-em, sock-em mix, so the audio seemed acceptable. Usually, the soundfield didn’t have a lot to do; it concentrated on good stereo music and general ambience.

Every once in a while, though, the mix came to life. The most impressive moments occurred early during a disaster on an oilrig. While that was the sonic standout, a few additional segments such as rainstorms and gunfire broadened the piece. These didn’t dazzle, but they gave the mix more breadth than I anticipated.

Audio quality was fine. Speech seemed natural and concise, without edginess or other concerns. Music appeared fairly full; the score could’ve been a bit more vibrant, but it came across with reasonable definition. Effects remained clear and accurate, with some pretty solid low-end response during louder moments. This became a satisfying track with a bit more kick than I expected.

We find two versions of Best on the Blu-ray. In addition to the theatrical cut (1:57:48), we locate a ”Tears of Joy” Edition (1:55:55).

The two movies remain the same until around the 1:39:45 mark. At that point, a major plot element gets a shift; in the theatrical cut, an accident causes a character to need a heart transplant, whereas in “Tears of Joy”, that character sustains swelling in the brain.

This alteration causes massive ripples in the rest of the movie. I’ll not get into specifics to avoid any further potential spoilers, but the changes result in a radical difference in the film’s tone and ending, as the “Tears of Joy” version goes with the “safer” finish.

Normally I’d prefer the “edgier” plot, but in this case, “Tears” works way better than the theatrical cut’s ending – unless you really dig the movie’s camp value, that is. The theatrical version comes with a substantially more insane – and hilarious – conclusion, while “Tears” is happier and more believable.

Alongside the theatrical cut, we get an audio commentary from director Michael Hoffman. He delivers a running, screen-specific look at the source novel and its adaptation, story/character areas, sets and locations, cast and performances, music, sound/visual design, editing and connected topics.

Hoffman makes this a pretty good commentary. He covers an appropriate array of subjects and does so with charm and warmth. A little of the usual happy talk pops up along the way, but Hoffman mainly stays on target and delivers a fine level of information.

Five Deleted Scenes fill a total of nine minutes, 46 seconds. In these, we largely get more moments with supporting roles, as we see a fair amount of different family members. Some extra melodrama results but not anything that fleshes out the parts or the story.

Next comes a featurette called Along for the Ride. It runs a mere one minute, 53 seconds and provides an ad for The Longest Ride, the next Nicholas Sparks movie. Spoiler alert: it boasts star-crossed lovers from different worlds! And it contrasts an old couple with a young one! In other words, it’s the same old, same old from Sparks.

Two similar pieces appear next. We get Nicholas Sparks Interviews Michelle and James (2:47) and Nicholas Sparks Interviews Liana and Luke (2:18). These cover characters, actors and performances. A couple of minor details emerge, but these are mainly promotional pieces.

We also find a Music Video for Lady Antebellum’s “I Did”. This mixes lip-synch shots with a story of young love. It’s nothing great, but at least it’s more ambitious than the usual videos found with movies.

The disc opens with ads for The Wild, The Longest Week and Hector and the Search for Happiness. Sneak Peeks adds promos for The Fault In Our Stars, And So It Goes, If I Stay and Beyond the Lights. We also find the theatrical trailer for Best of Me.

Overwrought and absurd to a crazy degree, The Best of Me will entertain those who enjoy movies for their camp value. If you want to take it seriously, however, you’ll be left with a genuinely terrible film. The Blu-ray presents terrific picture as well as good audio and supplements highlighted by an informative commentary. An unintentional howler, Best of Me only works for fans of bad cinema.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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