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Mike Binder
Kevin Costner, Octavia Spencer, Anthony Mackie, Andre Holland, Jillian Estell, Bill Burr, Jennifer Ehle, Gillian Jacobs
Writing Credits:
Mike Binder

Love Has No Color.

A grieving widower is drawn into a custody battle over his granddaughter, whom he helped raise her entire life.

Rated PG-13.

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

Runtime: 121 min.
Price: $39.98
Release Date: 5/5/2015
• “Shades of Gray: The Making of Black or White” Featurette
• Two Promotional Featurettes
• Trailer and Previews


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.


Black or White [Blu-Ray] (2015)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 10, 2015)

Almost 25 years ago, Michael Jackson claimed it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white. In 2015, the movie Black or White offers an alternate interpretation of that concept.

After her mother died during childbirth, Eloise Anderson’s (Jillian Estell) grandparents raised her. When her grandmother Carol (Jennifer Ehle) perishes in a car accident, Eloise finds herself cared for solely by her grandfather Elliott (Kevin Costner). Since his late wife did most of the work, Elliott struggles to assist Eloise on his own, all while he deals with grief.

Elliott encounters a complication when the Eloise’s paternal grandmother Rowena (Octavia Spencer) thinks she should now get custody. We follow this battle, with an emphasis on whether the biracial Eloise belongs with white Elliott or black Rowena.

As one can infer from the movie’s title, those racial issues become the movie’s main thrust – and it pursues them in a less than subtle manner. Many aspects of White feel clumsy, but the attempts at social commentary seem the weakest. The movie interjects these elements without any nuance or insight, as they exist to give the story some simulated zing and nothing more.

Even if we eliminate those ham-fisted stabs at relevance, White sags because it focuses so heavily on melodrama. It throws out unnecessary choices like Elliott’s drinking problem and pours on artificial woe/emotions because it doesn’t have enough faith in its basic character notions.

White also lacks tonal consistency. Another sign of its lack of confidence, the movie consistently undercuts dramatic scenes with goofy, pointless comedy. Comic relief serves a purpose, but in this movie, those moments do nothing other than distract and damage the emotional credibility.

All of this feels like a shame because White wastes some good performances. Costner manages to avoid too much hamminess, and I appreciate the decision to make Rowena more than just a cartoon villain; Spencer plays her in a fairly deft manner. Young Estell can’t act, but since she’s cute and exists as a nothing more than a plot device anyway, her lack of talent doesn’t create real problems.

Unfortunately, some good acting can’t overcome all the movie’s other problems. Inconsistent, meandering and emotionally false, Black or White squanders its positive elements.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus D+

Black or White appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. No real concerns cropped up here.

Sharpness was usually strong. A little softness affected some wide shots, but those examples occurred too infrequently to cause problems. Instead, the film usually looked concise and well-defined. No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects occurred, and edge enhancement was absent. I also failed to detect any source flaws.

In terms of colors, the movie featured a palette that favored a golden tone or some teal. Across the board, the hues looked positive. They showed nice clarity and breadth and came out well. Blacks were dark and deep, while shadows appeared clear and smooth. I thought the movie consistently looked fine.

I thought that the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of White seemed positive but it didn’t excel because of a lack of ambition. Like most character films, the movie featured a limited soundfield that strongly favored the forward channels. It showed nice stereo spread to the music as well as some general ambience from the sides.

Panning was decent, and the surrounds usually kicked in basic reinforcement. A few scenes opened up better, but most of the movie stayed with limited imaging.

Audio quality appeared good. Speech was natural and distinct, with no issues related to edginess or intelligibility. Effects sounded clean and accurate, with nice fidelity and no signs of distortion. Music was perfectly fine, as the score and songs showed positive dimensionality. This track was solid enough for a “B-“ but it didn’t particularly impress.

Some minor extras fill out the set. Shades of Gray: The Making of Black or White lasts 23 minutes, 54 seconds and includes comments from writer/director Mike Binder, producer Todd Lewis, and actors Kevin Costner, Octavia Spencer, Mpho Koaho, Gillian Jacobs, Bill Burr, Anthony Mackie, and Jillian Estell. We learn about the project’s roots and development, story/character areas, cast and performances, shooting in Louisiana for California, and Binder’s impact on the production.

“Gray” offers a handful of decent details but mostly just praises the movie and all involved. It’s a fluff piece.

Footnote: both Spencer and Costner refer to the film as Black and White. Did they slip up or was the movie originally titled Black and White instead of Black or White? I’m guessing it’s the latter.

Two promotional featurettes ensue: “Kevin Costner” (2:02) and “Family First” (2:12). Across these, we hear from Costner, Spencer, and Mackie. These offer simple advertisements and nothing more.

Footnote to my footnote: Spencer and Costner call the movie Black or White here, but oddly, those comments are off-camera. Did they re-record their statements to correct to Black or White instead of Black and White after the fact? Is it sad I’m so fascinated by this subject?

The disc opens with ads for Far From the Madding Crowd, Beyond the Lights and Cake. Sneak Peek adds promos for Belle, 3 Days to Kill and Relativity Explosion. We find the trailer for White as well.

Despite a mostly talented cast, Black or White comes with too many flaws to succeed. It squanders good performances on tacky comedy, cheap melodrama and ham-fisted social commentary. The Blu-ray provides solid picture, acceptable audio and some minor bonus materials. White lacks the self-confidence to turn into a satisfying movie.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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