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Ross Katz
Benjamin Walker, Teresa Palmer, Alexandra Daddario, Tom Wilkinson, Tom Welling
Writing Credits:
Bryan Sipe

Travis and Gabby first meet as neighbors in a small coastal town and wind up in a relationship that is tested by life's most defining events.

Rated PG-13.

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Descriptive Audio
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 111 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 5/3/2016

• Audio Commentary with Director Ross Katz and Actor Benjamin Walker
• “Cinematic Choices: Making The Choice” Featurette
• “Nicholas Sparks with….” Featurette
• “Choosing Home” Featurette
• “Molly and Moby: Choice Dogs” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
• Music Video
• Previews
• DVD Copy


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.


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The Choice [Blu-Ray] (2016)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 1, 2016)

Death, taxes and films based on Nicholas Sparks novels: these are the only true inevitabilities in life. 2016’s The Choice offers yet another take on yet another Sparks’ tale of extremely attractive, tragedy-inflected lovers.

After a quick intro in “present day”, the movie leaps back seven years to introduce us to North Carolina veterinarian Travis Shaw (Benjamin Walker). Slick with the ladies, he finds himself inclined to abandon his womanizing ways when he meets Gabby Holland (Teresa Palmer), a med student who dates fellow physician Ryan McCarthy (Tom Welling).

Travis and Gabby initially dislike each other, but they slowly fall in love with each other. This situation comes with snarls along the way, mainly when tragedy tests their relationship.

Why do I continue to watch Sparks movies? I’ve seen a bunch of them and never liked a single one – why put myself through this?

Perverse curiosity, I suppose. I figure that the law of averages means I must find an enjoyable Sparks movie eventually, right?

Perhaps, but this doesn’t occur with The Choice, a wholly mediocre effort. To be fair, I will admit that Choice often goes down easier than other Sparks fare, mainly because it seems to take itself less seriously.

With The Choice, we find a fairly clear delineation among its three acts. The first one-third favors comedy, as it posits Travis and Gabby as the classic “couple who hate each other as a prelude to love”. Act 2 goes for the romance, while Act 3 features tragedy.

Of course, all other Sparks films used those three elements, but they usually accentuated the romance and – especially – the tragedy. Choice seems more comedic than the others, so I give the movie credit for its lighter tone.

I’d give it even more credit it if the comedy – or the romance, or the tragedy – worked better than they do. Everything about Choice remains on the surface. The characters offer thin archetypes with no layers, and all the emotional elements follow suit.

This means comedy that’s easy and not especially funny, romance that follows a pre-ordained playbook, and tragedy that milks empty tears. Everything about Choice feels contrived, as the characters behave like they do for movie reasons, not for organic needs.

It doesn’t help that Walker and Palmer show little chemistry. On their own, they seem likable enough, but they don’t really connect as a couple. Perhaps they’d fare better with less underwritten characters, but as it stands, Walker and Palmer make an attractive but bland pairing.

At least the Australian Palmer pulls off an American accent fairly well. Tom Wilkinson has played American in umpteen movies but he always uses the same vaguely mid-Atlantic accent. He could be from New York or North Carolina or San Diego and it wouldn’t matter – we’d get the same voice. Wilkinson is a talented actor but he needs to hire a voice coach.

In terms of other character positives, I do appreciate that Choice doesn’t make the leads’ jilted lovers out to be bad people. Most Sparks movies create stark contrasts among the main characters’ pre-existing romantic choices, especially in terms of the men initially paired with the female leads. They’re inevitably controlling or vain or cruel in some way, all the better to contrast with the sensitive “diamond in the rough” male lead.

None of that happens in Choice, as Ryan comes across like a perfectly decent guy. Also, the movie doesn’t give Travis the usual “rough-hewn guy from the wrong side of the tracks with a sensitive side” traits. Sure, he’s smart, but he’s not the local mechanic or son of a drunk who gets rejected by the female lead’s parents. Travis’s dad is a pillar of the community and he’s a respected veterinarian, so this allows Travis to play against the typical Sparks “bad boy with a heart of gold” cliché, and I appreciate that.

I’d appreciate it more if Choice didn’t falter in so many other ways. As mentioned, I do like it more than the average Sparks effort, mainly because it provides a more varied affair. Nonetheless, it does little that seems convincing, and when it inevitably goes tragic in the third act, it flies off the rails into the land of the absurd that feels like self-parody. Choice provides above average Sparks but below average filmmaking.

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

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

On a smidgen of softness ever cropped up here, mainly in some low-light shots. Otherwise, the movie showed nice clarity and delineation. 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, Choice went with Hollywood Standard orange and teal. Overall, the hues were fine for their visual choices. Blacks showed good depth, while low-light shots boasted nice clarity. This was a solid “B+“ 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 romance 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 – in a moderate manner, at least. This was especially true during waterfront scenes as well as those during storms. These didn’t dazzle, but they gave the mix reasonable breadth.

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.

The disc delivers a moderate collection of extras, and we open with an audio commentary from director Ross Katz and actor Benjamin Walker. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at story/characters, sets and locations, cast and performances, editing and deleted scenes, music, production design, effects and similar subjects.

At no point does this threaten to become a great commentary, but it maintains our interest. Sure, Katz and Walker focus a little too much on happy talk, but this doesn’t turn into a dominant trait. Instead, they mix playfulness with facts to create a fairly informative chat.

Two Deleted Scenes run a total of two minutes, 47 seconds. Both of these reflect the tragedy in the film’s third act. They add little.

A few featurettes follow. Cinematic Choices: Making The Choice goes for 19 minutes, 20 seconds and offers info from Katz, Walker, author Nicholas Sparks, producers Peter Safran and Theresa Park, screenwriter Bryan Sipe, and actors Teresa Palmer, Maggie Grace, Tom Wilkinson, Alexandra Daddario and Tom Welling. “Choices” covers the source and its adaptation, story and characters, cast and performances, and Katz’s impact on the production.

“Choices” starts pretty well, as the parts that look at story/adaptation work nicely. However, once it gets into cast and director, it becomes much fluffier. That leaves it as a mixed bag.

Next comes Choosing Home: Nicholas Sparks and North Carolina. It lasts eight minutes, 53 seconds and features Sparks, Katz, Palmer, Grace, Walker, and production designer Mark Garner. “Home” examines sets and locations. Some of this comes across as an ad for North Carolina, but enough useful info emerges to turn it into an interesting piece.

Under Nicholas Sparks with…, we find we separate clips. These feature the author in conversation with Katz (14:01), Palmer (10:33) and Walker (8:03). During these snippets, we hear about story/characters, cast and performances, adaptation and editing, Katz’s approach to the material, and related issues. Sparks manages to ask some good questions, so while we get plenty of the expected happy talk, more than a few useful notes emerge.

Molly and Moby: Choice Dogs takes up five minutes, 47 seconds with comments from Grace, Palmer, Katz, Sparks, Walker, and animal trainers Gary Mui and Tammy Blackburn. As expected, we learn a little about the movie’s canine performers. A few nuggets pop up but not much of interest.

Finally, we get a music video for Natalia Safran’s “Daylight”. It mixes movie clips with shots of the singer as she lip-synchs on the beach. Neither the song nor the video entertain.

The disc starts with ads for The Age of Adaline, The Von Trapp Family: A Life of Music, Love the Coopers and Warm Bodies. No trailer for Choice shows up here.

A second disc offers a DVD copy of Choice. It includes the same extras as the Blu-ray.

As far as Nicholas Sparks movies go, The Choice seems a little less maudlin than most – for a while, at least. Eventually the film succumbs to Sparks’ natural tendencies, and that means an absurd third act. The Blu-ray presents solid picture as well as acceptable audio and a generally informative set of bonus materials. I suspect Sparks fans will enjoy Choice well enough, but it doesn’t do enough to expand the author’s cinematic horizons.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1.5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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