City of Angels appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The image showed its age.
Sharpness varied. Most of the movie came across as reasonably concise and detailed, but definite exceptions occurred. A moderate number of shots looked somewhat soft and ill-defined. No concerns related to jagged edges or shimmering appeared, but I saw some light edge haloes. Print flaws failed to mar the presentation.
Colors remained restrained throughout the film, and they mostly looked fine. The hues occasionally were somewhat thick and murky, but they usually seemed reasonably natural and clean. Black levels appeared good but a bit muddy on occasion, while shadow detail was fairly distinct overall. Some low-light shots were slightly dense, but they usually seemed solid.
I tend to put a fair amount of faith in Warner Bros. when it comes to their catalog transfers, which makes Angels a tough call. On one hand, the image lacked the usual clarity and spark I expect from Blu-ray, and one wouldn’t think a 16-year-old movie would seem so indistinct. On the other hand, the combination of visual effects and lackluster film stocks likely sabotaged the end result. This may be a good representation of the source, but it wasn’t an especially attractive presentation.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of City of Angels was subdued but fine for this sort of film. The front spectrum dominated the film, and the movie’s score was its main emphasis. The music demonstrated good stereo imaging throughout the flick.
Effects mostly tended toward the ambient domain. Angels wasn’t a picture with many slam-bang sequences, so the mix preferred to feature light environmental cues. These combined well to create a quiet but natural sense of place. The surrounds stuck largely with gentle reinforcement of the music and effects. They kicked in with more of an impact on a few occasions, but those remained rare.
Audio quality appeared positive. Speech seemed natural and distinct, and I noticed no issues related to intelligibility or edginess. Music sounded warm and smooth, with crisp highs and fairly rich lows. Effects also appeared accurate and concise. Low-end response lacked great power, but bass response was acceptably tight and deep. City of Angels sounded good enough for a “B”, but it didn’t demonstrate the breadth necessary for a grade higher than that.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the 1998 DVD? Audio was a bit more dynamic and full, while visuals seemed cleaner and more accurate. While the image didn’t impress me, it did mark an improvement over the DVD.
Most of the DVD’s extras repeat here, and we open with two separate and full-length audio commentaries. In the first, we hear from director Brad Silberling, who offers a running, screen-specific chat. He provides a very good synopsis of the production.
In addition to many general notes, he covers topics such as the score and its integration into the film, visual design and effects, comparisons to Wings of Desire, and doubts related to the movie’s ending. Silberling provides an informative and likeable track that gives us a great look at his film.
In the second track, we get remarks from coproducer Charles Roven and screenwriter Dana
Stevens, both of whom sit together for their running, screen-specific piece. Actually, the latter’s not really accurate, as they almost never discuss the on-screen action. Instead, this personal piece covers the acquisition of the project, how Stevens came onto it, her ideas for the adaptation, various themes, character insights, and production details.
Since Roven was married to producer Dawn Steel – who died during the filming – and Stevens apparently also was close to Steel, the commentary takes on an unusually emotional and moving quality. It seems engaging and useful, and it measurably adds to my appreciation of the movie.
Composer Gabriel Yared offers some insights in between music on the isolated score track. However, don’t expect a lot from him. He shows up only 11 times during the film and usually speaks briefly; only occasionally do his comments last more than maybe 30 seconds or so.
Via his obviously scripted remarks, he gives us a general look at his work on the film and follows his efforts in chronological order. The commentary lacks much interesting material, but the isolated score should be useful for fans, especially since Yared never speaks over the music; he comes close a couple of times but avoids any overlap.
The “Select Scenes” domain features two mini-commentaries. Director of Photography John Seale chats for 17 minutes, 36 seconds, while Production Designer Lilly Kilvert gives us the same amount of content. Both of them cover logical topics. Seale tells us about things such as the chosen aspect ratio, his camerawork, and lighting, while Kilvert discusses the various visual elements of the film like matching different locations, dealing with natural settings, and the general job of a production designer. Both conversations add some nice material about their subjects.
Next we get a documentary called Making Angels. The 29-minute and 30-second program mixes movie clips, behind the scenes footage, and interviews with Silberling, Roven, Stevens, Seale, Kilvert, costume designer Shay Cunliffe, and actors Nicolas Cage, Meg Ryan, Dennis Franz, and Andre Braugher.
A general look at the production, “Angels” progresses in a somewhat scattered manner as it examines the flick. It covers subjects like visual design, character choices, the film’s ending, and locations. While we’ll hear most of the information elsewhere, the show merits a look just for the great material from the set. We see lots of choice images of the cast and crew at work, and these make “Angels” a keeper.
Another featurette examines one specific topic. The Making of the Visual Effects lasts 10 minutes and 28 seconds. It shows images from the film as visual effects supervisor John Nelson explains the work they did on the scenes. We watch the sequences in various states of completion while Nelson gives us the details. Like most of these kinds of features, it's informative but dry. Still, it illuminates different aspects of the production in a useful way.
This disc presents seven deleted scenes, all of which can be viewed with or without commentary from director Silberling and editor Lynzee Klingman. Five of these scenes appeared in the film in no form, one is an extended version of an existing bit, and one actually consists of many short edits made from the film as a whole. All in all, they run a total of 12 minutes, 39 seconds. None of these scenes seem mind-blowing, but they all are worth watching, especially if you turn on the commentary and learn why the scenes were omitted.
Next we get two music videos. U2’s “If God Will Send His Angels” also appears on the band’s video compilation. It shows funky time lapse photography during which Bono lip-synchs in a diner booth as the patrons around him rapidly change. It uses splitscreen, with Bono’s side of the booth on the top and the other bench on the bottom. The concept seems creative and interesting, but the piece doesn’t go much of anywhere.
We also get a clip for Goo Goo Dolls’ hit “Iris”. Less interesting than “God” as a song and a video, this one intercuts movie snippets, lip-synch footage of the band, and some shots with lead singer Johnny Rzeznick as he spies the mortals. It’s not a bad video, but it’s not a good one either.
Lastly, the disc provides a trailer. The Blu-ray drops some additional promos, text production notes and short interviews with musicians Peter Gabriel and Alanis Morissette.
Back in 1999, I first watched City of Angels with a great deal of skepticism and doubt, but in the end, it won me over. The movie mixes drama with emotion in a satisfying manner. The Blu-ray comes packed with bonus materials and offers generally good audio along with inconsistent picture. The presentation of the film seems unlikely to dazzle, but this remains a positive presentation of an involving film.
To rate this film visit the original review of CITY OF ANGELS