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Paul Schrader
Ethan Hawke, Amanda Seyfried, Cedric the Entertainer
Writing Credits:
Paul Schrader

A priest of a small congregation in upstate New York grapples with mounting despair brought on by tragedy, worldly concerns and a tormented past.

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 113 min.
Price: $24.99
Release Date: 8/21/2018

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Paul Schrader
• “Discernment” Featurette
• Previews


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver;
-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer.


First Reformed [Blu-Ray] (2018)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 12, 2018)

Best known as the screenwriter of classics such as Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, Paul Schrader also takes the reins as director for 2018’s First Reformed. Reverend Ernst Toller (Ethan Hawke) leads First Reformed, a small church more valued for historical reasons than actual attendance.

Pregnant Mary Mensana (Amanda Seyfried) asks Ernst to counsel her husband Michael (Philip Ettinger), as she fears his radical environmentalist views will lead to tragedy. This relationship leads Ernst into his own dark past and impacts his future.

Shocking realization of the day: Schrader never earned an Oscar nomination. That surprised me so much that I thought IMDB might’ve made a mistake - Taxi Driver and Raging Bull both got Best Picture nods but neither seemed worthy of Best Screenplay consideration?

Perhaps Reformed will change that, as it earned uniformly strong notices. Given its low box office presence, it’ll probably go forgotten come Oscar time, but maybe Schrader will finally get some recognition from the Academy.

If so, this would probably result more as a “makeup” for prior Oscar snubs than a recognition of Reformed itself. While it’s an interesting movie, I wouldn’t classify it as something genuinely noteworthy.

When Reformed succeeds, I think it does so mainly due to its cast, especially Hawke. Over the years, he’s worked out a good niche for himself in smaller films like this, and he brings depth to the somewhat scattershot role he takes on here.

Reformed places Hawke into a character packed with suppressed emotions, and the actor displays these traits well. He lets us see the thoughts and feelings that Ernnt tamps down but he doesn’t telegraph or overplay them.

Instead, Hawke keeps Ernst within a believable range. Even as the character becomes more erratic, Hawke maintains the right attitude and level of emotion, factors that allow his performance to become a real asset.

Otherwise, Reformed seems more erratic. It brings a tale of faith in the 21st century, one that can feel a bit forced at times, mainly due to the way Schrader shoves in an environmental message.

Sure, Reformed uses this theme in a way that motivates the characters, but it doesn’t feel especially organic. At times I get the impression Schrader becomes more concerned with a social message than with the natural evolution of its themes and participants.

Reformed goes a bit off the rails toward its end, but Hawke keeps it interesting. The movie offers enough substance to become a fairly compelling tale.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio C+/ Bonus B-

First Reformed appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Unusual (for 2018) aspect ratio aside, this turned into a strong presentation.

Overall sharpness appeared good. A little softness crept into some interiors, but the majority of the flick boasted solid definition and accuracy.

The image lacked any signs of jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge haloes remained absent. No print flaws marred the presentation.

In terms of palette, Reformed heavily emphasized teal. This seemed like a predictable choice but it suited the movie’s downbeat tone/setting, and the Blu-ray reproduced the hues appropriately.

Blacks appeared deep and dense, while shadows offered reasonable clarity and smoothness. All in all, the image worked nicely.

Expect a tremendously subdued DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack from Reformed, one that often bordered on monaural. Little other than general environmental material came from the side/rear channels, and even those elements failed to deliver much involvement.

A movie with little score, Reformed concentrated on dialogue, a factor that led to its nearly monaural experience. While the mix opened up on occasion, it stayed highly restricted most of the time.

Audio quality seemed positive. As noted, effects and score didn’t have a lot to do, but they showed good range and accuracy.

Dialogue acted as the most important element, and speech seemed natural and concise, without edginess or other issues. Though I can’t find much to praise here, I also think the soundtrack fit the story.

In terms of extras, the main attraction comes from an audio commentary with writer/director Paul Schrader. He delivers a running, screen-specific look at the project's origins and development, story and characters, cast and performances, influences, editing, cinematography, music, and related domains.

Schrader provides a consistently strong look at his film. He appears frank and forthright as he discusses various choices and goals. All this adds to a very informative chat.

Discernment: Contemplating First Reformed runs 15 minutes, 43 seconds and provides notes from Schrader, and actors Ethan Hawke, Cedric the Entertainer, and Amanda Seyfried.

The show looks at the project’s roots and development, story/characters, cast and performances, cinematography, and Schrader’s impact on the production. “Discernment” brings a fairly tight overview of the film.

The disc opens with ads for Hereditary, Under the Silver Lake, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Backstabbing for Beginners and Good Time. No trailer for Reformed appears here.

An unusual look at a spiritual journey, First Reformed can be a bit hit or miss in the way it explores its themes. A strong lead performance from Ethan Hawke helps keep it together, though. The Blu-ray boasts very good picture along with low-key audio and supplements highlighted by a solid commentary. Reformed winds up as an intriguing drama.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.5 Stars Number of Votes: 4
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