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As Good As It Gets: Limited Edition

Twilight Time // PG-13 // June 12, 2012 // Region 0
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Screenarchives]

Review by Randy Miller III | posted June 28, 2012 | E-mail the Author

There's no such thing as an objective movie review, especially if you've seen and enjoyed said movie countless times before. My wife and I first saw As Good As It Gets on opening weekend right around Christmas of 1997, during the beginning months of our dating relationship (and knowing my wife, she probably still has the ticket stub somewhere). We returned to the movie plenty of times after that... although before playing catch-up again earlier this week, it had been close to five years since we'd seen it last. The film's strengths don't stem from nostalgia, though: As Good As It Gets is a genuinely solid production that's equal parts romantic comedy, layered drama and focused character study.

Directed by James L. Brooks (Terms of Endearment), As Good As It Gets tightly revolves around three characters and pushes everyone else to the background. Melvin Udall (Jack Nicholson) is a socially inept, obsessive-compulsive writer who enjoys financial success but isn't comfortable in his own skin. His neighbor, Simon Bishop (Greg Kinnear) is a gay artist who gets brutally assaulted in his own apartment and left for dead. Carol Connelly (Helen Hunt) is a waitress at Melvin's favorite restaurant, but her son's battles with asthma have overtaken what little time and energy she has left. These three don't have much of a relationship with each other at first---whether due to lack of familiarity or lack of respect---but it's their gradual tolerance and dependence on one another that knits everything together.

Before the credits roll, only one nagging issue makes itself known: at 139 minutes, As Good As It Gets could've easily been trimmed a bit. Even so, the film's fearless sense of humor, leisurely pace and lack of shallow minor characters are extremely strong selling points. It's held up just about perfectly since then...but now, I can view certain aspects of the film through a more adult perspective. As Good As It Gets is easily the last great production that either of its three leads has been involved in (save for The Departed), so the film's gradual disappearance since 1997 has been more than a little disheartening.

The first and only DVD release of As Good As It Gets hit store shelves back in 1998...on the same day as the VHS edition, just for perspective. The DVD served up an excellent technical presentation for its time, though bonus features were limited to an audio commentary and nothing else. This brand new Blu-Ray edition arrives courtesy of Twilight Time, an upstart specialty label that usually focuses on cult classics like Fright Night and films from the 1950s. So why does a fifteen year-old, Oscar nominated box office hit make its high-def debut as a limited edition of only 3,000 copies? Beats me, but the only difference here is that fans need to pay a little more...and act a little faster. Unfortunately, a lack of extras makes the premium price questionable, but the movie itself looks and sounds good enough to justify a purchase.

NOTE: This Blu-Ray of As Good As It Gets is only available through Screen Archives Entertainment, which is linked above.

Quality Control Department

Video & Audio Quality

As Good As It Gets looked quite good on DVD (especially by 1998 standards), so it's no surprise that the Blu-Ray looks even better. Presented in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio, there are virtually no digital issues (pixellation, noise, edge enhancement) to be found anywhere. The film's natural, slightly muted color palette is represented well, image detail is strong and a natural layer of film grain has been preserved. Visual presentations like this are created with purists in mind; As Good As It Gets isn't a flashy film by any stretch, but this looks to be an faithful representation of the theatrical experience.

NOTE: This review's screen captures were taken from the 1998 DVD and do not represent Blu-Ray's native 1080p resolution.

The audio is also more faithful than flashy, as this DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track does a fine job with the source material. Most of As Good As It Gets takes place indoors (though in areas much larger than your average Manhattan apartment), which gives occasional outdoor stretches a more dynamic, wide-open feel that's captured perfectly. Dialogue is clean and crisp from start to finish, while Hans Zimmer's excellent score (and the soundtrack) are strong without fighting for attention. Optional English SDH captions are provided during the main feature, although I did spot a few minor typos along the way.

Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging

Seen above, this one-disc package is housed in a standard-width keepcase with artwork similar to that of the 1998 DVD release. A thin but informative booklet is also tucked inside, featuring liner notes written by television writer/producer Julie Kirgo. Menu designs are static and completely silent, save for annoying button sounds that can't be removed. This 139-minute film has been divided into a scant 12 chapters, no obvious layer change was detected during playback and this Blu-Ray appears to be region-free.

Bonus Features

Not much. Our lone supplements are an Isolated Score (presented in DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio) and the film's excellent Theatrical Trailer, which features a dodgy bit of CGI that sanitizes a background painting. While both of these extras are new to home video, they're insubstantial and the former is for die-hard fans only. If that weren't enough, the excellent audio commentary from the DVD is missing in action.

Final Thoughts

As Good As It Gets is an entertaining, durable film that rightfully pleased audiences and critics alike back in 1997. Since then, it's aged remarkably well, even without the added attention of multiple home video releases. Twilight Time's limited edition Blu-Ray marks a rather quiet 15th anniversary celebration, while the unfortunate lack of bonus features is alleviated by an excellent A/V presentation. Casual and new viewers should probably stick with the DVD, but those who revisit the film often will undoubtedly appreciate this Blu-Ray's technical merits. Recommended, especially while the clock's still ticking.

NOTE: This Blu-Ray of As Good As It Gets is only available through Screen Archives Entertainment, which is linked above.

Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey from Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.







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