Updated: Aug 21, 2019
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / FRAME SHOTS
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital copy; 2018, PG-13 for sexual-related content and language; Streaming via Amazon Video, FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), iTunes (4K, Dolby Vision), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: “It All Started with a Book” – 11-minute featurette that explains the long path the script took from beginning to the red carpet
THE “Book Club” didn’t shatter box-office records (although it did well) or sweep award shows, but it should get credit for bringing some credibility and laughs to the plight of aging in the 21st century.
Four best friends played by Jane Fonda (Vivian), Mary Steenburgen (Carol), Candice Bergen (Sharon) and Diane Keaton (Diane) have religiously been reading books and sharing thoughts monthly about them for 40 years. To shake things, Vivian, played hilariously by Fonda, decides to inject E.L. James’ “Fifty Shades of Grey” prose into the mix.
Each woman is at a different point in her 60’s, dealing with a husband’s death, a lingering divorce, a fear of commitment or a stale-in-bed marriage. So the sexy "Fifty Shades" hits each in a different way. Their individual reactions are worth the price of admission. Add some strong male actors, and this is a fun Rom-Com for almost any age – over 45. The men include Craig T. Nelson, Andy Garcia, Don Johnson, Ed Begley Jr., Richard Dreyfuss and Wallace Shawn.
The “Book Club” was written by a fresh duo – Erin Simms and Bill Holderman – who also produced it. It’s also Holderman’s debut as a director. The pair believed in this movie so much so they had to wait for the option on the script – sold to The Weinstein Company – to expire. In the extra, "It All Started with a Book," Simms and Holderman explain how they waited, and waited, and waited, for Weinstein to make a move on the film. Nothing happened. When the option ran out, the pair double-backed to independent filmmaker June Pictures. The budget was the eyelet of a shoestring and the pair discuss how they creatively saved money on sets, wardrobe, and props.
The bonus features are worth watching, especially how chronologically the actors came to be a part of the movie (“Casting ‘Book Club’”), why Keaton’s characters’ name mirrored her own and why L.A. had to be the place (“Location, Location, Location”) where the film was shot.
The featurettes are lively, more so than most feature-length commentaries. The bonuses also include “A New Chapter” about the film's importance to the aging Baby Boomer generation, “Living in the Moment” about the singer and song for the film’s end credits, and a SLEW of deleted scenes.
Paramount decided to only release the 4K on digital streaming sites, leaving physical disc collectors the Blu-ray and DVD. It’s understandable if the demographics for the comedy are an older crowd, who may not have upgraded to a 4K system. While studio investment for 4K streaming is minimal compared to physical packaging and distribution.
IMDb site doesn’t provide technical specs, but “Book Club” resembles a 2K master (2.39:1 aspect ratio) upconverted to 4K with Dolby Vision and HDR10 toning.
Overall, the 4K is a nice uptick compared to the Blu-ray, especially the expanded contrast levels and richer colors – with a warm color palette. Sharpness is quite good, but it also reveals British cinematographer Andrew Dunn used an old Hollywood lens trick or a digital post-production tool to soften the wrinkles of its four stars: Fonda (age, 81), Keaton (72), Bergen (72) and Steenburgen (65). You'll also notice Keaton and Garcia are positioned in front of several digital landscapes, much like the studio films of yesteryear with rear projected backgrounds.
The Blu-ray presents the higher grade six-channel DTS-HD while streaming uses compressed Dolby Digital. Honestly, the dialogue-driven film doesn’t demand deep-deep bass or swirling sound effects, so the difference between the two formats is mostly non-distinguishable unless you have a super-charged sound system.
For those who are starting to feel underappreciated and, well, a tad old, this film provides some laughs – and some perspective. And, you can watch it and still make it to bed by 9 p.m.
―Toni Guagenti and Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer