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Winter's Tale Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet Review

Winter's Tale (2014) movie poster Winter's Tale

Theatrical Release: February 14, 2014 / Running Time: 118 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Akiva Goldsman / Writers: Mark Helprin (novel), Akiva Goldsman (screenplay)

Cast: Colin Farrell (Peter Lake), Jessica Brown Findlay (Beverly Penn), Jennifer Connelly (Virginia Gamely), William Hurt (Isaac Penn), Eva Marie Saint (Adult Willa Penn), Graham Greene (Humpstone John), Russell Crowe (Pearly Soames), Kevin Corrigan (Romeo Tan), Kevin Durand (Cesar Tan), Matt Bomer (Young Man), Lucy Griffiths (Young Woman), Ripley Sobo (Abby), Maurice Jones (Cecil Mature), Alan Doyle (Dingy Worthington), McKayla Twiggs (Young Willa Penn), Rob Campbell (Gwathmi), Finn Wittrock (Gabriel), Will Smith (Judge/Lucifer)

Buy Winter's Tale from Amazon.com: Blu-ray Combo Pack DVD Instant Video

Conventional wisdom says you release a romance movie on Valentine's Day, but that approach hasn't worked well for Warner Bros. Pictures the past two years. In 2013,
the studio opened Beautiful Creatures with hopes that they had the new Twilight; the $60 million YA-adapted fantasy grossed just $19.4 million domestically. This year brought Winter's Tale, a $60 M film that received ice cold reviews and debuted in 7th place, before precipitously falling to an awful $12.6 M domestic haul.

Winter's Tale adapts Mark Helprin's 1983 novel of the same name. It opens in 2014 briefly, then jumps all the way back to 1895, before settling in 1916. In each case, the film is set in New York City and centered on Peter Lake (Colin Farrell), who began life as an immigrant baby without parents and as an adult makes his living as a skilled thief. Peter's surrogate father and mentor, the scarred gangster Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe), is determined to capture and punish the Irish-accented 21-year-old for reasons that are never clear.

In "Winter's Tale", Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) finds love with consumptive young Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay).

Peter narrowly escapes on an opportune white horse. Though not the most conspicuous mode of transportation, the thief plans to escape New York on it and stay away until summer. The lavish home he picks to rob belongs to the wealthy Penns, and their 21-year-old daughter Beverly (Jessica Brown Findlay) is home during Peter's attempted burglary. Sick with consumption and given at most 18 months to live, Brahms-playing pianist Beverly is unfrightened by Peter and he is soon enamored with her.

Their love develops quickly, the concerns of Beverly's father (William Hurt) instantly eased by Peter's candor. Pearly intends to exploit the romance to get to Peter. Oh, I almost forgot to mention: Pearly is a demon, whose scars crack open when he gets mad. When Lucifer (spoiler warning -- an entirely unadvertised and thoroughly unexpected Will Smith) won't grant his request, Pearly contacts a fallen angel to poison Beverly.

Just as it seems like the movie is coming to a sad ending some 68 minutes in, Peter somehow finds himself in present-day Manhattan, unable to remember his name or his love, but compelled to draw an image of an endangered redhead. Peter has the good fortune of running into New York Sun food columnist Virginia Gamely (Jennifer Connelly), who helps him use microfiche (actually, microfilm) to discover his identity and make sense of these faded memories.

Scarred gangster Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe) is disappointed in his surrogate son and willing to take extreme measures to get rid of him. In 2014, Peter has the good fortune of meeting Virginia Gamely (Jennifer Connelly), a reporter who knows her way around microfiche.

Winter's Tale means well, but it is laughably stupid much of the time. Its blend of period romance, supernatural conflict,
and contemporary mystery is no smoother than it sounds, resulting in a film that doesn't work well for audiences fond of any of those elements. It plays like Far and Away meets Gangs of New York meets City of Angels and is every bit as confused and choppy as that implies.

This marks the feature film directing debut of Akiva Goldsman, who has had a good amount of success as screenwriter and producer over the past twenty years. Goldsman, who also produced this and alone adapted Helprin's novel, does not assert himself as an instant talent in the director's chair. His experience on films like Joel Schumacher's two Batman and John Grisham movies, The Da Vinci Code and its sequel, and a pair of Will Smith tentpoles really only shows in the talent he's able to assemble, many of them actors who have performed his words before.

Farrell commits to his role and does a nice job with it, but it's hardly news that solo leading man duties have not suited him well, commercially or otherwise. Crowe gives a Razzie-worthy turn in something that's not typically his cup of tea. Either doing Goldsman a favor or recognizing the limited opportunities for an over-40 actress, Connelly is fine but forgettable in a role that strangely isn't prominently billed. Eva Marie Saint, whose 60-year film career is virtually unrivaled in longevity, pops up and delivers, though she is saddled with the unenviable task of playing a character who is apparently still actively working as a newspaper's editor-in-chief well into her 100s. (Saint is 89 and the movie opts not to update the book's 1910s and present-day settings despite the passing of over 30 years.)

There are certainly some appealing aspects to the film's various layers, but as a whole it falls short of the mark and will be deemed unsatisfying by most who watch it. It's pretty tricky, sticky material for Goldsman to choose for ushering in a new phase of his career and its failings certainly won't do him any favors.

Long after its box office record was swiftly closed, Winter's Tale finally hits home video today on DVD and in the Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet combo pack we review here.

Photos from Winter's Tale:

Winter's Tale Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
BD: 5.1 DTS HD-MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish, Portuguese)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish, French; BD-only: Portuguese
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: June 24, 2014
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $35.99
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Holographic Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as standalone DVD ($28.98 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video


Winter's Tale sports a clean, sharp, vibrant 2.40:1 Blu-ray presentation. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio is expectedly lively too. In 2014, that is the norm, though it's always appreciated.

Akiva Goldsman directs a child actor in Central Park scene in "A Timeless Love." Ow! William Hurt appears among the deleted scene.


Winter's Tale is joined by three bonus features on Blu-ray.

"Winter's Tale: A Timeless Love" (6:08) has Goldsman and the cast discussing the story,

translating it from Helprin's epic novel to the screen, and filming it in New York.

"Characters of Good and Evil" (9:14) considers and appreciates the personalities who make up the film and the actors who portray them, from Colin Farrell, he of "promiscuous chemistry", to "one of the great actors of our time", Russell Crowe to Novelisto the white horse and his three stand-ins.

Last but not least comes a reel of "additional scenes" (12:08), which shares a number of deletions and extensions (some with unfinished visual effects), including looks at baby Peter, additional conversations between Peter and a father-figure (Graham Greene) and Beverly's father-in-law, and more of Virginia and her daughter.

The DVD only includes "A Timeless Love."

The menu takes Warner's standard approach of applying score to a poster design. The Blu-ray doesn't support bookmarks, but does resume playback.

The Blu-ray opens with an UltraViolet promo and a Lego Movie trailer. To them, the DVD adds trailers for Blended, Veronica Mars, Transcendence, and Edge of Tomorrow,

Joined by your Digital HD UltraViolet directions and code insert, the plainly labeled discs take opposite sides of an eco-friendly keepcase whose artwork the slipcover reproduces with holographic touches and an embossed title.

In present-day New York, the white horse takes flight, giving a magical ride to Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) and friends.


Critically trashed and avoided by moviegoers like the plague, Winter's Tale was something I hoped was merely underrated and underappreciated, but I can't pretend to have found much fun in this disjointed, nonsensical hodgepodge of fantasy, romance, and period drama.

Warner's combo pack offers high quality picture and sound plus a sufficient handful of featurettes and deleted scenes. The unfulfilling movie itself is what keeps me from recommending this release.

Buy Winter's Tale from Amazon.com: Blu-ray Combo Pack / DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Colin Farrell: Saving Mr. Banks The Way Back Dead Man Down | Russell Crowe: Man of Steel Body of Lies The Insider
Jennifer Connelly: Stuck in Love Inkheart He's Just Not That Into You The Rocketeer | Eva Marie Saint: On the Waterfront North by Northwest
William Hurt: Tuck Everlasting The Village | Will Smith: After Earth Hancock | Written by Akiva Goldsman: Angels & Demons
New: Pompeii About Last Night The Lego Movie Devil's Knot All That Heaven Allows Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit The Grand Budapest Hotel
Beautiful Creatures Enchanted The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box Titanic A Wrinkle in Time

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Reviewed June 24, 2014.

Text copyright 2014 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2014 Warner Bros. Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures, Ratpac-Dune Entertainment, Weed Road Productions, and Warner Home Video. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.