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Beautiful Creatures: Blu-ray + DVD + UltraViolet Review

Beautiful Creatures (2013) movie poster Beautiful Creatures

Theatrical Release: February 14, 2013 / Running Time: 124 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Richard LaGravenese / Writers: Richard LaGravenese (screenplay); Kami Garcia, Margaret Stohl (novel)

Cast: Alden Ehrenreich (Ethan Wate), Alice Englert (Lena Duchannes), Jeremy Irons (Macon Ravenwood), Viola Davis (Amma), Emmy Rossum (Ridley Duchannes), Thomas Mann (Wesley "Link" Lincoln), Emma Thompson (Mrs. Lincoln/Sarafine), Eileen Atkins (Gramma), Margo Martindale (Aunt Del), Zoey Deutch (Emily Asher), Tiffany Boone (Savannah Snow), Rachel Bronahan (Genevieve Duchannes), Kyle Gallner (Larkin Ravenwood), Pruitt Taylor Vince (Mr. Lee), Robin Skye (Mrs. Hester), Randy Redd (Reverend Stephens), Lance Nichols (Mayor Snow), Leslie Castay (Principal Herbert)

"Beautiful Creatures" available on Blu-ray Combo pack, DVD and Digital Download 5/21
Buy Beautiful Creatures from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + UltraViolet DVD Instant Video

Like The Twilight Saga, Beautiful Creatures adapts a young adult novel series and tells a story of teen romance with supernatural elements.
Thus, comparisons were inevitable. From a financial standpoint, after Beautiful's truly disastrous showing at the box office, Alcon Entertainment and Warner Bros. Pictures look foolish for thinking they could create their own blockbuster franchise on the same themes that captivated Twihards for a few years. Creatively, though, this film easily is as good or better than every one adapted from Stephenie Meyer's bestselling books.

Set in the fictional small town of Gatlin, South Carolina, Beautiful centers on Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich), a teenager who loves reading banned books. There is no shortage of those in this insular, religious, conservative community. Gatlin is quickly established as a leading character here. It's a town that's big on gossip and small on culture, having just one theater show a no longer new movie with an inaccurate marquee. Ethan longs to leave and is applying to colleges far away.

Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert) is about to instantly grant the Christmas wish of her boyfriend Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich) in "Beautiful Creatures."

One of Gatlin's favorite topics of discussion is Macon Ravenwood, a Boo Radley-type recluse who hasn't been seen leaving the unkempt grounds of his mansion in years. The high school is abuzz with the arrival and enrollment of Ravenwood's niece, Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert). Rumors swirl around the transfer student, alleging her to be a devil worshipper. Ethan doesn't share his classmates' xenophobia and in fact goes out of his way to be friendly to Lena. With his persistence trumping her resistance, a friendship is formed, to the secret objections of eccentric Uncle Macon (Jeremy Irons).

It can't be too big a spoiler to reveal that Lena is, in fact, not like the other kids. She is a "caster", the preferred contemporary parlance for "witch", and her fast-approaching 16th birthday will determine her calling, to Good or Evil.

Ethan and Lena have a special bond; struggling with insomnia, he repeatedly dreamt of her before ever meeting her. Their love is obviously forbidden and appears to hold some bearing on the upcoming fork in the road Lena faces with little say in the matter.

The reclusive Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons) drops in on a Gatlin town meeting to air some grievances. In case you missed it, Sarafine (Emma Thompson) and Ridley (Emmy Rossum) are two distinct dark casters from the same family tree.

Though not an outstanding piece of storytelling, Beautiful Creatures stands as passable entertainment with obvious appeal. There is substance to the town and the protagonist that one doesn't find in Forks or Bella Swan. Romance is obviously a focal part of the film, but it's somewhat underplayed, as we are given other threads to grab onto, most notably the looming issue of Lena's uncertain fate.
The film manages to stave off outlandishness as much as it can. A scene in which Ethan is summoned to the Ravenwood mansion for a caster harvest holiday feast that is mostly spent at a table spinning around in circles is stupid and it isn't the only one.

Adapted and directed by Richard LaGravenese (P.S. I Love You, The Freedom Writers), Beautiful isn't terribly easy to follow, at least for those not coming in having read the 2009 novel by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. On my first viewing, I was confused late in the film to discover there were two distinct villains, not just one with the power to resemble others. My second revealed how I was mistaken, but confirmed others will be too, based on the way the antagonists are introduced. Such critical information should be spelled out more clearly than it is. There is also the never addressed mystery of why Ethan calls to his widowed father and makes him breakfast, but neither he nor we ever see him, his parental figure instead being Amma (Viola Davis), a character with her own secrets.

It's surprising and daring to find characters, even villainous supernatural ones, declaring God to be, like love, a human invention. Less blasphemous but as annoying is the depiction of Christians as narrow-minded bigots. Does the religion's massive following really make it a fair target for hateful portrayals? Both of these issues are addressed tidily in a brief moment painting Amma as a pious and good-hearted individual.

Decently acted and nicely shot, Beautiful Creatures cannot sustain the intrigue of its opening and literature-embodying setting. It delves into its supernatural mythology with a number of scenes of research set underneath a public library to place conflict in the way of a seemingly perfectly compatible young romance.

Despite opening on Valentine's Day, the one day of the year when romance movies are not just tolerated but eaten up in theaters, Beautiful Creatures bombed hard, earning just $19.5 million in domestic theaters and an additional $40.6 M overseas. Altogether, that matches the film's $60 M production budget but that is before theaters take their substantial cut and advertising costs are factored. Among modern young adult adaptations, only Inkheart, Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant, and The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising have proven to be bigger flops.

Just over three months since its opening night and an over a month since the book on its disappointing theatrical run was closed, Beautiful Creatures hits home video in Warner's standard options of a standalone DVD and a Blu-ray + DVD combo pack, each equipped with UltraViolet.

Watch clips from Beautiful Creatures:

Beautiful Creatures: Blu-ray + DVD + UltraViolet Combo Pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Video Extras Subtitled
Release Date: May 21, 2013
Suggested Retail Price: $35.99
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as standalone DVD ($28.98 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

In 2013, it's no surprise to see a new film showing off excellent picture and sound on Blu-ray. Still, it's always nice not to encounter and troubles, as Beautiful Creatures easily meets today's high expectations for the format. The 2.40:1 video holds up in bright and dark scenes alike, while the 5.1 DTS-HD master audio offers a regularly engaging experience without sending you reaching for the remote to adjust volume levels.

Screenwriter/director Richard LaGravenese does some directing in this behind-the-scenes short. Jeffrey Kurland is happy to share the thoughts behind his costume designs.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Beautiful Creatures' all-HD Blu-ray bonus features begin with six behind-the-scenes shorts. "From Book to Screen" (3:58) has the cast members voice their attraction to the project, as their casting is discussed.
"The Casters" (3:22) explains that class and describes characters in it. "Between Two Worlds" (4:17) offers more descriptions of settings and characters. "Forbidden Romance" (3:12) comments on the focal love story and the lead characters who form it. "Alternate Words" (5:17) discusses the intention for visual effects to be subtle and elegant, paying notice to certain illusions. "Designing the Costumes" (3:51) turns its attentions to the characters' style and the thinking behind it.

Four deleted scenes could use a "Play All" option. Running 8 minutes and 10 seconds altogether, they feature Link being tempted by a sexily-dressed Ridley, Ethan kissing his ex, a tense talk at the caster party, and an extended version of the chatter outside the movie theater. Fans of the book may enjoy seeing this, though none of it would have had a great impact on the film.

Faded green make-up doesn't prevent Emily Asher (Zoey Deutch) from getting a kiss from Ethan in this deleted Halloween scene. Alice Englert gets to speak in the New Zealand accent she mostly keeps hidden in the film in making-of shorts and the TV spot "Pedigree."

The extras conclude with a cool trailers section, an unusual inclusion especially for a new film making its video debut. Housed here are two theatrical trailers presented in Dolby 5.1 sound (1:53 & 2:33), a NY Comic Con trailer (2:47), the TV spot "Pedigree" (1:04) which is notable for including cast and crew interview comments,
and a book trailer for author Margaret Stohl's Icons (0:43).

The same as the DVD sold on its own, the combo pack's secondary disc only includes the same four deleted scenes (again, curiously without a "Play All" option) and the Icons book trailer.

The Blu-ray opens with an UltraViolet promo and a trailer for The Great Gatsby. The DVD starts with them, then adds ads for Icons and Jack the Giant Slayer.

Typical for Warner, the main menu screen is nothing more than a scored reformatting of the poster/cover art, while the DVD's secondary menus are remarkably basic. The Blu-ray resumes playback, a nice touch that I'm glad Warner has mastered.

A plain slipcover identifying this as a combo pack tops an eco-friendly keepcase whose lone, single-sided insert supplies your unique UltraViolet code.

Lena (Alice Englert) shows Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich) her bedroom's magical poetry collection.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The public's pitiful reception of Beautiful Creatures suggests it is a lame attempt to cash in on the Twilight craze. While there's obviously an element of that to this production's timing, this supernatural romantic drama is its own entity with more substantial characters and themes. The film is not without some problems, but it's better than the dismissal it got.

Warner's combo pack is a pretty standard release, delivering a great feature presentation and a decent 40 minutes of extras.

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Reviewed May 18, 2013.



Text copyright 2013 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2013 Warner Bros. Pictures, Alcon Entertainment, 3 Arts Entertainment, Belle Pictures, and Warner Home Video. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.