This reviewer really wanted to like "MILK." To begin with, Sean Penn has always been dependable for a great performance, as can be said about most of the film's other cast members. Gus Van Sant did "GOOD WILL HUNTING," (but, then he also made one of the crappiest films of all time, his shot-for-shot remake of "Psycho) as well as "TO DIE FOR," a film that no film since has made Nicole Kidman look sexier in. . So, why is "MILK" so disappointing? Well, while it has its moments, and fine fine performances, there's just a sort of detachment that permeates the entire film, at least for a non-gay viewer. Sure, the biographical aspects of the film are compelling at times, and the way in which the film captures the the turbulent history of the civil rights/gay movement of the period, actually helps the film transcend from being a just a "gay" themed film, but it's hard for a liberal, non-gay viewer to feel it's not so much celebrating gay rights, as wallowing in it, and it gets b-o-r-i-n-g, and that's coming from someone who has no problem watching "THE FOURTH MAN" or "DEER HUNTER" on numerous occasions. Dull is dull, and "MILK" is in need of some editing. To give Sant his due, the scenes built around Mayor Moscone, Dan White, and the way in which the chilling, horrifying murders are handled near the film, bring the viewer back to full attention! It's just a shame that the majority of the film isn't as compelling as it's beginning and end.
UNIVERSAL has provided the correct 1.85:1 aspect ratio for this 1080p/VC-1 blu-ray. Van Sant intentionally uses washed out colors and grain to blend the actual film footage with stock footage from the period, and while it feels seamless, it diminishes detail. Contrast is decent, but blacks are never deep, causing further loss of detail in darker scenes. It feels consistent with the theatrical presentation, but "MILK," while faithful to Van Sant's intent, makes for only an "average" looking presentation on blu-ray, and it's doubtful that it looks notably better than a dvd presentation.
UNIVERSAL has provided a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. The film is dialogue-driven and front-center channel focused. Some discrete, spatial effects pop up here and there, but surrounds are limited and unremarkable. It's on par with the theatrical presentation, with subdued ambience and allowing the action/drama to speak for itself, rather than be potentially overshadowed by effects. Even the moving score is front channel focused. The fidelity of this lossy mix is impressive as it stands.
Although various BD-LIVE extras are expected, there are only three already delegated to the blu-ray which were viewable prior to street date. These were all in high-definition, and built around the film's production(interviews), the real Harvey Milk, and filming the protest march sequence, with intent on historical accuracy.