Thursday, January 30, 2020

DOCTOR SLEEP (2019) (4K UltraHD Review)


Label: Warner Brother Entertainment 
Rating: R

Duration: 152 Minutes (Theatrical) & 180 Minutes (Director's Cut) 
Audio: English Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD 7.1 with Optional English Subtitles 

Video: 2160p UltraHD Widescreen, 1080p HD Widescreen 
Director: Mike Flanagan 
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, Carl Lumbly, Zahn McClarnon, Emily Alyn Lind, Bruce Greenwood, Henry Thomas, Jacob Tremblay

Director Mike Flanagan has done a remarkable piece of business bringing Stephen King's Doctor Sleep (2019) to the big screen, doing the Herculean task of bridging Stanley Kubrick's seminal, though Stephen King despised it, film adaptation with Stephen King's original story and the sequel in a way that for at least was seamless. As a fan of both the original novel and Kubrick's film I found this journey back into the world of Danny 'Doc' Torrance to be breathtaking and enthralling from start to finish. The film opens with young Danny shortly after the events of The Shining (1980), living with his mom, still haunted by the ghosts of the hotel and scarred by the trauma he endured at the Overlook. He wakes from a bad dream and is comforted by his mom Wendy, a role wonderfully inhabited here by Alex Essoe (The House of the Devil), and we even get to see good ol' Dick Hallorann re-imagined warmly by Carl Lumbly (A Cure For Wellness).

The film moves ahead a few years, the now adult Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor, Shallow Grave) following in his father's footsteps, suppressing his "shining" with alcohol, but after a tragic one-night stand with a drug addled single-mom and her infant makes him take stock of just how low he has sunk. Looking for change he moves to a small village in rural New Hampshire and begins the road to recovery after meeting a kind stranger named Billy Freeman (Cliff Curtis, The Meg) who helps him find housing and becoming his AA sponsor. Dan also finds work at a local hospice center for the elderly, where uses his "shine" to comfort those about to die, earning him the nickname "Doctor Sleep".   

Dan begins receiving telepathic communications from a young girl named Abra (Kyliegh Curran), a teenager "shines" brighter than he ever did, she tells him of a cult of psychic-vampires who feed on those with the psychic gifts are feeding of the essence of their shining, which they call "steam", which can only be releases through pain and fear. 

This cult is called The True Knot, an ancient race of psychic-vampires led by 
Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson, Life), who is the embodiment of seductive evil. The other cult members include Grandpa Flick (Carel Struycken, Twin Peaks), Barry the Chunk (Robert Longstreet, Mohawk), Silent Sarey (Catherine Parker, Absentia), Apron Annie (Selena Anduze, The Haunting of Hill House), Diesel Doug (James Flanagan), Short Eddie (Met Clark), and the newest addition to the cult Snakebite Andi (Emily Alyn Lind, The Babysitter), plus Rose's second in command, the tracker/hunter Crow Daddy (Zahn McClarnon, Bone Tomahawk).

The True Knot travel the country in an RV caravan in search of people with psychic power, torturing and killing them to absorb their psychic essence. Their abduction and killing of a young grade school baseball player named Bradley (Jacob Tremblay, Good Boys) is particularly cruel and visceral, it's a truly skin crawling scene that firmly establishes how awful this cult is. When the cult become aware of young Abra's immense power she becomes their next target, with her and Dan along with Billy devising a plan to thwart their murderous quest for immortality, which involves returning to the Overlook Hotel and unleashing evil upon evil.    

This is one of those films that is just better than it had any right to be, a film that not only adapts Stephen King's novel, a sequel to The Shining, but also bridges the gap between King's original novel and Kubrick's adaptation in a way that surpasses what I thought would ever have been possible, having the heart of King's original novel and the stylish lensing of Kubrick's film.

All of the performances are fantastic, even the re-casting of Jack, Wendy and Danny Torrance, plus Dick Hollorann are spot-on, not imitation by any means, but homages that capture the spirit of the original performances. McGregor embodies the adult Danny Torrance well, I just bought into it without questions and the rest of the story plays out very naturally. Young Kyliegh Curran is phenomenal in the role of Abra, looking forward to more from here, she's only been in a handful of film so far, expect big things from her. 

The set designs and accompanying visuals are wonderful, the painstaking recreations of the Overlook in the final stretch of the film gave me goosebumps, it's so eerie. Doctor Sleep was far and away one of the best cinema experiences I had last year, and this home viewing, including a 30-min longer director's cut, only affirmed that experience it's fantastic.

Audio/Video: Doctor Sleep (2019) arrives on 4K UltraHD looking splendid, shot on digital the film is crisp and clean, sharp lines throughout. It's not the most vibrantly color-graded film, it's bathed in muted colors and earth tones, occasionally the HDR will set-off some primaries but the style and aesthetic of the film doesn't necessarily call attention to vivid colors, though the blacks levels were notably deep and well defined throughout. 

Audio comes by way of a tantalizing and atmospheric Dolby Atmos track with optional English subtitles. The sound field makes great use of the surrounds and height channels to create spaces that immerse you in the creepy and supernatural happenings, it's a rock solid audio presentation, and the score from The Newton brothers (The Haunting of Hill House), with multiple tasty references to the original score from The Shining, is fantastic.  

Onto the extras, which can be found on the 4K disc and digital, we get three featurettes, the first being the 5-min 'From Shining to Sleep' with writer Stephen King and Director Mike Flanagan discussing the transition of the story from novel to film, with King going into the source novel and commenting on Flanagan's adaptation. Flanagan comments on the bridging of Kubrick's interpretation of the material and marrying those together, and the change in the third act, it's all cool stuff, I wish it had been longer though.  

King and Flanagan return in the 14-min 'The Making of Doctor Sleep: A New Vision' with the director discussing sending King an adaptation of Doctor Sleep to King and being nervous about it, the thrill of revisiting these characters, and what he learned about character development after reading King's books his whole life. Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguso, Robert Longstreet, Kyliegh Curran, Jacob Tremblay, James Flanagan, Met Clark, Emily Alyn Lind and Zahn McClarnon all show up to discuss their characters, while costume designer Terry Anderson discusses the challenges of recreating the twins period dress and Rose's signature hat. Special make-up FX creator Robert Kurtzamn and Marcia King-Kurtzman speak a bit about creating the signature Mike Flanagan hand-trauma seen the film. 

The last extra is the 15-min 'Return to the Overlook' with Flanagan and Unit Production Manager Scott Lumpkin, Producer Jon Berg, Production Supervisor Alex Capaldi, Prop Master Scott Nifong and actors Ewan McGregor, Henry Thomas and Alex Essoe discussing the massive undertaking of re-creating the iconic hotel using original designs supplies by the Kubrick estate with some great behind the scenes footage of the Colorado lounge, the snow-covered hedge maze, The Gold Room, the red bathroom, room 237, and the iconic distinctly-patterned carpeted hallways where young Danny Torrance rode his big wheel. Watching it I felt the same way the cast and crew did, like a kid in a candy store. I really enjoyed hearing Henry Thomas talk about the challenge of respiring a role that Jack Nicholson owned, with Flanagan adding his own spin on the character and how it suits the story in relation to the Delbert Grady character from The Shining. Also very cool was seeing the make-up appliances being put on actress Sallye Hooks who plays the creepy old lady in Room 273, Mrs. Massey, with more input from Robert and Marcia King-Kurtzman about that process

The longer running 180-min Director's Cut of the film can be found on the accompanying Blu-ray disc also with Dolby Atmos audio. The director's cut is also available with the accompanying digital code which offers both the theatrical and director's cut in 4K UltraHD, along with the three featurettes, notably the digital copy is the only way to watch the longer version in 4K.   

The 2-disc release arrives in  black keepcase with a single-sided sleeve of artwork and a slipcover with the same unfortunate floating heads artwork. 

Special Features:
- Return to the Overlook (15 in) 
- The Making of Doctor Sleep: A New Vision (14 min) HD 
- From Shining to Sleep (4 min) HD

 - Director's Cut on Blu-ray &amp 4K UltraHD Digital