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You’ve Got Mail (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 20, 2012 by  



Another delightful and enchanting pairing of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in the 1998 Nora Ephron film “You’ve Got Mail”.  But fans of this romantic comedy will definitely want to upgrade and purchase the Blu-ray release as you also get the Ernst Lubitsch’s 1940 romantic comedy “The Shop Around the Corner” on DVD.  Two romantic comedies for under $10…what a fantastic deal and two films that are highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2011 Warner Bros., Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: You’ve Got Mail

FILM RELEASE DATE: 1998

DURATION: 119 minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Francois Dolby Digital 5.1, Espanol 2S, Subtitles: English SDH, French & Espanol

COMPANY: Warner Bros.

RATED: PG (Some Language)

Release Date: January 3, 2012

You’ve Got Mail

Based on the play “Parfumerie” by Nikolaus Laszlo

Directed by Nora Ephron

Screenplay by Nora Ephron, Delia Ephron

Executive Producer: G. Mac Brown, Julie Durk, Delia Ephron

Produced by Nora Ephron, Lauren Shuler Donner

Co-Producer: Donald J. Lee, Jr.

Associate Producer: Dianne Dreyer

Music by George Fenton

Cinematography by John Lindley

Edited by Richard Marks

Casting by Francine Maisler

Production Design by Dan Davis

Art Direction By Ray Kluga, Beth Kuhn

Set Decoration by Susan Bode, Ellen Christiansen

Costume Design by Albert Wolsky

The Shop Around the Corner

Directed by Ernst Lubitsch

Based on the play “Parfumie” by Miklos Laszlo

Screenplay by Samson Raphaelson

Produced by Ernst Lubitsch

Music by Werner R. Heymann

Cinematography by William H. Daniels

Edited by Gene Ruggiero

Art Direction by Cedric Gibons

Set Decoration by Edwin B. Willis

“You’ve Got Mail” Starring:

Tom Hanks as Joe Fox

Meg Ryan as Kathleen Kelly

Greg Kinnear as Frank Navasky

Parker Posey as Patricia Eden

Jean Stapleton as Birdie Conrad

Steve Zahn as George Pappas

Heather Burns as Christina Plutzker

Dave Chappelle as Kevin Jackson

Dabney Coleman as Nelson Fox

John Randolph as Schuyler Fox

Hallee Hirsh as Annabelle Fox

Jeffre Scaperrotta as Max Fox

“The Shop Around the Corner” Starring:

Margaret Sullavan as Klara Novak

James Stewart as Alfred Kralik

Frank Morgan as Hugo Matuschek

Joseph Schildkraut as Ferencz Vadas

Sara Haden as Flora

Felix Bressart as Pirovitch

William Tracy as Pepi Katona

Inez Courtney as Llona

Cara Seymour as Gillian QuinnThe stars (Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan) and director (Nora Ephron) of Sleepless in Seattle reteamed for this charming audience favorite. Greg Kinnear, Parker Posey, Jean Stapleton and more great co-stars add note-perfect support to this cinematic love letter in which superstore book chain magnate Hanks and cozy children’s bookshop owner Ryan are anonymous e-mail cyberpals who fall head-over-laptops in love, unaware they are combative business rivals. You’ve got rare Hollywood magic when You’ve Got Mail.

1998.  It was a time when more and more people would be using the Internet, a time when a lot of news showcased people who found love on the Internet.

Having enjoyed “The Shop Around the Corner” (which was an adaptation of the 1937 Miklos Laszlo Hungarian play “Parfumerie”) and the Broadway musical adaptation, “She Loves Me”,  writer/director Nora Ephron and producer Laura Schuler Donner wanted to create a modernized version featuring a romantic comedy centered around love found on the Internet but yet using elements from Ernst Lubitsch’s 1940 romantic comedy”.

And having struck gold with romantic comedies that starred actress Meg Ryan in “Sleepless in Seattle” and “When Harry Met Sally” and the amazing chemistry between Ryan and Tom Hanks in the 1993 film “Sleepless in Seattle” and the 1990 film “Joe Versus the Volcano”, the filmmaker would reunite the two talents for her 1998 romantic comedy “You’ve Got Mail”.

The film which can be seen as a sign of the times as it utilized then-popular Internet provider American Online (AOL) and it’s popular trademark e-mail greeting “You’ve Got Mail”, “You’ve Got Mail” would become a major hit in the box office as the $65 million film would earn over $250 million in the box office and would go on to also achieve success in the home video market.

And now both the original Ernst Lubitsch 1940 film “The Shop Around the Corner” via DVD and “You’ve Got Mail”  (via Blu-ray) was released together in January 2012.

“You’ve Got Mail” is a film that focuses on two characters.  Kathleen Kelly (played by Meg Ryan) is dating liberal postmodernist New York Observer journalist Frank Navasky (played by Greg Kinnear) and is a happy owner of the bookstore “Shop Around the Corner” which her mother started long ago.

While Frank is not so keen about technology, Kathleen has been communicating with a mystery man over e-mail via American Online using a screen name “Shopgirl”.  Both met in a chat room and enjoy their conversations through e-mail.  Because there is no personal discussion nor there is any personal contact, Kathleen is perfectly fine with the anonymous communication with this man, who she knows as his screen name “NY152”.

While Kathleen loves to spend her time communicating with NY152, she is often busy working at her bookstore along with her three store assistants, Birdie (played by Jean Stapleton), Christina (played by Heather Burns) and George (played by Steve Zahn).

Which leads us to the second character, Joe Fox (played by Tom Hanks) is a businessman who’s wealthy family are the owners of “Fox Books”, known for it’s chain of “mega” bookstores around the country and for its discounts and serving coffee.  Also, a threat to independent and smaller book stores who can’t compete with a megastore selling books with a discount.

But for the Fox family, it’s all business.  And the family is planning to open a new store, not far from the bookstore “Shop Around the Corner”, a place which Joe’s grandfather is familiar with and was smitten by the woman who once owned the bookstore but passed it on to her daughter.

Joe is currently dating Patricia Eden (played by Parker Posey), a woman that is the opposite of him.  Meanwhile with the creation of the new Fox Books in New York, he leaves it to branch manger Kevin (played by David Chappelle) to keep an eye on business.

And when he’s not busy with business, Joe loves to go online via American Online and communicate with a mystery woman known as “Shopgirl”, not knowing that she is Kathleen Kelly, the owner of the family bookstore that his own Fox Books will force to make them lose business and close.

One day, while Joe is taking his eleven-year-old aunt Annabel (played by Hallee Hirsh) and four-year-old brother Matthew (played by Jeffrey Scaperrotta) around town, Joe and the children decide to stop by the family bookstore Shop Around the Corner and Joe meets Kathleen Kelly.  Both individuals enjoy their short time with each other but Joe manages to keep it secret that he is the owner of the Fox Books store that will be opening several blocks away.

Needless to say, Kathleen eventually finds out that Joe is the owner of Fox Books and responsible for taking customers away from her store and through the help of “NY152” who gives her advice to fight back, Kathleen goes on a media war campaign against Joe Fox and Fox Books, meanwhile maintaining communication with NY152 and enjoy those moments.

Eventually, Kathleen “Shopgirl” Kelly and Joe “NY152”, both who have no idea who each other are via e-mail decide to meet with each other for the first time.  But when Joe is about to meet Shopgirl at a restaurant, he finds out that she is Kathleen Kelly.  He then decides to not tell her he is “NY152” and tries to get closer to her as Joe Fox.  But will she ever accept the man who may end up hurting her business?

Ernst Lubitsch’s 1940 romantic comedy “The Shop Around the Corner” is a film that stars James Stewart, Margaret Sullavan and Frank Morgan and has been well-regarded as one of the top romantic comedies of all time (#28 in the American Film Institute’s “AFI’s 100 Years…100 Passions”) and was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry in 1999 by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

The film is set in Budapest where Alfred Kralik (played by James Stewart) is a top salesman at a gift shop owned by the wealthy Mr. Hugo Matuschek (played by Frank Morgan).

Alfred reveals to his friend Pirovitch (played by Felix Bressart) that he has been corresponding anonymously to an intelligent and cultured woman whose ad that he saw on the newspaper.  For Alfred, communicating with this woman is the light of his life.

Meanwhile, Mr. Matuschek expects all his employees at the gift shop to push sales, especially a cigarette box that plays “Ochi Chernye” when it is opened.  Alfred thinks the cigarette box is annoying and that Matuschek should keep away from it.  Meanwhile, a young woman named Klara Novak (played by Margaret Sullavan) who worked in sales for another store and is desperately looking for a job as a saleswoman at the gift shop.

Mr. Matuschek has no plans to hire anyone new and Alfred tries to tell Klara that his boss is not hiring.  But when Klara shows Mr. Matuschek that she can sell, by using the cigarette musical boxes as an example with customers and selling them.  She is eventually hired.

As both Alfred and Klara are now working together at the gift shop, unfortunately both do not get along at all and are often bickering with each other.

But for Klara, despite the aggravation she feels…nothing is going to ruin her day as the mysterious man that she is communicating with by mail has made her happy.  And she dreams that this man of her dreams will one day marry her.  But Klara doesn’t know the man she has been communicating with is Alfred Kralik and Alfred doesn’t know that the intelligent and cultured woman he is smitten with is Klara.

For Alfred Kralik, he has worked at the gift shop for many years and is the top salesman.  He hopes to ask Mr. Matuschek for a raise but lately, the relationship between Alfred and Mr. Matuschek have soured.  The reason is that Mr. Matuschek has an investigator following his wife, as he fears she is having an affair with one of his employees.  Mr. Matuschek thinks the only person that can do such a thing is Alfred Kralik, because he was the closest one to the family (when in reality, it’s another one of this male employees that is having an affair with his wife).

When Alfred goes to ask for a raise, instead he is fired by Mr. Matuschek and shocked by what has taken place (because he was the most trusted employee with the best sales record), Alfred knows that without a job, he probably should stop communicating with the mystery woman but he has made a promise to meet with her at a restaurant. So, he feels obliged to do just that.

So, along with Pirovitch, Alfred has Pirovitch check inside the restaurant to let him know how the mystery woman he is to meet, looks like.  And sure enough, Pirovitch tells Alfred that the woman that he has been communicating with all this time, is his former co-worker that he doesn’t get along with… Klara Novak.

But despite how Klara does not like Alfred, Alfred now knowing that Klara was the intelligent and cultured woman that he has been communicating with all this time, decides to keep his identity of the mystery man as a secret to Klara, but as Alfred Kralik, try to get close to her on his own.

But will Klara ever let someone like Alfred, a man she doesn’t like or care for, into her life?

VIDEO:

“You’ve Got Mail” is presented in 1080p (1:85:1 aspect ratio) and unfortunately it is a film that slightly shows its age, yet there is enough detail and better colors that makes this version much better than the previous DVD releases.

First the bad.  There are some moments where the film looks oversaturated and also soft and there are moments where you do see artifacts popping up once in a while.  While it shows up a few times, most people will probably not be bothered by it.  But for those expecting a pristine version of the film, it does have its issues which can be seen on a larger monitor/screen.

With that being said, the film still looks better than its previous DVD counterparts.  The colors tend to pop much more, you can see the skin pores on Tom Hanks’ face during closeups and while some areas look its age, some don’t and look very good.  So, for the most part, this is the best looking version of the film thus far.  It may not be the pristine picture quality that I was hoping for, but nevertheless, it does look much better than the DVD version.

As for “The Shop Around the Corner”, the film looks absolutely wonderful considering it is a 71-year-old film.  The contrast levels are good, the film source looks very good for its age and I didn’t detect any major problems with video quality at all.  Grays and whites are well-contrast, black levels are nice and deep and for the most part, the presentation of “The Shop Around the Corner” looks good on DVD.  Too bad, this classic film it was not converted to a Blu-ray release.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“You’ve Got Mail” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Dolby Digital Francois and Espanol 2.0 stereo.

For this romantic comedy and like most films of the genre, most of the lossless soundtracks tend to be center and  front-channel driven with mild use of surround channels for ambiance.  The same can be said about “You’ve Got Mail”.  Primarily, everything is center and front channel-driven and dialogue and it’s musical soundtrack is crystal clear.

As for “The Shop Around the Corner”, the film’s dialogue is also clear and didn’t notice any more hiss or crackling during my viewing of the DVD.

Subtitles are presented in English SDH, Francois and Espanol.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“You’ve Got Mail” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by writer/director Nora Ephrone and producer Lauren Shuler Donner who discuss the film, the cast and more.
  • Delivering You’ve Got Mail – (25:29) A 10th year anniversary interview with Nora Ephron and her two leads, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Also, featuring producer Lauren Shuler Donner, co-writer Delia Ephron and more.
  • You’ve Got Chemistry – (26:18) A Warner Bros. featurette about iconic couples that appeared in Warner Bros. classic films including Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn, William Powell and Myrna Loy, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall and others.
  • Isolated Score Track – Watch the film with only George Fenton’s musical score.
  • First Look Television special – (14:19) The HBO preview for the film.
  • Discovering New York’s Upper West Side – (10:09) Nora and Deliah Ephron talk about their favorite scenes in New York City featured in the film.
  • Music Video – Featuring Carole King’s “Anyone at All” music video.
  • Theatrical Trailer – The two original theatrical trailers for “You’ve Got Mail”: “The Best Way to Meet Someone” (1:24) and “They Couldn’t Stand Each Other” (1:26)

EXTRAS:

“You’ve Got Mail” comes with a DVD version of the classic Ernst Lubitsch 1940 romantic comedy, “The Shop Around the Corner”.

I’m not afraid to admit that I am a big fan of Meg Ryan’s hit romantic comedies and especially enjoy the chemistry and pairing of Ryan along with Tom Hanks.

Back in the 1930’s through the 1950’s, there were Hollywood couples that would light the screen in multiple films, for today’s modern films, there really hasn’t been American couple other than Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, two talents that viewers fell in love whenever they were together in a romantic comedy.

And like many people who couldn’t wait for “You’ve Got Mail” to be released in theaters, I was among the many who look forward to watching the film.  For one, I love Nora Ephron romantic comedies and how she is able to focus on character but also incorporate the city that a film is shot in.

She has an eye for location but also knows what she wants from her talents and Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan have discussed how Nora Ephron’s direction is much different than other filmmakers.  And for Ephron, her love for the Ernst Lubitsch classic “The Shop Around the Corner”, especially for her passion towards the Broadway musical “She Loves Me” would lead to romantic magic for “You’ve Got Mail”.

But back in 1998, this film was highly anticipated because I enjoyed watching Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan together, watching a Nora Ephron film but interesting enough, I also had a similar experience of meeting someone on the Internet with similar circumstances as the characters featured in the film.

And I was there to buy the first DVD release of the film and here we are 14-years later with a Blu-ray release of “You’ve Got Mail”.  And where films such as “When Harry Met Sally” and “Sleepless in Seattle” are not dated due to technology, “You’ve Got Mail” manages to date itself with old technology via modem connection, old product placement during a time when American Online (AOL) was on top of Internet providers and also during a time when mega bookstores were not threatened by the emergence of online bookstores such as Amazon.

But still, despite the older technology and the fads of the time, I was not turned off by it.  In fact, I was nostalgic of how things were back then.

But “You’ve Got Mail” still manages to captivate me as it did back then.  Sure, it was not my favorite Meg Ryan romantic comedy especially when compared to “When Harry Met Sally” and “Sleepless in Seattle” but there is a magic that exists in the film, because of the wonderful chemistry between Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.  The two can literally take on these characters and bring amazing life to them, making them believable and entertaining to watch.  And also Nora Ephron’s ability to make the locations and the music selections compliment the characters as well.

Also, the film managed to bring in a pretty enjoyable supporting cast with Parker Posey, Dave Chappelle, Steve Zahn, Heather Burns and Dabney Coleman.  But also “You’ve Got Mail” would feature actor Greg Kinnear (“As Good as It Gets”, “Ghost Town”, “Little Miss Sunshine”) and “Grey’s Anatomy” actress Sara Ramirez before they became popular.

Also, I was impressed at the time of how the Ephron sisters were able to modernize the film from its original predecessors.  I absolutely adore Ernst Lubitsch’s 1940 classic “The Shop Around the Corner” and I’m so glad “You’ve Got Mail” was not a remake.  Sure it incorporates certain situations that were seen in the original film, but for the most part, everything was new and everything worked.

“The Shop Around the Corner” is simply a wonderful romance film that is different in the fact that both lead characters work in the same gift shop but there is also a dramatic element as the shop owner thinks the lead character Alfred Kralik (played by James Stewart) is having an affair with his wife.  But this classic film is a wonderful feel-good romantic comedy that has managed to stand the test of time, even over 70-years-later…I’m still enjoying this film no matter how many times I have watched it.  And while not on Blu-ray but on DVD, the film still looks very good on DVD!

While the Blu-ray release of “You’ve Got Mail” and its video quality does show the film’s age due to softness and also some instances of artifacting, there is still a good amount of detail and beautiful colors that make this Blu-ray release worth owning and worth upgrading from the DVD release.  If you were an owner of the first DVD release, a lot of the special features do make it onto this Blu-ray, but also the inclusion of the 2008 10th anniversary reunion between Nora Ephron, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in the featurette “Delivering You’ve Got Mail” (which was released in a later DVD release of “You’ve Got Mail”).

Also, the biggest addition for me which I absolutely loved was the inclusion of Ernst Lubitsch’s 1940 romantic comedy, “The Shop Around the Corner”.  While a DVD, not Blu-ray…still you are getting two films when you purchase the “You’ve Got Mail” Blu-ray release and for hopeless romantics, the fact that these two films are included is fantastic!  And did I mention that you can find this Blu-ray release for under $10 on Amazon?  Awesome!

Overall, “You’ve Got Mail” is still as delightful and highly entertaining as when I first watched it in theaters back in 1998.  Sure, things have changed a lot in technology and also economic settings when it comes to the mega bookstores in today’s society, but Internet romance is much more prevalent today than it was back then and more and more people are discovering love online, so the film still has relevance today.

If you love romantic comedy films, you’re going to enjoy “You’ve Got Mail” on Blu-ray for the fact that you get two films for the price of one and if you enjoyed the film back then and owned the DVD, you’re definitely going to want to upgrade to Blu-ray.  It’s a wonderful deal and both films are highly recommended!






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