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Blu-Ray : Recommended
Ranking:
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Release Date: April 30th, 2024 Movie Release Year: 2024

Ordinary Angels

Overview -

 Blu-ray Review By: Matthew Hartman
Wholesome values and thin moralizing faith in humanity come home in the surprisingly effective and well-produced Ordinary Angels. Director Jon Gunn’s family faith-based film could have been a trite effort, but thanks to great performances from Swank and Ritchson and minimal sermonizing it easily passes other entries in the Drama sub-genre. A fine video transfer is bolstered by an effective Atmos track with set of extras. Wasn’t expecting to enjoy this one, but it’s surprisingly worth the time. Recommended

OVERALL:
Recommended
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Blu-Ray + DVD + Digital
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p AVC/MPEG-4
Length:
118
Aspect Ratio(s):
2.39:1
Audio Formats:
English Dolby Atmos, English Descriptive Audio, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Audio
Subtitles/Captions:
English SDH, French, Spanish
Release Date:
April 30th, 2024

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

Early on when I started my tenure writing disc reviews I didn’t say “no” to any offers to look at any movie. Didn’t matter what it was, if it was a Blu-ray, I wanted to review it. In part, this effort was aimed at increasing my credits and exposure (and my thin paycheck), but I also loved discovering new films. If I found a new flick I loved, then great, I had a new disc for the collection and I got to write about it. At worst, I’d see a film I didn’t care about and I could trade the disc or give it away. 

So I didn’t say “no” to a number of faith-based family-friendly genre films. I didn’t enjoy all of them but I found myself generally moved by a few and they occupy shelf space to this day. One film I might otherwise have passed up is Jon Gunn’s Ordinary Angels, but with leads like Hilary Swank and Alan Ritchson, I figured it had to be worth checking out once. While the film’s straightforward plot doesn’t hold any surprises (at all), the earnest tone and great performances from its cast save the effort for a genuinely effective heartfelt flick. 

Our little true-life story centers on Sharon Stevens (Hilary Swank), a recovering alcoholic trying to find a purpose in her life. Living in Louisville, she soon hears about the plight of Ed Schmitt (Alan Ritchson) and his family. After losing his wife to cancer, his youngest daughter Michelle (Emily Mitchell) is in desperate need of a liver transplant. To add insult to injury, the medical bills are mounting and Ed’s meager income as a roofing contractor isn’t enough to get by, and he's at risk of losing their house. That’s where Sharon comes in. Desperate for a reason to keep her focused, she moves mountains to help Ed and his family slowly chipping away at their depts. But when a record-breaking snowstorm hits Louisville right when a donor liver becomes available, it’ll take more than Sharon to clear a path, it’ll take the whole community and a miracle or two. 

As with any number of “based on a true story” films to come along, Ordinary Angels takes a number of liberties and dramatic licenses to make this two-hour yarn more rewarding and exciting. Aside from some supporting character creations and adding the alcoholism side to Sharon’s story, the biggest change for the film is the compression of time. The way the film depicts events things happen in about six months or so. In reality, Sharon was helping Ed and his family for years. While the time compression helps keep things exciting, as things unfurl each development feels like a damnation version of “yes, and.” Bob Costas’ line from BASEketball “The lord sure has it in for that little boy” kept running in my head with every new unfortunate development.  

But this is a true story and it’s a happy feel-good one at that. Any Hollywood extravagancies and stretches of reality are forgivable because they make for a good flick. Now as a self-described a-religious individual, I admit this kind of film isn’t my normal course of wine and fish. Generally, I avoid the genre because of its frustrating habit of halting all forward momentum to sermonize an audience of the already converted. Rarely do these films do anything to bring outsiders into the fold by preaching exclusively to the choir. Praise be to director Jon Gun and his credited screenwriters Kelly Fremon Craig (Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret) and Meg Tilly (Psycho II) doesn’t exactly fall into that plot trap. There are a couple of brief “do you believe” type conversations, but not the sort that kills all story momentum or pull you out of the feature. 

As Gunn and the writers do their best, the great cast is what brings it all home. After finally hitting his big break into superstardom as the hulking Reacher, I was curious to see what a sensitive performance from Alan Ritchson could look like. While he looks like Jack Reacher with the ability to cry, he digs in for an emotional turn as a stressed-to-the-max father. Hilary Swank shows some of that Oscar-winning flourish she brought to roles past as Sharon. She may seem like a less foul-mouthed version of Julia Roberts’ Erin Brockovich (their bullish personalities and loud fashion sensibilities are strikingly similar), Swank grounds the “beyond belief” extravagances of this particular story. 

Ordinary Angels might not light the screen on fire, nor does it redefine its own particular faith-based sub-genre, it’s still a nice one. Maybe I’m getting soft in my younger middle age, but I found this to be a particularly effective story worth emotionally investing in. It’s still a bit simple, a bit convenient, and there are a few slices of plastic-wrapped all-American cheese slapped on - but it’s a nice entertaining show with a solid cast giving it what they’ve got. Shuck off that cynical chip on your shoulder and give it a whirl.



Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray 
Ordinary Angels
arrives on Blu-ray in a two-disc Blu-ray + DVD + digital set from Lionsgate. Pressed on a BD-50 disc, the discs are housed in a two-disc eco-friendly case with identical slipcover artwork. The disc loads to an animated main menu with standard navigation options along the bottom of the screen.

Video Review

Ranking:

Ordinary Angels arrives on Blu-ray with an overall very nice 2.39:1 1080p transfer. Shot digitally, the transfer boasts sharp clear details throughout. Ritchson’s beard stubble, Swank’s wild outfits, and the ‘90s-era production design work look great. Colors are bright and bold with excellent primaries. Black levels are deep and inky giving way for clean shadows and image depth. Contrast is also well balanced without blooms or looking too hot. My only issue is there appears to be quite a bit of video noise. Now I’m not sure if the intention there was to add some kind of film grain-like filter or if this is a disc compression issue. Watching this I split between my primary review rig and my office setup and the noise was present in both cases, worse on my lower-quality office screen. It’s not altogether a dealbreaker. It’s not so bad as to be completely distracting or offputting, but it was one of those things that I kept noticing. If it was an attempt to make the image look like a 90s film, it's semi-crunchy appearance didn't sell it for me. 

Audio Review

Ranking:

On the audio front we have what amounts to be a rather impressive Atmos track. For a film that doesn’t see much action or big active scenes, there’s not a lot of call for the overheads, so they tend to act as spacious filler. That said, the more dramatic and active last act perks those overheads up nicely between the sounds of gusting winds, swirling snow and ice, and a hovering helicopter. The soundscape is nicely balanced with clear dialog resting in the centers letting the sides and rears active in more subtle ways. A few scenes in church, a bar, and a few other busier locations open up nicely. Again, not the most active and dynamic Atmos mix ever, but the film uses it well.

Special Features

Ranking:

This disc comes in with a nice supplemental package. The audio commentary is the bigger meatier piece to enjoy. The featurettes are actually very well produced - they can feel a bit like a generic EPK package at times but each segment nicely focuses on a distinct area of the production. So for the fans that want to dig in more, they’re worth taking a gander at even if the quantity doesn’t exactly blow your hair back. The seven minutes of deleted scenes are mostly extensions or pieces that convey the same information as other scenes, only not as effectively. Doesn’t feel like anything major was missing. 

  • Audio Commentary featuring Jon Gunn, Kevin Downes, and Jon Berg
  • Making Ordinary Angels (HD 11:28)
  • Inspiring the Ordinary (HD 5:16)
  • Finding Your Purpose (HD 6:08)
  • You Are Not Alone (HD 6:02)
  • Deleted Scenes (HD 7:19)

I’m not likely to ever count myself as one of the converted, but I can’t deny I’m a sucker for a nice heartfelt film like Ordinary Angels. Maybe it was because I just reviewed Steel Magnolias and my stoic-man-armor was weakened, but this film hits some emotional blows without feeling like a pandering sermon. Great performances from our leads with a solid script and capable direction make this one worth checking out. On Blu-ray the film scores a respectable video transfer that’s outshined by a surprisingly effective Atmos track. Add a nice little package of extras, and you might have a new disc worth making some shelf space for. Recommended

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