The House of Tomorrow – Blu-ray Review
Film Title: The House of Tomorrow
Release Date: 2017
Rating: NOT RATED
Runtime: 85 minutes
Region Coding: Region A
Studio: Shout! Factory
Audio Formats: DTS-HD MA 5.1 & 2.0
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Formats Available: Blu-ray
Versions Available: Blu-ray Disc
Blu-ray Release Date: 8/14/18
Director: Peter Livolsi
Cast: Asa Butterfield, Alex Wolff, Nick Offerman, Ellen Burstyn, Maude Apatow
“The House of Tomorrow“ is based on the novel, of the same title, written by Peter Bognanni. The film’s screenplay was adapted by Peter Livolsi, also making his directorial debut here. One thing that people should know, before going into this film, is that the futurist used in the film, Buckminster Fuller, was a real person. Be sure to check out his Wikipedia page, search all over the web, and definitely watch videos on YouTube of him talking. Just perhaps do it, or the majority of it, after watching the film. You get to see a slight bit of archival footage of Fuller used here in this film, but it will leave some longing for more, especially once they learn that he was a real man.
Now, with that out of the way, let’s begin to discuss this film, its characters, and its story – which uses Fuller a bit. I’d like to say upfront that this film very likely will not at all be what some may expect. First off, this is a drama, not, I repeat not a Sci-Fi (Science Fiction) film, as the title may lead some to think it may be. It also can be confused to be science fiction for the use of futurist Buckminster Fuller. As if that’s not confusing enough to people, yet another reason some may think it is a Sci-Fi is the fact that this lead actor (Asa Butterfield) is best known for another leading role, that was in a Sci-Fi film (“Ender’s Game“), also adapted from a book.
Our protagonist in this story is a sixteen-year-old boy, “Sebastian” (Asa Butterfield) whose parents both died when he was young, and has grown up the majority of his life raised by an older woman he refers to as his “Nana” – named “Josephine Prendergast” (Ellen Burstyn). We aren’t at first clearly told if she’s his grandmother or just his legal guardian, but over the course of the film you’ll find that out. Josephine was very close (fictionally here) to a (real life) futurist. Sebastian and Josephine live in one of the houses of tomorrow – hence the film title – designed by the futurist.
The home serves now as a place where “Nana” and Sebastian offer tours to the public, to try to educate them on their futurist hero, and with his teachings they have lived their lives by. That’s how we are at first introduced to our protagonist here, as he is preparing for a day, and then ends up taking a religious youth group on a tour of the house. This is where young Sebastian meets some people in that group that will be very vital in his story.
It’s obvious, within the very opening scenes of the film, that our friend Sebastian is a very sheltered, shy, and good hearted young man that lives with perhaps a bit too much discipline, for reasons he’s perhaps not even sure about. He’s never been exposed much (much if any) to the modern outside world. Sebastian has only been shown and taught what his legal guardian Josephine allows. This includes pretty much only the ideas and philosophy of the futurist Buckminster Fuller, a real life person, not a fictional character.
While giving a tour of the futurist house Sebastian meets a boy his age “Jared” (Alex Wolff), along with Jared’s sister “Meredith” (Maude Apatow), and their father “Alan” (Nick Offerman). The two boys end up talking a tad bit, until some events happen and they have to call things short for the tour. However along the way they trade information and start communicating back and forth online via email. The two strike up a bit of a weird friendship, as one boy is a completely sheltered “fish out of water” type, while the other boy he’s met is living with a very serious health condition, is straight up blunt in his smart ass unapologetic behavior, possesses a dark but funny sense of humor, and most importantly is a huge fan of punk rock. Punk rock is something, unlike religion, Jared finds to be almost holy and very important to the grand scheme of life (almost a bit in defiance of his father).
Sebastian is a very shy sheltered boy, as discussed, but by meeting a boy his age (Jared) he manages to find a really close friend. The two are complete and utter polar opposites, yet they get along. Jared’s father is very welcoming to Sebastian and helps him find a place to get away from the dome and his Nana. It’s through this that our leading character starts to discover that maybe his future hasn’t been predetermined by a futurist, just because that’s all he’s ever been taught in his life. By the time this film comes to a conclusion, it’s no “spoiler” at all to tell you, Sebastian will learn that you make your own future. It’s what you make of it, and life is too short to spend time doing something that you’re fully happy with. Carpe Diem.
I must honestly say that I enjoyed this film, and that I’ll be rewatching it again soon, as well as suggesting it to friends from now on. It’s a very unique, funny, at times emotional, and most importantly thought provoking film. This features some excellent performances from everyone in the cast. The film, as the director (in his debut effort) has stated, is: “a coming of age story for everyone.” Also, as the tag line suggests, it will make you think about the fact that it’s up to you to “make your own future.“
Movie Rating: 4 (out of 5)
This is not a first for me, but a bit of a first since we’ve re-launched the site. There actually are no technical specifications listed on IMDb in regards to what specific camera, format or such this was shot on. I’m lead to obviously speculate, however I’m pretty certain that this was shot digitally (around 2K resolution) and my guess would also be that it was mastered at 2K. Then again, that’s just my own person guess and opinion. Lastly, and most importantly here, the film in its debut to Blu-ray comes to us in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Note: I’ll be using some screenshot examples here in this section. So anytime you see me say “as seen here”, there will be a link to a screenshot example.
My first impressions of the video quality were based on the film’s opening sequence which seems very VHS – as seen here. It replicates the scanlines almost and such, seeming fuzzy in comparison the the film’s digital source material. Once the credit sequence translates over into the film itself – as seen here – you’ll notice that it brightens up, with colors starting to appear somewhat vibrant.
Outdoor scenes with sun lit conditions will show you a pretty nice example of how the colors can be vibrant (to a degree) at times with foliage and even wardrobe – as seen here. Speaking of outdoor scenes, you’ll notice during close-up scenes (especially outdoors) that there is a large amount of detail to be found in this high def presentation – as seen here & here. It’s not an overwhelming amount of detail, but it’s enough to do the film justice, and have a very cool visual style to the cinematography done by Corey Walter.
One thing I’d like to mention, that I’d spoke of earlier about the opening title sequence, is the use of VHS source material here in the film. The reason for this is to show old archival footage of real-life futurist Buckminster Fuller. These scenes featuring VHS source material, be it on a TV- as seen here – or be it entirely filling the screen, appear very unique. Those scenes with VHS material seem to really stand apart from the rest of the film, in a really cool way.
The black level here is solid, as you’ll especially see in a fewer dim lit or darker conditions as well in darker colored hair, and darker clothing for costume choices – as seen here. Having a solid black level helps to add a bit more sharpness and solidity to the overall presentation. Fleshtones appear accurate here, with the past two screenshot examples I used from a close-up shot of Asa Butterfield showing that on a large scale. Overall you get one very solid high def presentation here that does the film visual justice.
Video Quality Rating: 4 (out of 5)
Audio here is presented in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio and DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio Stereo. I reviewed this listening to the 5.1 audio mix. The film has a few occasions where it can make some decent use of the rear channels and hold a solid amount of bass (via the subwoofer especially). The music is what really helps this mix sound really nice all throughout in terms of sound. The rest of the film is really dialogue driven This mix (the 5.1 lossless) has dialogue delivered distinctly through the center channel, and is never “drowned out” by any of the action (not so much the case) or music (more the case) throughout the mix.
There are some occasions throughout the film when the characters are in vehicles such as as car or subway train that you’ll feel a nice amount of bass coming through the subwoofer to make you feel the vibrations as you would in real life. Keep in mind though, this is in the 5.1 mix, and will not be the case in the 2.0 (Stereo) mix.
The punk music played throughout the film really comes across at times slightly intense in the 5.1 lossless mix, with a very unique and nice use of the front L&R and rear channels to deliver the most of the music. The other bits of the music such as the guitars, as well as a majority of the drums roar across the front and rear channels, while bass guitar and the kick drum get nice play in the subwoofer, for instance. The vocals during music are kept mostly in rear channels, but get some play in the front left and right channels, unless dialogue is present. The film’s original music (by Rob Simonsen) also sounds really good here in the 5.1 mix.
Overall, in terms of audio “The House of Tomorrow” on its debut to Blu-ray sounds solid, and I believe that it does the film justice. Lastly, I’m sure the 2.0 (Stereo) mix is really good as well, I just didn’t choose to watch the film with it.
Audio Quality Rating: 4 (out of 5)
Bonus materials on this release all are presented in 1080p HD video with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo sound – unless otherwise noted below. They include the following:
- Audio Commentary with Screenwriter / Director Peter Livolsi and Cast Members Asa Butterfield, Alex Wolff and Maude Apatow
- “Ellen Burstyn In Conversation With Peter Livolsi” (36:06 – HD) gives you the actress and the film’s director having a discussion. This is a must-watch interview. I absolutely enjoyed this.
- “NYC Premiere Q&A” (29:45 – HD) gives you (as the title suggests) a Q&A session at the New York City premiere of the film, with the filmmaker, and cast. Cast members that appear here include Ellen Burstyn (“Josephine”), Asa Butterfield (“Sebastian“), Alex Wolff (“Jared“), and Maude Apatow (“Meredith“). The director Peter Livolsi is included in this as well, and the Q&A session was moderated (for the NY Film Critics Series) by Alison Bailes (of BBC, Sirius Radio). This is yet another must-watch. This Q&A is very informative, very funny, very entertaining, and very enjoyable. I love that there’s talk of Buckminster Fuller included here.
- Theatrical Trailer (2:31 – HD)
Overall the bonus materials here are short, but this was a small film, and it’s getting its debut release. I think over time this film will develop a bit more of a following and someday you might see it get re-released with some more bonus materials like retrospective interviews and such with the cast. However, for now the audio commentary proves to be very informative and entertaining. The same can be said for the interview with cast member Ellen Burstyn (done by the director) and the NYC Premiere Q&A session. It’s enough bonus content to leave those who enjoyed the film (like myself) somewhat pleased with the just over an hour of featurettes, and an audio commentary that you have here to experience after the film.
Bonus Materials Rating: 2.5 (out of 5)
“The House of Tomorrow” as a film (an adaptation of a novel, in this case) seems very unique and attention grabbing, to myself personally. It also feels perhaps slightly similar to films like “Donnie Darko” somewhat, in the sense of taking some science elements (or in this case a real futurist), and blending as a backbone of sorts to the dramatic fiction, along with excellent music. This film is nowhere near as complex though overall as the film mentioned. It’s still a film that I felt when first seeing it that it would be one of my favorites for years and develop a cult following.
This little film (made for 8.6 million) from a new director proves to be enjoyable, and has characters that I felt able to connect to with a story that pulled me in for the most part. It also had some emotionally moving elements to it that I found to be another reason perhaps I enjoyed it, along with great performances from some great actors (in both spectrums of age).
As far is its video goes, it delivers a solid HD presentation visually, and its audio presentation also comes across as solid. The bonus materials may feel a little bit short, however I found that they’ll leave you informed, and entertained after you have watched the film. I was very happy with the audio commentary especially, as it added some real perspective to this, as well as the two featurettes (of sorts). It’s just a shame we don’t get a digital copy of the film, is my only real complaint here.
In terms of Blu-ray release, this gets:
4 (out of 5) for video quality
4 (out of 5) for audio quality
2.5 (out of 5) for bonus materials