DVD Review HTF DVD REVIEW: The Blind Side

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Ken_McAlinden, Mar 22, 2010.

  1. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer

    Feb 20, 2001
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    Livonia, MI USA
    Real Name:
    Kenneth McAlinden
    The Blind Side Directed By: John Lee Hancock

    Starring: Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron, Kathy Bates, Jae Head, Lily Collins, Ray McKinnon, Kim Dickens, Adriane Lenox
    Studio: Warner Bros.

    Year: 2009

    Rated: PG-13

    Film Length: 128 minutes

    Aspect Ratio: 16:9

    Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

    Release Date: March 23, 2010
    The Film **** The Blind Side tells the true story of Michael Oher (Aaron), a large, poor, illiterate teenager from a troubled family who made an improbable rise from his seemingly hopeless circumstances to achieve both academic and athletic success. His achievements are made possible along the way by gestures both large and small from friends, coaches, teachers, and tutors, but more than anyone, by the Tuohy family and its indomitable matriarch Leigh Anne (Bullock). Leigh Anne is a successful interior designer whose clients include prominent athletes. Her husband, Sean (McGraw), is a former athlete who now owns several restaurant franchises, their daughter, Collins (Collins), is a high school student and cheerleader, and their youngest child, Sean Jr - aka "SJ" (Head) is an opinionated pre-teen who apparently went to "Our Gang" finishing school. When Leigh-Anne spots Michael homeless and alone on a cold night going to the school gym, she impulsively invites him into her home. What starts as a night's charity eventually becomes much more. The Tuohy's grow closer to Michael as they begin to unravel his mysterious past. Michael's shy and reticent nature insures that this will take a while, and the absence or incompleteness of most public records relating to his family does not make it any easier. The love and support of the Tuohy family eventually allow Michael to make significant progress socially, athletically, and academically, with offers of football scholarships from almost every Southeastern Conference College. When Michael and the Tuoheys discover that he will need near perfect grades his senior year to be eligible, they find a dedicated tutor named Miss Sue (Bates) to work with him directly. Additionally, an NCAA investigation into Michael's college recruitment questions the motivations of the Tuohys in adopting Michael, suggesting that they were simply recruiting and grooming him to play football for their (and Miss Sue's) Alma Mater, The University of Mississippi.

    While The Blind Side does not try to break any new ground when it comes to inspirational sports movies, it at least covers familiar ground with skill. The film also benefits from the fact that the true events and personalities on which the film is based lend themselves to dramatization without an excessive amount of license or embellishment. At the film's center is a character who is reluctant to discuss his past who comes from almost a different world than all of the rest of the characters in the film. This creates a layer of mystery on top of the sports movie skeleton of the plot that sustains viewer interest without having to rely on too many cliches such as a climactic "big game". As a matter of fact, the only extended sporting event sequence in the film occurs in the middle and dramatizes Oher's varsity football debut with no subsequent discussions or dramatization of team success or championships. The absence of conventional sports movie moments and emphasis on character-based drama did not seem to hurt the film with audiences, since it proved to be an unexpected big hit in late 2009 when it was released to generally positive reviews and apparently tremendous word of mouth support.

    With the story remaining firmly rooted in the personal drama of its characters, the success of the film lies largely on the shoulders of the actors required to embody them. The assembled cast does not disappoint, with Sandra Bullock top-lining things as the indominatble Leigh Anne Tuohy. Bullock wisely chooses to underplay the role, letting her wardrobe, hair, make-up, and accent convey the more severe elements of the character. Her relatively restrained delivery of lines and reactions suggest all of the above is a "Steel Magnolia" front, supported by a couple of scenes where she discusses her self doubts with her on-screen husband. I suppose the inevitable question is "Did she deserve the Oscar she won for this performance?". I will defer the answer to that question to someone (anyone) who understands how competetive art works better than me, but her performance is certainly appropriate for the film, and moves Bullock gently but solidly outside of what was becoming her romantic comedy comfort zone.

    The film's other central performance is from relative newcomer Quinton Aaron in the role of Michael Oher. While he does not look all that much like the real-life Oher, there could not have been a very large pool of actors of sufficient physical size to fill the role who were also capable of conveying the gentle nature and troubled inner life of the character with minimal dialog. Aaron acquits himself quite well in a role that could have landed falsely somewhere between "Rain Man" and "Bubba Gump", but instead suggests complexities behind his eyes that his character is reluctant, rather than unable, to express. The rest of the supporting cast are directed to perform with similar restraint with the exception of IronE Singleton as a somewhat stereotypical drug dealer/thug from Michael's old neighborhood and young Jae Head who gets to ham it up in the precocious little brother role and yet somehow remains more endearing than annoying.

    A number of actual college football coaches play themselves in the movie, and while none are likely to abandon their current professions to "tread the boards" anytime soon, their presence simultaneously creates an atmosphere of verisimilitude and offers an opportunity for humor by gently lampooning the recruiting process that they all know so well. The Video ***½ The video presentation approximates the original theatrical aspect ratio by filling the entire 16:9 enhanced frame. I am encouraged that, as was the case with the recent SD DVD of Ninja Assassin, Warner seems to have abandoned whatever practices were resulting in heavy artifacts in most of their standard definition DVDs of theatrical new release titles. That does not mean that this presentation is without some minor problems. Highly detailed scenes with pans, zooms, and moving cameras and other scenes with fast action result in noticeable digital compression artifacts from time to time. There are no significant signs of high-contrast edge ringing or any of the strange noisy artifacts around such edges that have been marring theatrical new release titles from Warner for the last couple of years. The Audio ***½ The English Dolby Digital 5.1 track is encoded at 384 kbps and features generally excellent fidelity with a solid if not particularly dynamic mix typical of dialog driven films. The relatively low bitrate does not seem to impair fidelity very much, probably because it rarely has to allocate many bits to anything but the front three channels. The surrounds are used infrequently, usually for very low level ambient support for music and effects, with the exception of a scene close to the end of the film where sudden violence erupts. Even during the one extended football game sequence, things stay pretty subdued and anchored to the front channels with a little low-end emphasis to underline blocking and tackling hits between players. While not the most impressive use of a 5.1 surround field, I suspect it is consistent with the original theatrical mix. Additional dubs are available via 384 kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in French and Spanish. The Extras ** The only extra on the disc is a collection of four Deleted Scenes (7:08 w/"Play All"):
    • I’m the Designer (1:22) – starts with a brief scene explaining how "Big Mike" came to not be living with "Big Tony’s" family and is followed by an extended scene of Leigh Anne conducting business on the phone at a school sporting event.
    • Lunch Ticket (3:47)– starts with a scene where Sean decides to pay for Michael’s school lunches followed by scene of how a teacher discovers that Michael can pass exams given orally. Both of these plot points were established by short dialog exchanges in the finished film.
    • Sizes (:24) – is a brief scene where the Tuohy’s get a message from Washington Redskins quarterback Patrick Ramsey double checking the sizes requested for a clothes donation since they are bigger than anyone on the team.
    • Who You Looking For (1:34) – is an additional scene where Leigh Anne encounters a drug dealer named Alton while looking for Michael’s Mom. It sets up a later confrontation between them, but is not essential to establish either character.

    When the disc is first played, the viewer is greeted with the following Skippable Promos presented in 4:3 letterboxed video with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound unless indicated otherwise:
    • Anti-smoking PSA that parodies "extreme" energy drink commercials (4:3 full frame - :32)
    • Invictus DVD/BD trailer(2:25)
    • Free Willy: Escape from Pirates Cove DTV Trailer (2:13)
    • LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-4 video game trailer(1:06)
    • IMAX Under the Sea DVD/BD trailer (4:3 full frame - 1:08)
    Packaging The single-side dual-layered DVD-9 is packaged in a standard Amaray-sized "ECO-BOX" case with no inserts. Summary **** The Blind Side succeeds by centering its "based on a true story" drama around an interestingly mysterious central character and mixing in only a few of the traditional elements associated with the sports movie genre. This success is also largely due to carefully modulated performances by its talented cast under the assured direction of John Lee Hancock. It manages to feel familiar without seeming stale, making it the cinematic equivalent of "comfort food". It is presented on DVD with a solid 16:9 enhanced transfer that exhibits occasional compression issue during select shots with high detail and fast motion, but otherwise accurately renders the film's naturalistic cinematography. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track on disc is a faithful rendering of its somewhat subdued audio mix. The only extra is a collection of four interesting but non-essential deleted scenes.


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