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Blu-ray Reviews

HTF Blu-Ray Review: Semi-Pro: Let's Get Sweaty Edition

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#1 of 4 OFFLINE   Neil Middlemiss

Neil Middlemiss


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Posted June 02 2008 - 02:25 PM

Let's Get Sweaty 2-Disc Unrated Edition

Studio: New Line Home Entertainment
Year: 2008
US Rating: Unrated and R Rated Theatrical Edition (For Language and Some Sexual Content)
Film Length: 100Mins
Aspect Ratio: 2:35.1
Audio: English 7.1 DTS HD Master Audio
Subtitles: Optional English SDH and Spanish

US Release Date: June 3rd, 2008

The Film - Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image out of Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image

“In the anals of history people are going to be talking about three things: the discovery of fire, invention of the submarine, and the Flint, Michigan Mega Bowl…”

Will Ferrell seems like he has playing the same person over and over again. His superb Rob Burgundy was a model character that he has enjoyed playing with slight variations ever since, most successfully as Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights. The variations are there, beyond subtle, but they really do exist. For example his Anchorman, the progenitor of his distinct shtick on the big screen, was absurdly blind to reality, brash, chauvinistic, cocksure and likeably smug. As Ricky Bobby, he was equally as smug about his talents, but was a great deal duller in the IQ arena and simmered with a southern rationale and pride of his sport. In Blades or Glory, his character was PG-13 promiscuous, angry and rebellious with a softer underside. Now, in Semi-Pro, the common thread of his style of comedy is still deeply present, as it always is, but he portrays a flamboyant, simple, normality oblivious owner, coach and player on an ‘American Basketball Association’ (ABA) team in 1976.

The story is familiar and simple enough. Jackie Moon’s (Will Ferrell) poorly performing ABA team, for which attendance is at an all time low, must improve performance and attendance in order to become one of the four teams being merged into the NBA. Being in last place when the opportunity is presented, he and his team have quite the hill to climb and so acquire a professional, but past his prime player. Trading Monix (Woody Harrelson) for a refrigerator and relying on the ‘better than the rest of the team’ talents of Clarence 'Coffee' Black (Andre Benjamin), the team dig in and work for that much coveted fourth place and a spot in the NBA.

It is a likeable film with Ferrell’s outlandish, but not slapstick behavior providing the most appreciated and humorous performance. It ranks above the tired Blades of Glory, perhaps because of it’s more adult tone which frees up Ferrell to be looser with his creativity and his language.

This film marks Kent Alterman’s directorial debut, working from a screenplay by Scot Armstrong (and filled with barrages of Ferrell and friends improv) and is quite solid for a first time director, but coupled with some listlessness in the script, the beginner director makes some missteps that affect the framing of shots and the flow and pace of the film. Setting the film in Flint, Michigan is a nice idea, as is the name ‘Tropics’ for a team nestled in the concrete of the automaker state. The 1970’s period is also ripe with possibilities as Anchorman so cleverly proved. But Semi-Pro beyond the fun of the idea, doesn’t quite come together.

Among the chief issues the film suffers from is the supporting cast. Andre Benjamin and Woody Harrelson in particular are fine actors in the film, but don’t get to enjoy comedic escapades in the same way each member of the ensemble cast had in Anchorman. Here, Woody Harrelson is far too much of a straight man and at time seems to be part of a more dramatic toned film than a silly comedy. The rest of the Tropics players are given little to do beyond participating in the B-ball action which is a real waste of talent Actor/Comedians like DeRay Davis are barely used in that capacity. In fact, the film is filled with comedic talents, including Andy Richter, Rob Corddy, Tim Meadows and Ed Helms that are utterly wasted. The only other real laughs to come out of the film are from Will Arnett and Andrew Daley, as dueling sports announcers. Arnett’s Lou Redwood character is a boozed-out, filthy minded wreck and Daley’s ‘Dick Pepperfield’ is ludicrously straight laced and proper, trying hard to remain professional amongst the silliness surrounding him. They are stand-outs in the cast, providing most of the films off-handed irreverence.

Likeable, but forgettable is perhaps the best way to sum it all up.

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The Blu-Ray edition of Semi-Pro is presented in 1080p High Definition 2.35:1 widescreen. It’s a nice looking image, not too clean or over stylized to ‘feel’ like the 70’s, and really seems to fit the setting. The colors are great, with the bright oranges and blues being almost 3-D at times. The games are brightly lit and show off the best of the image. The image is not glassy sharp, and has a bit of appropriate grain with no distortions, edge enhancement or other distracting issues. The high definition image is good quality and suits the film all the way.

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As I am quickly coming to expect from blu-ray releases, Semi-Pro comes with a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. I am only able to appreciate 5.1 channels at the moment, (until the upgrade comes), but the audio is pretty darn good. It isn’t an overwhelming audio, but it is a good, clean, solid and enjoyable track. There is good depth to the surround, with crowd sounds in the surrounds really coming alive (and since there are many, many scenes with crowds, you get to enjoy that more than normal). There is lovely clarity to this audio, sharp, un-dulled dialogue and a reasonable level of bass to the many songs that make up the soundtrack.

The Extra's - Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image out of Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image

From the Cutting Room Floor - (15:16) – 4 Deleted scenes and 3 segments of alternate improvisational runs present a mixed bag. The deleted scenes are ok, but as I always find, the seemingly endless creativity of the actors in the improv was funnier and funnier the longer it lasted. .

Behind the Scenes
A Short History of the ABA - (6:58) – This features interviews with the ABA fan and director of the movie, Kent Alterman, along with the writer and former ABA players. The fun-filled, fan-fueled and much ‘cooler’ ABA was a great subject to explore on film and the enthusiasm everyone on camera shares for the now defunct league is palpable.

”Love Me Sexy” – The Story Behind the One Hit Wonder - (5:24) – The creation of the song and working with Nile Rogers to emulate the sound of the 70’s is briefly discussed. .

Recreating the ABA - (12:46) – Most of the time here is spent on the process for selecting the player extras for the ABA, having to have a certain style of play and a lean, fast look. The work on creating the look of the Tropics arena is brief, but interesting.

Bill Walton Visits The Set - (2:38) – Former NBA player Bill Walton visits the set and is dressed with some funky hair and odd facial hair.

Four Days in Flint - (5:38) – A quick look at shooting in flint, turning a few warm, blue skied days into a cold, wintry town.

The Man Behind Semi-Pro - (23:56) – This is really a medley of sorts looking at the variety of talent involved in the making of the movie, both in front of and behind the camera. .

“Love Me Sexy” – Music Video - (1:58)

Flint Tropics Talk With Dick Pepperfield - (6:58) – A couple of VHS looking snippets with the character of Dick Pepperfield interviewing Jackie Moon. Quite funny. Clips from here show up during some of the other special features.

Trailers – This includes a Teaser, Theatrical and Red Band trailer for Semi-Pro.

Blu-Ray Exclusive: Super Agility Trainer Interactive Game – Don’t get too excited, it’s just a fun little one-sided game of pong.

Final Thoughts

Semi-Pro is missing a comedy spark, the kind of glow that made Ferrell’s two best films, Anchorman and Talladega Nights funny in a way that can be enjoyed ever more upon repeated viewings. Following Blades of Glory up with this only slightly better film makes me worry for Ferrell’s comedy longevity. Unlike Billy Bob Thornton, who has chosen to play essentially the same person in movie after movie with ever diminishing returns, Ferrell still has a lot of life left in his brand, but he must be careful not to choose films where Scot Armstrong is the writer (he was responsible for School for Scoundrels, The Heartbreak Kid and Road Trip). He should also remember that so long as he is surrounded by some seriously funny people at the top of their game (think of Steve Carrell’s ‘gerbily’ weatherman in Anchorman and John C Reilly as Ricky Bobby’s racing bud) – he will sizzle with absurdity, inventiveness and wickedly sharp improv.

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Neil Middlemiss
Kernersville, NC
"Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science" – Edwin Hubble
My DVD Collection

#2 of 4 OFFLINE   Edward Mann

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Posted June 10 2008 - 03:53 AM

Thanks for the review. I finally rented this on Blu-Ray and watched it last night. The picture and sound were great but what I was most surprised by is that I liked the story. I'm probably in the minority, but I didn't like Anchorman or Talladega Nights very much and didn't find them very funny. For me, in recent years Saturday Night Live has been the king of taking a funny 1-2 minute skit and running it for 5-10 minutes, making it unfunny in the process. In my opinion, Will Ferrell has done this in most of his movies also. I think the editing is tighter in Semi-Pro and as a result I enjoyed it. It always felt like the story was moving along and not overly long SNL sketches patched together. I looked up a website that talks about the old ABA league and was surprised to learn that this is where Bob Costas got his start. I was also surprised that there is apparently a new ABA league that started a few years ago.

#3 of 4 OFFLINE   Jari K

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Posted June 12 2008 - 09:57 PM

Just out of curiosity, does this really include "Digital copy"?

Also, back cover ( DVD Empire - Item - Semi-Pro: 2-Disc Unrated Let's Get Sweaty Edition / Blu-ray ) says: "Web-enabled Features". Is this true? If yes, what they might be?

#4 of 4 OFFLINE   Neil Middlemiss

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Posted June 14 2008 - 04:23 AM

Jari - It sure does not, only the sDVD version does. Thanks for the catch. As for the Web-enabled features, could not access to find. Not sure what te deal is!
"Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science" – Edwin Hubble
My DVD Collection