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DVD Reviews

HTF DVD REVIEW: The Big Lebowski 10th Anniversary Edition



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#1 of 9 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted September 01 2008 - 01:33 PM






THE BIG LEBOW$KI
10TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION



Studio: Universal
Original Release: 1998 (by Polygram)
Length: 1 hour 58 mins
Genre: Bowling Comedy/Mystery/Zen Exploration of Life

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Color/B&W: Color

Audio:
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1
  • French Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0


    Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
    Rating: R (Much Bad Language, Some Nudity and Drug Use, Occasional Violence)






  • Release Date: September 9, 2008

    Rating: 3 ½ ½

    Starring: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore, David Huddelston and John Turturro

    Produced by: Ethan Coen
    Screenplay by: Ethan Coen & Joel Coen
    Directed by: Joel Coen





    The Big Lebowski: 10th Anniversary Edition is the latest DVD presentation of the Coen brothers’ cult classic comedy about bowling, zen and everything in between. The plot is deceptively simple, dealing with the efforts of Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski to put his life back into order after being attacked in the name of another, much wealthier Jeff Lebowski. While the territory here is similar to the Coen brothers’ prior effort Fargo, things here are mostly played for humor and a wry sensibility. As with most Coen brothers’ films, this one goes on a bit long, and the characterizations tend to sail over the top (John Turturro wildly steals each scene he’s in, and John Goodman’s powderkeg character is practically a flesh and blood version of Yosemite Sam), but there’s a good time to be had here. The Coen brothers are nothing if not detail oriented, and like their other films, this one is luxuriously textured and stylized. The legions of fans this film has acquired over the years are a testament to the quality of the film and the fun that people have with it.

    The Big Lebowski: 10th Anniversary Edition is only the latest edition of the film available on DVD, apparently timed to coincide with the theatrical release of the Coens’ latest film Burn After Reading. An initial edition containing both widescreen and pan & scan transfers was itself replaced in 2005 by a Collector’s Edition that added a better transfer and some special features. The 2005 edition also had a limited “Achiever Edition” packaging option that doled out some goodies in the packaging to boot. The current edition appears to port over the 2005 video and audio transfers and all the extras on the disc. In addition, more featurettes have been included here, to the point that a second disc is included to accommodate the new material. I understand there is also a limited version of this edition that includes a bowling ball in the packaging for those who wish to spend the extra cash.

    VIDEO QUALITY: 3 ½/5 ½

    The Big Lebowski: 10th Anniversary Edition has a bright anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer that appears to be the same one as the 2005 Collector’s Edition. This isn’t a bad thing at all – the picture looks fine and the flesh tones look accurate. The various close-ups of bowling balls, rugs and assorted paraphernalia all look appropriately textured, and the blacks look fairly solid. This is a fairly warm film for the most part, with a fair amount of action taking place in the bowling alley or The Dude’s quarters, and the transfer reflects this. The transitions from reality to fantasy melt together nicely in the transfer.

    AUDIO QUALITY: 3/5

    The Big Lebowski: 10th Anniversary Edition has what sounds like the same audio transfer as the 2005 Collector’s Edition – Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes in English and French, and a 2.0 mix in Spanish. This is primarily a frontal mix, with the dialogue living in the front channels, but there is ample use of the surrounds for directional effects. (A pool splash in an early scene caught me off guard when it hit behind me, and I actually turned around looking for it...)

    SPECIAL FEATURES: 4/5

    The Big Lebowski: 10th Anniversary Edition comes packed with extras spread across 2 discs. There is no commentary to speak of, but there are plenty of other items to content yourself with. Given the attention to detail Lebowski fans will no doubt expect here, I’ll clarify as I go which items are new, and which survive from earlier editions.

    On Disc 1:

  • ”Exclusive Introduction” from Forever Young (4:41, Non-Anamorphic) – This is the same mock-introduction from the Coen brothers’ favourite fake company that was available on the 2005 Collector’s Edition. “Mortimer Young” discusses his company and shows a horrifying example of film restoration for your pleasure. As on the earlier release, this featurette is non-anamorphic. But it’s still funny.

  • The Dude’s Life (10:06, Anamorphic) – NEW FEATURETTE – This is a series of fun new interviews with the cast about their characters. The fun starts with Jeff Bridges and the rest of the cast talking about the idea of The Dude being a Zen Master, and about Bridges’ performance. We then take a tour through the rest of the characters with the actors discussing what they were doing.

  • The Dude Abides: The Big Lebowski Ten Years Later – (10:25, Anamorphic) - NEW FEATURETTE – This is a new retrospective look at the making of the film, including some on-set snippets here and there, and more interview material with the cast. Jeff Bridges admits that it’s one of the only films he still watches when it pops up on TV and describes the only minor disagreement between the Coen brothers he saw during the filming. The featurette ends with an open-ended question from the cast about the son of the main character, who must be ten years old now, and according to Bridges is “probably selling pot to all his friends.”

  • Production Notes – A few screens of brief production notes are available here, showing the same kind of information that used to be included on DVDs when they first became available. I can’t tell if these notes were available on the prior edition or the initial one.

  • Theatrical Trailer (2:48, Non-Anamorphic) – This is the same non-anamorphic trailer available on previous editions of the DVD.


    On Disc 2:

  • Making of The Big Lebowski (24:34, Non-Anamorphic) – This is the original making-of featurette from the first DVD release. This includes more discussion with the Coen brothers than any other featurette. It is non-anamorphic and holds the usual mix of interview material with film footage.

  • The Lebowski Fest: An Achiever’s Story (13:53, Non-Anamorphic) – NEW FEATURETTE – This is an excerpt from a longer documentary (The Achievers) about the various “Lebowski Fests” over the ten years since the film’s release. This is a film by and about fans of the film who get together to celebrate the film, bowling and white Russians. To be honest, I found this length (under 15 minutes) to be plenty, but fans of the movie will no doubt want to see the full documentary when they can.

  • Flying Carpets and Bowling Pin Dreams: The Dream Sequences of the Dude – (4:18, Anamorphic) - NEW FEATURETTE – This brief featurette explores the two dream sequences in the film, with comments by the Coen brothers and the cast describing their ideas and what it was like doing a Busby Berkeley number with a valkyrie and bowling pins.

  • Interactive Map – (Anamorphic) – NEW MATERIAL - This is a collection of quick looks at the various locations used in the film around Los Angeles. Some of the comments here are pulled from the other new featurettes on this edition.

  • Photo Gallery (3:25, Non-Anamorphic) – This is the same collection of photos taken by Jeff Bridges available on the 2005 Collector’s Edition. But it’s nice to see these shots in isolation and the viewer can always freeze frame on each page.

  • Jeff Bridges’ Photo Book (17:28, Anamorphic) – NEW MATERIAL – This is probably the best part of the whole edition, right here. Jeff Bridges sits down and shares his photo book with the viewer, talking about each photo and what was happening when he took it, and having a good enough time that he continually bursts into giggles. The featurette ends with a plug for Jeff Bridges’ website, where he sells copies of the book. (Although if you go there, you’re in for a pretty wild ride...)


    Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish for the film itself, as well as for the special features. (The packaging says that not everything is subtitled, but this is incorrect – I found subtitles on everything.) A standard 22- chapter menu is included for quick reference. (These appear to be the same chapters as the Collector’s Edition). When the first disc is initially started, the viewer is presented with a non-anamorphic red-stripe preview for Burn After Reading, ostensibly the reason for this edition to exist in the first place. I should note that the menu screen on the first disc sailing through the legs on the bowling lane is funny and inventive.


    IN THE END...

    The Big Lebowski: 10th Anniversary Edition will certainly appeal to fans of the movie, particularly if they’ve never picked up a DVD of it before. If people already have the 2005 Collector’s Edition, they may want to rent this one first and evaluate the new extras before diving in. But I think even the casual fan will find something to enjoy here.


    Kevin Koster
    September 1, 2008.


    #2 of 9 OFFLINE   Ed Moroughan

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    Posted September 01 2008 - 03:24 PM

    Thanks for the review. I never got around to buying the previous release so I'll pick this one up. Not the bowling ball package though, thats just silly! LOL

    #3 of 9 OFFLINE   MielR

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    Posted September 01 2008 - 05:05 PM

    I love this movie too, but haven't bought it yet. Weren't there quite a few complaints about the 2005 transfer, though?
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    #4 of 9 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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    Posted September 01 2008 - 06:14 PM

    I don't know about the complaints. I didn't have issues watching it. My strong impression here was that the 2005 material was put on a new DVD release, with some additional featurettes that prompted a 2nd disc and made the package a little more interesting. And with the pending release of the Coen brothers' latest for Focus Films, Universal has put this film back on the market again.

    #5 of 9 OFFLINE   Ron Reda

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    Posted September 02 2008 - 08:42 AM

    Ugh, what's with the DVD version, give us a cleaned up (and by cleaned up, I don't mean DNR'd) Blu-ray version. Hell, at this point, I'll just take a port of the HD-DVD version.
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    #6 of 9 OFFLINE   Patrick H.

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    Posted September 02 2008 - 12:15 PM

    Indeed, I still have the old Polygram disc because of issues with the 2005 disc. I rented it, and found it actually softer-looking than the much older transfer, plus the opening shot was badly zoomed-in for some reason. It almost looked like they pan-and-scanned it and then matted it for widescreen. The Polygram disc has a good deal of artifacting due to its age, but I still find it more pleasant to watch. I was hoping this new edition would at least fix some of the issues, but it doesn't sound like it...

    #7 of 9 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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    Posted September 02 2008 - 12:25 PM

    I had thought that the artifacting and other issues on the original Polygram release were due to needing the space on the DVD for both a widescreen and a pan & scan transfer. I also understood that the 2005 edition improved the sound. Again, from what I can tell, this is a matter of the 2005 transfers and extras being supplemented with some new material for the 10th anniversary, and to promote the new Coen brothers film. But if I'm wrong, and there is some discussion of radical changes or a new transfer, I'd love to hear about it. It just doesn't sound likely.

    #8 of 9 OFFLINE   Rob Willey

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    Posted September 03 2008 - 11:21 PM

    Not exactly the best thread for this post, but at least it's recent. Check your local theater listings. Several theaters are showing TBL on the big screen one night only Sept. 4.
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    #9 of 9 OFFLINE   Brian Borst

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    Posted September 04 2008 - 09:28 AM

    Despite all the apparent flaws (I call them apparent because I haven't seen them, not because I think anybody else is wrong or anything) I'm still getting it. The giftset edition (the bowling ball packaging) looks brilliant IMHO. Also, my Dutch edition has the most horrible cover ever, so that probably has something to do with it.
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