Friday Night Lights
Blu Ray Title: Friday Night Lights
Disk Release Date: January 6, 2009
Screen format: 1080P High Definition Widescreen 2.35:1
First theatrical release: 8 October, 2004
Previous releases on disk: HDDVD on July 11, 2006. Full Screen and Widescreen DVDs January 2005
Director: Peter Berg
Starring:Billy Bob Thornton, Derek Luke, Jay Hernandez, Lucas Black, Garrett Hedlund and Tim McGraw
Sound Formats: English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, Spanish and French DTS 5.1
Length: 1 hour, 58 Minutes
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
Note: Portions updated from my previous HDDVD review of this film.
In Friday Night Lights, Billy Bob Thornton stars as Coach Gary Gaines as he leads Odessa Texas’ Permian High School Panthers football team through their dramatic 1988 season. In Odessa, football may be the lifeblood of the town, but it is also path to glory, to a ticket outside of town and a better life. During the Panther’s second game, star running back Boobie Miles (Derek Luke) suffers a serious injury, causing Gaines, quarterback Mike Winchell (Lucas Black) and the rest of the team to dig deep inside themselves and rebuild. Coach Gaines doesn’t ask for much, just perfection, and the Panthers are in the business of winning, with or without Boobie.
Like most sport based movies, the drama of being driven to winning is the backdrop for the situations the characters find themselves in, but this movie has several things that I found particularly appealing. First, it is based on a true story, and remains mostly faithful to the reality of that season. Second, I finished high school in 1988 so I can relate to the stresses, hopes and dreams of the players despite having played (badly) on a team 2000 miles away. Although, to be fair, the success the teams I played on were not driven so completely by the prodding of town I grew up in. Those wondering what ever becomes of the players after this season will be pleased, as I was, with how this film concludes.
Sound Quality: 2.5/5
While there is some mild panning effects surround wise there isn’t much truly notable and outside of the musical tracks bass is very low key. Given that this is a plot driven sports drama, it is forgivable and the dialogue is consistently clear and sharp throughout, which is critical. Period songs punctuate the film and these are well imaged, as are the somber and reflective instrumental soundtrack contributions. Classic Rap songs such as Terminator X and Bring the Noise from Public Enemy and Run DMC’s “It’s Tricky in particular brought a smile.
Visual Quality: 3.5/5
While not the most spectacular visual representation of football I have seen (Any Given Sunday would be my choice on that front) the cinematography of FNL is very slick. The coloring isn’t too notable, again mostly muted and a lot of nighttime action, contrasting the bleak and barren despair of the Odessa area with the vibrancy of the Football stadiums. The action is very sharp however, and there is great detail in this high def transfer. Not a real show-off, crowd pleasing reference film, but solid high quality. It looked exactly as I recalled the HD DVD looking, tho I’m certain those who are interested have compared screenshots already, but in motion these seemed to be in the same range.
Extra Features: 3.5/5
Extras include all of those on the HDDVD and a few new ones to boot, including an Interactive U-Control segment which at least has most stops available from a track listing menu. The bulk are carbon copies of those of the corresponding DVD/HDDVD release and include the director’s commentary, a scene dissection with director Berg, several deleted scenes, a training camp video, Cast and Crew look at the real story, and several other looks behind the scenes). I don’t recall whether the interview with Tim McGraw was on the HDDVD but it was a nice inclusion either way.
Overall: 3.5/5 (not an average)
FNL is a very nostalgic movie for me and an interesting story that doesn’t have the same old predictable ending that I expected. Add in some minor bumps to the extras and equivalence or better sound and video with the HDDVD and it’s not a bad little package. Surprisingly, Friday Night Lights has spawned a TV series and remains one of the films that shows what really matters behind the game while still giving a great taste of what it is like to be in the middle of the pressures of High School Football.