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Blu-ray Reviews

HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Field of Dreams

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#1 of 16 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted May 21 2009 - 11:42 AM

Blu-ray Disc/DVD REVIEW


Studio: Universal
Film Year: 1989
Film Length: 1 hour 46 minutes
Genre: Teen Fantasy/Baseball Drama

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

BD Resolution: 1080p
BD Video Codec: VC-1 @ over 30 mpbs
Color/B&W: Color

  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 @ an average 4.0 mbps

    Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
    Film Rating: PG

  • Release Date: May 26, 2009

    Film Rating: ½

    Starring: Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, James Earl Jones, Ray Liotta and Burt Lancaster

    Based on the Novel “Shoeless Joe” by W.P. Kinsella
    Written and Directed by: Phil Alden Robinson

    Field of Dreams is a modern fantasy that unabashedly speaks to the child in everyone. While dealing with some issues of family conflict and real problems, the film consistently finds a way to give everyone a happy ending. This feels very much like a throwback to the family movies of the 1930s, where everyone’s problems can be solved without too much fuss, and where people genuinely wish to help each other. In this film, Kevin Costner plays a family man and new farmer who plows under a part of his cornfield to create a baseball diamond at the urging of a mysterious voice that tells him “If you build it, he will come.” And true to fantasy, one day Shoeless Joe Jackson (a pre-Goodfellas Ray Liotta) appears in the field, ready to once again play the game. Of course, the voice isn’t done with Costner, as it gives him more and more impossible tasks to fulfill, until the film culminates with a stirring affirmation of the power of baseball and the bonds of family. I have seen this film many times since its initial release, and it never fails to move me.

    Field of Dreams is being released for the first time on Blu-ray, having seen earlier releases on laserdisc, DVD (twice) and HD-DVD. This release appears to port over the HD-DVD release with a new DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. The picture is a 1080p VC-1 transfer that shows more detail than the prior SD releases but also has not only grain but noise in various shots. (I particularly noticed this in shots with a lot of sky.) The extra features here, just as with the HD-DVD release, include almost everything from the 2004 DVD, and add in the documentary originally created for the 1996 laserdisc pressing. It’s a nice package overall, and if you have never owned the movie before, it’s worth your time. On the other hand, if you already have the 2004 DVD, you’ll need to decide whether you want to upgrade. The picture and sound are good, but I don’t know that they enough to justify an additional purchase.


    Field of Dreams is presented in a 1080p VC-1 transfer that feels like it is a step or two above that of the standard definition release. Watching scenes back to back between the two reveals more detail in the Blu-ray, in terms of big shots of the cornfield or shots of the various patterned shirts worn by the cast. There is a fair amount of grain visible here, so I can safely say this isn’t a DNR-issue release. But there’s also a varying amount of noise in the picture, particularly in big sky shots where it becomes evident. This isn’t a bad transfer by any means, but it simply doesn’t impress in the way a really a good HD transfer can. I believe this is the same transfer used for the HD-DVD release two years ago.


    Field of Dreams is presented in a single audio mix – a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix in English. It has a generous bit rate, averaging at 4 mbps, but it really doesn’t pack a lot of oomph. This is a quiet film for the most part, and most of the mix lives in the front channels, even when there are opportunities to play, such as the Fenway Park sequence. (One moment where you can hear the crowd roaring from inside the concessions area is only heard in the front channels, and the surrounds continue to dutifully play smaller incidental crowd sounds.) The mix is clear, of course, and the dialogue is clear, but this isn’t the kind of mix that will immerse you in the movie. It’s not a bad mix, but it’s the kind of thing that makes me wonder if every film really needs a DTS-HD Master Audio mix.


    The Blu-Ray presentation of Field of Dreams includes almost all the extra features from the 2004 SD DVD release, presented in 480p, along with the documentary originally created for the 1996 laserdisc. The one item missing from the 2004 DVD appears to be the “America’s Stadium Trivia” text section about various ballparks across the U.S.

  • Commentary with Director Phil Alden Robinson and Director of Photography John Lindley – The commentary originally created for the 1996 laserdisc release is carried over for this edition. And it’s a nice commentary – Robinson and Lindley’s comments are worth hearing, and their talk still feels fresh.

  • Deleted Scenes (16:50 Total, 480p, Non-Anamorphic) – Several deleted scenes are presented here with introductions by Robinson. These are mostly just snippets or brief scenes that Robinson openly admits were unnecessary to the film. One interesting scene explains directly why the baseball players must exit into the cornfield each time. The video quality of these scenes is not the best, but they are interesting for archival purposes.

  • From Father to Son: Passing Along the Pastime (38:41, 480p, Full Frame) - This documentary from the 2004 DVD is included here. It’s a concise history of the making of the film, with interviews cerca 2004 intercut with the film clips and on-set footage.

  • Roundtable with Kevin Costner, Bret Saberhagen, George Brett and Johnny Bench (29:56, 480p, Full Frame) – This is an arranged screening and discussion between Costner and several baseball stars at Costner’s home to discuss the film and its impact. There’s nothing really profound here, but it is remarkable to see Costner and the players talking about the film. (I personally would have been interested to hear a group commentary from them...) (Originally part of the 2004 DVD)

  • The Diamond in the Husks (17:41, 480p, Full Frame) – Here we have a promotional video for the real baseball diamond built for the movie at the Lansing Farm in Iowa. It’s interesting to see what the diamond looks like as of 2004, but this really feels like a tourist infomercial more than a documentary. (Originally part of the 2004 DVD)

  • Galena, IL Pinch Hits for Chisholm, MN (5:35, 480p, Full Frame) – And here’s a promotional video for Galena, Illinois, where one of the locals brings us around to the various sites used for the film and discusses the real history that has happened in the real town. As with the prior featurette, this feels like a tourist infomercial. (Originally part of the 2004 DVD)

  • Field of Dreams: A Scrapbook (1:29:51, 480p, Full Frame) – This is the documentary originally made for the 1996 Signature Laserdisc and ported over to the first DVD pressing. It’s a bit fluffier than the more concise one made for the 2004 DVD, but it’s interesting to see just based on the fact that it was made at least 8 years earlier and includes more contemporary footage from the set.

  • BRAVO Special: From Page to Screen (46:06, 480p, Full Frame) – This special, originally made for the BRAVO network, covers the development of the film from Kinsella’s book SHOELESS JOE to the original script drafts to the actual production. Robinson talks at length here about he made some dramatic cuts and changes to the novel in writing the script, including the omission of the main character’s identical twin brother. (Orignally part of the 2004 DVD)

  • Theatrical Trailer (2:24, 480p, Non-Anamorphic) – A standard-definition copy of the theatrical trailer is included here for completion’s sake.

  • BD Live - This Blu-ray includes access to Universal’s BD-Live online site, allowing for the viewing of trailers online and the sharing of scene selections between people who have this Blu-ray and are online at the same time.

    Subtitles are available for the film and the special features. A full chapter menu is available for the film.

    IN THE END...

    Field of Dreams is a movie that cannot help but make the viewer feel good by the time it’s done casting its spell. It’s a fantasy that touches on themes of not only baseball but family, and it still holds up when viewed today. The current Blu-ray edition carries forward the features associated with the standard definition DVD releases, but adds HD transfers of the picture and sound of the film. If the reader already has the 2004 DVD, the choice to purchase here will be a matter of personal taste. If the reader doesn’t have the film, or has never seen it, I can recommend picking it up. If this is an upgrade, I recommend renting first.

    Kevin Koster
    May 21, 2009.

    #2 of 16 OFFLINE   TonyD


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    Posted May 21 2009 - 04:01 PM

    Every blu-ray does need a lossless track included. I wouldn't have mentioned it but you brought it up. You don't need to be immersed by sound. Even films with a mono track should have a lossless track. I have the dvd and the hd dvd but will buy it again if i can find it cheap enough.

    #3 of 16 OFFLINE   Mike Frezon

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    Posted May 21 2009 - 06:06 PM

    One of the best baseball films ever (if not THE best) meets Blu-ray. What could go wrong? (Well, lots of things, I suppose. More of a rhetorical question.) This sounds like an excellent release. I'm very excited about it.

    It seems to me like I'm starting to see a trend in which BD reviews are giving lower audio scores...but don't really say any negatives about the audio presentation. I don't think anyone expects Field of Dreams to have a "whiz bang" soundtrack. If the mix is clear and the dialogue is clear and the score is well-represented, what more would you really want? The real question to be answered here (as is driven home on the HTF time after time) should be: is the soundtrack faithful to what the film sounded like back in its 1989 presentations?

    Thanks for the review, Kevin. I'm very much looking forward to checking this out. And prices will be reasonable. Posted Image

    There's Jessie the yodeling cowgirl. Bullseye, he's Woody's horse. Pete the old prospector. And, Woody, the man himself.Of course, it's time for Woody's RoundUp. He's the very best! He's the rootinest, tootinest cowboy in the wild, wild west!

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    #4 of 16 OFFLINE   Ron-P



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    Posted May 21 2009 - 07:03 PM

    Yes, every Blu-ray release does need a lossless track. This is a film I will buy, just as Mike stated..."One of the best baseball films ever (if not THE best)".
    You have all the weapons you need...Now fight!

    #5 of 16 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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    Posted May 21 2009 - 08:00 PM

    I'll try to be more specific here.

    What I meant to say in my audio evaluation is that the mix here is fine, but certainly could have done a little more and stayed well in line with the theatrical sound.

    Just one example - The Voice. It stays in the front channels, when actually that could go in all the surrounds (as with the voiceover in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly). And there are many opportunities for atmospheric sound to move to the surrounds where it stays in the front area. As it is, this is a primarily frontal mix that could be appreciated without the surrounds.

    I completely agree that every Blu-ray should have a lossless audio track. And I also agree that you could have a mono track done with lossless audio. My point was that if the movie is not going to make use of the surround channels, why take the time to do a DTS-HD Master Audio mix? Wouldn't it be simpler to just do a lossless track without all the bells and whistles? (Of course, having the MA mix makes it sound a lot snazzier, but it really feels like buying a Maserati and then only driving it at 30 mph...)

    You guys are making good points, and I'll try to not make statements like that without properly qualifiying them. Thanks for the heads up.

    #6 of 16 OFFLINE   TonyD


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    Posted May 22 2009 - 01:48 AM

    this I agree with.

    #7 of 16 OFFLINE   Neil Middlemiss

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    Posted May 22 2009 - 02:33 AM

    Kevin - For me, I love this film most for James Horner's wonderful score - and how it is used to great effect (goosebump moments) to create a magical sense. Can you tell me how, particularly when Costner first hears the "if you build it..." line, Horner's score sounds in the surrounds/bass. I would hope that it has a bit of a kick when his music delivers a 'boom' but really hope that is produced effectively in the speakers.

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    #8 of 16 OFFLINE   Mike Frezon

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    Posted May 22 2009 - 03:59 AM

    Great post/question, Neil. It IS the score that drives much of the "feel" of this film. I know exactly the moment of which you write and it would be a good indicator of the effectiveness of the BD audio presentation.

    My appetite to see this has now been fully whetted! Posted Image

    There's Jessie the yodeling cowgirl. Bullseye, he's Woody's horse. Pete the old prospector. And, Woody, the man himself.Of course, it's time for Woody's RoundUp. He's the very best! He's the rootinest, tootinest cowboy in the wild, wild west!

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    #9 of 16 ONLINE   Carlo Medina

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    Posted May 22 2009 - 04:35 AM

    Wait a sec!
    Are you reviewing your own film?!??!!?! You need to change more than a "K" and "n" to fool me! Posted Image Posted Image

    Seriously, thanks for the review. While it would have been nice to have a new transfer, I can't help but feel this is going to be all we're going to get regarding this film on BD for quite some time, and I do love the film, so I'm going to spring for it, despite the less than stellar A/V scores.

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    #10 of 16 OFFLINE   BrettB



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    Posted May 22 2009 - 05:23 AM

    One of those great films I never got around to buying on DVD. Will get it as soon as I see a good deal on it.

    #11 of 16 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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    Posted May 22 2009 - 06:09 AM

    Neil, I didn't hear much effect in the surrounds when the big "whoom" moments would hit. I literally picked up my surround speaker and held it to my ear both when Costner hears The Voice in the cornfield, and, more particularly, when he turns the van around to SURPRISE! JAMES EARL JONES and "Moonlight Graham"!!!! And...nothing much in the surrounds. Music at a low level, like everything else there. The subwoofer kicked in a little for effect, but I didn't get the feeling of being enveloped in the moment at all. This is part of the reason I wasn't jumping up and down about the score. (I'll be curious to hear from other people who've heard this mix, just to know if anyone is hearing anything I'm not.)

    Carlos. Carlos, Carlos, Carlos, Carlos, Carlos... If you only knew how much Kevin Costner owes me for all the stuff I've taken since The Untouchables. He should do something nice for me. In fact, that lovely house we see in the Roundtable screening? He should give that to me for being so patient and having to go through TWENTY PLUS YEARS... I'm actually amazed nobody cottoned to that joke when I did the review for the Blu-ray of The Untouchables two years ago...

    #12 of 16 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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    Posted May 22 2009 - 10:43 AM

    Thanks for covering this one Kevin! Will pick this one up when it hits the bins for sure!

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    #13 of 16 OFFLINE   AaronMK


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    Posted May 23 2009 - 05:52 PM

    If you agree that every disc should have lossless audio, then the use of a lossless codec such as DTS-HD Master Audio is not a bell and whistle. I think more the question is if the audio is not being remixed, why a 5.1 instead of a 4.0 track. Can't say for sure, but it seems like a good way to prevent an audio processor from trying to extrapolate a discrete mix. Judging from the review, it sounds like they took what the film is, even did not take full advantage of "opportunities", and put it on the disc. If that is the case, I think I will be very happy with this release.

    #14 of 16 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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    Posted May 23 2009 - 09:43 PM

    Aaron, you make good points. I'm hoping I haven't again been unclear here. I'm not asking anyone to use "opportunities" to completely remix a soundtrack or do a "Special Edition remix" that changes the experience for viewers. I was simply referring to a mix that really doesn't make use of surrounds, and therefore could be just as effective as a 2.1 mix. In fact, such a mix would likely be more efficient if that's the intent, since the processor could simply focus on the fronts and the subwoofer and not worry about anything else. But I do agree with you that fans of the film will enjoy this release. Again, I qualify that by saying that if you have the 2004 SD release, it will be a matter of degrees in terms of whether you want to repurchase it. If you're watching it on a 70" screen, then by all means. On a 32" screen, you may be fine where you are. But don't take my word for it. Look at it for yourself, and post again with your feedback. I do check these threads, as they can help inform my future reviews. Thanks again.

    #15 of 16 OFFLINE   David Coleman

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    Posted May 27 2009 - 03:13 PM

    I just watched it. If PRETTY WOMEN is a "chick flick", then FIELD OF DREAMS must be the male equivalent. Personally it's difficult to hold back tears at the end. For anyone who's lost a parent, it's near impossible to not break down into tears. For those who lost and wish they could say those unsaid things or share those last experiences one more time, this film is for you. Still a great and emotional film 20 some years after it was made. As for the disc itself, there's some caveats. While this does not look as bad the DVD, it's not a great improvement. Yes, there's sharpness but don't expect to see fine detail in anything! Don't look for color accuracy as faces appear an unnatural tint and some colors seem to bloom a bit too much. This is pretty much what I saw from the HD DVD I owned. Bottom line FIELD OF DREAMS is very much in need of a new master taken from a better film element. Hopefully Universal will revisit this film down the road with a proper presentation. Let's see if the audio can rescue this baby. The Verdict: not really. I had the HD DVD and really there is no tangible improvement. You may hear a bit better dynamics to the score, a little more to the ambience but not much if any. Having seen both the HD DVD and the BD, i'd say that if you are really happy with the HD DVD, just stick with it. It's not a tangible upgrade. If you don't have it on hidef media and love the film, buy it for sure!

    #16 of 16 OFFLINE   Nicholas Martin

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    Posted May 27 2009 - 03:45 PM

    I've only had the original non-anamorphic DVD. Talk about being a bit behind.

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