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.
VIDEO QUALITY: 3/5
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.
AUDIO QUALITY: 3/5
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.
SPECIAL FEATURES: 3/5
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.
May 21, 2009.