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HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Do The Right Thing - Recommended



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#1 of 41 Kevin EK

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Posted June 26 2009 - 05:36 PM


 


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Studio: Universal
Film Year: 1989
Film Length: 2 hours
Genre: Urban Drama/Comedy

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

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

Audio:
English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 @ an average 4.0 mbps
Spanish DTS 5.1
French DTS 5.1

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Film Rating: R (Language, Sexuality, Mild Violence)






Release Date: June 30, 2009

Film Rating

Starring: Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Richard Edson, Giancarlo Esposito, Spike Lee, Bill Nunn, John Turturro and John Savage

Produced, Written and Directed by: Spike Lee




Do The Right Thing is probably the most significant film in the body of work that has come from Spike Lee since his graduation from film school in the 1980s. His first non-school film, She’s Gotta Have It immediately announced a sensibility and style that practically jumped off the screen. His third film, Do The Right Thing augments that style with a level of confidence and professionalism he had not previously demonstrated. The story is a simple one: We spend one day in the life of one block in a primarily black neighbourhood in Bed-Stuy. As it happens to be one of the hottest days of the year, tempers run short and people begin to grate on each other in ways that normally wouldn’t happen. And things escalate from a series of back-and-forth racial insults into physical confrontation and go farther until the primary location of the story is literally in flames.

As I look over that description, I realize I may be giving the impression that the entire film is a polemic on racial violence. And there is some truth in that idea, but it would diminish the many other qualities on display here. In telling this story, Spike Lee has presented a clean, almost dreamlike version of this neighbourhood, and he has stylized the interactions between everyone with something approaching a hypnotic rhythm in the dialogue. And in my first viewing of this film back in 1989, I was struck by how even-handed the presentation appears; the motivations of each of the characters are made fairly clear, as well as each person’s strengths and weaknesses. The notion of people trying to do the right thing is explicitly stated early on by the film’s conscience, Da Mayor (played by Ossie Davis). And at the same time, there is a real edge on display here. Lee starts things off with a quiet presentation of Branford Marsalis, and then blasts into an in-your-face dance routine by Rosie Perez to the tune of Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power”. (“Fight The Power” is then used as an anthem for the rest of the film, as heard from the boom box of a character who figures prominently in how things develop.) If that doesn’t serve as enough of a wake-up call, Lee plants references throughout to various racial issues – from the metaphor of John Savage running over Giancarlo Esposito’s new Air Jordans to a scene being played with a graffiti backdrop of “Tawana Told The Truth!” Having listened to Lee’s commentaries on this disc, as well as his statements in all of the special features, I am forced to admit that my reaction from 1989 did not match with Lee’s intentions. He makes very clear what he feels this film is saying, and what he thinks of the characters in it. I leave it to the readers to decide for themselves if they agree.

Do The Right Thing has been released in the past on multiple video formats, but it sees its first Blu-ray release in time for its 20th Anniversary. The Blu-ray receives a 1080p AVC transfer that brings out a lot of the rich primary colors on display throughout the movie. The Blu-ray also gets a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix that mostly lives in the front channels, but provides some directional effects from time to time. The extra features here combine some new material (a new commentary by Spike Lee, some deleted scenes presented in high definition and a new series of interviews with the cast) with the features found on the 2001 Criterion DVD for this title. (a group commentary, etc.) I will detail these features in the appropriate section, but it’s safe to say that the new features do add both valuable information and perspective to one’s experience of the film. I have a feeling that Spike Lee fans will likely pick up this title one way or another, but I recommend it as a purchase to more casual fans as well – the materials here serve both as a “film school in a box” and as an instructive look into how it is that films can reflect their times and the people in them.


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AUDIO QUALITY

Do The Right Thing is presented in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix in English, as well as standard DTS mixes in Spanish and French. The English mix definitely has some oomph, particularly in the opening title dance sequence and any other time that Public Enemy is heard. One sequence in the film with duelling boom boxes will give your home theatre a pretty good workout, with both directional effects (as each box’s volume gets turned up) and active subwoofer work. Again, any time that Public Enemy is heard, the soundtrack really jumps. Aside from that, most of the time the dialogue sits in the front channels and the rear channels play either score or mild atmospheric effects.



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IN THE END...

Do The Right Thing should be part of the collection of any DVD enthusiast who is interested in Spike Lee’s contribution to cinema, as well as anyone who wants to get a thorough look at one of the most controversial films of the 1980s. The film itself still holds up, partially due to the dreamlike haze that much of the film plays in, but it also still has a visceral impact, particularly once the racial slurs and the fists start flying. The Blu-ray edition of the movie includes a solid new transfer and some worthwhile new extras, including an illuminating new commentary with Spike Lee. I recommend it for purchase.

Kevin Koster
June 26, 2009.

: 3/5 http://static.hometh...milies_star.gif">
: Edited by Kevin EK - 7/2/2009 at 12:27 am GMT
Edited by Kevin EK - 7/2/2009 at 12:29 am GMT
Edited by Kevin EK - 7/2/2009 at 12:30 am GMT

#2 of 41 Marc Colella

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Posted June 27 2009 - 02:12 AM

I don't understand how this can get a "Recommended" review.

The color timing is all wrong in this release. There's supposed to be an orange/yellow hue that conveys the heat in the film, but it's been totally stripped out of this release. The Criterion release has it and that transfer was approved by the film's cinematographer.

DVDBeaver has a comparison between the Criterion and the Blu-Ray releases.

This "adjustment" is not much different than releasing it in the wrong aspect ratio.

This was definitely not the film I originally saw all those years ago.

#3 of 41 Robert Crawford

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Posted June 27 2009 - 02:56 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Colella
I don't understand how this can get a "Recommended" review.

The color timing is all wrong in this release. There's supposed to be an orange/yellow hue that conveys the heat in the film, but it's been totally stripped out of this release. The Criterion release has it and that transfer was approved by the film's cinematographer.

DVDBeaver has a comparison between the Criterion and the Blu-Ray releases.

This "adjustment" is not much different than releasing it in the wrong aspect ratio.

This was definitely not the film I originally saw all those years ago.
Have you actually watched this BRD or are you strictly going by what DVDBeaver has stated?






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#4 of 41 Kevin EK

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Posted June 27 2009 - 05:14 AM

I certainly noticed a very strong orange/yellow hue at times, in addition to the scenes that had solid red backdrops, like the cornerman scenes. Regardless of the impression from the screencaps at DVDBeaver, there are still plenty of places in the film where there is a noticeable filtration. (One example is the opening moment with Da Mayor waking up in the heat.) The point of color psychology was not simply the application of the filter, as Dickerson makes clear in his statements on the Criterion commentary and in the documentaries.

For me, this most definitely is the film I originally saw 20 years ago.

Again, I'm watching the film on a 40" set, but I did not have a problem here.

In looking at the DVDBeaver review and the DVD Talk discussion, I can see that some people are pre-judging this title based on the screencaps. I strongly recommend actually watching the title - renting it if you wish, before doing that.

That said, I will add a note into the video portion of the review as a qualifier. I am also adding back in a note I intended regarding Spike Lee's new commentary - that it appears to be slightly out of sync by about 1 second. There were several places where he appeared to to be discussing something that hadn't happened quite yet, and then a moment later, I could see it onscreen. I can't tell if this was due to him anticipating things or if it is truly out of sync, and the amount is close to negligible, but it did strike me at times.

My recommendation of this title wasn't just for the picture. It was also for the inclusion of the Criterion extras (albeit without the "Fight the Power" video and Chuck D. commentary) and the addition of the new ones. It was also due to the extensive nature of those new and old extras and to the significance of this film in Spike Lee's filmography. People new to this, particularly film students, absolutely should see this film, and this Blu-ray contains a lot of material that will make it worth their time.

I suppose we could also ask Robert Harris about this. I look to him as the expert on these matters. His post on this subject didn't mention an issue of filtration - he was seeing something else that didn't work for him - some kind of electronic edge or "force field" visible in some shots, but nothing along the lines of a complete color timing disaster.

#5 of 41 Robert Crawford

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Posted June 27 2009 - 06:55 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin EK

In looking at the DVDBeaver review and the DVD Talk discussion, I can see that some people are pre-judging this title based on the screencaps. I strongly recommend actually watching the title - renting it if you wish, before doing that.
That's been a major beef of mine for 10 or more years now, but certain people keep relying on them as an accurate judge to what they may or may not see without actually watching the moving video.





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#6 of 41 Martin Teller

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Posted June 27 2009 - 07:51 AM

I considered cancelling my pre-order, as the Beaver screencaps definitely do NOT look like the film *I* saw 20 years ago. It looks like a pleasant spring afternoon, not the hottest day of the year. But I decided to let my own eyes be the judge. I do wish Lee and/or Dickerson would make some kind of statement about it.

#7 of 41 Kevin EK

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Posted June 27 2009 - 08:28 AM

I noticed on another thread that posters were saying something about Spike Lee being at a release event, at which they intended to specifically ask him about this transfer. If he responds that he's very upset about it, then I'll take notice. And if Ernest Dickerson has the same reaction, it would get my attention.

#8 of 41 Vegas 1

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Posted June 30 2009 - 01:25 PM

Nice review Kevin, since I have the Criterion dvd I believe I will pass on this but I think one needs to at least give this a rent to make a fair judgement.
regards


#9 of 41 urbo73

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Posted July 01 2009 - 01:04 AM

I have it, and it the Criterion (supervised by Mr. Dickerson) looks different and resembles more of the color hue I saw the 4-5 times I went to see it in theaters (over the years, in special showings way past 1989, etc). This release looks very good, but the color is most definitely different. Wrong? Don't know - just very different. That orange was SO obvious in the theaters, my memory is not playing games, since I recall how different it looked. And the previous DVDs all looked the same.

Unless someone comes back and says that THIS is what the answer print lookes like, that all visual memories are wrong, or that Mr. Dickerson decided to change something here (even though he was not involved - a curious thing being this is the 20th anniversary), in my opinion, this is incorrect color. Is this another Dracula? Maybe - let's hope this is what was intended all along, but it's hard to believe. Those in the know please chime in.

Edited by urbo73 - 7/1/2009 at 04:59 pm GMT

#10 of 41 Simon Howson

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Posted July 01 2009 - 02:05 AM


Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert Crawford 

 
Quote:
Have you actually watched this BRD or are you strictly going by what DVDBeaver has stated?
The page has a comparison of the DVD and the Blu-ray. The Blu-ray has completely different colour timing. How you can reject this comparison out of hand I have no idea.

Which one looks closer to original prints, I don't know. But it is possible that the Blu-ray doesn't have the orange look, because the sorts of people currently buying Blu-rays wouldn't accept such a manipulated looking film.

On the DVD commentary Ernest Dickerson says his inspiration for the film was Powell and Pressberger Technicolor films like The Red Shoes and A Matter of Life and Death.





#11 of 41 urbo73

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Posted July 01 2009 - 05:04 AM

Interesting that Mr. Harris' review didn't mention any color difference - which IS obviously there (right or wrong):

http://new.hometheaterforum.com/forum/thread/288889/a-few-words-about-do-the-right-thing-in-blu-ray

There is no argument that there IS a major color difference. It's there. Like it was on Dracula. On Dracula we understood from Mr. Harris why the Blu-ray was the correct look. I'd like to understand that here. I have doubts this time though that Universal didn't just screw it up.


#12 of 41 Kevin EK

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Posted July 01 2009 - 07:04 AM

I have gone back and looked at the Criterion Laserdisc of this title (I'm one of THOSE people, I admit - I still keep a lot of my old Criterion Laserdiscs...).  Yes, there is a pronounced orange hue on the film on the Criterion Transfer.  Yes, it has a definite impact on the image - although I don't recall it being as pronounced when I saw the film in its original release 20 years ago.  The transfer, approved by Ernest Dickerson, was actually done for the laserdisc, and transfer was anamorphically enhanced for their 2001 DVD.  (They did several things for the DVD, including the anamorphic encoding and some additional video introductions and supplements.  Most of that material has been carried over for this one, as I have documented.)  

The transfer for this release appears to be in line with the prior Universal release, not the Criterion releases.  

I am curious, given the feedback here and on other forums, whether any of the people who have shown concern about the filter issue, took the time to ask Spike Lee about it during his signing at Barnes and Noble last night in NYC.


#13 of 41 ManW_TheUncool

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Posted July 01 2009 - 12:47 PM

I was all ready to buy this, but now, I'm not so sure anymore.  And like one or two others, I'm more inclined to think Universal messed up (yet) again on something like this thinking their target customers will prefer this.  That certainly would be nothing new w/ them.

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#14 of 41 Kevin EK

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Posted July 01 2009 - 05:16 PM

The real question, to my mind, is why there has been no comment from Spike Lee or Ernest Dickerson on the transfer, if it's this much of a problem.

Spike Lee has had numerous opportunities to sound off about this, and he's not known for being shy about issues like this.  In his public appearances, and in his commentary while watching this new transfer, he does not say anything about having a problem with the transfer or the presentation not being to his liking.   If I am wrong, and if there is some public statement about this from him, I would be very interested to hear it.  And I'd print a retraction as quick as can be, in that event. 

#15 of 41 ManW_TheUncool

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Posted July 01 2009 - 06:33 PM

NVM.  Just reread your review for the answer to my question. /img/vbsmilies/htf/biggrin.gif">

Anyway, I guess maybe the color timing diff is no big deal to him/them now (20 years later).

OTOH, there is that saying, "Trust the art.  Don't trust the artist."  Or some such...   <img alt=

Maybe this will be yet another case where they really should just offer both versions of the film (in one way or another).

_Man_

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#16 of 41 Kevin EK

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Posted July 01 2009 - 07:00 PM

Man,

I hear you, and agree with the idea about trusting the art not the artist.

Never have I had to deal with this issue so specifically as with this title.  As the review notes, I was really struck at how different the film is in my perception versus that of Spike Lee.  The movie I thought I was watching does not seem to be the film he clearly was making.

If you ask him or his sister, things like Mookie throwing the trash can have a different meaning and a different value than the one I assigned to it.  Out of respect for the artist, I have to admit that I must have been wrong on one level in terms of understanding what he was thinking.  But on the other hand, I totally disagree when Joie Lee says that Mookie isn't responsible for what happens next.

And of course, arguments like this are what the movie is all about anyway...

#17 of 41 Robert Crawford

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Posted July 01 2009 - 09:13 PM

I'll tell you later today when I actually watch my BRD of it unlike some of you that are criticizing without doing the same.  Also, you and I had this argument before about captures so we'll never agree about this issue.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Simon Howson View Post


The page has a comparison of the DVD and the Blu-ray. The Blu-ray has completely different colour timing. How you can reject this comparison out of hand I have no idea.

Which one looks closer to original prints, I don't know. But it is possible that the Blu-ray doesn't have the orange look, because the sorts of people currently buying Blu-rays wouldn't accept such a manipulated looking film.

On the DVD commentary Ernest Dickerson says his inspiration for the film was Powell and Pressberger Technicolor films like The Red Shoes and A Matter of Life and Death.



 


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#18 of 41 urbo73

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Posted July 02 2009 - 01:29 AM


Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin EK 

The real question, to my mind, is why there has been no comment from Spike Lee or Ernest Dickerson on the transfer, if it's this much of a problem.

Spike Lee has had numerous opportunities to sound off about this, and he's not known for being shy about issues like this.  In his public appearances, and in his commentary while watching this new transfer, he does not say anything about having a problem with the transfer or the presentation not being to his liking.   If I am wrong, and if there is some public statement about this from him, I would be very interested to hear it.  And I'd print a retraction as quick as can be, in that event. 
I thought the same thing, though I have not listened yet to the new commentary track yet. I just watched the film with the original soundtrack. Is it recorded when he is actually watching the Blu-ray transfer for sure? I too find it bizarre that he wouldn't say anything - wrong or right. Because as as we all agree, there is an obvious difference. He could have said - we'll on the Criterion it was too orangey and here we finally got it right. Or the other way around. But the latter would be weird to say. So? Very, very bizarre. Spike has chilled out a bit in the older age, and so has the hue of the film!


#19 of 41 Kevin EK

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Posted July 02 2009 - 03:05 AM

Based on the unfortunate exchange between Spike Lee and Clint Eastwood a couple of years ago, I'm not certain that much chilling out has happened.  And Spike's comments on the film fall right in line with the last pair of commentaries I heard of his - for Inside Man and 25th Hour.  He's quite up front about the issues that concern him.  He openly talks about some of the more uncomfortable moments, like the climactic confrontation between Sal and Radio Raheem, and how Danny Aiello initially refused to say the dialogue or do the blocking.  The former got taken care of when Giancarlo Esposito, at Lee's direction, threw a bunch of increasingly nasty epithets at Aiello, prompting the response you see on screen.  And the latter simply got changed.  On a funnier note, I appreciated one bit where Mookie and Vito are arguing about Roger Clemens and Dwight Gooden, and Mookie dismisses Clemens and proclaims Gooden the better player.  Lee, in the commentary, announces "I was wrong!"  Please let me know if you agree about the commentary being a second early in its timing.  It's a minor thing, but that's the kind of thing that can make me think I'm losing my mind while going over the materials.  (I remember Jackie Brown having a similar issue with its text commentary a few years back, but that was much more pronounced.)

Given that Spike Lee announces right off the bat that he's recording the commentary for the 20th Anniversary, and that he hasn't seen the film "in a while", I believe it's safe to say that he's watching the new transfer.  He also attended an anniversary screening and event, as he tags it on "February 26 in the Year of Our Lord 2009"), during which he taped the interviews used for the new retrospective.  In those materials, neither he nor Ernest Dickerson mentions having any issue with the transfer, which is part of the reason why I questioned the extent of the problem.  (When The French Connection Blu-ray hit, I remember the public argument between director and DP...)  At the same time, it appears to me in the retrospective documentary that the footage there HAS THE WARM FILTER...

#20 of 41 urbo73

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Posted July 02 2009 - 05:51 AM

OK, now I will have to listen to this commentary as soon as I can. Which won't be tonight since I'm going to see "Public Enemies". It sounds interesting, but still why no mention of the difference in color? A film about differences in race and color too! Now we're debating which color is right in the transfer! The irony!






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