Blue Chips Studio: Paramount Year: 1994 Rated: PG-13 Length: 107 Minutes Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1 English Subtitles Closed Captioned Special Features: None S.R.P.: $14.99, USD Release Date: March 29, 2005 Screenwriter Ron Shelton (Bull Durham, White Men Can’t Jump, Tin Cup) has made a living writing sports films. Blue Chips goes beyond the game of college hoops and indicts big-school NCAA graft, as well as providing a look at the sport itself. Though familiar territory for Shelton, Blue Chips is a bit of a departure for director William Friedkin. He handles the subject well, however, and provides some excellent game footage that pulls you into the action. Nick Nolte is coach Pete Bell, a man known for running a clean program. After experiencing his first losing season, he comes under terrific pressure from the “friends of the program” to get back on top, by whatever means necessary. Refusing to pay his athletes, he goes on a cross country trek in search of the next college hoops star. He lines up a great front line... but when one of the athletes asks for cash, Bell begins to question his ethics. Seeking guidance from his athletic director (played by Celtic great Bob Cousy), he is told merely, “I know nothing... I don’t want any part of this.” Reluctantly, Bell goes to see a rich “friend of the program” named “Happy” (J.T. Walsh). Happy, getting Bell’s okay, begins to buy athletes in ways that leave no paper trail to him or to the program. The cash awards lead to a winning season, but at a great cost. The film is compelling, if predictable. Performances are good, overall. Game footage is outstanding. But perhaps the most interesting bit about the film is the long list of hoops personalities that appear in the film, either as themselves or as another character. These people include: Shaquille O’Neal, Anfernee Hardaway, Bob Cousy, Larry Bird, Bobby Knight, Rick Pitino, Dick Vitale and others. Non-hoops actors include, in supporting roles, Mary McDonnell, Ed O’Neill, Alfre Woodard, and Louis Gossett, Jr. If I could only pick one film about basketball, it wouldn’t be Blue Chips. Shelton’s streetball film, White Men Can’t Jump is a more entertaining film. Then, of course, there’s David Anspaugh’s Hoosiers, perhaps the best hoops film ever. Blue Chips pulls in at third. The Transfer This is a beautiful transfer. Brought to you in anamorphically enhanced 1.85:1, the picture is sharp and detailed, with only a hint of ringing in only those areas where there is a sharp change in contrast (such as building against sky). Other than this occasional ringing, there are no other visible artifacts of note. Color is beautifully saturated, delivering bold, neutral colors throughout. Contrast is high, with strong black levels and restrained highlights. Shadow detail is good. The print is immaculate, almost completely free of defects. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack really delivers the goods. Frequency response is good, if slightly lacking in low bass response. Channel separation and soundfield directionality is outstanding, especially in game sequences. You hear players all around you. P.A. sounds and crowd noise can be heard from all directions. It sounds as if you’re standing on the sidelines for the game. Dialog is always clear and understandable, though a few scenes exhibit a sort of hollowness in the dialog. This seems to be in the original audio acquired on location. The soundtrack is free of hiss. For an 11 year old sports film, you can’t ask for much better than this, in terms of A/V quality. Special Features There are no special features. Final Thoughts Bargain priced and with a good transfer, hoops fans should be pleased with this Paramount release.