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Blu-ray Review I Am Ali Blu-ray Review (1 Viewer)

Kevin EK

Senior HTF Member
May 9, 2003
I Am Ali Blu-ray Review

I Am Ali rope-a-dopes its story onto Blu-ray, with an edition that gives this celebration of Muhammad Ali a good high definition presentation, but cannot escape the film’s lack of depth. Clare Lewins’ examination of Ali’s life and career includes a healthy amount of film and audio of Ali speaking his mind, but there’s unfortunately very little substance presented. Fans of Muhammad Ali will enjoy the visits with his family and the tapes we hear of him talking to his daughters over the phone, but even they will wonder about the deeper issues that this movie fails to examine.

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Studio: Universal

Distributed By: N/A

Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DTS, French 5.1 DTS, German 5.0 DD, Other

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Dutch, Portuguese, Other

Rating: PG

Run Time: 1 Hr. 52 Min.

Package Includes: Blu-ray, Digital Copy, UltraViolet

Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)

Region: ABC

Release Date: 11/11/2014

MSRP: $26.98

The Production Rating: 2/5

The life and career of Muhammad Ali is one that could provide material for several great documentaries. As a boxer and a celebrity, Ali has always been a larger-than-life figure. His battles inside the ring are still talked about, more than 50 years after he first grabbed the spotlight and audaciously declared himself the Greatest. His conversion to Islam, his refusal to be drafted, his multiple comebacks in and out of the ring have already inspired multiple films and books. It’s fair to say that Ali demanded to write his own history, and that we have a living record of it in all the tapes that exist of his fights, public appearances and even his private discussions with his family. If anything, it’s ironic that Ali would find himself suffering from a debilitating illness like Parkinson’s, to the point that the most loquacious boxer in history has literally been robbed of his voice. So the news that Clare Lewins had crafted a new documentary called I Am Ali, making use of many previously unheard tapes of Ali with his family, initially grabbed my attention for the potential to reach below the surface and understand a lot more about Ali the man as opposed to the public figure. Sadly, I Am Ali squanders that opportunity. Even with a running time of nearly two hours, the movie spends much of its time making Ali out to be one of the nicest and most decent men you could ever meet, rather than examining the reality of his life and career. More than that, the movie actually gets its facts wrong in multiple areas. Yes, it’s a nice thing to see and hear Ali in his prime, and to hear some fun moments with him and his daughters, but where’s the context? Where’s the rest of the story? Why are we only getting to hear part of the truth, and sometimes not even that?SPOILERS: The movie takes pains to extensively interview Veronica Porsche, Ali’s third wife and the mother of two of his seven children. She talks convincingly of her affection for Ali, and how great he was with their daughters. Which is great stuff, particularly as the movie presents tapes Ali would make of his phone calls to his daughters, presenting him in the light of being a doting father rather than the brash fighter fans would remember. And that’s all well and good, but where’s the discussion of the other three wives? Why wasn’t Ali’s current wife Lonnie interviewed, particularly if this was going to be such a complimentary documentary? Or if there were issues about having this or that person appear, why was this not examined? The movie goes farther, to show some of the legendary conflict between Ali and Joe Frazier, including their notorious scuffle on the set of a talk show with Howard Cosell. But then the movie really jumps over the line and has Ali’s brother assert something that is absolutely false. According to this documentary, Ali and Frazier resolved their long-running feud before Frazier died. According to the historical record, Ali and Frazier never reconciled. Ali would occasionally make moves toward apologizing for his admittedly terrible behavior toward Frazier – but he would never say it directly to Frazier. He would apologize to one of Frazier’s family members, or to a reporter. But never to Frazier himself, and that’s the key. I could go on further about these kinds of problems, but I think I’ve made my point. This movie, in the end, is simply a friendly walk through some of the highlights of Ali’s life and career, presenting him in nearly an angelic light that frankly does a disservice to that life and career. It’s beautifully presented, including some great songs and a few great passages from Thomas Newman’s great score for Road to Perdition, but there’s just no real substance here.I Am Ali was released on November 11th on Blu-ray and DVD. The Blu-ray includes a high-definition transfer of the documentary, along with a little more than 20 minutes of additional interview material. The packaging includes instructions for downloading a digital copy. (The DVD is not included with the Blu-ray in the packaging.)

Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA

I Am Ali is presented in a 1.78:1 1080p AVC encode (@ an average 28 mbps) that presents the documentary in as much detail as the footage can provide. Some of the material is modern day interviews or reenactments of a drive through the desert and such, and these sequences are beautifully rendered here. Flesh tones are accurate, particularly considering that we’re looking at a wide variety of tones, not only due to ethnicity but due to some of the interview subjects’ age and the sheer amount of time they’ve spent in the sun in places like Las Vegas. Other sections of the movie are inevitably comprised of old black and white or color footage from Ali’s historic fights and appearances, or of movies of him with his family. These vary wildly in quality, but that’s not a function of this transfer – what we’re seeing is about as good a quality as we could possibly get here.

Audio Rating: 4/5

I Am Ali has an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix (@ an average 3.0 mbps) that mostly serves to present the various interviews in the front channel and place the many songs and scoring moments in all the channels. As this is an international release, DTS 5.1 mixes in Spanish, French, German, and Brazilian Portuguese are also included.

Special Features Rating: 2/5

I Am Ali comes with five short featurettes, totaling out to a little more than 22 minutes of additional interview material.Fighter – (3:19, 1080p) – This section of interview material includes several friends and admirers discussing Ali’s various fights and strategies. Kris Kristofferson and Karl Malone are among the guys who appear here, but not in the actual documentary on the rest of the disc.Brother – (3:56, 1080p) – This featurette goes into Ali’s refusal to be drafted into the Vietnam War.Lover – (4:14, 1080p) – This featurette discusses Ali’s relationship with his fans.Father – (5:48, 1080p) – This featurette predictably has three of Ali’s children talking affectionately about their relationship with theirfather.The Music – (4:49, 1080p) – This featurette covers the musical score created by Simon Bass and several musicians at a recording studio in London, specifically designed to evoke the feeling of the 60s and 70s.Digital/Ultraviolet Copy – The packaging has an insert that contains instructions for downloading a digital or ultraviolet copy of the movie. Subtitles are available in English, Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Swedish, Danish, Finnish, Dutch, Norwegian and Brazilian Portuguese for the film itself, as well as for the featurettes. A standard chapter menu is included for quick reference. I note that this disc is an international pressing, as the initial menu defaults to a screen displaying the multiple language options, and the main menu is presented in the international style – using several icons with no actual words.

Overall Rating: 2/5

I Am Ali is a sadly wasted opportunity. On the one hand, Clare Lewins has assembled a fair amount of footage of Muhammad Ali telling his own story, including moments from his relationship with his daughters. But on the other, she’s badly missed a chance to really examine the man behind the legends. Rather than actually dig into the material, she’s chosen to lionize him as some kind of a saint. That’s not documentary examination – it’s fan adulation. And it frankly does no justice to Ali or his story.

Reviewed By: Kevin EK

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