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Blu-ray Review McFarland, USA Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Matt Hough, May 25, 2015.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
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    XenForo Template McFarland, USA Blu-ray Review

    Niki Caro’s McFarland, USA is another sports movie based on fact featuring an underdog team struggling through conflicts and difficult circumstances to emerge triumphant. This time, it’s not a football, baseball, basketball, wrestling, or hockey team that’s coming from nothing but rather a cross country track team, and while the film is beautifully produced, well-acted, and decently directed, no amount of fine performance or directorial style can disguise its basic predictability: it’s a story we’ve seen in its bare outline a hundred times before, and there is nothing about the presentation here that distinguishes it from the many others which have preceded it. It’s very good, even inspiring in its emotional content, but some may not choose to trod this same sports path one more time.


    Cover Art


    Studio: Disney

    Distributed By: N/A

    Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC

    Aspect Ratio: 2.39.1

    Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD, Other

    Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, Portuguese, Other

    Rating: PG

    Run Time: 2 Hr. 9 Min.

    Package Includes: Blu-ray, Digital Copy

    keep case in a slipcover

    Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)

    Region: ABC

    Release Date: 06/02/2015

    MSRP: $39.99




    The Production Rating: 3.5/5

    After an accident in a high school locker room caused by frustration with his indifferent football players, Coach Jim White (Kevin Costner) is dismissed from his position and can only find a teaching and coaching job in McFarland, California, one of the poorest townships in America. While he has no camaraderie with the school’s football coach, Jim learns of a newly formed cross country competition for the state starting in 1987, and noticing that several of the high school’s males think nothing of running to and from the fields before and after school to assist their parents in picking fruit, vegetables, and nuts, he cherry picks seven boys and begins training them. At first the parents find their boys' training an imposition on the boys’ working hours, but once they start achieving real results, the town begins to rally behind them hoping they can qualify for the state championships.

     

    Based on a true story, Christopher Cleveland, Bettina Gilois, and Grant Thompson’s screenplay gives us insight into the growing sense of teamwork and respect for their coach that all teams must foster if they want to become champions. The McFarland boys and their families take some time uneasily learning to trust their earnest, somewhat naïve coach though the script does tend to paint Jim White as too saintly, and we only get snatches into the complicated lives of these struggling families. Still, even with such helter-skelter treatment of these families’ dynamics, we still are won over to rooting for the boys: the three gregarious Diaz brothers (Ramiro Rodriguez, Rafael Martinez, Michael Aguero) and their take-charge mama (Diana Maria Riva), the brooding Thomas Valles (Carlos Pratts) who’s the team’s standout runner, the overly confident Johnny Sameniego (Hector Duran) and even the two members of the team whose personalities aren’t deftly defined: Johnny Ortiz’s Jose and Sergio Avelar’s Victor. But the writers’ glossing over family dynamics also extends to White’s own family: supportive wife Cheryl (Maria Bello) and his two daughters (Morgan Saylor, Elsie Fisher). Of course, it’s easy to get behind such underdogs when everyone they face in competition from coaches to players sneer condescendingly at them as unworthy of donning track shoes, another weakness in the script by too often painting things as too rosy or too ugly. Director Niki Caro doesn’t quite establish the exhausting nature of the multi-mile runs over rough, even mountainous terrain (only in the championship finals do we get a glimpse of how truly draining the sport is on even the most physically fit), and since the winner of each competition is established by the placements of the top five members of each team, it’s nearly impossible to set-up down-to-the-wire finishes that one can have in other sports.

     

    Always good at playing the earnest, committed kind of person, Kevin Costner excels with the role of Jim White, sometimes hot-headed, sometimes neglectful or thoughtless but always meaning to do what’s right and constantly learning from his mistakes. As the team’s most talented individual with a troubled home life, Carlos Pratts is likewise quite effective. In fact, all of the actors playing the runners offer very worthy and believable performances. Maria Bello as White’s wife doesn’t have a lot to do except stand on the sidelines and be supportive, but she’s a sunny, positive presence. Diana Maria Riva is a delight as the take-charge Diaz materfamilias. Valente Rodriguez as the firm high school principal and Danny Mora as a kindly store owner both add lots of local color to the film.



    Video Rating: 4.5/5  3D Rating: NA

    The movie’s 2.39:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully presented in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. It’s a beautiful film-like transfer (shot in 35mm, it should look like film) with outstanding sharpness (you’ll see all of the crinkles in Costner’s now leathery countenance) and well-controlled color that despite some vivid greens and reds is never in danger of oversaturation and offers believable skin tones. Contrast has been consistently achieved, and black levels are very good. Subtitles are used occasionally when characters are speaking Spanish; they’re in white and are very easy to read. The movie has been divided into 24 chapters.



    Audio Rating: 4.5/5

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix offers excellent use of the surround channels especially for moments with vehicles panning across and through the soundfield which offers great depth and richness to the aural experience. Dialogue has been well recorded and has been placed in the center channel. Antonio Pinto’s guitar-based score gets wonderful spread through the fronts and rears.



    Special Features Rating: 2.5/5

    McFarland Reflections (8:29, HD): star Kevin Costner and the real-life people portrayed in the movie reminisce about that 1987 championship and what new horizons Coach White’s efforts offered them as young men (these same real-life personalities are featured in the coda to the film as we learn what happened to each of the major participants in real life).

     

    “Juntos” Music Video (3:25, HD): performed by singer Juanes.

     

    Inspiring McFarland (2:02, HD): a brief vignette with director Niki Caro, star Kevin Costner, and the real Jim White talking about the film’s story and themes.

     

    Deleted/Extended Scenes (8:10, HD): six scenes which may be watched individually or in montage.

     

    Promo Trailers (HD): Inside Out, Aladdin.

     

    Digital Copy: code sheet enclosed in the case.



    Overall Rating: 3.5/5

    There may not be many surprises in McFarland, USA, but that doesn’t mean the film doesn’t engage and even inspire one to the possibilities awaiting those who persevere. The Blu-ray disc offers a rich visual and auditory experience for those who wish to rent or buy it.


    Reviewed By: Matt Hough


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  2. Virgoan

    Virgoan Supporting Actor

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    The doldrums seem to be upon us. You've given us reviews of many great films, but lately your lineup seems like a lineup of ho-hum, at best.


    I've been waiting to read your review of "Hombre"...but then, the Twilight Time releases seem to be missing from the review pages (and only Robert Harris seems to be getting TT copies, it seems, which is great, but he doesn't go into depth as the HTF reviewers tend to do).


    Any idea what's going on?
     
  3. Mark Booth

    Mark Booth Cinematographer
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    McFarland, USA is a terrific movie! We'll be showing it in the Booth Bijou Garage Theater in a couple of weeks!


    Mark
     
  4. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
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    The review copies came today. Hombre should be up in a couple of hours.
     

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