Boyz n the Hood comes to US Region Free Blu-ray with a 1080p High Definition video presentation in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen, which certainly does the modern urban classic justice. Detail is generally very good – which just about the kind of level of softness you might expect from a fairly low budget production made some 20 years ago. There’s no edge enhancement, however, and no noticeable DNR, strong object detail – and the film’s solid grain structure has been left intact, giving it that suitably filmic look. The colour scheme is also quite well rendered, although the colours themselves are one of the biggest things that date the production so much –that Cosby / early Fresh Prince style of attire just hasn’t aged very well at all. Still, this does not stop decent presentation of the wild assortment of colours. Black levels are good, allowing for decent shadowing, but they are not quite as deep and solid as you might want from them. Overall, although this is far from demo quality, it’s a perfectly serviceable video presentation for this kind of material, and a far better one than Boyz has ever previously received.
To accompany the movie on its (unofficial) 20th Anniversary release, we get a solid DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which does pretty well given the aforementioned limitations (age and budget), and the inherent restrictions this kind of subject matter. Dialogue-driven, the script is presented clearly and coherently, dominating the frontal array wherever appropriate. I say dialogue-driven, but the piece does make room for two big other mainstays – on the effects front it’s gunfire; and in terms of the score we get plenty of thumping Hip-hop tracks. Effects also bring us some nice atmospheric moments, the streets often coming to life with the hustle and bustle and allowing for some decent surround coverage. And the gunshots merely punctuate this, but do certainly show the far end of the spectrum, contributing to the LFE output too – which, on the whole, is underlying throughout, but is sometimes also a little too heavy-handed. Again, not standout presentation, but still pretty damn good considering the source material, and certainly better than the movie has ever seen before.
This release, which marks the 20th Anniversary of the movie but has no ‘20th Anniversary’ banners or anything to advertise the fact, sports a fairly comprehensive selection of extras, with an all-new retrospective documentary, although little else appears to be all that different from the 2003 DVD edition (which, oddly, actually did sport an ‘Anniversary’ banner, despite the fact that 12th Anniversary seems an odd number to go for).
Audio Commentary with Director John Singleton provides us with an informative, often insightful, and indisputably personal look at the background to this production, with Singleton talking about the influence on the movie – not just in cinematic history, but also in the scope of his own film work; which was kickstarted by the massive success and critical acclaim of this piece. He talks us through the cast, discussing the amazing power that Ice Cube displayed in his debut work, and noting the key players who went on to become (relatively) big players in Hollywood. Obviously a project spawned from personal experiences, he often relates the end result to those episodes in an anecdotal format which is both revealing and, at times, shocking. A great accompaniment to the main feature.
The Enduring Significance of Boyz N the Hood is the only new extra, a retrospective documentary which has the director, as well as many of the cast and crew members, return to discuss the movie some 20 years on from its release. Running at nearly half an hour in length, it’s great to hear from so many familiar faces, who can reflect upon this project which marked a high point in the careers of many of them – however early on it may have been for some.
Friendly Fire: Making Of An Urban Legend, found on previous SD-DVD special editions, is a weight three-quarter-hour documentary which covers all the bases, only with a marginally different perspective to the above, new, piece. It talks about the story’s factual inception, the comparisons with life on the streets and the power of the performances and the great cast; offering up behind the scenes footage of the movie being shot, as well as plenty of cast and crew interview segments which further expand on the production.
Deleted Scenes run at four and a half minutes in length and comprise two scenes, both from the latter half of the movie. The first one (two bits from the same removed section of the film) feature Tre and his mother (Cuba Gooding Jr. and Angela Bassett), and are actually pretty good. The second one has Furious (Larry Fishburne) in a rare scene talking to Doughboy (Ice Cube), and is quite good as well – I think it would have worked even better had it been left in as a counterpoint to the confrontation between Furious and son (which would have followed straight on from it).
Audition Footage offers up auditions for Ice Cube, Angela Bassett, Morris Chestnut and Tyra Ferrell, and is a great way to see the potential that all of these actors brought to the table – even so early on in their careers. Presented in fairly poor quality (there’s even a warning), we get all four auditions shown in four-way split-screen, and you can flip between them to hear the associated audio. They are all only about a minute in length, but are well worth checking out.
"Growin' Up In The Hood" from Compton’s Most Wanted runs at just under 5 minutes in length.
"Just Ask Me To" from Tevin Campbell is just over 4 minutes long and is absolutely hilarious (unintentionally, of course).
Finally we get some Preview Trailers to round off the disc.
The greatest Spike Lee film that Spike Lee never made, John Singleton’s Boyz n the Hood remains both a telling and acutely personal expose into poverty-stricken life on the streets back home - a place where nobody was looking because everybody was too busy focusing on foreign lands and going to war. Made when he was just 22, Singleton's first-hand retelling of this way of life plays out like a flip-side to coming-of-age classics like Stand By Me; or as a modern, urban nod to Once Upon a Time in America; infusing the bitingly frank script with honest, authentic performances from a whole host of soon-to-be-famous actors. Boyz in the Hood is powerful and poignant, and feels just as relevant now as it was twenty years ago, which really is quite a sobering thought. Highly recommended.
On Region Free US Blu-ray we get solid video and audio, as well as a comprehensive collection of all the previously-seen extras, together with a solid new documentary. Seemingly identical to the upcoming UK Blu-ray (which has 20th Anniversary written all over it, unlike this title), you have no reason to wait to pick up this release. Honestly, if you've never seen Boyz n the Hood, then now is the time to rectify the situation.
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