Friday Blu-ray Review
'Friday' is presented in widescreen 1.85:1 with VC-1 1080p coding.
As this was a very low budget shoot, made back in 1995, I wasn't expecting too much in the way of stunning picture quality. While this will never be title that you whip out to show everyone the wonders of Blu-ray, an impressive job has been done with the transfer nonetheless. Facial close-ups are one of the most stunning attributes of this release and are remarkably well defined. Every aspect of the main characters visages' are clearly visible, such as the three small moles above Cube's left eye. Colouring is also spot on and very well saturated. The palette is both bold and varied, bringing South Central to life. For example, the vibrant pumpkin sheen of Big Worm's low rider, or the lush green of L.A suburbia are prime examples. There's also plenty of fine detail on show, such as the textures of clothing and the leathery skin of Smokey's chameleon. Contrast ratio and shadow detail are adequate but never really impress. There is plenty grain throughout but it's always organic and becomes unnoticeable (apart from a few indoor scenes) as the movie progresses.
Image quality can suffer in the poorly lit interior of Craig's abode and there were a couple of scenes of DVD quality noted, which was a disappointment; this is obviously a limitation of the original print. Long shots can suffer from incidental softness and most of the background objects are clear but never razor sharp. On the plus side I didn't notice any instances of DNR or edge enhancement, as exemplified by Craig's perfect greyscale, pinstriped shirt. This is a bit of a mixed bag in terms of picture quality with close ups and the brighter, outer scenes appearing well defined and vibrant, in comparison to the slightly softer indoor scenes and darker segments. Overall the former prevail and so while it's most definitely not perfect, an admirable job has been done with the low budget, poor quality original print.
'Friday' comes packed with a highly impressive 7.1 Dolby TrueHD surround track.
Right from the opening scenes the upgrade from the paltry stereo track found on previous DVD releases is evident. The track is very enveloping, with the sounds of police cars wailing and children shouting, seeping from every speaker. All of the ambient effects, such as dogs barking and the rapping of screen doors, can clearly be heard emanating from all four surround channels at various junctures. Vocals are crystal clear, never difficult to follow and are spread across the three front channels. All of the other effects, such as the crack of Smokey's car backfiring, gunfire, or the thwack of Deebo downing another opponent, are perfectly presented. There are also plenty audible nuances, such as the crackle and pop of a burning joint, which demonstrates the quality of this mix. Directionality is spot on and is equally distributed across all seven speakers, with pinpoint precision. The bass is not overly noticeable but that department is taken care of by the score.
The score, as is to be expected from a movie made by, and starring, gangster rap superstars, plays a major role in this movie. There's a nice selection of tunes from various rap contributors (Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Cypress Hill), as well as some soul and funk thrown in for good measure. Gray has also given some of the more predominant characters their own theme, such as Deebo's menacing shark-like undertones. The bass is very well weighted and pumps from the sub with a pleasing presence. The score bleeds from all four surround channels with various effects, such as decks scratching, rotating around the listening position. Stereo separation is also impeccable and the score always sits perfectly in the mix.
This track has obviously been very well engineered and it's a credit to Warner for including a 7.1 track on this release. While I really enjoyed the audio presentation and was pleasantly surprised by it, the lack of variation in ambient and other effects can make it seem limited at times. This problem is alleviated by the ever present and thoroughly enjoyable score, which really makes its presence felt and adds to the overall ambience with a busy track.
The majority of the extras on this release are a direct port from the offerings available on the New Line DVD release. The only exclusive feature is a brand new 1080i “making of” retrospective documentary. Unfortunately, this trend does not continue and the rest of the extras are presented in standard definition. There's also a brief (30sec) introduction by Ice Cube himself.
Q&A Interview with Director Gary Gray (SD 22mins) - In this questions and answers interview session, Gray elaborates on many aspects of the movie. He discusses everything from how he got the gig, budgetary constraints, working with Witherspoon, Cube and Tucker, as well as providing anecdotes and explaining some of the challenges he faced during filming. This is a highly revealing and informative feature.
Q&A Interview with Producer Patricia Charbonnet (SD 17mins) - In a similar format to Gray's interview, and equally as informative, Charbonnet also gives her thoughts on the movie. She provides background information on the production and monetary sides of the project, as well as explaining her own background and how she came to be the producer for 'Friday'. The impact of the movie and its appeal are also discussed.
'Friday: Straight Up' (HD 24mins) - This brand new feature for the BD release tells the story of how this movie came to be. Ice Cube speaks about how he wrote the script in sections of 10 pages or so, which he then duly posted to director F. Gary Gray. There's interviews with Cube, Gray and producer Helena Echegonga (as well as additional cast members), who all provide information on how they came together to make this low budget movie. There is some backstage footage included but the majority of the footage is from the movie itself, which contains some spoilers. Cube also speaks about the next two installments in the series but how they never really compared with the first. This is an interesting feature but 25% of it consists of footage from the movie itself.
Deleted Scenes (SD 14mins) - Included here are six deleted/alternate scenes (in unfinished quality) for your viewing pleasure. The four alternate scenes are very similar to the ones included in the theatrical version and add some extra amusement. The deleted scenes are more like alternative/extended shots to the ones featured on this extended BD release.
Music Videos (HD) - What movie starring gangster rappers would be complete without some music videos? Included here are “Friday” by Ice Cube and “Keep Their Heads Ringin” by Dr. Dre.
Trailers - Included here are two SD trailers for the movie.
'Friday' (1995) was directed by F. Gary Gray and was written by long time rap collaborators Ice Cube and DJ Pooh. At the time, Cube was a rap megastar and had enjoyed a long stint of success with seminal rap outfit NWA. He plays the lead role in the movie, the loser Craig. Fired from his job and with nothing to do, he spends the day getting wasted with his pal, Smokey. Things take a turn for the worst though, when Big Worm, the local drug dealer, comes looking for his money from the hapless duo. Chris Tucker plays the aforementioned, chronic smoking slacker (Smokey) and turns out a performance that would put Jim Carey to shame. He is completely over the top but also completely hilarious as the weed-toking, hyperactive maniac. Cube does an admirable job as Craig and the rest of the ensemble cast do a fine job portraying the inhabitants of the drug-infested South Central 'hood. It's a combination of the almost leisurely and casual manner in which Gray presents the material, in conjunction with the engaging performance from the key cast members, which makes this movie work. There are plenty of stoner/black comedies out there but 'Friday' remains the original and best.
The uncompressed 7.1 surround track, while an unusual inclusion by Warner, is a welcome one. The track has clearly been well mixed and is both enveloping and engaging. The weighty bass of the enjoyable score makes up for the poor bass presence in the rest of the presentation. Video quality is somewhat of a mixed bag, largely due to the budgetary nature of the shoot. Some of the scenes can suffer from softness but for the majority it's crisp and clear with some stunning facial close-ups on display. The extras package contains some interesting features, with bonus points for including a new documentary. Overall this is a very impressive package and the decision to include the extended version of this classic movie, means there is no better time to purchase than right now on BD.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £17.97
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