PictureFriday Night Lights is presented in a crystal clear 2.35:1 aspect ratio anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfer. Detail is pretty damn good, even during the frantic hand-held moments, long shots and aerial stadium sequences. There is no noticeable softness and no sign of edge enhancement - the picture looking fabulous throughout. There is very little grain, only apparent during some of the dusk shots and the colour scheme is quite broad and luscious, despite a slight tint to the picture to make it look slightly old. Blacks are remarkably solid, providing some great shadowing. There is simply no print damage and the transfer makes the movie look very good indeed.
SoundThe main audio mix is a superb Dolby Digital 5.1 track that really swamps your living room right from the get-go, with some superb and extremely motivational music tracks throughout - pervading the whole speaker array. Above all of the dialogue, the music stands out, with the emphasis on some rousing songs and a powerful score. That said, the dialogue is never less than clear, offering some good directionality. There are a few nice effects - most notably the thunderous sporting clashes - but the majority of the bass and surround usage comes from either the crowd cheers or the soundtrack, although the surrounds remain nominally active throughout. Overall it is an extremely engaging audio track.
ExtrasFirst up we get a full-length audio commentary with the director Peter Berg and the author of the novel that the movie was based on, Buzz Bissinger. Since they are cousins, you can instantly see how this project came together and from the friendly buddy-buddy chat here we understand how it all worked. They praise each other, break down the scenes and characters, talk about the inspiration and the reality behind the scenes and still find time to have a good laugh. It is a good commentary which, if you like the film, easily has enough in it to warrant a listen.
There are ten purportedly action-packed deleted scenes which are largely anything but, mostly just unnecessarily extending scenes already in the film. There are extended speeches, a couple of new conversations, a little extended game-play, some more training and a longer closing scene between the team-mates. Overall though, you can see why these twenty minutes of extra footage were cut from the perfectly-paced final cut.
Next up we get the Director, Peter Berg, discussing one particular scene from the movie for a brief sixty seconds. He explains that it is the burger restaurant scene that was specially commissioned because the studios did not like the frenetic first half hour of the original cut. This was employed to slow it down - and it clearly worked because the pacing is spot on. Following his brief explanation, we get to see the scene he is talking about.
The Player Cam Featurette runs at four minutes and gives us a whirlwind montage of behind the scenes footage of the main players on set, including the director. Most of it just involves them practicing or playing other games to keep themselves busy and whilst this is not devoid of entertainment, it is a little pointless.
Tim McGraw: Off the Stage is a six minute featurette about the comedian who plays the drunk and abusive father (an ex-football star) in the movie. The director explains that he did not really know much about the guy, the producer talks about his character's background and McGraw discusses taking his talents to the Big Screen. I'm not sure whether either the actor or the character need this much special attention, but for fans this will be an interesting addition.
The Story of the 1988 Permian Panthers is a twenty-four minute documentary that features brief clips with the director, cast and crew talking about the sport, the movie and the book that it was based on. There are a few too many clips from the main movie, all of which are unnecessary if you've just watched the movie but this is still an informative little featurette - particularly when it starts to focus on the real footballers the characters are based on.
Lastly there is another one of those annoying trailers for the Universal Mediterranea Resort. These things are being put on all the recent Universal discs and have absolutely nothing to do with the movie whose disc they parasitically inhabit.
VerdictFriday Night Lights is a movie all about American football at high-school and, whilst it still lacks appeal to a broader audience, it is remarkably faithful to the sport and should please the many fans out there. The video and audio presentation are simply amazing and the extras are plentiful and worth exploring. If you're into American football, there probably isn't a better movie out there and if you like sports movies then you should definitely give this a rental.
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