Unfortunately, despite the new Limited Edition moniker, The Big Lebowski does not look like it’s had much of an upgrade since its 2007 HD DVD release. That said, it is still a considerable upgrade over its SD-DVD predecessors, boasting a step up in terms of detail, colour representation and overall video representation of the material. It’s just a shame that it comes at the expense of unruly edge enhancement, some other thankfully infrequent digital issues, and a fair amount of softness throughout. The colour scheme, as stated, looks considerably better than before, but is still a little overblown and garish – even more so than was intended – and black levels are decent, thankfully showcasing no overt crush. With DNR wiping out a little more of the filmic grain than you maybe would have liked, and taking some of the detail along with it, this is a far from perfect visual presentation that is not really fitting of this great Coen Brothers film. It’s only with reluctance that I still concede that it marks an improvement over the DVDs, which, by default, qualifies it as an upgrade, albeit one unworthy of the title.
On the aural front things are much more positive, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track doing a stellar job at presenting the nuanced, varied material in the best possible light. Sure it’s quite a limited offering – the material itself of comparatively low-budget origin – but it still gets a decent presentation here, where the attention to detail is noteworthy. Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently throughout, largely emanating from – and dominating – the frontal array almost throughout the proceedings, although the excellently chosen soundtrack does well to provide accomplished accompaniment. Effects are more atmospheric than anything else; a smattering of car screeches and gunshots peppered throughout an otherwise ambient affair that relies on suitably presented environmental sounds to set the scene. Of course the bowling escapades – as you might only expect – play a highlight. With some decent surround use, a hint of directionality, and a nice bass element giving the LFE something to do, even if it is in the background somewhere, this is a marked upgrade for DVD owners, who should be pleasantly surprised by what they’ve done with this great little movie.
Although the previous SD-DVD releases of The Big Lebowski came boasting a whole host of extra features – all of which have been ported over here – we get yet more with this Limited Edition Blu-ray, which certainly lives up to the moniker. Identical, on the face of it, to the US release, the package itself is really quite lavish, with the case opening up to reveal a 12-page booklet that has all sorts of trivia and quotes and associated comments about the movie, from a brief and amusing storyline overview to cast and character dissection; articles on Jeff Bridges, on the real person who they based The Dude on, on Lebowski-Fest; a glimpse of the shooting script, a page dedicated to some of Jeff Bridges's photos from the set and a series of questions to test your knowledge of the film. It's a wonderful accompaniment for the film.
Mortimer Young, a mainstay on the releases of the Coen Brothers, gives us a suitably droll faux introduction to the piece, one of the ‘Forever Young’ series. Running at 5 minutes, this is a nice little taste of what’s to come, although I doubt many viewers will come to this release completely oblivious to the work of the Coen Brothers, and to their sense of humour.
U-Control Picture-in-Picture Options
Scene Companion – Watch behind-the-scenes footage, interviews and more during key scenes with this picture-in-picture companion. This video commentary gives you all the good stuff, and will be the first point of call for fans of the film interested in learning more about the production.
Mark It, Dude – This on-screen counter really ties the film together and keeps track of the “F-bombs”, “Dudes” and Lebowski-isms. A slightly pointless offering which is nonetheless tonally in-line with the film itself.
The Music of The Big Lebowski – Instantly identify the songs heard while watching the film and create a custom playlist. This text-based offering is far from as useful as you might have expected. Just hit Shazam instead.
Worthy Adversaries: What’s My Line? Trivia – Test your Lebowski knowledge with this interactive 1-2 player game that tests your recollection of key lines from the film: play as either The Dude or Walter.
The Dude’s Life is a 10 minute retrospective which includes relatively recent interview clips from all the main participants: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, John Turturro and Julianne Moore, talking about the movie and their experiences during the production.
The Dude Abides: The Big Lebowski Ten Years Later is a further, perhaps more explicitly titled retrospective offering, again about ten minutes long, and again with plenty of interview snippets from the key cast members, although this time with a broader look at the enduring appeal of the film and its impact across the years.
Flying Carpets and Bowling Pin Dreams: The Dream Sequences of The Dude takes just 4 minutes to show some much-needed insight into the crazy hallucinations of The Dude; interesting but overly short.
Making of The Big Lebowski should represent the meat of the extras, but really isn’t, instead we get a 25-minute behind the scenes featurette which is your standard EPK offering, and which was previously available on several of the earlier releases.
The Lebowski Fest: An Achiever’s Story gives us a 14 minute inside look at the US convention for Lebowski fans: Lebowski-Fest (the UK equivalent is The Dude Abides) and the dedicated following that this film has garnered.
Jeff Bridges Photo Book is far more than just a conventional stills gallery, taking 17 minutes to showcase the truly excellent pictures that Bridges captured during the shoot, with Bridges himself hosting the presentation and taking us through each of them.
Photo Gallery is just a 3 minute version of Jeff Bridges photos, showing them as a simple slideshow.
Interactive Mapgives us a look at the various LA locations used for the film, with a then/now comparison to see how they have changed.
The films of the Coen Brothers are a real mixed bunch, each and every one of them coming with the love-hate marmite taste that will excite some viewers, whilst leaving others out in the cold. For me, The Big Lebowski represents one of their two truly great offerings, a hilarious offbeat comedy that takes the framework of the classic Raymond Chandler/Phillip Marlowe story The Big Sleep and reworks it into an almost unrecognisable new vision, packed to the brim with Coen-trademark wacky characters, snappy, clever dialogue, and an unpredictable narrative which will hopefully have you enthralled and in stitches for the duration. Certainly not to everybody’s tastes, if you don’t like The Big Lebowski, there’s really little you will understand about the love that others have for this film; but if you do fall in love with it, then you will find yourself a part of a surprisingly extensive group of people who seem to cherish the exploits of The Dude and are capable of quoting him all day and all night as the tumbleweed rolls by.
On Region Free UK Limited Edition Blu-ray we get all of the same largely excellent extras as the recent, equivalent US counterpart, but unfortunately have to contend with the same marginally disappointing video. Thankfully the audio is superb, and, overall, it’s still a worthy upgrade and a solid package that’s worth picking up and adding to your collection. Whether you love or hate the films of the Coen Brothers, you should still take each and every one as they come, and, whilst you may not appreciate the wonderful world of The Dude, it’s sure as hell worth giving it a shot to find out if you do.
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