Night Lights [Blu-ray]
(Peter Berg + Josh Pate, 2004)
Review by Leonard Norwitz
Theatrical: Universal Pictures & Imagine Entertainment
Video: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Disc Size: 45,147,782,169 bytes
Feature Size: 38,835,234,816 bytes
Average Bitrate: 44.01 Mbps
Case: Locking Blu-ray case
Release date: January 6th, 2009
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
DTS-HD Master Audio English 3986 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3986
kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 24-bit)
DTS Audio French 768 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit
DTS Audio Spanish 768 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
/ Dolby Surround
English SDH, French, Spanish, none
• Commentary with Director Peter Berg & Author Buzz
• Deleted Scenes (21:48)
• Player Cam (1:09)
• Tim McGraw: Off the Stage (4:19)
• Friday Night Lights - The Story of the 1988 Permian
Panthers 23:32 (SD 4:3)
• Gridiron Grads (14:11
- SD 4:3)
• Behind the Lights (26:51 - SD 4:3)
Description: Taken from "Friday Night Lights: A Town, a
Team, and a Dream" a 1990 non-fiction book written by H.
G. Bissinger. The book follows the story of the 1988 Permian
High School Panthers football team from Odessa as they made
a run towards the Texas state championship. While originally
intended to be a Hoosiers-type chronicle of high school
sports holding a small town together, the final book ended
up being critical about life in the town of Odessa, Texas,
complete with portraits of what Bissinger called "the
ugliest racism" he has ever witnessed, as well as misplaced
priorities, where football conquered most aspects of the
town and academics were ignored for the sake of
The Film: 8
Coach Gaines' philosophy of football – especially high
school football – is a lot like the approach many guys take
toward war and sex: It's something you wait all your life
for up to this point. You give it your all, never quite sure
what's driving you, and then it's all over, and all you have
to show for it are memories.
This may seem a stretch, but I think the citizens of the
west Texas town of Odessa would have to concur. Odessa, at
least seen through the eyes of director Peter Berg, strikes
me as a town well on its way to becoming like Anarene (The
Last Picture Show). In a peculiarly American mix of pride
and desperation, all they live for is football. Mothers
coach their sons on statistics and plays; fathers humiliate
their sons in front of the team for fumbling; coaches are
fired for not winning championships; daughters seem hell
bent on making it with every team player possible;
businesses close for the Friday night game; school – as a
institution of learning – is removed from sight and mind.
It's a town who helped fill the Astrodome for a championship
game. It's a place where football is as important as the
church. Maybe more so.
In such a setting, the coach is not the central figure – or
even on whom winning and losing depends. Peter Berg takes a
rather Tolstoyian view of things: It's not the generals that
win wars, it's the soldiers that fight them. And, indeed,
the focus here is not Coach Gaines, ably played by the
single A-list star in the movie, Billy Bob Thornton, it is
his team – dramatized primarily by the fortunes of a handful
of its players.
These include Boobie Miles (Derek Luke): with his winning
smile and an ego that any Texan would be proud to own, he
jogs about town and into the locker room with all the
assurance of an Apollo. Though he has the scholastic
abilities of a third grader, his future is assured. And for
good reason: Miles is one dynamite athlete, and it is on him
that his team and the hopes of the whole town rest. Just as
in a melodrama, the unthinkable happens when an on-field
knee injury puts an end to his future and the aspirations of
the team for the championship.
The team's quarterback, Mike Winchell (Lucas Black), is a
tortured soul with a modestly mentally ill mother, who
watches over her son's career like a coach with an intensely
personal interest. After Miles' injury, Winchell is called
upon to actually do his job which, up to then, amounted
little more than handing the ball off to Boobie and watch
him do his thing.
Then there's Don Billingsley (Garrett Hedlund), whose father
(Tim McGraw), a former Panther champion player, enjoys
humiliating his son at every fumble. If we hadn't gotten the
point by now, it is in this relationship that we see clearly
that all these men have is this year, because even after
being a star player in high school, there is no future for
him in Odessa – thus Anarene.
While the actors who play the high-schoolers are in their
twenties and early thirties, they are convincing enough.
Anyhow, it is their personal dramas that rivet our
attention, and in this they are formidable players, if not
unsubtle. Thornton's idea of Gaines is to give away nothing
to those off the field who would influence him, and give
away everything on the field. It is both refreshing and
disturbing to see how he handles Billingsley's outrageous
bursts of rage during a game. Gaines knows full well where
this all comes from, yet he offers the boy no shoulder to
cry on. Instead he's more like John Wayne urging his men up
Suribachi, he gives no quarter. . . not until his final
speech at halftime. . . and it's a winner..
captures were ripped directly from the
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence
compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale.
The second number places this image along the full range of
DVD and Blu-ray discs.
From all reports, the Blu-ray is faithful to the theatrical
image with its yellowish, desaturated, grainy picture, like
the sands of the countryside around the town and football
stadium where the Panthers play. I was aware of no defects
or troublesome artifacts. The image is very sharp and, until
the arrival of the Dallas Carver red shirts, almost
colorless. Makes sense.
Ed. note: This was available in HD-DVD but this must be a
new, and superior, transfer as it exceeds the capacity of
the now defunct format.
CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
Audio & Music:
Ah, the crunch of a well placed block or ferocious tackle –
or the scream of the fans and the overlapping comments by
the players on the bench. This is where uncompressed audio
comes into play, assuming that the audio mix is properly
scaled to start with, which this one is, though the
surrounds are not as enveloping as I would have expected.
Dialogue is always clear, whether in the quiet reflective
moments or the hubbub of play.
The menu is laid out like other Universal Blu-rays. Arrows
tell you which way to direct your remote, and the bonus
feature instructions are detailed and intuitive. There is no
U-Control on this one, making everything that much simpler
to navigate. .
The DVD has been with us since early in 2005, and all the
bonus features from that disc are present here in all there
480p glory – which is to say, that they look only fair on
Blu-ray. The commentary track is full of anecdotes about the
real events and how they were interpolated into the movie.
Probably the most interesting of the featurettes is "The
Story of the 1988 Permian Panthers" which brings together
the actual players and fans for their insights about the
real events and the film about them offers more insight into
the characters. Finally, BD-Live 2.0 is up to its usual fun
Friday Night Lights – the movie – has since given way
to a television series, now in its third season. But make no
mistake: the film is not your typical feel-good sports
movie. The desperation infecting players, fans, and the town
in general is as powerfully portrayed as the game itself.
The image is correspondingly and correctly empty of warmth.
I can't help myself: Warmly Recommended.
January 4th, 2009