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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

Bull Durham (Blu-ray + DVD) [Blu-ray]


(Ron Shelton, 1988)






Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: Mount Company

Blu-ray: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment



Region: 'A' (B+C untested)

Runtime: 1:48:01

Disc Size: 21,135,807,448 bytes

Feature Size: 19,406,598,144 bytes

Video Bitrate: 19.02 Mbps

Chapters: 28

Case: Blu-ray Amaray Case

Release date: August 3rd, 2010



Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080P / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG2



DTS-HD Master Audio English 2800 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2800 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps / Dolby Surround
Dolby Digital Audio French 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps / Dolby Surround



English SDH, Spanish, Korean, Chinese & none



• Trailer on Blu-ray disc


Disc 2: DVD of Feature Film, plus:

• Audio Commentary by Writer/Director Ron Shelton

• Audio Commentary with Kevin Costner & Tim Robbins

• The Greatest Show on Dirt

• Diamonds in the Rough

• Between the Line - The Making of Bull Durham

• Kevin Costner Profile

• Sports Wrap



The Film: 7
Everyone loves a good sports movie – baseball especially, I think. Bull Durham is unusual in that it makes no pretense to revere the game (as in the 1942 Pride of the Yankees, or Barry Levinson’s The Natural, which preceded it by just a few years.) Basically a comedy, Ron Shelton’s Bull Durham throws a breaking slider at the whole hero enchilada while at the same time it reveals some basic truths about the game and those who worship at its altar.

This particular altar is a minor league team: The “Bulls” of Durham North Carolina, where an unnamed major league organization sends players with promise for a spell to fine tune their act before determining their potential for “The Show.” This amounts to maybe one or two players a season which means that all the other players are essentially treading water, a fact which Shelton underscores by making it seem that every game is pitched by the same player, in the present case it’s young Ebby LaLoosh, Tim Robbins in his breakout performance. Robbins was 30 and looks 20, and pretty much steals the movie.

Ebby is naïve and kinda sweet with an easy way and completely narcissistic view of his universe. He knows he has talent as a pitcher because he has a blistering fast ball. What he does not seem to know is that he has no control, all the more astonishing since his pitches can take in anything in a 90 degree angle. Without control not only does your fast ball sometimes hit the mascot instead of the catcher’s glove, but you have no variety to put the batter off guard. The organization has a solution to this: send in reliable, if unhappy, Crash Davis (Kevin Costner), a man who had his one brief shot in the majors, to give Ebby a rudder.

But Ebby is a hard case and needs a lot more work than Crash can offer. As it happens Ebby catches the eye of Annie, played by Susan Sarandon, who’s 12 years older than Robbins and looks even older, as her character should since by now she should be reconsidering her options. Annie takes pride in her seasonal monogamy during which she latches on to a single player and helps him improve his game on and off the field. Once she establishes her credentials by way of a useful suggestion or two about how the player approaches the ball, she hits them with focus and discipline between dollops of Walt Whitman.

Shelton devises a triangle where Crash is the more likely partner for Annie, but Ebby (soon to adopt Annie’s nickname for him, “Nuke”) is the more challenging fixer-upper. Annie is not beyond playing these guys off each other, a strategy Crash doesn’t much bite on. So much for the romance (though there is plenty of GP-rated sex).

The comedy is another matter. And this is where Bull Durham scores most of its hits along with a few home runs (unfortunately no one’s on base at the time.) Besides Nuke’s reptilian pitching style, which is worth the price of admission, the movie is an unending series of visual and verbal clichés about the game, romance, sex and success in general, all turned on their head. Example:

Crash: It's time to work on your interviews.
Ebby: My interviews? What do I gotta do?
Crash: You're gonna have to learn your clichés. You're gonna have to study them, you're gonna have to know them. They're your friends. Write this down: "We gotta play it one day at a time."
Ebby: "Got to play"... that's pretty boring.
Crash: 'Course it's boring, that's the point.



Image: 6/8   NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
I don’t remember this movie being particularly snappy in the visual department in its initial theatrical release, so I was not surprised by MGM’s MPEG2 transfer, which is as about as unremarkable as they come. While the black levels are somewhat pumped up, it’s often about as flat and dull as I expect it should be, there are few artifacts or transfer issues of concern, flesh tones are often very nice and the dirt in the early minutes of the movie eventually gives way.














Audio & Music: 6/6
The usual advantage to Blu-ray of an uncompressed audio track, while here presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1, is mitigated by a seriously front-directed mix that opens up pretty much only with the music cues and the occasional roar of the crowd. I found the dialogue to be quite clear enough whether played on that track or the DD 2.0.


Operations: 1
Clearly I am out of the loop when it comes to marketing, for I simply cannot grasp the sense of having the commentary on the DVD that is included, but not the Blu-ray. I’ve seen this once before (on The Thomas Crown Affair) and I still don’t get it. Anyone? I don’t even understand the idea of including the DVD in this case, as it would seem to me that this movie has been around long enough so that anyone who would have bought it in that format would have done so already. In any case, the feature is presented on a single-layer disc instead of a dual layer which could have contained everything.




Extras: 6
There are no bonus features on the Blu-ray disc, not even the commentaries, which, for reasons passing understanding, appear only on the accompanying DVD. That DVD is much the same as the 2008 Collector’s Edition, with all its extra features intact. The featurette on the minor leagues is worth the time if, like me, you only know what you read in the movies.


Bottom line: 6
I remember being underwhelmed by this movie when it first came out, perhaps because I find Costner so dull generally. It’s his line readings which generally strike me as thinking out loud rather than speech, which is too bad since Shelton’s dialogue for Crash is always observant. On the other hand, Costner has a plausible physicality about him that works well here. Nor have I yet come to terms with a baseball movie that has no game suspense nor, for that matter, hardly any players on the field besides Crash and Nuke and the batter between them. Shelton nails the details and amuses us as he upends the heroics, though I still find that his dwelling on all the sex at the end unbalances the movie.

The Blu-ray is unremarkable in all the ways that most high definition videos are so compelling. The image and audio improvements are not major league. I’d rent this first before purchase if you’re thinking about an upgrade.

Leonard Norwitz
August 7th, 2010






About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.

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