FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS (Blu-ray Edition)|
Universal Studios | 2004 | 118 mins | Rated PG-13 | Jan 06, 2009
Written by David Hillyer
January 12, 2009
Directed by Peter Burg, Friday Night Lights is based on a book by H.G. Bissinger. Friday Night Lights chronicles the journey of the 1988 Permian Panthers high school football team in Odessa, Texas. I grew up in the midwest, and football was and is a fairly big event on Friday nights, but usually just for people associated with the schools involved in the game. In Texas it is different. The town shuts down so everyone can attend the local football game. There just isn't anything else to do on a Friday night.
In 1988 the Permian Panthers were making a run for their 6th state title. Boys want to grow up to be players, girls want to grow up to be cheerleaders. The players are treated like they are in the NFL. Townspeople wanted autographs and pictures. Players were given free food and many other perks beyond what most high school athletes ever see. The benefits and freedoms given the players were far beyond what 17 year old teenagers can handle.
The movie is based on a book that was based on the 1988 Panthers team. So given that level of separation from actual events we can pretty much expect the factual events to be correct, such as the scores of the football games, but everything else is a “dramatization”. It makes for an entertaining movie, but as with all movies based on books based on actual events... the Hollywood version takes considerable dramatic license.
The football sequences are among the best I've ever seen in a movie. The hits are real and the training the players went through was up to the level of real teams. Berg even used real NFL Films cameramen for much of the on-field action. There are a lot of quick cuts to increase the intensity and really put you on the field and in the stands. The tension the players feel comes through in the film.
Billy Bob Thorton plays the coach and is one again teamed up with Sling Blade actor Lucas Black. Casting ranges from some veterans to some first time actors – one was even discovered during extra casting for the football team – he had just been cut by an NFL team. The choices made were dead on and give us a good picture of the pressure and the glory of these high school players.
But surprisingly, the video quality of Friday Night Lights is quite good most of the way through. The blacks are deep black and the colors are not overly saturated so everything looks as it should in Texas. However Friday Night Lights just is not as sharp as I had hoped. It certainly isn't up to the quality of other catalog titles I've seen recently, some of which are over 20 years old. Some darker scenes don't look much better than the standard definition DVD.
Friday Night Lights features English, Spanish, and French in 5.1 DTS HD sound. Subtitles are also available in English, Spanish and French. Additionally there is an feature commentary track with director Peter Berg and writer Buzz Bissinger.
Action-Packed Deleted Scenes (21:48 SD) features 10 deleted and/or extended scenes. There isn't anything that would be seen as a mistake, but it is still interesting to see some additional character scenes.
Peter Berg Discusses a Scene in the Movie (1:09 SD) shot for the DVD release this is an odd multi-camera introduction by director Peter Berg for a scene at the burger stand.
Player Cam (4:19 SD) is Ryan Jacobs' mini-documentary of his experience during the filming of some of the football training and prep.
Tim McGraw: Off the Stage (6:11 SD) interviews country singer Tim McGraw about playing Charlie Billingsley on screen. Also interviews the director and others involved in the production about his work.
The Story of the 1988 Permian Panthers (23:32 SD) is probably the most interesting of the extras on the disc. It features interviews with cast and crew members, real players and townspeople about the 1988 team.
Gridiron Grads (14:11 SD) gives you an inside look at the life of the extras for the football teams. It goes into depth about the casting, training and filming techniques used in Friday Night Lights. This feature is new to the blu-ray disc, however it is in standard definition.
Behind the Lights (26:51 SD) is more of a standard studio behind the scenes piece. It goes into more depth about how the book became a movie and the actual story behind the movie and production. This feature is new to the blu-ray disc, however it is in standard definition.
At its core, the movie is mostly about the atmosphere of high school football in Texas. It's about the pressure put on these kids which is far more than they can handle and the costs involved. There are many things to think about while watching Friday Night Lights, and probably the most important is what un-needed pressure do we put on own own kids? Can we just let them play and be kids? Will they still be considered a success if they just play the game because they enjoy playing the game?