Hardball (2001)

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Released 15-Jan-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Making Of
Deleted Scenes-3
Audio Commentary-Brian Robbins (Director) & John Gatins (Writer)
Music Video-Hardball-Lil Bow Wow, Lil' Wayne, Lil' Zane & Sammie
TV Spots-3 (Interstitials)
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 101:42
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (59:25) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Brian Robbins
Studio
Distributor

Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring Keanu Reeves
Diane Lane
John Hawkes
D. B. Sweeney
Mike McGlone
Graham Beckel
Mark Margolis
Case ?
RPI $34.95 Music Mark Isham


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None German Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles German
English
French
Dutch
English for the Hearing Impaired
German Audio Commentary
English Audio Commentary
French Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

This movie might have seemed original and fresh, were it not that we've seen the basic plot before. OK, this time we get Keanu Reeves in place of Emilio Estevez, this time it's a team of black kids playing baseball instead of white kids playing ice hockey, but the general feeling about the setup is deja vu. That's ignoring the suggestion that The Mighty Ducks is a remake of The Bad News Bears this film is more like The Mighty Ducks, even though the latter is about baseball.

The deja vu leads to an immediate negative reaction, and that's a shame, because this is in some ways a better movie than The Mighty Ducks (yes, even with Keanu Reeves in it!). Admittedly, I'd think twice before letting kids watch it, unlike the other one, mainly because (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) of the accidental death of one of the players in a gang-related shooting that's not something I'd want to put in front of children (teenagers, maybe, but not children). The violence and threats directed towards Conor (Keanu Reeves) over his gambling debts are other reasons. The resolution of his moral dilemma regarding gambling is a bit questionable, too.

The plot, in case you haven't heard of this film, runs like this: Conor O'Neill (Keanu Reeves) is a loser. He has serious gambling debts which he's just doubled by trying for "one big win". A childhood friend, Jimmy Fleming (Mike McGlone), offers him $500 a week to coach a kids' baseball team (mainly so Jimmy doesn't have to do it it's just a PR exercise for his firm). Conor needs the money to stay in one piece, so he agrees. He's a little taken aback to learn that the team is the Kekambas, a team of black kids in "the projects". "The projects" is a slum area of Chicago that looks like some of the worst State Housing blocks, but is far more dangerous people sit on the floor in their apartments so they're below the windows, for fear of bullets.

It's interesting that none of the children had previous acting experience their performances are quite good. Oh, they're occasionally obnoxious, but that's part of being 9-year-old boys. They are convincing, and the baseball playing is staged beautifully. A lot of this film was shot on location, right in the middle of "the projects", stopping on at least one occasion because of a gun battle between gang members that was too close for comfort...

One of the best adult performances in the film comes from John Hawkes, playing Ticky, who is Conor's friend and partner (they scalp tickets to sports events together). D B Sweeney puts in a small, nicely-judged, performance as the unpleasant coach of another team.

For those who aren't familiar with American vernacular: "hardball" is just another name for baseball. It's in contrast to softball.

It may sound silly, but I want to like this film. It has some real redeeming qualities, particularly in the kids' performances. But the script lets them down: far too much of the story is predictable. This is both in the baseball, and in the relationship between Conor and Elizabeth (Diane Lane), the kids' teacher. In the end I think the lack of originality in the script almost overwhelms everything else, but not quite this film is still worth seeing, but only just.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

The DVD is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. It is 16x9 enhanced. The theatrical aspect ratio was 1.85:1.

The image is clear, and fairly sharp there's just enough softness to keep aliasing down. Shadow detail is pretty good, but the darkest shades disappear into black a little earlier than would be completely desirable. Film grain is no big problem (there is some grain visible on some paused frames, but it's barely visible when the film is moving). There's no low-level noise.

Colour is well-rendered. There's a fairly muted palette on display most of the time, but it looks faithfully reproduced. There are no colour-related artefacts.

There are a few tiny film artefacts, but nothing significant, just as you'd hope for a new film. There is almost no aliasing, no moire, and only the tiniest trace of background shimmer. There are no MPEG artefacts.

There are eight subtitle tracks. We get the film's soundtrack in German, French, Dutch, and both plain English and English for the Hearing Impaired. In addition we get the commentary subtitled in English (yay that's so rare!), German, and French. I watched the hearing impaired subtitles with the main film, and the English subtitles on the commentary. Both are well-timed, easy to read, and accurate enough (there is some abbreviation).

The disc is single-sided and dual-layered, formatted RSDL. The layer change comes at 59:25 it's not very noticeable.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

There are soundtracks in English, German, and French on this disc. I listened to the English, which is a Dolby Digital 5.1 effort. I also listened to the commentary.

The dialogue is fairly clear, but the dialect used by the children is not too easy to understand although it becomes easier to understand as the film wends on (I guess the ear catches on). There are no obvious audio sync problems.

The score uses a mixture of rap and hip-hop songs, plus a conventional score from Mark Isham. The score does quite a decent job of emphasising the action.

The surrounds see some use with this soundtrack, particularly with the songs. The subwoofer is kept busy with the score, some of it fairly ominous, but there are almost no sound effects using it.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

The menu is animated with music and sound effects of baseball cards.

Featurette Making of Hardball (12:26)

This is an interesting piece a bit less promotional fluff than usual.

Deleted Scenes

It is easy to see why these were deleted, even though there's neither introduction nor commentary:

Audio Commentary

This commentary comes from director Brian Robbins and screen-writer John Gatins. They do say quite a bit, and a lot of it is interesting, but there's a bit too much gushing about Keanu Reeves and Diane Lane. There are some lengthy gaps in the commentary, too, but they keep up the commentary until about 10 seconds from the end of the credits.

Music Video Hardball (4:10)

A rap music video featuring several performers: Lil Bow Wow, Lil Wayne, Lil Zane, and Sammie. Shame they couldn't afford to outfit them in clothes the right size they look rather silly in clothes about five sizes too large.

Interstitials

These are short promo pieces that get inserted before ad breaks (hence the name):

Theatrical Trailer (2:54)

This is a fairly long trailer by modern standards. It's presented widescreen, but without 16x9 enhancement.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

The Region 1 disc is pretty much the same as this one. It has all the same extras. The Region 4 has extra languages in both sound and subtitles, and that's the only difference, as far as I can tell.

Summary

A movie that's effectively a remake, but much rawer than the original.

The video quality is very good.

The audio quality is very good.

The extras are pretty reasonable.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Saturday, January 11, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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