The Basketball Diaries (1995)

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Released 6-Oct-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Dolby Digital Trailer-Rain
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1995
Running Time 97:30 (Case: 102)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Scott Kalvert
Island Pictures
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio
Lorraine Bracco
Marilyn Sokol
James Madio
Patrick McGaw
Mark Wahlberg
Roy Cooper
Bruno Kirby
Jimmy Papiris
Nick Gaetani
Alexander Chaplin
Ben Jorgensen
Josh Mostel
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $24.95 Music Flea
P.J. Harvey
Graeme Revell

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (320Kb/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 English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    The Basketball Diaries is the true story of Jim Carroll (Leonardo DiCaprio) – gifted poet, talented basketball player, and hopeless addict.

    Based on Jim Carroll’s own autobiographical novel, the film follows Carroll’s life from a young boy growing up in the Bronx with his friends at a strict Catholic boys’ school. In between stealing from the schools they play against, and getting up to the usual teen mayhem, the team also likes to get high. What starts as sniffing glue soon turns to alcohol, dope, coke and finally smack as a way of trying to get some excitement in their lives, and finally as a way of escaping the sad reality that they have become.

    The Basketball Diaries is a true story and as such the end is a bit of an anticlimax, as it is in so many lives. There is none of the clever, surrealistic and nightmarish exploration of the junkie world that Irvine Welsh explored in Trainspotting. Nor does The Basketball Diaries depict drugs as chic cool. It shows the waste and the boredom of drug addiction, but does so without being heavy-handed or preachy. It offers no solutions, and gives no answers to any hard questions. And it is much better for this.

    What this movie is most notable for, however, is the performances of its many talented young cast members. Leonardo DiCaprio is excellent in this movie, transforming from likeable truant to pathetic junkie to hardened reformer with full believability. Likewise excellent is Mark Wahlberg, who is excellent as Carroll’s best friend Mickey.

    This is not a feel good movie. The ending is not uplifting or rewarding. It just is. This movie is about the journey, a recounting of a tale with few lessons to teach and only insights into the machinations of an artist. As such, this works very well as a character piece, and I highly recommend it in that vein.

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Transfer Quality


    Presented in 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, this is close to the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1.

    The image is well defined and the colours are richly saturated and well balanced. There is a bit of grain, however, although I think this has a bit to do with the quality of the film stock that was used, or the print that was used for the transfer.

    Shadow detail was good, but not excellent, and these shots tended to exhibit more graininess, as you would expect.

    There are no MPEG artefacts and film-to-video transfer artefacts were also minimal, limited to some brief background aliasing. It was not distracting.

    There was a fair bit of dirt on the print, and I noticed 5 cigarette burns in the top right corner (indicating a reel change). These were at 17:36, 34:30, 53:38, 73:23, and 88:57.

    Subtitles are available in English for the Hearing Impaired. They appear as white with a grey border, and stick fairly closely to the actual dialogue.

    This is a single layered disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    Audio is available only in 2.0 Dolby Stereo in English (unlike the cover which indicates a 5.1 Dolby Digital mix).

    This is a good, solid stereo mix, with accurate dialogue and only a couple of mild audio sync issues that are to do with post-production ADR. Unless you are looking closely for this, you will miss it.

    There is a decent range here and some good mixing of a lot of popular songs, noticeably the kind of grunge-rock that was popular when the film was made – Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and so forth.

    There are a few decent left-to-right audio cues, but given this is a stereo track, the rears and subwoofer remained unutilised.

    I noticed one loud pop of static in the audio track at 58:04, but this was the only one and is likely a fault in the print from which this transfer was sourced.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    All menus are 16x9 enhanced and silent.

Dolby Digital Trailer

    The puddle one.

Theatrical Trailer (2:16)

    The trailer is presented in 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced. It too opens with a cigarette burn.


    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

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

    The R1 version includes Interviews with Cast and Crew and an Anti-Drug Trailer. I don’t care much about the trailer, but I imagine the interviews would have given even more insight into the character of Jim Carroll and also the reasons for many of the cast making this movie. I think we lose out.


    The Basketball Diaries is a good character study with many noteworthy performances. If you like that kind of drama, this movie will appeal to you.

    Video is good, although a little grainy and with a few too many film artefacts for its era.

    The 2.0 Dolby Stereo track does the job but is not really excellent.

    The theatrical trailer is a fairly mundane extra and it would have been nice to get the interviews that were available in R1.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Edward McKenzie (I am Jack's raging bio...)
Sunday, November 21, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DVD-RV31A-S, using S-Video output
DisplayBeko 28" (16x9). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationMarantz SR7000
SpeakersEnergy - Front, Rear, Centre & Subwoofer

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
i love this movie!!! - chris