Bobby Jones-Stroke of Genius (2004)

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Released 5-Jan-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Dolby Digital Trailer
Audio Commentary-Rowdy Herrington (Director) and Prof. Richard Brown
Outtakes-(5:23)
Deleted Scenes-(4:48)
Featurette-Making Of-Celebrating The Legend (17:03)
Featurette-The Friendship Speech (3:22)
Featurette-Golf Means Fellowship (0:49)
Featurette-The First Tee (3:15)
Featurette-ASAP (4:08)
Featurette-East Lake (2:23)
Theatrical Trailer-1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 2.0 (2:10)
Trailer-A League Of Their Own, The Natural, Radio
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 123:27
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (88:13) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Rowdy Herrington
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Jim Caviezel
Claire Forlani
Jeremy Northam
Connie Ray
Brett Rice
Malcolm McDowell
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $39.95 Music James Horner


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.45:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.45:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
German
Italian
Turkish
English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
German Audio Commentary
Italian 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

    Okay, a couple of points to start with. If you need action in your films, stop reading and find another review to check out - because this film is not up your alley at all. If you cannot abide golf in any way, shape or form, stop reading and find another review to check out - because this film has a lot of golf in it. If long-winded films with little in the way of dynamic drive you up the wall, then perhaps you best stop reading now and find another review to check out - because this is a somewhat long-winded film.

    When it comes to golf, there are probably three groups of players - the hackers, the competents and the professionals. Most of us are of course in the first category: hackers with no hope of ever mastering the complexities of taking one ball, one club and hitting said ball down a fairway. That is me - the sad, pathetic individual who spent years trying to prove that he could hit the ball actually onto a fairway from the tee. The golfing gods however had other ideas, and so I became extremely adept at playing entire rounds without ever hitting the fairway at all. I eventually gave the game away after one especially depressing round at the old, but very nice, Busselton course. For once the golfing gods had gone off to annoy someone else for I hit the perfect golf shot off the tee. Zing, straight as a die down the fairway of the long par 5, some 280 metres. I could not believe it - after all those years of hacking my way through rough! Jauntily heading off down the fairway feeling very pleased with myself, I arrive at where the ball was supposed to be and - nothing! Gone, disappeared down a bloody rabbit hole... That was the day that I knew the golfing gods had a very sick sense of humour and I threw the clubs away in disgust.

    The second group of players are those that have broadly mastered the vagaries of the club and ball, sufficiently well enough to not embarrass themselves too often out on the course and maybe even get the handicap down to something less than the area code for Los Angeles - and keep it there. The third group are of course those idols we sit there watching on television wondering just how the heck did they make that shot - with the pressure of a $2,000,000 cheque hanging over their head.

    Well, actually there was at one time a fourth group of player - his name was Robert Tyre Jones Junior. Were it not for the fact that he is the whole point of this film, we could cheerfully ignore him in a discussion about mere mortal golfers of the other three groups.

    It is very doubtful that anyone who has ever swung a golf club in anger, or pleasure for that matter, for any length of time has not heard of Robert Tyre Jones Junior. Aside from being arguably the greatest player to ever swing a club (and he could swing it with more grace than just about anyone, before or since), he will forever remain known as the only player to ever win the Grand Slam of golf. He was an almost unique individual who eschewed the professional side of the game in favour of remaining an amateur throughout his tournament career - and still proceeded to make all the professionals look terribly amateurish. To some extent he became a symbol of what so epitomised amateur sports in the growing professionalism creeping into many major sports. Not only did he excel on the course however, he did so off the course. He was a lawyer, a family man, a scholar and, after he retired from playing tournament golf, the man largely responsible for creating arguably the most coveted of professional golf tournaments, the US Masters. Oh, and he also was largely responsible for the superb course upon which it is played - Augusta National. He was of course a proud Georgian, having been born in Atlanta in 1902.

    By any measure, this was an extraordinary man. Many have subsequently won more tournaments than he did, but few have ever approached his level of excellence on the course - let alone exceeded them. Three British Opens, four US Opens, five US Amateur titles and a single British Amateur title - the latter obviously in 1930, when he won the Grand Slam (both the amateur and professional titles in both Britain and the United States) and then retired.

    Bobby Jones, Stroke of Genius pretty much tells the story of this remarkable man's life from about 1910 through to 1930, so I don't think I need to provide much of a synopsis here. Suffice it to say that he did have to overcome some obstacles to become the greatest golfer that ever lived, so it was not all plain sailing. The film itself does do a pretty good job of presenting the story of his life, golfing and otherwise, but it does so whilst also doing some fairly undisguised moralising at times. I did not find it especially grating but certainly found it difficult to avoid the obviousness most of the time. Notwithstanding that point however, the screenplay is not that bad at all, if a little long winded. I found myself quite engrossed by the film, which probably stems not only from the good screenplay but also some good acting - and none better than Malcolm McDowell's excellent turn as O.B. Keeler, a sports journalist who became something of a one-man promotion agency for Bobby Jones, and who was ultimately responsible for one of the best biographies about the man. This is probably the best performance I have seen from Malcolm McDowell on film. He is by no means alone either, for Jim Caviezel does a fine job as the genius and Jeremy Northam is quite excellent as Walter Hagen. But then again, the only reason why I picked this one off the dud pile to review was the presence of the gorgeous Claire Forlani...

    Where the thing starts to go pear-shaped for me is in some of the glaring inaccuracies in the film. Okay, the budget was not that big but using English trains and trying to pass them off as American trains? Even then, they could not get the eras right and used trains from a later period than that covered by the film. Also, given that the story does move between the United States and Great Britain, it gets somewhat confusing seeing British trains when the current part of the story is in the United States. Okay, maybe it grates me more than most because I have a passion about trains, but this sort of stuff really is very sloppy, and to some extent unnecessary. Offsetting that, however, is some wonderful cinematography that certainly aids the somewhat leisurely pace of the film.

    I would seriously doubt that this is the sort of film that many would turn to for pure enjoyment, but contrary to expectations I did find it an enjoyable film. Sure it is long and could cheerfully have been pruned somewhat, but for anyone with more than a passing interest in golf, this is worthwhile checking out - if only once. However, Columbia TriStar have to be joking with the astronomical retail price indicator here. Unless you desperately have to have it now, wait - I would not mind betting that this ends up in one of the cheaper price ranges towards the latter part of the year. At $40, you can give it a miss, but at $20, I would be recommending it.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Given that this is a recent film, we have every right to expect a very good transfer. Well, that is broadly speaking what we have got, although perhaps not as good as it should have been.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.45:1, in accordance with the original theatrical ratio, and it is 16x9 enhanced.

    There is certainly lots of good things about the transfer but the one odd thing is that it is not an especially sharp transfer - most unexpectedly. Sure it is still pretty good but there is a certain level of softness that crops up now and then, which may be an artistic decision. Otherwise the transfer is quite sharp, nicely detailed and very clear. There is little in the way of grain, shadow detail is very good (although to be honest there are not a lot of opportunities for it to become an issue) and generally this is a really nice transfer to watch.

    Colours are very nicely handled too. There is little in the way of bright, primary colours but the natural look certainly emphasises the greens to be seen here. You really would be hard pressed to object to anything about the exteriors. Interiors are highlighted by some gorgeous deep rustic tones, especially in woodwork and the like. Skin tones are well handled and the whole thing really is very, very nice.

    There are no significant issues with MPEG artefacting in the transfer. There is the odd instance of some very minor aliasing that you really have to look hard for. Given the number of opportunities for the problem to really come to the fore, the fact that it does not just goes to show how good the transfer is. Golf clubs and cars rarely show anything even approaching the problem. There are few if any film artefacts to be seen. Nice, very nice indeed.

    This is a dual layer, single sided DVD with the layer change coming at 88:13. Since I did not really notice it during playback of the film, it is nothing much to worry about.

    There is a small selection of subtitles available on the DVD. I stuck with the English efforts which were very good and changed very little around or dropped very little to keep some synchronicity.

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

Audio

    There are four soundtracks on the disc, being an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, a German Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, an Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and an English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 effort. I naturally stuck to the English efforts.

    The dialogue comes up very well in the transfer and is very easy to understand. There did not appear to be any issues with audio sync in the transfer.

    The original music score is provided by James Horner, and to be honest is fairly typical of the sort of stuff he does. Still, it is nicely done overall and does an excellent job of supporting the film. No real complaints about this one, even though you could ask for something just a little more distinctive.

    Straight up, it is clear that the film really does not have any great need for a six channel soundtrack. You certainly would not be pulling this one out for demonstration purposes, for there is little in the way of low frequency work to test out your subwoofer and not a fat lot in the rear surround channels either, none of which was that surprising to be honest. However, what the soundtrack does do is very good indeed - it is wonderfully clear, with a gorgeous open sound that just ensures that little is missed in the way of dialogue or sound effects. It might have a heavy bias towards the front speakers but given that the film is a narrative more than anything else, this is neither a problem nor a complaint. The whole soundtrack very much suits the film and you cannot really ask for more than that.

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

Extras

    A decent quantity of extras has been assembled here. I just wish a little more quality was present.

Menus

    Nice and classy looking with some audio and animation enhancement in the main menu, which comes after a relatively pointless introduction. Nice and clear and functional.

Trailer - Dolby Digital

    Next.

Audio Commentary - Rowdy Herrington (Director) and Professor Richard Brown

    This really is not so much an audio commentary as a film question and answer session sparked mostly from appearances on screen: the professor asks a question and Rowdy Herrington answers. Frankly the lack of any real interaction between the two participants ultimately dooms this to a rather boring presentation. Not from a content point of view, which does provide a fair deal of background information to the film, but rather from just the monotony of the presentation. I know that I don't like these things, but this is definitely not one that I would indulge in again.

Outtakes (5:23)

    Going by the name of Bloopers in the menu, in actual fact neither description is actually correct. Whilst there are certainly some bloopers included, most of what is included here is behind the scenes mucking about by various members of the cast and crew. Some of it is funny, but not that much. The presentation is in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. There are selectable English, German and Italian subtitles. The technical quality is a bit variable, not unexpectedly so given the sort of material we are talking about here.

Deleted Scenes (4:48)

    You just have to love the message that precedes the actual scenes: they were deleted from the director's cut of the film to speed up the first act of the film. Given that the film runs over two hours at a leisurely pace, I cannot quite see how deleting less than five minutes of stuff "speeds up" a film much. The four scenes deleted are The Math Quiz (2:12), The Reading Assignment (0:52), Bobby Loves Reading (0:35) and The Junior Tournament (1:12). The scenes themselves are actually quite worthwhile and it is a shame that they were deleted from the film as they do in some ways demonstrate more of the struggle and desire of the young Bobby Jones, as well as some rampant early twentieth century sexism. The presentation is 2.35:1, not 16x9 enhanced and has Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. There are selectable English, German and Italian subtitles. The technical quality is pretty good with only some aliasing as the main issue of note - and even then it is not too bad.

Featurette - Celebrating The Legend: The Making Of Bobby Jones, Stroke Of Genius (17:03)

    Pretty much your basic extended EPK presentation where major cast and crew talk about each other, the film and the man the film celebrates. The only elevation of proceedings above EPK stuff is the inclusion of some archival footage of the main man. Reasonable enough but I would have thought that something far more encompassing could have been assembled for what is after all a labour of love film. The presentation is in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. There are selectable English, German and Italian subtitles. It suffers somewhat from cross colouration issues as well as some rather glaring aliasing in the shirt Jim Caviezel wears, but is otherwise quite acceptable from a technical point of view.

Featurette - The Friendship Speech (3:22)

    This and the next four featurettes make up a section called The Legacy. This is perhaps the most interesting of the five, even though it is technically the worst of them. This is a film recording of the speech that the wheelchair-bound Bobby Jones gave in 1958 in the city of St Andrews after being presented with the freedom of the burgh. He was only the second American to receive the honour - the other being Benjamin Franklin. He was genuinely overwhelmed by the honour and it does measure in no small way the esteem with which he was held by the inhabitants of the home of golf. Obviously in a Full Frame format, this black and white presentation is not 16x9 enhanced and features reasonable Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. There are film artefacts galore and this is really in poor condition - but its historical worth completely overcomes all these issues. Selectable English, German and Italian subtitles are available.

Featurette - Golf Means Fellowship (0:49)

    This is a reading of a letter written by Bobby Jones, around 1930, by John Imlay. It presents very much a short synopsis of the views of the legendary man as to what golf means. It plays over excerpts from the film. The presentation is notionally 2.35:1 that is not 16x9 enhanced and with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. The available subtitle options are English, German and Italian and they are selectable.

Featurette - The First Tee (3:15)

    This is nothing more than a three minute promotional spot for the foundation known as The First Tee that promotes the sport of golf amongst children. It features the visit of some of the cast and crew to a First Tee event where they talk about the film and golf. The presentation is 1.33:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. There are selectable English, German and Italian subtitles.

Featurette - ASAP (4:08)

    This is nothing more than a four minute spot for the American Syringomyelia Alliance Project. Bobby Jones died of the rare and incurable disease syringomyelia, basically a deterioration of the spinal cord, a condition that was very difficult to diagnose in his day (and really still is). He never made it well known that he had the disease as he did not want it to be called Bobby Jones Disease. I understand why it is included but it hardly extends the overall package value by much. The presentation is 1.33:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. There are selectable English, German and Italian subtitles.

Featurette - East Lake (2:23)

    This is the introduction to a special presentation of the film, emphasising the connection of the town to the man and promoting the town as a great place to live. The presentation is 1.33:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. There are selectable English, German and Italian subtitles. Pointless and valueless.

Theatrical Trailer (2:10)

    Your basic two minute synopsis of the film, presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, it is 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Of excellent quality with the German and Italian selectable subtitle options.

Trailers (3)

    The connection must be sports, for the three are A League Of Their Own (2:30), The Natural (1:29) and Radio (1:46). A League Of Their Own is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, it is 16x9 enhanced and features Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, whilst The Natural and Radio are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and are 16x9 enhanced. The Natural features Dolby Digital 2.0 sound whilst Radio features Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. They feature only German and Italian selectable subtitles. A League Of Their Own has plenty of film artefacts but is otherwise okay, whilst The Natural is very ropey with loads of telecine wobble, loads of grain, plenty of film artefacts, poor contrast and being very soft in definition. Radio is as expected the best of the lot with only some aliasing to impact upon the excellent quality.

R4 vs R1

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

    It would appear that, language and subtitle options aside, the only difference between the Region 1 and Region 4 release is that the Region 1 release has a small photo gallery and a couple of additional trailers. I would hardly consider them major issues and therefore there is no strong preference either way in this instance. I don't believe that Region 2 offers anything different either.

Summary

    Whilst it is a well made film, barring some glaring inaccuracies in the trains, and the man is a superb example of what great sportsmanship and hard work can achieve, this really is a film that is most likely to get little attention. For all its excellence, I cannot imagine that it is the sort of film that would bear repeated viewings with ease and certainly not the sort of film to appear on too many "Top 10" lists. I am very glad that I have seen it, but I doubt that I shall ever watch it again - unless I get short of a Claire Forlani film sometime. Whilst the transfers are very good, the whole package is let down by what in the end I find to be an underwhelming extras package. At the asking price of $40, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment have got to be joking if they expect this to sell in any number. It is a prime candidate for a reduction in price to at least the $20 mark and if you are only mildly interested in golf or the man, you would be well advised to wait until that price point eventuates. Of course, fans of golf and the man will not have awaited this review before purchasing the DVD.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Friday, January 28, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Aconda 9381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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