Ali (2001)

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Released 14-Aug-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Audio & Animation
Dolby Digital Trailer-Train
Featurette-Making Of
Featurette-Rove Live Interview With Will Smith
Theatrical Trailer
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Notes-Muhammad Ali - Timeline
dts Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 150:11
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (65:49)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Michael Mann
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Will Smith
Jamie Foxx
Jon Voight
Mario Van Peebles
Ron Silver
Jeffrey Wright
Mykelti Williamson
Case Amaray-Transparent-Dual
RPI $39.95 Music Lisa Gerrard
Pieter Bourke


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes, a little
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Spike Lee thought that the film 'Ali' was a film that must be helmed by a black director - others, including Will Smith thought differently - and thank God they did. Michael Mann is a director's director. His visual style and the way he can guide a film like 'Ali' or 'The Insider', treading a thin line between feeling like a documentary and a motion picture is remarkable. He is the only person who could direct this film in such a way and pull it off with such distinct honesty, reality, precision and loyalty to the true story of Muhammad Ali.

    Widely renowned as the most meticulous director working today, Michael Mann has recreated the style and the era of Muhammad Ali in exacting detail. Using the thousands of photographs taken by Ali's photographer, Howard Bingham (who acts as an Executive Producer on the film) Mann, together with Production Designer John Myhre rebuilt many shots in the film to match actual events that took place in Ali's life. From the Tiger Lounge in Chicago to the gym in Zaire where Ali trained for the 'Rumble In the Jungle', this film is exact - it is precise, it is Michael Mann at his best.

    For six years, Will Smith turned down this role due to his own belief that he was not ready to play Muhammad Ali. The project sat in limbo for many years without a director who was strong enough to tell the story and more importantly, somebody who was capable of playing 'The Greatest', until finally, Smith met with Michael Mann and the deal was made.

    Filming began one year later after a gruelling training schedule for Smith which started at 6am each day for hours of fitness and boxing training, voice coaching, as well as studying tapes of Ali every morning and night to help make a 'neural' connection with the former champion. The result? A 220 pound, beautifully sculptured replica of Muhammad Ali who knew how to punch like Ali, move like Ali, get hit like Ali and tell the story that nobody else could tell.

    Will Smith is magnificent in this film. God (or possibly the board members of the Academy) knows how Denzel Washington won his Academy Award for Training Day. In comparison to this performance by Smith, Washington's effort fails on so many levels - it is truly something to behold and savour for years to come. This is true especially when you consider the persona of Will Smith. Big personality, big budget films like Men In Black, a high profile music career, his face on the cover of every magazine - how can we watch this huge star and believe that he is Muhammad Ali? Not an easy task for Smith to take on and succeed so well at.

    At risk of making this review solely about the acting and directing performances, there are also numerous other performances worthy of note in this film. Jon Voigt is simply amazing as legendary sports journalist Howard Cossell. The camaraderie he has with Will Smith is one of the true delights of this film and Voigt was quite rightly recognized for his performance at the Academy Awards. Another performance almost worthy of that honour was Jamie Foxx as one of Ali's trainers Drew 'Bundini' Brown. Foxx shows a wide range of emotions as the drunk and  illiterate poet with a bad hairline and a gift for rhyming. Foxx is hilarious at times and desperate at others - he gives a real human perspective to Ali's entourage. Malcolm X is skilfully portrayed by Mario Van Peebles as he shows a menacing yet human portrayal of the political leader - this is a solid and strong performance as he is guided by the sure hand of Michael Mann.

    Enough, Hugh! On with the plot synopsis. The film covers a ten year timeline in which Ali gains the heavyweight championship of the world at 22, publicly changes his name and joins the Nation of Islam (then, a group that was seen as a nationalist black separatist group). He refuses to join the American war effort in Vietnam, gets stripped of the belt in his prime and is not allowed to fight, gets married three times and eventually defeats George Foreman, a much younger, bigger and stronger opponent in the 'Rumble In the Jungle' at age 32 to regain the title that was unfairly stripped from him seven years earlier. A lot of story to tell in 150 minutes. While some people may feel that this film simply washes over this period in time without enough detail, consider the amount of detail that is included in the film - personally I would love to see a much longer cut of this film that deals with every exacting detail in these 10 years, but commercially it would never work. Anyway, that is what DVDs are for - unfortunately, this DVD does not cover such information, but we can only hope....

    This film does have problems with the way it deals with a sense of passing time, but the way in which it is presented and the way it tells the story the narrative demands is exemplary.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer of Ali is superb, and if not for some minor film to video artefacts, it would be of reference quality.

    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. Mann uses all of the width of his lens for extreme close ups throughout the film - to see this film in any other ratio would be an absolute shame and would diminish the film's overall effect on the viewer as it would feel very congested and confined.
 
    The sharpness of this transfer is the highlight for me. Every shot is beautifully crisp, clear and bright with brilliant shadow detail even in darker scenes with intense close ups. There is only one shot in the film where some grain can be noticed - at 92:54. At different times throughout the film, Mann utilizes different types of cameras to show a dirtier side to the story, therefore some grain can be seen in these areas, but obviously this stems from the source material rather than the DVD transfer. There is no low level noise.
 
    The colours in this film are deliberately drab at times, as it uses a fairly grey palette. Colours are beautiful and bright throughout with strong definition for the entirety of the feature. There is a lot of natural light used in this film which never serves to flare the lens too much or seem overexposed. The colours of Africa and 1960s America are captured beautifully and transferred over to DVD in brilliant fashion.

    There are no MPEG artefacts to be found here whatsoever. There are some slight instances of aliasing throughout the film but these are so insignificant that I will mention them only because I found no other artefacts with this transfer. Small amounts of aliasing can be found at 35:52, 45:50, 59:44, 87:45 and 115:31. Film artefacts are virtually non existent to the extent that I was searching for just one fleck of dust so as I could check my Region 1 disc of Ali to see if the transfer was the same. This feat is amazing, as it is virtually impossible to handle film without any dust getting on it at all. For those who are interested, the transfer is taken from the same 35mm print.
 
    There is an English for the Hearing Impaired subtitle track on this DVD which matches the dialogue on screen fairly well. I watched about 15 minutes of these subtitles.
 
    This is an RSDL disc with the layer change found at 65:49 in the middle of Chapter 16.  The placement is at the change of a scene, but unfortunately the sound from the next scene has already started to fade in so it is quite disruptive. The placement of the layer change on the Region 1 version is better at 89:05 between Chapters 16 and 17.

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

Audio

    As with the video transfer of the film, the audio transfer is of the highest standard and is of reference quality. The soundtrack has a feeling of quality and strength throughout with the overall highlight being during the fight scenes when you can almost feel the punches being thrown at you.
 
    There are two audio tracks recorded here; an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track at 448kb/s and an English dts soundtrack at 768 kb/s. I listened to the dts soundtrack for this Region 4 DVD and the Dolby Digital soundtrack for my Region 1 disc. The final nod goes to the dts track due to its higher bit rate and a 'punchier' sound to the bottom end during the fight scenes.

    The dialogue quality is brilliant throughout with a very strong and resonant sound apparent for the entire feature. Obviously this is a heavily dialogue based film and the quality of this dialogue is very important. There are no issues with audio synch or any sound dropouts.

    The musical aspect if this film is very important. With the stunning opening sequence set to a medley of songs by Sam Cooke, the importance of the music to this film is communicated very early. Music is used heavily throughout the feature to accentuate situations and specific moments in time with a superb mix of 60s Rock, African world music and contemporary songs mixed well to give a very strong musical character to the film.
 
    The surround speakers get a heavy workout, particularly in scenes with a lot of people to give the viewer the feeling that they are right there. Scenes like press conferences with bulb flashes and crowd reactions work very effectively. The highlight for me was the superb attention the surround channels get when Ali enters the arena for the 'Rumble In the Jungle' - as the camera pans around the champion, the surround speakers follow the crowd noise and add a third dimension to an already awe-inspiring scene.
 
    The subwoofer is used mainly to accentuate the bass in the music as well as during the fight scenes when big hits are made. Its use is very subtle but very effective.

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

Extras

    There is a small but interesting package of extras to be found here on Disc 2.

Menu

    The menu for Disc 1 is an animated menu presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. It contains audio with music from the film and voices chanting 'Bumaye Ali, Bumaye Ali'. The menu for Disc 2 is a static bird's eye view of a boxing ring with the film versions of Ali and Sonny Liston standing in position.

Featurette-  The Making of Ali    (28:02)

    This featurette gives us a bit more information than the usual made-for-TV featurette. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with clips from the film in 2.40:1 that are not 16x9 enhanced. With interviews from Will Smith, Jon Voigt, and Michael Mann plus a whole host of others, it talks about the extent to which the filmmakers went to bring this film to life as well as Will Smith's training regimen. It features an interview with Angelo Dundee - Ali's trainer, and Howard Bingham - Ali's photographer. Both these men are depicted in the film. There is some great behind the scenes footage of Jamie Foxx and Jon Voigt in their respective characters which is amusing and worth watching.

Rove Live: Interview with Will Smith    (14:31)

    This interview taken from Australian talk show 'Rove: Live' is an unedited interview with Will Smith from February 2002. Taken from the digital feed, it is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.80:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. Rove conducts a solid interview with Smith who shows why he is one of today's most bankable stars. He is relaxed, easy going and very funny - he seems happy to be there and keeps the interview going at a good pace. A worthy extra to appear here.

Theatrical Trailer        (2:42)

    This is the international Theatrical trailer that appeared in cinemas. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and is 16x9 enhanced with an English 2.0 surround soundtrack. It plays very well and promotes the film well.

Muhammad Ali Timeline

    This timeline is a point form representation of Muhammad Ali's life over 9 pages of text. It is current up until 2002.

Biographies

    Featured here are very detailed biographies and filmographies for Will Smith, Michael Mann, Jamie Foxx, Jon Voigt, Mario Van Peebles, Ron Silver, Jeffrey Wright and Mykelti Williamson. All these biographies have a detailed description of the actor and their history and are of very good quality.

R4 vs R1

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

 
    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;     The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;    The local Region 4 release is the clear winner here. The reason for the dramatic difference in quality of extras is because in the U.S, Ali was distributed by Columbia Pictures. In this country, the local arm of Columbia passed on the film and it was picked up and distributed by Roadshow Film Distributors, hence, they have the home video rights as well. As usual, Roadshow have put together a quality package of extras for the local release and have not partaken in Columbia's annoying habit of releasing a bare bones DVD to be followed by a Collector's Edition further down the road.

Summary

  Ali is a great film that tells the complex story of Muhammad Ali in an honest and open fashion. The production values are amazing and it is one film that gets better every time I watch it. On the whole, this DVD is very good and worth owning until a more superior edition becomes available.

    The video is magnificent, with only a few minor flaws.

    The audio is brilliant and is of reference quality.

    The extras are of a high standard and can be viewed more than once.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Hugh Fotheringham (what the hell is going on in bio??)
Tuesday, July 16, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-S525, using Component output
DisplayLoewe Xelos (81cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS797- THX Select
SpeakersJamo X550 Left and Right, Jamo X5CEN Centre, Jamo X510 Surround

Other Reviews
Jeff K's Australian DVD Info Site - Kevin S
region4dvd.net - Darren R (read my bio (fun for the whole family))
DVD Net - Adrian T
Web Wombat - James A
DVDAnswers - Pete R
The DVD Bits - Tim M
MovieHole - Clint M
DVDownUnder - Cassandra N
DVD Plaza - Anthony C (read my bio)

Comments (Add)
Ali HDCAM technical details, for those who are interested... - Ben H (My biography. Go on have a read...)
Mann is the Man! - Rod W (Suss out my biography if you dare)
THE CHAMP IS HERE - DarkEye (This bio says: Death to DNR!) REPLY POSTED
This film can be described in 3 words... - Dark Lord (Bio? We don't need no stinkin' bio!)
Dialogue - Sean Brady REPLY POSTED
Re: Dialogue - Eddy T (read my bio)