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Thomas Carter
Samuel L. Jackson, Channing Tatum, Ashanti
Writing Credits:
Mark Schwahn, John Gatins

Controversy surrounds high school basketball coach Ken Carter after he benches his entire team for breaking their academic contract with him.

Box Office:
$30 million.
Opening Weekend
$24,182,961 on 2524 screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated PG-13.

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Spanish Dolby 5.1
French Dolby 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 136 min.
Price: $12.99
Release Date: 12/16/2008

• “The Man Behind the Movie” Featurette
• “Fast Break at Richmond High” Featurette
• "Two-Man Game" Featurette
• "Making the Cut" Featurette
• 6 Deleted Scenes
• Music Video


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Coach Carter [Blu-Ray] (2005)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 14, 2021)

Apparently audiences love movies about teachers who work in challenging environments and succeed despite the odds, for 2005’s Coach Carter emerged as a minor sleeper hit. Its gross of $67 million didn’t rewrite any record books, but for a low-key, low-budget, low-wattage tale of a high school basketball coach, that’s pretty darned solid.

Set in Richmond, California, local businessman Ken Carter (Samuel L. Jackson) gets the invitation to take over the basketball head coaching position at Richmond High School, his old alma mater.

The team lacks discipline, and current coach Ray White (Mel Winkler) tires of the struggles. Against his better judgment - and the wishes of his teen son Damien (Robert Ri’chard) who plays at rival private school St. Francis - Carter decides to take the job as coach of the Oilers.

Carter comes into a situation with unruly and disruptive kids. He finds that they immediately disrespect him and don’t think much of his new system.

Coach Carter greets resistance and a few students walk out on the team. The rest find that they’ll enter a whole new world of workouts and discipline. Their parents don’t cotton to Carter’s requirements like a 2.3 GPA and dress code so they fight him along with their kids.

Off the court, we get to know a little more about some of the students. Worm (Antwon Tanner) is a nutty self-styled playa, while Kenyon (Rob Brown) deals with his girlfriend’s pregnancy.

Lyle (Channing Tatum) lives in the world of the Generic White Boy. The volatile Cruz (Rick Gonzalez) initially holds a grudge against Carter, but as he sees a life of drug dealing before him, he decides to return to the team and prove his worth to the coach.

Back on the home front, Damien decides to leave St. Francis and come to play for his old man. He transfers to Richmond and agrees to adhere to even higher standards than those Carter requires of the others.

This inevitably means a rough adjustment for the smart, sophisticated Damien. Not only is he the coach’s son, but he’s also not a good fit among the street-smart kids.

Carter’s system finds immediate results on the court. The Oilers win their first game under their new coach, largely due to their superior conditioning.

Carter still expects more, though, and pushes the kids to do more. The movie follows their various successes and setbacks along with all the pressures Carter faces.

As someone who works in public schools with an essentially urban, largely Black population, I should appreciate movies like Carter. After all, they’ll be seen mostly by the kinds of kids with whom I work, and they present the potential to inspire. Heck, if a handful of students see Carter and it encourages them to shape up their own attitudes, then it’s time well spent.

So how come I can’t get past just how damned predictable and cliché Carter is? Well-meaning it may be, but the film never rises above all its genre conventions. Slow, long, and genuinely boring, I can’t help but feel like I’ve already seen the movie - and seen it many times.

Carter starts on a rough note just because Ken’s decision to coach the team makes so little sense. We get no backstory about any interest in kids, coaching or education.

Instead, Carter takes the job essentially because there’d be no movie otherwise. The only remote reason given is that he attended the school and played on the team, but the movie never attempts to explain his choice in any other way.

Story telling fares no better. Carter goes to the team, dictates his terms, then repeats them ad nauseam as the film progresses.

Here’s the movie: Carter lectures the kids or related adults. They gripe about his tactics. He holds firm and they come around to his side. Lather, rinse, bore.

Truly, Carter is one long lecture wrapped up into an attempt at a feel-good tale. The lead character never speaks in anything other than bumper sticker platitudes, and the absence of concise personalities drags the pedantic dialogue down even further.

The kids never evolve above the standard ghetto clichés, and they behave in inconsistent ways. One minute they hate Carter, the next they love him. The film presents a series of scenes in which kids leave and swear never to return, but there they are minutes later with hats in hand.

Carter himself remains a bland stereotype. Does the man ever work? The film includes one token scene to explain how he rarely goes to his store but doesn’t really try to make sense of the situation.

And what about his girlfriend? She plays only a minor role in the proceedings, so she’s there for the occasional moral support and nothing else.

One might expect some depth from the relationship between Ken and Damien. One would expect incorrectly.

That side of things receives little exposition, as the kid gets lumped in with the rest of the team most of the time. I’d think some tension would result from the presence of the coach’s son on the squad, but the film does nothing to explore that topic.

Actually, that reminds me of one of the movie’s many inconsistencies. Damien’s a freshman but he mentions his high SAT scores.

Maybe things changed over the 20 years between my high school graduation and the release of this movie, but I don’t think many freshmen take the SAT, especially not at the very start of ninth grade. College is a long time down the road for a kid in that position, but the film treats him like a senior.

Odd elements abound in Carter. Why does a bald black kid make fun of a bald black man’s head? Why do all these Richmond girls sound like they’re from Brooklyn?

Don’t transfer students have to sit for a while before they can play? Maybe that’s only in college, but I don’t think you can skip from one school to another in the middle of the year and still be allowed to suit up immediately.

Indicative of the lazy filmmaking on display, those behind Carter don’t even seem sure where it takes place. When most people hear “Richmond”, they assume “Virginia”, and the flick does little to disavow us of this notion.

For instance, we learn that the Oilers will play Arlington HS. That seemed like an odd geographical choice since Arlington VA is about 100 miles from Richmond, but I guess it’s possible. We also are told that Carter attended George Mason University after college, and that makes sense since GMU is also roughly 110 miles from Richmond.

As I watched the movie, I slowly started to realize that it takes place in Richmond California. Maybe I was so focused on Virginia that I missed other clues, but you must admit that the hints mentioned above sure lead us toward Richmond VA instead of Richmond CA. Indeed, the original events did happen in CA.

There is an Arlington HS in California, so it’s possible the Oilers played them. However, it’s 400 miles from Richmond, so that seems unlikely. And Carter actually attended George Fox University in Oregon, not George Mason University in Virginia.

So why did the filmmakers make such obvious geographical goofs? I’m convinced that they didn’t realize the film took place in California either! I figure they assumed Richmond and didn’t figure out their error until they’d already shot some footage.

Or maybe I’m wrong - who knows? But I do know that this is a sloppy film. It shouldn’t be that tough for the audience to figure out whether it takes place in Virginia or California.

It also shouldn’t be so tough to create a movie that’s more than just a series of problems, lectures, and statistics. One big crummy sermon after another, Coach Carter annoys consistently and entertains infrequently.

Future star alert: in addition to Channing Tatum, look for Octavia Spencer as the mother of a Richmond player.

The Disc Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B/ Bonus C+

Coach Carter appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though not without its strengths, the transfer lacked much to make it sparkle.

Some issues with sharpness occurred. Although most of the movie offered reasonably crisp and distinctive visuals, occasional examples of softness popped up through the flick.

No jagged edges or shimmering materialized, and I saw no edge haloes. Decent grain implied the image didn’t come with copious noise reduction, but a few source flaws were visible, primarily due to occasional specks.

Much of Carter went with an amber palette, along with a little teal at times. The colors felt adequate but they didn’t stand out as memorable.

Blacks looked good and deep much of the time, and shadows offered reasonable clarity. Overall, the image was acceptable but not up to high format standards.

As a character drama, Coach Carter stayed with a generally subdued Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundfield, though it came to life well when necessary. Between score and rap songs, music dominated the mix. Those elements demonstrated good imaging and delineation and also spread nicely to the surrounds for support.

Otherwise the track picked up mainly during the basketball scenes. Those oriented toward the front but demonstrated a fair sense of environment.

A few other “ghetto effects” offered information like gunfire and helicopters, and those created a fairly effective environment. There wasn’t a lot to dazzle us, but the mix worked fine for the material.

Audio quality consistently satisfied. Speech always came across as natural and crisp, and I noticed no signs of edginess.

Effects remained background elements, but they were accurate and as lively as they needed to be. As noted, music played the most significant role and offered strong reproduction.

Dynamic range was solid and the songs and score showed solid definition. This was a satisfying mix.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the DVD version? The lossless audio came across as a bit warmer and more dynamic than the lossy DVD’s mix.

As for visuals, the Blu-ray benefited from the usual format-related improvements. This meant a step up in terms of colors and definition mainly. As semi-drab as the image may be, the Blu-ray became a step up over the DVD.

The DVD’s extras repeat here, and we start with a featurette called Coach Carter: The Man Behind the Movie. The 19-minute, 41-second show includes interviews with the real Ken Carter, son Damien, sister Diane, Carter’s mother, actor Samuel L. Jackson, producer Mike Tollin, and former Richmond HS players Chris Dixon, Marvin Miranda, Wayne Oliver, and Chris Gibson.

The featurette covers the facts behind the movie. That means it essentially retells the movie from the perspective of those who lived it. Because of that, we don’t learn any basics we don’t already know, but we do get a different viewpoint, and it’s good to meet the true participants.

Another featurette called Fast Break at Richmond High comes next. It runs 11 minutes, 40 seconds as it presents comments from Ken Carter, Jackson, Tollin, basketball coordinator Mark Ellis, producer Brian Robbins, and actors Robert Ri’chard, Rob Brown, Texas Battle, Nana Gbewonyo, Rick Gonzalez, and Channing Tatum.

They talk about the choreography and filming of the basketball sequences. We learn about training, planning, and technical details like pre-visualization. The featurette offers a tight little look at the issues related to bringing the game to life.

Six Deleted Scenes last a total of 12 minutes, 10 seconds. We get even more lectures from Carter, another of Cruz’s 178 returns to the team, and a few character moments with Kenyon. None of this comes across as particularly interesting, as it does little more than reiterate the same kind of material in the finished film.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we get a music video for “Hope” by Twista featuring Faith Evans. It mostly features the usual combination of lip-synching and movie clips, though some unique “dramatic” elements try to tell a little story as well. The song’s not great, but it’s better than expected even though Twista’s hyper style doesn’t fit the laid-back music well.

Two more featurettes are new to the Blu-ray. The Two Man Game goes for eight minutes, 25 seconds and brings notes from Robbins, Tollin, Dixon, Jackson, Ken Carter, and screenwriters Mark Schwahn and John Gatins.

“Game” looks at the adaptation of the real-life story as well as aspects of script, story and characters. It becomes a fairly solid examination of these subjects.

Finally, Making the Cut spans 18 minutes, 22 seconds and involves Tollin, Robbins, Ken Carter, Gatins, Jackson, Damien Carter, Schwahn, Battle, Brown, Tatum, Gonzalez, Gbewonyo, Ri’chard, Ken Carter’s sister Debra Carter, and actor Denise Dowse, Antwon Tanner and Ashanti.

“Cut” looks at the work of director Thomas Carter, cast and performances, andstory/characters. “Cut” offers a good general look at the film’s production, if one a little on the happy talk side.

Tedious and predictable, we’ve seen many a movie like Coach Carter in the past. This one adds nothing new and follows a pedantic path to boredom. The Blu-ray presents mostly positive picture and audio along with a few extras. Unless you enjoy bumbling, incoherent films packaged as inspiration, stay away from this dud.

To rate this film visit the DVD review of COACH CARTER

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