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Ron Shelton
Tommy Lee Jones, Robert Wuhl, Lolita Davidovich, Ned Bellamy, Scott Burkholder, Allan Malamud, Bill Caplan
Writing Credits:
Al Stump (article, "Ty Cobb's Wild Ten Month Fight to Live" and book, "Cobb: A Biography"), Ron Shelton

Everyone hated this baseball legend. And he loved it.

By day, blind attorney Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck) toils for justice in Hell's Kitchen. By night, he's Daredevil, The Man Without Fear - a powerful, masked vigilante stalking the dark streets with an uncanny radar sense that allows him to "see" with superhuman capabilities. But when the love of his life, fiery Elektra Natchios (Jennifer Garner), is targeted by New York City's ruthless kingpin of crime (Michael Clarke Duncan) and his deadly assassin Bullseye (Colin Farrell), Daredevil may be about to meet his match.

Box Office:
Domestic Gross
$1.007 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby 2.0

Runtime: 129 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 9/2/2003

• Audio Commentary with Director Ron Shelton
• Audio Commentary with Actors Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Wuhl
• “The Real Al Stump” Featurette
• “On the Field with Roger Clemens” Featurette
• Additional Scenes
• Trailer


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Cobb (1994)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 12, 2005)

On paper, 1994’s Cobb sounded like a can’t-miss proposition. Director Ron Shelton returned to his pet subject of baseball, an area that allowed him his greatest success with 1988’s Bull Durham. In addition, the flick starred Tommy Lee Jones fresh off of his Oscar for 1993’s The Fugitive. That movie made Jones a star and seemed to bode well for this biopic.

In sports, games are won on the field and not on paper. That’s why the play them, and that’s why we rate movies on what we see on-screen, not as a summary of its talent. Cobb comes across as less than the sum of its parts and presents a disappointment.

Cobb opens with a very quick newsreel-style recap of the legendary baseball player’s career. The flick then jumps to 1960, where we meet successful sportswriter Al Stump (Robert Wuhl). The journalist gets a fateful phone call from an elderly Ty Cobb (Jones) who entreats him to write his authorized biography.

Despite Cobb’s fearsome reputation, Stump jumps at the chance. However, he soon starts to regret this as he heads to Cobb’s Lake Tahoe estate and meets the nasty old man in person. The pair immediately become antagonistic. Cobb wants to set the record straight on his life, and he also wants Stump to take him to a testimonial dinner in Cooperstown.

The movie essentially just follows their contentious relationship. Cobb slowly reveals sordid details of his past, with a particular emphasis on his parents. However, most of the flick concentrates on the interactions of Cobb and Stump and their hate/hate relationship. Inevitably they start to grow on each other and become reasonably close.

During his audio commentary, Shelton remarks that he might have avoided some criticisms of Cobb if he’d titled it The Last Days of Ty Cobb. He might be right, for one of the movie’s major flaws stems from the unsatisfying manner in which it examines the ballplayer’s life. Because Shelton focuses on so little of Cobb’s past prior to 1960, we don’t really learn much about the man. Shelton features some very simplistic analysis as he appears to pin most or all of Cobb’s flaws on his parental interactions, with one negative event depicted the most prominently. This doesn’t go much of anywhere and it feels like an easy out, as it avoids true psychological depth.

A lot of Cobb feels basic and doesn’t explore subjects well. It prefers to go for the big moment and the flashy elements of the character, and it passes on detail and richness. Jones’ performance exemplifies this trend. One usually won’t find work this cartoony outside of a Loony Tunes short. His take on the role definitely favors the broader side of Cobb’s personality and almost totally avoids any subtlety. Instead, Jones showboats and chews the scenery in this exceedingly over-the-top performance.

The movie presents some entertaining moments, and I will admit that Jones’ wild style occasionally works for what the film wants. I mostly find Cobb to be unsatisfying because it doesn’t provide a very interesting examination of its subject. We don’t learn much about the ballplayer here. Almost everyone who watches Cobb already knows the athlete’s reputation as a horrible human being, and the film does little to nothing to alter that concept. That’s fine, for it’s an accurate portrayal of the man. Cobb simply could have used some additional depth and detail to allow us to feel like we better knew what led to those actions and actual come across like a full human being, not just an old curmudgeon.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio C+/ Bonus B

Cobb appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The disc presented a generally positive picture.

Overall, sharpness looked good. Occasionally I noticed some slightly soft sequences, but those appeared infrequently. The majority of the flick appeared reasonably accurate and well defined. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering showed up, but some light edge enhancement appeared at times. Print flaws were pretty minor. The occasional speck manifested itself, but usually the movie seemed nicely clean.

The palette of Cobb depended on the setting. Most of the 1960 material displayed a reasonably natural tint, though those sequences tended to favor the brown side of the equation. The occasional shots from earlier in the century were very desaturated and almost black and white. The best tones showed up in the Reno sequences, where we saw some nicely distinctive colors. Within the film’s visual design, the colors generally seemed solid. Black levels appeared deep and tight, and low-light shots were mostly fine. Those sequences could be a little dense, but they mostly appeared clear and appropriately defined. I thought Cobb wasn’t an excellent image, bit it looked good as a whole.

Cobb offered a Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack that seemed fairly mediocre. The soundfield seemed acceptable for this kind of film but it didn’t excel in any way. The material mostly remained in the front channels, where I heard good stereo imaging for the music and a decent sense of environment. Some movement appeared via vehicles and gunshots, but mostly the flick featured a more general feeling of atmosphere. The surrounds kicked in with reinforcement for the most part. A few segments – like Cobb’s Hall of Fame flashback or nightclubs – used the rear speakers more actively, but in general they didn’t play a major role in the mix.

Audio quality was generally decent except for speech. Far too much of the dialogue came across as edgy and rough. The lines always remained intelligible, but the distortion made the material less distinctive than it should for a recent movie. Music was reasonably dynamic and vivid, and the score showed good range. Effects were also clean and accurate, and they didn’t suffer from any of the distortion that marred the speech. The problematic dialogue caused the track’s greatest concerns and led me to knock down my grade to a “C+”.

While not absolutely packed with supplements, Cobb featured a decent roster of components. We find two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director Ron Shelton, who offers a running, screen-specific piece. Shelton provided a good discussion of Bull Durham on that disc, and his chat about Cobb mostly follows suit.

In general, Shelton focuses on the facts behind the story. He gets into what’s real and what’s invented and delves into Cobb’s life in a nice manner. He also talks about other involved parties – mostly Al Stump – and gives us a feel for the history of the matter. Shelton doesn’t ignore filmmaking issues, though, as he discusses various topics in that domain and challenges involved. Empty spots appear infrequently and Shelton fills the time with useful material.

In the second commentary, we hear from actors Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Wuhl. Each sits separately and provides his own running, screen-specific track; the two recordings were combined for this piece. Though the commentary starts well, it peters out pretty severely after a while. During the early moments, the actors discuss their roles and their approaches to the characters. Wuhl seems especially entertaining as he lets us know about the real Stump, working with the others, and his reactions to the film’s lack of success. Wuhl comes across with a refreshingly frank tone; he tosses out some good wisecracks and occasionally criticizes his own performance. Jones seems more taciturn during the flick’s early parts, but he opens up somewhat as the commentary progresses.

However, the remarks become somewhat few and far between as we go along. The gaps never become insanely large, but they pop up too frequently and leave us with a lot of dead air. At its best, the actor commentary offers good insight into their work, their subjects, and other related topics. Unfortunately, too many empty spaces mar this piece and make it only sporadically stimulating.

Next we discover a collection of deleted scenes. These run a total of seven minutes and 50 seconds and expand on some of the movie’s elements. The first two are the most interesting. We actually see the woman who leads Stump astray, and we also watch a fairly entertaining segment in which Cobb refuses to take a phone call from Ernest Hemingway.

In addition to the movie’s theatrical trailer, the DVD ends with two featurettes. The Real Al Stump fills 103 seconds and doesn’t give us much. We see Stump on the movie’s set. First he tells us a little about his impressions of things, and then we watch him putter around the place. It doesn’t do much for me. On the Field With Roger Clemens also provides material from the set. In this three-minute piece, Clemens chats about baseball history and his work on the film. We also see Shelton work with him and other snippets from the shoot. The information’s not very useful, but the behind the scenes clips are fun, especially when Tommy Lee Jones tries to hit Clemens’ pitching.

Packed with potential, Cobb collapses as a disappointment. Overacted and generally less than engaging, the movie doesn’t do much to illuminate its subject and feels like a weak attempt at something grand. The DVD provides generally good picture with lackluster sound, but it gives us a surprisingly decent set of extras given the movie’s lack of commercial success. I can’t blame audiences for skipping this one, though, as the whole doesn’t add up to the sum of its parts.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.875 Stars Number of Votes: 8
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