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UNIVERSAL

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Phil Alden Robinson
Cast:
Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, Gaby Hoffmann, Ray Liotta, Timothy Busfield, James Earl Jones, Burt Lancaster
Writing Credits:
W.P. Kinsella (book), Phil Alden Robinson

Tagline:
All his life, Ray Kinsella was searching for his dreams. Then one day, his dreams came looking for him.

Synopsis:
Kevin Costner plays a former Sixties idealist who runs a farm in Iowa with his wife and young daughter. After hearing a mysterious, heavenly voice one day, Costner turns one of his cornfields into a baseball diamond. Of course, everyone thinks he's crazy, but in time "Shoeless" Joe Jackson and other ghostly outcasts, who had previously languished in a sort of baseball purgatory, show up to play the game they still love. Soon men from all over the country join them at this baseball shrine, some just to play with the greats, others to mend the broken relationships they had with their fathers - But all are trying to get back in touch with simpler times through the purity of America's grandest game.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$531.346 thousand on 22 screens.
Domestic Gross
$64.431 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1
Audio:
English Dolby Surround 2.0
French Dolby Surround 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French

Runtime: 106 min.
Price: $34.98
Release Date: 4/28/1998

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Phil Alden Robinson & Director of Photography John Lindley
• “Field of Dreams: A Scrapbook” Documentary
• Isolated Score
• Shooting Script
• Production Stills
• Articles About Doc Graham
• Potpourri
• Trailer
• Production Notes
• Cast and Crew Bios


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RELATED REVIEWS


Field Of Dreams (1989)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 8, 2008)

My guess would be that anyone reading this probably likes to own movies and to watch them more than once. For the most part, that's a good thing and I agree with it. However, I think there are some movies that should not receive additional viewings. This is not because these films are poor – in fact, I mean pictures that I liked the first time through - but simply because they don't hold up well to the second screening. Whatever affection I originally had for the piece gets destroyed.

For some reason, Kevin Costner films feature prominently in my "Shouldn't have watched that again!" derby. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Dances With Wolves, Field of Dreams… These are all movies that I liked that first time out but altered my opinion upon further review.

However, it had been a while since I last saw Field of Dreams, so I thought I'd give it another chance. Now that I've seen it again, I've concluded that Dreams is actually a pretty decent little movie and much better than I thought the second time through it. It's not the greatest thing I've ever seen, but it's a fairly enjoyable and occasionally moving piece.

You know, right now I'm not even terribly sure what turned me off about Dreams in the first place, but I think it was probably the frequently overly reverent attitude it displays towards baseball. This isn't because I don't like the game; in fact, I'm a lifelong baseball fan who counts it as easily his favorite sport. Nonetheless, I can't stand the whole "baseball as America" rhapsodizing that so frequently occurs. Whenever baseball starts to get viewed as some sort of mythological, unifying source, that's when I head for the exits; please keep George Will, Ken Burns and their ilk away from me.

Not that I deny the ways that baseball can tie people - especially fathers and sons - together. I can definitely relate to the experiences of Ray Kinsella (Costner), who never knew how to talk to his dad but could usually connect to him through baseball, so I perfectly understand the message being sent. I think that's largely the reason Dreams worked for so many people, because lots of us see our own experiences depicted on the screen.

However, some people push the baseball-America metaphor way too far, and that's what turns me off. Thankfully, Dreams avoids that trap for the most part. I could have lived without Terence Mann's (James Earl Jones) speech at the end, but other than that, there's not too much baseball religion happening here. Really, as has been said many times before, the movie isn't about baseball; it's about relationships and regrets, and baseball simply is the vehicle that motivates the story.

Actually, the use of baseball in the film is quite a clever device if for no reason other than that it helps draw men in to the story. Essentially, Dreams meets most criteria to be a "chick flick," but it's rarely thought of that way. The fact that sports are involved makes the picture more accessible for a male audience.

Dreams shoots for modest goals, and it achieves them pretty well. It's actually a lot like It’s a Wonderful Life in that it seeks to remind the viewer to appreciate what they have rather than to constantly wish for something else. Some may view that message as subtly insidious - it seems to argue against pursuing dreams and desires - but I think it's something that too many of us forget too often. It's much easier to find the negative in your current situation and fantasize that something else would be better than it is to really understand and appreciate what positives you do have.

Enough philosophizing. Suffice it to say that Dreams is an effective, well-made film that moves slowly but steadily and resolves with a nice emotional payoff. Although I'm not wild about Amy Madigan - just a little too spunky for my liking - the acting's uniformly good and both cinematography and score are fine. Dreams will never make my top ten favorite films list, but it's a good movie to watch on days when you feel bitter or depressed (I call those "days that end in ‘Y”").


The DVD Grades: Picture C-/ Audio C+/ Bonus A-

Field of Dreams appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has NOT been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The lack of 16X9 enhancement was just one of the problems that marred this presentation.

Sharpness occasionally took a hit. Some of this came from the lower resolution of the non-anamorphic transfer. I noticed quite a few instances of jagged edges as well as some shimmering, and wide shots tended to be moderately soft and undefined. Mild edge enhancement came along for the ride as well; haloes contributed to the movie’s occasional impression of softness.

Source flaws were another concern. The film seemed grainer than usual, and I noticed sporadic examples of specks, grit, nicks and other blemishes. Though these never became heavy, they created more than a few distractions.

Colors sometimes looked good, as the movie boasted a rich, natural palette. However, the tones could be too heavy, so I thought colors weren’t as vivid as they should have been. Blacks seemed somewhat inky, and shadows tended to be moderately muddy. This wasn’t a bad enough transfer to fall to “D” territory, but it disappointed nonetheless.

Don’t expect much from the film’s Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack either, though it seemed acceptable for a film of this one’s age. The soundfield was pretty subdued through most of the flick. Music showed passable stereo definition, and a few scenes opened up the mix to a minor degree. For instance, the shots at Fenway Park presented decent spread to the side and rear channels. Otherwise, this was a low-key mix without much to impress the listener.

Audio quality also was satisfactory but not much more. A few lines sounded a little stiff, but most of the dialogue was reasonably natural and concise. Effects played a small role and didn’t do much to stand out from the crowd. Those elements were acceptably defined, though, and not an issue. Music fared best of all, as the movie’s score appeared fairly lively and rich. Lows could be slightly loose, but I thought the music was usually pretty good. Overall, this ended up as a pretty average soundtrack.

In terms of extras, we start with an audio commentary with director Phil Alden Robinson and director of photography John Lindley. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. They discuss story issues and the adaptation of the original novel, sets and shooting in Iowa and elsewhere, cast and performances, baseball training, visual issues and cinematography, score and audio, various effects, and general production notes.

Though Lindley tosses in a few good notes, this is Robinson’s show and he dominates the commentary. The director makes this a consistently involving discussion. We learn a lot about the production and get many fine insights across this useful and engaging track.

Most of the DVD’s other supplements fall under the banner of The Field of Dreams Scrapbook. The main attraction here is a one-hour, 28-minute and 45-second documentary entitled A Scrapbbok. It mixes movie clips, archival materials, and interviews. We hear from Robinson, author WP Kinsella, producer Larry Gordon, head baseball coach Rod Dedeaux, production designer Dennis Gassner, farm owner Don Lansing, composer James Horner, and actors Kevin Costner, Burt Lancaster, Amy Madigan, James Earl Jones, Timothy Busfield, and Ray Liotta.

“Scrapbook” looks at the original novel and its adaptation for the screen. From there we go through cast, characters and performances, locations, sets, and connected concerns, a little baseball history, and attempts at baseball realism in the flick. The rest of the show goes into Robinson’s impact on the set and elements of shooting the movie, the score, marketing, and the film’s reception.

“Scrapbook” offers a very good documentary. It touches on most of the production’s appropriate subjects and does so in a rich, satisfying way. Surprisingly, not too much material repeats from the commentary, and that means the pair complement each other. We get a fine examination of Dreams via this solid program.

Hidden inside the “Language Selections” menu for the “Scrapbook”, movie music lovers will find a pleasant surprise: a stereo rendition of James Horner’s Score. This runs during the documentary and appears to offer the entire score for the film. I think it’s odd the DVD’s producers hide this option, but it’s a nice bonus anyway.

Back inside the many “Scrapbook” options, we locate the flick’s Shooting Script. This allows us to flip from page to page and check out the screenplay. The interface is less than user-friendly, but it’s a cool addition to the set.

More frames pop up in the Production Stills. We get a whopping 368 photos from the set and the film. Though the quality is pretty good, again the interface causes problems. You can’t do anything other than flip from one to the next, so God help you if you want to see picture 187 again. Still, I like the photos themselves.

Next we get some Articles About Doc Graham. These cover 98 screens as they tell us about the real-life character who inspired the movie’s “Moonlight”. They’re fascinating historical documents.

Potpourri includes a few stillframe odds and ends. We get facts about Joe Jackson and a few others as well as photos of the legendary player and additional historical baseball figures. The “Potpourri” also includes unused storyboards, publicity shots and ad campaigns before the “Scrapbook” area ends with the movie’s trailer.

A few text elements finish the DVD. Production Notes offer a short synopsis of various filmmaking subjects; we’ve already heard these elsewhere, but they provide a good summary. We also get serviceable Cast & Filmmakers biographies for Robinson and actors Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, James Earl Jones, Ray Liotta and Burt Lancaster.

While I was prepared to dislike Field of Dreams, I actually found it to be fairly charming and entertaining. Whatever aspects of the film turned me off in the past melted away as I got caught up in its gentle fantasy and emotion. The DVD presents mediocre picture and sound but compensates somewhat with an excellent roster of extras. Though the disc doesn’t give us the film at its best, at least we get a fine flick with a lot of useful supplements.

To rate this film visit the Anniversary Edition review of FIELD OF DREAMS

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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main