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DISNEY

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Gavin O'Connor
Cast:
Kurt Russell, Patricia Clarkson, Noah Emmerich, Sean McCann, Kenneth Welsh, Eddie Cahill, Patrick O'Brien Demsey, Michael Mantenuto, Nathan West, Kenneth Mitchell, Eric Peter-Kaiser, Bobby Hanson, Joseph Cure
Writing Credits:
Eric Guggenheim

Tagline:
The True Story Behind The Greatest Moment In Sports History.

Synopsis:
Miracle tells the true story of Herb Brooks (Russell), the player-turned-coach who led the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team to victory over the seemingly invincible Russian squad.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$19.377 million on 2605 screens.
Domestic Gross
$64.329 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 135 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 5/18/2004

Bonus:
- Disc One -
• Audio Commentary with Director Gavin O’Connor, Director of Photography Daniel Stoloff and Editor John Gilroy
• “The Making of Miracle
• TV Spots
- Disc Two -
• “First Impressions: Herb Brooks with Kurt Russell and the Filmmakers”
• Outtakes
• “From Hockey to Hollywood: The Actors’ Journey” Feaurette
Miracle ESPN Roundtable
• “The Sound of Miracle” Featurette


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EQUIPMENT
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.

RELATED REVIEWS


Miracle (2004)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 11, 2004)

Boy, has it really been 24 years since the 1980 Winter Olympics? For those of us around at the time, it seems hard to believe. I guess enough time has passed to put that era in the realm of history and open for dramatic interpretation, as the 2004 flick Miracle gives us an examination of the legendary US Olympic hockey team’s pursuit of glory.

Miracle opens in June 1979 at the Colorado Springs headquarters of the US Amateur Hockey Association. We meet University of Minnesota coach Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) as he tries to sell the bigwigs on his methods for the US Olympic hockey team. We learn that US hockey suffers from a poor history in international competition as Brooks addresses how he’ll remedy these problems with team chemistry.

Despite some skepticism, Brooks gets the gig as the Olympic coach. From there we head to the tryouts and meet some of the players. These include goalie Jim Craig (Eddie Cahill), Robbie McClanahan (Nathan West), Jack O’Callahan (Michael Mantenuto) and eventual team captain Mike Eruzione (Patrick O’Brien Demsey). Pretty much all of them fall into the “underdog” category but all of them also meet Brooks’ team chemistry philosophy. We also get to know fellow coach Craig Patrick (Noah Emmerich) and see how Brooks’ tactics step on the toes of many others in the amateur hockey ranks.

From there we head to practices in Brooks’ home turf of Minnesota. Some tension exists between a few players, and Brooks uses his methods to iron out the issues and create a true team. The players and staff get to know each other better, though some problems arise. Craig still tries to recover from the recent death of his mother, while Brooks runs into tensions with his wife Patti (Patricia Clarkson) because of his own unresolved issues connected to his stint on the 1960 US Olympic hockey team.

We follow the training and various exhibition games, during which Brooks pushes his players to their limits. After they tie the Norwegian national team, he expresses his profound disappointment and forces them through punishing post-game drills. Despite some concerns, this seems to work, as it helps create a feeling of bonding among the team.

More training and exhibition games ensue, as does more information about the seemingly invincible Soviets. Additional tensions develop or grow. Brooks continues to estrange his wife, and he risks upsetting the team balance when he brings in a college hotshot named Timmy Harrer (Adam Knight) out of the blue. In addition, Brooks cuts a popular player to get down to the 20-player maximum, and the Soviets trounce the Americans in an exhibition contest three days before the opening of the winter Olympics.

And that ends the movie, as the Americans admit their inferiority and go home. Oh wait – that’s the “edited for Moscow” version of Miracle. In this one, we actually then watch the US hockey team’s path through the Olympics as they battle more concerns as well as the odds and go for the gold.

Is it a spoiler to say that they win? Maybe, but that’s on the same level as saying the Titanic sinks. At least Miracle reminds us that the famous US/Soviet game wasn’t the final, though only in passing. The actual gold medal game gets treated like a footnote, kind of the way everyone remembers Bill Buckner’s error and not the seventh game the next night.

I can’t quibble with that choice, for the Soviet game was obviously the emotional peak of the Olympics. However, I can knock the way in which Miracle tells its story. If you’re going to address such a well-known event, you need a new angle and some form of depth to make the tale compelling. With the outcome not in doubt, we require something else on which to hang out interest.

Because it examines its participants in a relentlessly superficial manner, Miracle never does so. We get beaten over the head with the team’s underdog status but learn very little about them. Pretty much all of the character insights can be summarized succinctly. Brooks? In it to win the gold he never got in 1960. Craig? In it to fulfill the wishes of his dead mother. Everyone else? No idea, for the movie glosses over them so rapidly that they make no impact.

Admittedly, it would be very difficult for Miracle to provide full portraits of all its participants given the size of the cast. However, it definitely could have done much better, and it should have done much better, as we need more reason to care about these people other than their scrappy underdog attitude.

Unfortunately, Miracle prefers to focus on the blandly emotional. That means lots of scenes in which the players earn our admiration, and lots of sweeping heroic music. The movie wears its emotional heart on its sleeve and doesn’t know when to quit. Sure, it gets rousing during the big game, but I think that my reaction came more from memory than the film’s material. I can remember those games, so of course a re-enactment will make an impact. Very little of this occurs because of the movie’s staging or implementation.

The movie does attempt to convey the spirit of the era, but it doesn’t succeed. If you watch this flick and didn’t live through the late Seventies, you won’t grasp the tenor of the times based on what you see. It tosses out lots of “current news” shorthand and little else.

Granted, the movie might seem more interesting if it weren’t so predictable. Since we do know the finish, greater depth would have been better. Miracle needs less “feel good” happiness and more detail. I don’t regard the movie as predictable because I know how it’ll end. I see it as predictable because everything follows such a standard path. No surprises pop up along the way, as the story telegraphs virtually everything well in advance.

It seems openly sentimental and emotional, and it really tries to push various buttons. Ultimately, Miracle comes across as little more than a bland David vs. Goliath enterprise and points everything in that direction with the standard and easily foreseeable lines. Frankly, a documentary and a replay of the actual US/Soviet hockey game would seem infinitely superior to this dull melodrama.

Footnote: stick around through the end credits for a little tagline from the real Herb Brooks.


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

Miracle 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 film offered a fairly decent picture but not one that consistently excelled.

Sharpness presented moderate concerns at times. Much of the film came across as nicely detailed and distinctive. However, more than a little softness interfered occasionally, as the movie periodically showed somewhat ill-defined images. Jagged edges and shimmering presented no concerns, but I noticed some mild edge enhancement at times. Print flaws appeared absent, though some light examples of compression artifacts occasionally seemed evident.

To match the color schemes of the era, the palette of Miracle tended toward the somewhat heavy and slightly garish side. It boasted a brownish tone with other hues that were moderately dense. They probably came across as a little muddier than I’d expect, but they generally remained fine. Black levels seemed fairly deep, though they could come across as a bit inky, while shadows tended to appear watchable but somewhat dense. Ultimately, the picture of Miracle suffered from few obvious flaws, but it occasionally seemed a bit too undefined and muddy to merit anything about a “B”.

For the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Miracle, we found a reasonably positive mix. Not surprisingly, the soundfield remained fairly limited except for during the hockey-related sequences. Outside of the rink, the movie focused on character moments, which didn’t lend themselves to much more than vague ambience. Music always depicted good stereo imaging, but except for the hockey bits, the track didn’t do much.

However, the mix came to life pretty nicely when necessary. During the hockey moments, elements moved smoothly across and around the spectrum. The focus remained on the front speakers, but the surrounds added a nice sense of place and dimensionality. Unsurprisingly, the big games became the most active, and they brought the action to us well. It wasn’t a remarkable soundfield, but it did what it needed to do.

Audio quality was mostly fine. Speech seemed somewhat thick and metallic at times. The lines remained easily intelligible, but they didn’t come across as naturally as expected. Music was nicely vibrant and dynamic, though, as they score appeared bright and clear. Effects also seemed accurate and smoothly depicted. Not much about the track challenged the mix, though the hockey sequences added good impact from the body checks and other violent elements. Low-end response was very positive, as score and louder effects demonstrated firm and rich bass. Overall, the audio seemed good, but it didn’t come across as spectacular.

This two-disc set presents a good package of extras. On DVD One, the main attraction comes from an audio commentary from director Gavin O’Connor, director of photography Daniel Stoloff and editor John Gilroy. All three sit together for their running, screen-specific discussion. In general, this seems like a good but unexceptional commentary. The participants go into a nice array of subjects. We learn about casting and working with the actors, locations and logistical concerns, visual decisions and storytelling choices, encapsulating history, storyboarding the hockey games and a mix of other subjects. The track moves pretty briskly and the speakers come across as involved and interested. Unfortunately, too much happy talk pops up throughout the film, as we hear a lot of praise for all involved. Nonetheless, Miracle’s commentary mostly seems reasonably informative and engaging.

In addition, we get The Making of Miracle. This 17-minute and 52-second program presents the standard conglomeration of movie clips, archival and behind the scenes snippets, and interviews. We find notes from sportscaster Al Michaels, director O’Connor, director of photography Stoloff, editor Gilroy, producers Mark Ciardi and Gordon Cray, casting directors Randi Hiller and Sarah Halley Finn, sports coordinator Mark Ellis, hockey technical advisor Ryan Walter, sound designer Elliott Koretz, co-supervising sound editor Rob Nokes, re-recording mixers Michael Minkler and Myron Nettinga, composer Mark Isham, original players Rob McClanahan and Jack O’Callahan, and actors Kurt Russell, Nathan West, Eddie Cahill, Noah Emmerich, Patricia Clarkson and Eric Peter-Kaiser.

They chat about Russell’s performance, casting and hockey issues, training, depicting the hockey games authentically, photographic considerations, the effect on editing of the massive amount of footage shot, sound design and music, and a visit from the real players to the set. We hear about most of the same topics during the commentary, but the documentary benefits from visuals. It’s good to see game to movie comparisons and other behind the scenes information. While some of the notes seem redundant, enough new material appears to offer a decent look at the film, and the various visuals appear very interesting.

The disc includes the usual complement of ads at the start of the disc. When you pop the platter in your player, you’ll find promos for Aladdin, Around the World in 80 Days, Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, and the new animated version of The Three Musketeers. In addition, the Sneak Peeks domain features all of those trailers as well as additional ads for the Lion King II: Simba’s Pride special edition, Teacher’s Pet, ABC Sports, ESPN 25, and ESPN videogames.

We also get the THX Optimizer. This purports to help you set up your home theater to best present the movie on the disc in question. Apparently the Optimizer is unique for each DVD on which it’s included; unlike programs such as Video Essentials, the Optimizer should tweak your set-up differently every time. Frankly, I’ve been very happy with my already-established calibration and I’m afraid to muck with it, so I’ve never tried the Optimizer. If you lack calibration from Video Essentials or a similar program, or if you’re just more adventurous than I, the Optimizer could be a helpful addition.

As we head to DVD Two, we start with From Hockey to Hollywood: The Actors’ Journey. This uses the standard format with movie clips, behind the scenes footage, and interviews and runs 27 and a half minutes. We hear from O’Connor, Finn, Hiller, Ellis, real players Jim Craig, Jack O’Callahan, and Buzz Schneider, and actors Billy Schneider, Patrick O’Brien Demsey, Nathan West, Eddie Cahill, Michael Mantenuto, Eric Peter-Kaiser, Nate Miller, and Chris Koch. They go over the casting, training, biographical information about the performers, and how they fit into their roles. Some of the information appeared in DVD One’s documentary, but this show goes into more detail about the actors and their training. It’s occasionally fluffy, but it presents a nice layer of depth.

In the collection of Outtakes, we get four minutes and 52 seconds of material. This offers the usual assortment of goof-ups and nuttiness. Don’t expect anything out of the ordinary here.

Next comes a featurette called First Impressions: Herb Brooks with Kurt Russell and the Filmmakers. It goes for 21 minutes and 12 seconds as we hear from O’Connor, Brooks, Russell and others. This presents a pre-production discussion among the above as they chat about Brooks’ methods and history, the team, and a variety of the coach’s thoughts and experiences. Brooks heavily dominates this program, which seems appropriate and a lot of fun. It’s great to hear this material from the horse’s mouth and “Impressions” presents a valuable extra.

After this we find a Miracle ESPN Roundtable. It runs 41 minutes and six seconds as host Linda Cohn chats with Kurt Russell, Mike Eruzione, Jim Craig and Buzz Schneider. They discuss Herb Brooks, the team and its chemistry, the games and the playing style, portraying the real-life personalities, and other elements of the shoot. The conversation consistently seems lively and entertaining. Russell gives us some nice perspective about the shoot, but it’s the players who prove most useful. They toss out lots of good information about their experiences and the reality behind the film, and they help make this a fun and compelling program.

Lastly, we locate a featurette entitled The Sound of Miracle. In this 10-minute and 24-second show we hear from O’Connor, editor Gilroy, supervising sound editor Rob Nokes, re-recording mixers Myron Nettinger and Michael Minkler, sound designer Elliott Koretz, and composer Mark Isham. They get into what they wanted to do with the audio and how they executed those plans. We learn lots of details about the various elements. Overall, it’s an informative and interesting piece.

Although the topic naturally lends itself to drama, Miracle tries too hard to force us to feel certain emotions. It lacks depth and comes across as a thin and superficial feel-good flick that fails to deliver any real power. The DVD presents good but somewhat erratic picture and sound plus a pretty nice roster of extras. While the disc seems good enough for me to recommend it to fans, the movie itself is a disappointment.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.48 Stars Number of Votes: 100
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