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Concussion (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 13, 2016 by  



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Featuring a wonderful performance by Will Smith and a message for athletes that will resonate strongly for years to come, “Concussion” is fascinating, informative and entertaining film inspired by a true story about Dr. Bennet Omalu and how his discovery of CTE made shockwaves worldwide. Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. and LSC Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Concussion

FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 123 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:39:1 Aspect Ratio, English and French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English and French – Audio Description Track, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13

Release Date: March 29, 2016


Directed by Peter Landesman

Based on the GQ Article “Game Brain” by Jeanne Marie Laskas

Written by Peter Landesman

Produced by Elizabeth Cantillon, Ridley Scott, Larry Shuman, David Wolthoff

Co-Producer: Amal Baggar

Executive Producer: David Crockett, Michael Schaefer

Music by James Newton Howard

Cinematography by Salvatore Totino

Edited by William Goldenberg

Casting by Lindsay Graham, Mary Vernieu

Production Design by David Crank

Art Direction by Tom Frohling

Set Decoration by James V. Kent

Costume Design by Dayna Pink


Starring:

Will Smith as Dr. Bennet Omalu

Alec Baldwin as Dr. Julian Bales

Albert Brooks as Dr. Cyril Wcht

Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Prema Mutiso

David Morse as Mike Webster

Arliss Howard as Dr. Joseph Maroon

Mike O’Malley as Daniel Sullivan

Eddie Marsan as Dr. Steven DeKosky

Hill Harper as Christopher Jones

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Dave Duerson

Stephen Moyer as Dr. Ron Hamilton

Richard T. Jones as Andre Waters

Miley Cyrus as Herself


Will Smith stars in Concussion, a dramatic thriller based on the incredible true David vs. Goliath story of American immigrant Dr. Bennet Omalu, the brilliant forensic neuropathologist who made the first discovery of CTE, a football-related brain trauma, in a pro player and fought for the truth to be known. Omalu’s emotional quest puts him at dangerous odds with one of the most powerful – and beloved – institutions in the world. With captivating performances by Alec Baldwin and Academy Award® nominee Albert Brooks (1987 Best Supporting Actor, Broadcast News).


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In 2009, journalist Jeanne Marie Laskas wrote her “GQ” article, “Game Brain” about forensic pathologist Bennet Omalu, who tried to publicize his findings of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in American football players against the wishes of the NFL (National Football League).

When neuropathologist Dr. Bennett Omalu worked on the autopsy of former Pittsburgh Steelers and NFL Hall of Fame center Mike Webster, he was shocked to read of the reports of Webster’s previous medical diagnosis but to also find out that at the age of 50, he shouldn’t severe brain damage.

Using his own funding to pursue his medical research, Omalu determined that Webster died as result of long-term effects of repeated blows to the head.

The pursuit of this research, getting it publicized and the challenges he faced from the NFL and also society who felt the doctor’s research was threatening America’s sports game would be the focus in the film adaptation by filmmaker Peter Landesman (“Kill the Messenger”, “Parkland”, “Trade”).

And now “Concussion” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

“Concussion” is introduces us to Nigerian forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu (portrayed by Will Smith).

Working for the Allegheny County, Pennsylvania’s coroner’s office for Dr. Cyril Wecht (portrayed by Albert Brooks), Omalu has a strained relationship with co-worker Daniel Sullivan (portrayed by Mike O’Malley) because of how he talks to the deceased individuals he performs an autopsy on.  And because Omalu’s dedication of finding how the individual had died, he takes longer than usual.

Meanwhile, we are also introduced to Pittsburgh Steelers center and NFL Hall of Famer Mike Webster (portrayed by David Morse) and we learn how this popular athlete has hit rock bottom.  He lives in his truck and uses whatever he can to stop the thoughts that goes in his head.

While his friend, former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Justin Stzeiczyk (portrayed by Matthew Willig) tries to help Mike, he also confesses that he is having problems remembering things.

He tries to ask for help from former Pittsburgh Steelers team doctor Dr. Julian Bailes (portrayed by Alec Baldwin) but Bailey’s puts him through drugs to try to help him but is not sure why Mike is getting worse.

But the following morning, Mike Webster died at the age of 50 due to a heart attack.

When Dr. Omalu receives Mike Webster at the Coroner’s office, he is perplexed by how Mike is having all these problems because outside, during his procedure, Webster’s brain is good, but how he can have all these problems?

Dr. Omalu requests to do a lab tests but because it requires money which the coroner’s office will not pay, Omalu receives the go ahead from Dr. Cyril Wecht to perform the tests on the condition he pays for it.  As both men want to know what happened to Mike Webster.

As Dr. Omalu looks at the various tests, he discovers that Webster has severe brain damage as a result of long-term effects of repeated blows to the head.

Omalu shows how unlike certain animals that have barriers or cushions around their brain to protect from repeated blows, humans do not.

But the problem is that his research will cause problems because Pittsburgh is a sports town and NFL is America’s game.  Also, he will need to do more thorough research.

And as more NFL players are dead, he does more research and finds a consistency of the problems.

Meanwhile, through the stress of doing his research, he finds support and also love from Prema Mutiso (portrayed by Gugu Mbatha-Raw).

But in order to publicize his findings, he needs help in which he goes to renown neurologist, Steven T. DeKosky (portrayed by Eddie Marsan) and shows him his findings.

His findings are published and Omalu names the disorder chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

But because his research has now caused problems and is put under considerable pressure to back down and say his research is flawed, meanwhile Dr. Wecht is subjected to politically motivated prosecution on corruption charges.

Will Dr. Omalu backdown from all the pressure?


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VIDEO:

“Concussion” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio).  The film looks absolutely wonderful in HD with closeups showing detail of skin pigments to seeing the detail in clothing.  Outdoor scenes are vibrant and for the most part, I didn’t notice any problematic issues with banding or artifacts during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Concussion” is presented in English and French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and also features and English and French Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital.  Also, in Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital.

Dialogue is crystal clear, as well as the musical score by James Newton Howard.  While the surround channels try to take advantage of the sound of collision between football players with efficacy, the film is primarily dialogue and musically driven.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Concussion” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with director Peter Landesman
  • Deleted Scenes– (12:52) Featuring ten deleted scenes.
  • Inside the True Story – (11:10) Interviews with the cast and the real people that inspired the film.
  • Crafting Concussion – (12:49) Behind-the-scenes of the making of “Concussion”.

EXTRAS:

“Concussion” comes with a slipcover and UltraViolet code.


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Like many Americans, I was raised on football, I played football as kid and we were often determined to work and play hard.

If anything, the top of what was on our minds was not head safety as we assumed that our helmets featured the latest technology to protect us from head injuries and if anything, it was injuries to our legs or ankles or fingers that worried us the most.

And typically of sports, when we think of injuries to the head, we often think of sports where the majority of the injuries are in the head region, sports like boxing and occasionally, those who have mishaps or major accidents are in sports such as vehicle-based (motorcycle, dirtbikes, cycling) or skiing, or a pitcher or batter getting beaned by a ball at a high velocity.

But football?  Not so much.

But what made me wonder about brain injuries through sports was reading the articles about Dr. Bennet Omalu’s findings and also reading about the unusual behavior of athletes that became tragic, such as WWE wrestler, Chris Benoit.

When Omalu’s research came out, then Julian Baile’s study of Chris Benoit’s brain and then a few years ago with Junior Seau and recently that of the 91 former NFL players who donated their brains for research after death, 87 of them tested positive for CTE.  And now even more news that minor head trauma, not major concussions can cause CTE.

This leads us to Peter Landesman’s film “Concussion” and while I found the film important to get the information about CTE to a greater public, it’s also a film that shows us possibly how big corporations go to extremes of hiding the truth.  The tobacco industry are not just as fault, other industries are trying to protect their money and interests and as for the NFL, both them and the players who agreed to a billion dollar settlement.

While for those of us who love the game of football and cheered our favorite players, now are learning that more and more names are coming up with players that are suffering from CTE.  For me, I am a longtime fan of the Dallas Cowboys and to read about how Tony Dorsett is battling with CTE is heartbreaking.

So, I watched this film and now knowing how CTE can develop overtime, especially from children playing hard at football at a young age and there is no doubt fear of future head injuries. I love the game but I wouldn’t want my child playing football.

And my feelings after watching “Concussion” has become much stronger because the line in which Will Smith as Dr. Omalu is explaining of how humans were not meant to have constant collisions using their head.  Making the comparison with animals that have protection, humans do not.

The film is no doubt a David vs. Goliath story as a doctor nearly lost everything and his family and colleagues faced significant challenges because of their research.  Will Smith does a wonderful job of playing Dr. Bennet Omalu and the overall story is quite entertaining and informative.

While the news about CTE made headlines in media, one knows what the ending result for Dr. Omalu would be, but what we didn’t know is how much pressure that Omalu and his wife endured, with death threats and people following his wife.  To the political trouble that involved Dr. Cyril Wecht.

It’s a surprising but not so surprising story in some ways because as mentioned, like the Tobacco industry, we knew the trouble that whistleblowers had to endure, as we saw of Jeffrey S. Wigand as depicted in “The Insider”, we saw what the NFL and a few football fans were trying to do to get to Omalu. But he remained resilient and staying the course.

I think that Dr. Omalu and other doctor who have opened up a new attitude towards sports that are open to head injuries will keep people alert, but with the game so popular and no doubt is big business, no one should expect the game to be over.  Football is a sport in which many talented individuals can make a lot of money and to this day and also, a lot of major sports are the way-out for people to get out of their live of poverty.

And because of what we know about CTE, the sport, not just football, but other sports have also strict rules after one suffers a concussion or major head injury.  The sport has changed for the best, although there will be some who miss the days of hardcore hits of yesteryear.  But it’s now about educating parents for the new generation of athletes that will be raised.

“Concussion” is a film that offers clarity of CTE for those not familiar with it and while there are those who criticize the inaccuracies of the film and because we are in the early stages of learning of how many people are suffering from it, the fact is that more and more players, even those who just recently retired, are starting to exhibit some problems and now the league is supportive of them getting checked out, especially if they are dealing with a lot of memory loss and sudden anger issues.  So, there has been improvement.

As for the Blu-ray release, “Concussion” looks and sounds fantastic in HD and there are fascinating special features with interviews with the real people that are featured in the film.

Overall, featuring a wonderful performance by Will Smith and a message for athletes that will resonate strongly for years to come, “Concussion” is fascinating, informative and entertaining film inspired by a true story about Dr. Bennet Omalu and how his discovery of CTE made shockwaves worldwide.  Recommended!

 

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