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

June 7, 2009 by  



“Powerful, inspirational and one of the most accurate looking sports films of all time.  ‘MIRACLE’ is an entertaining, well-acted film based on the 1980 United States Olympic Men’s Hockey Team and how it beat the great Soviet team.  A monumental event in America’s sports history.  The film looks and sounds absolutely awesome on High Definition Blu-ray!”

Images courtesy of © WDSHE. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: MIRACLE

DURATION: 136 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

RATED: PG (For Language and Some Rough Sport Action)

COMPANY: Walt Disney Pictures/Walt Disney Studio Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: June 16, 2009

Directed by Gavin O’Connor

Written by Eric Guggenheim

Executive Producer: Ross Greenburg, Justis Greene

Produced by: Mark Ciardi, Gordon Gray

Associated Producer: Jon Mone

Co-Produced by Greg O’Connor

Music by Mark Isham

Director of Photography: Dan Stoloff

Edited by John Gilroy, Dari Loo

Casting by Sarah Finn, Randi Hiller

Production Design by John Willett

Art Direction by Ross Dempster, Martina Javorova

Set Decoration by Mary-Lou Storey

Costume Design by Tom Bronson

Starring:

Kurt Russell as Herb Brooks

Patricia Clarkson as Patty Brooks

Noah Emmerich as Craig Patrick

Sean McCan as Walter Bush

Kenneth Welsh as Doc Nagobads

Eddie Cahill as Jim Craig

Patrick O’Brien Demsey as Mike Eruzione

Michael Mantenuto as Jack O’Callahan

Nathan West as Rob McClanahan

Kenneth Mitchell as Ralph Cox

Eric Peter-Kaiser as Mark Johnson

Bobby Hanson as Dave Silk

Joseph Cure as Mike Ramsey

Billy Schneider as Buzz Schneider

Nate Miller as John “Bah” Harrington

Chris Koch as Mark Pavelich

Kris Wilson as Phil Verchota

Steve Kovalcick as Dave Chrsitan

Sam Skyorna as Steve Janaszak

The studio that brought you “The Rookie” and “Remember the Titans” presents a new reason to stand up and cheer “Miracle” is here on Disney Blu-ray!  Now the action-packed true story that united a nation is more exhilarating and suspenseful than ever in heart-racing high definition.

Kurt Russell stars as Herb Brooks, the dynamic and determined coach of the 1980 United States Olympic ice hockey team.  Brooks had an impossible dream to defeat the seemingly unbeatable Soviets as their own game.  Starting with a handpicked group of undisciplined kids, Brooks inspired them to play like they’d never played before, and transformed them into a team that believed they could achieve the unachievable.  Feel the burn as you rocket across the ice accompanied by the thunderous roar of the crowd.  Live the dream as you experience one of the greatest triumphs in sports history in the razor-sharp clarity and crystal-clear sound of Blu-ray High Definition.

1979-1980…the United States of America was in a difficult position from in the late 70’s with water shortages, oil shortages (which led to long lines at the gas pump since gas stations didn’t have enough gas), Jimmy Carter vs. Ronald Reagan and the Iran hostage crisis.  As 1980 came, there was one major highlight in sports history for the United States that won the hearts of millions and that was the underdog United States men’s hockey team defeating the “unbeatable” Soviet team in the medal round.  That moment in time sports announcer Al Michaels said “Do you believe in miracles?” and from that win, the game was dubbed a “miracle”.

In 2004, Walt Disney Pictures and director Gavin O’Connor (“Tumbleweeds” and “Pride and Glory”), writer Eric Guggenheim, actor Kurt Russell (“Stargate”, “Backdraft”, “The Thing”, and “Escape from New York”), composer Mark Isham (“Crash”, “Next”, “Invincible” and “Pride and Glory”), cinematographer Dan Stoloff “Tumbleweeds”, “The Vagina Monologues” and “The Prince”) came together to recreate this moment of time and adapt it into a film.

Working with the coach of the 1980 United States Olympic ice hockey team, Herb Brooks (who passed away before the film was completed) and several of the players from the team, the filmmakers and the athletes and the talent would come together and make a film that would be true to how the original people were but to have a film that was as authentic and real, so that meant having actors who can play hockey and even have to participate in grueling and challenging moments in order to understand how strict the coach was on the players and how they needed to prepare for the Olympics.

The film begins with the United States and its current climate and the rivalry between the United States and Russia which leads to the creation of the 1980 United States Olympic ice hockey team.  The University of Minnesota head coach Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) was originally part of the gold medal winning 1960’s United States Olympic ice hockey team but was cut the day before the Olympics.  He is now responsible for finding players for the team who win a medal.  The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) has their reservations on the coach because of the coach’s unwillingness to use professional players (the pro’s went against the Russians and have lost several times).

Brooks finds his assistant coach Craig Patrick (Noah Emmerich) and the two have tryouts in Colorado Springs and have the job to find the talented players and have a final roster of 20 people.  Of course, not all goes well because the people that Brooks finds for the team is immediately questioned by the USOC.  But they put their trust in Brooks and hope he knows what he is doing.

Immediately Brooks works on the preliminary roster of 26  people and making sure that they work as a team.  He has them go through a psych quiz and even trying to learn their name, where they are from and what team the play for.  But also trying to squash any rivalries these players may have against each other and putting them through the most grueling conditioning drills he has on his players (which shocks his assistant coach who thinks Brooks is working them too hard).  Showing them that the Russians are conditioned and are thought of as unbeatable and that they have to get to the point where they can beat these Olympic teams from other countries.

During an exhibition game against the Norwegian men’s hockey team, the US team is getting beat and he notices that his players minds are not in the game but the beautiful women in the building.  Brooks is upset with the mindset of his players and immediately after the game, he has them do “Herbies”, a grueling conditioning drill in which the team has to sprint back and forth across the ice over and over and over again.

He has them do this for a long period of time, punishing them for not keeping their mind in the game, to the point where the building manager had to close the lights but still the coach forces his team to keep going and going.  Tired and some who are throwing up due to the exhaustion, as his assistant coach and the team physician try to talk Brooks from stopping the conditioning drills, Brooks asks them to continue.  Immediately, team captain Mike Eruzione yells his name and city of birth, and when Brooks asks what team he played for, Eruzione yells “I play for the United States of America!”.  The men realize that all this time Brooks had wanted to hear that.

The players then learn that they are a family, they represent each other and that as a team, they must work together as one.

“MIRACLE” documents the challenges that the players had to go from day one up to the actual 1980’s Olympic games but also challenges some of the players and the coach had to face off the ice.

The film would earn its distinction as one of the most accurate looking sports films ever and also take home “Best Sports Movie” at the ESPY Awards in 2004.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“MIRACLE” is featured in 1080p High Definition with an aspect ratio of 2:40:1.  The picture quality does feature grain throughout but you can see the quality from Kurt Russell’s skin pores, detail on the clothing.  Low light scenes look great with no digital compression artifacts and no dust or scratches.  Skin detail can be seen quite well during the dark as well.

Director Gavin O’Connor and Director of Photography Daniel Stoloff did a great job in capturing the look and feel of that time.  From hair styles, clothing, closeups but most of all capturing all the action on the ice.

As for audio, audio is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (also, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital).   Director Gavin O’Connor was very much involved with the audio process and making sure that the sounds of hockey, from the puck hitting a post, body clashing on the barriers, pucks being hit, skates on the ice were captured.  Sounds of various players from different countries communicating to each other in their own language was covered.  The cheers from the audience would come alive through the audio.

With that being said, the audio is front channel heavy.  Audio is quite clear and the music by Mark Isham comes alive as well.  But I was no immersed in sound as I was hoping to be.  Rear surrounds were used sparingly but I suppose I was expecting a full round of audience cheering all around me but that didn’t happen.  Everything seemed as if it was all front channel driven.  I don’t recall any low frequency sounds utilizing the subwoofer as well.

But overall, dialogue is clear and understandable.  Music is clear and heard quite well.  But I wish the audio was more immersive and utilized the rear audio channels even more.

As for subtitles, the film is presented in English, English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

MIRACLE comes with a good number of special features.  Included are:

  • Audio Commentary by Director Gavin O’Connor, Director of Photography Dan Stoloff and Editor John Gilroy
  • The Making of Miracle – (17:52) Behind the scenes on the making of “MIRACLE”.  How Director Gavin O’Connor wanted authenticity and the talent needing to go through training camp and having to take the physical hits, having to go through similar grueling conditioning that  Coach Herb Brooks put the 1980 Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey team through.  Having to bring Al Michaels to re-record certain play-by-play calls and much more.  Capturing the game from that time period and making things look authentic nearly 25 years later.
  • From Hockey to Hollywood:  The Actor’s Journeys – (27:31) An interesting interview as we get some of the original team members with the actors who are portraying them.  The actors talk about their roles and trying to make sure that they were like the actual actors.  Original athletes of the 1980 team talking about how the talent were almost like spitting image of them during that time.
  • The Sound of Miracle – (10:24) As the Director Gavin O’Connor wanted to create authenticity of the game.  It was important to get the sounds of the game incorporated in the film.  This featurette shows us how that was done.
  • Miracle ESPN Roundtable with Linda Cohn – (41:08) Linda Cohn interviews actor Kurt Russell and 1980 United States Olympic ice hockey team members Mike Eruzione, Buzz Schneider and Jim Craig.  From discussions of the comparison of the film and what happened in real life and remembering Coach Herb Brooks and what Kurt Russell did to play the role of the coach.
  • First Impressions: Herb Brooks with Kurt Russell and the Filmmakers – (21:13) Herb Brooks passed away before the film was completed but the filmmakers had footage of when they met with Herb Brooks and getting to know the man.  Brooks talked about his emotions of being part of the 1960 US Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey team but then getting cut before the day of the Olympics and the emotions he head then and also as a coach.
  • Outtakes – (4:52) – The bloopers and outtakes from the film.

The special features are all featured in 480i Standard definition and with English 2.0 Dolby Digital audio.  Subtitles for the special features are in English SDH, French and Spanish.

When I was younger, I can easily remember watching the 1980’s US Men’s Olympic Hockey Team beating the Soviets and watching as many of the games before the medal rounds and literally be entranced by the moment.

After watching “MIRACLE”, I was amazed by how much went into the creation of this film in order to capture the authentic feel of the game but everything that went on behind-the-scenes such as the players calling themselves only by their characters names, going through extensive hockey training and preparing them for actual grueling scenes of conditioning (especially having to take part in actual “Herbies” that the 1980 United States Olympic ice hockey team had to go through), having to endure actual hockey body-to-body hits and much more.

Kurt Russell also determined to capture Coach Herb Brooks in his mannerisms and even going so far in reality not introducing himself to the talents and keeping his distance in order to capture Brooks attitude towards his players.

Sports films are typically, make or break.  People know when actors are playing sports films because scenes are not realistic.  But what made this film work so well was the preparation that Director Gavin O’Connor demanded and got from his crew and talent in capturing authenticity.  From making hockey look like hockey, the sounds are captured authentically for the film and more.

As for the Blu-ray, picture quality is good and definitely much better than its DVD counterpart.  Audio is clear and understandable but I wish that the rear surrounds were utilized much more, especially to make the audio of the crowds much more immersive and make you feel that you were there.    The special features were all informative and fun to watch.

But for those who own the original 2-disc DVD, there’s not much of anything extra on this Blu-ray disc in terms of features but you do get the 1080p High Definition transfer which looks great and a DTS-HD Master Audio track.  So, if you really enjoyed the film, you’ll enjoy the High Definition transfer on Blu-ray.

Whether or not you enjoy hockey, “MIRACLE” is about adversity, team work, rising from the bottom to the top and an awesome and nostalgic return to that moment in time to show us that “miracles do happen”.

Do you believe in miracles?  “MIRACLE” is highly recommended!

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