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THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 9, 2009 by  



“There aren’t many films that cover golf’s past but ‘THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED’ was an inspiring and enjoyable film.  But learning a little of how the game of golf was played back then but also how heated the rivalry between the US and the British but learning the true story of how a 20-year-old named Francis Ouimet inspired many Americans to golf was quite enjoyable.  ‘THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED’ is a wonderful sports film!”

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TITLE: THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED

DURATION: 120 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1),  English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish

RATED: PG (For Some Brief Mild Language)

COMPANY: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: June 16, 2009

Directed by Bill Paxton

Based on a book titled “The Greatest Game Ever Played: Harry Vardon, Francis Ouimet, and the Birth of Modern Golf” and screenplay by Mark Frost

Executive Producer: David Steinberg

Produced by David Blocker, Larry Brezner and Mark Frost

Music by Brian Tyler

Director of Photography: Shane Hurlbut

Editing by Elliot Graham

Casting by Mary GailArtz, Barbara Cohen and Andrea Kenyon

Production Design by Francois Seguin

Art Direction by Martin Gendron, Pierre Perrault

Set Decoration by Suzanne Cloutier and Anne Gallea

Costume Design by Renee April

Starring:

Shia LaBeouf as Francis Ouimet

Stephen Dillane as Harry Vardon

Peyton List as Sarah Wallis

Robin Wilcock as Bernard Darwin

Elias Koteas as Arthur Ouimet

Marnie McPhail as Mary Ouimet

James Paxton as Young Harry Vardon

Stephen Marcus as Ted Ray

Matthew Knight as Young Francis Ouimet

The “Game” is on – on Blu-ray Disc, that is!  Now you can experience Walt Disney Pictures’ crowd-pleasing underdog epic in the stunning clarity and up-close and personal magic of high definition.

Shia Lebouf (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Transformers) stars as amateur golfer Francis Ouimet.  Armed with nothing but talent, the working-class youth has a seemingly impossible dream: to compete against the world’s greatest player, his idol Harry Vardon.  Soon, with the help of his spunky, 10-year-old caddie Eddie, Francis boldy breaks down all barriers with a thrilling display of unrivaled drive, skill and heart…and challenges the golf pro for the U.S. Open Championship!  You’ll feel the breathless anticipation of the crowd and practically smell the grass on the green as you immerse yourself in the action.  Based on an inspirational story, “The Greatest Game Ever Played” is an adventure in courage that will entertain your whole family as never before in Blu-ray High Definition.

Golf was a different type of sport back in the early 1913.  Not everyone had an opportunity to play the game.  Also, golf was a game dominated by the British.

“THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED” is a film adapted from a screen play and book titled “The Greatest Game Ever Played: Harry Vardon, Francis Ouimet, and the Birth of Modern Golf” by author Mark Frost (writer for both recent “Fantastic Four” films and creator of the cult TV show “Twin Peaks”) and a film that would be the first directorial debut for Disney by actor Bill Paxton (“Twister”, “Apollo 13”, “Titanic”, “U-571”, etc.).

The film would feature cinematography by Director of Photography Shane Hurlbut (“Terminator Salvation”, “Swing Vote” and “We Are Marshall”) and composer Brian Tyler (“Eagle Eye”, “Bangkok Dangerous” and “Rambo”) and focus on two golfers who would become the greatest golfers in the history of the sport, American Francis Ouimet (played Shia LaBeouf – “Transformers”, “Eagle Eye”, “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”) and Harry Vardon (played by Stephen Dillane – “King Arthur”, “Nine Lives” and Haven”).

The film starts off with a young Harry Vardon who lives in an impoverished home and sees a group of men who is building a golf course in his area.  But of course, the builders pay him no mind because golf is a sport for the distinguished.

The film then cuts to a young caddie named Francis Ouimet who lives across the street from the golf course.  His father is a hardworking man but believes a man must work hard to pay the bills and his mother is supportive of his interest in golf.  One day, the young Francis dreamed of meeting the popular UK golfer Harry Vardon.  Harry is the first pro golfer to endorse a golf ball titled the “Vardon Flyer” made by Spalding and during his travels of promoting merchandise.

During a day of promotion, he gives young Francis a tip on how to hold a golf club (which would be known as the “Vardon Grip”) and it was Francis first major lesson and a moment that made Francis want to play golf.

The film then fast forwards to when he’s 20 years old.  He is an amateur competing at local tournaments.

During that time, golf was a game that was played by people who had money.  They had sponsors and people from distinguished families.  Francis was nether of those.  His father in fact is not supportive of the golf because his son would be treated lower because he was not rich and as an amateur, he can’t make any money.

But there are rich people who know of Francis’s talent and so they give him the opportunity by sponsoring him.  Despite the rich not favoring him because he’s a caddie that doesn’t belong to any distinguished golfing country clubs.

So, Francis eventually gets ready for the tournaments but he loses his main caddie who is offered money to play (Francis has no money).   So, he enlists the help of his friend to be his caddie and his ten-year-old brother Eddie who tags a long.

It is also time for the 1913 U.S. Open and although golf is known as a game dominated by the British, there are Americans who want to defend the US title and vow to not have the British win at their home tournament (note: Since the first tournament in 1895 through 1910, the Europeans have won the U.S. Open).  But the British champions Harry Vardon and Ted Ray know that they are the best in the world and look forward to beating the Americans.

Francis will be playing the U.S. Open but is not considered a threat because of his status.  In fact, his caddie gets caught for truancy and thus Francis is left with this ten-year-old boy Eddie Lowery who becomes his caddie for the U.S. Open.

And the game begins…

“THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED” is an inspiring film that shows us how golf was back then, how heated the rivalry was between the US and the UK but how a 20-year-old named Francis Ouimet, who is from a working class family would inspire Americans of different socio-economic class to enjoy golf and make it become part of America’s past-time.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED” is featured in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1).  There is quite a bit of detail that can be seen in the film.  The grass, the dimples on the golf ball, the grain on the wooden shafts of the golf clubs and the clothing of the time.  One thing that Bill Paxton wanted for the film was the colors to pop (he actually talks about what he wanted to achieve in picture quality in his commentary) and discussed using the Kodachrome process.  The greens, the blues, etc.   But he also discusses, having to use a process to eliminate grain because he did not want grain to be a major factor throughout the film.   The blacks are very nice and deep.    So, the picture quality is actually quite solid.  A very good looking film on Blu-ray!

As for the audio, the film is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (and also in French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital).  The film is primarily a dialogue-based film which utilizes music by Brian Tyler to set the mood. Both audio and music are quite clear as it comes from the front channels.

But there is very good use of the fronts and surrounds and also low frequency during the U.S. Open.  The crowds play a significant factor in the film but also Bill Paxton wanted to show a different side of golf playing, so there is CG used when the golf ball is hit and how it lands on the green or the grass.  There is a lot of emphasis on when the golf ball is hit during the initial drive.  You hear the sounds of the club swinging and then the pop as the ball is hit.  So, for the game of golf, the crew were very good in wanting to make the sounds of the game immersive for the viewer of the film and not boring at all.  Especially with husky golfer Ted Ray is supposed to hit the ball, you know that your speakers will get a good workout.

As for subtitles, English SDH, French and Spanish is offered.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED” comes with a good number of special features.  All features are presented in 480i Standard Definition, English 2.0 Dolby Digital and with English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles.  Included are:

  • Audio Commentary with Director Bill Paxton – Bill Paxton has a very enthusiastic audio commentary, discussing everything from the Kodachrome to the people he hired on staff and is very complimentary.   Paxton focuses on the making of the film.
  • Audio Commentary with Author, Screenwriter and Producer Mark Frost – While Bill Paxton focuses on the filmmaking end of “THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED”, Mark Frost focuses on the history of golf and what transpired at that time.  The differences from his book and the film and information on the actual golfers. Very informative commentary.
  • A View from the Gallery: On the Set of The Greatest Game Ever Played – (15:22) We learn of how actor Bill Paxton became director and how he himself lived near a golf course and picked up balls for Ben Hogan and how excited of having to become a director of his first film but also his appreciation for golf and a big fan of the original book.  We learn about the people involved in the film and interviews with cast and crew.  From the Director of Photography, composer, people involved with production and costume design, special effects and more.
  • Two Legends and the Greatest Game – (6:59) A featurette about the two men focused on the film, Harry Vardon who is a legendary British golfer and the man that everyone has based their current golf grip on and the first man to professionally endorse a golf product.  And Francis Ouimet and how he became a legend for winning the U.S. Open but showing America that you didn’t have to be rich to win the game and therefore inspiring many Americans to take up the sport.  Also, his friendship with his ten-year-old caddie from when they first took the golf course through their older age.
  • From Caddie to Champion: Francis Ouimet – (25:15) An actual black and white featurette from 1965 hosted by Fred Cusick as he interviews Francis Ouimet.

Although I play golf, I have to admit that I knew nothing about Francis Ouimet.  Aside from him getting a US Postage Stamp in dedication to him, I never realize his influence on the game of golf until now.  Especially, the British golfer Harry Vardon and how different the game of golf was back at that time.

“THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED” is definitely an inspiring film and it was great to see the correlation between these two golfers.

Harry Vardon grew from an impoverished upbringing.  How a group of men who built a golf course near his home treated him like he was a nobody because he wasn’t rich and used that to drive him to win and become one of the greatest golf players of all time.  He has records that still stand and he is known for the “Vardon Grip” which many golfers use as their main grip for holding a golf club.  The winner of six British Open Championships, Vardon was known for playing in stylish suits while on the course.

Francis Ouimet came from a working class family and like Vardon, not treated well because he was simply a caddie and not from a distinguished family or a member of any wealthy golf Country Club.   But there were people who were supportive of his talent and gave him a chance to play at the Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts.   His stunning win over the top British players at the 1913 US Open made him the first amateur to win the U.S. Open (Note: The first American to win the U.S. Open was John J. Mcdermott in 1911) and inspire many Americans to take up golf.  But most impressive that he never became a professional golfer and wanted to keep his status as an amateur golfer for the rest of his career.

I also found the game of golf quite interesting back then.  I had no idea that when two people had to put.  If a ball went in front of a person’s ball on the green, that the player behind the ball, still had to put.  So, I found it interesting to see Ouimet have to chip the ball over Vardon’s ball in order to sink a put.  But most importantly, how heated the rivalry between the US and UK in terms of golf. Mainly, on the US side, due to the fact that the British were wining all the time.

So, I actually enjoyed watching “THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED” and learning about the history of golf but also finally knowing the significance Francis Ouimet had on the game of golf and why he is so highly regarded in the sport.

“Overall, “THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED” is wonderful sports film that I highly recommend!






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