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When the Game Stands Tall (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 23, 2014 by  



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 “When the Game Stands Tall” is an inspirational and motivating film about De La Salle High School’s head coach but also how he made his team as successful as they have become, even after the end of their 151-game win streak.  But also how this new team took on another powerhouse football team and overcame adversity.  It may not be the best football film ever made but it was definitely entertaining and uplifting!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: When the Game Stands Tall

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 115 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Affirm Films/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (For Thematic Material: A Scene of Violence and Brief Smoking)

Release Date: November 18, 2014


Directed by Thomas Carter

Screenplay by Scott Marshall Smith

Story by Scott Marshall Smith, David Zelon

Book by Neil Hayes

Produced by David Zelon

Co-Producer: Adam C. Stone

Executive Producer: Cathy Schulman

Associate Producer: Nathon S. Lewis

Line Producer: Kenneth Burke

Music by John Paesano

Cinematography by Michael Lohmann

Edited by Scott Richter

Casting by Victoria Thomas

Production Design by Jaymes Hinkle

Art Direction by Raymond Pumilia

Set Decoration by Kristin Bicksler

Costume Design by Claire Breaux


Starring:

Jim Caviezel as Bob Ladouceur

Alexandr Ludwig as Chris Ryan

Michael Chiklis as Terry Eidson

Laura Dern as Bev Ladouceur

Clancy Brown as Mickey Ryan

Ser’Darius Blain as Cam colvin

Stephan James as T.K. Kelly

Matthew Daddario as Danny Ladouceur

Joe Massingill as Beaser

Jeessie Usher as Tayshon Lanear

Matthew Frias as Arturo

LaJessie Smith as Jamal

Richard Kohnke as Ricky Salinas


Inspired by the true story, Jim Caviezel (The Passion of the Christ) plays high school football coach Bob Ladouceur during the season that changed everything. As coach of the Spartans Football Team, Bob always tells his players that winning doesn’t matter. Yet somehow, with the aid of assistant coach Terry Eidson (Michael Chiklis, TV’s “The Shield”), he’s led the team to a record-breaking 151 straight victories. When his wife Bev (Laura Dern, Jurassic Park) urges him to refocus on his family, Bob is blinded by the pressure to keep the streak alive. Now, in the midst of a season of crisis and tragedy when the Spartans stand to lose everything, a remarkable young player (Alexander Ludwig, The Hunger Games) helps Bob rediscover that teamwork outshines personal glory When The Game Stands Tall.


When it comes to high school athletics, there is one high school that will be remembered for its dominant winning streak of its football team and that is De La Salle High School in Concord, California.

From 1992 to 2004, the high school had the national record of 151-game wins until they were defeated by Bellevue High School outside of Seattle back in 2004.

But behind-the-scenes of De La Salle’s win streak is what was documented in the book “When the Game Stands Tall” by Contra Costa Times sportswriter Neil Hayes, which was released back in 2003. Hayes followed the team for practices, games and meetings and followed the team as it was undefeated during their 2002 season.

Within the story of De La Salle’s win streak, there was also a story of tragedy and also loss and it would inspire writer Scott Marshall Smith to create a screenplay and later lead to a film adaptation loosely based on the book.

Directed by Thomas Carter (“Coach Carter”, “Save the Last Dance”), the film would star Jim Caviezel (“The Passion of the Christ”, “The Thin Red Line”), Alexander Ludwig (“The Hunger Games”, “Race to Witch Mountain”), Michael Chiklis (“The Shield”, “The Commish”, “Fantastic Four” films), Laura Dern (“Jurassic Park”, “Blue Velvet”), Clancy Brown (“The Shawshank Redemption”, “Starship Troopers”), Ser’Darius Blain (“Star Trek Into Darkness”, “Footloose”), Stephan James (“Home Again”, “Selma”) and Matthew Daddario (“Delivery Man”, “Breathe In”).

And now “When the Game Stands Tall” will be released on Blu-ray in December 2014.

“When the Game Stands Tall” introduces us to the dominating football team, the De La Salle Spartans based in Concord, California.

Led by their head coach Bob Ladouceur (portrayed by Jim Caviezel), the team holds its final meeting as team before their championship game.  And as the high school seniors step up and wanting to leave De La Salle as champions, both he and assistant coach Terry Eidson (portrayed by Michael Chiklis) notice that their juniors are not really saying anything at the team meetings.

We see how head Coach Ladouceur handles his meetings, motivates his players and places team sports as a priority more than the streak itself.  But yet, most people are more interested in De La Salle High School’s winning streak.

The team easily defeats their opposition and become champions once again and set a record-setting 151-game wins.

As the team celebrates, while it should be an easier time during the off-season proves to become difficult.

Bob continually receives letters to coach college football which would improve their finances but he is unwilling, meanwhile his wife Bev (portrayed by Laura Dern) wonders when he will take it easy and spend more time with the children as they are getting older.

He also faces problems as the conference are disgusted about how star football players are traveling far distances to attend De La Salle High School instead of allowing them to play for high school in the district that they live.  And so other coaches feel its unfair that De La Salle allows it because they feel its cheating.  But to help appease the coaches, assistant coach Terry Eidson helps calm waters by working on a major game pitting De La Salle High School versus the #1 football team in the country, Poly High School in Long Beach, CA.

But as the head coach tries to handle the stress of his job, he worries about his players.  His senior player Cam Colvin (portrayed by Ser’Darius Blain) has a chance to play college ball and become a pro player but after the death of his mother, Cam is not sure what to do as he has to be there for his younger brother.  Meanwhile, star player Terrance G. Kelly is recruited by the Oregon Ducks, but on the day before he is to go to Oregon, he is shot and killed, while trying to pickup a family member from a party.

The stress would eventually get to Coach Ladouceur who has a heart attack and now is unable to coach.

With the new varsity team which includes the head coach’s son, wide receiver Michael (portrayed by Gavin Casalegno), star running back Chris Ryan (portrayed by Alexander Ludwig) and egotistical wide receiver Tayshon Lanear (portrayed by Jessie Usher) not playing good football and not playing as a team, De La Salle High School loses to Bellvue High School and thus ending the streak, will De La Salle High School ever get back on its feet without their head coach?  Especially with their big game against Poly High School coming up?


VIDEO:

“When the Game Stands Tall” is presented in 1080p High Definition.  Picture quality is presented in 1:85:1 aspect ratio.  The film looks fantastic in HD as outdoor scenes are vibrant and show very good detail.  Skin tones are natural and black levels are nice and deep.  I didn’t notice any banding or artifact issues during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“When the Game Stands Tall” is presented in English and Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA and English, French and Spanish-Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital. Dialogue is crisp and clear, as well as the music! The lossless soundtrack is more dialogue and musically driven, so it’s more front and center-channel driven.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES

“When the Game Stands Tall” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio CommentaryFeaturing audio commentary with director Thomas Carter.
  • Selected Scenes Audio Commentary – Featuring selected scenes commentary with director Thomas Carter and De La Salle High School head coach Bob Ladouceur.
  • Deleted & Extended Scenes – (14:31) Featuring six deleted and extended scenes.
  • Undefeated: Making When the Game Stands Tall – (12:50) A featurette about a movie about the game of football and the book that the film was based on.
  • Gridiron Action – (7:44) How Allan Graf (Second Unit Director/Stunt Coordinator) made sure the hits and tackles look right on film.
  • The Heart and Soul of a Program: Bob Ladouceur – (11:50) A featurette about capturing the style of head coach Bob Ladouceur in a film.

EXTRAS:

“When the Game Stands Tall” comes with an UltraViolet code to allow for streaming to computers, tablets or smartphones.  The Blu-ray release also comes with a DVD version of the film.


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As a football fan, you can’t help but be proud of the De La Salle High School football program and what they were able to accomplish for over 30 years.  And when I saw the trailer for the film, the first thing that came to my mind is if we are going to get a football film along the lines of “Friday Night Lights”, “We Are Marshall” or “Remember the Titans”.

I remember reading the news about former De La Salle High School’s star rushing back Terrance Kelly being shot and killed by an unknown assailant the day before he was to leave to Oregon State.  And to later read that he was mistakenly killed by a thug who thought he was someone he disliked. But the fact is that Terrance happened to be in the wrong part of Richmond and like many people in the crime infested area, he was killed for no apparent reason.

This was a player who did everything right with his life and no matter how much he was protected by his family, protected by his coach and played amazing football, this young man full of promise would not live to live his dream and play college football.

I’ve read about De La Salle beating Poly High School in Long Beach and this would interest me as well, as we played high school football against Poly.

So, I’m a big football fan and I love inspirational football films.  So, I looked forward to watching “When the Game Stands Tall” which is loosely based on De La Salle High School’s amazing run.  I say loosely because the events that happens in regards to players, didn’t happen.  The matchup between De La Salle and Poly did not happen the same year that the team lost against Bellvue in Washington.

But what this story is mostly about is how a team was united because of their coach.  Coach Bob Ladouceur was no doubt a coach who cared about his players.  He cared about their success as individuals, he cared about them playing as a team and was no doubt their rock, who helped them get over their challenges, prepare them each week for their big game but to not be tied into how many wins they had, what’s important is how they work as a team.

And for a great team during De La Salle’s amazing 151-game winning streak, life was not easy.  As a high school head coach, he struggles of taking the big job with a college team.  He struggles with other coaches accusing him of cheating for stealing star players from their district, he has to deal with his players personal issues but despite those challenges, he tries to keep a level head and calmness.  But unfortunately, that stress would lead to him having a heart attack and having to stay away from the game for a little while, and watching the team face difficulties and seeing that the team spirit is slowly deteriorating during practice.

So, we watch as Coach Ladouceur comes back to the field to coach and bring these players back up to speed and to have them believe they can win.

While the film is inspirational and entertaining, the difficulties with a film such as “When the Game Stands Tall” is that the first half, the more dramatic moments happens with its senior players who are graduating.  Audiences start to warm up to these seniors, who are shown during the first half and are no longer or just have a small amount of camera time for the second half.

The storyline shows its strength earlier in the film as it deals with relationships, tragedy and difficulty and as the head coach has a prominent role in the first half, by the second half, too much is invested in the new varsity team as it struggles from losing its first two games and must practice to take on the awesome Poly High School football team.

While Coach Ladouceur is instrumental in the second half, he becomes less of the focus as the storyline focuses on Tayshon Lanear’s ego, Chris Ryan’s father wanting him to beat the touchdown record or Danny Ladouceur’s problems of dropping the ball.  The first half was a storyline that was captivating, the second half is all about the football game between De La Salle vs Poly.  Which I don’t really mind too much at all as the game was exciting to watch.

But there are criticism made by some people who watched the film and wondered why there is discussion of the bible and there are two things to remind those interested in watching the film and that is De La Salle High School is a Catholic High School and Affirm Films is a Christian-based film distribution company.  Is this an preachy Christian film?  No.  But there is discussion of the bible, there is Coach Ladouceur’s speech at T.K.’s funeral and other than that, there is nothing overly-preachy about this film.

But if you are expecting profanity-laced discussions, teenage sex or nudity, “When the Game Stands Tall” is not that type of film.  If you are bothered by the mention of the bible or even God, then this film is not for you.

“When the Game Stands Tall” is an entertaining and inspiring sports film with Christian elements that are not overly preachy.  As a Christian and a person who loves football, it’s great to see Affirm Films backing this film but also to see more quality Christian films be made with better production quality with well-known talent.  I have seen the quality of films distributed by Affirm Films improve within these past five years and it’s great to see a film like “When the Game Stands Tall” being made.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic as a lot of shots are filmed outdoors and picture quality is vibrant.  Skin tones are natural, black levels are nice and deep.  While the lossless soundtrack is crystal clear and is more dialogue and music-driven, so expect a more front-channel lossless soundtrack.  As for special features, you get audio commentary, deleted and extended scenes and more!

Overall, “When the Game Stands Tall” is an inspirational and motivating film about De La Salle High School’s head coach but also how he made his team as successful as they have become, even after the end of their 151-game win streak.  But also how this new team took on another powerhouse football team and overcame adversity.  It may not be the best football film ever made but it was definitely entertaining and uplifting!

 






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