The absorbing high school football drama “Friday Night Lights” (Universal, 2004, $29.98) easily tops this week’s list of new Blu-ray titles.
Billy Bob Thornton is outstanding as Gary Gaines, head coach of the Permain High Panthers, who are worshiped as heroes in the town of Odessa, Texas. During any football season, it seems as if the life of every citizen revolves around the Panthers. That’s about all anybody wants to talk about on radio shows, in the drug store and on the street corners.
The Panthers’ big stadium rivals that of many colleges. If you want to find anyone in Odessa on Friday nights, you best check out the stadium first.
Excellently directed by Peter Berg and Josh Pate, the film opens in August 1988 with the first day of preseason practice. Coach Gaines knows only one thing that will satisfy the townspeople of Odessa - a state championship. “Friday Night Lights” chronicles the team and the lives of its players during the ‘88 season and how they get closer and closer to their goal.
It also recounts how the citizens and the parents become obsessed with the team and the mental pressure they put on the players.
The movie is based on the non-fiction book “Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team and A Dream” by H.G. Bissinger. The football sequences are excellent and manage to capture the excitement, the tension and the sounds of the game itself. It ranks as one of the best football movies ever made and looks terrific on Blu-ray Highly recommended.
Other Blu-ray releases:
“Dexter: The Complete First Season” (Paramount, 2006, $54.98): Michael C. Hall plays Dexter Morgan, a police forensics expert in Miami. At least, that’s his day job. During the evenings, he becomes an avenger and tracks down vicious criminals who beat the system and literally got away with murder. This well-done series benefits from fine acting and writing while serving up a few surprises here and there. The three-disc set contains 12 episodes. Recommended.
“Righteous Kill:” (Anchor Bay, 2008, $39.99): Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino play two veteran cops of the New York Police Department. Sometimes they haven’t done things by the book. But that’s all forgotten when they find themselves searching for a serial killer. A routine film that is worth watching just to see DeNiro and Pacino in action again.
“Eden Lake” (Benisu, 2008, $29.95): Jenny (Kelly Reilly) and her boyfriend, Steve (Michael Fassbender), take off for what they believe will be romantic weekend in a lovely setting. It turns out to be a nightmare when a group of teenagers decide to make the couple miserable. As the story moves on, the teens’ grow more hostile and cruel.
“Pineapple Express” (Sony, 2008, $39.95): Seth Rogen and James Franco play buddies who seemingly spend most of their time stoned. Eventually they become involved in a drug war. Those who think drugs are funny and who have a 1960s mindset will enjoy this one.
“The Wackness” (Sony, 2008, $39.95): Here’s another drug tale, this one set in 1994. Josh Peck (Like Shapiro) is spending his summer in New York City selling pot and sharing it with therapist Dr. Squires (Ben Kingley), who obviously has never forgotten the flower-children generation.
“Bangkok Dangerous” (Liongate, 2008, $39.99): Nicolas Cage plays a hitman who is sent to Thailand to bump off a few people. There, he falls for a local girl and begins to have a change of heart. A rather mundane action effort.
“Babylon A.D.” (20th Century Fox, 2008, $39.98): Van Diesel is hired to escort a pregnant Russian woman to America. Supposedly the twins she carries inside will have an impact on the world, which is why some people want her dead.
“An American Carol” (Vivendi, 2008, $34.99): Director David Zucker comes up with a rarity: a Hollywood movie that pokes fun at liberals. There are some laughs here with Kevin Farley playing filmmaker Michael Malone, an obvious satire of leftist Michael Moore. Dennis Hopper, Leslie Nielsen and Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly are among those in the cast.
All prices listed are the suggested retail price and can be purchased cheaper for those who shop around or go to www.amazon.com.