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The Spike Lee Joint Collection Vol 1. - Blu-ray Review

Title: Spike Lee Joint Collection - Vol 1


HTS Overall Score:76


Spike Lee is one of those very interesting directors. He’s not someone that I personally admire for many of his beliefs, but he’s an incredibly impassioned director who puts his entire heart and soul into his work and deals with a lot of social issues. “Do the Right Thing” is by far his polished piece of work and the crowning gem in his cap, but these golden “oldies” from the past were where he started out. Some of them good, some of them great, some of them not so good (“Jungle Fever” springs to mind). Director Spike Lee loves the nitty gritty trials of human existence, an honest emotional look at what makes humans ticks and he isn’t afraid to show us the bad as well as the good in our raw, human hearts.

The 25th Hour
I remember sitting in a theater in 2002 and seeing trailers for “The 25th Hour” and thinking “I need to go see that. I love Ed Norton”. Unfortunately I never did go see it and it took me over 12 years, and this collection later, to actually sit down and watch the film. Now I’m honestly shocked that I never got around to it before. Ed Norton turns in the performance of the year as “Monty”, a drug dealer who’s just starting to go straight when he gets pinched by the DEA and sentenced to 7 years in Jail. Now he’s got 24 hours left before his life starts inside of jail and he begins to re-evaluate his life and the decisions he’s made these last 31 years of his life. He’s got a beautiful girlfriend, Naturelle (Rosario Dawson), 2 friends (Barry Pepper and Phillip Seymour Hoffman) and only 24 hours left of life as he knows it.

Going out on the town, Monty begins to watch his life unravel, friends he thought were friends turn out to be enemies, people that didn’t seem like friends at the beginning of the movie turn out to be the closest thing he has to a real friend and parents, parents who love you through thick and Thin (played by Brian Cox). The movie is less of a movie and more of a raw pulsing nerve. You can feel the emotions, the pain, and the harsh reality of everything going on in the movie. I was incredibly impressed the amount of realism that went into the making of the film, and the emotions that pass through a person as they realize they have no other option in front of them. The characters are raw and vibrant, rough as any New Yorker and full of the same agony and demons that would haunt anyone in that situation. The characters aren’t nice, but they aren’t meant to be. They’re rough, they’re raw, they’re in pain, they’re desperate and it shows in every corner of the movie. Language gets a bit rough, and there is an epic “Boondock Saints” level of rant that happens when Monty is screaming at the mirror in the bathroom, letting out all his anger on the world in one 5 minute stint of language. The ending leaves it up to the viewer’s imagination to piece together what happened, and it works pretty well, but I felt the more obvious, less happy solution could have been left out entirely to add a bit more weight to the film.

He Got GameI
“He Got Game” is an interesting film, to be certain. It takes a very realistic approach at the trials and tribulations of becoming famous fast in the sports arenas. We’ve all heard the tales before. Big basketball stars deal with a lot of fame and a lot of “friends’ and a LOOOOOOOOOOT of temptations. Sooner or later they’re on the news for beating a hooker, a dog, snorting cocaine out of dumpsters with 10 million women by their side. Jesus Shuttlesworth (Ray Allen) is about to step into that arena, as the nation’s best high school player with the world at his fingertips. His father, Jake (Denzel Washington), is the only shadow over his future, a man convicted of life in prison for killing Jesus’ mother years ago. Now Jake gets an offer from the Governor to reduce his sentence if Jake will go on prison leave for a week and try to convince his son to attend Big State University (the fictional university in the state that he’s being held in). Jake is now a man who’s got religion and hopefully a new outlook on life.

What seems to be a simple bonding experience turns into a truly heartbreaking story between father and son. One having made copious mistakes in his life and the other just starting to fall into the same pitfalls that tripped up his father. Now Jake has to try and get through to Jesus before all of the same corruptions that destroyed him take over his son’s life. With all this power he’s got women throwing themselves at him, hoods wanting to become “friends” for all the wealth that’s going to flow in, and just the plain sewers of the pro ball that seem to infect most positions of power. With great power comes great responsibility, yes, but with great power also comes great temptations for corruption.

The movie is a powerful drama, one that doesn’t pull any punches or seem clichéd and “Tv like”. Spike Lee’s connections with the pro ball world show here as he has a nice grasp on just how messed up that industry is and how it can take a promising young athlete and turn them into worn out old men in a matter of years. Worn down from the evils of life, from the temptations, from all the fake friends and how easy it is to lose your way. As I’ll say in my conclusion, I hate to just blindly recommend these two movies. Spike Lee is a very visceral, and very gritty director. His movies aren't always “nice”, his characters are not always nice, and the situations they get into are not always kosher, but one thing that he does do an amazing job of representing is the true life pitfalls that happen to people. The sense of humanity ripples through it. It’s more of an emotionally draining film that takes it out of you rather than something you want to sit down with for pure entertainment value. After the film ends you wipe the sweat off of your brow and say something like "wow, that was a rough 2 hours". In that sense Spike Lee is very unique and earns his status of cult following.


25th Hour: Rated R for strong language and some violence

He Got Game: Rated R for pervasive language, sexuality, some drug content and violence


The 25th Hour
“The 25th Hour” was shot using a very unique style of digital grading and looks surprisingly good, for the rough filming style. Spike Lee didn’t want a crystal clear image in his making of the movie and he opted for a more rough and tumble look with blown out contrasts and a surreal feel to the movie. The detail ranges from good to great, and sometimes superb, but that all depends on the lighting for with the digital grading with those 2002 cameras we have some nasty digital noise swimming around in all the dark scenes. In the lighter scenes it’s harder to see, but it’s still noticeable. Black levels are only ok, with many scenes showing washed out blacks and some nasty black crush. Overall it’s a decent picture and definite step up from the DVD, but nothing that’s going to make it look like a shiny new film.

He Got Game
“He Got Game” fares a bit better than “The 25th Hour” with a lot more “pop” and less digital issues on screen. The detail is good, with great facial tones and lots of fine detailing on the clothes and faces. The movie tends to be a bit soft and robs us of SOME fine detail, but there’s still plenty to see. The film’s color palette is very bright and saturated, even during the dark scenes. Giving it a very vibrant and “in your face” feel to the film. Blacks are suitable, much better than its predecessor, with only minimal crush and a little bit of faded blacks. For the most part, they are quite inky and solid. Thumbs up.


The 25th Hour
"The 25th Hour" is handling a 5.1 DTS-HD MA lossless track and it performs admirably. To be fair, the film is mainly a dialogue centered film, giving us clean vocals and some nice ambient noises in the surrounds, nothing more. The vocals are handled quite well and I have no complaints there. The surrounds are used fairly, but really take off during the night club scene in the Ukranian part of town. There the pounding of the LFE and the swirling sense of immersion take over. I really can't complain about the track, and it does a good job at doing what director Spike Lee wanted, but it's not that demanding of a movie for the most part.

He Got Game
"He Got Game" sports a nice 5.1 DTS-HD MA track like it's predecessor in the collection. Both films are quite good and show some nice channel separation, but nothing that will knock your socks off. Dialogue is the important thing here, and it's done very nicely with the vocals locked firmly in the center channel. The Surrounds to get some impressive work, mostly with the ambient sounds of the hood and the other background noises like basketballs bouncing and reverberating through the court. Gunshots carry some nice ooomph, and the thud of a car door slamming carries visceral weight behind it. This isn't a powerhouse action track, but then again, that's not something Spike Lee's really known for. It does it's job very well and leaves little to complain about.

25th Hour
• Director's commentary
• Deleted Scenes
• Audio Commentary with David Benioff
• The Evolution of an American Filmmaker
• Ground Zero - A tribute

He Got Game
• Audio Commentary by Director Spike Lee and Ray Allen


the Spike Lee Joint Collection, is a collection of two of the earlier Spike Lee ventures, and both are solid movies, with the "The 25th Hour" being the clear winner in my minds eye. Both movies are well done and show an incredible amount of heart. Denzel is always fantastic, and Ed Norton has never once let me down. The only real problem is that Spike Lee is NOT a mainstream director that I would say "hey go watch this one, you'll like it!". He's extremely passionate and his films come across that way. However they end up showing such realism that they end up being very emotionally draining and more than a bit rough. They're much more of an emotional experience than most normal films and those unaccustomed to the inner city rawness might fight it a bit shocking at times. My recommendation is that for Spike Lee fans it's a must, but for those of you who are just entering into the arena, some of his lighter fare like "Inside Man" or "Malcolm X" to get a feel for the very VERY unique director.

Additional Information:

Starring: Edward Norton, Barry Pepper, Phillip Seymour Hoffman : Denzel Washington, Milla Jovovich
Directed by: Spike Lee
Written by: David Benioff : Spike Lee
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC / 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: ENGLISH: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish DD 2.0/ English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish DD 5.1
Studio: Touchstone/Buena Vista
Rated: R / R
Runtime: 135 minutes : 136 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: June 10th, 2014

Buy Spike Lee Joint Collection Volume 1 Blu-ray on Amazon

Recommendation: Rental

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