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Title: Spike Lee Joint Collection - Vol 2

Movie: :4stars:
Video: :4.5stars:
Audio: :4.5stars:
Extras: :2stars:

HTS Overall Score:83


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.

Summer of Sam :4.5stars:
“Summer of Sam” is easily one of Spike Lee’s most under rated films. I remember hearing about it years ago but it passed under my, and many other peoples, radar over the years. Like the “25th Hour” I was ended up shocked that I missed out on this fantastic film. It’s easily one of his most raw and in your face film’s though. The language is up there with “Wolf of Wall Street” and its one rough film from beginning to end. Spike Lee has a way of making films that are simply emotionally draining in nature, and “Summer of Sam” follows that tradition. You come out sweating and gasping at the end of the film, feeling like you’ve been put through the wringer.

Set in 1977, “Summer of Sam” focuses on the infamous serial killer “Son of Sam” and the effect that it has on a group of New York City residents. Vinny (John Leguizamo) happens to be passing by a crime scene one night and comes under the realization that he might have actually seen the killer a few nights earlier while he was messing around with his wife’s cousin that the sighting might have been a two way street. Now Vinny starts panicking and out, wondering if the killer is gonna be after him next. Vinny also happens to be friends with Ritchie (Adrien Brody), who happens to be deep in the punk rock scene, and moonlights as a male prostitute/dancer at a gay club. His outlandish behavior and crazy hair styles make everyone around him uncomfortable (everyone that is but Vinnie’s half-sister Ruby) and the suspicion starts to turn on Ritchie. Now everyone is panicking, everyone is looking at each other with side long glances and wondering if any one of them could be the killer. Brother turns against brother, friend against friend as more and more people start thinking that Ritchie is the killer, Vinny included.

“Summer of Sam” is an incredibly taut and well directed thriller. Adrien Brody always plays a reserved and calm character, for the most part, but here we seem him in a role that we’ve never witnessed before. Ritchie is an extremely troubled man, one who saturates himself in a scene that many others around him can’t seem to comprehend and embrace. Vinny is classic Leguizamo, rough, crude and very “New York”, if you know what I mean. As you can guess from the description, the film focuses less on the killer, but more on the victims and the everyday people around him. The killer is out and at large, and very little is every really focused on him. Instead we see how his presences and his reign of terror impacts the people in New York. Ritchie, Vinny, Ruby etc are all terrified, turned into a gang mentality group that lives in fear of everyone around them. The lack of clarity on WHO the killer is allows their imaginations to run wild and create false situations that satiates their need for justice and need for an end to the situation, even if it’s not the right end. Taut, emotional and raw as a pulsing vein, “Summer of Sam” is now one of my favorite Spike Lee endeavors and one I wished I had seen years ago.

Miracle at St. Anna :3stars:
“Miracle at St. Anna” is the one movie that I’m surprised at being included in this selection. On one hand we have one of Spike Lee’s best with “Summer of Sam”, and we have it paired up with Spike Lee’s worst film to date. Not only that, but one that was previously released on home video in a single disc released during the beginning of the format wars. I would have rather them put in a new title to the collection, but it is what it is and I’ll take it if it’s the only way to get “Summer of Sam”. The movie has moments of brilliance and is fantastically shot on film, but those moments are intertwined with long periods of sheer boredom and moments of “who cares”. I wish it had been better, for I love a good war film, but it still stands as a mediocre slot in an otherwise fantastic career for Spike.

The story is a story told through flashbacks in modern times. It tells the tale of four members of the “Buffalo soldiers” from the 92nd infantry division, caught behind enemy lines and carrying back a priceless treasure. One love survivor is the narrator and voice behind the entire movie, telling his tale to a modern audience through those flashbacks I mentioned. The opening battle sequence is one of pure brilliance as you see the black soldiers, listening to Nazi propaganda on the edge of the river, promising them equality, women, whatever over in Germany while their own white officers open fire on their position, refusing to believe that any black soldiers could have advanced so far. To make matters worse the Nazi’s open fire on their position and create a pure massacre. The 4 soldiers who escape make their way to a little Tuscan village where they hunker down and recoup. There they create bonds with the people that they previously thought impossible. For the majority of the film we see the soldiers grow, interact and adapt to their new environment.

I hate to dislike this movie. This had so much potential. Michael Ealy and Omar Miller are simply fantastic in their roles. Especially the simple Omar Miller’s character. His interaction with the village child is beautiful and emotional, giving the film a heart that otherwise was dead. The problem is that there was TOO much going on in the film. Too many side plots, too many characters and too much drama. After a while you become saturated with all of the side plots and all the characters to the point where you really don’t care what happens after a while. The movie tries to be poignant, but it falls under the weight of too much superfluous dialogue and characters. Even the ending of the movie, just feels a little weird, almost as if Spike Lee couldn’t cut anything from the movie and just left as much as he could in there. With about 30 minutes trimmed out and some mild editing done and I think we could have had a much better film, but as it stands now, it’s a mixed back of excellence and boredom wrapped up in one wrapper. The most I can say about the film is “what could have been”.


Summer of Sam: Rated R for strong graphic violence and sexuality, pervasive strong language and drug use

Miracle at St. Anna : Rated R for strong war violence, language and some sexual content

Video :4.5stars:

Summer of Sam :4.5stars:
“Summer of Sam” is a very grainy film and it’s replicated here with a gorgeously tight grain structure allowing the image to really pop in that gritty sort of way. The film is saturated with TONS of dark images and bathed in over lit colors. The nightclub scenes have a sort of inky “brightness” to them and the detail level is superb. I haven’t seen the image look this nice EVER. Contrasts are beautiful and skin tones are very natural looking. Out of the 4 Spike Lee films in the joint collection this one tops the list for picture quality. Simply superb looking

Miracle At St. Anna :4.5stars:
“Miracle at St. Anna” is sporting the same AVC transfer that Buena Vista gave the release in it’s standalone release and thusly it pretty much will carry the same rating. It was a fantastic transfer back then and it’s still a great transfer. Spike Lee does love that grainy look, and while it’s still a grainy film it doesn’t come close to that heavy textured look that “Summer of Sam” has. The grain structure is tight and clean, without any digital manipulation showing on the encode. Colors tend to lean towards very brown and earthy with some yellows thrown in for good measure. I noticed that the sunlight scenes seem to be a bit boosted in the contrast levels, but nothing wild. Skin tones are accurate and black levels are incredible. There are one or two scenes that show some mild black crush, but again, nothing that would cause any real complaining. Facial detail and the fantastic countryside shots show some amazing detail, with uniforms and close up shots of facial features benefiting the most. Well done Buena Vista, well done.

Audio :4.5stars:


Summer of Sam :4.5stars:
The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is surprisingly robust and powerful for what I was expecting. The dynamic range is great, with massively powerful night club scenes and the sounds of the gun shots are heavily impactful with some great LFE. Dialogue is clean and smooth, well balanced with no need to constantly be shifting the volume up and down between dialogue scenes and the nightclub or action oriented scenes. Surround usage is very impressive, with ambient street noises bleeding through from all directions, and the dance scenes in the clubs were impressive to say the least. Very impressive job and easily the best sounding Spike Lee film I’ve seen to date for its attention to detail.

Miracle at St. Anna :4.5stars:
The 5.1 DTS-HD MA is the same thing. The audio sparkles with intense clarity and directionality, giving the battle sequences an amazing amount of depth and immersion. The dialogue is clean, locked to the front channels as one with expect, with the surrounds getting some serious usage. Gunfire pops all around the listener and the LFE kicks in big time with the sounds of mortars exploding all around. Being that this is a character drama for the most part, we do have a lot of quiet scenes that are really well done with detailed ambient noises saturating the back channels, from the creaking of a door to the sound of dirt falling off of a soldiers shows. Incredibly well done track that was good back in the day and just as good today.

Extras: :2stars:
Summer of Sam
• Audio Commentary By Director Spike Lee And Actor John Leguizamo

Miracle at St. Anna
• Audio Commentary By Director Spike Lee And Screenwriter James McBride
• Deeds Not Words
• The Bufallo Soldier
• Deleted Scenes

Overall: :4stars:

It's a bit of a conundrum here. We have one blatantly great Spike Lee film (as long as you're not offended by some very coarse language and a few disturbing sequences), and one very mediocre Spike Lee film that's been released in standalone feature. "Summer of Sam" is easily the winner and it's a bit disappointing that no other Spike Lee filmed was paired with it. However both releases are given top notch video and audio scores and if you're a spike Lee fan, it's well worth the $20 msrp. The films have been given brand new commentaries and even ported over the DVD and previous blu-ray extras for their corresponding films which makes this a high value title in my opinion. Again, my recommendation is dependent on if you're a Spike Lee fan. He's an incredible director, but one that is very divisive and tends to land on the rougher side of the tracks in his portrayal of life. For fans it's a must see, for others, be aware of the roughness and rent it to give it a whirl.

Additional Information:

Starring: John Leguizamo, Mira Sorvina, Adrien Brody, Derek Luke, Michael Easly
Directed by: Spike Lee
Written by: Victor Colocchio, Spike Lee, Michael Imperioli : James McBride
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC / 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: ENGLISH: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish DD 5.1, French DD 2.0/ English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French, Spanish DD 5.1
Studio: Touchstone/Buena Vista
Rated: R / R
Runtime: 142 minutes : 160 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: June 10th, 2014

Buy Spike Lee Joint Collection Volume 2 Blu-ray on Amazon

Recommendation: Rental

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