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Eight Men Out (Blu-ray Review)

Eight-Men-OutThev scandal that gave the nation’s favorite pastime a black eye is dramatically rendered in the John Sayles (Lone Star) scripted and directed Eight Men Out.  The film features an impressive cast including John Cusack (Say Anything), Charlie Sheen (Wall Street), D.B. Sweeney (Taken 2), David Strathairn (Lincoln), Michael Lerner (Barton Fink), Clifton James (WUSA), Michael Rooker (The Walking Dead) and Christopher Lloyd (Back To The Future).  Its a passionate film for the baseball hardcore that opened to pretty strong reviews, however some (Like, 80s Roger Ebert) were not too enthused that the movie takes a hardcore “inside baseball” approach to its storytelling.  The film is making its glorious debut on Blu-ray from the people over at Olive Films.  Of note, this one was filmed where I reside.

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Film 

Based on Eliot Asinof’s book Eight Men Out: The Black Sox and the 1919 World Series, the film traces the gambling conspiracy by members of the Chicago White Sox to lose the 1919 World Series in order to win a huge gambling payday.

This feels like a film that had major award aspirations or one to become some sort of phenomenon, but it just didn’t seem to pan out that way.  Eight Men Out didn’t even debut in the box office top ten on its opening weekend.  Heck, it barely made the top twenty and eeked its way past five and half million dollars for its total gross.  Reviews at the time were a majority positive, and the movie still holds and eighty five percent fresh rating over at the review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes.

It boasts a roster of new and up and coming male acting talent filling out roles right and left.  Charlie Sheen is here, but his involvement doesn’t feel more than just a glorified cameo.  The film feels like its an ensemble story, with no one really being the true “star”.  If anyone comes close to being that, its John Cusack.  At the time, this was a nice step away from all the teen stuff he’d been building a career off of in the 1980s.

Building off of a career jump-starter in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and continuing to show us his excellence, is Michael Rooker.  Rooker is, I would say, the villainous person in the cast.  He’s pretty despicable, and good at being so.  He probably gets more screentime and lines than the rest of the team.  Others put in some solid work here too, like David Straithairn (Who I’m guessing was born just looking old) and DB Sweeney.  There are also some fun appearances by actors like Clifton James and Christopher Lloyd too.

Eight Men Out is a pretty solid movie that really grabs at the off the field and locker room dramatics.  What I think I like most about it, is that it does cast the guilt on the players, but also does its best to get you to see why the temptation was even an option to begin with.  Knowing the outcome, some of the on field World Series scenes were pretty suspenseful when it came down to throwing a game and what have you.  If you’re a big baseball fan, this is something to see if you haven’t.  If you’re not a sports or baseball fan, you may get lost in some of the talk, as it doesn’t cater to the uninitiated.  However, I do think the cast is fun enough to win through.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  Eight Men Out, with its period look, has a naturally soft looking cinematography.  Things a bit glistening, too.  Detail is still pretty good, and you can make out uniform patterns, textures and blemishes with some ease.  

Depth:  Movements are cinematic and smooth with minimal blur.  Background imagery is as clear as the focus allows.  This one has its moments, but depth is a bit too average.

Black Levels:  Blacks are pretty solid and do a decent job of holding up detail on hair follicles, surfaces and clothing.  

Color Reproduction:  Colors are pretty bold and well displayed.  Greens and reds are the stand outs, in terms of which jump out the most.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and maintain appearance throughout.  Close-ups give you looks at wrinkles, stubble and dirt.

Noise/Artifacts:  Some grain and very minimal specs/dirt.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: N/A

Dynamics:  I’m surprised there wasn’t a 5.1 mix for this.  As is, the 2.0 track is fine and gets the job done.  Baseball games give a decent feel and work in crowd ambiance with natural flair.  Effects sound decently rounded.  The blend in the mix is good enough.

Low Frequency Extension:   N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Vocals are clean, loud and clear.

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Extras 

Audio Commentary

  • With Director John Sayles

Retrospective Documentary (HD, 57:54) – A pretty thorough look back at the film, from story to shooting to its legacy featuring director John Sayles and many members of the cast (Including DB Sweeney and David Straithairn.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:30) 

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Summary 

Eight Men Out isn’t the greatest sports movie ever made or even the best baseball one.  But, its still a solid true story that is both engaging and education.  Its also fun to see so many of the performers at this stage in their career.  Olive Films brings it to Blu-ray with a solid presentation and good host of extras.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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