• BlacKkKlansman (Universal Studios) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Universal Studios
    Released on: November 6th, 2018.
    Director: Spike Lee
    Cast: John David Washington, Adam Driver, Topher Grace, Corey Hawkins, Alec Baldwin
    Year: 2018
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    BlacKkKlansman – Movie Review:

    Spike Lee’s 2018 picture comes BlacKkKlansman opens with a scene wherein a white supremacist named Dr. Kennebrew Beauregard (Alec Baldwin) spits out a string of racially charged epithets while discussing how he and his fellow Americans are under attack. Cue the credits, and we’re off. Soon enough, we are in the early 1970’s where we meet Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), the first black man to be promoted to detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department. He’s a cop who wants to see real change happen in his neighborhood and when the Ku Klux Klan starts acting up in the area, it’s completely understandable that he wants to do something about this. When not serving as a cop, Ron is hanging out with his girlfriend, Patrice (Laura Harrier)

    He comes up with an idea to make his way into the inner circle of this local chapter of the KKK, in hopes that he’ll learn enough to take them down. To help, he brings on a more experienced – and Jewish - detective named Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) and they begin working together to do just that. As they do, we witness what is required of these two men, we see KKK initiation ceremonies (followed by a screening of Birth Of A Nation, which the attendees of course see as hilarious) and the efforts of black rights activists rising in protest of what’s happening.

    Based on the real-life Ron Stallworth’s 2014 book Black Klansman it isn’t surprising that Lee would use this story as a metaphor for what’s happening in America today with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, all to frequent shootings of unarmed black men by police and the advent of the alt-right and groups like the Proud Boys. Without spoiling things, as heavy-handed as the film’s ending is, so too is it entirely appropriate. In fact, it makes perfect sense that Lee would take this approach, as it’s clear that despite the best efforts of those involved in the Civil Rights Movement decades ago, there’s still a lot of work to be done in this regard. Lee, being Lee, pulls no punches in this regard but while the politics of the film are less than subtle (and rightly so), it never takes away from the film’s entertainment value. As angry as the film is, it’s also very well-made and often times pretty damn funny. There’s definitely humor inherent in the film’s premise, and Lee is quick to exploit as much of it as he is able to.

    Lee spends a good bit of time focusing on the period detail that makes this film as cool looking as it is but more important than that is the quality of the performances that the director gets from his cast. John David Washington is fantastic here, he has all the qualities a good leading man should have: he’s cool, he’s handsome, he’s smart and he’s got great screen presence. He and Adam Driver, also very strong in the role, have a really strong chemistry together and they make a great team. Laura Harrier is also very solid here, we understand her character and her concern as the story progresses, while supporting work from Baldwin and Topher Grace (from That 70’s Show, cast here as none other than David Duke!) is also really impressive.

    Strong cinematography from Chayse Irvin and a pretty killer soundtrack don’t hurt the movie at all either.

    BlacKkKlansman – Blu-ray Review:

    BlacKkKlansman is framed at 2.40.1 and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition on a 50GB Blu-ray disc from Universal Studios. The movie looks excellent on Blu-ray, with impressive fine detail and texture evident throughout the movie in the period attire, the locations and the faces of the performers. Colors look really nice here, never too saturated or artificially boosted, while black levels are nice and strong throughout. There is, not surprisingly, a complete absence of damage or debris here, the image is spotless. Skin tones are spot on, three are no noticeable issues with compression artifacts, edge enhancement of noise reduction – yeah, this looks really, really good.

    Universal loads the disc up with both an English Dolby Atmos and an English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Surround track. While this is definitely a dialogue heavy film and not one with a whole lot of action in it, the Atmos track is nevertheless the right way to enjoy the picture if you’ve got the hardware to handle it. Crowd scenes really open up nicely and use all channels in the mix effectively while the score is also spread around really well. Dialogue stays clean, clear and concise – usually confined to the front of the movie but sometimes directed through the surround channels effectively. As you’d guess for a new film, there are no issues with any hiss or distortion to note and the levels are properly balanced. This is a very nice mix, no complaints.

    Optional subtitles are provided in English, French and Spanish and alternate audio options are provided in English Dolby Digital 2.0 and 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 and French Dolby Digital 7.1 Surround Sound options.

    The main extra is a featurette entitled A Spike Lee Joint where Ron Stallworth, Jordan Peele and a few others basically just gush about how great it was to work with Lee on the project. This thing runs five-minutes and it’s essentially a fluff piece. Not to take anything away from Lee, but there’s not really much here.

    Outside of that, the disc includes an extended trailer (that uses Prince's "Mary Don't You Weep"), menus and chapter selection. A commentary from Lee would have been more than welcome, and a featurette on the real-life events that inspired this film could have been great too, but that didn’t happen.

    The disc also comes packaged with an insert card for a download of a digital HD copy of BlacKkKlansman and a slipcover.

    BlacKkKlansman – The Final Word:

    BlacKkKlansman succeeds thanks to a smart script, strong direction, great performances and some palpable, righteous anger. Universal’s Blu-ray is unfortunately pretty light on extra features, which is a shame as there was a lot of opportunity here to produce some great supplemental material, but it does boast a very strong audio/video presentation. Recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized BlacKkKlansman Blu-ray screen caps!