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Drumline (Special Edition) Print E-mail
Monday, 02 February 2009
Image“Drumline” delivers us a high-impact look at the world of elite college marching bands – the training, the seriousness, the feuds.  The film is not perfect by any means, but it does keep the audience involved.  There is really a dull moment in the film.  Even simple conversations have a purpose, which is more than I can say for many of today’s films.  The film did fairly well at the box office, grossing about $57 million in the United States, making a tidy profit over its $20 million creation budget.

Nick Cannon plays Devon Miles, a cocky drummer that feels his God’s gift to the world.  After high-school graduation, he is recruited by the head of music at Atlanta’s A&T University.  He immediately butts heads with the current leader of the snare drum line, Sean Taylor (Leonard Roberts).  Both are full of arrogance, but Devon plays for himself, while Sean plays for the line.  That is the simple lesson in the film – unity.

Along his journey from individuality to service, Devon encounters Laila (Zoe Saldana), a cheerleader at the university.  Naturally, she becomes his romantic interest.  Of course they go through their spats, but it all works out for them in the end.

Devon comes up against a brick wall when it is discovered that he lied in his pre-acceptance interview.  Devon cannot read sheet music, which is the one main requirement for being accepted into the program.  This shows Dr. Lee (Orlando Jones), head of the music department, that Devon does not care about his art.  He is kicked off the team, or rather demoted to last string, until he agrees to take music classes and learn the skill of sight-reading.  Of course, Devon has too much pride for all this and quits the team.

Devon’s life begins to fall apart, but it is his father’s jazz tapes that bring him back to the front.  He reconciles with Sean and the two team up to create a new routine for the BET classic showdown, something original that combines old school and new school music and techniques. The BET classic sequence contains some of the best marching band performances that you will ever see.  It ultimately comes down to a standoff in which to the two rival teams send their drumline to the forefront to determine who will be the winner of the Super Bowl of marching band competitions.

Nick Cannon, Leonard Roberts, Orlando Jones and Zoe Saldana all deliver standout performances.  None of them obscure into the background.  While much of the film is full of macho BS, it never dominates the screen.  The only holding them back is that the filmmakers don’t appear to have created a strong background for each of the characters for the actors to learn from.  There is some motivation for each character, but we as an audience are missing some crucial background information.

Charles Stone III is a relatively unknown director and has remained so since this film.  His only other credits include “Mr. 3000,” one episode of “Friday Night Lights,” and a couple episodes of “Lincoln Heights.”  Still, Stone does a nice job of framing and demanding conviction from his actors.

Fox delivers “Drumline” on Blu-ray with a 1080p/AVC encode in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  While, not perfect, this transfer is pretty darn awesome for an early 2000 film.  The colors are vibrant and leap off the screen.  The saturation does not yield any bleeding between the colors.  The contrast is a bit soft at points but nothing extremely noticeable.  The black levels are stable and deep, with shadow delineation smooth across the board.  Fleshtones are accurate and stable.  Details and textures are strong for the most part.  The marching band uniforms yield the most details.  There are points in the film in which the details go soft, but only for a moment.  There is a consistent level of grain throughout the film, but it is not abnormally distracting.  There are no compression or motion artifacts, nor is there any banding issues.  The video transfer quality is top-notch.  You may even be able to select some scenes as cinema reference quality.  It is not representative of crystal clean digital material, but it does a more than adequate job of representing cinema material.

The audio is presented in DTS-HD 5.1 and delivers just as powerful performance as the video quality.  I expected a lot from the soundtrack about marching bands, and this audio presentation does not disappoint.  The attack and release of the snare hits are crystal clear.  The separation among all the instruments in the marching band is wide.  The instruments’ sounds fill up the soundfield, creating an enveloping experience.  Ambience is nicely distributed among the audio channels.  The dynamic range is not as wide as I would have liked, but it is better than most.  The entire track appears to have been mixed a bit on the low side so you will probably need to turn up your receiver a bit more than reference level soundtracks.  Stadium crowd noise is present, but not given favor over the music, which is a real blessing.  There is nothing worse than having the beautiful music ruined by meaningless cheering in the background.  The dialogue is clear, but sometimes dips a bit low.  The LFE channel rings out nicely with the marching band bass drum.  A little more on the subwoofer would have been appreciated, but as it stands this is one heck of an audio track.

This Special Edition Blu-ray contains all the original DVD bonus materials, except for the deleted scenes section.  First, the film is available in both the theatrical release and extended version formats.  The extended version takes some the deleted scenes and integrates them.  The first bonus material is a director’s audio commentary with Charles Stone III, only available on the theatrical cut of the film.  This is a standard commentary, and while giving you information, it is hardly memorable.  “Half-Time Heroes” takes a look at the history of marching bands.  “The Real Battle of the Bands” examines the real marching band competitions in Atlanta.  “Anatomy of a Drumline” is a making-of featurette.  The deleted scenes section has four segments with optional director’s commentary.  The original DVD had 11 deleted scenes.  The missing deleted scenes on the Blu-ray can be found incorporated into the extended cut.  I’m not sure why all the deleted scenes were not just placed in the extended cut.  Lastly, there is a theatrical trailer.

“Drumline” is a powerful film in terms of musicality.  The video and quality are reference worthy in some portions and offer a substantial upgrade over the previous DVD release.  Definitely pick this film up for your collection.

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