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Field of Dreams (1989) Print E-mail
Tuesday, 26 May 2009
Image"Field of Dreams" is responsible for one some of the most famous cinematic lines in history.  We will never forget when we first heard the immortal words, "If you build it, he will come."  Nor will we forget, "Is this heaven?  No, it's Iowa."  These few simple words are etched in stone forever.  The importance of "Field of Dreams" in cinema is undeniable.  However, the film does have its issues that prevent it from being a perfect cinematic classic.

I may be biased in favor of this film since it has been ages since I have seen it and I happen to love baseball.  Kevin Costner seems to be a baseball fanatic as well, as his has been in several baseball films, including "For Love of the Game" and "Bull Durham."  It is not a secret that Costner isn't the best actor in the world.  With the exception of his performance in "Dances With Wolves," Costner is only an average actor.  He does fine in this film, but the performance still lacks that zing.

The film is based on W.P. Kinsella's book, "Shoeless Joe."  "Field of Dreams" is a story about reconciling with your past and recognizing what you have right in front of you.  Ray Kinsella (Costner) is an Iowa corn farmer.  Life is good for the man, with a wife and a daughter and a stable life.  Then, one day he hears the voice in the middle of the cornfield – "If you build it, he will come."  After struggling to understand the meaning of this voice, he has a vision of a baseball field in the middle of his cornfield.

When he learns that Shoeless Joe Jackson is the one who will return if he builds the baseball field, he sets out to build the field.  The entire town thinks him to be crazy, plowing under his main crop.  Kinsella finishes the field and after an entire season, no one has shown up at the field.  Meanwhile, the Kinsellas are in financial trouble, which isn't a surprise.

Then one day, a man in an old White Sox uniform appears in the middle of the baseball field.  It is Shoeless Joe.  Ray proceeds to play ball with the man, or ghost, before he disappears into the outfield cornfield wall.  Ray believes all is well, and then the voice returns saying, "ease his pain."

Frustrated, Ray finally figures out that the voice is talking about Terence Mann (James Earl Jones), a writer in the 1960s who has dropped off the face of the earth.  Believing that he is meant to take Mann to a Boston Red Sox baseball game at Fenway park, Ray kidnaps the man and takes him to the ballgame.  While there, they both experience a voice.  Now a believer, Mann tags along to Minnesota where the voice told them about Moonlight Graham.

After talking with another ghost, the ghost of a deceased Moonlight Graham, Ray and Terence head back to Iowa.  Annie, Ray's wife, is keeping from Ray the fact that they are bankrupt and the bank of foreclosing on their land and hosue.  Along their way home, Ray and Terence pick up a hitchhiker, Archie Graham, a young man longing to play baseball.  Of course, we immediately recognize Archie as a young Moonlight Graham. When they arrive back home, they see that Shoeless Joe had invited an entire team to play ball.  Archie joins them for a scrimmage game.  Terence, Ray and his family are the only ones that are able to see the ballplayers.  Annie's brother, Mark (Timothy Busfield) is there to foreclose until tragedy strikes and Karin, Ray's daughter, falls from the bleachers.  Archie comes to the rescue by crossing the pebble path and once again becoming the doctor that he grew up to be.  Unfortunately, after saving Karin's life, he can no longer return to the game.  However, now everyone is seemingly able to see the ballplayers.  Everything works out for the family as a long line of cars is seen driving straight for their house in order to watch legendary ballplayers once again play America's favorite pastime.

It has been a long time since I have seen this film.  In fact, the last time that I saw this film it was on a VHS tape.  VHS?  What the heck is that?  So, I have no comparison as to what this film looked like on its standard DVD transfer.  However, in comparison with the VHS, the Blu-ray is infinitely better video quality.  This is a no brainer.  Universal brings "Field of Dreams" to Blu-ray with a VC-1 encode and a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  The colors are accurate but not overly vibrant.  There are very reminiscent of late 1980s filmmaking.  There is plenty of film grain floating around, however it provides a nice veneer and is not very distracting.  The nighttime sequences suffer from evident noise and banding.  The details are fairly impressive.  Costumes and corn crops contain plenty of texture.  The black levels are consistent, but not quite rich enough.  Overall, I have to give Universal praise for there restoration job of this film.

The audio quality is about on the same level as the video.  We are presented with a re-mastered 5.1 audio track in DTS-HD Master Audio.  The original mix was stereo so don't expect much in the surround channels.  Other than some music bleed, there isn’t much there.  The LFE channel doesn't really have any presence in the track either.  However, the track is crystal clear.  When Ray and Shoeless Joe first play, the sound of the baseball off the wooden bat is perfect.  The crack of the transient and the decay is well preserved.  The dialogue is clear, but is a bit uneven throughout the film.  Overall, it is all a bit low in the mix.  While, the mix is front heavy, there is still some sense of envelopment.  This a solid audio track for a late 1980s film.

The Blu-ray contains almost all the special features that were present on the 2004 standard DVD edition.  All the bonus materials are presented in standard definition.  The only Blu-ray exclusive feature is BD-Live functionality.

The first bonus material is a collection of deleted scenes with an optional introduction by director Phil Alden Robinson.  There is an audio commentary with director Phil Robinson and director of photography John Lindley.  This is a semi-interesting track that will be good for fans of the film.  "From Father to Son: Passing Along the Pastime" is a making-of documentary.  "Roundtable with Kevin Costner, Bret Saberhagen, George Brett and Johnny Bench" is a little baseball chat among the baseball stars.  "The Diamond in the Husks" takes a look at the real baseball diamond at the Lansing Farm in Iowa.  "Galena, IL Pinch Hits for Chisholm, MN" looks at the locations for some of the film's plots.  "'Field of Dreams:' A Scrapbook" is another documentary.  "Bravo Special: From Page to Screen" is a look at the screenwriting adaptation process.  Lastly there is a theatrical trailer.

"Field of Dreams" is an important piece of cinema and should be added to your Blu-ray collection.  The video and audio quality are well above average, especially for the age of the film.  Definitely pick this one up.

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