on April 4, 2007
"There goes Roy Hobbs, the best there ever was to play this game." For admirers of the original theatrical and, later, DVD version, of "The Natural" this is obviously A MUST. The story of Roy Hobbs, a great young talent in the Ted Williams mode (they even share the same number - 9), struck down in his prime, and then, like a phoenix, reborn into athletic glory, is one of the classic American stories of all time, based on the fine novel by Bernard Malamud. This new "Director's Cut" version is like revisiting a great fairy tale from childhood and being given more - and often longer - scenes with some of your favorite characters. Director Barry Levinson explains, in a video introduction to the film, the reasons for this new edition: how the original film was somewhat rushed into theatres and how he and his editor (and others) wanted a much different first act to the film. And here it is: the new footage deepens and darkens and gradually brightens the film into a much more satisfying experience and still does not diminish the impact of the original at all. In a word, PERFECT. The musical score, by the great Randy Newman, perhaps a little too insistent in the original film, cueing us to how we should feel, sneaks up on you more in this version and makes all the wonderful moments in the film that come later that much more moving. Also, Robert Redford's performance as Roy Hobbs is immeasurably helped here: the new footage (often original scenes with more footage added), even certain quick cuts, make for a more layered, textured performance that gives us greater insights into this troubled, but noble character - and show how a once, great, guileless young ballplayer still exists inside the older, careworn, but still talented, man he has become. There are beautiful moments restored here - often wordless - and some original scenes have been edited, so that even though there is additional footage, the new version only runs about six minutes longer than the original. Personally, I felt all the performances benefited from the new version - Robert Duvall, Kim Basinger, Darren McGavin, Glenn Close, Wilford Brimley, Richard Farnsworth, all doing splendid work here. And though my only quibble with the film was - and still is - the somewhat stilted staging of some of the scenes (I would have liked to have seen more reactions from the ballplayers and coaches during games - sometimes they just look blank even when watching something exciting going on), this is clearly a TRUE classic - and the new version will only add to its glory. The additional special features include a wealth of information about the making of the film, and a splendid featurette on "The Mythology of The Natural." Clearly this is why this film endures - and will for the next 100 years. It has a timeless feel, from the perfect performances, the superb direction, the obvious care that was taken in the music, costumes, sets (the fantastic scenes in the various ballparks), and, finally, to the story itself, so beautifully articulated by Glenn Close's character later in the story: "I believe we have two lives: the one we learn with, and the one we live with after that." This new DVD "Director's Cut" version drives this theme home with the precision of one of Roy Hobbs's mammoth home runs. It is a darker, more textured, but ultimately more illuminating experience (and perhaps even more moving than the original version) - and one of Barry Levinson's finest achievements. I wish they had re-released it on the big screen first. But here it is in a beautifully packaged DVD (with a great, old-fashioned cover), worth every penny, and then some. A grand slam!
on April 10, 2007
I loved the Natural when it came out in 1984. The mythical quality of the story, terrific acting by a perfect cast, great editing, and great direction made this film one of my all time favorite sports movies.
So this year a new dvd version is being released that is being called the Director's cut. Apparently there are 20 minutes of new footage added in, but the editing results in a film that is only 6 minutes longer than the original. The chief difference between the two versions is that the backstory is relayed primarily through flashback from the "present", as Roy Hobbs returns to his childhood home after 16 years away. He retrieves "Wonder Boy", then goes to New York to start his career with the NY Knights.
The new version works okay, but I frankly preferred the original. I preferred its slightly more deliberate pacing, and I don't think the new scenes (primarily extended versions of already existing scenes) added any real value or perspective. Indeed, one scene in which Memo travels to meet Roy on the road actually detracted from the cohesion of the story.
Bottom line: if you loved the original, you'll like this one. It's still basically the same film. I just don't think it needed any tinkering.
on January 12, 2008
When I was first made aware of this new "Director's Cut" of The Natural, I wanted to rent it before deciding whether to buy it or not. Unable to find it for rent, I bought it. Having watched it twice (alternately with the original theatrical version DVD), I will probably toss it.
Director's Cut? Even the director, Barry Levinson, concedes in the introduction to this new version that it is not meant to replace or be better than the original theatrical version. It's merely an intriguing chance to see the movie edited to match his original vision more closely (made impossible in 1984 by post production time constraints). He makes no judgment that his original vision was better. For me, this cut is quite inferior.
Not only were 15 minutes of footage added, but 9 minutes were deleted. In the original version, the opening act (before Roy returns to the game after 16 years) ran 20 minutes. In the new version, despite a lot of added material, it runs 17 minutes. The relaxed, natural pace of the original sequence is now full of somewhat abrupt, quick edits. Gone also are some beautiful shots, such as the young Roy and Iris running towards each other at night across the horizon of a field. Gone are moments of character development, such as The Whammer's wisecrack on the train, "Oh, first Pete and now Repeat?"
And much later in the film, one added scene derails a major theme. Iris is a positive influence, and Roy excels in the game under that influence. Memo is a negative influence, and under her spell Roy fails. Yet in this new verson of the film, Roy returns to New York after several highly successful games (under Iris' influence) on the road, and then a scene has been added where Memo welcomes him home in a hotel lobby and gets cozy with him in a phone booth. In the following scenes, Roy continues his successful run! It makes no sense. In the original version, his success ended as soon as he reunited with Memo at the welcome home party. In fact, the addition of the phone booth scene results in her welcoming him home twice, which is somewhat odd.
On the positive side, the new 5.1 sound is very nice most of the time, but sound effects that were subtle in the original film have been amped up at times to the point of being distracting. Originally, the two gunshots sounded appropriate to the rooms in which they happened. They now sound like recordings of shots in an echo chamber, edited into the film. Still, I have to say I loved the enhanced sounds of thunder throughout the movie.
The second disc of Special Features has some interesting stuff on it. So I'll keep the Special Features disc, put it with my DVD of the original theatrical version, and toss the so-called Director's Cut disc. But I will miss those great thunder sounds.
I can easily remember watching "The Natural" for the first time and for any kid who enjoyed baseball, the character of Roy Hobbs was truly inspirational! Many people thought Roy Hobbs was a real fictional character and in some ways, he is.
"The Natural" is a film that is an adaptation of a 1952 baseball novel "The Natural" written by Bernard Malamud and was inspired by the real life shooting of Philadelphia Phillies baseball player Eddie Waitkus who was a promising young star until an obsessed teenager gunned down the baseball player and nearly killing him. The novel is also inspired by Shoeless Joe Jackson (who was one of the eight Chicago White Sox players accused of throwing their games against the Cincinnati Reds during the 1919 World Series) but the film adaptation while loyal to Hobbs as a player is completely different from the novel, as Roy Hobb in the film version is a hero and a character that continues to inspire many kids wanting to play baseball today.
"The Natural" is directed by Barry Levinson ("Sleepers", "Wag the Dog", "Bugsy", "Rain Man") and a screenplay written by Roger Towne ("Hawaii Five-O") and Phil Dusenberry. The film features cinematography by Caleb Deschanel ("National Treasure", "The Spiderwick Chronicles", "The Passion of Christ", "The Patriot") and music by world renown musician Randy Newman ("Toy Story" films, ""Cars", "Monsters, Inc.", "Meet the Parents" films). The film has been released previously as a single disc DVD, a Director's Cut DVD and a gift set. Now, "The Natural" makes its debut on HD via Blu-ray in April 2010. This version is the theatrical 136-minute cut not the 144-minute director's cut.
"The Natural" is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1). The film definitely looks very good on Blu-ray considering it's 26-years-old. The film goes through various moments where you see present time and also some scenes making the film look a bit aged (intentional). But overall, the film looks very good. Colors are actually very good because previous Sony Pictures Home Entertainment films from the early '80s on Blu-rays in the past looked a bit DNR'd (digital noise reduction) and had this cloudy and waxy look to it. But this time, the film includes the grain and probably very close to the original source. The film looks fantastic as skin tones are natural, blacks are nice and deep.
"The Natural" looks better than any of its previous DVD counterparts!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
"The Natural" is presented in English, French and Portuguese DTS-HD MA and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital. Although the film is primarily dialogue and music driven through the center and front channels, there are scenes that utilize the surround channels such as an oncoming train, lightning rumbles, the crack of a baseball when the bat connects to crowd ambiance. So, there is a good use of the surround channels throughout the film.
But if anything will stay in your mind from this film, it's Randy Newman's musical score (which is a recognizable score) and the final moments of the film (yes, the ultimate scene from the film ala sparks and all) which sounds fantastic via lossless.
Subtitles are presented in English, English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish.
"The Natural" comes with the following special features in standard definition, English stereo and subtitles in Portuguese and Spanish:
* movieIQ+sync (logo) and BD-Live connect you to real-time information on the cast, music, trivia and more while watching the movie! - While watching the film, if one has a BD-Live enabled player and is hooked up on the Internet, they can grab real-time information of the cast, music and trivia for the film.
* When Lightning Strikes: Creating the Natural - Pt 1, Pre-Game: A Novelist Steps Up to the Plate - (9:48) A featurette about the book "The Natural" and the differences between the novel and the film. Also, a featurette about novelist Bernard Malamud by his daughter Janna Malamud Smith giving us insight of his painful upbringing and working on the novel.
* When Lightning Strikes: Creating the Natural - Pt 2, The Line-Up: Assembling the Moviemaking Team - (16:27) A featurette about the creation of "The Natural" and bringing the novel to film. Roger Towne and Phil Dusenberry talk about how they came upon writing the film. Also, how the director, cinematographer and cast were hired and the challenges of production for the first Tri Star film.
* When Lightning Strikes: Creating the Natural - Pt 3, Let's Play Ball: Filming the Show - (23:38) Cast and crew talk about the filming of the movie and the memories they have on the set and creating the final scene.
* Extra Innings - (7:12) More featurettes that goes into parts of the film which include slow motion (how the film utilized a lot of slow motion), uniform color (inspirations of the colors of the uniforms), The Sandberg Game (a featurette about Ryan Sandberg's memorable homerun and Bob Costas calling Ryan Sandberg "Natural" and Sandberg talking about how he was called "Kid Natural") and The President's Question (Screenwriter Phil Dusenberry asked by President Ronald Reagan of why Hobbs was shot).
* Clubhouse Conversations - (15:25) Talk about the history of baseball and how baseball was a great conversation piece. Robert Redford, pro baseball players and journalists talk about how they became passionate about the game of baseball.
* A Natural Gunned Down: The Stalking of Eddie Waitkus - (17:08) A documentary on the baseball player Eddie Waitkus, the real life baseball player known as "The Natural" who was shot by an obsessed fan.
* Knights in Shining Armor: The Mythology of "The Natural" - (9:18) The mythic place of baseball and why the film is beloved. The story about Roy Hobbs who has this special gift and in this story, the challenges the hero must go through (of course, novel and film are quite different).
* The Heart Of The Natural - (44:06) Cal Ripken Jr. talks about the film and how the film relates to his real life from him playing baseball with his father, challenges on field and more.
"The Natural" is the greatest baseball film made so far!
I've watched many baseball films from the silents to modern baseball films and yes, as many are fun to watch and inspirational in showing team dynamics and the underdogs rising to the top. "The Natural" is just the best baseball film out there. Sure, it has elements from other baseball films, but the fact that you have a character of Roy Hobbs, who was a promising baseball player and loses it all after he is shot by a crazy woman and then 16-years later, tries to make a comeback in his mid 30's when most players have retired. How inspirational is that?
I know that there are some who may be a bit upset that the film doesn't follow Bernard Malamud's original novel but personally, when you have a sports film that can literally show the worst that can happen in baseball or a film that can truly inspire, I am so glad that author Malamud gave Roger Towne and Phil Dusenberry the thumbs up to do what they want (Malamud was well aware that novel to film adaptations were different) and in this case, making Roy Hobbs a hero and for some people, despite being a fictional character, the bond that Hobbs had with his father to the love for the game rings true for anyone who has played or loves baseball. (Note: For those who want to know facts and fiction of baseball in relation to the "The Natural" can find some interesting tidbits here).
But at the same time, there is something very cool about seeing people that many consider are past their prime but yet showing us that they can still be awesome and be the best out there. From Brett Favre, Jerry Rice, Lance Armstrong, Cal Ripken Jr. and many others who many felt were old and should retire, they continued to play their A game better than most athletes in their 20's. "The Natural" is a film that no matter how man years have passed since the film was released in theaters, it will be a classic baseball film and the character of Roy Hobb, may he be a fictional character, but it's a character that many athletes can relate to. Very inspirational!
As for the Blu-ray release of "The Natural", as mentioned earlier in my review, this is the original theatrical release and not the director's cut. It would have nice if those eight minutes of extra footage was included as deleted scenes on the Blu-ray but we are getting the special features that were included from the 2007 two-disc DVD release. But the picture quality on Blu-ray and the lossless audio along with the numerous special features makes this version the definitive version to own for now.
Overall, "The Natural" is a wonderful and inspiring film for so many people who love the game of baseball. It is truly one of the greatest, if not the greatest, baseball film out there. Highly recommended!
This is one of those films where you heart loves it despite what your head might be telling you. Barry Levinson's 1984 film abandon's the Shoeless Joe Jackson ending of Bernard Malamud's novel, choosing to go in a totally different direction, and I have to tell you I have no complaints (I even have a Roy Hobbs baseball card!). "The Natural," more than any other baseball film, attempts to deal with the game on a mythic level that can really exist only in the poetic world of fantasy.
Robert Redford plays Roy Hobbs, who is given a second chance to be the best baseball player who ever lived. The early part of the film where you have to believe Redford is a teenage phenom is a bit of a reach, but the film seduces you into a willing suspension of disbelief with its glowing images and sentimentality. As the older Hobbs, Redford's quiet desperation plays nicely. The supporting cast of Glenn Close as Iris, the girl Roy left behind, Robert Duvall as the cynical sports reporter, Wilford Brimley as the crusty manager, Robert Farnsworth as the affable coach, and Robert Proskey as the malignancy who owns the team are all treats. Barbara Hershey is memorably remote as the dangerous Harriet Bird but Jon Don Baker plays the mythical Whammer as if Babe Ruth was channeling Ty Cobb. Only Kim Basinger seems out of place, and this is more because her character is so clearly bad news for Roy that you can never understand what he sees in her given what happened in his past. Redford is the calm at the center of the storm, dignified in his efforts but boyish in his love for the game.
The film is essentially a collection of carefully crafted scenes: The opening vignette of Roy playing catch with his father, his first at bat in the majors, Iris refusing to see Roy fail in Chicago, his last at bat of the season and the dissolve to the final images as the circle is completed. The cinematography by Caleb Deschanel needs to be enjoyed widescreen (I have my laser disc), while Randy Newman's score, easily one of the most memorable in movie history, adds something to virtually ever scene (I have the CD). Every spring I watch "The Natural" and Ken Burns' "Baseball." Sometimes, those are the best parts of the season for me.
on April 10, 2010
I always loved this movie; and was extremely impressed when they came out with the Director's Cut with the extra footage which really solved the continuity problem in my opinion. The Director's Cut was also released in High Definition, so it looked good on my Blu-ray player. What I can't believe, and am thoroughly disappointed with, is that the Blu-ray doesn't contain the Director's Cut. At the very least, they should have offered both versions on the Blue-ray (it's not like they don't have the room to do it). I had a hunch that this was the original, so I checked the running time against my Director's Cut, and sure enough, this is the shorter version. This will be the first time I've taken a Blu-ray back (unopened of course)--I'd rather just keep the non-Blue-ray version. This is totally inexcusable for this classic movie to be released this way. Shame on you film studio.
on February 16, 2001
For everyone who as a kid who stood in the outfield, held a baseball glove to their face and connects the smell of well dressed glove leather to their youth and summer on the diamond ... this movie is for you. I bet that almost every kid who played baseball at any level, had many day dreams of being "The Natural", playing at a level above all others, and getting the "big hit" or making the "big play". The Natural isn't reality, and it shouldn't be. It's about the "what if" of baseball that reaches into the soul of the former sandlot player, adds some adult twists, and connects the childhood dreams to the adult cinema. I enjoy this film, not because it's about the way it is, but because it's the way I dreamed it could be. Roy Hobbs (the main character played by Redford) appears to have it all. Looks, incredible talent, big league prospects, when his life takes a sudden unfortunate turn. He returns to baseball and against the odds, lives a baseball dream. Dramatic? Yes. Realistic? Not really. But I'd rather be entertained by this baseball fantasy, than watch the biography of today's typical player. It's more pleasurable to watch Roy Hobbs overcome his baseball challenges, than to watch a player go though drug rehab and salary arbitration while batting .260.
On the cast, Redford is perfectly cast, and Wilford Brimley as Pops the Team Manager is right on the nose. This is a very good baseball film that deserved better treatment by the critics. If you're sick of "shoot 'em ups" and pointless shock films, watch "The Natural" for a nice break.
I don't care for baseball. Never have. Truth be told, I would rather watch a meaningless pre-season football game than game 7 of the World Series. I've even tried watching it in person, but the game still seems about as dull as watching the grass grow.
That said, it is ironic that this is my all time favorite sports movie. The cast is top notch; Robert Redford, Glenn Close and Robert Duvall are all cream of the crop actors. As the best sports movies do, the story transcends the game itself & uses it as a metaphor for life. Unexpectedly, the film also includes unmistakable mythology imagery regarding a hero's quest. Some of the symbolism is obvious, some of it is not. The majority of it, however, does not take a Jungian analysis to understand. Barbara Hershey and Kim Basinger play their parts well as two sultry sirens who attempt to lure unsuspecting men to crash into the rocks.
The story takes place in the late 1920s; a simpler time, when some professional athletes had the audacity to play for the love of the game rather than the intention of getting a signing bonus with their next team (gasp!!! what a concept!!). Robert Redford plays an incredibly gifted baseball player whose life goes awry due to the adversity posed by an unexpected incident. He finds that he must struggle to keep playing the game he loves. I don't cry at movies very much, but I will admit I did cry the first time I saw "The Natural." OK, I also cried the 2nd time I saw it, too.
The DVD release boasts useful documentary by Cal Ripken Jr. of the Baltimore Orioles, probably the closest thing to a genuine hero that baseball has to offer. All in all, a worthwhile DVD for the sports fan and non-sports fan alike.
on July 22, 2005
Whenever I tell people how much I cherish The Natural, I often get the "do you still believe in the Easter bunny" look. Occasionally someone may throw out a dig about Robert Redford, but, even though I'm not a fan, I have to give him his due because he's so authentic in this role.
Yes, I suppose we could criticize this grand tale for several of its melodramatic conversations and scenarios. We might also wonder as to how "major league" teams continued to pitch, as opposed to intentionally walk, a guy consistently shattering the infrastructure of ball yards and sporting a batting average around .500. However, from the very beginning, we are made aware that this is a tale of fantasy and that it is necessary to suspend our disbelief.
The cast is superb and it isn't just the stars who glimmer. Wilford Brimley's Pop and Richard Farnsworth's Red are quite special. The chemistry between them is superb and both are extremely believable in the role of baseball old timers. Like Hobbs, they are remnants from a rural, simpler age that is no more. Pop even repeatedly wishes that he would have become a farmer rather than gone into baseball.
Kim Basinger plays Memo "I've known a million guys" Paris who, along with Barbara Hershey, are the embodiment of the femme fatale. Both are horrendous, and near lethal, influences on Redford. As Basinger's romance with the right fielder escalates, his performance on the diamond declines. In few situations in life or fiction are characters as black/white and good/evil as they are here. The Madonna/whore dichotomy has never been more apparent (outside of The Bible) as Glenn Close's Iris can be perfectly juxtaposed with the two Jezebels. She is as pure as Holy Water. Redford's sincerity in regard to her cannot be questioned. Indeed, he says, "Are you married?" seconds after being reunited with her after. When he looks at Iris, Redford's mind is fixed on only one thing: lifelong devotion.
As far as classic moments in film go, I can think of few as touching as when the camera catches Pop's expression as Roy Hobbs runs the bases while, in his glasses, we see the bursting of stadium lights. Few experiences are as rewarding as helping another when you are the only hope they have left.
The Natural is a marvelous antidote to societal reserve and restraint; even if it only lasts a few hours. It's cleansing to cheer for characters who lack a dark side, and inspirational to watch them trounce the bad guys.
on April 7, 2010
I love this movie, and was eager to get it on Blu-Ray. It looks fantastic, but I believe the title on Amazon to be incorrect. I had the Director's Cut of the DVD, which is an extended version of the movie with added scenes. The Blu-Ray is the theatrical version. I looked in the menu and didn't find anything that gives the impression that the extended version (Director's Cut) is on the disk. I wish it were as there are some good extra scenes. If someone knows something I don't, I'm all ears.