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20th Century Fox presents
"You figure there's been, I don't know, 25,000 years... I don't know how you do the math on that... but it's like, out of all the 50,000 top athletes since prehistoric times, brontosaures and pterodactyls included... he's right there."
DVD ReviewI am on the other side of the fence when it comes to Michael Jordan. No matter how greatly I respect him as a player, he was always the enemy. Jordan weaves a dramatic swath through my sports memories: I remember the NCAA Finals where he hit the game-winning shot as a North Carolina freshman. There was the NBA Slam-Dunk contest when he dunked after jumping from the free throw line. There was the 63 points he scored against Larry Bird's Boston Celtics in the playoffs after coming off a season-long foot injury. There were the countless times he bedeviled my New York Knicks in the regular season and the playoffs. There was the incredible domination that he achieved over the sport of basketball, winning six championship rings.
Michael Jordan to the Max is a tribute to Jordan's dramatic final season in the NBA. It is amazing to think that he was able to lead the Chicago Bulls to the championship against the absolutely determined efforts of the entire league to stop him. The documentary weaves a portrait of Jordan the man and icon around the story of the championship run, through interview, stock footage and remembrances of fans, teammates and coaches that is ultimately a fine tribute to one of the great athletes of all time.
Made for the IMAX® theater, this film contains some of the best basketball footage that I have ever scene. There is such a true sense of the arena nature of the sport. The story is very dramatic as the Bulls meet the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference championship; the semifinals of the NBA playoff structure, and actually faced elimination. Basically, Jordan guaranteed victory and delivered. The film does a great job of keeping the suspense of a known event alive with depictions of the struggles of Jordan and team.
The portrait portions of the film are necessarily superficial, yet provide some insights into the personality of Jordan and the traits that helped to make him a champion. There are segments that explore his relationships with fellow players, the fans, his parents and his children. In an interview sequence that is interpersed through the film as a sort of "Michael Jordan in the theater with you" effect (that probably works much better on the big screen), Jordan talks about some of his beliefs and philosophies of achievement that I would certainly believe more than some of these quick-talking, positive thinking gurus that are around. It is easy to say that Jordan had the talent, but one thing that comes clear in the documentary is that Michael Jordan is one of the hardest workers ever to play basketball. In the interviews, Jordan is very authentic and engaging.
The film begins with a special film sequence featuring the Bullet Time technology that was developed for The Matrix. Jordan seems to be in the United Center in Chicago and starting at half court, dribbles toward the basket and then jumps toward the basket from the free throw intending to recreate his signature flying dunk. Suddenly, he freezes in the air and the camera seems to make a 270 degree sweep around him suspended and then he dunks the ball through the basket. It is fascinating to watch, at least 50 times.
This film has been shown in schools and other institutions and is more than just a highlight-driven documentary. For any sports fan, it is a great addition to the DVD library. Michael Jordan to the Max is a fine documentary of a great athlete. The IMAX aspect is intriguing and unique, making for interesting and enjoyable viewing.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B
Image Transfer Review: The image transfer is awesome. Featuring the footage filmed with IMAX equipment and 35mm footage blown up to 70mm, this film features some incredible scenes of basketball. Detail is crisp and the colors are so rich as to almost hurt the eyes, especially after watching so many basketball games on a grainy 19 inch TV. Truly, you see things as you have never seen before in this film. I now long for the day when all sports footage is presented like this.
Image Transfer Grade: A+
Audio Transfer Review: The soundtrack matches the image with a fine Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix. The interviews segments are quite listenable and the surround ambient sound adds great realism to the watching experience. There is a Dolby Surround track and for Michael's French fans, a Dolby 5.1 track in French. A must listen, at least for a minute or two, for any American fan! The music is well chosen and well-used for this documentary and the sound track does the hard work great justice.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
2 Original Trailer(s)
2 TV Spots/Teasers
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director/producer James D. Stern, director/producer Don Kempf and producer Steve Kempf
The commentary by James Stern, Steve Kempf and Don Kempf is a good listen as they discuss the making of an IMAX film and working with Michael Jordan. They talk about their own nervousness as the Bulls fell behind in the Conference Finals and it looked like there would be no championship—thus no film—and they already had a substantial financial investment...without a contract.
There are also biographies and credits for the filmmakers along with full statistics for Michael Jordan. Also, included are reviews of the film by three newspapers.
I like to see a lot of extras on my discs and this satisfies.
Extras Grade: B+
Final CommentsSports fans with DVD players need disks that exploit the medium to provide a new view of the sports they love. But, also, they need these discs to be more than just fancy camera shots. Michael Jordan to the Max is a fine documentary with some fantastic sports scenes. Highly recommended.
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