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Draft Day Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Review

Draft Day (2014) movie poster Draft Day

Theatrical Release: April 11, 2014 / Running Time: 110 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Ivan Reitman / Writers: Rajiv Joseph, Scott Rothman

Cast: Kevin Costner (Sonny Weaver Jr.), Jennifer Garner (Ali Parker), Denis Leary (Coach Penn), Frank Langella (Anthony Molina), Sam Elliott (Coach Dick Moore), Sean Combs (Chris Crawford), Terry Crews (Earl Jennings), Ellen Burstyn (Barb Weaver), Chadwick Boseman (Vontae Mack), Rosanna Arquette (Angie), W. Earl Brown (Ralph Mowry), Kevin Dunn (Marvin), Arian Foster (Ray Jennings), Brad William Henke (Tony "Bagel" Bagli), Chi McBride (Walt Gordon), Griffin Newman (Rick the Intern), Josh Pence (Bo Ridley Callahan), David Ramsey (Thompson), Patrick St. Espirit (Tom Michaels), Timothy Simons (Marx), Tom Welling (Brian Drew), Wade Williams (O'Reilly), Christopher Cousins (Max Stone), Patrick Breen (Max Zotti), Pat Healy (Jeff Carson) / As Themselves: Chris Berman, Mel Kiper, Jon Gruden, Deion Sanders, Mike Mayock, Tony Rizzo, Aaron Goldhammer, Alex Mack, Russ Brandon, Marc Honan, Commissioner Roger Goodell, Rich Eisen, John Heffernan, Rebecca Haarlow, Ray Lewis, Ken Fiore, Joel Bussert, Frank Supovitz, Sammy Choi, Jeff Darlington, Mike Florio, Alex Marvez, Seth Wickersham, Jim Brown, Bernie Kosar, Monique Brown, Phil Taylor, TJ Ward, D'Qwell Jackson

Buy Draft Day from Amazon.com: Blu-ray Combo Pack DVD Instant Video

From 1987 to 1992, Kevin Costner was one of Hollywood's most successful leading men, scoring hit after hit, with only one minor miss. That stint included a summer blockbuster (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves),
multiple Best Picture nominees (Field of Dreams, JFK), and his triumphant directorial debut, Dances with Wolves, which won him Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director. In the twenty-two years since The Bodyguard, Costner has resisted relinquishing leading man status, but has struggled to connect with the public. Genres that had served him well in the past -- sports movies, historical dramas, westerns, romances -- have all let him down on subsequent visits, even when critics have been kind.

Though no one seems to have made anywhere near as many sports movies as Costner, he adds yet another one to his repertoire in Draft Day, which is more Moneyball than Bull Durham. Costner plays Sonny Weaver Jr., the general manager of the NFL's Cleveland Browns. His two years in that post have not made him popular with fans. His most controversial move was firing his own father, a legendary coach.

In "Draft Day", Cleveland Browns general manager Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner) does some soul-searching in deciding who to pick in the first round of the NFL Draft.

The film is set almost entirely on the day of the NFL Draft, which comes a week after the death of Sonny's father. Browns owner Anthony Molina (Frank Langella) meets with Sonny at a water park to convey his simple message: make a splash. The Browns have the seventh draft pick overall and as onscreen graphics count down the hours to the big event, Sonny is still mulling over what his team needs most. The Seattle Seahawks dangle the #1 overall pick they have and Sonny trades up for it, giving away rights to the Browns' first round draft picks for the next three years.

The city of Cleveland is excited by the move, as is the organization. Well, some of it. Coach Penn (Denis Leary), who isn't shy about showing off the Super Bowl ring he won coaching the Cowboys, does not want a rookie quarterback. He's content with the Browns' decent but injury-prone current QB (Tom Welling), who has reportedly gotten into the best shape of his life this off-season. And yet, a quarterback -- celebrated University of Wisconsin alum Bo Callahan (Josh Pence) -- is widely expected to go at #1.
Sonny urges his staff to look closely at Callahan, find his weaknesses and speculate on whether he'll be able to overcome them.

Other prospects the Browns are considering: Vontae Mack (Chadwick Boseman, getting to do more acting in limited screentime than he did as Jackie Robinson in 42), a linebacker afraid of falling to the late teens if the Browns pass on him; and the son of a Browns legend (Terry Crews), running back Ray Jennings (Arian Foster), whose stock has been marred by an assault wrap that left a victim hospitalized.

Deciding who to pick and what to trade is only part of Sonny's improbably busy day. He's also processing the discovery that his secret girlfriend, salary cap manager Ali Parker (Jennifer Garner), is pregnant with his child. There's also Sonny's mother (Ellen Burstyn), a widow with two-toned hair who insists on scattering Sonny Sr.'s ashes at the training field's 50-yard line today.

The unplanned pregnancy of girlfriend/colleague Ali (Jennifer Garner) adds another layer of drama to Sonny's busy draft day. Coach Penn (Denis Leary) isn't shy about telling Sonny what he wants and when he isn't happy.

Draft Day begins promisingly enough, offering a compelling behind-the-scenes look at an event that football fans know well. General manager is one role in sports that the 59-year-old Costner can still believably play. The script -- the first feature one by Rajiv Joseph ("Nurse Jackie") and complete novice Scott Rothman -- gives Sonny an absurdly busy day both professionally and personally. But it's a movie, not a documentary, and it isn't hard to overlook such a contrived design.

What is more difficult to overlook is the film's second half. Potential spoilers ahead, so skip to the next image if you haven't seen the movie. After a pretty solid hour of set-up (confrontations, discussions, scrutinized game footage), the Draft itself arrives and the film's credibility flies out the window. Suddenly, the much second-guessed Sonny becomes a genius, orchestrating a league-changing coup that allows him to save face and get everything he wants (which is pretty obvious from early on, based on how the film portrays the recruits).

To secure this tidy, happy ending, Draft Day has to get ridiculous and stupid. These preposterous developments undermine the many respectable preceding attempts at realism. The film takes the trouble of getting the NFL's trademarks, which are costly and tough to secure and come with some artistic approval. That's the right move because it's impossible to take serious sports films that don't take that step and make up team nicknames and logos. The film even shoots in seemingly real team offices and buildings, adds its fictions to a real draft, features classic game footage, and a host of athlete and analyst cameos. All that effort goes to waste in the utterly conventional and absurd final 45 minutes.

"Draft Day" spices up phone call scenes like this chat between Vontae Mack (Chadwick Boseman) and Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner) with uneven split-screens that characters are able to burst through.

I'm reluctant to write off Draft Day entirely simply because of the numerous false notes it ends upon. The film does a very good job in the casting department.
I've long bemoaned that Costner's extensive, prominent career has given us very little of worth. I would credit him with three good movies from his heyday, none of which are Dances with Wolves, which I consider one of the all-time least deserving Best Picture winners and certainly the least appetizing choice of 1990's otherwise strong nominees. I haven't pulled out that argument in a while because no one has tried to convince me of Costner's relevance or talent in a long time. He's quite all right in the lead here, although it's a wise career move that he has recently begun accepting supporting roles (e.g. Man of Steel, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit). An actress of his age and diminished box office returns would have had to resort to those long ago.

Speaking of actresses, Garner, who takes pre-title billing, is not someone who has impressed me before. She actually blends into this world of football-obsessed businessmen quite convincingly. The considerable, unmentioned age difference between her and love interest Costner hardly surprises. I'm kind of surprised they cast an actress in her forties as the leading lady. Not all of the cast is comfortable with the sports jargon they utter, but if you're not a football expert yourself, you might not notice or mind that.

Draft Day is produced and directed by Ivan Reitman, a man at the helm of some of the biggest comedies of the 1980s including Stripes, both Ghostbusters, Twins, and Kindergarten Cop. Reitman kind of faded away in the late 1990s, allowing his son Jason to emerge on his own this century as an acclaimed maker of adult-friendly dramedies like Juno and Up in the Air. As director, the elder Reitman last tasted success on 2011's Natalie Portman/Ashton Kutcher sex buddy comedy No Strings Attached, which made a good amount of money despite being pretty terrible. Draft Day would appear to be the least comedic film he's directed to date. For the most part, he proves up to that challenge, just not in any way you would connect to what he brought to his comedy hits.

Despite heavy marketing (including a sensible, but costly Super Bowl commercial) and decent reviews, Draft Day had a humbling spring reception that saw it only gross $29 million domestically (and almost nothing overseas, where American football isn't so popular) on a reported $25 M production budget. The film hit home video this week in a DVD and the Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet combo pack reviewed here.

Draft Day Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
BD: 5.1 DTS HD-MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Spanish)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, Spanish)
Subtitles: English, Spanish; BD-only: English for Hearing Impaired
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: September 2, 2014
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as standalone DVD ($29.95 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Draft Day looks exquisite on Blu-ray. The 2.40:1 picture is sharp, vibrant, clean, and detailed. To add some excitement to a movie driven by talking heads on phones, Reitman makes use of split screens in which characters poke out and pass through their allotted portion of the frame. It's inventive but also strange and kind of distracting.

The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio is without issue. We don't get much in the way of sports crowd atmosphere sounds, but the dialogue is always crisp, intelligible, and given enough weight.

A goateed Kevin Costner insists that though you may think you know him from his movies, you don't really know him at all. A Kevin Costner cardboard standee photobombs Frank Langella and director Ivan Reitman at the Draft Day premiere.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Extras begin with an audio commentary by screenwriters Rajiv Joseph and Scott Rothman. They talk about actors and locations as they appear and reveal much, such as that they wrote it not expecting it to be made and intended it to play for both football fans and non-fans. Their excitement as first-timers is evident, while their somewhat frequent use of the F-word is always bleeped.
They also acknowledge NFL-mandated product placement, crack a lot of jokes (often at their own expense and sometimes about Jim Plunkett), brag about hanging out with Diddy, talk about their preferred NFL teams, and share fun and useful facts their NFL research uncovered.

Kicking off the all-HD video side, the documentary "On the Clock: The Making of Draft Day" (59:38) is arbitrarily divided into two halves: Preseason and Postseason. In this very thorough companion, the writers share the origins of their script and recall its time on The Blacklist. Ivan Reitman and company discuss getting the NFL's cooperation (and if the movie could exist without it). Cast and crew reflect fondly on their collaborations and their director and confess to their knowledge of pro football (or lack thereof). Also addressed: having production overlap with the real 2013 NFL Draft, getting to rub shoulders with real players, that aforementioned way of spicing up split-screens, the characters that make up this film, the score, the premiere, and Costner's sports movie legacy. Though it runs longer than it has to, all movies should be so lucky as to get such a substantial making-of documentary, which Lionsgate-Summit usually reserves for their big teen-oriented fantasy franchises.

Watch a clip from Draft Day's Blu-ray bonus features:

Actor Terry Crews, an eleventh round pick himself, appreciates the excitement of the NFL Draft in "Welcome to Primetime." Apparently one fire too many for the film, Barb's (Ellen Burstyn) driveway bonfire of her late husband's memorabilia is among the deleted scenes.

"Welcome to Primetime" (9:49) collects thoughts on the excitement of the NFL Draft from ESPN figures, former executives, players, and the cast and filmmakers.

Five deleted scenes run 8 minutes and 36 seconds. They include another scene between Sonny and his mother,
a chat between Ali and Coach Penn, a fan chiding Sonny at the gas station, and the GM calling a player from a urinal.

Draft Day's theatrical trailer (2:32) is kindly and appropriately preserved.

The DVD, the same one that is sold on its own, includes the commentary, the deleted scenes, and the trailer, but not the making-of documentary or featurette.

The discs open with trailers for Cesar Chavez, the miniseries Houdini, America, The Expendables 3, and Life of Crime. All five ads are repeated via the menu's "Also from Lionsgate" listing.

The main menu's montage overemphasizes the game footage the movie has little of while dramatic score plays. The Blu-ray supports bookmarks and also resumes playback, but only on the unfinished film.

An insert holding your Digital HD UltraViolet accompanies the two uniquely-labeled full-color discs inside the plainly slipcovered eco-friendly keepcase.

Sonny's (Kevin Costner) inner circle isn't thrilled with his Draft Day maneuvering, but he's got a plan.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Draft Day offers a compelling behind-the-scenes look at NFL teams' maneuvering, but it loses its way with a far-fetched final act that undermines the realism it previously took great pains to establish. There's still enough of interest to warrant a rental, especially for fans of professional sports, who will most likely to spot and bemoan the film's fictions, and Kevin Costner aficionados.

Summit's Blu-ray provides great picture and sound, more than an hour of solid video extras, and an entertaining audio commentary. Those fond of the movie should be quite satisfied by this sturdy release.

Buy Draft Day from Amazon.com: Blu-ray Combo Pack / DVD / Instant Video

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Reviewed September 3, 2014.



Text copyright 2014 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2014 Summit Entertainment, OddLot Entertainment, Montecito Picture Company, and Lionsgate.
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