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Linsanity DVD Review

Linsanity (2013) movie poster Linsanity

Theatrical Release: October 4, 2013 / Running Time: 89 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Evan Jackson Leong / Narrator: Daniel Dae Kim / Tagline: Undrafted, Unwanted, Unwavering. The True Story of Jeremy Lin

Interview Subjects: Gieming Lin, Shirley Lin, Joshua Lin, Joseph Lin, Jim Sutter, Stephen Chen, Mitch Stephens, Peter Diepenbrock, Josh Fan, Gary McKnight, Pablo Torre, Tommy Amaker, Kenny Blakeney, Oliver McNally, Dan Duggan, Joe Lacob, Roger Montgomery, Larry Riley, Phil Yu, Eric Musselman, Doc Sheppler, Daryl Morey, Mike D'Antoni, Landry Fields, Yao Ming

Buy Linsanity from Amazon.com: DVD Instant Video

February 2012 was an extraordinary month for Jeremy Lin. The first Chinese-American to play in the NBA, Harvard University graduate Lin went undrafted in 2010, but signed with the Golden State Warriors, where he saw little playing time in his rookie season and was thrice demoted to the NBA's D-League.
The following December, Lin played two preseason games for the Houston Rockets, but was waived before the start of the lockout-shortened season. Right before the end of 2011, Lin landed a spot on the injury-riddled New York Knicks, who assigned him to their D-League affiliate a few weeks later.

Then, with persistent injuries keeping more seasoned guards sidelined, Lin was called back up and earned some playing time on the Knicks. After a particularly impressive showing against cross-town rivals the New Jersey Nets, Lin was thrust into the Knicks' starting lineup. He used that opportunity to dazzle. With star players unable to suit up, the 6-foot-3 point guard turned around a team that had lost 11 of their last 13 games and led them to a seven game winning streak. That stretch saw Lin score over 20 points and dish out close to 10 assists on a nightly basis as he outplayed the likes of Kobe Bryant. Playing in one of the country's two major markets where courtside seats are lined with celebrities, a star was immediately born and one unlike any before him.

The phrase "Linsanity" quickly entered the vernacular and Lin would remain the Knicks' starting point guard until suffering a knee injury in late March. By then, both Lin and the Knicks had come down from the clouds. Still, those two weeks in the middle of winter stood as an incredible Cinderella story, the kind that comprise montages in scripted zero-to-hero sports movies.

Fittingly enough, Hollywood has come around to tell Lin's story, in documentary form. Linsanity, the second feature directed by Evan Jackson Leong, celebrates Lin's uphill struggle and unlikely breakthrough.

Asian fans show their support for Jeremy Lin in Toronto with creative hand-crafted signs.

No hasty cash-in, Leong's documentary was several years in the making, conceived long before anyone could have known it was a rags-to-riches tale. Leong devotes roughly the first third of the film to Lin's upbringing in the San Francisco suburb of Palo Alto. The middle of three sons to Taiwanese immigrants, Lin grew up playing piano, not very passionately or well. At a young age, his parents recognized his heart belonged to basketball and they cheered him on from AAU competition to high school. In his junior year, a sprained ankle suffered in a pickup game the night before deprived Lin of a chance to play in the state championship game. The following year, Lin led his team of Davids over their Goliaths, the tall, dominant, nationally ranked Mater Dei squad.

Despite his high school success, Lin found colleges weren't interested in extending an athletic scholarship to him, even the ones he showed great interest in. Lin makes the slightly controversial but probably fair claim that if he was black, he'd have gotten a Division I scholarship. Instead, he had to settle for attending one of the world's most respected institutions. Leong doesn't dwell on Lin's Harvard achievements as much as seize an opportunity to address the racial taunts he endured while playing there.

Next, we relive Lin's disappointment at not getting chosen in either round of the NBA Draft and see his efforts to break into the league through free agency, from holding his own against #1 overall draft pick John Wall on the Dallas Mavericks' summer league team to getting signed by his hometown team, the Warriors, only to speculate he was there as a gimmick to excite the area's populous Asian-American community.

Jeremy Lin pumps his fist during his breakout "Linsanity" as the New York Knicks' starting point guard. At Target, a discounted fountain catches the eye of Jeremy Lin.

In the summer of 2011, Lin visits his parents' homeland of Taiwan and his grandparents' China. He uses the time afforded during the NBA lockout to improve his game,
only to be waived during the abbreviated training camp and get signed by the Houston Rockets, where he was the 6th point guard in the rotation and let go of on Christmas Day. Two days later, Leong was there to capture Lin's reaction to his signing by the desperate, undermanned Knicks. Even then, he is always in danger of being cut and giving up on basketball altogether.

Roughly the film's final third documents those exciting weeks that gave birth to the titular phrase and similar variations (e.g. "Lincredible", "Jeremy Win"). It places a lot of importance on just a handful of regular season games, but Lin's sudden rise to stardom was truly unprecedented, as cited statistics show. The fervor, during which Lin crashed on the couches of a teammate and his brother, catches hold not just of New York, but the entire world, with even Dwayne Johnson, Conan O'Brien, and President Obama seen commenting on this phenomenon.

Leong balances the on-court heroics with looks at Lin the person. The cross T of the title logo is a slightly tacky acknowledgment of Lin's Christian faith. We hear from Lin's pastor and Lin himself in post-game interviews that he credits God for all his opportunities. Lin's piety does not seem to be for the cameras and he remains as likable and humble as any professional athlete. Candid moments of him eating with his brothers, showing off his beloved Lion King blanket, and buying home decor from Target's clearance rack humanize this man and endear him to us. His success is the result of many strokes of luck, from Knick injuries to the timing of his release from the Rockets. If even just one event had not lined up, Lin might very well be employed in altogether different arena.

While Lin has yet to recreate the heroics of his breakout month, he's no Tim Tebow. Whether starting or being one of the first players off the bunch, Lin remains an integral part of the Rockets. He also continues to be one of the most globally popular players in the league, currently ranking fourth among Western Conference guards in fan voting for this season's NBA All-Star Game.

After playing in sixteen theaters last fall, Linsanity hit DVD this week from Ketchup Entertainment.

Linsanity DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: Chinese Simplified
Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled or Captioned
Release Date: January 7, 2014
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5)
Suggested Retail Price: $20.99
Black Keepcase
Also available on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Linsanity is one of the rare documentaries to opt for a wider ratio. To achieve 2.40:1, game footage and home movies have to be matted, but most of it looks just fine. Archival video clips are obviously limited by source, but the film stylizes them to mask their age and lower resolution. Subject to some compression artifacts, this would have benefitted from the higher resolution of Blu-ray.

The DVD only offers Chinese Simplified subtitles, using burned-in English ones to translate the Taiwanese remarks of Lin's father and a relative plus the Shanghainese ones of Chinese NBA statesman Yao Ming. English closed captions are included, but those will be inaccessible to anyone watching on an HDMI connection. The English soundtrack is presented in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and plain 2.0 stereo. The former doesn't command much notice, but nor does it ever trouble, with recordings being suitable throughout. Complementing the varied licensed content are some fitting needle drops ("Gangnam Style", "Party Rock Anthem") from the already slightly dated period of principal interest.

Mohawked documentarian Evan Jackson Leong gives a tiny taste of his film in this Kickstarter video. Critical acclaim is placed over an image of a young Jeremy Lin playing basketball in the "Linsanity" trailer.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Linsanity is joined by three short bonus features.

"Kickstarter" (1:52) appears to be a video the mohawked director Evan Jackson Leong made for the crowdfunding site.
It teases the movie with a clip from the opening scene and dramatizes Leong's quest to get Lin to agree to making the movie.

In between a number of clips, "Behind the Scenes" (1:30) has Lin shares his thoughts about being documented and seeing the film.

Finally, though unadvertised on the case, Linsanity's trailer (2:08) is kindly preserved.

The disc opens with trailers for The Hunters, Contest, and The Starving Games, none of which are accessible by menu.

The menu plays a scored montage of Lin balling above the title and listings placed on a hardwood floor. Save for the scene-previewing Scene Selection pages, submenus are static and silent.

No inserts are found within the uncut, unslipcovered Eco-Box keepcase, but the cover art (itself a minor updating of the poster art) is reformatted to fit the disc label.

Statistics demonstrate the rare impact that Jeremy Lin immediately had when promoted to the starting lineup of the New York Knicks.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Linsanity is a thorough, appealing and well-made film. Evan Jackson Leong's documentary and its worthy subject both caught lucky breaks that elevate this film from deep cable fodder to inspirational big screen fare. It's a little bit of a stretch to reach 89 minutes, the focal on-court heroics may bore those who aren't fans of basketball, and there's no obvious reason why this didn't come out a year earlier (Lin's summer 2012 release to free agency and signing by the Rockets function as footnotes). Still, both the story and its presentation impress, which makes it easy to recommend the film to anyone with interest.

Though it's a tad unfortunate Ketchup Entertainment didn't bother with a Blu-ray release, this reasonably-priced DVD makes for a fine way to see and potentially own this movie.

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Reviewed January 8, 2014.



Text copyright 2014 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2013 Ketchup Entertainment, 408 Films, Arowana Films, Endgame Entertainment, and Defy Agency.
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