Blu-ray Review: ‘Spike Lee Joint Collection’ Releases Are Solid Starting Point

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Average: 5 (1 vote)

Who of our modern filmmakers will justify lavish, career-spanning box sets in the next generation (presuming there is such a thing and we’re not 100% digital)? We’ve seen Oliver Stone, Martin Scorsese, and Alfred Hitchcock sets in recent years but who will get the same treatment in ten or twenty years? One man who I’d love to see dissected from first film to last is the essential Spike Lee. He has had an undeniably spotty career with films both considered masterpieces and complete failures. But Spike is always working, always trying something new, always willing to challenge himself and the viewer. Did his “Oldboy” remake work? No. He picks himself up, dusts himself off, and gets back to it. Spike has been everywhere lately, promoting and discussing the 25th anniversary of his masterpiece, “Do the Right Thing,” and so someone figured it was a good time to release a few of his films on Blu-ray in two 2-disc sets. Four films for Spike? Does that seem like enough to you? These are solid transfers and the real get is that each film features a brand-new commentary from Spike himself but it really just gets me interested in the inevitable career-spanning set, even if we may have to wait a few years to get it.

In 2006, Universal released a DVD box set of five films on three discs—“Clockers,” “Jungle Fever,” “Do the Right Thing,” “Mo’ Better Blues,” and “Crooklyn.” The special features were scant but that’s a GREAT way to get to know Spike. These two releases are more for those who already know and love the controversial filmmaker. Spike’s best film since “Do the Right Thing” is included—“25th Hour”—as is the fantastic “Summer of Sam.” I have issues with “He Got Game” but it’s a good film overall—somewhere in the middle of the Spike filmography. The big problem here is the inclusion of Lee’s worst film, “Miracle at St. Anna.” I’d love a re-appreciation of “Clockers,” “Crooklyn,” or even “Bamboozled” or his documentaries over another chance to bring “St. Anna” to an audience. Ah well. Maybe with Vol. 3.

Spike Lee Joint Collection, Vol. 1 was released on Blu-ray on June 10, 2014
Spike Lee Joint Collection, Vol. 1 was released on Blu-ray on June 10, 2014
Photo credit: Touchstone

“Spike Lee Joint Collection, Vol. 1”

“25th Hour”
Academy Award nominee Edward Norton heads an amazing all-star cast in the critically acclaimed Spike Lee (Summer of Sam, Do the Right Thing) film 25th Hour. In 24 short hours Monty Brogan (Norton) goes to prison for seven long years. Once a king of Manhattan, Monty is about to say goodbye to the life he knew-a life that opened doors to New York’s swankiest clubs but also alienated him from the people closest to him. In his last day on the outside, Monty tries to reconnect with his father (Brian Cox, The Bourne Identity), and gets together with two old friends, Jacob (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Almost Famous) and Slaughtery (Barry Pepper, The Green Mile). And then there’s his girlfriend, Naturelle (Rosario Dawson, Men In Black II), who might (or might not) have been the one who tipped off the cops. Monty’s not sure of much these days, but with time running out, there are choices to be made as he struggles to redeem himself in the 25th Hour.

Special Features:
o Audio Commentary By Director Spike Lee And Actor Edward Norton
o The Evolution Of An American Filmmaker
o 6 Deleted Scenes
o Audio Commentary By Director Spike Lee
o Audio Commentary By Screenwriter David Benioff
o Ground Zero - A Tribute

“He Got Game”
With promises of a reduced sentence, Jake Shuttlesworth (Washington) is granted temporary release from state prison in order to persuade the nation’s top college basketball recruit…his estranged son Jesus…to play ball for the Governor’s alma mater! But just as Jesus faces intense pressures and irresistible temptations contemplating his bid decision, Jake is also forced to consider not only what’s best for himself…but what’s best for his son.

Special Features:
o Audio Commentary by Director Spike Lee and Actor Ray Allen

Spike Lee Joint Collection, Vol. 2 was released on Blu-ray on June 10, 2014
Spike Lee Joint Collection, Vol. 2 was released on Blu-ray on June 10, 2014
Photo credit: Touchstone

“Spike Lee Joint Collection, Vol. 2”

“Summer of Sam”
John Leguizamo and Academy Award winners Mira Sorvino (Best Supporting Actress, Might Aphrodite, 1995) and Adrien Brody (Best Actor, The Pianist, 2002) take you back to New York City’s infamous summer of 1977 in the riveting thriller Summer Of Sam. As friends in a small Italian neighborhood become convinced that the notorious killer is someone close to home, the madman’s reign of terror sparks a wave of distrust that tears relationships apart.

Special Features:
o New Audio Commentary by Director Spike Lee and Actor John Leguizamo

“Miracle at St. Anna”
Experience the untold story of courage and brotherhood in the World War II epic Miracle At St. Anna, based on the celebrated novel of James McBridge. Stationed in Italy, four members of the U.S. Army’s all-black, 92nd Infantry Division, the Buffalo Soldiers, are trapped behind enemy lines after one of them risks his life to save a traumatized young boy.

Special Features:
o New Audio Commentary by Director Spike Lee and Screenwriter James McBride
o Deeds Not Words
o The Buffalo Soldier Experience
o Deleted Scenes

“The Spike Lee Joint Collection” is available on Blu-ray. Contributor Brian Tallerico


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