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Blu-Ray Review: Kino Lorber’s The Best of Times (KL Studio Classics) 

The Best of Times

Robin Williams and Kurt Russell get to try to recapture the glory of their almost Football Championship glory in The Best of Times.  New to Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.  

The Film 

Bruce Springsteen should be paid residuals for any sports movie in the 1980s that tries (successful or not) to tell the tale of recapturing the “Glory Days” (see what I did there).  The Bosses epic ode to years gone by shook filmmakers so hard they had to do their own version of the pop ditty.  Case in point – The Best of Times, directed by Roger Spottiswoode and written by Ron Shelton (pre-Bull Durham).  

The film follows small-town loser Jack Dundee (Robin Williams) as his inability to grow beyond the “fumble heard across the Kern County” that cost him and HS QB Superstar Reno Hightower (Kurt Russell) not just the game but their lives.  Jack finds the spark of an idea after hitting an all-time low, losing his wife and kids, and replaying the infamous game – twenty years later.  The big game isn’t just for Jack and Reno but the entire town of Taft who have all been in a state of arrested development since the fumble.  Can this old scrappy team led by Reno and Jack rewrite history in the final seconds of the mud-stained rematch? 

Like the Springsteen song, The Best of Times is meant to evoke a good feeling.  The film is a pop song in all its conventions.  Spottiswoode and Shelton create a comedy light on the darkness and heavy on good-natured fun.  Yes, there are some questionable things but what 80s comedy would be complete without un-PC jokes or views.  Though most of the film’s comedy is so deeply character-based and acutely aware of men’s oftentimes stupid jocular tendency that it can be forgiven for any of those un-PC jokes.  

Though the film is a romantic comedy of sorts with Jack and Reno respectively learning lessons and through football reclaiming their marriages, the true chemistry between Williams and Russell.  The film is a bromantic comedy that is more akin to the uneasy relationship that Shelton perfected in both Bull Durham and White Men Can’t Jump.  Jack and Reno may not like one another but they are bonded in the combat arena of football – making their ties as strong as their marriages.  Shelton writes them as true friends – ones that argue, get mad at one another, and are by each other’s side when it counts.  

The Best of Times, yes, is a football movie but like any good sports film (to which Shelton has written more than a few of the greats of all time) it’s about more than the sport.  

The Transfer

The new HD Master by Lionsgate from 2022 is a solid visual experience.  The uptick in quality from prior home video editions can be seen in clarity, color reproduction, and contrast.  Though the image is slightly dark and murky making one think the remaster isn’t an issue rather the cinematography being darker and grittier.  All in all a solid transfer.  

The Extras

They include the following; 

  • NEW Audio Commentary by Director Roger Spottiswoode and Screenwriter Ron Shelton
  • Theatrical Trailers

The all-new Audio Commentary by Director Roger Spottiswoode and Screenwriter Ron Shelton moderated by Author/Screenwriter C. Courtney Joyner opens with introductions and Spottiswoode and Shelton’s opening thoughts on the film.  Some of the details include the details of the story – and its basis in reality; the actual town of Taft – and its comparisons to Bakersfield; the reality of all the stories of Taft; a discussion of Spottiswoode and Shelton collaborations before this film including – Under Fire and the troubling The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper; the work of Robin Williams – including a larger discussion about how Williams approached the work; the work of Kurt Russell – including a larger discussion about how Russell approached work; the replacing of the original cinematographer; the pre-production process and what it took to get the film greenlit; Shelton’s theory on sex scenes and what he tries to do with them – focusing on comedic elements; the lack of ads and PR push for the film – basically being dumped because of infighting between the studio and producers; Pauline Kael’s thoughts on the film; a great story about Quentin Tarantino and his thoughts on the film; a discussion of the various actors that were in the cast; Shelton’s theories on writing and specifically sports movies; Spottiswoode’s career directing in various genres and how he approaches it and here; and much more.  Spottiswoode and Shelton deliver an engaging and informative track with Joyner focusing the conversation.  Any fan of the film will love this track.  

Rounding out the special features are trailers for The Best of Times – Trailer 1 (1:47), The Best of Times – Trailer 2 (2:15), Cadillac Man (1:45), Body Slam (2:19), D.C. Cab (2:33), The Longest Yard (4:04), Kindergarten Cop (2:03), The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper (2:55) 

The Final Thought 

The Best of Times remains a low-key cult classic that any football fan will love.  Kino has given this one a new coat of paint.  Recommended! 

Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray edition of The Best of Times is out now.

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