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REVIEW: Spike Lee Joint Collection Brings New Insight, Quality Through Blu-Ray Commentary

By Lacey M. Carroll
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Spike Lee fans can rejoice as two volumes of his works will be available for the first time via Blu-ray in The Spike Lee Joint Collection.

Volume 1 offers up the critically acclaimed “He Got Game” (1998) as well as “25th Hour” (2002). Volume 2 consists of some of Lee’s lesser known films “Summer of Sam” (1999) and “Miracle At St. Anna” (2008).

I am not the typical Spike Lee fan. I’m a 29-year-old, caucasian woman who grew up on the West Coast. Yet I find myself connecting with Lee’s oft hardened street-wise characters. I was given a week to watch all four films, including commentary and extras, my broken foot provided an excuse to watch a total of all 16 hours. Having never watched any commentary on Lee’s films, I was pleasantly surprised by the insight they provided. The amount of time and thought that Lee puts into his films and his deliberate use of certain words and themes shows off what makes him one of this generations most formidable filmmakers.

The Spike Lee Joint Collection, Volume 1: “He Got Game” & “25th Hour”

“He Got Game” stars Denzel Washington, who has worked with Lee on several films, most notably “Malcolm X.” It also is the film debut of Now-Miami Heat guard Ray Allen as Washington’s son. The film explores the strained relationship of a father who is released from prison in order to convince his son, to join a college basketball team. In return Washington’s character will receive a shortened sentence.

  • New Audio Commentary By Director Spike Lee And Actor Ray Allen

“25th Hour” packs an all-star cast of Edward Norton, Anna Paquin, Rosario Dawson and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. Lee’s first film after Sept. 11 takes place in a more somber New York. The tragedy is still very fresh, although the film itself is not about Sept. 11 you can see flags, memorials and Ground Zero clean up in the background. It’s a glimpse into the post-Sept. 11 New York and it includes a powerful monologue delivered by Edward Norton which embodies a lot of feelings of injustice that America may have felt at the time. The film’s premise surrounds Norton’s character, Monty, who finds himself facing a seven-year jail term, and spends the 24 remaining hours of freedom reevaluating his life.

  • New Audio Commentary By Director Spike Lee And Actor Edward Norton
  • 6 Deleted Scenes
  • The Evolution Of An American Filmmaker (A 22 minute featurette)
  • Audio Commentary By Director Spike Lee
  • Audio Commentary By Screenwriter David Benioff
  • Ground Zero – A Tribute

The Spike Lee Joint Collection, Volume 2: “Miracle at St. Anna” & “Summer of Sam”

“Miracle at St. Anna” is a film presented as a flashback that is predominantly set in WWII Italy. The four main characters played by Omar Benson Miller, Derek Luke, Laz Alonso and Michael Ealy are serving in the all-minority 92nd “Buffalo Soldier” Infantry Division. The foursome seek refuge in a small village after they find themselves in enemy territory and form a bond with its residents.

  • New Audio Commentary By Director Spike Lee And Screenwriter James McBride
  • 9 Deleted Scenes
  • Deeds Not Words (17-minute extra with WWII vets)
  • The Buffalo Soldier Experience (22-minute in-depth look at Buffalo Soldiers)

“Summer Of Sam” centers on the reactive residents of a Bronx neighborhood during the summer of 1977. Tensions mount as the now infamous David Berkowitz also known as “Son of Sam” continues to elude capture. The character of Berkowitz only plays a minor role in the film, as the looming threat of the unknown is far more antagonistic. The film stars John Leguizamo, Adrien Brody, Mira Sorvino, Patti LuPone, Jennifer Esposito and features John Tuturro as the voice of Berkowitz’ dog.

  • New Audio Commentary By Director Spike Lee And Actor John Leguizamo

Although most of the extra features are already available on DVD, each film has exclusive new commentary tracks with actors and screenwriters from each movie joining Lee, and will be well worth it for Spike Lee fans.

Another reason to buy this collection is the sheer quality that Blu-ray offers in both picture and sound for these films. There is no comparison to that of it’s older DVD counterparts. For those new to Lee’s works, Vol. 1 was definitely the standout for me. “He Got Game” being one of my favorite films, I may be biased, but the extras provided on “25th Hour” are entertaining as well, including the new commentary with Edward Norton and Spike Lee. Although not new, the 22-minute featurette on Spike Lee and a tribute to Sept. 11 that features time-lapse of the Ground Zero cleanup and scenes from a post Sept 11 New York City are also included.

Vol. 2 contains two extras worth mentioning beyond the new commentary tracks. “The Miracle at St. Anna” Blu-ray features “Deeds Not Words” a 17-minute roundtable discussion with Spike Lee and WWII vets and “The Buffalo Soldier Experience” a 21-minute featurette that includes a historian and war veterans that speak about personal accounts about the Buffalo Soldiers.

Whether you’re a new fan, or have been hooked since you first saw “Do The Right Thing,” this collection is worth getting.

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