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All the Right Moves(1983)
The only way football star Stefan Djordjevic will avoid a life in the blast furnaces of his bleak Pennsylvania hometown is by winning a college scholarship. Even his coach dreams of parlaying a winning team into a college job far away from this graveyard of the American Dream. But it's not long before the two virtually ruin each other's chances for escape and their door to the future starts to close.
For more about All the Right Moves and the All the Right Moves Blu-ray release, see All the Right Moves Blu-ray Review published by Michael Reuben on July 10, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Director: Michael Chapman
Writer: Michael Kane
Starring: Tom Cruise, Craig T. Nelson, Lea Thompson, Chris Penn, Charles Cioffi, Paul Carafotes
» See full cast & crew
All the Right Moves Blu-ray Review
The Only Right Move Is Leaving
Reviewed by Michael Reuben, July 10, 2011
In the same year that Tom Cruise became famous for dancing in his underwear in Risky Business (1983), he starred in two other films that have been largely forgotten. One of them was All the Right Moves, which was marketed as a coming-of-age movie about a cocky football player. But for all its scenes of players in the locker room and on the field, All the Right Moves isn't really a sports movie, and you can tell by the fact that it doesn't build to the typical climax of a Big Game. There's a big game all right, but it occurs in the middle of the film. Enough plot developments flow from its outcome to sustain a whole additional act (at least). If you look past the familiar genre wrapping and pay attention to the actual events on screen, an entirely different story emerges, and it isn't about football or growing up, though those events remain integral to the story. The film is really a snapshot of seismic shifts in the landscape of portions of American society, something that's much easier to see from the vantage point of today but that contemporary viewers missed almost entirely. (One review called the film "mushy".)
Today we have other distractions. A viewer in 1983 could watch a Tom Cruise movie without the baggage that a viewer in 2011 brings to the experience, after Top Gun, Mission Impossible, Baby Suri and Oprah's couch. In 1983, Cruise was considered someone to watch; the same review that called All the Right Moves "mushy" referred to its star as "that superb young actor". Now that he's been everything from a superstar to a South Park punchline, Cruise can't appear in a film without evoking innumerable associations. This bit of reserve evokes Maverick; that smile suggests Jerry Maguire; a speech to a crowd recalls Brian Flanagan in Cocktail; stoic intensity reminds us of Ethan Hunt - and it never stops. One of the interesting effects of a film like All the Right Moves is observing just how early on the elements of a movie star's persona have already gelled, and further observing just how much work is required to shed them for a role that is truly different (like Vincent in Collateral or Frank T.J. Mackey in Magnolia).
Steffen "Steff" Djordjevic (Cruise) is the star defensive back of his high school football team, the Ampipe Bulldogs. The town and school are named for the American Pipe & Steel Company, which has supported most of the town's population for generations. Steff's father (Charles Cioffi) works there, and so does his older brother, Greg (Gary Graham, a regular presence on TV ever since, notably as Sykes on Alien Nation). But Steff wants something different. He has no interest in playing football professionally, but he's willing to trade his skills for an education so that he can become an architect. He evaluates football scholarships based not on the quality of the team but on the calibre of the school's engineering program, a fact he announces openly to one recruiter (Terry O'Quinn).
Steff's friends Salvucci (Paul Carafotes) and Brian (the late Chris Penn) are working the same angles, as are many of their fellow teammates, but none of them have Steff's skills on the field or his brains in the classroom. All of them are acutely aware that their town is a blue collar backwater, an ethnic melange of Italians, Poles and African-Americans (though the inhabitants themselves use more colloquial terms) scorned by the tonier teams that routinely beat them, notably Walnut Heights.
Certainly their coach, Nickerson (Craig T. Nelson) knows his team's poor record. When he isn't teaching typing class - hardly a demanding position - Coach Nickerson spends his time at a blackboard analyzing plays, desperately hoping to score a surprise victory that will impress the search committee at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where he's been interviewing. Like his best players, the coach is desperate to get out of Ampipe. His wife (Sandy Faison) can't wait to leave.
Steff's girlfriend, Lisa (Lea Thompson, two years before Back to the Future), doesn't want Steff to leave but doesn't want to hold him back either. That ambivalence is a big part of what causes Lisa to push Steff away when he wants to sleep with her. Later in the film, though, a deeper conflict emerges. Lisa also wants to go to college, in her case to study music, but as she bitterly points out, no recruiters pass through town offering music scholarships. Unlike Steff and his fellow jocks, she really is stuck in Ampipe.
As the Big Game with Walnut Heights approaches, Coach Nickerson drives his players mercilessly. At the game he goes to extremes. Steff confronts him, and Nickerson throws him off the team. Then, after the Nickerson home is vandalized by local hooligans led by one Bosko (James A. Baffico), Nickerson blackballs Steff with every recruiter. With no more hope of a scholarship, it's time to start punching in at the factory.
Except that it isn't. While all the sports, sex and high school escapades have been happening in the foreground, the real story of All the Right Moves has been steadily unfolding everywhere else. The town is dying. The factory is laying off workers by the hundreds, including Steff's brother. The only work that Steff and his brother can find is dismantling former industrial properties to make way for new construction that will not, when it's completed, offer them further employment. The future of America's Rust Belt has arrived, and there's no place in it for the inhabitants of Ampipe. That's why people like Steff and Coach Nickerson (and Lisa) are so eager to get out.
Ultimately, All the Right Moves is a downbeat film. It manages to reach a modestly happy resolution for some of the characters, but not all of them, because there is no happy ending where leaving is the only right move. Not everyone is free to leave, as is demonstrated by the football player who marries his pregnant girlfriend, or, more tragically, the one who turns to armed robbery in a desperate attempt to support his family. And a story set in the environs of Ampipe could only document the changes happening all around, but it couldn't explore what was causing them. That had to wait for a later film set in a different place, where a fellow named Gordon Gekko called the shots.
All the Right Moves Blu-ray, Video Quality
A distinguished director of photography, director Chapman chose Dutch DP Jan de Bont to shoot his directorial debut. De Bont would go on to become one of the late 20th Century's most visible cinematographers, giving distinctive looks to Die Hard, Black Rain, The Hunt for Red October and Basic Instinct, among others, before becoming a director in his own right with Speed. For All the Right Moves, de Bont provided a low-key naturalistic look similar to Chapman's own signature style in such urban films as Hardcore, The Wanderers, the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, much of Taxi Driver and later The Fugitive and Quick Change. The film was shot on location in Johnstown, PA, which is located in the heart of Pennsylvania manufacturing territory.
The 1080p AVC-encoded Blu-ray effectively reproduces de Bont's down-and-dirty images. These are real schools, homes and factories, and they haven't been spruced up or lit to look like anything other than what they are. Though colors are generally muted (with an occasional exception, such as the team's bright yellow uniforms), fleshtones look natural. While there is some degree of black crush in darker areas of night scenes, detail remains sufficiently well delineated that fine detail in clothing patterns or on faces in crowds is always visible. Film grain is evident but mild, except during the opening and closing title sequences, where the optical printing process that was standard for the era has accentuated it and, in some title frames, the grain appears to freeze (or "hang") for a moment. This usually indicates a less-than-successful effort at grain reduction, but it's transient and minor. However, the detail in both the opening and closing title sequence is significantly reduced and the image is much softer; these sequences should not be taken as representative of the transfer as a whole. (I have included a screenshot as an example.)
All the Right Moves Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The original mono soundtrack has been remixed for 5.1 and is offered in DTS lossless, but there is virtually no surround presence. The film's dialogue and sound effects remain in the front soundstage, primarily in the center, with the musical selections spreading to the left and right. Original scoring is credited to David Richard Campbell, but the primary musical accompaniment are pop songs assembled (and often written or co-written) by music supervisor Bruce Arthur. The artists include such Eighties stand-bys as Jennifer Warnes, Tony Orlando, Junior and Stephanie Mills.
The 5.1 remix lends extra punch to the music, but the dialogue doesn't always fare as well. It's occasionally rendered hollow and artificial-sounding, its origins in an ADR studio laid bare by the more revealing fidelity of a discrete mix and lossless delivery.
All the Right Moves Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
All the Right Moves Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
All the Right Moves is a fascinating time capsule of elements both expected and unexpected. The expected includes a look at early work by Tom Cruise and Lea Thompson at the outset of their careers. The unexpected is an early and prescient look at social and economic forces that would ultimately define much of America in the last quarter of the 20th Century, captured with a raw immediacy while they were still in motion. The Blu-ray's technical quality is acceptable, though not perfect. A major disappointment is the lack of any input from director Chapman, who retired after serving as cinematographer for Bridge to Terabithia and from whom it would be worth obtaining as much insight as he is willing to share while he is still with us. Recommended for those interested in any of the subjects discussed above. If you're looking for a rousing sports film, you'll be disappointed.
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All the Right Moves Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Early May Blu-ray Wave from Fox - March 14, 2011
Early retailer information indicates that 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment will release three catalog titles on May 3: All the Right Moves (Michael Chapman, 1983), Taps (Harold Becker, 1981) and Twelve O'Clock High (Henry King, 1949). There are no release details ...
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