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Band of Brothers(TV) (2001)
Based on the bestseller by Stephen E. Ambrose, the epic 10-part miniseries Band of Brothers tells the story of Easy Company, 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, U.S. Army. Drawn from interviews with survivors of Easy Company, as well as soldiers' journals and letters, Band of Brothers chronicles the experiences of these men who knew extraordinary bravery and extraordinary fear. They were an elete rifle company parachuting into France early on D-Day morning, fighting in the Battle of the Bulge and capturing Hitler's Eagle's Nest at Berchtesgaden. They were also a unit that suffered 150 percent casualties, and whose lives became legend.
For more about Band of Brothers and the Band of Brothers Blu-ray release, see Band of Brothers Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on November 26, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 5.0 out of 5.
Starring: Scott Grimes, Damian Lewis, Ron Livingston, Shane Taylor (I), Donnie Wahlberg, Michael Cudlitz
Directors: Tom Hanks, David Frankel, Mikael Salomon, David Leland, Richard Loncraine, David Nutter
» See full cast & crew
Band of Brothers Blu-ray Review
'Band of Brothers' arrives on Blu-ray as a must-own package.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, November 26, 2008
I did things, I didn't do them for medals, I didn't do them for accolades, I did them because that's what had to be done.
"Band of Brothers," an ambitious, grandiose, and above all else moving World War II-based miniseries that debuted on HBO in 2001, remains the quintessential story of not only the Company portrayed therein, but perhaps of the War on the whole. The series showcases effortless character development, incredible action sequences in both scope and detail, and many of the War's most significant developments through the eyes of Easy Company, from their training regimen in the United States through the end of the conflict in the European theater, all over 10 episodes that together run more than 10 hours in length. Saving Private Ryan colleagues Tom Hanks (Cast Away) and Steven Spielberg (Close Encounters of the Third Kind) produced the series based on the text of the same title by noted historian Stephen Ambrose. "Band of Brothers" is a product forged from hands both capable and loving. The material offers not only incredible value from an entertainment and production perspective, but it makes a valuable contribution to the understanding of World War II in Europe. It is a series that serves as a tribute to those men who served the world in perhaps its greatest undertaking, and is a reminder to current and future generations as to the sacrifices, courage, and love of freedom and country that shaped history, and the world, forever.
The aptly-titled "Band of Brothers" follows the progression of the Second World War through the experiences of Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. From their Beginning at Camp Toccoa, Georgia, two years prior to the invasion of Normandy, to the capture of Hitler's "Eagle's Nest" compound at Berchtesgaden, Germany, and experiencing much of the War in between, Easy Company seemed the spearhead of the Allied War effort. Involved in several of the most memorable engagements of the War, Easy dropped in and fought behind enemy lines during the Allied invasion of France in June of 1944; the Company participated in the failed Allied attempt to win the War by Christmas of 1944, known as Operation Market Garden; Easy participated in the long, cold, hard battle of Bastogne in the winter of 1944-1945. Besides the fighting, Easy Company also experienced some of the most heart-wrenching moments of the War first-hand, including the public humiliation of Hollander Nazi sympathizers and their discovery of a concentration camp deep inside Germany. While each man's unique personality, outlook, and skill added to the makeup and effectiveness of the unit, it was nevertheless their collective bravery, dedication, and sense of purpose that made them a Band of Brothers.
"Band of Brothers" excels at many levels, both through its visual presentation and its stirring emotional overtones. As a War picture, or in this case series, the filmed action sequences offer viewers a spectacle like nothing before it, matching and arguably besting in scope, tension, and gritty realism, outings like Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down. Most episodes showcase a major confrontation, each a unique entity with its own character, hardships, and challenges. The action never feels repetitive nor clumsy. If anything, the series' visual style places viewers in the middle of the action thanks to its complete sense of immersion through both its visuals and world-class sound design, both of which are improved on by this Blu-ray set. While the chaos of the sequences sometimes leaves viewers in a state of confusion, unsure of what is exactly happening to whom, that sense seems to capture the essence of combat perfectly. It is anything but an exact science, a calm, easily understood organism that is structured and precise. The fighting takes place at night, in daylight, in cities and towns, in fields and forests. "Band of Brothers" does all filmmaking can to recreate the dread and disorder of combat with striking realism.
"Band of Brothers" is perhaps the most emotionally charged and positive series ever made. Even before the series begins to play, as images and the series' score loop over the main menu of the first disc, it is difficult not to become overwhelmed by the emotion conveyed by the visuals and the segments of the score that accompany them. Michael Kamen's score is an astounding tribute to the men, and a fitting theme for the series. It is both powerful and exiting, conveying the raw emotions of each and every scene it accompanies with amazing grace. The knowledge of what these men did for everyone then and now and tomorrow, the sacrifices they made, the hardships they endured, and the friends they lost, all in the name of freedom, often stirs the soul and brings a tear to the eye. Despite its power, it is not the reenacted series that offers the most dramatic and touching elements to the "Band of Brothers" experience. It is the interviews with the real-life veterans that precede each episode that provide the foundation for the series and set the tone for the emotional underpinnings of the episode to follow. The words, the eyes, and the souls of these veterans, as they briefly recount their tales, provide the real significance of the series. No actor, no camera, no set, no sound, no special effect can capture the essence of the experience better than these heroes who serve not only as the inspiration for the series but provided to their country and their world the freedom to tell their story through their actions as portrayed in the ten episodes of "Band of Brothers."
Encapsulating the series, the War, and the men who fought in it is the series' third episode, "Carentan." The episode centers around the experiences of a mostly anonymous Easy Company rifleman named Albert Blithe. Blithe is certainly not a hero but is rather an everyman with real emotions, real problems, and an honest outlook on both life and death. He is neither excited nor depressed to be in the War. Lost in the shuffle, he simply is unsure of himself, of the world, and of the War exploding around him. His story focuses on his experience in combat, the terrors of War, and his coping with the realities of his situation. His is a story of becoming a true soldier as, through the episode, he runs the gamut of life as a combatant: contemplating the meaning of the War, dealing with fear, trying to earn the respect of others, killing an enemy solider, and himself receiving a wound. The themes of the episode are tied around the edelweiss flower that adorns many a German soldier's lapels, described to Blithe as "the mark of a true soldier." Indeed, Blithe, and his Company, see their emergence as "true soldiers" and "The Greatest Generation" as a result of their experiences fighting in World War II.
Band of Brothers Blu-ray, Video Quality
"Band of Brothers" arrives on Blu-ray with what is nothing short of a spectacular 1080p, 1.78:1-framed image that offers a significant upgrade over the previous DVD release. Certainly, viewers in search of nothing short of grain-free, brightly colored high definition eye candy will be sorely disappointed with this release. "Band of Brothers" is nevertheless eye candy of its own variety, offering a natural, as-intended look that lends a harsh, gritty, desaturated look to set the mood and period of the series from a visual perspective. Much of "Band of Brothers" is devoid of bright primary colors. Awash in greens, browns, tans, grays, and blacks, the color scheme lends to the film a throwback look that has seemingly become the de facto presentation for World War II movies; a practically identical look was chosen for Saving Private Ryan, and perhaps a somewhat more extreme variation accompanies Clint Eastwood's Letters From Iwo Jima. What makes this look successful for these types of films and series is that it not only punctuates the horrors and gritty reality of war, but it seemingly brings viewers into the middle of the action. The rough, sometimes handheld, hyperactive appearance offers perhaps the closest visual approximation of the ugliness and chaos of war possible through the filmed medium.
While the look of the series may be gritty and devoid of an abundance of bright colors, "Band of Brothers" on Blu-ray nevertheless offers viewers a remarkable level of clarity and definition through virtually every inch of the series. Each episode features remarkable attention to lifelike detail and historical accuracy, and the painstaking realism of the series is brought to life like never before on this Blu-ray edition. The transfer reveals fine definition in the lines, contours, and dirt on faces; it features high resolution and clarity through every patch, seam, fray, and accessory that make up the uniforms; and the wear on the weapons seen throughout, particularly the absence of bluing on the barrels and actions of weapons and the nicks and scratches visible on the wooden furniture of the Garands, Thompson submachine guns, and other armaments make them look well-used and appropriately battle-worn. Even smaller nuances, like the various scenes in the first episode that feature the men running up Currahee, reveals small details in the dirt and gravel of the well-beaten path, not to mention the various greenery and weeds that surround it. Black levels are also deep and accurate in virtually every instance; several dark scenes feature the heaviest amounts of grain seen throughout, a fine example being the nighttime drop into Normandy the night before the sea-based invasion on the morning of June 6, 1944. While "Band of Brothers" features a rough look that, upon first glance, might not seem to be the sort of programming that would benefit from the increased resolution Blu-ray has to offer, quite the opposite is in fact true. This Blu-ray edition simply demolishes the DVD edition in its presentation of the series' inherent grain, not to mention a remarkable increase in visible fine detail, texture, and depth.
Band of Brothers Blu-ray, Audio Quality
"Band of Brothers" explodes onto Blu-ray with a reference quality track that is so good, it's more of an experience than a listen. Presented via a DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless mix, there is rarely a dull moment throughout the series' 10+ hour runtime. Obviously, it is the series' intense combat sequences that make up the backbone of the track and offer the most activity throughout the soundstage, but there is also a lighter side to the track, a more subtle, environmental, organic portion that creates a perfectly seamless domain in between those scenes featuring exploding shells and incessant machine gun and rifle fire. Ambient effects spread out nicely across all five channels, allowing even the calmest of scenes to bring a lifelike vitality to the experience. Dialogue reproduction is accurate throughout the series. The track also offers a nice sense of spacing and dimensionality amongst the various sound effects. Take the nighttime engagement as seen through flashbacks in episode five; long distance gun shots feature a nice crack, and a resulting echo works its way across the soundstage as the shot lingers and fades into the night. One can almost feel the origins of each shot, the sense of being in the hectic firefight a very real one.
The discs' strength lies in the chaos and commotion of the up-close-and-personal combat as depicted throughout the series. The first gun shots of the series are heard in chapter five of the first episode during training exercises, providing listeners with a preview of what is to come, each shot cracking out with pitch-perfect precision. Audiences will feel the rumble of the aircraft propellors as Allied planes fly towards the coast of France, signaling the beginning of the, in the words of General Eisenhower, "Great Crusade." The track provides a sense of total immersion as the scene places the listener in the belly of the craft. As the German flack explodes around the formation of planes, audiences experience one of the most frightening attack sequences they may ever hear. Soon thereafter, audiences are practically dropped out of the plane and onto the ground below where artillery, machine gun fire, and explosions go off all around the listening area. The beginning of a Naval bombardment off the coast of Normandy the following morning sends shells screaming across the soundstage with an accompanying rumble that must be both heard and felt to be believed. Later in the episode, Easy company's assault on the German 88s firing on the Allies storming the beaches represents one of the sonic high points of the series; the heavy guns pound away as the men approach the position, and the firefight that follows is a true marvel of sound technology, seemingly replicating the combat experience with precision. Leaves, terrain, and trees shatter all around; the thuds of the German MG-42s reverberate throughout the soundstage; grenades and explosives demolish the German guns with excellent power; the sequence leaves audiences everything but deaf. Episode six, "Bastogne," offers perhaps the most thunderous, Earth-shaking hour yet on Blu-ray. The sound of exploding trees amidst the cold, lifeless forrest features deep and tight bass that literally shakes the windows. Artillery shells and gunfire emanate from every corner. An air raid sequence on the town itself in chapter seven features explosions as buildings crumble all around and anti-aircraft fire blasts from every corner, making for a terrifying, realistic experience if ever there was one. Needless to say, "Band of Brothers" offers an exquisite, hard-hitting, yet graceful soundtrack that places audiences in the middle of the action like never before.
Band of Brothers Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
This set offers viewers a selection of bonus materials that remains consistent across the first five discs. In the Field With the Men of Easy Company offers viewers an "Interactive Field Guide" that presents an on-screen timeline that tracks the progress of the corresponding episodes. Viewers are able to select and view material across a broad range of topics, including character biographies, archival videos, interactive maps, definitions for military jargon heard throughout the series, and factoids pertaining to the War. This is one of the finest, easiest to navigate, informative, and fun special features ever to come to Blu-ray. This supplement is available with all episodes. In the Words of Easy Company is a picture-in-picture feature that offers video commentary from the real men of Easy Company, describing their experiences as they pertain to certain scenes as seen in the episode. This features is also included for all episodes. Finally, each disc concludes with the same series of previews (720p, 10:20) for each of the ten episodes.
Disc six of this set contains several extras, highlighted by a documentary entitled We Stand Alone Together: The Men of Easy Company (1080p, 1:17:33). This is an extraordinary documentary that goes beyond the incredible dramatization of the War from the perspective of Easy Company as depicted in "Band of Brothers." Featuring in-depth, personal, and poignant interviews with the surviving members of the Company, intertwined with archival photographs and film footage, the documentary proves even more powerful than the series itself. Next is Behind the Scenes: The Making of 'Band of Brothers' (480p, 29:32). This feature provides viewers with a fascinating look at the creation of this series, briefly examining the sets, costumes, the actor's boot camp, the camaraderie between the actors, the look and feel of the series, a look at the weapons used in the series, and much more. Ron Livingston's Video Diaries (480p, 56:05) is a twelve-part feature that captures life on the set and the experiences of the cast and crew over the 18-month process of shooting "Band of Brothers." Concluding the supplemental features is Premiere in Normandy (480p, 3:01), a brief look at the series' premier at Utah Beach.
Band of Brothers Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
"Band of Brothers" is a masterpiece of filmmaking, condensing years worth of material into ten manageable segments, each with a story, a meaning, and a history all their own, the series telling the story of arguably the most important events the world has ever seen. Easy Company, though many faces changed over the years, was at the forefront of it all; their actions and their courage forever altered the world, spearheading the fight for freedom from Fascism in Europe. "Band of Brothers" combines intense action with harrowing and often heartbreaking drama, the series a highly emotional experience viewed as a tribute to those men depicted therein. This spectacular and significant series arrives on Blu-ray in a first-class package. Featuring a video quality that is true to the source, an incredibly detailed and lifelike soundtrack, and some impressive supplements, "Band of Brothers" on Blu-ray is a set that is a must-own, and it receives my highest recommendation.
Band of Brothers: Other Seasons
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This Tuesday, Amazon has an interesting Blu-ray related deal of the day: up to midnight PST, you can order Band of Brothers on Blu-ray, with a bundled sampler disc for The Pacific for only $36.99 (63% off MSRP). The price history for the BD edition of this HBO ...
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