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Just another day. But what a day. A day that shows a lighter side to life in the ’hood. That brought Ice Cube (Barbershop) and Chris Tucker (Rush Hour) to a wider audience. And that’s now even more uproarious in an Extended Director’s Cut never before available. It’s Friday, and Craig (Cube) and Smokey (Tucker) must come up with $200 they owe a local bully or there won’t be a Saturday. Co-writer Cube, director F. Gary Gray and other innovative movie talents lace the plot with shrewdly hilarious looks at family (including John Witherspoon), a preacher (Bernie Mac), a girl-next-door (Nia Long) and all manner of the good ’N’ bad of life in South Central. This is keepin’-it-real comedy for every day of the week.
For more about Friday and the Friday Blu-ray release, see Friday Blu-ray Review published by Dustin Somner on September 10, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Ice Cube, Chris Tucker, Nia Long, Tommy 'Tiny' Lister, John Witherspoon, Bernie Mac
Director: F. Gary Gray
» See full cast & crew
Friday Blu-ray Review
For most people, Friday’s just the day before the weekend, but after this Friday, the neighborhood would never be the same.
Reviewed by Dustin Somner, September 10, 2009
Arriving on the heels of John Singleton's Boyz n the Hood and the Hughes Brother's Menace II Society, Friday set out to change perceptions of life in the "hood", by depicting the zany antics of various characters plucked from the porches and streets of Los Angeles. Drawing from their own experiences growing up in that environment, Ice Cube and DJ Pooh developed a story that could be understood and appreciated by a wide audience, regardless of their upbringing or social status (though I'd imagine the idea of a comedy about the ghetto was still a difficult sell to the Hollywood studio system). Released in 1995, the film catapulted the careers of multiple comedians, and earned the distinction of being the first truly successful black comedy to emerge from Hollywood. This review marks my fifth viewing of the film (I think), so it goes without saying I have a soft spot in my heart for this little gem.
Having just been fired from his job, Craig Jones (Ice Cube) wakes up one Friday morning anticipating another boring day of sitting around on his porch with his drug-dealing friend Smokey (Chris Tucker). Enduring brief encounters with his authoritarian father (John Witherspoon), the neighborhood bully Deebo (Tommy "Tiny" Lister), and the local crackhead Ezal (Anthony Johnson), Craig and Smokey go about their daily ritual of sitting on the porch making conversation while they wait for one neighborhood visitor after another to pass by. Matters soon take a turn for the worst when Smokey's bad habit of smoking the product he's supposed to be selling, lands the pair in hot water with the local drug kingpin, Big Worm (Faizon Love). The two friends have until 10PM to come up with $200.00 dollars or find themselves staring down the barrel of Big Worm's gun. With the sun setting on the streets of Los Angeles, the neighborhood is about to come alive in a way that will change the relationships of its inhabitants forever.
To call Friday a cult classic would almost be a disservice to the popularity of the film. I consider cult classics to be little known movies that appeal to a small audience of rapid fans. In this case, I'm guessing you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn't seen Friday at some point in the past 14 years, or at least heard one of their friends quote a line from it. Personally, the success of Friday hinges on the caricatures that are developed in an extreme, but likeable fashion. You have the crackhead that will do anything for two dollars, the drug-dealer that smokes more product than he sells, the head drug dealer that drives around in an ice cream truck as a front for his real business, the old-school father who expects the same level of respect that he showed as a youngster, the jealous girlfriend, the neighborhood bully, and the town preacher who's more interested in the sins of the flesh than spreading the word of god. On paper, the various characters sound like a sad collection of participants from a reality TV show, but in the hands of the comedians that fill those characters shoes, we're given something truly effective and memorable.
I've never been a fan of Ice Cube's acting ability, but this is the one film I can stand to sit through without feeling overly annoyed by his bad boy delivery. Seeing as this was his second acting role during a long career in hip hop, it's understandable that he appears a bit stiff or uncomfortable from time to time. His saving grace in the success of the film, is the decision to cast a wide range of comedic talent to surround him. Much has been said about Chris Tucker's role as Smokey, and I'm in agreement that he's often the glue that holds Friday together. Add in the genius delivery of John Witherspoon as Craig's father (who manages to deliver his best fatherly advice at the most inopportune times), the hilarious mannerisms of Anthony Johnson as the fidgety Ezal, and you have a recipe that holds up extremely well in repeat viewings.
Of note, this Blu-ray release marks the introduction of F. Gary Gray's director's cut (running five minutes longer than the theatrical cut). As with any director's cut, I'd like to have the option of watching the original theatrical presentation as well, but I'm pleased to report there aren't any major ommisions or substantial changes that alter the pacing of the film. It's been several years since I've seen the theatrical version, but the two differences I caught are the incorporation of different dialogue during the refrigerator scene between Craig and his father (there are some take-aways, but mostly additions), as well as some minor changes when Craig partakes of Smokey's product. Other than that, the film is left mostly intact.
Friday Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in 1080p utilizing the VC-1 codec (at an average bitrate of 25Mbps), Friday never looked this good. Considering it's been a decade since New Line's Platinum DVD release, we're duefor a visual upgrade, and that's exactly what Warner delivered with this Blu-ray. Solely judging from facial textures and fabric on clothing, the increase in fine object detail is largely impressive. There are still several scenes that appear hazy or out of focus (mostly interior shots), but I'd say at least 90% of the runtime possesses an impressive level of clarity. Moving on to the colors, there's something odd going on with the spectrum in the transfer during indoor shots. Appearing overly saturated and blown out, the transfer lacks the natural tones of the outdoor sequences. This effect could also be related to contrast issues, but I'm guessing it's a direct result of differing film choices in the original source material (especially when you consider how great the outdoor shots look), or could be related to the incorporation of post-processing. Another major difference between the indoor and outdoor sequences, is the heavy level of grain that speckles the transfer during the scenes inside Craig's house. If you have an aversion to grain, you may be slightly disappointed in the noisy tendency of the visuals from time to time. Personally, I found it to be a welcomed inclusion rather than obscurring textures with an aggressive use of DNR.
In the end, Friday may not rival the attractiveness of a glitzy modern production, but I'm confident this is the best the film is going to look given the condition of the source elements (which have held up surprisingly well over the years).
Friday Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Although New Line's catalog is now being released by Warner, I'm impressed they're continuing to show a dedication to including 7.1 audio tracks on their catalog releases. I've always hoped a greater number of studios will begin releasing titles with 7.1 audio (mostly to justify the additional cost and effort that went into incorporating the extra two channels in my home theater), but they continue to be the exception rather than the norm. For anyone holding onto their prior DVD release, you can throw that 2-channel beast out the window and finally enjoy Friday the way it was meant to be heard. The clarity in the TrueHD track is almost a revelation, with dialogue that never exhibits an ounce of crackle or hiss, music that'll beat your subwoofer into submission, and environmental effects that turn your living room into the streets of Los Angeles. Most comedic offerings don't incorporate a great deal of surround use, relying largely on a front-heavy design to deliver the dialogue. Friday doesn't fall into that trap, allowing the back-firing of Smokey's car or the patter of Ezal's approaching footsteps to resonate from the specific area of the room that's appropriate for the scene. I won't go so far as to say it rivals the best audio tracks the format has to offer, but when you consider the limitations of the budget and the 2-channel audio on prior releases, this new experience is far better than I was expecting.
Friday Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Friday Straight Up (1080i, Dolby Digital 2.0, 24:14 min): This recently produced featurette is a look back at the original production from the viewpoint of the actors and filmmakers nearly fifteen years later. It's always fun to hear the cast and crew discuss their feelings on a film after they know the level of success it has generated over the years, and it's obvious everyone had a great time working on the set of Friday.
Deleted Scenes (480p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 14:31 min): I'm pretty sure this is the same collection of deleted scenes that was included on the DVD version. However, several of the scenes have been incorporated back into the film for this director's cut, so their inclusion within this collection is a bit redundant.
Music Videos (480p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 9:06 min): I feel like I just stepped into a time machine watching this extra. The two videos presented on the disc are "Friday" by Ice Cube and "Keep Their Heads Ringin" by Dr. Dre.
Q&A Interviews with F. Gary Gray and Patricia Charbonnet (480p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 36:56 min): as the title implies, this extensive supplement includes 17 questions asked of director F. Gary Gray or producer Patricia Charbonnet regarding the production of Friday. The answers are extremely informative, making this one of the best supplements included on the disc.
Lastly, we have the "all audiences" and "restricted" trailers for Friday (presented in 480p), as well as a 30 second introduction to the film from Ice Cube.
Friday Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
This is an easy recommendation on multiple levels, but I understand Friday won't appeal to everyone. The drug use and references rival a Cheech and Chong film, and the adult themed subject matter earns this a clear R-rating. However, anybody that doesn't have a problem with those issues will find plenty of laughs throughout this feel-good comedy, and likely find themselves revisiting it again in the near future. From a technical standpoint, this is a worthy upgrade over the prior DVD version, easily earning a place in any fan's expanding Blu-ray collection.
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