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Michael Jordan to the Max(2000)
A large-format IMAX film about the career of Michael Jordan.
For more about Michael Jordan to the Max and the Michael Jordan to the Max Blu-ray release, see Michael Jordan to the Max Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on February 18, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Michael Jordan
Narrator: Laurence Fishburne
Directors: James D. Stern, Don Kempf
» See full cast & crew
Michael Jordan to the Max Blu-ray Review
A quick but effective slam dunk.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, February 18, 2011
In the entire pantheon of 20th century sports icons, only one has had the temerity to place first above Michael Jordan in at least one poll, and that's the Sultan of Swing himself, Babe Ruth. When you think of all the incredible people who might have given Mike a run for his second-place money, it becomes all the more remarkable. In baseball there are fantastic players like Gehrig or Mantle or Koufax or Maris. Football gave us titans like Namath, Montana, Unitas, or Rice. This embarrassment of riches only seems more formidable in the world of hoops, and yet unlike those other sports, Jordan just simply reigns supreme. If he ranks second overall in at least one poll of greatest sports figures generally, there's little question he would place first in the world of basketball in virtually any fans' or sportscasters' poll out there. A large part of Jordan's allure resonates beyond his unbelievable athletic prowess, however. The guy is just plain likable, in a world populated with arrogant, self-absorbed flashes in the pan who tend to flame brightly for a season or two and then just as often as not spin out into either dissolution or a slow, sad fade into the sunset. Jordan, aside from his noble put perhaps ill advised brief sojourn into baseball, came into his main sport a champion and remained one for his entire professional NBA career, and he managed to do it without growing an ego the size of a mutant tumor. Michael Jordan to the Max is a brief but very enjoyable trip through Jordan's final NBA season, intercut with confessionals from the star himself, as well as some quick background sketches to help fill in his personal story. Anyone wanting a 45 minute "greatest slam dunks" montage is probably going to be disappointed with this IMAX offering, but for those who want to get a little bit closer to one of the most momentous figures in contemporary sports could do a lot worse than this outing.
Jordan admits in To the Max that he came to basketball relatively late for someone who would go on to have such an overwhelming impact on the sport. His father actually was pushing for Mike to play baseball, and the young lad concentrated on that sport pretty much exclusively until he started attending junior high. In fact Jordan's much pilloried attempt to translate his hoops expertise into the world of runs batted in and stolen bases is here revealed to be an homage to Jordan's father, who was brutally murdered in 1993. As is mentioned by one of the many sportscasting talking heads in this feature, Jordan was accused of being an "embarrassment" to the sport of baseball, but as the sportscaster wisely states after recounting the connection to Jordan's deceased father, Jordan's resolve to take up the sport in memory of his Dad is the sort of "embarrassment" every parent prays for with their child.
The baseball interlude is really just a passing moment or two in this already brief piece, but it is perhaps the most highly indicative of Jordan's strength of character and moral grounding. The man himself states unequivocally with regard to his brief baseball career that things may not have panned out as he had envisioned, but at least he tried, and that's all his father ever urged him to do, and it's the same message Jordan wants to pass on to his own children. Can you imagine someone like Charles Barkley or Dennis Rodman having the good sense, if not the common decency, to ever say anything like that?
Michael Jordan to the Max is at times elegiac as it recounts Jordan's final NBA championship run, and so it's laced with a certain nostalgia as it quickly recounts the highlights of Jordan's amazing career. We get to see the kid with the baseball bat and resolute glare grow up to be an amazing high school basketball player who nonetheless didn't get on the Varsity team the first time he tried out for it, something that only made his resolve all the steelier. And then there was of course the college championship with the North Carolina Tar Heels. When Mike helped win that national championship, his father told him it was the "start of something big," though neither of them knew exactly what that might be. And certainly neither of them had any idea of just how big that "something" would become.
The very figurative bigness of Jordan is also addressed, albeit passingly, in terms of the new global culture that was exploding via the nascent internet and other media just as Jordan's star was rising to the stratosphere. Jordan was one of the most heavily marketed stars in terms of endorsements and advertising in the entire history of sports, and that in turn helped build his legend even further. But, again, the man himself just comes off as completely nonplussed about it all, something that carries over into the ads themselves.
Any present day parent with kids who idolize various sports figures know there are ridiculously few really potent role models out there, and the vague, uneasy feeling is that even those who your kid may lionize may turn out to be a major disappointment at some point down the line. Jordan managed to make it through his entire professional career with no Kobe-sized scandals, no Barkey-ized or Rodman-esque antics. Is Michael Jordan too good to be true? He may not be, he probably has his share of flaws, and he may even have some darker elements which he's managed to magically bury far beneath the prying eyes of the paparazzi. But the sheer grace of the man on the court coupled with his seemingly impeccable personal demeanor leaves me with the ardent hope that if he indeed has any flaws either athletically or personally, I just don't want to know.
Michael Jordan to the Max Blu-ray, Video Quality
Michael Jordan to the Max jumps onto Blu-ray with an AVC encoded 1080i transfer in 1.85:1 (for the most part). I have to admit I was just a little disappointed with the image quality of this feature, if only because the large (as in really large) IMAX format usually provides such a stunningly sharp picture. While there's nothing to really get too worked up about here, several of the game sequences just are a tad on the soft side. The feature is also moderately hobbled by utilizing various source elements in a variety of formats, and the difference between the textures of these elements is quite striking at times. All of these caveats aside, Michael Jordan to the Max offers a suitably decent picture which in the close-ups of His Airness reveals a wealth of fine detail. Colors, saturation, contrast and black levels are all spot on, and in the filmed elements, grain is completely intact and very natural looking.
Michael Jordan to the Max Blu-ray, Audio Quality
A good sign of how bombastic Michael Jordan to the Max's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is comes from the fact that within about 5 seconds of the film starting, the pile of discs I had stacked on my subwoofer went literally flying across the room in their own version of an air ball. The film starts out with some thundering LFE mixed in with the deep, throbbing "thunk" of Jordan's heartbeat and the sound of him dribbling the ball, all in slow motion. It's a major wake up call for anyone who might have been snoozing, and while the rest of the soundtrack may not be as aggressively low ended, it's certainly just as well mixed and offers a wealth of immersion. There are the requisite surround uses in the basketball games themselves, but there's really nice discrete channel utilization when various talking heads appear in various inset screens on the left or right of the screen. The basic narration and Jordan's first person "confessionals" are all solidly reproduced, as is the song score which features performances from Earth, Wind & Fire and Fatboy Slim, among others. This is a really exciting, viscerally effective mix that should leave a lot of listeners breathless.
Michael Jordan to the Max Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Michael Jordan to the Max doesn't hit all the free throw supplements it might have:
Michael Jordan to the Max Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
About the worst thing you can say about Michael Jordan to the Max is that it just isn't long enough. With some blistering footage of Mike's final NBA championship season peppered with some nice anecdotal background information on the star which features everyone from his Mom to Phil Jackson to various sportscasters, this is like a Reader's Digest overview of the greatest basketball player of the last century. Amazingly, you nonetheless get a really clear sense of what a fine human being Jordan is, aside from his overwhelming athletic prowess. Highly recommended.
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