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School of Rock(2003)
Down and out rock star Dewey Finn gets fired from his band, and he faces a mountain of debts and depression. He takes a job as a 4th grade substitute teacher at an uptight private school where his attitude and hijinx have a powerful effect on his students. He also meets Zack, a 10-year-old guitar prodigy, who could help Dewey win a "battle of the bands" competition, which would solve his financial problems and put him back in the spotlight.
For more about School of Rock and the School of Rock Blu-ray release, see School of Rock Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on August 31, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Jack Black, Mike White, Joan Cusack, Sarah Silverman, Adam Pascal, Miranda Cosgrove
Director: Richard Linklater
» See full cast & crew
School of Rock Blu-ray Review
Rock out to this excellent Blu-ray release.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, August 31, 2012
I service society by rocking.
The movies are fun again. And they rock. School of Rock charms from beginning to end with its energy, sincerity, and heart. It's Fantasy, Comedy, and Drama all rolled into one. It's pure escapism, a movie comprised of childhood dreams fulfilled, seen through the eyes of children and the child in everyone in a movie in which school does what it should: bring out the best in everyone, unearth hidden talents, develop skills, and open doorways for people to find their purposes in life, to discover who they are inside and encourage a flourish of personal success. It's a universal tale of acceptance, of finding one's own inner beat and the rhythm to which they move in life, of discovering the real talent and the real person behind stringent rules, stuffy decorum, and antiquated ways of doing things. And isn't that what Rock 'N' Roll really is, about not only bucking the establishment and "sticking it to the man" but discovering one's own self through music, through friendship, through living. School or Rock is a modern classic that lights up the screen (and, of course, sound systems) and shows that in the movies or in the grind of life, a little music and a whole lot of heart can go a long way in proving to the world that, sometimes, it's good to have a little bit of rebel and Rock 'N' Roll in one's life.
Dewey Finn (Jack Black, Bernie) is a midlevel local musician who's good on the guitar but not all that great with the band. He's a one-man show in a multi-man outfit, and his show is flopping. Badly. He loves music and lives for Rock 'N' Roll. He drives the quintessential Rock van, a beater with shag carpet on the ceiling, covered in Rock band bumper stickers inside and out, and it spits out enough fumes to choke to death anyone within thirty feet. So when his band, called "No Vacancy," votes him off the proverbial island, he's understandably crushed. He's also bummed, literally, because if he cannot come up with the cash to pay several month's worth of back rent, he's going to be out on his bum and living like a bum out of the back of his van. He's shacking up with one-time rocker, longtime friend, and now substitute teacher Ned Schneebly (Mike White) who is pressured by his girlfriend Patty Di Marco (Sarah Silverman) to force Dewey into paying his share of the rent or face the consequences. Dewey can't take two boots so closely together. When he answers a phone call meant for Ned, he takes the opportunity to cash in and take a job meant for his good buddy instead.
Of course, Dewey doesn't know the first thing about substituting (let alone teaching), which could be a problem at any school. It's a greater problem when he pulls into the prestigious Horace Green Elementary, a $15,000-per-year preparatory school where the students are expected to excel in every classical subject. The school is headed by the uptight and stringent Rosalie Mullins (Joan Cusack, Working Girl) who suspects that the highly-touted "Mr. Schneebly" isn't really all he's cracked up to be in the substitute world when he appears more concerned with lunch and the hour school lets out than molding the young minds of tomorrow. Yet she takes him on for an extended gig, anyway. Dewey's clearly lost in the classroom. He knows nothing but music and his passion burns hotly for his classic Gibson electric guitar. When the students are dismissed to music practice, Dewey sneaks a peak and sees that the entire class shows some promise on their instruments. He brings in another guitar, a bass, a keyboard, and a drum set. He picks out a few students and forms a classroom band and involves all the other students in one way or another: costume design, lighting, backup vocals, security, and even management. Suddenly, Dewey's in his comfort zone and he quickly learns that the kids have real musical talent. As he teaches them the art of Rock 'N' Roll and prepares them to participate in the local "Battle of the Bands," they must keep their activities hidden from Miss Millins or risk losing everything they've come to love and the teacher who's opened them up to a brand new world of musical possibilities.
School of Rock is all Jack Black. This is the actor at his comic best in a career-defining performance that sees him extend his range to its fullest but also remain grounded in who he is, enjoying a comfort level that allows for a more energized, honest, seamless effort as he dominates the part simply by having fun with it, getting in tune with his inner-rocker, and going to town with all the exaggerated moves, looks, and dialogue that shape the character but seem 100% Jack. In School of Rock, Black absolutely inhabits the "goofball smart-alec with a big heart and a penchant for wiggling into and out of sticky situations" character and falls so completely into that character that he masks a whole lot of other less-polished performances from his peers. Most of the children are fine in the parts that call for mostly shy or slightly frightened students to gradually discover their inner rock star (or supportive part of the rock star life). Black is fantastic as he slowly but surely unearths and molds each talent and brings the group into unison, harmonically and cohesively alike. Black's ability to instruct and befriend the students and enjoy the music is easily the movie's brightest and best asset. This is a rare performance that completely defines a movie from beginning to end; School of Rock wouldn't be the same, or even much of anything, without the energy, charisma, and naturalism Black brings to the part in every scene.
Of course, there's much more to School of Rock than just Jack Black, even as he effortlessly carries the movie on his shoulders. Though the movie is structurally level and dramatically linear, the lack of surprise, mystery, or anything else is more than made up for by raw charm and toe-tapping fun. It's a blast to simply sit back and vicariously live the dream, not just enjoying the easy life at school through the students but becoming inspired to reach, to do more than a curriculum demands or a parent wishes. It's the themes that sparkle, and when a movie accomplishes so much on theme, it can get away with an absence of drama and an abundance of transparency when the enjoyment comes from the fulfillment of the dream, not the opening of the mystery door at the end. There's a lot to be learned in the movie, and not just about rock bands. This is a movie about life, about what it means to be alive, the importance of discovering talents and taking full advantage of God-given talents. It's also equally about encouraging rather discouraging gifts and talents and wants, about breaking away from the standard, if that is what one is meant to do, and chase dreams fully and without remorse. Sometimes life breaks guitar strings, sometimes nobody's there to catch the diving rock star, but School of Rock encourages people to restring or get up and go for it again, to maintain focus and strive to live the dream no matter what anyone else says or wants.
School of Rock Blu-ray, Video Quality
School of Rock enrolls onto Blu-ray with a steady and sturdy 1080p transfer. This is a fine image, a strongly filmic one that captures good details and offers solid colors at every turn. The image hardly dazzles with extraordinarily complex textures and brilliant shades, but it's an eye-opener for just how finely nuanced and natural it appears. Though it can be a hair dim on the whole, colors usually appear accurate and pleasing throughout. Whether blue and gray school uniform colors, the warm wood as seen on the Gibson guitar, flashes of multicolored album covers, or other assorted objects, the film's many hues refuse to blind but do impress with a good foundation and natural reproduction. Details excel. The image is naturally sharp and quite clear, with no real bouts of softness. Facial textures are sufficiently complex, brick walls and surfaces around the school impress, and close-ups of clothes reveal subtle little touches that would be lost on lesser transfers. Black levels impress, and flesh tones are true across the entire human spectrum. There's no egregious banding, blocking, edge enhancement, or other unwanted elements. Print wear is practically nonexistent. This is a solid, pleasing all-around image that replicates a natural cinematic texture and appearance with ease.
School of Rock Blu-ray, Audio Quality
School of Rock rolls onto Blu-ray with a steady and oftentimes immersive DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. From the first beats forward, listeners will appreciate the consistent clarity and natural presentation of the many classic tunes that play throughout the movie. There's nothing too loud, no thrashing, ear-splitting guitar riffs or bass, but the music is treated honestly and plays crisply and with much energy, satisfying front-end spacing, and some surround support. There's positive, deep bass lines and electric guitar notes throughout, whether in the classroom, up on the stage, or simply as part of the soundtrack. The end "Battle of the Bands" segment in particular impresses with its wide soundstage and complete, all-immersive sort of presentation that truly makes the listener feel like a part of the crowd and not a detached observer from afar. Here, there's a good sense of ambient immersion as well. Crowd chants and applause gently envelop the listening audience. Likewise, some of the cafeteria scenes offer much of the same with a lighter but no less critical environment-defining background din. Dialogue is even and plays steadily through the center channel. This is a good all-around track that handles every sonic element with ease and well-above-average clarity, definition, and placement.
School of Rock Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
School of Rock contains the following supplements:
School of Rock Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
School of Rock is a classic movie about dreaming big, encouragement, and discovering and achieving potential. It's also a heartfelt Drama and an always-on Comedy that offers good, balanced, wholesome Rock- and school-inspired humor amidst its genuine messages. It's also a movie dominated by its star. Jack Black inhabits the character with an uncanny natural rhythm. He has every subtle move and gesture down pat. Every line of dialogue is delivered perfectly, and best of all he seems to simply have fun with the part while not even really acting but merely playing himself and wearing his love for music on his sleeve. This is pretty much cinema perfection, an adorable little movie with tons of replay value and a reminder about what's really important in life, with music as a metaphor for grasping onto dreams, developing natural talents, and doing what feels right in the heart. Paramount's Blu-ray release of School of Rock features excellent video and audio. A healthy assortment of extras are included. Very highly recommended.
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