For those of you that clicked this review link out of curiosity, I'll have to be up front with you on this one: This DVD is about skateboarding. While some of you may immediately lose interest right away upon mention of the subject, I'm hoping more of you stick around.
Skateboarding has arguably never been more popular than it has been in the last few years. Tricks and stunts thought of as groundbreaking or impossible ten years ago are commonplace now. But that shouldn't be a surprise...like any other sport, it evolves. It gets more challenging. New standards are set every day, and...
Wait a minute. Skateboarding? A sport?
Of course it is! Hey, if friggin' auto racing is considered a sport, why not skateboarding? Besides, the athleticism and physical risk involved rivals most any other professional sport on the planet. Well, except lacrosse.
Oh, I'm sorry. Allow me to introduce myself. I'm a guy whose only life experience with skateboarding involves playing Tony Hawk's Pro Skater and laughing at Unsane's music video for "Scrape". In reality, I'm little more than an armchair quarterback, with no real personal history in the sport. I've never tried it seriously becuase I'd probably really suck at it. In that regard, I'm probably not alone, but that doesn't keep me from appreciating it. In fact, it only makes it more fascinating to me.
The End is a compilation of skating highlights (and failed attempts) by a great mix of skaters: Tony Hawk, Bucky Lasek, Brian Sumner, Andrew Reynolds, Heath Kirchart, Willy Santos, Jeremy Klein, Steve Berra, and more! This release is groundbreaking on a number of levels: it has a substantially larger budget than most others of the genre, it was shot on film instead of digital video or home camcorder, and it even features a beer-swilling monkey. No, really. And, of course, the skating footage is truly incredible...it's obvious that a lot of hard work was put into this.
There were some parts about this film that fell flat, however. In between the skating footage are clips that resemble "mini-films" starring each of the skaters. Some of them work well in the context of the footage, and others are flat-out pointless. Nothing is really accomplished during these, and they're mostly an excuse to throw in a few explosions (which are somewhat startling when compared to the rest of the footage). In fact, these "mini-films" almost take away from the power of the tricks themselves. Almost. Although it was a valiant attempt to present something a little more than the straightforward tricks usually shown, these aren't really necessary.
The light running time of just over 40 minutes is both good and bad. Most traditional "highlight reels" are best left at a shorter length, but at the same time, I wanted to see more. Luckily, there's also a great set of extras that were slightly more satisfying than the film itself!
(1.33:1, original full-frame) Mentioned before, this was shot on film instead of digital video, a process which cost the production team much more. While the good intentions were there, The End can't get by on video quality alone. Most of the colors were somewhat dull and none of the footage was particularly sharp, but fans of skateboarding won't mind in the least. To the credit of the production team, most of this was shot on the fly or under varying light conditions...with the quality of the footage they did get, they were lucky to have it at all. Still, it doesn't distract from your viewing experience.
The audio itself seemed to be presented in 2.0 Stereo, and holds up nicely. The soundtrack was awesome and also deserves special mention...it was great to hear tracks by The Propellerheads, Portishead, and others during the course of the film. Overall, the audio isn't exactly demo material, but is suffiecient for the material involved.
This is where the disc really turns up the heat!
Making of The End: This 22-minute behind-the-scenes look gives you a great view of the work involved here. Some of the stuff covered includes: the many failed attempts at nailing the tricks (much more intersting to see than flubbed lines, let me tell you!), a look at how they pulled off the decapitation scene (no, really), and the construction of the Bull Ring ramp in Mexico. The skaters also share personal experiences on (and off) the set, and we also hear from director Jamie Mosberg. If you ever wondered what Clint Eastwood's monkey has been up to lately, you'll also find that out. Also amusing is footage of Jeremy Klein's mom watching him drive like a maniac (she seems disappointed in him for some reason). Overall, this is a great featurette and a welcome inclusion!
Cast Commentary: This audio commentary plays the length of the film and features Jeremy Klein, Joey Perez, Matt Allen, Vinny Vegas, Brian Sumner, Bucky Laseck, and Willy Santos. While entertaining on a certain level, this is more of a loud, obnoxious party of a commentary, and really won't tell you much more than you already knew. A second option allows you to see the commentary being recorded using a "picture-in-picture" layout (which also has additional footage of the guys being driven to the recording studio). Hardcore fans might like to check this out, but more casual fans won't get much out of it. Still, it's there, so give it a listen and judge for yourself.
Photo Gallery An extensive gallery of images featuring the stars of the film. While these are great to have and excellent in their own right, they're a little boring compared to the video footage itself.
Theatrical Trailer: I wasn't aware that this was released in theaters (at least not around here), but this trailer does a good job of showing what you'll see. It isn't exactly spolier-free and gives away some of the better scenes, so skip it until after the main feature.
Vivid Girls Clip: Pointless eye candy. This is a commercial for the lovely ladies (er, I mean adult film stars) featured in the film. It sort of reminded me of those soft-core 1-900 phone ads that run late at night. This was tacky and seemed out of place.
The Team: This section contains text biographies and old video footage of the stars of The End, as well as Birdhouse veterans and up-and-coming skaters. These were most welcome, and a great benefit to the skater-impaired like myself.
Tony Hawk Tribute: This is an additional look at skating legend Tony Hawk, and gives you a great look at his many accomplishments for the sport. Although tributes are usually done after a person dies, I'm not complaining. Of course, it's really awesome to see his early footage in hindsight.
The menus themselves are great, and really surprised me! I was expecting static menus with terrible design, but these animated menus look and sound awesome! They're also very easy to navigate and really compliment the overall experience well.
Should anything else have been included?
I loved the "documentary" feel of the behind-the-scenes footage, and would have loved to see more (especially in the movie itself). Other than that, this one's good to go.
A nice release for hardcore fans and newbies alike, The End is a great buy, espcially given the low MSRP of $19.98 (it can be found for under $15 if you shop around). While the movie itself stumbles in a few places, the extras more than make up for it. I was pleasantly surprised with all the hard work involved in putting this together. Highly Recommended.