Warren Miller has enjoyed a lengthy career putting out movies that highlight skiing, and has been filming skiing (and snowboarding, as we see in some segments here) for fifty years (hence the title.) This particular documentary offers a mixture of Miller's early 8mm ski footage (including archive footage of Marilyn Monroe skiing) and modern day clips of athletes like famed olympic athlete Jonny Moseley.
The documentary, which is narrated by Miller, goes to various locations around the world in order to capture some skiing and snowboarding footage that, to offer a compliment, is often IMAX-level in quality. Edited quite superbly and shot with an excellent sense of composition, the footage highlights the grace and skill of the athletes shown, while also managing to work in a substancial amount of the often stunning background scenery.
As for the scenery, Miller's film takes audiences around the world, with scenes filmed in Alaska, BC, Colorado and Ecuador, among others. Accompanying the impressive footage is a soundtrack that's perfectly chosen - we get a mixture of ska, pop and rock, including such artists as the Dave Matthews Band. The music may be a bit more low-key than the music in most of these kinds of sports films today (see "Ultimate X"), but it's very enjoyable and works so well with each scene that I occasionally pondered that I couldn't imagine better choices. Miller's narration is mostly excellent, as well.
While most of the footage revolves around skiing or snowboarding, Miller's "Fifty" takes some fun breaks, including a series of hilarious bloopers and the occasional goofy look at the behind-the-scenes of filming. There's a genuine sense of fun that runs throughout the flick, and it gave the proceedings an additional boost of energy. I think the best compliment that I could offer in regards to this feature is that, coming from someone who knows very little about skiing, I found myself involved throughout, not checking my watch once.
VIDEO: Shout Factory presents "Fifty" in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 full-frame. The presentation is largely excellent, although understandably, some of the archive footage is in pretty poor shape. As for the newer footage, sharpness and detail are often exceptional, as the picture (aside from some wide shots) appeared sharp and quite well-defined.
I've already discussed the condition of the archive footage, which does appear quite worn at times, but in terms of the new material, the only issue was the presence of some slight shimmer at times. Colors appeared bright and well-saturated, with no smearing or other concerns.
SOUND: The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is enjoyable, with the rear speakers providing reinforcement for the tunes on the soundtrack. Keep in mind that the 2.0 version of the soundtrack is the default option for some reason, so change it prior to starting the show.
EXTRAS: An excellent "making of" (19 minutes) that discusses how the film crew was able to shoot all of the impressive footage, despite not having a large crew or budget. There's also some additional behind-the-scenes stories and clips, as well. Finally, there's also the trailer.
Final Thoughts: It's definitely saying something that, despite not knowing much about skiing, I defintely enjoyed this movie a great deal. Miller's crew capture some remarkable footage and the stops at different locations around the world are fun to see. Shout Factory provides a fine DVD, with good audio/video quality, and a couple of supplements. Recommended.