Though his name may only be familiar to skiing and snowboarding fanatics, Warren Miller has led a prolific life. This long-time director founded Warren Miller Entertainment in 1949, creating one full-length skiing film per year for several decades. Having also written a number of books, short stories and directed hundreds of related films, Miller's popularity grew exponentially within the world of sports...until 1988, when the 64 year-old man finally handed WME over to his son (who eventually sold it to Time-Warner). Though the company still produces annual films, Miller himself is no longer a participant; in other words, "Warren Miller's Wintervention" is about as weighty a title as "National Lampoon's Dorm Daze".
Luckily, it's not nearly as bad---and though Wintervention is definitely not your father's Warren Miller film, it's still worth a look. Shot on location in Antarctica, New Zealand, Austria, Norway, Colorado and more, this feature-length documentary attempts to leave ski tracks in places where most people haven't even left footprints. During the outdoor portion of Wintervention, we're treated to beautiful landscapes, risky downhill stunts and daring performances from the likes of Lindsey Vonn, Chris Davenport, Hugo Harrisson and more. Even though the skiing footage outpaces snowboarding footage by about five to one, the stylish camerawork captures the rush of both sports with energy to spare.
Unfortunately, there's just not enough of it. For whatever reason, Wintervention needed a background story, and this year's theme is "people addicted to skiing and snowboarding". This theme is carried over into regular "talk radio" segments hosted by Olympic skier Jonny Moseley, who "takes calls" from the various "skiing addicts" before we're ushered off to the next location. Simply put, these segments are cheap time-fillers that grind Wintervention to a halt...and if that weren't enough, the corny opening sequence (also hosted by Moseley) doesn't exactly get things off to a gripping start.
Older Warren Miller films---you know, the ones actually directed by the guy---had a great balance of style and substance, but Wintervention usually favors the former. Luckily, the outdoor footage manages to keep this documentary afloat...but there's no reason this 106-minute film couldn't have been streamlined a bit. Shout Factory presents Wintervention in your choice of DVD or Blu-Ray formats; the latter includes a decent technical presentation, but not much in the way of bonus features.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p transfer looks good but falls short of greatness. Outdoor footage often favors the soft side...which is a shame, since these beautiful landscapes almost demand to be shown in greater detail. The film's natural color palette has been preserved nicely and digital problems are kept to a minimum. Overall, the film is perfectly watchable and most fans will enjoy the visuals, but Wintervention could definitely be a bit tighter around the edges.
Much like the video quality (and skiing itself, of course), the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix experiences a few ups and downs. On-location footage usually sounds terrific, and the film's excellent soundtrack also comes through quite nicely. Problems occur during outdoor interviews, which are poorly recorded and suffer from moderate background and wind noise. It's a little distracting and the lack of optional subtitles doesn't help, either. These could also be written off as "source material issues"...but any way you slice it, Wintervention sounds a bit rough at times. A PCM Stereo track is also included.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
This one-disc release is housed in a standard Blu-Ray keepcase with double-sided artwork and a chapter insert. The 103-minute main feature has been divided into a scant 13 chapters (one per location, more or less)
and the single-layered disc appears to be locked for Region "A" players only.
Only two extras arrive with this "Collector's Edition Deluxe Blu-Ray" and they're both presented in 1080p. "The Making of Wintervention (22 minutes)
is a fairly standard behind-the-scenes doc that was made for TV, but it's still worth a look if you enjoyed the main feature. We also get the film's Theatrical Trailer (2 minutes)
for good measure. Both look and sound about as good as Wintervention
...but the lack of deleted scenes is a little surprising, considered the number of camera operators involved.
No matter if you're a die-hard skiing fanatic or a casual viewer, Wintervention is a mixed bag: the performance clips and beautiful landscapes are excellent, but they're bogged down by way too much filler. Shout Factory's Blu-Ray is pretty close to average, pairing a decent technical presentation with only a few minor bonus features. Overall, this one's definitely more of a rental candidate than a recommended purchase, unless you've seen and enjoyed Wintervention already. Rent It.
NOTE: The above photos were obtained from promotional outlets and do not represent this release's native resolution.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects, teaches art classes and runs a website or two in his spare time. He also enjoys slacking off, telling lame jokes and writing stuff in third person.