Shout! Factory // 2008 // 100 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Ryan Keefer (Retired) // October 9th, 2008
The whole world is a playground.
I've honestly never been one who's liked skiing too much. And in the interest of full disclosure, I've never been, but I loved surfing. I know, it's weird that I live in an area that's got more places for skiing than it does surfing, but what can I tell you, I had lazy parents, and surfing occupied a small spot in my heart, for whatever reason. So when I see films like this, my natural reaction is to equate them to the works of Bruce and Dana Brown and their Endless Summer films. But in retrospect, that's a little unfair of me, because I didn't know a thing about Warren Miller.
For the uninitiated, Miller was a recently discharged Navy veteran from World War II, when he and a friend decided to move to Sun Valley, Idaho and be ski instructors. In their free time they would film each other skiing, and (quoting Miller) "to cover up my less than perfect photography of that era, I'd make jokes about what was filmed." He would show the films to friends, and these showings grew in popularity to the point where he would eventually start charging people to attend these showings. Both the jaw-dropping photography and the humor were integral parts of the appeal of Miller's films, and he's made several hundred over the decades. Now in semi-retirement, the business Miller started and his son ran for some time is under the auspices of the Time Warner group, which also presumably includes the Shout! Factory label. While Miller's narration and jokes have been replaced by Jonny Moseley, Olympic Gold Medal winner in extreme skiing, and Playground is a notable release for the Miller name, as it's the first release on high definition.
Presented in 1.85:1 widescreen with the VC-1 codec, Playground travels to the ends of the Earth to find great rides for skiers and snowboarders. Be it in a secluded Alaska resort or an indoor slope in Dubai, we get to enjoy the slopes and the tricks that follow. We also get interviews with some of the lesser known figures in the sport, although Bode Miller gets some face time, too. You might remember Miller for his being raked over the publicity coals during the 2006 Olympics for some less than acceptable things he said about the sport of skiing. Quite frankly, I could care less about Miller, but his talent for skiing is pretty grand, made all the more so when it comes to Playground. However, the drawback for the film is the inability to garner a broader audience. There's some time with some of the figures who love to ski, but their reasons for skiing aren't really flushed out; Playground is an hour and a half of people skiing, with an occasional interview or two, set to rock music that frankly, annoys and grates on my ears after awhile.
Technically, I wasn't sure what to expect from this disc, but the VC-1 encode gives you a clear look at the exteriors, and they look excellent. Snowflakes glisten on the hill, whites look good without being blown out, and film grain is present in most shots. The blacks aren't as inky as I thought they might be, but Playground is a solid-looking disc, and the TrueHD soundtrack replicates all the music rather well, and provides a small subwoofer punch on the occasional exterior shot of man vs. nature.
Overall, for what Playground is, you'll appreciate it depending on what your proclivities for skiing might be. It's not really my bag, but you know what my bags are. Now, where's that copy of The Endless Summer?
Review content copyright © 2008 Ryan Keefer; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p Widescreen)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Warren Miller Official Site