Shout! Factory // 2010 // 98 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // December 8th, 2011
Just One More Run...At Your Cash!
Warren Miller is a brand. He's now a name, no longer a filmmaker. From 1950 to 1988, he took his favorite hobbies -- surfing, skiing, and photography -- and turned them into the precursors for what we now like to label as "Extreme Sports" and the video compilation of same. His clever corporate imprint, no longer owned by the Miller family per se, offers up annual looks into such panoramic subjects as traveling around the world to ride the biggest waves, scale the largest peaks, and traverse the most virgin territory possible. Originally, these movies were nothing more than souvenirs, travelogues containing incredible footage of men and women doing nearly impossible athletic feats. We marveled at the massiveness of nature and humanity's seemingly endless desire to conquer -- or at the very least, control and coexist with -- it. But Wintervention, the latest in the seemingly endless parade of Warren Miller embossed product, can't leave well enough alone. It takes the terrific scenic material and mars it with a lame linking narrative involving a call-in format radio show and various "addicts" who need to discuss their obsession with snow, skis, and surfer slang. Snore.
Indeed, every time Wintervention builds up a significant head of stunt spectacle steam, some goof with a microphone steps in to stop the action...dead! We then get poorly scripted and acted exchanges, which are supposed to provide both insight and a small amount of comic/commentary relief. It doesn't work. In addition, it turns many of these unknown athletes (unknown to the everyday, mainstream, home video consumer, that is) into saps who appear pointlessly obsessed with things that adults have long since cast aside. It's great that you've bankrupted yourself and your aging parents so you can have one more daredevil Heli-ski under your belt (you take a helicopter to the top of the world, slap on the sleek snow shoes, and race to your doom). We're ecstatic that the pristine regions of Antarctica are your latest pleasure getaway and we also understand the angst involved in deciding between Vale, Aspen, or Breckinridge for your yearly escape from reality. Indeed, this material is mindless in both purpose and pragmatics.
Luckily, the other footage is fantastic, a true collection of "how did they capture that?" moments. Undisturbed snow banks high in the mountain canopy of the world await the single slalom shapes of the audacious skier. Huge, jagged rock outcropping hide pathways parted by incredibly nimble individuals, while the tiny insignificance of man is matched against a backdrop so vast it captures the air from your lungs and literally leaves you breathless. Along the way, snowboarders do their skate-rats-in-winter routine, running over and into anything with or without a layer of white frosting as unique injuries such as decade's old bone spurs are showcased with sour stomach queasiness. One thing a Warren Miller movie is most consistent about is the treatment of the terrain. If it wasn't for the frequent flubs and actual indication of the elements, you'd swear this stuff was staged. Not done in a studio, but purposely produced to be both adrenalin pumping and visually appealing. While the truly scripted material stinks, the rest of Wintervention delivers exactly what you'd expect.
What fans really come to these experiences for are the visuals, so you would expect that the Blu-ray release of Wintervention would be an amazing optical wonder. Well, don't settle up with your aesthetics so fast. While many of the sequences are sensational, filled with detail and wonder, the majority of the 1.78:1, 1080p presentation looks...soft. Strike that -- it looks like it was filmed in standard definition and then ported over to HD. We want to see individual snowflakes flying up at the widescreen, their intricate frozen grace lifting out spirits and our soul. All we get is standard powder. Similarly, the faces of some of these individuals bear the burden of too many minutes in the elements. Sadly, we don't get to see the wizened wear and tear. Similarly, the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 offers a hit or miss experience. The main material comes across in speaker-shaking excellence, the various shoe-gazing Indie Emo punk pop funk fusion blaring from channel to channel. The location-based interviews, however, have a flat, hollow feel that doesn't even begin to fill up the sonic space. The PCM stereo does a better job without offering such dizzying aural highs and lows. As for added content, we get a Making-of EPK and a trailer.
For what it's worth, Warren Miller has guided the course of professional sports outside of the main team titans (football, baseball, basketball, etc.) for the last few decades. When it's not playing the fool, Wintervention is another snowy vista knockout. When it is acting goofy, it's groan-inducing.
Not guilty, but very much meant for a specific sports enthusiast
Review content copyright © 2011 Bill Gibron; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* PCM 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site