Mo’ Better Blues

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Through the years, Spike Lee has given us some of the most interesting, thought-provoking movies. Now when a phrase like “through the years” has been mentioned, it might suggest a lifetime of work. In a way–yes. With Spike Lee, it’s clear that he has many more movies on his plate and he’s also an exceptionally talented writer as well as an accomplished Director. In my opinion, the Directors who also write their movies are more apt to translate their works onto film as opposed to someone working from another person’s script. But that’s just me. This was Spike Lee’s follow-up to the critically acclaimed “Do the Right Thing”, and it proved that he was to be taken seriously. Lee, also the Director of such movies as Malcolm X, Jungle Fever and the more recent “Bamboozled” doesn’t try and make a statement with this movie, only tell a story. What’s so relaxing about this is that it’s like any other movie, especially any other movie about Jazz. While movies like Malcolm X were and are great works of art, it’s nice to sit back and enjoy a good movie and a good cast at work.

Meet Bleek Gilliam (Denzel Washington). Bleek is an extremely talented and popular musician. Bleek knows this, of course and it’s conveyed in the performance of Washington. Always the musician, he is constantly trying to impress the ladies while doing what really matters to him–playing music. Bleek has his attention on two different women: a would be singer by the name of Clarke Bentancourt (Cynda Williams) and Indigo Downes (Joie Lee), an accountant. Each woman is aware of the other, so it’s not a “behind the back” thing to make Bleek look like yet another male pig. He’s not. What the two women really want is him, but they know that they have to compete against what really comes first in his life…his music. Aside from the relationship(s) that Bleek has, there is another obstacale in his life. His manager, Giant (Spike Lee). Giant is seemingly incompetent as a manager of the band and gets into some gambling trouble. But lest this lead you away from what Mo’ Better Blues is really about…the music!

Lee has said that it was films like “Bird” and “‘Round Midnight” that provoked him to do a film like Mo’ Better Blues. The two aforementioned titles are films about Jazz done by white Directors. So, could a black Director do it right? Is Lee’s vision so utterly superior in the world of Jazz just because of the color of his skin? Who knows. The rest of the band seems to be a bit offbeat from what Bleek represents. Wesley Snipes, when he wasn’t trying to be an action star, turns in a good performance as Shadow Henderson as does John Turturro as Josh Flatbush. Look for a cameo by Samuel L. Jackson as well. While Mo’ Better Blues doesn’t even attempt to tackle an issue, it’s a very entertaining movie with a good cast. If you’re partial to Jazz music, Spike Lee movies or just to see Denzel Washington turn in yet another great performance, then give Mo’ Better Blues a spin.

Video: How does it look?

Mo’ Better Blues is shown at it’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.78:1. This ratio is just wide enough to take advantage of the anamorphic enhancement and for the most part it looks good. The film is just over ten years old now (already???), but there’s one thing that DVD has shown us and it’s that the age of the film doesn’t matter. Universal usually takes good care of their discs, though they have been known to be a bit inconsistent from time to time. Mo’ Better Blues takes place in a lot of dark nightclubs and such, so some minor artifacting can be seen here and there. Some digital elements are also present, but no so much that they take away from the presence of the movie. Black levels are on target, but there is a minor bit of edge enhancement, again–it doesn’t take away from the movie. I feel that with more care, this could look really great on DVD, but as it is, it looks better than a lot of other movies out there.

Audio: How does it sound?

Mo’ Better Blues has a Dolby Surround track which does just what it’s supposed to, surround you with music. After countless tracks that are remastered in 5.1 sound, it’s good to hear a Surround mix…they’re not that bad! Again, I feel that if Universal were to pull out all the stops, they could easily convert this to a new Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and I’m sure it would sound a bit better, but as it is this track more than does the job. Dialogue is clear but has just a bit of distortion and surround effects are used very sparingly. The front speakers do most of the work here, with sax’s blazing and trumpets blaring about, the soundtrack is just one of the things that we hear out of the speakers. Overall, not a bad mix, it could have been a bit better, but the whole disc seems to be put together just to whet our appetite.

Supplements: What are the extras?

A “typical” Universal release here, we get a theatrical trailer, some cast and crew bios and some production notes. Not bad, but maybe some day they’ll give this the treatment it deserves like “Do the Right Thing”.

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