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Friday Night Lights (Widescreen Edition)
Friday Night Lights
Widescreen Edition
Actors: Billy Bob Thornton, Lucas Black (II), Garrett Hedlund, Derek Luke, Jay Hernandez
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama
PG-13     2005     1hr 58min

Based on the best-selling book by H.G. Bissinger, Peter Berg's gritty, powerful drama tells the true story of a small Texas town in which high school football is the only thing that matters. Set in 1988, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHT...  more »

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Movie Details

Actors: Billy Bob Thornton, Lucas Black (II), Garrett Hedlund, Derek Luke, Jay Hernandez
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama
Sub-Genres: Action & Adventure, Family Life
Studio: Universal Studios
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Closed-captioned,Dubbed,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 01/18/2005
Original Release Date: 10/08/2004
Theatrical Release Date: 10/08/2004
Release Year: 2005
Run Time: 1hr 58min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 20
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Languages: English, French, Spanish
Subtitles: Spanish, French
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Member Movie Reviews

Reviewed on 10/10/2009...
Possibly the best football movie ever made. Gorgeous in ways you don't expect.
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.

Movie Reviews

D. Mikels | Skunk Holler | 01/29/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"My Gawd, I love football.

'Tis a sport that offers the purest microcosm of life: Play as a team--succeed; play as individuals--fail. Those of us who have strapped on the pads and grunted and groaned in the trenches know this incontrovertible truth all too well. A single unit is much greater than the sum of all its individual parts, and this stellar truism is manifested magnificently in Peter Berg's sensational film FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS.

Again, I love football, and I particularly enjoy football movies that capture the grit and dark hubris of the sport, but this film stands alone in its overwhelming ability to portray a game, a west Texas town, its residents, its players, and its shameless addiction to the gridiron to a degree that transcends every single facet of human existence. In a community intoxicated with football, in a culture intoxicated with football, in an infrastructure that lives, eats, breaths, and sleeps football, the 1988 Odessa Permian Panthers are about to embark on a spectacular odyssey that will catapult and devour them at the same time: a magical, mystical season taking the coaches and players up and down the peaks and valleys of high school sports nirvana.

This is a film that garners attention to itself for infinite reasons. A great story, based on a bestselling book. Cinematography second to none, thanks to Tobias A. Schliessler, that gives the movie its gritty, handheld, "documentary" feel. A fast-paced, action-packed, totally believable series of scenes, augmented by an absolute killer soundtrack. And acting--oh yes, some very convincing, authentic, been-there-done-that acting.

As great as this film is, it is enhanced by the talents of the players who bring west Texas football to life before our very eyes: Lucas Black as a scowling, brooding, ultimately insecure quarterback Mike Winchell; Derek Luke as the budding NFL superstar "Boobie" Miles, whose knee injury derails his career and summons one of the most poignant scenes in the film; Jay Hernandez as steady, reliable Brian Chavez; and Billy Bob Thornton as Coach Gary Gaines. Thornton is a gifted actor, but this is perhaps his best role, as he portrays a man obsessed with getting his team to the pinnacle of success--yet disgusted with the one-dimensional, win-at-all-costs mentality of his current gig. Thornton is flawless; he does exceptional work.

Three other characters moved me, and moved me considerably. Perhaps, because I can readily identify with all of them. Garrett Hedlund plays Odessa tailback Don Billingsley--a troubled soul because his father, a former jock (Tim McGraw) refuses to accept his son's perceived inattentiveness and does nothing more than relive his own glory days two decades before. I know so many men who suffer exactly from the same malady, and could readily identify with the character, despite his shortcomings. Yet, at the end of the film, when troubled father and son reconcile problematically, I was very much affected.

Finally, I identified with "Preacher," the stoic, silent, solid defensive end from Permian, played by a somber-faced Lee Jackson. He went through the hell of two-a-days, saying nothing. He went through the trials and tribulations of the regular season, saying nothing. He saw games won, games lost, players come, players go, but still his resolve was not shaken, and at last--during halftime of Permian's game against very formidable Dallas Carter for the state championship--he released his fury and anguish to his teammates to fight and scrap and persevere, the character rose above the din and ruckus to prove, very admirably, how sports is, once again, a splendid microcosm of life.

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS is a whirling Texas twister of entertainment. The film is priceless; the DVD extras remarkable. This product is quality entertainment, top to bottom. Highly, highly, highly recommended.
--D. Mikels, author, WALK-ON"
A thoughtful meditation on the state religion of Texas
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 10/18/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I live in Minnesota, where high school hockey is the state religion and the right of passage for seniors is to go to the State Tournament, even if there school does not make it that far. Parents (not just fathers) send their sons to live in other school districts so they can get more playing time or play with a better team. Everyone who has seen "Hoosiers" know that in Indiana it is high school basketball that is the subject of such devotion, but if you needed to see "Friday Night Lights" to know that neither of those state religions holds a candle to high school football in Texas, then you are just not a true sports fan. Even before H.G. Bissinger's Pulitzer Prize winning book, "Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team and a Dream," I knew the people of West Texas took their high school football seriously (I lived in New Mexico when I went to high school, so it would have been hard not to notice).

Director Peter Berg's film version of "Friday Night Lights" is based on the true story of the Odessa-Permian Panthers and their 1988 season. What "true" means in this case is that the name of the coach and the key players are accurate, as are the number of losses the Panthers had that year (although the scores are different, as is one of the opponents). Overall, the film avoids going Hollywood until the final game, which does manage to be true to the spirit of the film even if it requires a stupid play call to help things along (I am sorry, but if it is 4th down and half the length of a football to go, and your offensive line outweighs the defense by at least 50 pounds a person, you call a quarterback sneak and get a least a yard more than you need just by firing off the ball; at least, that is what my father has always told me and since he played college football for an undefeated team, Trinity in Connecticut, I tend to listen to him).

This film affirms, for the upteenth time, that the main thing wrong with sports involving kids are the adults, either in the form of the parents, or the concerned citizens whose support of coach is based primarily on the score of the last game. The prototypical parent in this story is Charles Billingsley (Tim McGraw), who has his state championship ring and makes it clear that his son, Don (Garrett Hedlund), will be a failure if he does not do the same. Unfortunately, Don has a tendency to fumble, so Charles has no problem going down onto the field during practice to set the boy straight. Is Don playing football for his dad or despite his dad? There is no easy answer to that question, because life, family, and football are all wrapped up together in Odessa, Texas. The town might be mired in an economic depression, but that does not stop them from having a football stadium bigger than what some colleges and universities enjoy.

Coach Gary Gaines (Billy Bob Thornton) is supposed to go undefeated and win the state championship. Perham has done this four times before, in 1965, 1976, 1980, and 1984. Apparently they have a four year crop rotation program going and everybody in town can do the math to figure out 1988 is going to be the year. When the Boobie Miles (Derek Luke) the star running back gets hurt the coach gets the blame even though it is clear, like in a classic Greek tragedy, that the Fates are punishing the sin of hubris. Boobie is all ready to spend his money for playing in the NFL and he has not even picked a college yet. Basking in his stardom, Boobie gladly admits to reporters that he gets straight A's because he is an athlete and as he leaves defenders in the wake of his sweet moves you can understand why he is the most important play for Permian. But the goddess of mischief hides the helmet of his backup Chris Comer (Lee Thompson Young), and everybody knows that when you are running the score up and keep your superstar in the game, somebody is going to go gunning for him.

There are several key factors that make "Friday Night Lights" work. The first is Thornton's performance, which is yet another reminder that he is one of the finest film actors around today. His Coach Gaines goes between moments of screaming at his players in the grand tradition of football coaches going back to Knute Rockne and beyond and measured silences as he endures another rabid fan excoriating him on talk radio or the "For Sale" signs that have sprung up in his front yard after a loss. But there are also moments when the speaks from the heart, whether it is to his quarterback, Mike Winchell (Lucas Black) in the squalid home the kid shares with his mentally disturbed mother (Connie Cooper), or the final halftime speech to his team. What distinguishes Gaines from every other man in the story is that he knows that in the end, football is just a game. He just has to be careful about who he shares this particular bit of wisdom with during the season.

Berg makes a brilliant decision to shoot this story as if it were a documentary. This works well in the extended game sequences, but suits the rest of the film as well, which is important because the most important moments in "Friday Night Lights" come at other times. Some of the best scenes take place away from the lighted field as Boobie and his uncle (Grover Coulson) deal with the disappearance of the dream during a visit to a doctor, when the garbage truck makes it rounds, and when the kid cleans out his locker. This leads to the third key factor, which is that we care about the kids that the story focuses on, including the silent "Preacher" (Lee Jackson) and the kid who is going to Harvard to become a lawyer, Brain Chavez (Jay Hernandez). We do not care about the fans or the families or the rest of the town, just the kids, and their performances match those of Thornton in providing a realism that we just do not get in most of the films in the sports genre.

I really liked this movie until the end, where the action and the emotions smack too much of Hollywood, not to mention David versus Goliath, than what had been established up to that point. Still, in the end Berg focuses exactly where he should, on the kids who have finished their high school football careers and the coach who has to immediately start planning for next year, when Odessa-Permian would again undertake the sacred quest for perfection."
Berg's Wise, Human Tale of Football and Small Towns...
Benjamin J Burgraff | Las Vegas | 10/09/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Ever since Peter Bogdanovich, in THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, provided a comic view of a small town's total involvement in the fortunes of a high school football team (remember the verbal abuse the locals heaped on Jeff Bridges and Timothy Bottoms when they lost the 'big game'?), Hollywood has attempted, with varying degrees of success, to make the 'definitive' small town/football film.

Director Peter Berg has finally done it, with FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS!

Based on H. G. Bissinger's best-selling tale of the 1988 season of the Odessa (Texas) 'Permian Panthers', the film unflinchingly paints a vivid canvas of a school and community obsessed with winning, as football provides the only release from poverty and desperation. While the concept is reminiscent of Tom Cruise's earlier ALL THE RIGHT MOVES, Berg doesn't glamorize the hero or tie things up, neatly, at the climax; in real life, while victories are savored, they are, at best, a temporary 'high'...while defeats can drive rational people into irrational frenzies. The Panthers' fortunes are such a crutch to Odessa's emotional well-being, that each game becomes a narcotic 'fix' for the entire community...a situation potentially dangerous for the players, and their coaches.

While Billy Bob Thornton has received the bulk of media attention, as the stern but fair head coach (with glowing reviews for BAD SANTA, and THE ALAMO, Thornton is having a career-defining year!), the film is really an ensemble work, with stand-out performances by Lucas Black, Derek Luke, Garrett Hedlund, and, surprisingly, singer Tim McGraw (as Hedlund's 'reliving past glories' father). The entire cast is exceptional, avoiding the easy pitfalls of simply playing stereotypes.

At times brutal and gritty, at times nearly surrealistic, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS refuses to fall into the clichés that marred VARSITY BLUES and THE PROGRAM, eschewing the artsy but smug self-righteousness of Oliver Stone's ANY GIVEN SUNDAY, as well.

This may well be the finest football film ever well as one of the most honest portrayals of life in a small town.

I will be surprised if it doesn't make most critics' 'Ten Best' lists, at year's end, and is a major Oscar contender.

Peter Berg has gotten the formula right!