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DVD Review:
ESPN's Ultimate X: The Movie
By Brian Jacks

02.07.03


The X-Games started out modestly enough with such high-profile sports as sliding down a snow-covered hill on a shovel. Today, the venue for alternative athletics is a big-budget, commercially produced extravaganza broadcast live on ESPN. While the games may have become more commercialized and glitzy over the years, they still manage to showcase the best and brightest in such "extreme" sports as skateboarding, BMX, moto X and street luge competitions.

While television and the videogame industry have taken a liking to the X-Games event and its participants, it took Touchstone to finally bring it to the big screen…and we definitely mean big screen. In 2002, Ultimate X: The Movie was presented at IMAX theaters nationwide, thrilling audiences across these grand states. Now the company has released the film on DVD with a hefty package of extras.


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Ultimate X: The Movie is only 39 minutes long, so one shouldn't expect a documentary-style presentation. What we have is a fast and furious collection of clips and interviews from the Seventh Annual X-Games held in Philadelphia, highlighted by the spectacular visual and audio moments for which IMAX films are known. Some of the Games' highest-profile athletes are featured and interviewed, including Tony Hawk, Mat Hoffman, Bob Burnquist, Dave Mirra, and Travis Pastrana. As a sight and sound journey for the senses, Ultimate X intersperses interviews with dozens of dazzling and downright mesmerizing clips from the various competitions, most displayed at their pinnacle in a familiar slow-motion style, but with absolutely beautiful cinematography. The street luge segments in particular are incredible to behold, as a camera is placed on the board itself, giving audiences a first-hand view of the action.

Rock tunes from such bands as Incubus and Ozzy Osborne are a staple throughout the film, which fits in perfectly as athletes like BMX champion Mat Hoffman fly through the air. The X-Games are the Olympics on smack, and this movie does a pretty good job of proving it.

Ultimate X: The Movie is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 fullscreen. While grain is occasionally evident, the film as a whole keeps in tune with its beautiful cinematography by presenting a THX-certified transfer. Camera filters are used throughout the film, which leads to the odd color effect, but considering the rock video-style presentation, it fits in perfectly.

Considering this was an originally an IMAX production, something a bit heavier than the norm on the audio front is to be expected. Luckily, this disc doesn't disappoint, and features both DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Viewers are treated to a powerful and bass-heavy audio treatment as music from rap to rock blares forcefully through the speakers, highlighting whatever spectacular stunt is appearing onscreen. In some instances, such as the aforementioned street luge segment, the audio is minimal, but stylized, as the "whooshing" of the wind appears from the front channels and sweeps to the rear. All in all, very impressive mixing.

Given that the film was only 39 minutes long, Touchstone has thankfully packed on a ton of extras. Unfortunately, navigating to all those supplements is a bit of a pain, as the producers of the disc chose to go with an icon-based navigation. I'm not quite sure why they went this route; perhaps to seem avant-garde. But unless you memorize the icon key on the main menu, you'll be spending a bit of time clicking on icons simply to figure out what they are. It's completely unnecessary, and I hope this isn't a new fad.

That said, there's a lot here to behold. The main supplement menu begins with four branching sections: One each for skateboarding, motocross, BMX, and luge, each with its own selections that show clips and highlights from a variety of athletes. The Skateboarding section features Tony Hawk, Bob Burnquist, and Bucky Lasek. The Motocross section features Travis Pastrana, Brian Deegan, and Carey Hart. BMX looks at Cory Nastazio, T.J. Lavin, Ryan Nyquist, Stephen Murray, and Dave Mirra, with an additional look at the 2001 Downhill Final Run, a BMX Dirt Stunt, and a brief vignette entitled "BMX Legends," which principally features people from the sport talking about Mat Hoffman. Lastly, Street Luge looks at David Rogers, the "Super Mass Medal Moment," and features a vignette that is essentially a brief overview of street luge.

The second page of the supplements package features more general extras. X-Gallery Mega Mix features music videos from an assortment of bands, none of which I've ever heard of. The groups in question are Fallen From Earth, Sloth, The Full Nine, 3rd Strike, and Schatzi. Unfortunately, the more mainstream bands featured in the film aren't here, almost certainly due to financial constraints. In the featurette "Old School," we are introduced to Ray Flores, a skateboard shop owner who visually chronicled the history of the sport from the '60s onward as a founding member of the famous Z-Boys. Flores was also featured in the recent acclaimed documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys, and is always an interesting guy to listen to.

"Hits and Misses" is exactly what it sounds like, and features a handful of athletes discussing their various injuries. We're also treated to some clips illustrating just how painful these "X-treme" sports can be. "Broken Bones" is another featurette which follows in the footsteps of "Hits and Misses" by again focusing on personal injury. "Girls of the Games" is a brief look at the admittedly limited number of females participating in the games, with a focus on a skateboarder and watersurfer.

Rounding out the extras are trailers for Reign of Fire and Bad Company.


The Movie: B+. Short but sweet, an exhilarating look at some of the most spectacular sports around.

The Look: B+. Beautiful cinematography makes for an outstanding viewing experience.

The Sound: A. Full use of all channels, plus a rocking soundtrack, puts you right into the Games.

The Extras: B+. Navigational qualms aside, there are enough supplements here to keep anyone happy.

Overall: B+. Ultimate X: The Movie is a remarkable journey through one of the most remarkable events in the world, and this DVD collects it all.

 

 
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