Walk the Line: Collector's Edition (2005)

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Released 6-Jun-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Trailer-Ice Age 2
Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-James Mangold (Co-Writer/Director)
Deleted Scenes-With Optional Director's Commentary
Theatrical Trailer
Additional Footage-Johnny Cash Jukebox: Extended Musical Sequences
Featurette-Folsom: Cash And The Comeback
Featurette-Ring Of Fire: The Passion Of Johnny And June
Featurette-Becoming Cash/Becoming Carter
Featurette-Making Of-Celebrating The Man In Black
Featurette-Cash And His Faith
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2005
Running Time 130:15 (Case: 136)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By James Mangold
Studio
Distributor
Fox 2000
Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Joaquin Phoenix
Reese Witherspoon
Ginnifer Goodwin
Robert Patrick
Dallas Roberts
Dan John Miller
Larry Bagby
Shelby Lynne
Tyler Hilton
Waylon Payne
Shooter Jennings
Sandra Ellis Lafferty
Dan Beene
Case ?
RPI $44.95 Music T-Bone Burnett
A.P. Carter


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

"How well I have learned that there is no fence to sit on between heaven and hell.
There is a deep, wide gulf, a chasm,
and in that chasm is no place for any man. - Johnny Cash"

    The biopic as a cinematic form is as old as Hollywood itself. We have an insatiable desire for true stories and also a love of celebrity which makes those real life stories more attractive. For any film maker, however, it is a double-edged sword. Whilst the ring of truth is an undeniable bonus, the reality is that human lives don't often make good fodder for two hours in a darkened cinema. The challenge is inevitably how to sum up a person using events from their life and yet make it a satisfying drama.

    In dramatising the life of Johnny Cash in Walk the Line director James Mangold faced just such a dilemma. Johnny was born in 1932 and died in 2003. For 71 tumultuous years he travelled in and out of the ring of fire. His life had numerous dramatic arcs.

    There was the young Johnny (born J.R. Cash) struggling against poverty and a lack of confidence to make his first record. Then there was the mid-period where Johnny battled to keep a career going under the weight of drug addiction. Finally, there was the elder statesman who found a new cool amongst the younger set with his Grammy winning albums consisting of covers of songs by Depeche Mode, U2 and even Nine Inch Nails!

    Wisely, Mangold has decided to tell the mid-period story of Johnny on the road to success and battling the demons that beset him along the way. Although his youth is outlined at the beginning of the picture it is there for three reasons only: to emphasize his love of gospel, to explain a defining tragedy in his formative years and to show the antagonism between Johnny and his father which was to exist for much of his life. This is a wise move because it allows the narrative to span the most tumultuous years of Johnny's life and provide a perfect platform for his theme of the redemption of a man through love.

    The film is largely a flashback whilst Johnny waits in the wings to begin his concert at Folsom Prison in 1968. By that time Johnny was washed up. His drug problem had seen him arrested and mood swings alienated his friends and colleagues. He couldn't sell records. Cash fans will already know the outcome of the concert but for the rest you will have to watch the movie and see.

    Mangold resists the temptation to make his picture about the role of Cash in the birth of rock'n'roll. Cash started his career at Sun Records, the home of Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis amongst others. Instead, this is a love story pure and simple between Cash and June Carter who was his idol and muse at the same time. The 13 years between Johnny starting his music career and performing at Folsom Prison are a purgatory of love denied.

    Mangold is a fine director using a simple but effective script. He is aided in his success by two outstanding performances from Joaquin Phoenix as Cash and Reece Witherspoon as June Carter. Witherspoon picked up an Oscar for her performance but Joaquin had the bad luck to come up against Phillip Seymour-Hoffman in Capote . In any other year Phoenix would have won. Much has been made of the fact that Phoenix and Witherspoon sang all the songs which allowed them to put their heart and soul into the performance. No one could ever match the endless Cash bass but Phoenix comes close enough. As for Witherspoon - well, it would be unkind to say that she sings even better than the real June Carter who had a more pronounced country twang. The several live music scenes in the movie have a real power and thrill.

    Despite only a passing physical resemblance to Cash (he is a full 6 inches shorter!) Phoenix plays Johnny as his friends remember him, all intensity and heart. He gives nuance to every scene. For example the audition scene before Sam Phillips of Sun Records becomes a complete dramatic moment in itself due to the skilful interplay between Phoenix and Dallas Roberts playing Phillips. It is a key scene as it shows how Johnny, popular though he was, differed from his contemporaries in the subject matter and lyrical depth of his songs. From the moment he sings the famous line from Folsom Prison Blues: "I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die" we know that for all his teeny-bopper appeal this is a man on the edge. Songs like "Cocaine Blues" and "Walk the Line" are the dark side of country rock, forever entrenching Johnny's reputation as a hard man despite the fact that he had never actually served prison time.

    The movie does have its flaws. Despite the fact that he occupies almost every frame Phoenix as Cash remains inscrutable and trying to find out what drives him doesn't pay dividends. Even though Mangold was determined not to let the film become a series of historic signposts there are times when we feel as though the script has been a little too obvious. Take, for example, where Carter drives off after a fight with Johnny. Stopping to compose herself Carter says "It burns, burns" segueing into the scene where she writes the title song. It is also a prim picture which is surprising given the backdrop of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. This may have been a result of the close involvement of Cash and Carter and the desire to keep both happy by minimising the grit and grime.

    All in all Walk the Line is a movie experience that can be savoured by Cash fans, lovers of early rock 'n' roll and country music as well as anyone with a fine eye for quality dramatic performances.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Walk the Line was shot at an original aspect ratio of 2.40:1. It comes to DVD in this ratio and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer quality is near flawless. The print is free of grain and there are no artefacts to be seen.

    Colours are uniformly good. This is a movie with an expansive colour palette. The "live" performance scenes really capture the feeling of being on stage. Skin tones are perfect and there is no aliasing or low level noise.

    There are subtitles for the hearing impaired and these give a good reflection of the spoken words.

    I cannot see how Walk The Line could have been brought to DVD looking any better.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Walk The Line features numerous songs performed in concert. It is therefore pleasing to report that the sound for the movie is transferred so well to DVD.

    There are two soundtracks: English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s) and English DTS 5.1 (768Kb/s). Both are adequate, however, as expected the DTS soundtrack is the better. From the opening of the movie with the stamping prisoners and the bass guitar at Folsom Prison driving the subwoofer so hard that the room shook this was an impressive sonic experience. Each of the songs in the movie was rendered clearly and exquisitely. Dialogue was also clear and audible although Joaquin gives Johnny a mumble which is as hard to decipher at times on DVD as it was in the cinema.

    A quality transfer of a quality soundtrack.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    This is a Collectors Edition of Walk The Line and comes with a truckload of features. Before dealing individually with the Special Features which, apart from the director's commentary, primarily come on a separate DVD I have to issue a major caveat.

    Johnny Cash was a modern icon. IMDB lists over 60 television shows and documentaries featuring interviews or performances by him. This included his own television show which ran for two seasons from 1969.

    It therefore comes as a shock to say that the Special Features display almost no images of Johnny himself. Instead they are filled to the brim with excerpts from the movie to illustrate points about Johnny's life. Take, for example, the feature on the life of Johnny and June. Throughout we get a series of statements from friends and family talking about their enduring love but the actual couple are nowhere to be seen . Instead we get pictures, sometimes faded to look old, of Joaquin Phoenix and Reece Witherspoon.

    The real question then is what you are looking for in the special features. If you wish to learn more about the life of Johnny Cash then his autobiography is a good place to go. If you are interested in the representation of the life of Johnny Cash then these features will suffice and contain lots of insights and comments by the actors, director and the production crew.

    For my money , the features leave a hollow feeling as though the man himself wasn't as important as the movie. This Edition of the movie is the Collector's Edition. There is also a Black Edition due to be released which contains an extra CD of the soundtrack to the film. Again, this is Johnny Cash as performed by actors. As someone who largely remembers Cash from scratchy records in the early 70s it would have been nice to find out about the real man in black and not his imitators.

Main Menu Audio & Animation

    The main menu is a montage of pictures of Johnny accompanied by a guitar theme. In a nice touch the menu is consumed by a ring of fire after a selection is made.

Audio Commentary

    The director's commentary is worthy of a listen. I am a harsh judge of these commentaries as they are often done on the fly and offer little insight into the thoughts behind the film. Mangold is an exception. He enriches the film experience with a wealth of information about the cast, the film and Johnny Cash. Part of the value of Mangold as a commentator is that he was also a co-writer which gives him a complete knowledge of the creative process from conception to premiere.

    Although Carter died in 2003 and Cash followed soon after, Mangold is able to share the co-operation both gave to the development of the script. He also has a wealth of tidbits to share. For example, Cash told him that his favourite film was Frankenstein because despite being made up of bad parts he tried to be good which was a handy metaphor for Cash himself.

Deleted Scenes

    There are several deleted scenes which are accompanied by a commentary from Mangold. Rather than just dropping the viewer in the middle of the scene we get a glimpse of the moments before and after the deleted segment. This is a nice touch as it allows us to get an idea of how the scene fit into the original narrative. Most of the scenes are dispensable however there are two which are interesting. One is the true moment when Johnny takes his first record down to a DJ and panics when he breaks it, not realising until later that there are thousands of copies. Another scene gives more depth to the relationship of Johnny and his first wife on the evening when his first single gets massive radio rotation. The deletions were mainly due to time and balance and may turn up in a director's cut sometime.

Theatrical Trailer

    The original trailer for the film is worth viewing - once.

Featurette Folsom: Cash And The Comeback

    This featurette gives some of the background to the Folsom Prison concert which loomed so large in Johnny's life and also cemented his Man in Black reputation.

Featurette - Becoming Cash/Becoming Carter

    This featurette looks at the processes Joaquin and Reece followed to interpret these characters.

Featurette - The Passion Of Johnny And June

    This provides an outline of the relationship between Johnny and June. It is, like the other featurettes, thin on detail and supplemented with lots of loving shots of Joaquin and Reece.

Featurette-Making Of - Celebrating The Man In Black

    This is the longest of the extra features clocking in at about 21 minutes. It is also the best of the featurettes as it goes through the process behind the making of the film and includes shots of the actual filming. Curiously, it was obviously produced for television and includes comments about what we will see next "after the break"!

Featurette - Cash and his Faith

    This is a series of interviews with some of Cash's friends including clergymen who explain his lifelong connection to the church, a factor which is referred to but not concentrated on in the movie. It also includes an interview with his sister who relates that as he lay on his deathbed Johnny told her that he could " Hardly wait to go to Heaven".

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The versions are identical. For convenience choose the Region 4.

Summary

    Walk The Line is a loving slice of musical drama. If the whole is not as good as its parts one can forgive director Mangold because the parts are so good. The DVD shines with stunning performances from the leads and some musical numbers which are as thrilling now as they were all those years ago. A quality DVD transfer is supplemented greatly or slightly, depending upon your point of view, by a wealth of extras. A quality release.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Thursday, June 08, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDOnkyo DV-SP300, using Component output
DisplayNEC PlasmaSync 42" MP4 1024 x 768. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR600 with DD-EX and DTS-ES
SpeakersJBL Simply Cinema SCS178 5.1

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
3 Disc Black Limited Edition - munster (read my bio)