Appaloosa (2008)

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Released 14-Jul-2009

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Western Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary
Featurette-Making Of-4
Deleted Scenes-6
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2008
Running Time 110:39
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Ed Harris
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Ed Harris
Viggo Mortensen
Jeremy Irons
Renee Zellweger
Timothy V. Murphy
Timothy Spall
Luce Rains
James Tarwater
Boyd Kestner
Gabriel Marantz
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Jeff Beal


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
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 Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

     Westerns have been pretty few and far between in recent years and even then most have been revisionist style westerns like Unforgiven, where there are no goodies and baddies and everyone gets killed in the end. Well, here we have what has been described as a more 'classic' western with clear delineation between good and bad and less of the angst and realistic violence of other recent efforts. In fact, although that is probably true of this film it is also very much more of a character driven drama set in the old west than a full blown horse opera.

    The story is set in New Mexico 1882 and focuses on the relationship between Virgil Cole (Ed Harris, who also does duty as Director, Producer and co-writer) and Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen), two travelling lawmen who take jobs cleaning up towns which need some enhanced law & order. They have been riding together for many years and are very good with their guns but try to avoid using them. They have been hired by the town of Appaloosa to take over after the previous Town Marshal was murdered in cold blood by local cattleman, Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons). The Marshal tried to arrest two of Bragg's men for murder but he didn't want that to happen so murdered the Marshal and his two deputies. Virgil & Everett ride into town and immediately set up their own version of law. Bragg and his men, of course, defy the authority of the new Marshal and his deputy. Into this mix comes a new woman in town from the east, Alison French (Renee Zellweger), a young widow who plays piano but surprisingly (at least to Virgil) is not a whore. Both Virgil and Everett are attracted to her charms. The tension really starts to ratchet up when a young hand from Bragg's ranch comes forward to testify that he saw Bragg commit the murders.

    There are a lot of things to like about this film including the three male leads who all do good quality work and some good dialogue which is quite witty and dryly humourous. I understand from the extras that much of the dialogue comes directly from the novel upon which the film is based. There is a great running joke about Virgil and Everett using big words around dumb outlaws. I even learnt a new word myself, 'thrasonical' which indicates someone is being boastful.

    Unfortunately, not all elements of the film work as well including Renee Zellweger, who seems out of place here and that the film generally lacks the tension which I have come to expect in the best westerns. The feel is generally speaking lighter than my favourite westerns which have more of a sense of impending doom than this one. There are certainly some good scenes but more often than not you get the threat of action rather than actual action. Although this can be used to raise the tension level here it tends more to slow the pace of the story. Another issue that I found a little distracting was some focus issues in early scenes (which Ed Harris admits during the commentary). The score, by Jeff Beal, was also somewhat disappointing to me despite a good opening theme. In some scenes I found it distracting and rather than enhancing the film drained tension. As I read this paragraph back, it seems like  I have a lot of criticisms and although that is true, I also enjoyed watching this film and would recommend it to people who like the cast and/or westerns.

    If you go into this expecting a character driven drama in a western setting rather than a full on action based western, there is much to enjoy.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video quality is good, however, is not as good as many modern films, although this may be related somewhat to the technical issues I mentioned earlier in the review. Interestingly, this was Dean Semler's first project in a few years shot on film rather than using the new Genesis HD Cameras. This seemed to be Ed Harris' choice.

    The feature is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, 16x9 enhanced which is the original aspect ratio.

    The picture was quite variable in terms of sharpness and clarity with some early scenes seeming to be out of focus especially the first meeting of Virgil and Alison. As I mentioned above Ed Harris expresses his disappointment about this during the commentary. Shadow detail is pretty good. There is also some light grain in some backgrounds plus some minor MPEG artefacts such as at 37:08 & 67:28.

    The colour was very well rendered, however, the film's colour scheme highlights browns and blacks rather than brighter coours..

    There were no obvious artefacts other than those mentioned..

    There are subtitles in English for the Hearing Impaired plus for the commentary. They are clear, easy to read and close to the spoken word.

    There is no noticeable layer change during playback.

   
    

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

Audio

    The audio quality is very good.

    This DVD contains two audio options, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack encoded at 448 Kb/s and an English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack encoded at 224 Kb/s plus the audio commentary. This is not a film which will really test your home theatre system, however, the sound does all that is required for the style of film.

    Dialogue was mostly easy to understand and clear, however, some scenes required the subtitles to help catch every word.

    As I mentioned above, this is not my favourite score of recent times, however, it does sound pretty good on this audio transfer.

    The surround speakers were used for some atmosphere and during storms and gunfights.

    The subwoofer was used for the storm and some rumbles and bass in the music.

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

Extras

   The extras are not 16x9 enhanced which is a pain.

Menu

    The menu features music from the film and is quite functional.

Audio Commentary - Ed Harris & Screenwriter/Producer Robert Knott

    This is quite an interesting commentary despite the dryness of the speaking voices. Many interesting topics are covered and there is some good honesty. There is probably a little too much detail in places such as which horses are related but there are also some interesting comments about technical challenges, casting, lighting and the aforementioned focus issues.

Bringing the Characters of Appaloosa to Life (7:13)

    Oh my god, this is tedious. After some short interview pieces with Ed & Viggo which are Ok this dissolves into boring platitudes coupled with bad sound in some sections.

Historic Accuracy of Appaloosa (9:56)

    This is a bit better than the previous featurette and covers costumes, weapons, saddles and the train used and why they are accurate.

Town of Appaloosa (4:55)

    Short featurette about the sets and locations. Nothing too exciting.

Dean Semler's Return to the Western (5:04)

    Interview with Dean Semler about his approach to shooting this film and the choice to use film and widescreen. More interesting than the other featurettes.

Deleted Scenes (11:28)

    With optional commentary by Ed Harris & Robert Knott these scenes are fascinating and explain bits of the plot which confused me a little during the film such as why Bragg returns and his motives for the murder in the first place. There is mention of a potential longer cut including these scenes which may improve the film. Definitely worth taking a look at.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 1 release of this film is virtually identical to this one except for the Stereo option on the Region 4 and some extra subtitle options on the Region 1. Draw.

Summary

    A good but not great western from Writer/Director/Producer/Star Ed Harris.

    The video quality is good but affected by some technical issues with filming.

    The audio quality is very good.

    A mixed bag of extras, some are good, others tedious.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-NS708H upscaling to 1080p, using HDMI output
DisplayLG Scarlet 42LG61YD 106cm Full HD LCD. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersMonitor Audio Bronze 2 (Front), Bronze Centre & Bronze FX (Rears) + Sony SAW2500M Subwoofer

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