High Definition Matters

High-Definition Matters #18 (11 BD reviews)

December 13, 2010 - 3:43 pm   |   By 

In this edition of High Definition Matters, I've got 11 reviews for you: Jonah Hex (from Warner Bros.); Toy Story 3 (from Disney); Arn: The Knight Templar, Splice, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, and Love Ranch (from E1 Entertainment); The Pillars of the Earth (from Sony); Life Is Beautiful and Elf: Ultimate Collector's Edition (from Alliance Canada); True Grit (from Paramount); and The Last of the Mohicans (from Fox).

 

 

I've also updated the Blu-ray release schedule which you can access elsewhere on the site.

 

 

What I've Looked At Recently

 

As a western fan, it's dispiriting to see one of the year's few western entries be Jonah Hex. I've reviewed other poor westerns in the past year but they at least could be excused as ill-conceived, more-enthusiasm-than-talent, shoestring productions.

 

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A well-budgeted release from a major studio like Warner Bros. has no such excuses. Even at a spare length of 82 minutes, Jonah Hex is an excruciating experience of pointless noise, poor editing, and lack of respect for the venerable film genre. Sure its comic book source material with the larger than life figures, exaggerated and surreal action, and supernatural aspects means that we're not expecting a conventional western story, but whatever happened to plot logic, even rudimentary character development, and attention to basic narrative structure? The film's images are unappealing - when you can see them that is, for the film is dimly lit for the most part. Perhaps the film makers recognized the turkey in waiting and hoped to hide as much of it as possible. For those who may somehow care, the story concerns a scarred drifter and bounty hunter (Hex - Josh Brolin) who speaks with dead people. He's asked by the U.S. government to stop a former adversary (John Malkovich) from spreading mayhem using a super weapon, in exchange for having several warrants on his head cancelled. Megan Fox is around as generally semi-dressed eye candy playing a love interest of Hex's. Brolin is the only one in the cast who escapes without complete ridicule - if he actually got a decent western role, he looks as though the western could be a good genre for him. We'll perhaps see in the forthcoming remake of True Grit. Warner's 2.40:1 Blu-ray efforts are mediocre. It all starts off badly with the unacceptable placement of an advertisement before the main menu - an anti-smoking one. Perhaps Warners was aware of the potential for the ugliness to follow to make viewers take up smoking? The film image for the most part looks no better than a middling DVD. The numerous dark and dimly-lit scenes are murky, with video noise and poor shadow detail readily apparent. Daytime scenes and the few decently-lit interiors fare a little better with some depth and acceptable facial detail. The 5.1 DTS-HD sound is mostly notable for its volume. Directionality is hit and miss. Dialogue is clear when you can hear it, but it's frequently compromised by sound effects. English SDH is provided. Supplements for those who may care are highlighted by a PIP commentary that combines production footage with interview snippets with Brolin, Fox, Malkovich, and director Jimmy Hayward. There are also some deleted scenes and a featurette illuminating the comic book background of the Jonah Hex character. Absolutely not recommended.

 

Just as we've all matured over the intervening eleven years since Toy Story 2, Woody, Buzz and the gang and their circumstances have changed too. In Pixar's Toy Story 3, we find them generally forgotten by a mature Andy who is now getting ready to go to college.

 

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Andy's mother demands he deal with a lot of the stuff in his room - either donate it somewhere or store it in the attic. Due to a misunderstanding, instead of going to the attic, the toys find themselves donated to a daycare centre where as newcomers, they become the playthings of less-than-gentle kids. The centre's head toy - Lots-o'-Huggin' Bear - is less than sympathetic, so it's up to Woody to save the rest of the toys and hopefully reunite them with Andy. Toy Story 3 is probably the best third picture in a series that has ever been made, although it falls slightly behind the excellence of Toy Story 2. The best thing about it is the emotional investment it not only invites from the audience but also nurtures without taking advantage. The film's denouement is remarkably touching and satisfying, for it rings true. It conveys feelings that we can all relate to and provides an ending that is realistic in terms of the combination of sadness for things past and hopeful future happiness it suggests. Disney's 1.78:1 Blu-ray transfer is superb in all respects. While not a 3D rendition of the film (it was presented that way in some theatres), the image imparts much of the depth and presence that a 3D presentation offers. Colour fidelity is excellent and there's no evidence of any untoward digital manipulation. The level of image detail is also impressive and all the familiar toys, many of them replications of real toys we knew ourselves as children or the parents of children, come startlingly to life. The 7.1 DTS-HD audio track is a marvel as well - deeply immersive with judicious use of LFE on occasion, all while maintaining well-centred, clear, crisp dialogue. The music score by Randy Newman is nicely conveyed even if it's pretty much forgettable. An English 5.1 DTS-HD and French and Spanish 5.1 DD tracks are also provided as are English, French, and Spanish sub-titles. There's a whole raft of supplementary content, some on the same disc as the feature (the Day & Night short that complemented Toy Story 3's theatrical release, for example), but most on a separate second BD disc. The highlights are a pair of commentaries, one featuring a number of production crew members and another with director Lee Unkrich and producer Darla Anderson that's part of a CineExplore feature that also provides lots of illustrative artwork and photos via PiP with other behind-the-scenes material. A DVD version of the film is provided on its own disc and a digital copy is also included. Highly recommended.

 

What a pleasure it is to see a story focused on the Crusades that doesn't overload us with the usual unrealistically edited and excessive gory hacking off of heads and arms as our hero pirouettes and slashes his way through the fray relatively unscathed. Such is the case with Arn: The Knight Templar.

 

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Based on a series of books by Swedish author Jan Guillou that dramatizes Swedish history through a fictionalized hero Arn Magnusson, the film provides a captivating story of love set against a rather broad canvas. Arn is a monk trained in the arts of warfare by a former Knight Templar. When he leaves the monastery, Arn soon proves his meddle by fighting to defend his family's honour. He meets a young woman named Cecilia with whom he falls in love, but the two are separated and excommunicated when Cecilia, already promised in marriage to a different family, becomes pregnant with Arn's child. Cecilia is consigned to a convent while Arn is sent off to fight in the Crusades. The train of events that brings the pair back together is the focus of the majority of the movie. Arn is portrayed by Joakim Natterqvist, a rising young Swedish actor and he delivers a very likable performance, capturing both the naivite of the young Arn as well as the battle-hardened weariness of the Crusades veteran. Sofia Helin is also appealing as the faithful Cecilia. The cast also includes such internationally-known names as Stellan Skarsgard, Vincent Perez, Simon Callow, and Bibi Andersson. Peter Flinth directs with considerable assurance and makes the most of what is a modest $30 million budget for this type of epic. He is able to convey the sense of large battlefield engagements by focusing on individuals or small groups that are part of a perceived larger whole. The benefit of this is much more realistic hand combat scenes and a greater connection for the viewer with the people involved. Two films were actually made for theatrical release - Arn: The Knight Templar and Arn: The Kingdom at Road's End. The version that has just been released on Blu-ray by E1 Entertainment and called Arn: The Knight Templar appears to be a well-edited version that combines the main elements of both. The 2.35:1 image is very appealing looking. The outdoor sequences are particularly impressive in terms of the detail and textures conveyed. Colour fidelity is very good. Image sharpness is sometimes softened by a colour palette that emphasizes oranges and yellows during the Crusades sequences. The audio is a 5.1 DTS-HD mix that delivers effectively both immersively in the action sequences and in the many quieter moments when ambient environmental effects are evident. The dialogue, which is a mix of English and Swedish with some Arabic and even Latin (all subtitled in English), is always clear. English SDH subtitling is available throughout. Two informative behind-the-scenes featurettes (over 40 minutes in total) and the trailer comprise the supplements. Recommended.

 

Almost an hour's worth of deleted scenes provided as a supplement on E1 Entertainment's Blu-ray release of Love Ranch reveals a movie that might have been - one that might have been coherent, entertaining, and even just a little bit juicy not to mention a somewhat more fitting use of Helen Mirren's talents.

 

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As it is we get 117 minutes of tedium and very little titillation - hard to believe of a film about the first legalized brothel in Nevada. The story focuses on the relationship between the brothel's owners, Grace (Helen Mirren) and Charlie Bontempo (Joe Pesci), and what happens to it when Grace is inexplicably drawn to heavyweight boxing lout Bruza (Sergio Peris-Menchata) who's under contract to Charlie. The film was apparently subjected to heavy editing in order to bring it in at an acceptable length and what was mainly cut seems to have been the scenes dealing more with the brothel and its workings that we would have liked to have seen, rather than the unlikely and uninteresting relationship between Grace and Bruza. Helen Mirren very seldom fails to deliver in her film roles, but in Love Ranch she seems bemused by the role she finds herself in. Joe Pesci's loud, foul-mouthed schtick wore thin long ago and he's done himself no favours coming out of semi-retirement to repeat it here. Did I mention that it's all rather unbelievably directed by Mirren's husband, Taylor Hackford (who by the way provides audio commentary that interesting enough but comes across as a bit of an apology too). The only time Hackford is able to generate any real interest, given what he had to take out of the film, is in a well-staged fight sequence in the latter part of the film. E1's 1.78:1 Blu-ray presentation is generally unexceptional. Exteriors do show some good depth and detail, but the interiors are somewhat soft and seldom do we get the presence of the better Blu-ray efforts. Interior colours are fairly bright, but they never excite due the soft nature of the image. The 5.1 DTS-HD audio has little chance to shine. The film is dialogue driven and surround opportunities are limited to mainly the fight sequence, plus the occasional foray through the brothel when we get some nice immersive experiences. English SDH is provided. Supplements include the afore-mentioned audio commentary and deleted scenes (available with or without commentary by Hackford) plus an introduction by Mirren and Hackford.

 

When Ken Follett published his massive novel "The Pillars of the Earth" some 21 years ago, my first reaction was one of misgiving - 1000-pages-plus about building a cathedral in 12th century England? A chapter or so in, however, and my concerns were quickly dispelled. Skillfully wrapped in historical background, murder, intrigue, suspense, and a host of interesting and fully-formed characters, the building of a cathedral in a small English market town took on a fascination that I had not believed possible.

 

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The story was recently transformed into a highly successful 8-part television miniseries - a joint German/Canadian co-production filmed in Hungary that drew upon the expertise of Scott Free Films to yield a polished production that would put many feature films to shame. (Fans of the book and series will also know that Follett has written an equally long and engrossing sequel called "World Without End". Hopefully that will also be filmed in the near future.) Just about everything is right about The Pillars of the Earth production. At 8 parts comprising some 7 hours of screen time, John Pielmeier's adaptation retains all the suspense of the book and most of the ingenious plot's serpentine twists resulting in a satisfying experience for the book's fans. A few changes from the book are apparent, but they are generally within the spirit of Follett's story and should not prove troubling. All the key characters are brought to life by an impressive cast, with Ian McShane (as the duplicitous Bishop Waleran Bigod), Rufus Sewell (as the master stone mason Tom Builder), and Matthew MacFadyen (as Prior Philip) standing out. Hayley Atwell (as the noblewoman turned fleece merchant Aliena) and Eddie Redmayne (as Jack the gifted stone carver with a mysterious background) also impress. The production design - set construction and decoration, costuming and props - is particularly striking and really conveys the flavour of the times. Visual effects are well-integrated for the most part. With all the battles and attacks that were part of the story, the filmization could have foundered had too much screen time been devoted to them. Fortunately that is not the case as such scenes are well-staged but generally not dwelt on excessively in comparison with the story's aspects of dramatic intrigue and deception. The series is presented on 3 Blu-ray discs by Sony and typically for that company, the digitally-shot 1.78:1 image is very sharp. Colours are bright, accurate, and at times very vivid. Black levels are impressively deep and whites clean. Image detail is particularly notable whether in daylight or darkness. The wide range of fabrics, armour, wooden village buildings, castle and cathedral stone, dusty or wet ground, and forest vegetation offer endless textures that are all captured with superb exactness. Equally impressive is the 5.1 DTS-HD sound particularly in respect to Trevor Morris's epic and driving score. Immersiveness is very apparent both in the action sequences and in quieter more atmospheric ones. Dialogue is clear and well-centred throughout. A French 5.1 DTS-HD track is included as are English and French subtitles. The supplements include a very good making-of documentary (about 28 minutes), and two shorter featurettes focusing on the series visual effects and the creation of the opening titles sequence. Highly recommended.

 

In 1997, the Italian film Life Is Beautiful (La Vitta È Bella) was a surprise contender in that year's best picture contests. Co-written, directed by, and starring Italian comedy star Robert Benigni, the film is an entrancing fable about a charming waiter named Guido (Benigni) whose imagination and irrepressible sense of humour enables him to win the young woman (Nicoletta Braschi - Benigni's wife in real life) of his dreams.

 

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But World War II interferes and Guido finds himself, his wife, and their young son shipped off to a concentration camp. Guido decides that he must shield his son from the horrors around them and concocts an elaborate imaginary game to divert his son's attention. The film, of course, treads on sensitive ground in respect to its treatment of the concentration camp experience, but its earnestness and focus on the resilience of the human spirit carry it through. Benigni's work throughout is an infectious joy to behold and it's apparent why he was such a popular and deserving winner of the year's Best Actor Oscar. The film also won Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Score (Nicola Piovani's entrancing theme still stirs one deeply). The Miramax release first came to DVD some 10 years ago and is now available on Blu-ray from Alliance Canada. The 1.85:1 image is generally pleasing although it lacks the striking depth of the better HD transfers. It's quite sharp and offers good colour fidelity. Brightness is a little inconsistent, but overall is satisfactory, particularly in the exterior sequences. Skin tones are realistic and image detail in respect to facial features and clothing textures is good. Some digital smoothing may have been applied but it's not intrusive and no significant edge effects are apparent. The 5.1 DTS-HD Italian audio is a workmanlike effort. Dialogue is clear and well-centred. Surround usage is limited to occasions when the soundtrack swells and the occasional ambient effect. English and French 5.1 Dolby Digital audio tracks are provided as are subtitles in both those languages. The supplements are the same as those on the original Miramax Collector's Series DVD - a good half-hour featurette on making the film and the subsequent acclaim for it and Benigni, the theatrical trailer, and several TV spots. Recommended.

 

Elf is one of Will Ferrell's better efforts and as a Christmas film, hits most of the right notes in delivering a sincere appreciation for the Christmas season. Buddy is a human being who through an accident of fate has been raised as an elf amongst all the elves at Santa's North Pole home and workshop.

 

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Eventually Buddy learns the truth about himself from his elf foster father (Bob Newhart) and that his real human father (James Caan) is a publishing executive in New York but also a man on Santa's "bad" list. Buddy sets out to reconnect with his father and it is during this section of Elf that the film really shines. The comedic situations that ensue, particularly in the toy section of a department store where Buddy gets work and in the offices and mail room of the publishing company, are wittily written and benefit from some lively physical humour. The pure innocence of Buddy is artfully portrayed by Ferrell throughout. The good feelings generated by all this are only slightly dampened by an ending that becomes rather forced though satisfying enough in the end. If you're looking for an enjoyable Christmas film that will definitely appeal to all ages, Elf certainly qualifies. The New Line film was previously released on Blu-ray in 2008. The 1.85:1 transfer that it offered then was pretty good and is the same one included in Alliance Canada's Elf: Ultimate Collector's Edition tin (available in the U.S. from Warner Home Video). It delivers fairly vibrant and accurate colour as well as good sharpness and some depth. Image detail is less impressive, particularly in darker scenes. Digital scrubbing seems to have been rather liberally applied at times. The Dolby TrueHD audio is mainly focused across the front with only occasional ambient effects utilizing the surrounds. Things are a little more immersive in the last reel or so once Santa and his sleigh gets involved. English SDH subtitles are included as well as a French 5.1 surround audio track. The supplements carry over all the significant extras from the previous DVD including a couple of audio commentaries (by Ferrell and by director Jon Favreau), some deleted/alternate scenes, and about an hour and a half of production and kid-oriented featurettes. The difference between the 2008 Blu-ray release and the Ultimate Collector's Edition is the latter's tin container and a collection of rather inconsequential items that have been added, including a 5x7" magnetic Elf picture frame, a 4x6" fridge magnet, 15 Elf Christmas gift tags, a 14" plush Elf holiday stocking, and a flat plastic Elf tree ornament. The latter is a poor replacement for the CD music sampler that can be found in Warners' U.S. version of the tin. If you already have the earlier Blu-ray version of Elf, there's no need to upgrade. If you don't, the packaging and extra swag of the Ultimate Collector's Edition don't justify the extra price of picking it up rather than going with the previous release.

 

The two main characters' names are Clive and Elsa, so yes we get it - Splice is essentially an homage to 1935's Bride of Frankenstein. Coming 75 years after that superior piece of filmmaking, Splice is however unlikely to provide the same inspiration to some filmmaker in 2085.

 

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That is not to say that Splice is bad - there is at least half of a thoughtful film on view that raises legitimate issues concerning genetic science and morality before it runs off the rails into conventional horror film territory. Clive (Adrien Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley) are scientists who are very successful at splicing DNA from different animals to create bizarre hybrids with unique proteins that might be harvested for use in creating disease-fighting drugs. NERD (Nucleic Exchange R&D), a large pharmaceutical company where they work, wants the pair to concentrate on the latter aspect of their work, but Elsa and a reluctant Clive go further by splicing animal and human DNA and keep their efforts secret. The result is Dren, a creature with an initial slug-like appearance that evolves quickly into a young human-like adult with a decidedly unhuman-like physical characteristic. When Clive and Elsa's involvement becomes more than pure scientific interest, the experiment spirals out of control. As I said, the first half of Splice actually generates a lot of interest by virtue of its ideas and some solid execution by director Vincenzo Natali (Cube, Brainstorm), but then we get a scene that just extinguishes that interest in a flash and telegraphs that the rest will be just the same old, same old. Adrien Brody seems invested in the movie throughout, but at no time was I ever convinced by Sarah Polley's characterization. Abigail Chu and Delphine Chaneac work hard at playing Dren at different stages of her development but they can't overcome the fact that the bald-headed Dren is never an appealing character. E1 Entertainment's 1.78:1 Blu-ray release in Canada offers a good-looking transfer that looks somewhat soft overall. Fine detail is certainly well reproduced though and the colour fidelity seems good. Modest grain is evident throughout. The 5.1 DTS-HD is the disc's best suit, offering crisp dialogue and a nice immersive ambience virtually throughout the film. Varied directionality of both dialogue and sound effects is also notable. A French 5.1 DTS-HD sound track and English and French subtitling are also provided. The main supplement is a 35-minute tour of production activities by the director without a lot of structure to it. Also included is an interview with Natali for the magazine "Fangoria", a trailer, and a teaser. The latter three extras are not included in the film's U.S. Blu-ray version from Warner Home Video whose release also includes a digital copy.

 

What a coup it would have been had Fox been able to include the 1936 film The Last of the Mohicans as an extra in its Blu-ray release of Michael Mann's 1992 version of The Last of the Mohicans.

 

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The studio may have looked into it and found the availability of the original Reliance Production distributed by United Artists too difficult to sort out. Whatever, the fact that the film was a strong influence on Mann's version would have made its inclusion most welcome. As it is we make do with an experience that's rather impressive in its own right. The film uses the 19th century James Fenimore Cooper novel as its inspiration but owes much to the 1936 film's screenplay for its plotline. Daniel Day Lewis delivers one of his immersive characterizations as the white man Hawkeye adopted by Chingachgook (Russell Means), one of the last of the Mohican tribe. Hawkeye falls in love with the daughter (Madeleine Stowe) of a British colonel who is besieged by the French in a fort during the French and Indian Wars in Colonial America. Vowing to protect her, Hawkeye finds himself in conflict with Magua (Wes Studi) a Huron looking for revenge for the murder of his family by the British. The film is an action-filled epic that is beautifully crafted by Mann and director of photography Dante Spinotti. They rely greatly on natural light to capture a real feel for the times and shot much of the footage in North Carolina in forested areas felt to be indicative of the New York locations and times being depicted. The cast is uniformly impressive; beyond the obviously fine work of Lewis (the shots of him dashing through the woods are exhilarating), both Russell Means and Wes Studi really excel in their dignified and intense roles respectively. Fox's 2.40:1 Blu-ray presentation delivers Michael Mann's definitive cut of the film - one that excises a couple of minutes from the previous expanded director's cut. The transfer is somewhat of a double-edged sword. Daytime and most interior shots, though a little on the dark side, look impressively detailed and sport vivid and accurate-looking colour. The already-dark night-time sequences unfortunately are now so dark as to swallow up any detail that may have existed and frequently just look murky. This may reflect the filmmakers' intent, but the strain on the eyes draws one out of the film experience which is unfortunate because most of the night-time sequences are compelling in terms of dramatic content. In general terms, the image sports a natural sheen of grain and digital manipulation is not at all evident. The 5.1 DTS-HD sound is impressive, particularly delivering the Trevor Jones and Randy Edelman score with a richness and pounding urgency from all directions that really enwraps one in the film experience. The action sequences demonstrate aggressive use of the surrounds and LFE as well as frequent directionality for specific sound effects. Dialogue is crisp and clear while being well-balanced with the sound effects and music score. English, Spanish, and French subtitles are provided. The supplements include a typically informative and insightful audio commentary by Michael Mann, an excellent new making-of documentary (43 minutes) on all aspects of the production, the theatrical trailer, and a teaser. Recommended.

 

We've now been subjected to three episodes in the Twilight Saga, with Eclipse being the most recent to be released. The opener, Twilight, was a serious antidote for the sleep-deprived, but its follow-up, New Moon, actually had somewhat of a pulse in the hands of director Chris Weitz.

 

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Eclipse, however, fails to build on the momentum generated by New Moon and so we're back to two hours of boring exposition and inexplicable romance punctuated by about 10 minutes of action. It's hard to see what our heroine Bella (Kristen Stewart) sees in either of her two suitors, both of them posturing, walking, non-human, beefcake posters - Edward the Vampire (Robert Pattinson) and Jacob the Werewolf (Taylor Lautner). But then, it's hard to see what either of them sees in Bella, surely one of the most self-interested, shallow, and just plain dull young women ever seen on screen. Anyway, what's Eclipse all about? Well something about an army of newborns (freshly-minted vampires) on its way from Seattle to Forks and apparently posing a threat to Bella which results in an uneasy alliance between Edward and Jacob and their respective clans intended to protect her. Woven into it all are scenes of Edward and Bella talking, Jacob and Bella talking, and Edward and Jacob grimacing at each other plus we get lots of sexual suggestion - are Bella and Edward going to do it, will Jacob and Bella ever get close enough to consider doing it, and there's even a ridiculous sequence where Bella inexplicably ends up freezing in a tent and guess whose warm body has to revive her (hint - it's not the cold-blooded Edward). Box office receipts say there's obviously an audience for this sort of over-ripe nonsense, but most serious and even not-do-serious film enthusiasts can safely avoid it. Whatever the deficiencies of the film, its presentation on Blu-ray courtesy of E1 in Canada (single disc BD only release) and Summit in the United States (BD/DVD combo disc) shows it in its best light. The 2.40:1 image is very sharp and clean with image detail being noticeably impressive. Black levels are suitably deep and there's virtually no evidence of edge effects. Colour fidelity looks very good with an overall palette that's generally muted. The disc sports a 5.1 DTS-HD lossless track that also works effectively. The dialogue is always clear and well balanced with sound effects. An immersive ambience is successfully created most of the time with full-bore surround and LFE cutting in impressively during the few action sequences. Howard Shore's music score is well reproduced although the score itself has little in it that sticks in the mind after the film is over. A French 5.1 Dolby Digital track and English (SDH) and French subtitles are provided. The supplements feature two audio commentaries of which the one by author Stephenie Meyer and film producer Wick Meyer is the more meaty and informative. There's also a very complete 6-part making-of documentary that runs almost an hour and a half. Also included are 8 deleted/extended scenes with optional commentary by director David Slade, a photo gallery, some music videos, and a feature that allows fans to jump to favourite scenes. Absolutely for Twilight followers only.

 

True Grit is of course the western for which John Wayne received his only Academy Award. He plays cantankerous one-eyed U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn who is employed by a headstrong young woman (Kim Darby) to find the man who murdered her father and then made off with the his money into the Indian territories.

 

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Assisting the two in the search is a young Texas Ranger (Glen Campbell). Arrayed against the trio are the likes of Robert Duvall, Jeremy Slate, Dennis Hopper, and Jeff Corey. Wayne's Oscar win received some criticism at the time from those who seemed unwilling to give the man his due as an actor, preferring to complain about his then-unpopular Vietnam politics rather than focus on what was a richly multi-faceted performance. The distillation of the experience in outdoor roles that Wayne had gained over the previous four decades was such that he made the Cogburn characterization look almost too easy, belying the real effort that went into such making such a portrayal believable. It's a cross that those with an abundance of talent in any artistic field often have to bear. Aside from Wayne's performance, though, the film also benefits from a fine combination of assets. Henry Hathaway, well recognized as an effective director of classic action films, maintains a veteran's sure hands on the film - allowing it to breath comfortably in the first half and then ratcheting up the action in the second. The proceedings are beautifully photographed by Lucien Ballard, taking fine advantage of the Colorado locations, while Elmer Bernstein contributes an expansive musical score. The film is also based on the fine novel of the same title by Charles Portis, and although some liberties have been taken with it, the novel's strong story line is generally adhered to. Paramount's 1.85:1 Blu-ray presentation of True Grit is very appealing as one might have anticipated from the fine quality of the previous DVD version. The image is crisp and clean with interiors and the frequent outdoor scenes equally impressive. Colour fidelity is very good with the general vibrancy of the film's colour palette well replicated. Skin tones are accurate and facial features are nicely detailed. There is virtually no evidence of untoward digital manipulation, only one or two slight suggestions of edge effects. A fine sheen of grain delivers a film-like feel throughout. The 5.1 DTS-HD lossless audio track does a workmanlike job of delivering a sound-field that is pretty much confined to the fronts. Dialogue is clear with some directionality evident. English, French, and Spanish mono tracks and subtitles are provided. The supplements are highlighted by a superior audio commentary by western experts Jeb Rosebrook, Bob Boze Bell, and J. Stuart Rosebrook. It's packed with information and opinion, and provides continuous entertainment throughout. There are four featurettes related to the making of the film including a very nice one on the Aspen Colorado area in which it was shot. The theatrical trailer (in HD) rounds out the disc. This is the same suite of extras that graced the previous DVD release. Highly recommended.

 

Barrie Maxwell

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