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Understated and leisurely paced, APPALOOSA ($36) is a very old school and thoroughly enjoyable western from director, producer, writer, star Ed Harris. Having his finger in virtually every pie, it’s obvious that APPALOOSA is a project that is near and dear to Harris’ heart, and the love for the project and the western genre shows up on the screen. This movie is reminiscent of many classic westerns, and Harris’ directorial approach is to treat the material with absolute reverence. Based upon the novel by Robert B. Parker, APPALOOSA tells the story of a pair of lawmen for hire, who are given free reign by the Appaloosa town fathers to restore law and order to a community being terrorized by a ruthless rancher and his lawless hired hands.

In APPALOOSA, Harris portrays newly appointed Marshall Virgil Cole, while Viggo Mortensen is his longtime friend and deputy Everett Hitch. Jeremy Irons is Randall Bragg, the rancher who has been using his hired goons; to take anything and everything they want from Appaloosa, which had been very easy since he eliminated the previous lawmen protecting the southwestern town. Renée Zellweger is Allison French, a new arrival in Appaloosa, who begins a relationship with the Marshall. APPALOOSA plays out like a series of vignettes, with the story moving down some rather expected paths; however the character driven tale does keep one engrossed throughout the film’s running time. The excellent cast of APPALOOSA also features Timothy Spall, James Gammon, Tom Bower and Lance Henriksen.

New Line Home Entertainment has made APPALOOSA available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. The 1080p presentation is highly appealing and doesn’t give one much to complain about, even if this disc isn’t necessarily hi-def demo material. APPALOOSA delivers terrific image sharpness and detail in close-ups; however, medium and long shots come across a bit softer. In many places, there is plenty of fine detail, plus a nice level of dimensionality to the picture. Colors appear nicely saturated and fairly warm, while the flesh tones are true to life. Blacks are pure, as are the whites, plus the contrast is very smooth. Additionally, shadow detail is very good. The elements from which APPALOOSA have been transferred are free from defects. A fine film grain is usually present and provides a film-like quality for the presentation.

APPALOOSA is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. Guns aren’t continually ablaze in APPALOOSA, so much of the film plays out with what amounts to a fairly standard dialogue driven mix. And as such, the majority of the sound is localized to the forward soundstage. There are some nice channel separations across the front, while the rears add a bit of atmosphere and fill. Fidelity is strong; the music is full bodied and the sound effects totally convincing. The bottom end of the track has weight and enhances the sound of gunfire and trains. Voices have a warm, natural quality, plus the film’s dialogue is always completely understandable. An English Dolby Digital 5.1 channel track has also been provided, as have English and Spanish subtitles.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few extras. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with director Ed Harris and screenwriter/producer Robert Knott. Featurettes include: Bringing The Characters Of Appaloosa To Life (seven minutes), Historic Accuracy Of Appaloosa (ten minutes), The Town Of Appaloosa (five minutes) and Dean Semler’s Return To The Western (five minutes). Deleted Scenes close out the standard extras. A Digital Copy of the film is also provided.

APPALOOSA is a superior old school western. The Blu-ray presentation is very solid on both the video and audio fronts. Recommended.



Appaloosa [Blu-ray] (2008)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2009 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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