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The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )

Film:


Extras:


Audio/Video total rating:

( Max score: 100 )

77






Studio and Year: Warner/New Line - 2008
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 115 Minutes
Genre: Western/Drama

Disc Format: BD-25
Encoding: VC-1
Video Aspect: 2.40:1
Resolution: 1080p/24


Audio Format(s): English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH & Spanish
Starring: Ed Harris, Viggio Mortensen, Renee ZellWeger, Jeremy Irons, Lance Henriksen, Timothy Spall
Directed by: Ed Harris
Written by: Robert Knott & Ed Harris based on the novel by Robert B. Parker
Region Code: A

Blu-ray Disc release Date: January 13, 2009







"Feelings get you killed"



Film Synopsis:


Paired as rivals in A History of Violence, Ed Harris (who also directs, produces and co-scripts) and Viggo Mortensen stand together as friends and for-hire peacekeepers Cole and Hitch in a character-driven, bullet-hard Western based on Robert B. Parkers novel. As the woman who arrives in town with only a dollar and a keen sense of survival, Renée Zellweger adds feelings things that can get you killed to a quest to bring murderer Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons) to justice. Blood will spill in the town called Appaloosa.




My Take:


I love westerns and seeing the cast for Appaloosa I looked forward to the opportunity to review it. Ed Harris has long been a favorite of mine and I find Viggio Mortensen to be a dedicated, intense and overall fine actor. The film is based upon the novel by Robert B. Parker and follows two men who have carved out a career and reputation as peacekeepers for hire for towns that don’t have dedicated law enforcement. Virgil Cole (Harris) and Everett Hitch are summoned to Appaloosa after their Marshall Jack Bell is killed by Randall Bragg (Irons), a local rancher. Bragg and his men feel that they are above the law and regularly prey upon the people of Appaloosa. Virgil is a no nonsense authoritarian who wastes little time is establishing a new mindset for conduct in Appaloosa. Everett speaks softly but carries a big stick (so to speak) and is dedicated to his friend Virgil and his profession. Bragg and his men immediately put Virgil and Everett to the test but the lawmen have no troubling standing their ground as this is something that they have done many times in the past. Virgil is determined to bring Bragg to justice for the murder of Marshall Bell but needs to be able to link him to it since the Marshall’s body was never found. One day the train arrives in town and on the train comes something that neither men were prepared for. Her name is Allie French and she is a well dressed, well spoken widow that Virgil is immediately smitten with. The two of them quickly establish a relationship and Virgil begins to think seriously about settling down with her. Allie is strong willed and is desirous of a man who can take care of her and provide her with a stable and secure life. The problem is that her perception of who that is seems to be ambiguous which leads to turmoil that clouds the focus of the men around her. How that impacts Virgil and Everett’s efforts to maintain peace in Appaloosa and their quest for Justice in the Marshall Bell killing is the crux of this interesting and entertaining film.

This was directed and co-written by star Ed Harris. It features well drawn characters that are not overly elaborate which is one of the things that I found interesting. Back in those days I imagine that people’s needs were pretty basic. Survival was at the top of the list and anything else was icing on the cake. I found Allie to have few redeeming qualities but to men of that era a woman who spoke well, chewed with their mouth closed, wasn’t a prostitute, and could play the piano was worth taking risks for. For Allie she needed to know that she had a place to stay, food to eat, clothes to wear and a “good” man who could provide those things, regardless. This is definitely a genre film that doesn’t interweave elements that water down its premise. I loved the dialogue between Everett and Virgil. Mortensen and Harris have excellent chemistry and their interaction onscreen worked which made their characters feel more genuine. Renee Zellweger is a fine actress who had no trouble in playing this part. She must have done something right because I really didn’t care for Allie. I did have a little trouble swallowing Jeremy Irons as a cowboy but he has had plenty of experience playing the bad guy so this part probably came natural to him. I felt that the film played just a bit too long and could easily have been cut by 15 minutes or so. The ending was good in that it wasn’t exactly predictable but it felt a little abrupt. Those minor quibbles aside I found this to be a good film that genre fans should appreciate.





Parental Guide:


The rating is for some violence, language and brief nudity.





AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**


(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)


Audio: 74


  • Dynamics:

  • Low frequency extension:

  • Surround Sound presentation:

  • Clarity/Detail:

  • Dialogue Reproduction:





Video: 80


(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Resolution/Clarity:

  • Black level/Shadow detail:

  • Color reproduction:

  • Fleshtones:

  • Compression:

Appaloosa comes to Blu-ray Disc from New Line/Warner featuring 1080p VC-1 encoded video that has an average bitrate of 17 mbps and lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 channel audio that has an average bitrate of 1.4 mbps.

The VC-1 encode had a bitrate that fluctuated. It bottomed out around 11 mbps and went as high as 31 mbps (here and there) but ultimately averaged around 17 mbps or so. I didn’t see any noise or blocking artifacts which would be overt signs of bit starvation. Picture quality featured average high definition resolution although there were times where images took on more of a definitive and appreciably textured look. The video had a smoother finish which left the finest visual detail unresolved. The long range visuals of the mountains, prairies and western backdrops didn’t have distinctive lines, clearly articulated structure and three dimensional depth. Close ups rarely suffered from this however it was occasionally apparent there as well. Blacks were hearty, dynamic and noise free while complimented by exemplary shadow delineation that brought out the essence of subtle shapes and objects in the dark nighttime sequences. Colors were naturally reproduced with lots of sepia tones and occasional splashes of bright, vibrant hues that popped off of the screen. I saw some banding in the bright background sky in a couple of scenes but it wasn’t enough to be distracting unless you knew where to look. The video may have some minor issues but I don’t think that they interfered with the enjoyment of this film. Being a western, this less than razor sharp high gloss presentation didn’t necessarily feel out of place.

I was glad to see that Warner included a lossless audio encoding on this disc and I hope that they consistently do so on all of their Blu-ray disc releases. This soundtrack offers a mix that is contained in the front channels only. I can’t complain about that because it seemed apropos. This isn’t a flashy, shoot em up, cowboy film full of muzzle blazing gun battles. It is a western drama that relies mainly on dialogue but does contain some elements that can make use of enhanced dynamic range. Dialogue is clear with distinctive vocal character and average room penetration. Channel separation is excellent with a noticeably wide front soundstage. This provided a fair level of envelopment even though there was no real sound emanating from the rear channels. It also enhanced the film’s music, giving it defining presence with broad aural strokes and discernible tonal balance. Gunshots have plenty of dynamic impact with resonating energy that was physically tangible. Chapter 16 contained the only real use of LFE in the movie but its effects were quite good. This sequence involves the steam engines on a locomotive in a near field camera shot that brings the deep, low frequency energy of the engines and grinding of the steel wheels against the tracks right into the room. This is a short but great sounding segment. The only issue I noticed was that I had to boost the volume about 5db to 6db above my normal reference point for most TrueHD soundtracks. It wasn’t a problem and not doing so wasn’t acceptable.



Bonus Features:

  • Commentary by Ed Harris and Screenwriter/producer Robert Knott

  • Bringing the characters of Appaloosa to life – 7 minute featurette

  • Historic accuracy of Appaloosa – 10 minute documentary

  • The Town of Appaloosa – 5 minute set design featurette

  • Dean Semler’s return to the western – 5 minute (cinematographer) featurette

  • (HD) 6 additional scenes

  • Digital Copy Bonus Disc – A standard definition version of the film that can be downloaded from a compatible PC to a portable playback device





Final Thoughts:


Appaloosa is an entertaining, character driven western drama that features a solid cast and competent direction. It probably isn’t destined to be a genre classic but it is certainly worth the price of a rental to check it out. Its debut on Blu-ray Disc comes day and date with the DVD and features good audio/video quality and decent compliment of bonus features.














Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews





Reference Review System:



JVC DLA-RS20 1080p High Definition Front Projector

Carada Precision Brilliant White 96" Screen

Oppo 970HD universal disc DVD Player (480i HDMI)

Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player (HDMI Audio/Video)

Panasonic DMP-BD55K Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)

Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)

Marantz DV7001 Universal Disc Player

Denon AVR 5308CI THX Ultra 2 Preamp/Video Processor

B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 seven Channel amplifier

Philips TSU9400 Pro Series Touch Panel Remote Control

Canton "Ergo" Series speakers

Axiom Audio QS8 Quadpolar speakers

SV Sound PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)

APC AV S15BLK Power Conditioner/Surge Protector

Furman SPR-20i Stable Power Regulator

Wireworld, VizionWare, Audioquest, Best Deal Cables - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling

Cool Components - CP-CP102 cooling package
 

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I agree with the review. The mountain and desert shots didn't quite have the depth as do some other Blu-ray releases, but overall I was pleased with the transfer. It seemed like for whatever reason the very opening scene of this movie was extremely blurry and then things got better after that for the most part.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by DJ Matt /forum/post/15536917


I agree with the review. The mountain and desert shots didn't quite have the depth as do some other Blu-ray releases, but overall I was pleased with the transfer. It seemed like for whatever reason the very opening scene of this movie was extremely blurry and then things got better after that for the most part.

I saw this movie in the theatre. VERY much liked the movie but I was distracted from time to time with blurry shots so I knew before I came out that this BD wouldn't be worth the money. Still, it's a great movie and at least worth a rental in my opinion just for the action.
 

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This wasn't as good as I expected unfortunately because I like each of the actors in the production. I personally found the story somewhat dull, but that's just my personal opinion.


As to the A/V quality, Ralph, you hit the nail on the head. Very disappointing overall, which seems to be more of the norm from Warner. Hopefully they can raise their game to the level of Disney, Sony, and Universal.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Vaughn /forum/post/15539700


This wasn't as good as I expected unfortunately because I like each of the actors in the production. I personally found the story somewhat dull, but that's just my personal opinion.


As to the A/V quality, Ralph, you hit the nail on the head. Very disappointing overall, which seems to be more of the norm from Warner. Hopefully they can raise their game to the level of Disney, Sony, and Universal.

The story was kind of dull, but for whatever reason I found this movie interesting. It was a slow sort of movie, but still somewhat entertaining. I usually do not like slow movies. I agree with the audio though. It was somewhat distracting. I had to turn the volume up a ton to hear what they were saying. Of course I only have optical hook up, but still.
 

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I love westerns and HAD looked forward to picking this up. But ouch a 74 for audio? Plus the rotten tomatoe rating makes this one a rental.

Thanks for the great review as always Ralph!
 

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Well, bought it and watched it yesterday. I totally agree with everything Ralph said in his review. As for me, well I like character-driven films, even in wsterns and I felt Ed Harris and company did a terrific job here. Now when you consider there is more talk than action in Appaloosa, you have to realize that the audio is going to be less than spectacular. But I'll say this, those guns sounds exactly like real gunfire to me.


Great directing, writing and acting. No, not a classic western, but, nevertheless, one I will watch often.
 

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Yeah, I watched it yesterday aswell and I enjoyed it a great deal, also. Agree with you Georgeb... it is mostly talking, but when gunshots did happen, they did sound GREAT.
 

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What a great movie!! In my opinion it followed the book very closely, and I believe Ed Harris wants to adapt Resolution and the upcoming third book in the series too. It is sad to hear people say that westerns were a character fit for an era gone by and that the commercial success of these movies has faded - this type of western will hold it's own and gives me hope that there are more to come.
 

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Good review. I saw Appaloosa in a theater and I liked the film enough to buy this on Blu-ray. I seem to remember that the focus was not that sharp with muted colors but I expected this BD to improve on that, which of course it didn't. I was disappointed not only in the soft nature of the film but with the lack of deep blacks and detail in dark scenes. As seems typical with TrueHD movies you have to crank up the sound as compared to movies with dts-MA and I'm not sure why that is. When the dialog is loud enough to be heard correctly the sound of the gunshots are enough to make you jump out of your seat. All in all, a lackluster mastering.


But with all the negatives out of the way I still love a good traditional or revisionist western especially with so few being made. It's evidently no longer a genre that appeals to younger audiences especially when the cast is older and more mature. So I've added this to my short-list collection of 2000-2008 westerns which include 3:10 to Yuma, Seraphim Falls, Hidalgo and Open Range. If you haven't seen this film then I recommend a rental before deciding to buy. Although I like it, it's not for everyone.
 

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I have not been able to find a copy to rent or buy here in Ontario, Canada. I was told by a Blockbuster employee the BD was cancelled altogether, which obviously is not true.
 

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i kept waiting for this movie to get going and it simply never happened...there were a couple moments that felt like it was ready to take off but they didnt capitalize on them


this movie had potential but ended up being long and boring


is it me or does Renee ZellWeger look a lot like the cowardly lion in this movie
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by T-smith /forum/post/15576889


is it me or does Renee ZellWeger look a lot like the cowardly lion in this movie

LOL...totally!
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Greetings,


I ammended the review to add the inclusion of the Digital Copy Bonus Disc.



Cheers.
 

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A good story/movie spoiled by a nasty sl_t. Take her out of the equation and maybe a better badguy and this would have been a great classic western.
 

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Ralph, I too had to really crank up the volume 5 db's more than normal. This was the case with some other Tru HD sound tracks that I heard last year as well, but then later in the year they seemed to get better and be more like the DTS MA tracks. I checked my setup and it is not engaging night mode, just we have a low level volume recorded track.
 

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I should get the Appaloosa BD from BB tomorrow or Thursday. I am really looking to seeing it again, as I reread Robert B. Parker's novel of the same name over the weekend. I'll report further after I see the BD version. I am particularly looking forward to the BD because the print of the film I saw in the theater appeared muddy and the audio was equally poor.
 
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