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Category:    Home > Reviews > Western > Appaloosa (2008/Warner Bros. Blu-ray + DVD-Video)

Appaloosa (2008/Warner Bros. Blu-ray + DVD-Video)


Picture: B/C+/C     Sound: B/C+     Extras: B-     Film: B-



It is always an interesting affair when another Western gets made, because the few that have been made have been at least interesting, different, had money in them and none since Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven (1992) have been big hits.  Now, Actor Ed Harris follows up his impressive directorial debut (2002’s Pollock) with the well-done Appaloosa (2008) where he and Viggo Mortensen play old expert gunslingers who become the law in a town manipulated in the worst ways by Randall Bragg (a really good Jeremy Irons turn) who kills who he wants and thinks he can get away with anything.


The duo has become the law and Virgil Cole (Harris) the new Sheriff.  All seems the same until a beautiful young travelling pianist (Renée Zellweger) comes to town and Cole becomes interested.  When the feeling is mutual, a romance starts to slowly evolve at the same time the crime situation gets worse.  Cole becomes the law when the previous sheriff is killed by guess who?  Though it has some conventions we have seen in the played-out genre before, the acting and writing is smart and there is a unique energy that makes the film that much better.  The cast also includes Timothy Spall and Lance Henriksen.  If you like Westerns, you’ll want to catch Appaloosa.



The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image is softer than it ought to be for a 115-minutes long film with a alight haze that has nothing to do with the way it was shot by Director of Photography Dean Semler, A.C.S./A.S.C. of Dances With Wolves fame.  It is poorer on the anamorphically enhanced widescreen side of the DVD and a disaster on the pan & scan for old analog TVs side to the point of being truly unwatchable.  With how good the film looks, i.e. costume design, locations & sets, the Blu-ray in particular should look better.  Semler says it was shot in real anamorphic Panavision 35mm, but any film is a nice change from the HD he has been using lately and it should be noted he lensed the 2004 Alamo since he did Dances With Wolves.  The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 on the Blu-ray and Dolby Digital 5.1 on both discs offer subdued surround mixes with only some punctuation here and there, but the TrueHD is easily the best.  Extras are the same on both editions including Co-Writer/Director/Star Ed Harris and Co-Writer/Producer Robert Knott’s feature length audio commentary track, additional scenes in HD with optional commentary by both and four featurettes: Bringing The Characters Of Appaloosa To Life, The Historic Accuracy Of Appaloosa, The Town Of Appaloosa and Dean Semler’s Return To The Western.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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