Wyatt Earp & The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford Blu-ray 2-disc Collection

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Michael Osadciw, Jul 29, 2011.

  1. Michael Osadciw

    Michael Osadciw Screenwriter

    Jun 24, 2003
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    Michael Osadciw
    Release Date: AVAILABLE NOW Distributor: Warner Bros. Packaging/Materials: double disc keepcase Year: 1994 & 2007 Rating: PG Running Time: Earp: 190 minutes James: 170 minutes THE FEATURE Video 1080p 2.4:1 AUDIO Earp: English DD 5.1, French 2.0, Spanish 1.0 James: English DD 5.1, French 5.1, Spanish 5.1 SUBTITLES English SDH, French, Spanish The Feature: Earp – 3/5, James 4/5 Continuing with their double feature value sets (well, Warner just calls them as they are: 2-Movie Collection), two of the most well known and classic western stories are bundled in the same package. Both movies have been released independently on Blu-ray in the past, so the time has now come when both villain and marshal meet for the first time – in one Blu-ray package. Wyatt Earp is a film about the man in both his low and high times, from a child to his rise to marshal of Dodge City and Tombstone. With the help of his brothers and his hard line approach, he puts his no gun policy to the test to the rough members of the Clanton family, etc. HTF Reviewer Matt Hough writes of Wyatt Earp here in that the story does focus on Wyatt Earp’s family of brothers and their wives, with an excellent cast led by Kevin Costner as Wyatt Earp, and supported by Gene Hackman, Tom Sizemore, Bill Pullman, Isabella Rossellini, Jeff Fahey, Michael Madsen, Linden Ashby, and the list goes on. I must agree with HTF Reviewer Matt Hough; because there are so many characters in the story, 190 minutes doesn’t seem long enough to truly get to know any of them very well. In the end, the supposed relationships are merely just conversations in passing on screen without any character getting a firm grip on the audience. But that may be a problem with script itself; despite it’s long running time, the film feels loaded with scenes that are underdeveloped and characters who never get to tell us who they are. The result is a less than epic film that is slow and sometimes uninteresting, and disappointing considering the amount of work put in and the talent involved. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is an entirely different story. You can read HTF Reviewer Ken McAlinden’s review here. Not only are the performances far superior, but time is given for each character to tell their story which in the end pays off well. Much of the films tension is created through dialogue between characters. We know the potential threats to one character over another, and we have an idea of the potential outcome for each character. Because of this, the 170 minutes of this film fly by in seems to be a little over two hours. While Wyatt Earp and Jesse James never met, it’s safe to say that despite how big Earp tries to be, he just can’t catch up to James. Video Quality: 3/5 (both films) These discs feature the same video transfers as the independent releases. When viewed on a calibrated Panasonic TC-P50ST30 plasma television, the cinematography is superb, but both films are underwhelming in video quality. Despite being a significant leap in image quality over DVD, both movies suffer from some minor edge enhancement. Wyatt Earp is particularly the more dated of the two and looks to be of an old transfer likely prepared prior to any HD disc format. Still, the image has decent depth and is sure to please the casual viewer. Those who put high def transfers under a microscope will most likely have more to say about the look of the film. Skin tones vary between characters as they should, but at some times, depending on the lighting, they can look to dull or baked. The print is free from major artefacts although a bit of wobble can be detected as first seen in the opening credits. Jesse James has improved image depth, contrast, and modern post production colouring when compared to Wyatt Earp. The image is de-saturated to give it that 1800’s sepia photography look, therefore it is dominantly golden with casual glancing. Despite the warm colours, the whites have a very cool look to them, and in the winter scenes there is a lean towards blue which affects all colours. The artistic choices of these colours set the mood and the Blu-ray disc reproduces it well. Although there were two things that bothered me: a slight amount of edge enhancement was noticeable throughout, but most noticeably was the presence of frozen grain. It appeared as if the film grain in the film had been stopped in its tracks and was forced to stay put in one spot on the screen throughout. Thus, at many times when watching the film, I felt as if I were looking through a textured translucent piece of glass with the performance on the others side. Audio Quality: 3/5 (Earp), 4/5 (James) Disappointingly, both films are still with their old Dolby Digital 5.1 lossy soundtracks proving that no new work has been done to these films for this release. Wyatt Earp sounds dated and was one of the earlier 5.1 releases, and I recall it being one of the early 5.1 laserdiscs. The volume level of all channels in this soundtrack is quite a few dBs lower that virtually all other movies I view, so you’ll need to give your volume control a greater spin to bring it up to your reference level whatever that may be. It doesn’t appear to be a result of lighter compression to the audio track as there is not stand out dynamic range; the soundtrack is fairly linear in volume. Dialogue is firmly anchored in the center channel and is clear and well recorded. The sound effects and music score seem to lack the enthusiasm that is needed to make this title feel like an epic; do not get me wrong, I believe the score was well done for this film, but I felt that the recording of it and/or mixing it in with the effects doesn’t give it the praise it deserves. Some subtle ambience is found in the surround channels but little in the mix gives it a fully wrap-around experience. I found the soundtrack to Jesse James to be quite gripping. There is very little music in this film as tension in the storyline is created around dialogue bits and sound effects. Thus, all five channels tend to have atmospheric sounds almost all of the time. The sounds of insects, birds, and other animals are always present just as we’d hear living out in the country. This world we live in is alive with sound, and so is this soundtrack. These sound effects are just what they should be – effective and alive in the soundtrack to convince me that I’m there in the film with these characters. The sound spreads through and between all five channels without sounding dry or without space in between channels. Dialogue fits almost perfectly in, maybe just a touch forward at times. Overall, this is a fantastic soundtrack and shows how minimalism can be very effective with storytelling. The only disappointment is that it’s a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 encode. I’ll wait for the day when a lossless edition is ready for release. Special Features: 1.5/5 (both) This Blu-ray disc has all of the bonus features from the standard definition release, and the previous Blu-ray, though the presentations are disappointingly in 480i with one exception, and all looked either washed out or unimpressive (or both). It Happened That Way is a 14-minute featurette featuring interviews with director Lawrence Kasdan, and many of the leading actors in the film discussing making a film based on real characters. Wyatt Earp: Walk with a Legend is a 22½-minute television special (in 4:3) which details what goes into making an epic film. Comparisons to such classics as Ben-Hur, Spartacus, How the West Was Won, The Spirit of St. Louis, The Searchers, and My Darling Clementine are made, and again the major players before and behind the camera are interviewed (in fact, some of the interviews here are also present in the previous featurette). The special is hosted and narrated by actor Tom Skerritt. The only problem I have with this featurette is that it attempts to put Wyatt Earp in the same category with these epic films – and I completely disagree with that assessment as I mentioned in the notes above. Oh, and I also disagree with Tom Skerritt’s jean shirt and hiked up jeans. You looked cooler in Alien, Tom. 11 lifted scenes from the film running almost 18 minutes and are shown in the order that they would have appeared in the movie. None provide any more depth to the film or characters, so being edited out is understandable. It’s too bad there weren’t scenes with depth to make this film epic. Bah… The theatrical trailer for the movie is presented in 480p. It runs 3½ minutes, but it is completely lacking in sharpness and does the film no favours. As usual, a score is attached to the preview that has nothing to do with the beautiful music James Newton Howard composed for the film. Carried over from the independent Blu-ray release (but not the DVD), the featurette The Assassination of Jesse James: Death of an Outlaw is included, and focuses on Jesse James’s childhood and youth. This piece gives us some history where the movie does not, as the movie tends to focus on the end of Jesse James’s time, just as the title suggests. Hanging around with America’s most brutal men and raised by such a dominating mother, it’s no wonder Jesse James chose the path he did (31:48, HD 16:9). In the end... Two western films in one package, both with great performances, and both with large a large fan base. If you haven’t had the opportunity to view either of these films or wanted to add one or the other to the collection, this 2-disc collection is priced attractively for over 6 hours of entertainment. While I’d like to see updated audio and video for both films, especially Jesse James, the attractive price point should place good value on what is offered. Mike Osadciw 11.07.28

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