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The Assassination of Jesse James Blu-Ray by the Coward Robert Ford.



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#1 of 21 PatWahlquist

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Posted February 14 2008 - 03:09 AM


The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Blu-Ray)

Studio: Warner Home Video
Rated: R (strong violence and brief sexual references)
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
HD Encoding: 1080p
HD Video Codec: VC-1
Audio: Dolby Digital English 5.1; French 5.1; Spanish 5.1
Subtitles: English; French; Spanish.
Time: 160 minutes
Disc Format: 1 SS/SL Blu-Ray disc.
Case Style: Keep case
Theatrical Release Date: 2007
Blu Ray Release Date: February 5, 2008

Instead of giving us a history lesson in how Jesse James became such an infamous American character, writer/ director Andrew Dominik’s adaptation of Ron Hansen’s novel The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford begins more towards the middle and takes us through to the end of Jesse James (Brad Pitt) life. The picture starts as the James gang has resorted to neighbors for co-conspirators to continue their heists. Jesse’s brother Frank (Sam Shepard) decides to quit the bandit life and live out his days in peace. Jesse, proud of his reputation and celebrity, and the fact he was broke, wants to continue on. He enlists the two Ford boys, Charley (Sam Rockwell) and Robert (or Bob) (Casey Affleck) in the gang, with young Bob star stuck by Jesse. Bob’s worship of Jesse springs from the pulps and pamphlets of the day, ripe with stories portraying Jesse as the American Robin Hood. He wants to work with Jesse, but more importantly, latch on to his rising star (tarnished though it may be) as a means to achieve notoriety for himself and a place in history. The feds are onto Jesse as he is public enemy number one and Bob sees this as a means to truly deify Jesse. Lies and betrayals have chased Jesse his whole life, and the older he gets he may find those closest to him will commit the biggest crimes.

With a mouthful of a title, I would assume we all know what happens in the end, but how you get there is where the drama comes in. The picture weighs in at a hefty 160 minutes, and while the story is engaging, it seems like the film should have been edited down by about twenty minutes. Much time is spent on shots of rolling cloud banks and lingering, fish eyed distortions of Jesse’s life with a narrator not really telling us anything we’re not seeing on the screen already. While the filmed images are stunning to look at, courtesy of noted director of photography Roger Deakins, the story behind it often left my mind wandering. It would be drawn back, however, in the few action scenes or when Casey Affleck’s star-struck Bob would figure out just what to do next. Affleck deserves special mention in this film in a role that may eventually be remembered as his break out role (and if not here, then in Gone, Baby, Gone). Affleck plays the troubled Bob Ford as a kid (which he is at all of roughly twenty years old) who is too eager to be a big boy and unable to process what type of life he is asking for by hitching his wagon to the star that is Jesse James. Pitt gives us hints of Tyler Durden at times, finally convincing me it’s not so much Pitt channeling Durden (yet again) but Pitt channeling Pitt, allowing himself to bleed into these roles. In the end, we, and most of America of the time and future historians, will remember Ford arguably as a coward, but also, just maybe, the first “starf***er”.

Video:
Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 11-S1 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 1080p. I am using a Sony Playstation 3 Blu-Ray player while a Denon 3808CI does the switching and pass through of the video signal. I am utilizing the HDMI capabilities of each piece of equipment.

The Blu-Ray disc is in the VC-1 codec presented at 1080p with an aspect ratio of 2.40:1. Sharpness runs a bit soft and detail is good showing off the cloth in the costumes and sets. Black levels are very deep showing some depth and detail, but routinely collapsing in on one another. Roger Deakins provides a very stylized look to the picture, de-saturating most of the color in favor of a yellow and golden tint. This helps to place the picture firmly in the historical context reminding us of the sepia tinged photos of more than a hundred years ago. Due to this, flesh tones tend to look the same between the actors. There were numerous instances of edge enhancement, so much so that I went back to make sure that’s what I was seeing, and it was. The film makers also used a fish-eye lens during many of the narrated scenes which really caused a distortion and contributes to just a so-so video presentation.


Audio:
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack was attained by the HDMI connection of the Sony Playstation 3 to the Denon 3808CI.

Warner’s disappoints me again on this release by not giving us anything better than a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, but in the context of the movie it really isn’t that necessary. The action is primarily kept in the front three channels with the surrounds coming to life frequently for background noise and environmental effects. Bass is good, but the LFE’s don’t engage too often. The audio track is clean, clear and precise and it does not suffer from any dirt or other problems. The fronts maintained good cohesion across each channel to provide an adequate soundstage and this was consistent when the surrounds were used. There was also good use of panning effects from channel to channel, especially in the first few minutes of the movie when the James gang is out in the woods. You may be looking above you to swat at the various flying insects.


Bonus Material:

Making of Documentary: The Assassination of Jesse James: Death of an Outlaw (32 minutes): This is the one lone bonus item on the Blu-Ray disc and missing from the SD version. It is basically and EPK mixed with a bit of History Channel type doc to give you a fuller picture of the real life situations portrayed in the movie. Whereas the movie doesn’t touch on the James boys’ early life, this piece does, and then it quickly dives through the events in the movie. While not a bad piece, this left me scratching my head as to where the rest of the bonus items may have been, such as several filmed deleted scenes we see here. I’d suggest you seek out other avenues to get the history on Jesse James.


Conclusions:
For a picture that had such a good buzz about it upon release and even up to now, Warner’s doesn’t really throw much love to this HD release. While the movie itself winds up being somewhat clunky and slow, you’ll get to see what may be a career making and award winning role for Casey Affleck. The video on the disc is fair, the audio really doesn’t leave me wanting more, but the lack of bonus materials certainly does.

[pg]115916704[/pg]
ISO "Lost" ARG prints from Kevin Tong, Olly Moss, Eric Tan and Methane Studios.  PM me if you want to sell!

All reviews done on a Marantz VP11S1 1080p DLP projector.

Displays professionally calibrated by Gregg Loewen of Lion AV.

#2 of 21 Joseph J.D

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Posted February 14 2008 - 01:42 PM

Good review......1 bonus feature, so-so video and no lossless track? Warner's gonna have to do better than this half-assed effort to get my money. I'll wait for an eventual double-dip. You'd think that with a historical figure like Jesse James, Warner would throw in some documentaries.....oh, and a commentary with the director, Pitt and Affleck would be nice too.
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#3 of 21 Roogs Benoit

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Posted February 15 2008 - 08:07 AM

This is how the #1 voted studio treats it's releases?
Do any of you want to change your vote now?

The other studios seem to give lossless tracks, commentaries, etc. but are deemed inferior by most of the voters on this site.

Maybe it's just full of Warner employees voting.

Best studio my @#$!

#4 of 21 FrankT

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Posted February 15 2008 - 10:43 AM

Sounds like this one is going to be a double dip in the future.

#5 of 21 Ron-P

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Posted February 15 2008 - 01:18 PM

The A/V is nice but I agree, could have been better, the 5.1 track was good but a lossless track would have been nice. I never saw this in the theater so I bought it blindly. In one word...fantastic. I can't agree with Pat's suggestion of this being edited down, the pace was excellent throughout and I never once caught myself bored or looking at my watch. The acting, the story, the cinematography and score are all excellent. This is a must own in my book.
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#6 of 21 Robert Crawford

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Posted February 15 2008 - 01:37 PM

I plan on watching my copy sometime in the near future.

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#7 of 21 Brandon Conway

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Posted February 15 2008 - 01:48 PM

I can't see Warner eager to double dip this title given 1) Warner's lack of double dipping in recent years overall, and 2) the relatively small market for this film. Maybe if it becomes a major cult hit along the lines of Serenity, but I doubt it.

"And now the reprimand, from an American critic. He reproaches me for using film as a sacred & lasting medium, like a painting or a book. He does not believe that filmmaking is an inferior art, but he believes, and quite rightly, that a reel goes quickly, that the public are looking above all for relaxation, that film is fragile and that it is pretentious to express the power of one's soul by such ephemeral and delicate means, that Charlie Chaplin's or Buster Keaton's first films can only be seen on very rare and badly spoiled prints. I add that the cinema is making daily progress and that eventually films that we consider marvelous today will soon be forgotten because of new dimensions & colour. This is true. But for 4 weeks this film [The Blood of a Poet] has been shown to audiences that have been so attentive, so eager & so warm, that I wonder after all there is not an anonymous public who are looking for more than relaxation in the cinema." - Jean Cocteau, 1932


#8 of 21 Dave H

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Posted February 18 2008 - 03:08 AM

I just received this from Netflix the other day and will give it a spin soon.

#9 of 21 Kyle_D

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Posted February 18 2008 - 03:06 PM

I just finished watching this, and was left awed. What an under-appreciated masterpiece. The images and sounds just wash over you like the descriptive prose in a great novel. If you're not one for descriptive prose, I can see this one boring the hell out of you, but I'm a sucker for it. I was completely mesmerized by this for the entirety of its runtime.

I was only watching on a 480p projector, but what I saw looked fine. There was some edge enhancement, but frankly I never felt like Brad Pitt ever looked "pasted on" to the background like some reviews have stated. It could have been encoded better, but it's not bad enough to deter me from buying myself a copy after I return my rental. As for the audio, a lossless track really would have helped with the dialogue, which occasionally sounds muffled, but the gunshots have a startling heft to the bass and the score is presented nicely.

#10 of 21 PatWahlquist

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Posted February 19 2008 - 12:33 AM

In thinking about this movie a bit more, I began comparing it to Terrence Malik's The New World, which had a very similar narrative flow, but it held my attention more. It certainly wasn't because of Colin Ferrell, and Pitt is much better in JJ, but TNW just seemed to be tighter.
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All reviews done on a Marantz VP11S1 1080p DLP projector.

Displays professionally calibrated by Gregg Loewen of Lion AV.

#11 of 21 Kyle_D

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Posted February 19 2008 - 02:36 AM

That's funny, because I felt the exact opposite. I usually love Malick (Days of Heaven is probably in my top 50 of all time), but The New World is the one film of his that I just couldn't get into and was the first time I saw where detractors were coming from when they attacked that it's just "a bunch of beautifully photographed trees." Jesse James may be more episodic, but the characters and story drew me in much more. I'll spoiler this just to be safe,

but did the "day of the assassination" sequence remind anyone else of the helicopter sequence from GoodFellas? Even though we all know what's going to happen, the editing and photography really had me paranoid and on edge through the entire sequence.


For a film that gets attacked as slow and boring, that was one of the more gut-level suspenseful scenes all year.

#12 of 21 Bleddyn Williams

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Posted March 06 2008 - 07:13 AM

I NetFlixed this one, and LOVED it. Its not a poster boy for HD, but I didn't find the presentation too distracting. I'm usually sensitive to edge enhancement, but don't remember noticing it, surprisingly enough. Maybe I was too wrapped up in the film!

It might not be a great package, but I'm buying a copy because I definitely want the film in my collection.

#13 of 21 John CW

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Posted March 25 2011 - 01:46 PM

Just got my hands on this Bluray and I'm mightily disappointed in the video. There's compressions artefacts everywhere :( It's so distracting. I've never seen this on a Bluray before and I naively picked it up thinking problems with transfers were a thing on DVD past.


During the first conversation with Jesse's brother and our hero Robert Ford, their faces are riddled with compression artefacts. As they move, the skin texture doesn't move with them.


Stills look fine, but when you see it moving there's some horrible problems that just shouldn't be there. I check some other reviews and they mention the fact that it's a single layer BD, forcing the compression to be higher than it should.


This is a mighty, mighty shame. Such a wonderful film. How could WB drop the ball like this? Just give us decent product and we will buy it!


Maybe Criterion will get hold of it.


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#14 of 21 Brandon Conway

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Posted March 26 2011 - 07:32 AM

Warner doesn't sub-license, so you can shelf that Criterion hope.


The disc is from early 2008, which is a lifetime ago in home video sensibilities. For the time it came out it's an acceptable disc, neither remarkable or unremarkable. It was a single-layer BD because they optimized the transfer for HD-DVD space. The financial motive to revisit the title any time soon is nil, so this is the best option out there on home video.


"And now the reprimand, from an American critic. He reproaches me for using film as a sacred & lasting medium, like a painting or a book. He does not believe that filmmaking is an inferior art, but he believes, and quite rightly, that a reel goes quickly, that the public are looking above all for relaxation, that film is fragile and that it is pretentious to express the power of one's soul by such ephemeral and delicate means, that Charlie Chaplin's or Buster Keaton's first films can only be seen on very rare and badly spoiled prints. I add that the cinema is making daily progress and that eventually films that we consider marvelous today will soon be forgotten because of new dimensions & colour. This is true. But for 4 weeks this film [The Blood of a Poet] has been shown to audiences that have been so attentive, so eager & so warm, that I wonder after all there is not an anonymous public who are looking for more than relaxation in the cinema." - Jean Cocteau, 1932


#15 of 21 Brianruns10

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Posted March 26 2011 - 01:13 PM

If they do revisit it, they must make available the fabled director's cut.



#16 of 21 Brian Borst

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Posted March 28 2011 - 06:18 AM



Originally Posted by Brianruns10 

If they do revisit it, they must make available the fabled director's cut.



I thought the current version was already the director's cut, but apparently there's a 4-hour cut. I loved the movie, but because of the problems with the PQ I've resisted to buy the Blu-ray. Hopefully Warner will revisit it, and they'll add the longer version, and some in-depth bonus features.


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#17 of 21 Brianruns10

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Posted March 28 2011 - 03:05 PM

I read the original cut was screened at a festival to a huge ovation.  I imagine they panicked at the length and cut it way down, and it shows.  I still cringe at how slapdash the ending is, with that cheesy, iMovie freeze and zoom.  It is for me a flawed masterpiece, and I dearly hope that if the long version gets out, I can remove the "flawed" part.



#18 of 21 Jefferson Morris

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Posted March 31 2011 - 02:39 PM

I adore the ending. Doesn't feel rushed or slapdash to me. Do we know for a fact that it was altered from the original cut?


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#19 of 21 Brianruns10

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Posted April 02 2011 - 09:57 AM

I don't know for sure, just going on a hunch.  I guess I shouldn't knock the ending too much, it is fine, but when I viewed it something felt...off, and I always felt it shoots itself in the foot with the last shot freeze frame/zoom.  It felt very atonal and amateurish, like something I've seen from a film made in iMovie.

And when I'd heard the film had been recut and messed around with (apparently without the director's imput), it suddenly made sense as to why the ending felt so off to me.



#20 of 21 John CW

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Posted April 24 2011 - 03:31 AM



Originally Posted by Brandon Conway 

Warner doesn't sub-license, so you can shelf that Criterion hope.


The disc is from early 2008, which is a lifetime ago in home video sensibilities. For the time it came out it's an acceptable disc, neither remarkable or unremarkable. It was a single-layer BD because they optimized the transfer for HD-DVD space. The financial motive to revisit the title any time soon is nil, so this is the best option out there on home video.



Thanks for the info regarding Warner. A big shame. Not sure about your assertion that the disc was "unremarkable". Every review I've read from the time complains about these technical issues. These are artefacts, plain and simple. It's just as possible to get the same artefacts on a DVD, so why you think that people's eyes didn't notice them in 2008 on a new format is beyond me.


Alphabetti Spaghetti

Elvis returns from the dead to say: "Objectively looking at the world, you're the only people alive on the earth today. All the people who created tradition, created countries, created rules ... THEM #@&%ERS ARE DEAD. Why don't you start your own world while you got the chance?"