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HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Shiloh/Saving Shiloh (Family Double Feature)



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#1 of 3 Ken_McAlinden

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Posted October 05 2010 - 05:04 AM

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Shiloh/Saving Shiloh (Family Double Feature)

Shiloh (1996), Saving Shiloh (2006)



Studio: Warner Bros.

Year: 1996, 2006

Rating: PG

Aspect Ratio: 16:9

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Release Date: September 14, 2010

As part of their latest wave of "Double Feature " Blu-ray releases, Warner Home Video has paired the first and third films in the "Shiloh " series on one reasonably priced Blu-ray disc.


The Films

Shiloh (1996 - Utopia Pictures - 93 minutes)****

Directed by: Dale Rosenbloom

Starring: Scott Wilson, Blake Heron, Bonnie Bartlett, Rod Steiger, J. Madison Wright, Ann Dowd, Michael Moriarty


Shiloh is a cinematic adaptation of the award winning children's book by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. It tells the story of a bond that forms between a boy named Marty Preston (Heron) and an abused beagle named Shiloh. Marty encounters the injured Shiloh near his home after the dog runs away after being struck by its owner, a hard hearted trapper/poacher named Judd Travers (Wilson). Marty's father, Ray (Moriarty) makes his son return the dog to Judd, and Marty is upset by Judd's harsh disciplinary methods and frequent exclamations that he will shoot Shiloh if he runs away again. He pleads with Judd to let hims earn enough money to buy Shiloh, but Judd dismisses all overtures by maintaining that when he is done training Shiloh, he will be a valuable hunting dog. When Shiloh predictably does run away again, he returns to Marty, who hides him from his family in a shed near their property, confiding Shiloh's situation to nobody but his friend Samantha, the daughter of the local doctor (Steiger) and general store owner (Bartlett). Marty sneaks whatever goods and supplies he can from his home and works all kinds of odd jobs to earn money to care for Shiloh, but as events transpire that gradually expose his deception to his mother (Dowd), he is forced to deal with the ethical consequences of his actions.
Shiloh's production and release history is the kind of underdog story that would make a good family feature on its own. Independently produced and released with only minor fanfare, it disappeared from theaters quickly. Consistently favorable critical notices and strong word of mouth helped it to find a second life on home video, achieving enough success in that arena to spawn two sequels adapted from the subsequent books in the Phyllis Reynolds Naylor series.


The film certainly deserved its second life as it transcends the simplistic expectation one might have based on the myriad other "boy and his dog " family films produced over the years. It cleverly uses its simplistic plot to require the characters in the film to ponder the ethical and moral grey areas presented by the actions of themselves and others. These same issues without easy answers are presented to the viewer in a way that encourages their contemplation while remaining rooted in the story and characters without a hint of preaching.

The well-structured screenplay is complimented by near perfect casting. In a role that could easily have deteriorated into a bunch of Mike Brady teachable moment monologues, Michael Moriarity embraces the reticence of the Ray Preston character and communicates in a short, soft, yet very direct manner with his on-screen son. Scott Wilson never feels like he is holding back on the spitefulness and sadistic cruelty of his character, but even in his meanest moments, one always gets the sense that there is an unexpressed sadness behind his eyes. Conversely, even at his most seemingly honest and open moments, one still believes the potential for random cruelty and real menace is only one ill chosen word away. His technique is so effective and nearly invisible that prospective actors would be well advised to watch all of his scenes in this film and take notes.



Saving Shiloh (2006 - Utopia Pictures- 90 Minutes)***

Directed by: Sandy Tung

Starring: Scott Wilson, Gerald McRaney, Jason Dolley, Ann Dowd, Bonnie Bartlett, Jordan Garrett, Kyle Chavarria, Taylor Momsen, Liberty Smith


Saving Shiloh picks up the story of Shiloh and Marty Preston (Dolley) a few months after the events of the first two films in the series (Shiloh 2: Shiloh Season is not included in this set). After the dead body of a man is found near a local pond, the whole town is buzzing, with most of the gossip suggesting that Judd Travers (Wilson), who was seen arguing with the deceased shortly before he was found dead, is responsible. Marty, who has come to something of an understanding/truce with Judd over the issue of Shiloh, does not want to believe that he could be capable of such a thing. Marty's trust in Judd is further shaken when he and his friend David (Garrett) find a piece of evidence that seems to further implicate him and when he observes a violent outburst by Judd towards one of his dogs.

While Shiloh managed to transcend other films in the "boy and his dog" genre, its second sequel, Saving Shiloh, is much more traditional/conventional film. It features several "Lassie"-style bark bark/"What is it, Boy" exchanges, features Shiloh uncovering critical pieces of evidence, and centers around a murder mystery. That being said, even though it pales by comparison to its predecessor, it is still an above average family film thanks largely to the efforts once again of Scott Wilson in the role of Judd.

Aside from Wilson, other cast members carrying over from the previous films include Ann Dowd as Marty's mother and Bonnie Bartlett as the store owner, Mrs. Wallace. Gerald McRaney takes over the role of Marty's father from Michael Moriarity with similar success, although he does play things a bit less cool than his predecessor. Rod Steiger passed away a few years after appearing in the first sequel. Rather than re-cast his role, the screenplay mentions the passing of his character and a dedication to Steiger is incorpoarted into the film's closing credits. Since there was a span of ten years between this film and the original, all of the youthful roles had to be recast (as they were in the first sequel). Jason Dolley is not quite as natural an actor as Blake Heron was in the original. Taylor Momsen is cast as Samantha Wallace. Marty's slight discomfort around Samantha was one of the more charming aspects of the first film, and it is a shame she is given so little to do in this one. Most of Marty's adventures with Shiloh are accompanied by his friend David played by Jordan Garrett as a typical over opinionated kid-sidekick.


The Video ***

Both titles are presented in VC-1 encoded 1080p video. Shiloh appears a bit grainier/softer than Saving Shiloh. While both films exhibit noticeable film grain, it does not always look quite natural, possibly due to encoding issues or some very light filtering applied in the digital video domain. Contrast and shadow detail are very good in both.

The Audio ***

Both films are presented with English DTS-HD MA lossless tracks. Shiloh gets a 2.0 matrix surround stereo track while Saving Shiloh has a 5.1 track. The difference in specifications is a bit misleading, though, as the 5.1 mix for Saving Shiloh makes minimal to no use of the surround and LFE tracks beyond a bit of reverberation in the score for most of the film's running time. As a result, both films provide a similar listening experience with the lossless encoding contributing to solid fidelity for two very straightforward mixes spread across the front hemisphere of the sound field.

The Extras½

No extras are present on this double feature Blu-ray disc.

Packaging

Both films are encoded on the same side of a single Blu-ray disc. The menu layout is straightforward and allows the viewer to move back and forth between the two features with ease. There is minimal to no implementation of Java features, so the "resume" function of most players should work without issue.

Summary ****

While the pairing of only the first and third films in the Shiloh series seems a bit strange, this double feature Blu-ray disc provides a good value for fans of the films. The package would be worth it for the uncommonly thoughtful Shiloh alone featuring a very strong cast top-lined by Scott Wilson. The second sequel Saving Shiloh is not nearly as good, but still better than average for modern family films and features another excellent performance from Wilson. Fans of the first film are advised to view the inclusion of the second sequel as an extra, especially since there are no other special features to be found on the disc. A slight unnatural cast to the film grain will be noticeable on large projection displays, but video quality is otherwise solid. DTS HD-MA lossless audio tracks are provided for both films, and there is not as much of a difference in quality as one might expect from the 2.0 mix for Shiloh and the 5.1 mix for Saving Shiloh.


Regards,


Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA

#2 of 3 Jesse Skeen

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Posted October 08 2010 - 04:20 PM

Weird that the first movie only has the 2-channel sound mix- the standard DVD only had that too, but the laserdisc has a 5.1 AC3 track that has good ambient surrounds.


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#3 of 3 Arnie G

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Posted February 27 2011 - 06:56 AM

thanks for the review!


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