walk the line Studio: 20th Century Fox Film Year: 2005 Film Length: 135 minutes Genre: Biography/Drama Aspect Ratio: [*] 2.35:1 enhanced widescreen Colour/B&W: Colour Audio:[*] English 5.1 Surround [*] English 5.1 Surround [*] Spanish 2.0 Surround [*] French 2.0 Surround Subtitles: English & Spanish Film Rating: PG-13 Release Date: February 28, 2006. Film Rating: / Starring: Joaquin Phoenix (John R. Cash), Reese Witherspoon (June Carter), Ginnifer Goodwin (Vivian Cash), Robert Patrick (Ray Cash), Dallas Roberts (Sam Phillips) Written by: Gill Dennis & James Mangold Directed by: James Mangold Love is a burning thing. To my friends at HTF: the review of this title was delayed because I wasn’t able to secure a screener that was representative of the final product on retail shelves. The “Special Screening Copy” I received has video that is very problematic in terms of compression artefacts and delivery of fine detail. While I wrote a review for you based on this copy, it was decided to hold the review back until I received a retail copy of the DVD. The results between the two copies are what are expected: the retail product looked significantly better. This is a shame because it puts HTF DVD Reviewers in a predicament; do we provide a review of a title before street date based on an inferior product or do we skip over that title because it doesn’t represent the final product? This situation is unfortunate because it is the major titles that are delivered as a special screener. I have received special screeners before; some are fine and others have horrible text along the bottom of the image making reviewing picture quality almost impossible. Walk the Line is the first title I received that actually looked terrible. So, as of this time, I have chosen NOT to review a DVD that doesn’t represent the final product. Though, I do have to thank Fox for consistently providing screeners that are final product (minus a few titles) and I hope they keep it this way. I wish I can say the same for the product I hear other studios are delivering to their reviewers… Wonderfully written and finely acted, Walk the Line documents the life of Johnny Cash and his love and obsession of working entertainment partner June Carter. The film delivers his story in an unsettling way – the opening scene features Johnny feathering the blades of a table saw just before his performance at Folsom Prison. They are metaphors or real-life scenarios in a sense, of all of the things that happened in Johnny’s life before he became a man who didn’t need to walk that fine line with family, career, or with love; and with one misstep he could deliver a cut deep enough to kill him…and he almost could have. Johnny Cash grew up struggling on a farm like many Americans did. As a boy he was second-favourite to his father, who loved Johnny’s older brother Jack far greater than it seemed. But with the accidental death of Jack the division between father and son widened. As Johnny grew older he joined the army and he began writing songs there. It wasn’t until he returned home and married a local sweetheart when he decided to put together a small band. Life at home wasn’t good for Johnny. He had no stable job and his lack of career with a stay-at-home wife created conflict at home. It wasn’t until he played for Sam Phillips of Sun Records when Johnny’s fortunes changed for both better and worse. Sun Records put him on tour with other performances like Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley. It’s interesting to see this bunch of classic rock and rollers hanging out and “disturbing the peace” by blowing bombs up in tress at night and popping pills…but then, being completely immature and believing one is indestructible is the life of a rock and roll star, isn’t it? This is the time when Johnny’s dependency on a drug makes his life become harder. They keep him awake all of the time and full of energy. His body becomes dependent on them. He’s drawn into the temptation of taking the girls, his biggest fans, into the back rooms. At home, his wife is alone, waiting for him to come home. To further reduce his desire to return home, he meets and eventually travels with singer June Carter. She’s had problems with marriages in the past and is seen as “impure” by some. But Johnny never hides his feelings for her. He’s always convinced he’s in love with her. Walk the Line concentrates on Johnny’s desire for Carter and his dependency on the drugs. The film doesn’t detail about the songs he wrote, or why he really wrote any of them. There is little reflection on the “final product” of his career. It is a film about his eroding relationship with his family and his desire for June Carter. Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon did an excellent job acting and singing in this film. The first time I saw Joaquin was in his role as the priest in charge of the asylum in Quills. I was convinced of his acting abilities and it was further emphasised in his role as Commodus in Gladiator. Apparently, Johnny Cash himself gave the thumbs up for Joaquin to represent him in this film. I have to say his choice was excellent. Reese Witherspoon, now she’s a different story. All I can remember is her playing little silly parts in films, all adolescent-attracting films like S.F.W., Fear, Cruel Intentions, and Best Laid Plans. All I can say is: is this the same actress?? My, how much she’s grown up. For not a single moment in the film did I EVER think I was watching Reese Witherspoon. She’s strong, she’s mature, and most of all, she’s now a grown woman. I give her my highest praise in this film. Her performance is exemplary and this film is worth the watch for this one reason (seriously!) VIDEO QUALITY / The image is well-defined most of the time but it does exhibit a degree of softness at times. Look at the cornfields in the first 10 minutes of the film and you will notice that real detail isn’t that apparent, but the image is also restricted to standard-definition performance. There is a slight amount of compression artefacts around words and in brick walls, but this break-up doesn’t happen very often and isn’t enough to distract the viewer. The rest of this widescreen enhanced 2.35:1 image is fine. Colours are warm, thus flesh tones are also warm, most likely to depict the warm Midwest climate in the summer. The video is clear of film grain and dirt, something that I don’t expect to see much of on new films these days. I am thankful that edge enhancement does not pose any problems here. A separate 4:3 release is available – but show your commitment to the film’s original ratio by purchasing the widescreen version. Besides, when you finally are forced to get a widescreen TV you don’t want your 4:3 DVD to be useless now, do you?? AUDIO QUALITY / The soundtrack of this film is awesome! It sounds very open and wide during all of the “live” scenes in the film giving me the impression that I was actually there at the performance! It really gets me in the concert mood appreciating live music more, as well as the music of Johnny Cash. The excellent singing by both Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon’s are alive with spirit and radiate throughout the room by means of all channels in this 5.1 soundtrack. The bass, the guitars – everything – sounds well recorded for a film soundtrack and I guarantee your foot will be tapping as you watch this film! LFE info is very tight and there is also plenty of bass in the front channels for those of you using full-range tower speakers or independent subwoofers per channel. The surround channels aren’t used as often as I would have thought they would have been. They are effective as they are, so maybe that is enough? So the only downside is that dialogue is sometimes too forward…and it is very noticeable because it just hits you in the chest and reduces the depth of the front soundstage. Both DTS and Dolby Digital sound options are available on this disc. While they aren’t selectable on the fly, after going back and forth, decoding DTS does edge out in terms of spatial quality. SPECIAL FEATURES / There are two widescreen versions of this title on the market. Both releases have the feature, 10 deleted scenes with optional director commentary, a wonderful commentary by director James Mangold and the original theatrical trailer. This was the copy I received. The Collector’s Edition features the above plus: [*] three extended musical performances by Phoenix and Witherspoon of ”Rock and Roll Ruby,” “Jackson” and “Cocaine Blues.” [*] Folsom, Cash & The Comeback featurette [*] Ring of Fire: The Passion of Johnny & June featurette [*] Celebrating The Man In Black: The Making of Walk the Line featurette I don’t know what the running time is of these extra featurettes are but they are probably fairly long if they’ve been given an extra disc to hold them. The deleted scenes are finished in the sense that they look like the same quality as the movie. They are in the original aspect ratio and enhanced for widescreen televisions. The audio is also encoded in 5.1, although there are only one or two scenes that actually utilize 5.1 and the rest are in stereo. These scenes about almost 12 minutes total and were cut for time purposes. There is nothing wrong with these scenes; they just make the movie too long and emphasize things already said in the film. IN THE END... This is a great film about the legendary “Man in Black” that is gripping and emotional from beginning to end. The DVD isn’t quite as polished in terms of quality as Phoenix and Witherspoon’s performance on screen, but this disc will still please those who are less concerned about the technical aspects and will focus more on the quality of the film itself. Michael Osadciw March 04, 2006.