Appaloosa now on DVD



New Line // R // January 13, 2009

List Price: $28.98

Review by Randy Miller III from

Ed Harris’ Appaloosa [2008] continues the trend nicely: based on Robert Parker’s 2005 novel of the same name, this tale of shotguns, survival and sacrifice serves up familiar Western elements with respect and admiration. Within the genre’s confines, Appaloosa plays is relatively straight: the bad guys are bad, and the good guys…well, they simply do what it takes to get the job done. Our heroes are Virgil Cole (Harris) and Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen), two partners who have worked together for an unspecified number of years. The bottom line is that they’re very good at what they do: keeping the peace, even if it means creating their own laws to do it. Peace is just what the southwest town of Appaloosa needs, especially after a marshal and two deputies turn up missing. Cole and Hitch are quickly hired by the desperate town leaders, who agree to their terms and practically sign over collective authority in a matter of minutes. The suspected murderer is Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons), a nearby rancher with a substantial following and a history of stirring up trouble. Cole’s situation is complicated further by the arrival of Miss French (Renee Zellweger); he’s quickly attracted to the mysterious woman, but a normal relationship would prove difficult in such dangerous times. Appaloosa’s listed running time is 115 minutes, but this slow-burning tale feels much longer.

The story’s somewhat unconventional format—thanks in part to an abrupt change in direction roughly halfway through—often leads to a more episodic feel, but that’s hardly a complaint. Harris’ capable direction keeps things flowing quite nicely, while Dean Semler’s excellent cinematography ensures that plenty of terrific sights will be seen along the way. A strong emphasis on detail and accuracy, from costume design to weaponry, ensures that Harris’ adaptation is anchored squarely in a 19th century atmosphere. Simply put, Appaloosa follows more Western traditions than most other recent genre efforts, strictly favoring reverence over revision. Even so, a few key elements prevent Appaloosa from reaching greater heights. Little to no background information is given for several major characters; this may actually be favorable to some viewers, but the one-dimensional nature of Bragg feels more predictable than it ought to. Miss French’s arrival and subsequent role is also a bit confusing: it’s tough to believe that a man as dedicated as Cole would pursue a relationship during such unfavorable times. Instead of creating an easy target for Bragg’s henchmen to aim for, perhaps Cole should’ve completed his job before chasing after a personal life. Luckily, the performances of Bragg and Zellweger are strong enough to hide some of these glaring faults, but such elements create a more convenient story than what audiences actually deserve. Even so, Appaloosa does much more right than wrong: it still shines brightly as a strong period piece and a genuinely rousing adventure.

Presented on DVD by New Line Home Entertainment, Appaloosa arrives in near-record time after a short theatrical run. There’s good and bad news here, but this one-disc package should still please most fans of the film. Boasting a decent technical presentation and a handful of low-key but appropriate bonus features, it’s a strong package that defies the film’s modest box-office receipts. Simply put, those even mildly interested in the film should consider Appaloosa a worthy effort on DVD. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

Quality Control Department

Video & Audio Quality

Presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and enhanced for 16×9 displays (NOTE: a pan-and-scan version is also included on the same side), Appaloosa looks very good from start to finish. The inclusion of both versions on this dual-layer disc leads to a few mild compression artifacts along the way, though other digital problems are kept to a minimum. The film’s muted, dry color palette has been preserved nicely, black levels are typically solid and image detail is generally consistent. Fans shouldn’t find too much to complain about overall, though New Line’s continued support of pan-and-scan is quite irritating. In the audio department, Appaloosa hardly disappoints as well. The Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix does its job perfectly; though dialogue carries most of the film, atmospheric effects and occasional bursts of action fill the rear channels nicely. The dynamic range is also excellent, while music and other sounds rarely fight for attention. English captions and Spanish subtitles have been included during the main feature only.

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Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging

Seen above, the plain-wrap menu designs are basic and easy to navigate. The 115-minute main feature has been divided into 27 chapters, while no obvious layer change was detected during playback. This one-disc release is housed in a standard black keepcase and includes a Digital Copy promotional insert. The digital copy can only be played in Windows Media format.  It is not compatible with Macintosh computers or iPods, unfortunately.

Bonus Features Leading things off is a feature-length Audio Commentary with director Ed Harris and screenwriter/producer Robert Knott; as expected, Harris does most of the talking. In fact, those who don’t hang on every word may not even be aware that Knott is present, though he adds an interesting dynamic during his brief spurts of participation. Harris is quite low-key himself, mainly limiting his comments to general production stories and pointing out some of the lesser-seen supporting characters. Overall, fans will find this commentary worth a listen, but it’s nothing to write home about.

Up next are four brief Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes, beginning with “Bringing the Characters of Appaloosa to Life” (7:33, below left). This light but entertaining segment features key members of the cast and crew (some in costume, even) briefly detailing their experiences on set. “Historic Accuracy of Appaloosa” (10:21) focuses on the costumes, weaponry, production design and overall attention to detail, while “The Town of Appaloosa” (5:08, below right) provides a quick tour of several key locations. Also here is “Dean Semler’s Return to the Western” (5:17), in which the famed cinematographer discusses his attraction to the film and shares a few techniques along the way.

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Last but not least is a collection of Deleted Scenes (6 clips, 12:03 total), many of which were hinted at during the audio commentary. Most of these are minor character moments and were wisely trimmed from the theatrical cut, though they’re certainly worth a look. These scenes are also available with commentary by Harris and Knott; the former hints about their inclusion in a possible Director’s Cut of Appaloosa, which would probably be a step in the wrong direction. As a footnote, also included (but not advertised on the outer packaging) is a Digital Copy of the film…or at least a code for owners to download it manually. All bonus features are presented in non-anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 format, while no optional subtitles or captions have been included. It’s not a bad little spread of extras overall, though nothing really stands far above typical DVD fare.

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It’s not every day that you get to fondle Jeremy Irons’s signed shoe

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Eat your heart out Imelda Marcos


It’s not every day that you get to fondle Jeremy Irons’s signed shoe. Or sniff one of the sneakers that Michael Cera wore when he recorded some of the songs for Juno. But Thursday was Torontoist’s lucky day, and we got to gawk at the footwear of the rich and Torontofamous.

Yeah, yeah, we know: how trifling can one assignment get? Well, rest assured, concerned readers: our seemingly inane excursion was a little more legit than we let on. In truth, these shoes—once belonging to local “celebs” of both actual and purported renown—were put on display at Ron White’s flagship store in the Manulife Centre, signalling the advent of the Canadian shoe retailer’s thirteenth annual Shoe Drive For the Homeless.

The concept of the shoe drive is pretty simple: you bring in your old shoes to any Ron White location, and they’ll clean up your scruffy kicks and pass them along to those who really need them. (And a few household names attend the kick-off and pose awkwardly with their signed, slightly scuffed shoes.)

“When you’re in the shoe business, you look at people’s feet as much as you look at their face,” says the namesake and CEO of Ron White. So, thirteen years ago, when White saw too many feet clad in insufficient winter footwear (“I was walking up Yonge St. and I saw a homeless man with his toes hanging out of his boots—literally”), he started encouraging his clients to bring in their old boots when they bought new ones. Fast-forward a few years, and a few of White’s more “notable” friends decided to lend their names—and used shoes—to promote the campaign.

“It’s about ten years ago that I asked for some support from two of my clients—Jeanne Beker and Dini Petty,” says White. “Since then we’ve had support from so many talented people—Kurt Browning, Brian Orser, Chantal Kreviazuk… even Tom Cochrane.” This year’s “supporters” include Olympic medallist and champion kayaker Adam van Koeverden (pictured above, at left, with White, who donated the shoes he wore on the podium), singer Suzie McNeil (who donated the red boots she wore when she sang at the Grey Cup), and designer David Dixon (who, perhaps, didn’t get the “winter shoe/boot” memo, but nevertheless donated a pair of signed, strappy, hot pink stilettos of his own design).

So, short story even shorter: if Adam Van Koeverden can part with the shoes he wore as flag bearer during the ’08 Olympics, surely you can part with a pair or two, too. Right?

Photos by David Topping/Torontoist.

Jeremy donates his shoes to charity for the Ron White Shoe Drive

Ron White partners with celebs and local charities for 13th Annual Shoe Drive for the Homeless


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RON WHITE, Canada’s leading footwear retailer, announced today that it will be partnering with Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons, actor/producer/director Paul Gross, singer Suzie McNeil, Olympic Gold Medalist and Canadian flag bearer Adam van Koeverden, Broadway sensation Louise Pitre, media personalities Billie (The Breakfast Show with Mad Dog and Billie), Dina Pugliese (Breakfast Television), Glen Dixon (Take This House and Sell It), and fashion designer David Dixon, for its 13th Annual Shoe Drive for the Homeless.

The month-long event will kick off this Thursday, January 8 at RON WHITE’s flagship Manulife location and will run through Sunday, February 15 at all six RON WHITE store locations. Each celebrity donor will have autographed and donated their gently worn shoes to RON WHITE.

RON WHITE’S Shoe Drive for the Homeless is the largest of its kind in Canada and has collected and distributed more than 16,000 pairs of shoes and boots for the needy in the GTA, with the help of many big-hearted celebrities. This year’s charitable partners include the Out Of The Cold program, Red Door Family Shelter and Halton Women’s Place.

All six RON WHITE store locations across the GTA will be collecting gently worn footwear that will be cleaned up, sorted and distributed to those in need.

Past RON WHITE Shoe Drive alumni include musical talents Backstreet Boys, Jann Arden, Chantal Kreviazuk and Hilary Duff, actors Michael Cera, Hayden Cristensen and Kyle MacLachlan, World Champion Figure Skaters Kurt Browning and Brian Orser and media personalities Ben Mulroney, Jeanne Beker, Seamus O’Regan and Leslie Roberts.