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MIRAMAX

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Cast:
Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Woody Harrelson, Rodger Boyce, Barry Corbin, Beth Grant, Kelly Macdonald
Writing Credits:
Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Cormac McCarthy (novel)

Tagline:
There Are No Clean Getaways.

Synopsis:
Acclaimed filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen deliver their most gripping and ambitious film yet in this sizzling and supercharged action-thriller. When a man stumbles on a bloody crime scene, a pickup truck loaded with heroin, and two million dollars in irresistible cash, his decision to take the money sets off an unstoppable chain reaction of violence. Not even West Texas law can contain it. Based on the novel by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Cormac McCarthy, and featuring an acclaimed cast led by Tommy Lee Jones, this gritty game of cat and mouse will take you to the edge of your seat and beyond - right up to its heart-stopping final act.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$1.226 million on 28 screens.
Domestic Gross
$61.336 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish

Runtime: 122 min.
Price: $32.99
Release Date: 4/7/2009

Bonus:
DVD One:
• “The Making of No Country for Old Men” Featurette
• “Working with the Coens” Featurette
• “Diary of a Country Sheriff” Featurette
• Sneak Peeks
DVD Two:
• “Josh Brolin’s Unauthorized Behind-the-Scenes” Featurette
• “Publicity Timeline”
DVD Three:
• Digital Copy


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


No Country For Old Men: Collector's Edition (2007)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 9, 2008)

After more than 20 years of film-making, Joel and Ethan Coen finally struck Oscar gold with 2007’s No Country for Old Men. Among other awards, it nabbed the much coveted Best Picture prize. Did they have to compromise their quirky and dark sides to gain this honor? Nope – for good or for bad, Men feels distinctly like a Coen Brothers product, though it clearly favors the dark over the quirky; think more “bodies in the wood chipper” than “deadpan, pregnant, heavily accented Midwest cop”.

Set in desolate west Texas circa 1980, Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) stumbles across a drug deal gone wrong. Among the corpses, he discovers lots of dope as well as a suitcase that contains a couple million bucks. Like most people would, he snags the cash and goes on his merry way.

This doesn’t leave him free and clear, though. Hired assassin Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) goes after the money and doesn’t plan to simply ask nicely for its return. If he catches Moss, he clearly will shoot first and ask questions later – a plan that applies to anyone else he encounters as well. While Moss tries to keep ahead of Chigurh, local sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) tracks both of them. The film follows these threads and some other complications.

And gets darned bloody while it’s at it, though Men isn’t the only violent Best Picture winner in recent years. Heck, 2006’s The Departed featured a lot of that kind of material, and both 2000’s Gladiator and 1995’s Braveheart boasted much bloodshed got pretty graphic at times. (1997’s Titanic probably boasts the highest death toll over the last few decades, but it didn’t feature graphic violence, of course.)

I guess I can’t call Men the only dark film to take home the Best Picture Oscar recently either. Departed was pretty grim at times, and both 2005’s Crash and 2004’s Million Dollar Baby veered into “downer” territory. The most recent non-violent and uplifting film among recent BP winners would be 2001’s A Beautiful Mind, I suppose. 2003’s Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King had an inspirational side but was violent, while 2002’s Chicago was a sparkly musical that contained murder and other sins. 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire also becomes an uplifting tale, but it suffers from more than a few violent/dark bits.

Although we’ve seen some gritty Best Picture winners, Men stands out as something else to me. As violent and dark as some of them could be, they focused on the heroic side of things too much to be as grim as Men. For instance, Departed mostly focused on the perspective of an undercover cop who infiltrates a criminal organization. It features ethical complexities but maintains a clear sense of good and bad, and we’re largely exposed to a character who maintains – or tries to maintain, at least – the moral high ground.

No such nuances exist in Men. Sure, it offers the investigation by Sheriff Bell, but it doesn’t concentrate on his side of things over the other facets. In fact, Sheriff Bell really plays a minor role through much of the film. We see much more of Chigurh and Moss than we do anyone else, probably because the Coens relish the bad guys more than they do the heroes. Granted, Moss doesn’t fit the mold of a true villain – he’s the besieged rodent in the cat and mouse chase to Chigurh’s relentless feline – but Moss sure isn’t anyone we’d view as a positive model.

This makes Men a dark ride, probably the grimmest Best Picture winner since 1991’s Silence of the Lambs. That one went for uglier subject matter and contained more evil at its core – no one here skins women and wears them as a suit – but at least it compensated with an actual heroic lead character who dominates the proceedings. For it to work the same as Men, we’d have needed to spend most of our time with Lecter and Gumb while Clarice makes only sporadic appearances that the filmmakers embrace in a half-hearted manner.

You can tell the Coens don’t care much about the Sheriff Bell side of things, at least during three-fourths of the film. They muster little interest in the white knight who tries to do the right thing. They’d rather indulge in the psychopathic assassin who uses a bolt gun to slay his prey. After all, who’s more interesting: the vaguely John Wayne-style small town lawman or the amoral hitman with the moptop?

I must admit I’ve never considered myself to be a fan of the Coen Brothers. They possess a certain self-conscious side to their film-making, as their quirkiness feels precious and over the top to me. I get the feeling they impress themselves too much with their fabricated eccentricities.

But maybe that’s just me, as the Coens certainly boast an extensive fan base. I don’t claim they lack talent, of course, and I’ve liked some of their films. I thought highly of Miller’s Crossing - one of their “straighter” films – and I maintain reasonable affection for Fargo, although believe it’s overrated. I don’t fully recall how I felt about Barton Fink, but I’ve been pretty ambivalent or negative about most of the rest of their filmography. Cult faves like Raising Arizona and The Big Lebowski don’t just leave me cold; I actively dislike them.

It should seem like no coincidence that those two efforts favor the super-quirky comedic side of the Coens – the side that so irks me. To my relief, Men largely leaves that facet of their cinematic personalities out of the equation. Oh, the flick throws out the occasional oddball moment played for dark laughs, but the emphasis stays on the dramatic side of things.

And that’s what keeps Men on the positive side of the ledger most of the time. Even when the Coens embrace the oddly comic – like when a mariachi band awakens a bloodied character – the gag stays small and underdone. The film lacks the oppressively broad strokes of something like Lebowski, so it doesn’t come across as quirky for quirky’s sake.

Does any of this make Men a great film? That’s the bigger question, and one for which I think the answer is “no”. I found Men to be an interesting movie, and it’s one that maintained my attention for its two hours despite some potential lulls. For instance, Men may well be the least chatty Best Picture winner since 1927’s pre-talkie Wings. Dialogue scenes are few and far between in this effort, as “show” almost always trumps “tell”. It’s the polar opposite of fellow Best Picture nominee Juno, a flick that made its bones with its eccentric lines.

The lack of dialogue means that Men comes across as something unusual, but “unusual” and “great” aren’t the same thing. This is a good, reasonably involving flick but not anything that seems particularly memorable. Actually, some of the elements that make it different can end up as flaws. While it certainly remains dark, that grimness ensures a one-note feel and it means an essential absence of character development.

Some of that changes during the third act, but I’m not sure it’s for the better. The tale does take a tone shift when Bell becomes more central to the plot, and viewers are sure to debate ad infinitum whether or not this turn actually works. Maybe it’s brilliant and deep, maybe it’s pointless and inconclusive, or maybe it’s neither.

The final act does create a distinct contrast with the rest of the film, and I still really don’t know how I feel about it. On one hand, I applaud the decision not to give Men a more traditional conclusion; the movie goes in an unexpected path that allows it to stand out against its predecessors. On the other hand, I can’t say that the ending feels satisfying. Perhaps that’s the point – I don’t want to get too detailed here so I can avoid spoilers – but when the flick ends, you may be left somewhat befuddled.

Ultimately, No Country for Old Men is a good film, and one that certainly works better than the average Coen Brothers effort. I don’t think it deserves all the praise it’s received, though, as I can’t quite view it as a great piece of work. The movie has a lot going for it but falls short of excellence.


The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B+/ Bonus A-

No Country for Old Men appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though it improved as it progressed, I thought this was a less than exemplary transfer.

Most of the issues related to sharpness. I noticed moderate edge enhancement at times, and that factor affected the film’s definition. More than a few wide shots looked soft and loose, though these did get a bit tighter as the flick went along. Nonetheless, I thought delineation was only good at best and occasionally less satisfying than that.

At least the film lacked shimmering or jagged edges, and source flaws failed to appear. In terms of palette, Men went with an arid yellow tint much of the time. This meant few – if any – more dynamic hues and a generally drab appearance. I couldn’t fault the transfer, though, as the bland colors stemmed from the visual design.

Blacks were tougher to judge, though. I thought they seemed a bit inky at times, but I wasn’t able to determine how much of that came from the transfer and how much was from the cinematography. I thought the blacks weren’t terribly satisfying, though, and shadows could be a bit murky and flat. Enough of Men looked positive to enter “B-“ territory, but this remained a lackluster presentation.

On the other hand, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Men proved quite satisfying. Though the soundfield lacked the consistent dazzle factor to enter into “A” territory, it used the give channels in a positive manner. Most of the effective sequences came from those that involved fights with bullets or Chigurh’s bolt gun; during these, blasts and crashes popped up from all around the room. General atmosphere seemed involving as well, with a natural, spacious feeling about them. The elements were placed accurately and fit together in a tight, convincing manner.

Audio quality was also strong. Speech sounded concise and distinctive, with clear lines and no related issues. Effects seemed clean and dynamic. They were accurate and presented vivid imaging. I can’t comment on the music, though – outside of its closing credits, the movie featured no score. That was fine with me, since the audio was very good for the film and it didn’t need music. I really liked this powerful soundtrack.

How did the picture and audio of this 2009 “Collector’s Edition” compare to those of the original 2008 release? I thought both seemed virtually identical.

In terms of extras, the CE includes everything from the 2008 disc along with a second platter of new supplements. All of the contents of DVD One appeared on the prior release, as we find three separate featurettes. The Making of No Country for Old Men runs 24 minutes, 28 seconds and provides the usual mix of movie clips, shots from the set and interviews. We hear from writers/directors Joel and Ethan Coen, UPM executive producer Robert Graf, production designer Jess Gonchor, property master Keith Walters, costume designer Mary Zophres, makeup artist Christien Tinsley, stunt coordinator Jery Hewitt, special effects coordinator Peter Chesney, and actors Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Kelly Macdonald, and Javier Bardem. “Making” looks at the source novel and its adaptation, shooting in Texas, cast, characters and performances, period elements and visual design, stunts and effects, and a few other thoughts.

“Making” adds up to half promotion and half facts. Most of the latter appear in the piece’s second segment, as the first devotes itself mostly to a general description of the story and characters. This never turns into a fascinating piece, but it includes a mix of useful details.

Working with the Coens fills eight minutes and seven seconds with comments from Bardem, Brolin, Macdonald, Graf, Jones, Zophres, Hewitt, Chesney, Gonchor, Tinsley, Walters, and actor Tess Harper. The show tells us what it’s like to interact with the Coens and their style as co-directors. Of course, much of this degenerates into basic praise for the Coens, but we get some good footage from the set and a few minor insights about the brothers.

Finally, Diary of a Country Sheriff goes for six minutes, 44 seconds and involves the Coens, Graf, Jones, Bardem, Macdonald, Harper, and Brolin. They chat a little about some characters and movie themes. We get some decent thoughts but not a whole lot of substance.

A few ads open DVD One. We get clips for Blu-ray Discs, Miramax Films and Doubt. These also appear in the Sneak Peeks area. No trailer for Men appears here.

Over on DVD Two, we get all of the CE’s new extras. Josh Brolin’s Unauthorized Behind-the-Scenes fills nine minutes, 19 seconds with footage. We find comments from Joel and Ethan Coen, Jones, Bardem, Graf, Brolin, Macdonald, production supervisor Karen Getchell, associate producer Dave Diliberto and actor Woody Harrelson. Essentially “Unauthorized” falls into the category of a joke project. It includes a smattering of facts, but mostly it exhibits a dry wit. This makes it moderately enjoyable but a little too clever for its own good.

A slew of elements appear under the banner of Publicity Timeline. This starts on October 26, 2007 with “Lunch with David Poland” (26:29) and progresses through another 15 elements that end on February 9, 2008 with “NPR’s Weekend Edition” (5:33). In between, we find “LA WGAW Q&A Panel” (11/6/07, 24:12), “Variety Q&A” (11/6/07, 3:08), “EW.com Just a Minute” (11/8/07, 12:55), “Creative Screenwriting Magazine” (11/8/07, 21:26), “NPR’s All Things Considered” (11/9/07, 4:45), “ABC Popcorn with Peter Travers” (11/14/07, 14:50), “In-Store Appearance” (11/20/07, 40:29), “Charlie Rose” (11/21/07, 22:32), “WNBC Reel Talk with Lyons and Bailes” (12/1/07, 10:02), “Channel 4 News” (12/16/07, 3:45), “KCRW The Treatment” (12/19/07, 28:31), “NPR’s Day to Day” (1/17/08, 6:39), “Spike Jonze Q&A” (1/27/08, 1:00:44), and “NPR’s All Things Considered” (2/7/08, 7:50).

That adds up to a grand total of four hours, 53 minutes and 50 seconds of material. Across these, we hear from Joel and Ethan Coen, Brolin, Bardem, Macdonald, and Jones. For the “Jonez” clip, we also find director of photography Roger Deakins, supervising sound editor Skip Lievsay, sound designer Craig Berkey, sound mixer Peter Kurland, sound re-recording mixer Greg Orloff, and production designer Jess Gonchor; it’s the only place anyone other than the actors or directors appear.

The various pieces cover a variety of topics, though they tend to emphasize the work of the Coens and the actors. Since all of them come from publicity appearances in media outlets, that makes sense; I wouldn’t expect NPR to dig too deeply into more technical topics. We do get a lot of good info about cast and performances, the script and the Coens’ working processes, and various production stories. The “Jonze” program is the major exception to this rule, as it digs into cinematography, production design and sound choices.

Because these elements come from promotional opportunities, I feared they would follow a superficial path. To my pleasant surprise, they tend to be fairly involving and deep. However, they can turn redundant, as we hear some of the same information over and over again. We also see the trailer and a few movie clips many, many times.

The redundancy issue becomes especially true for notes from Brolin and Bardem. Of all the participants, they show up the most often, so they tell us some of the same stories during many of the components. At least both men are entertaining; Brolin boasts a slightly dark, dry sense of humor that adds zest to his moments. Perhaps the most fun moments with Brolin appear during the “Lyons” piece, as he actually talks about The Goonies there; we get a few other cool, unusual topics in that piece.

With nearly five hours of footage, I sure can’t criticize the amount of material found under “Publicity Timeline”, though I must admit that I’d have preferred a tight, better-balanced documentary. The “Timeline” feels a bit like an easy way out; rather than go to the effort to create something unified, it simply includes lots of prefab elements and lets the viewer sort through them. You’ll learn a lot from these components, but you have to sit through a lot of redundancy to get to the good stuff.

My shorthand recommendation: “Spike Jonze Q&A” is a must-see since it’s the only place to learn about the technical elements. I think if you stick with the longer components – all of the ones over 20 minutes – and skip the shorter ones, you’ll get most of what the package has to offer. The short clips have some unique elements – and the Lyons one deserves mention – but they also include most of the redundant bits.

One more comment about the “Publicity Timeline” area: each screen offers an option that read “Call It, Friend-O” at the top. You might think this is an Easter egg, but it’s not. Instead, it just provides a random way to watch the clips; hit “Call It” and you’ll get a featurette of the DVD’s choosing.

Over on Disc Three, we get the ubiquitous Digital Copy. This means you can easily transfer the movie onto a portable viewing device or your computer. I have no interest in doing so, but if that sounds good to you, have a blast!

Do I like No Country For Old Men? Yeah, most of the time. It suffers from ups and downs, but it succeeds as a whole. Do I think it was the best movie of 2007? Nope. Indeed, of the five Best Picture nominees from 2007, I feel it’s the second weakest. There’s not a big gap between the best and the worst, as 2007 was a year deficient in cinematic greatness, but I would’ve preferred to see any of those three take home the big prize.

As for the DVD, I liked the involving and realistic soundtrack, but transfer was lackluster. The “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” approach to the extras can become frustrating, but I must admit that we learn a lot about the movie, so those elements ultimately satisfy.

If you enjoy supplements, then this Collector’s Edition merits your attention. If you’re all about the movie, stick with the original disc. Both provide virtually identical picture and audio, so there’s no movie-related upgrade here.

To rate this film visit the original review of NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main