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Lonesome Dove(TV) (1989)
Based upon the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Larry McMurtry and set in the late nineteenth century, this sprawling epic of the Old West is the story of the last defiant frontier, a daring cattle drive, and an undying love. Lonesome Dove continues to be a treasured classic for all generations.
For more about Lonesome Dove and the Lonesome Dove Blu-ray release, see Lonesome Dove Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on July 22, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Robert Duvall, Tommy Lee Jones, Danny Glover, Diane Lane, Robert Urich, Frederic Forrest
Director: Simon Wincer
» See full cast & crew
Lonesome Dove Blu-ray Review
An all-time classic Western series makes its high definition debut.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, July 22, 2008
If you want only one thing too much, it's likely to turn out a disappointment. Now the only healthy way to live, as I see it, is to learn to like all the little everyday things.
Despite its status as perhaps the most beloved mini series of all time (although such classics as Roots, Shogun, and The Stand may have something to say about that), Lonesome Dove is a series that has somehow remained elusive to this Western genre fan, so it is with great anticipation and eagerness that I begin the process of reviewing this renowned classic. The winner of seven Emmy Awards in 1989, and a nominee for a dozen more, this sprawling, epic series features one of the finest casts ever assembled, be it a television event or feature film, right up there with How the West Was Won and A Bridge Too Far. Lonesome Dove features Robert Duvall (Broken Trail), Tommy Lee Jones (No Country For Old Men), Chris Cooper (The Patriot), Diane Lane (The Perfect Storm), Robert Urich (The Ice Pirates), Danny Glover (Be Kind Rewind), Steve Buscemi (Con Air), D.B. Sweeney (Dinosaur), and Angelica Huston (Tinker Bell), and that's just for starters. They don't come much more epic, more star-studded, or more cherished than Lonesome Dove, a classic tale and series, adored by its fans and hailed as one of the finest Westerns of all time.
At their ranch in Lonesome Dove, Texas, Gus McCrae (Duvall) and his longtime friend Call (Jones) receive a long-lost friend by the name of Jake (Urich). Jake wows his friends with tales of the wild, wide-open, and unsettled land far to the north of Texas, called Montana. He vividly describes a place of land, grass, and water aplenty that is begging to be settled and, subsequently, earn its new inhabitants a fortune. While Gus and Call eventually agree to round up a few thousand head of cattle from Mexico and travel with Jake and a band of ragtag cowboys to the North, each for their own personal reasons, Jake has other reasons for leaving, namely evading the law for the murder of a dentist in the dusty town of Fort Smith, Arkansas, where the victim's brother just happens to be the sheriff, July Johnson (Cooper). The journey will be a difficult one, filled with hardships, violence, tragedy, and death. Only with the utmost of determination, trust, and hard work will the 2,500 mile journey be a successful one.
Based on the Pulitzer-Prize winning novel of the same name by Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove entertains, wows, inspires, and mesmerizes viewers with its rich storytelling that, thanks to its six-plus hour runtime, never feels hurried or lacking in development. The show eases into its primary story in part one as well as most of the side stories and plot developments along the way, a quality only afforded to such an extended series as this. However, the series feels half as long as it is thanks to these qualities, and the world of Lonesome Dove is vividly brought to life from its first frame to its last. The series also takes risks that pay off. For example, Lonesome Dove is occasionally graphic and brutally real in its depiction of the harsh life in the heat of Texas, the unforgiving conditions of the midwestern states, and the relentlessness of the human enemies faced by the band of cattle herders, replete with the occasional use of slight vulgar language to add authenticity to the rough and tumble way of life depicted in the series.
Although made for television, the epic feel of the movie, its vast, open spaces, and first-rate performances elevate the film to theatrical quality, and by the end of the first of the four parts, the high quality of the series becomes evident, and its status as a classic shines through. The strength of Lonesome Dove lies not only in the cavalcade of stars filling most every major role in the series, the fine direction by Simon Wincer (D.A.R.Y.L.), the quintessential Western score by Basil Poledouris (Starship Troopers), or the standout cinematography from Douglas Milsome (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves), but in the series' honesty, realism, and heart. One quality that all of the great Westerns share is an honest, basic story that, superficially, entertains and inspires with its depiction of classic Americana, but deeper down examines the human condition, from the bond of friendship and to the heart, soul, and spirit through grief, hardships, and violence. Lonesome Dove is no different, it just succeeds more so than most others thanks to the outstanding conglomeration of talent both in front of and behind the camera that sets the story apart from more ordinary Westerns.
Lonesome Dove Blu-ray, Video Quality
Lonesome Dove herds its six-hour-plus runtime onto Blu-ray in a 1080p, 1.78:1 framed transfer, and the program is spread over two discs, the first three parts of the series on disc one, and the final part one disc two. It's hard to believe that, when the show aired nearly twenty years ago, most families probably gathered around an old, bulky CRT television set, maybe even with knobs instead of buttons with which to change the channel and adjust the volume, to witness this classic series, and some, perhaps, recorded the program onto one or several VHS tapes, depending on the quality desired and speed of the tape chosen (SP, LP, or EP). Now, the series comes to the high definition Blu-ray format, no doubt looking far better now than it did on the nights of its television premiere. This transfer is a solid one, generally. Earth tones -- browns, tans, whites, and yellows -- dominate the picture, but the look of old Texas, the midwestern plains, and the Big Sky country to the north -- represent stunning vistas that aren't as sharp, defined, and awe-inspiring as those seen in Broken Trail in terms of technical quality, but shot for shot, Lonesome Dove is as breathtaking as any Western you'll ever see, and that is saying quite a bit for a genre known for its grand cinematography. There is a considerable amount of popping and speckling over the opening credits, but the film itself clears up nicely and presents viewers with a fairly solid high definition image, but with a few problems.
Grain spikes in certain scenes, especially in nighttime shots, but grain is generally not noticeable. It is in these nighttime shots, however, that the transfer fails to impress. Noisy, abundantly grainy, virtually flat, a lack of detail, and slight contrast wavering are some of the issues that crop up, and these scenes will fail to impress viewers hoping for a clean, clear image. Oddly enough, some nighttime scenes clean up considerably, and the hit-and-miss nature of dark shots, even in the same sequence, is odd. Fortunately, most of the transfer is more than acceptable and once such poor-quality scenes are gone, viewers will quickly forget them as the film moves along to a more traditionally good-looking image. Facial detail is very good. The show features an abundance of close-ups, and every line, smudge of dirt, pore, and stubble of facial hair is easy to see and looks fairly realistic. Non-human detail is generally excellent, too. Caked-on mud on wagon wheels, the lines and ridges of tree trunks and stumps, the stitches and buttons on clothing, and the wear on firearms all offer solid clarity and realism. Black levels are generally presented as a true black without a hint of gray. Blacks won't impress as they do in a film like 21, but I was generally satisfied, especially during the "cleaner" dark scenes. Although I have never seen the series before, I have little doubt that this is the best Lonesome Dove has ever looked, and both newcomers and old fans of this epic alike should be especially pleased with the results.
Lonesome Dove Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Lonesome Dove saddles up on Blu-ray with only a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. The result is a soundtrack that is adequate, but definitely not up to the epic standards of the show itself, or even the fairly good video quality as reviewed above. Lonesome Dove, generally, has a harsh edge to its soundtrack, and an audible hiss accompanies much of the program. Dialogue is sometimes lost under the louder sounds, such as a the ringing of a bell or the squealing of a pig, but in general it's clean and precise. Unfortunately, the hiss, harsh edge, and the lost dialogue are present over the show's opening minutes, making a rather unimpressive first impression, but the soundtrack manages to improve over time, although such meddlesome problems remain throughout. There is a slight surround presence, one that is audible but certainly not distinct. There are some decent discreet effects across both the front soundstage and the rear, but nothing to get excited over. Chapter ten of part one is the first time the track becomes active with the subwoofer and the surrounds. While bass rumbles and the surround speakers are put to nonstop use during a stampede, the sound is undefined and lacking in fidelity. Chapter fourteen of part two also features some deep, rumbling bass as Gus is chased by Indians. Loud to be sure, the end result is more of an undefined clump of sound rather than distinct, realistic audio. Generally, the soundtrack is acceptable, but the lossy nature of the track, dated sound effects, and a collection of minor annoyances keep this one from being a winner, but the presentation doesn't negatively effect the tone or feel of the movie, and most viewers will become so immersed in the story line that they will fail to notice most of the track's shortcomings.
Lonesome Dove Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Lonesome Dove brings with it to Blu-ray a decent supplemental package, found on disc two of the set. The Making of an Epic (480p, 49:28) leads things off. This vintage piece begins with a recap of the program and contains a massive amount of interviews with the cast and crew, recounting everything a Lonesome Dove fan could ever want to know. On Location With Director Simon Wincer (480p, 15:06) showcases the director discussing how he approached the project, the tight shooting schedule, the faithfulness of the movie to the novel, the controversy of having an Australian helm a Texas project, and more. This is a solid interview with a well-spoken, genuine man who cares deeply about this film. Blueprints of a Masterpiece: Original Sketches and Concept Drawings (480p, 3:37) is not just a series of stills, but rather a real discussion about the original concepts for the project with the director. Remembering 'Lonesome Dove': Vintage Interviews With Tommy Lee Jones, Robert Duvall, and the Rest of the Cast (480p, 13:38) is exactly as billed, more nuggets from the stars of the film. Lonesome Dove Montage (480p, 3:13) is a series of some of the best scenes from the film played in succession with a musical overture. Finally, Interview With Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author Larry McMurtry (480p, 6:51) presents a series of text-based questions that are then answered by the writer. The sound quality leaves a bit to be desired in this feature.
Lonesome Dove Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Perhaps never before has a novel been brought to such vivid life as it is here, and Lonesome Dove's status as a classic in not only the Western genre, but in modern American film as a whole, is unquestioned. With its exceptional performances, heartfelt story, steady direction, and awe-inspiring locales, this is a movie that should be mandatory viewing for anyone who loves film. As their initial Blu-ray offering, Lonesome Dove does Weinstein proud (note the disc is distributed by Genius). The video quality is generally solid, wonderfully detailed, and charming in a late 1980s sort of way. The audio is less impressive, but adequate, as are the supplemental features. Regardless, this is one Blu-ray not to be missed thanks to the epic movie contained thereon. I would have recommended the disc even had the video and audio both received our lowest available score, but thankfully both perform admirably enough to warrant a purchase to add this wonderful film to your collection.
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