March 24, 2017

“The Road,” now on DVD, is a post-apocalyptic march worth taking


By Sean O’Connell

HollywoodNews.com stays on top of the latest DVD and Blu-ray releases so you know which films are worth your time and money. This week, we review:

“The Road”
I didn’t envy the filmmaker who’d eventually accept the difficult task of adapting Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Road.” Even after Joel and Ethan Coen proved it possible at shaping McCarthy’s prose into narrative form — as they expertly did with “No Country for Old Men” — “The Road” is an altogether different beast, a bleak march through a dystopian future where a father (Viggo Mortensen) combats harsh elements to ensure the survival of his only son (Kodi Smit-McPhee).

Yet John Hillcoat figured out how to tunnel to the heart of McCarthy’s novel without sacrificing the edges. As a result, “The Road” is a difficult slog through a painful process that’s every bit as gloomy and devoid of hope as the author probably intended. It’s also pretty fantastic.

Mortensen, for instance, is spectacular (yet understated) as the tired, torn father. The gifted actor manages to be both vulnerable and resilient, tapping into the story’s hidden theme of a parent forced to make tough decisions as he prepares his son for the day his protector no longer will be there. But really, the tremendous actor merely is the best part of an overall impressive adaptation that, while tough to recommend because of its oppressive mood, stays on the right path for the duration of its run.

Now on DVD, “The Road” comes with a director’s commentary track, deleted scenes and a brief “Making of” featurette.

The movie – *** out of 4
The DVD – **1/2

“Dr. Zhivago”
It’s Pulitzer Prize week at Hollywood News, as we turn our attentions to the anniversary release of David Lean’s epic “Dr. Zhivago.” The question, of course, isn’t whether you should own a copy or not. Lean’s sweeping, romantic treatment of Boris Paternak’s Pulitzer Prize winner of the same name might be one of the most beautiful and tragic love stories ever committed to film.

The question, instead, is which version of “Zhivago” should you own now that Warner Bros. has released a 45th anniversary Blu-ray treatment of Lean’s work? And Blu gets the vote, particularly if there isn’t a copy of “Zhivago: in your collection at the moment.

In addition to the extras included on a previous “Zhivago” DVD release (“Making of” clips, trailers, and vintage documentaries), Warner’s new Blu boasts a hardcover carrying case, and a 45-page booklet of stills, actor bios, and an essay about the film’s importance in Hollywood history.

The high-definition video transfer is magnificent, matched only by the DTS-HD 5.1 sound which dutifully mixes Maurice Jarre’s memorable score. Supplements spill out of the new “Zhivago” Blu, including commentary tracks with Omar Sharif, Rod Steiger and Sandra Lean, as well as a brand new, anniversary-specific two-part retrospective with high-profile “Zhivago” supporters talking about what the film means to them.

“Zhivago” deserves to be celebrated, and Warner’s Blu-ray is a gift to fans who’ve waited a long time to see their beloved masterpiece in the proper format. Get it while you can.

The movie – **** out of 4
The Blu-ray – **** out of 4

About Sean O'Connell

Sean O'Connell is a nationally recognized film critic. His reviews have been published in print ('The Washington Post,' 'USA Today') and online (AMC FilmCritic.com, MSN's Citysearch) since 1996. He's a weekly contributor to several national radio programs. He is a longstanding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Southeastern Film Critics View all articles by Sean O'Connell Association (SEFCA).

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