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Dances with Wolves: 20th Anniversary (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 13, 2011 by  



“Dances with Wolves” is an epic western that was deserving of all its Academy Award nominations and wins.  It was a unique film to see back then and even watching it today, I’m still impressed.  As for those who have had various versions of this film on DVD, especially the wonderful 2003 special edition, while many of the features from the 2003 release do make it on to this Blu-ray 20th Anniversary edition, the PQ and AQ in HD warrants an upgrade.  If you love this film, “Dances with Wolves: 20th Anniversary” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 1990 TIG Productions, Inc. 2010 Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Dances with Wolves: 20th Anniversary

FILM RELEASE DATE: 1990

DURATION: 234 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition  (2:35:1), English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Dolby Surround, AVC@20MBPS, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish and French

COMPANY: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Twentieth Century Fox

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: January 11, 2011

Directed by Kevin Costner

Based on the novel by Michael Blake

Screenplay by Michael Blake

Produced by Kevin Costner, Jim Wilson

Associate Producer: Bonnie Arnold

Executive Producer: Jake Eberts

Line Producer: Derek Kavanaugh

Music by John Barry

Cinematography by Dean Semler

Edited by William Hoy, Chip Masamitsu, Steve Potter and Neil Travis

Casting by Elisabeth Leustig

Production Design by Jeffrey Beecroft

Art Direction by William Ladd Skinner

Set Decoration by Lisa Dean

Costume Design by Elsa Zamparelli

Starring:

Kevin Costner as Lieutenant Dunbar

Mary McDonnell as Stands with a Fist

Graham Greene as Kicking Bird

Rodney A. Grant as Wind in His Hair

Floyd “Red Crow” Westerman as Ten Bears

Tantoo Cardinal as Black Shawl

Robert Pastorelli as Timmons

Charles Rocket as Lt. Elgin

Maury Chaykin as Major Fambrough

Jimmy Herman as Stone Calf

Nathan Lee Chasing His Horse as Smiles a Lot

Michael Spears as Otter

Jason R. Lone Hill as Worm

Tony Pierce as Spivey

Doris Leader Charge as Pretty Shield

Tom Everett as Sgt. Pepper

Larry Joshua as Sgt. Bauer

Kirk Baltz as Edwards

Wayne Grace as Major

Donalt Hotton as General Tide

DANCES WITH WOLVES tells the story of Lieutenant John Dunbar (Kevin Costner) who chooses a posting on the American Frontier and is soon accepted into a local Sioux tribe.The tribe names him “Dances with Wolves” and as time passes he falls in love with the beautiful “Stands with a Fist” (played by Mary McDonnell), a white woman adopted by the Sioux when her family was killed. John’s blissful new life is soon disrupted, however, when American soldiers advance on the frontier threatening the Sioux people. John is forced to make a decision that will not only affect him, but also the lives of those he now calls his people.

Dances With Wolves Featurette Clip – “The Original Making Of Dances With Wolves – Kevin Costner On Directing The Film”

Dances With Wolves Featurette Clip – “The Creation Of An Epic – Intro”

Dances With Wolves Featurette Clip – “A Day In The Life On The Western Frontier Reasons For The Migration To The Western Frontier”

Dances With Wolves Film Clip – “Are You Hungry?”

Dances With Wolves Film Clip – “You Are Not Welcome Here”

Dances With Wolves Film Clip – “Fort Sedgewick – Extended Scene”

Dances With Wolves Film Clip – “Buffalo Hunt”

Dances With Wolves Film Clip – “I Am Your Friend”

Dances With Wolves Film Clip – “How Did You Get Your Name?”

Dances With Wolves Film Clip – “Looks Like A Suicide”

Dances With Wolves Film Clip – “Who Dances With Wolves?”

Dances With Wolves Film Clip – “Feeding Two Socks”

In 1990, actor/director Kevin Costner along with novelist/screenplay writer Michael Blake took on an ambitious project of developing a film titled “Dances with Wolves” with a budget of only $22 million.  Shot in South Dakota and Wyoming, the epic western would become one of the most memorable films to be created.

With rave reviews, the film would make $424 million worldwide, would be credited for the revitalization of the Western genre in Hollywood and a film that would give Native Americans a sympathetic portrayal.

“Dances with Wolves” would win a total of 7 Academy Awards including “Best Picture”, “Directing”, “Writing Adapted Screenplay”, “Cinematography”, “Film Editing”, “Sound Mixing”, “Originial Musical Score” and also win a Golden Globe for “Best Motion Picture Drama” and “Best Director”.

In 2007, “Dances with Wolves” was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

While “Dances with Wolves” have received a number of DVD releases, from its 180-minute theatrical version in 1998, a DTS version released in 1999 and then a special edition featuring a 236 minute Director’s Cut in 2003, “Dances with Wolves” receives its first released in HD via Blu-ray with “Dances with Wolves: 20th Anniversary” edition which includes the special edition features from 2003 as well as utilizing newer features with Blu-ray technology.

“Dances with Wolves” revolves around First Lieutenant John J. Dunbar (played by Kevin Costner).  Despite being injured during the American Civil War, he faced the Confederate Army with only his horse and managed to not get hit and giving the Union enough time to mount an offensive against the Confederate Army.

Because of his braveness, Dunbar is awarded Cisco, the horse he rode on and also his choice of posting.  For Dunbar, he wants to be transferred to the western frontier before it disappears.

What he doesn’t know that the men in the military who are now low on supplies, without horses and ammunition have been waiting for supplies for way too long and the men who are left behind have decided to abandon the post.

Upon Dunbar’s arrival to Fort Sedgwick, he sees that the post has been abandoned.  But rather than leave, Dunbar wants to obey commands and stay at this post.

With a large responsibility, Dunbar sets his goal to restocking, repairing and fixing up Fort Sedgwick by himself and prepare it for when the soldiers arrive.

While living at Fort Sedgwick, he collects his thoughts in a journal and writes about his daily experiences.  Each day he looks out to the horizon, along with his horse Cisco, he sees a wolf watching him from afar.

But unbeknown to Dunbar, a group of Indians are also watching him.   One day, as Kicking Bird goes to examine the Fort while Dunbar is bathing, the two encounter and are shocked by each other’s presence.

When the Sioux Indians return, they discuss what they do with Dunbar.  Kicking Bird (played by Graham Greene) feels they need to establish contact and find out why he is alone and if other White men will be coming but the younger tribe members, especially Otter (played by Michael Spears) look at him as an enemy and want to kill him.

Meanwhile, the young Sioux overhear this and head towards the Fort to steal Dunbar’s horse.  But unknown to them, Dunbar has set up traps and in the process, as the children try to escape with the stolen horse, one falls in the trap and ends up losing the horse (which returns back to the Fort).

As the Sioux Indians continue to taunt Dunbar, one day while roaming around the area, he finds a Caucasian woman with blue eyes but in Indian gear and looks as if she is severely injured.  Dunbar worries for her safety and brings her to where the Sioux Indians are living.

Shocked that a white man would enter their area by himself, it shows the elders especially to Kicking Bird that he is not a bad man and perhaps the other Indians can establish contact and find out why he is living alone, why the White man are attacking Indians and communicate and find out if the talk they are hearing from other tribes of the white man taking all their land is true.

At first, the communication is rough but Dunbar welcomes them to the Fort, giving them coffee and both learn each other’s ways.  But Kicking Bird needs a better way to communicate and he knows that the only one that can is Stands With a Fist (played by Mary McDonnell), the injured woman that Dunbar found earlier.  His hopes for the Sioux tribe that with Stands With a Fist, it will lead to their tribe’s survival.

We learn from a flashback that Stands With a Fist was a young girl who lived with her family that was attacked and killed by Indians.  She managed to escape alone but was captured by the Sioux Indians who have since raised her and taught her the Sioux language, the Sioux lifestyle.

But overtime, the Sioux Indians begin to learn from Dunbar and Dunbar grows to appreciate the Sioux Indians and learns that they are nothing like he was taught about them being savages and starts to sympathize with them.  But at the same time, knowing that the military will be migrating and taking over the land.  Will Dunbar grow close with the Indians and tell them about the plan of the migration of the military and when he finds himself growing close with the Indians, especially with Stands With a Fist, will he find himself more comfortable being around them?  And what will happen when the military arrive at the Fort?

VIDEO:

“Dances with Wolves: 20th Anniversary” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio).  Having owned previous incarnations of the DVD release, especially the original 1998 DVD release, one thing I have noticed on Blu-ray is how vibrant the colors look on Blu-ray.

From the golden weeds and grass that surround the area and the blue skies up above, You can literally see the shading and detail of those long strands of grass and when it comes to showcasing the Fort or even the Indian camp and seeing the animal hide on the clothing to the tents, there is quite a bit of detail that can be seen.

Also, when you see a close up of Dunbar’s face, you can see skin pores, clear stubble.  Especially when you see the war paint applied on the skin surface, everything looks clear and detailed!

Blacks are nice and deep, there is a fine layer of grain.I personally didn’t see any blemishes or traces of DNR or any softness.  Overall, awesome PQ for “Dances with Wolves”.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Dances with Wolves: 20th Anniversary” is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio with English Dolby Surround.  As the majority of the film features dialogue, when there’s action…may it be horses riding in the distance, the buffalo trampling and skidding on the ground, the rifle shots, the lossless soundtrack does a good job in making those scenes quite immersive by utilizing every channel.

Even in non-action scenes, a good number of ambiance of how things sound outdoors.  So, bugs, birds, dogs, horses, everything can be heard all around you.

Dialogue is crisp and clear and the music by John Barry is fantastic via lossless!

Subtitles are provided in English SDH, Spanish and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Dances with Wolves: 20th Anniversary” comes with the following special features:

DISC 1:

  • Audio Commentary – Audio commentary by Kevin Costner and Producer Jim Wilson.  An excellent audio commentary which was included in the 2003 special edition release.  Both Costner and Wilson provide plenty of information on various scenes, challenges they had and just really deliver with this informative commentary track.
  • Audio Commentary– Audio commentary by Director of Photography Dean Semler and Film Editor Neil Travis.  Another awesome audio commentary previously included in the special edition that deals directly with cinematography and editing.
  • Military Rank and Social Hiearchy Guide – While watching the film, whenever a soldier of rank appears, a rank insignia on the bottom shows up and gives you details of the soldier’s duties.
  • Real History or Movie Make-Believe – A trivia track that can be watched during the film.  The only problem is that when you go to the next question, it pauses the video for a few seconds.

DISC 2:

  • A Day in the Life on the Western Frontier – (14:18) A new feature for Blu-ray in which we learn about the true story of those who migrated west to settle in the plain states.  From the dangers they faced, the making of sod houses, featuring photos from that era and more.
  • Original Making of Dances with Wolves – (20:58) An older making of “Dances with Wolves” featuring Kevin Costner , producer Jim Wilson and writer Michael Blake talking about their experiences of making the film and how the screenplay was written and how Costner was brought into the film.
  • The Creation of an Epic: A Retrospective Documentary – (1:14:39) From the 2003 special edition, Kevin Costner, Jim Wilson, Michael Blake, Mary McDonnell and others talk about their experience working on the film.  From information of novel to screen, actor becomes director, the buffalo hunt, the look and sound of “Dances with Wolves”, the art of composition and the success of the film.
  • Original Music Video featuring Music by John Barry – (3:52) Featuring cast and crew photos with music by John Barry.
  • Second Wind – (5:18) Originally an Easter Egg on the Special Edition DVD release, this features Editor Neil Travis showcasing his presentation reel “Second Wind”.
  • Confederate March and Music – (2:13) Featuring a Civil War re-enactment.
  • Getting the Point – (3:58) Showcasing how a bow and arrow shot was filmed.
  • Burying the Hatchet – (1:12) A feature on how the hatchet scene was shot.
  • Animatronic Buffalo – (2:18) The creation of the dead Buffalo scene using animatronics.
  • Dances Photo Montage with Introduction by Photographer Bill Glass – (9:21) Bill Glass, who was in charge of still shots, talks about his experience and showing us the photos he took during the film via a photo montage with music by John Barry.
  • Photo Gallery – Using your remote, you can cycle through photos taken during the filming of “Dances with Wolves”.
  • Original Theatrical Trailer – (2:35) The original theatrical trailer for “Dances with Wolves”.
  • TV Spot: Courage and Passion – (:32) A TV spot for “Dances with Wolves”.
  • TV Spot: Academy Campaign – (:32) Another TV spot for “Dances with Wolves”.

EXTRAS:

“Dances with Wolves: 20th Anniversary” comes with an embossed slip case cover.

“Dances with Wolves” is an important film that will probably be the finest Kevin Costner film ever directed and film that he has starred in.

The film was not only fantastic but it shows how this crew and its talent really went all out in making sure that this film which was seen as not even possible to shoot under $20 million, was successfully made but that they really went all out for this film.

And when I say, “went all out”, I mean that there were risks that were taken.  The buffalo stampede and having to shoot a bow and arrow to Costner having to ride a horse in the middle of a stampede with both hands on a rifle, many people today would think that whole scene was absolutely crazy (as it would probably be done digitally).  But Costner and crew made it happen!

Also, no matter how execs tried to have Costner and crew cut the film, these men stood behind their work and made sure that their film would not be butchered.  Once again, a film that was seen as improbable was made possible with literally blood, sweat and tears and in the end, the film was amazingly successful.

I know that there are some people who felt that “Goodfellas” and even “The Godfather III” were deserving of the many awards that “Dances with Wolves” had won back in 1990 but really, this epic western was excellent.  When I first watched it, I was surprised because Native Americans in films that do portray Indians, typically portray them as savages.   This was a film that literally shows them as a group that lived off the land, that were there first and were just defending their land and their families.  So, I felt that the screenplay was excellently written by Michael Blake and portrayed quite wonderfully onscreen courtesy of Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell, Graham Greene, Rodney A Grant, Floyd Westerman, Tantoo Cardinal, Michael Spears and the many talent who made viewers feel this film feel quite authentic.

As for the Blu-ray release, I can tell you right now, even if you own the wonderful 2003 special edition DVD release, the picture quality and lossless soundtrack definitely warrant an upgrade.  Sure, the special features are familiar features to those who own the previous special edition but to watch this in HD, I was quite impressed by the overall detail and how vibrant the film looked.

If you love this film, it’s really an easy choice to make, “Dances with Wolves: 20th Anniversary” on Blu-ray is highly recommended!

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