Courtesy of Sony
Cutline: Lindsay Pulsipher, left, plays Roseanna McCoy and Matt Barr plays Johnse Hatfield in “Hatfields & McCoys.” The TV miniseries originally aired on the History Channel.
By Forrest Hartman
We’re entering a slow period for home video, as no major theatrical releases made their way to the small screen this week. Fortunately a well-made TV movie stepped up to fill the void.
Hatfields & McCoys
3½ stars (out of four)
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
History Channel’s terrific miniseries about the well-publicized feud between the Hatfield family of West Virginia and the McCoy family of Kentucky was recently nominated for 16 Emmy Awards. The well-deserved accolades include acting nods for stars Kevin Costner, Bill Paxton, Tom Berenger and Mare Winningham; a best directing nomination for Kevin Reynolds; and a nomination for outstanding miniseries or TV movie.
When presented on TV, the project was broken into three parts, which was appropriate since it weighs in at almost five hours. That said, “Hatfields & McCoys” is at its best on home video because viewers have the option to watch as much as they like in a single setting without the nuisance of commercials.
The story runs from the early 1860s to the 1900s, recalling in detail a quarrel that cost many members of both families their lives. Reynolds begins his dramatization by introducing Confederate Civil War officers “Devil” Anse Hatfield (Kevin Costner) and Randall McCoy (Bill Paxton). The two men have a solid friendship made stronger by their mutual combat experience, but they are separated when Anse – convinced the South is going to lose – abandons his military post.
Years later, when the two men are reunited, Randall can’t forgive Anse for deserting. As extended family members get into increasingly hostile squabbles over issues ranging from stolen property to murder, the two clans begin to form a hatred for one another.
There is so much family-on-family violence during the course of the 290-minute movie that it becomes difficult to remember exactly how the feuding started, and one supposes Reynolds intended this. Why? Because the movie aptly points out that the participants in a quarrel often continue to hate each other even after they’ve lost track of the reasons.
Because the Hatfields and McCoys lived so close to one another, it was assured that they would mix, and the movie gets particularly juicy when Anse’s son Johnse (Matt Barr) falls in love with Randall’s daughter Roseanna (Lindsay Pulsipher). This twist gives the saga a “Romeo and Juliet”-style romance that plays out in heartbreaking fashion.
As the multiple Emmy nominations denote, the cast of “Hatfields & McCoys” is outstanding. Paxton has always been a fine actor, and Costner has become increasingly strong with age. Here, both men are convincing as Civil War-era patriarchs trying to uphold family honor at all costs. Although Paxton and Costner get the most screen time, the project owes much to the supporting players, who are fantastic throughout.
What’s more, Reynolds deserves credit for his cohesive and technically impressive direction. “Hatfields & McCoys” is not only an outstanding TV drama, it’s better than most historical epics that earn a theatrical release.
Home video extras are limited, but both the DVD and Blu-ray release include the music video “I Know These Hills” performed by Kevin Costner and Modern West.
ALSO OUT THIS WEEK
“Le Havre”: Foreign dramedy about a French shoe-shine man who forms a bond with an illegal immigrant boy. The Broadcast Film Critics Association and National Society of Film Critics nominated the movie for best foreign language film of 2011. Directed by Aki Kaurismaki.
“The Weight of the Nation”: Four-part HBO documentary examining America’s “obesity epidemic.” The film, written and directed by Dan Chaykin, considers everything from health consequences of obesity to the biology of weight loss.
“126.96.36.199”: Thriller about four young women tangled in a major diamond heist. Emma Roberts, Tamsin Egerton, Shanika Warren-Markland and Ophelia Lovibond star. Co-directed by Noel Clarke and Mark Davis.
“ATM”: Crime drama about three young people (Brian Geragthy, Alice Eve and Josh Peck) trapped in an ATM vestibule by a homicidal maniac. Directed by David Brooks.
“LOL”: Coming-of-age film starring Miley Cyrus as a teen doing her best to overcome peer pressure and find romance while dealing with her sometimes-intrusive parents. Demi Moore also stars.
“Melrose Place” – The Final Season, Volumes 1 and 2: CBS DVD split the final 35 episodes of this long-running nighttime soap into two separate releases. Each volume retails for $42.99 and contains approximately half the season. “Melrose Place” endured a number of cast changes during its seven seasons, and these episodes star Heather Locklear, Thomas Calabro, Josie Bisset, Rena Sofer and Alyssa Milano.
“Mystery Science Theater 3000” – XXIV: This comedy show earned a place as a cult classic by allowing its stars to poke fun at B movies while the films unspooled on screen. During its 11-year run, the program was nominated for multiple awards, including two Emmys. This release contains four episodes coming to DVD for the first time: “Fugitive Alien”; “Star Force: Fugitive Alien II”; “The Sword and the Dragon”; and “Samson Vs. the Vampire Women.”
“Transformers Prime – One Shall Stand”: Shout Factory edited seven episodes of the “Transformers Prime” animated series into a single, uninterrupted movie. The story arc centers on Optimus Prime and his ongoing battle against Earth’s greatest enemies.
Lifetime Original Movies: Two themed compilations made up entirely of Lifetime TV movies. The first is the “Jodi Picoult Collection,” which consists of three movies based on Picoult’s novels (“Salem Falls,” “Plain Truth” and “The Pact”). The second collection is “Surviving High School,” a set centered on teen life (“Odd Girl Out,” “Augusta, Gone,” “The Pefect Teacher” and “For One Night”).
“La Grande Illusion”: Blu-ray debut of Jean Renoir’s much-loved film about French soldiers held captive during World War I. Many critics rank the movie among the best of all time. Presented in French, German, Russian and English with English subtitles.
– Forrest Hartman is an independent film critic whose byline has appeared in some of the nation’s largest publications. For more of his work visit www.ForrestHartman.com. E-mail him at Forrest@ForrestHartman.com.