HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Texas Rising
HTS Overall Score:70
The western genre is one that I hold very dear to my heart, having absorbed myself with old west history as well as the fanciful movies that John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and countless others made famous in the decades past. There is a sort of magic to the cowboy name, and songs and tall tales have been told about those decades for over a century. The History Channel has been on a role with their dramatic reenactments of history lately, and I went into the miniseries with high hopes. Hopes polished by the promise of nearly 8 hours of material as well as a fantastic lineup of actors (although some DID make me raise an eyebrow). Their version of “Hatfield’s and McCoy’s” was amazing, and while “Sons of Liberty” wasn’t wildly factual, it certainly was entertaining enough. “Texas Rising”, on the other hand, just meanders around with a muddled script that leaves the viewer checking their phone quite often, and looking at the clock wondering if they’re through.
Set in 1836, right after the fall of The Alamon, where Davey Crockett and countless other Texans lost their lives to the forces of Mexican General Santa Anna, we follow the lives of a the brave Texans who fought to keep their independence from the Mexican government. Sam Houston (Bill Paxton) is at the front of the script, heading up the Texan army and the Rangers themselves in an effort to push back Santa Anna. Sneered at by his men for seeming cowards, by not retaliating immediately against Santa Anna, he does his best to keep his men in line while attempting to find a way to win this seemingly hopeless war. Simultaneously we have quite a few other stories that we skip around to, some involving the rangers themselves, where we have Deaf (pronounced Deef) Smith (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a deaf Ranger with a mysterious disease that doesn’t keep him from fighting a war that seems hopeless. There’s James Wykoff (Thomas Jane), a farmer who gets in over his head with Comanche territory, Brendan Frasier playing a ranger who was raise by Comanche’s, Emily West (Cynthiai Addai-Robinson), who supposedly inspired the song “The Yellow Rose of Texas” in her efforts as a supposed spy for Sam Houston. Add another 20 or 30 other main characters and you have the recipe for a good western jaunt, or a jumbled mess of a narrative. Unfortunately we have the latter.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=52738[/img]“Texas Rising” isn’t an awful series, but it is an awful butchering of history. Nothing is really right except for some of the costumes, and some of the events, but this doesn’t stop director Roland Joffe from doing his best to make it a fun romp. The problem with the movie is that there are just too many stories intersecting and randomly plot hopping all over the place. There’s some good performances, mainly by Paxton and Ray Liotta and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, but other than that, it falls victim to just plain “meh”. Paxton does his normal western growling role, and does it admirably, but the real standouts are Ray Liotta and Jeff Morgan. Deaf Smith is by far the most developed and likeable character in the entire series. Not only is he enjoyable, but he’s 3 dimensional and fully fleshed out. You care about his devotion to his wife, his love of his horse, and the intense patriotism in his heart. Liotta is another scene stealer as Lorca, the only surviving member of the Alamo, gone mad with hatred and slaughtering Mexicans in downright slasher fashion.
While there’s some good performances, there are also quitea few suspect ones too. While most of the characters skate on by, the really bad ones REALLY make you sit up and notice. Whoever thought that Brendan Frasier would make a good “Indian” Texas Ranger was loco, as he hacks and haws his way through the script with about as much finesse as a dull knife. Kris Kristopherson is just about as bad as President Andrew Jackson, playing him with intensity of wet potato. Although with the lines they are given, I’m not surprised it turned out that way. The script didn’t allow for a lot of creativity, and the constant jumping around from sub story to sub story just left you wanting a lot more than what you got.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=52746[/img]The 2.39:1 AVC encoded image for both discs are quite impressive, but it must be understood that they are also quite heavily graded. Desaturated nearly to the extreme, the resulting image is a tad flat, and shows off some boosted contrast levels that make it look like a faded picture from the old west. Definitely intentional, it shifts to a more saturated look when we get a view of New Orleans, with some bright colors coming through in the red and green variety. Black levels can be good, but do suffer a bit of washing out due to the boosted contrast levels. Fine detail is good, but not excessively great due to the same nature. I did notice a little bit of digital noise, but it was never distracting or annoying. A solid A- transfer, History Channel and Lionsgate do a very admirable job at trying to keep a heavily stylized piece with the high standards of the HD world.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=52754[/img]In my experience, the History films have always been a bit boisterous and in your face, with “Texas Rising” being no different. The 5.1 DTS-HDS MA lossless audio track is very aggressive and gives a great sonic experience for the 450 minute runtime. Wildly immersive and energetic, the track makes good use of the surrounds as bullets wiz over your shoulder, horse hooves thunder across the Texas landscape and the sounds of battle create a 360 degree field of immersion that is wonderful. . LFE is throbbing and powerful, adding some extremely impressive low end to the already awesome sonic experience. TV miniseries are not always known for their amazing audio tracks, but the History channel has a good "history" (yes I made a pun) of delivering the goods on these miniseries.
• "Capturing the Revolution: Filming Texas Rising" featurette
• "Sam Houston: A Man of the Revolution" featurette
• "General Santa Anna: Leading Mexico" featurette
I wanted to like “Texas Rising”, and I can certainly forgive the historical inaccuracies if there was only some level of enjoyment to the fictionalization. Instead we’re relegated to having to listen to a bunch of post modernistic revisionism to some parts, and in other parts left with overly clichéd and stereotypical portrayals, leading to a mish mash of styles which don’t resonate with the viewer. The amount of mid to high range actors in the film is staggering, but so much bloat in terms of acting was only surpassed by the bloat in the near 8 hours of runtime, which seemed about 3 hours too long. The disc itself is very good, with some decent audio and video, and some solid extras. Personally, I didn’t find much in the series, but it might be worth a rental if you come across it.
Starring: Bill Paxton, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Ray Liotta, Thomas Jane
Directed by: Roland Joffe
Written by: Darrell Fetty, Leslie Greif, George Nihil
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 450 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: September 1st 2015
Buy Texas Rising On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Cheap Rental
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