Although many critics criticized The Color Purple as a "safe" version of Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel at the time of its theatrical release, the film still garnered 11 Academy Award nominations in 1985. Inexplicably, it managed to lose in every single category. To make matters worse, Steven Spielberg wasn't even nominated for best director, despite the film's nomination for best picture. There were rumors at the time of a Hollywood conspiracy against the ultra-successful Spielberg, and, after watching the new two-disc special-edition DVD of The Color Purple, I almost believe them. Perhaps best known for the powerful big-screen debuts of Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey, The Color Purple boasts superb acting performances across the board.
All of the principle contributors (including Spielberg and Walker) reminisce about the film on four revealing new documentaries, although, as usual, Spielberg declined to provide a full-length commentary. The 1.85:1 anamorphic picture is a big improvement over the original 1997 DVD release's picture, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is also quite good. The Color Purple has its detractors even today, but it's a film that I enjoy more and more with each subsequent viewing. Spielberg has never been one of my favorite directors, but he made a film of great heart and beauty with The Color Purple.—Gary Maxwell
DVD: Road to Perdition—DreamWorks
I can't say that I liked Road to Perdition in that warm-and-fuzzy kind of way. It's by no means a feel-good film, but it is a great piece of cinema. Set in the early 1930s, it's a story about fathers and sons, specifically about a father who tries to save his son's soul by preventing him from joining the family business of bumping people off. It's a gorgeously shot, deeply layered film that I suspect would stand up to repeat viewings. Both Tom Hanks and Paul Newman are in top form in this film (old Paul's still got it).
I have nothing bad to report about either the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack or the 2.35:1 anamorphic image. The picture isn't quite reference-quality, but it's crisp and sharp enough to breathe life into the dull, muted colors of the scenery and costumes. Road to Perdition relies less on dialogue and more on its score than most films do; but, when it's called for, the dialogue is intelligible, and there are plenty of instances when the sound of bullets ricochets around your listening space. Unfortunately, the only extra feature you should devote any time to is director Sam Mendes' commentary track, which is less self-congratulatory and more constructive than any I've heard in some time.
A great, thought-provoking film for the grown-ups—as well as for any of your youngsters who've played so many video games that blood no longer fazes them—Road to Perdition is worth adding to your collection.—Claire Lloyd