Everything I liked about the movie is still present in the extended cut. Joaquin Phoenix is incredible as the Man in Black, capturing the pronounced physicality and the burdened soul of the late musician. His first performance of Folsom Prison Blues where Cash realizes his true musical self still gives me chills. Reese Witherspoon stretched her acting muscles as the strong-willed June Carter and has great chemistry with Phoenix that gives the film a solid backbone, but I still don’t really view her performance as Best Actress Oscar worthy. The extra 18 minutes this new cut provides fleshes out a little bit more of Cash’s early life and rise to fame, which allows the story to breathe better…and not feel as if it’s rushing to get through decades of material in two hours.
Honestly though, I didn’t really notice the new additions outright without having to go back and look at the previous DVD, where all the new content was already offered as deleted scenes. I guess it’s nice that the material has been edited seamlessly back in to the film. (Nothing sorely stuck out as unnecessary.) Just don’t go in expecting a completely new or wildly different WALK THE LINE.
(*Brand new special features are marked with an asterisk.)
Commentary by director James Mangold: This is the same commentary track as the previous disc, so here’s what I had to say before:
Mangold tries to vary the typical commentary chatter by explaining his personal passion for the project and pointing out Cash’s direct influence on the movie, even reading directly from the script at one point. In the end though there’s nothing really entertaining or fascinating enough to warrant a listen, unless you’re a huge fan of the flick or Cash. (There’s also a good chance that Mangold’s deep monotone voice might put you to sleep.)
Johnny Cash Jukebox (26:50): You get longer versions of each song, complete with introductions with everyone from the actors to Rolling Stone magazine personnel. It’s nice to have these available and it helps you to better appreciate the vocal performances.
Deleted Scenes (6:30): Two scenes that were so deleted they couldn’t even make the Extended Cut. And as these already were on the previous DVD’s deleted scenes, it’s almost self-parody.
*Becoming Cash/Becoming Carter (10:55): Mangold and producers discuss the difficulty in finding the perfect actors to sing and act as two well known icons.
*Sun Records and the Johnny Cash Sound (11:54): Various musicians (Kris Kristofferson, Robert Earl Keen, Chris Isaak and more) and music experts discuss Cash’s early career and musical style.
*The Cash Legacy (15:21): Willy Nelson, Henry Rollins, John Mellancamp, Kid Rock and Ozzy Oscourne (?) show up to talk the longevity of Cash’s music and persona. A little similar to the previous feature.
Folsom: Cash and the Comeback (11:46): The same personnel talk about Cash’s later years and his change in character due to his time in Folsom prison.
Ring of Fire: The Passion of Johnny and June (11:26): Friends and family speak about the beginning and evolution of their lifelong relationship.
*Cash and his Faith (11:12): A cool look at Cash’s own brand of religious faith and how important it was to his music.
Celebrating The Man In Black: The Making of WALK THE LINE (21:38): This looks like it was taken from some TV show. You get half people talking about Cash’s life, and half a making of the movie. And since we just watched two hours about the guy, I was hoping for more stuff on the actual film.
Theatrical Trailer and Previews.
Extra Tidbit: And if you do dig the Man in Black, check out the awesome band Murder By Death, whose singer Adam Turla has slowly been channeling the soul of Johnny Cash over their last couple records.