Monday, May 31, 2021

Spare Parts (2020) RLJE Blu Ray Review

Spare Parts (2020) RLJ Entertainment 6/1/2021

Directed By: Andrew Thomas Hunt 

Starring: Julian Richings, Michelle Argyris, Emily Alatalo, Jason Rouse 

Disclaimer: RLJE  has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

    A group that calls themselves Ms.45 (after the movie) plays a pretty rough biker bar one evening. They problems with the locals and, worst of all a mysterious man named Sam (Jason Rouse). Sam runs the girls van off the road and they are taken to a junk-yard by the local police. They are kidnapped and made to fight in a mock-gladiator battles. 

     I wasn't sure how Spare Parts (2020) was going to wash-down as it feels like Snyder's Sucker Punch (2011) made on a budget.  I am happy to report that the movie is actually damn entertaining. The premise is paper thin and while the movie does attempt character development its shallow at best. But, thankfully Andrew Hunt and his crew know exactly the movie they are making and walk a fine line between earnest genre-fare and fun, mindless junk-food cinema. It has a pulpy texture that further helped me fully engage with it. And, thankfully the movie never feels like its a gross exploitation of women. I also have to give a lot of credit to Hunt being bold enough to tackle an action film for only his second feature film. The action itself is incredibly well done and the editing (also done by Hunt) is has a high-skill level behind it. 

     The film has a visual style that if you enjoy genre cinema you`ve no doubt seen before. Think Argento/Bava inspired neon hues. While I do think its a tad-bit over used at this point I will happily take something interesting looking rather than something bland. I mean, hell, it makes a junk-yard actually pretty kick-ass looking! I will say though that this is incredible well photographed with Pasha Patriki (who is also a producer) giving this low-budget outing a bigger budget look. Adding to this the production designer Vincent Moskowec (Letters to Santa Claus) and art director Calla Zenti (The Remnant) gives us a bold, bizarre feast for the eyes-the junk-yard graveyard is really quite something to behold. 

If you love grimy guts and gore Spare Parts doesn't skimp. SFX artist Angie Johnson (Under the Silver Lake) does really incredible work. The practical effects are awesome and it features a face slicing scene that I have to admit had me in utter awe. Not to mention a great soundtrack. 


Spare Parts is a 'scrappy' shrine to the Grindhouse and incredibly well made and well worth checking out. 


Picture: As I said Spare Parts is a very visual film and this 1080p restoration really delivers the goods. The image is crisp and clean and retains a lot of details in costumes, locales and sets. 

Sound: Spare Parts has a great soundtrack and also, it being a action film utilizes sound design and effects. I am happy to say that a DTS 5.1 really gives this movie  the boost it deserves. I feel like this in my opinion offers a big bold sound presentation. 

Extras: As with a lot of RLJE releases this has a nice array of extras. Included is: Interview with the Cast, Behind the Scenes, Spare Parts: In the Shop, CineFest Sudbury Q&A, Fight training videos and behind the scenes photo gallery. 

Jackie Chan's Drunken Master II AKA The Legend of Drunken Master (1994) Warner Archive Blu Ray Review

Drunken Master II (1994) Warner Archive 5/18/2021

Directed By: Chia-Liang Liu, Jackie Chan (uncredited)

Starring: Jackie Chan, Ho-Sung Pak, Anita Mui, Chia-Liang Liu 

    Disclaimer: Warner Archive has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 



  Its worth noting that unlike the US re-titled re-release from Dimension the Warner Archive is fully uncut and has both the dubbed edition and original language versions (More on in in the Sound section). 

   Long before he starred in films in Hollywood like the Rush Hour series Jackie Chan had been making films and doing fantastic stunts in his native country. Jackie Chan had his first big solo hit with 1978's Drunken Master. Later he would find a huge audience with Police Story (1985) an excellent action film. Hoping to ride the wave of hits it was decided to do a pseudo-reboot/sequel entitled Drunken Master II (1994) also re-titled Legend of the Drunken Master (for a 2000 re-release)  tells the story a meek son of a doctor named Wong Fei-hung (Jackie Chan) who must use a form of marital arts called drunken-boxing which is forbidden by his father. Things go from bad to worse when Wong swaps luggage with an English diplomat to avoid paying taxes on his fathers ginseng.  He finds himself embroiled in a international plot in this action-comedy. 

    Like probably many Americans I first discovered Chan and his amazing stunts through his Hollywood films and after this sought out movies he made in his native country. Also, if you only know him from his latter-US movie I implore you to go out and seek out his other films. I digress. Drunken Master II is basically everything you would want and would expect from a films of its ilk. The movie has a interesting set-up and once things start to get its nearly non-stop in the action department. Chan is of course legendary for doing his own stunts and you cannot help but be left in a state of utter-awe at the feats he displays. Mix this with his infectious charm and natural ability at comedy which certainly lends itself to getting shit-faced and fighting and you have a winning cocktail. 

    I will be honest and say while I adore this movie the plot takes a little longer to get going than it really should. I think that trimming a few scenes and streamlining things might have helped the pace. Still, the movie is fun, full of awesome action and of course Chan oozes charm and charisma and its no wonder he went onto bigger films. Drunken Master II may not be a classic like Police Story but its still hell of a good time when you pop that disc in! 


Picture: Fans will be happy to hear that the Warner A print is an improvement from the 2009 US re-release. The film which is sourced from a brand-new 4k scan looks overall really nice with warm color tones and a sharp definition. The film retains a lot of nice detail and clarity in locales, costumes and sets. The film tends to be a little overly grainy in a few scenes but this is really a minor compliant. The film also isn't maybe as sharp as other 4k scans but I found the overall film to be good looking and certainly the best its ever looked on home video to date.  

Sound: Drunken Master II an English dub DTS 2.0, the original Cantonese available for the first time in region A/1 and, a dubbed English version. Dialogue comes through nicely and the action provided by sound design has a complex full sound in my opinion. 

Extras: Trailer 


Saturday, May 29, 2021

Marlon Brando in The Night of the Following Day (1969) Kino Studio Classics Blu Ray Review

The Night of the Following Day (1969) Kino Studio Classics 5/25/2021

Directed By: Hurbert Cornfield 

Starring: Marlon Brando, Richard Boone, Rita Moreno, Pamela Franklin, 


    Disclaimer: Kino Studio Classics has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

      Described by Joe Dante as "off-beat" The Night of the Following Day (1969) is about a group of criminals including Marlon Brando known only as Chauffer and Leer (Richard Boone). Director Hurbert Cornfield never really made a name for himself in cinema outside of some cult films such as The Night of the Following Day. The shoot was notoriously difficult with Brando famously tried to sabotage the film and this is something he was known for, including the infamous The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996). 

      Brando had this weird period where it was in between his glory days in the '50's but before he would return with hits like The Godfather in the '72 and later Superman (1978) and Apocalypses Now (1979). Right away Cornfield establishes a really strange tone with shots that are drab and melancholy. This strange vibe is intermixed with this swinging '60s caper. The movie isn't what I would call plot-heavy but it has enough action and intrigue to keep it engaging.  And, Cornfield in my opinion does a decent job at crafting tension and action set-pieces. The film is also nicely photographed by Willy Kurant. The movie seems riff for sleaze but the film is rather restrained in this regard. Maybe too so for its own good. 

    Despite a few over-the-top moments Brando gives a mostly subtle performance and honestly its one of the better ones from this weird period in his career. It was really interesting to see the legendary Rita Moreno whose credits include such classics as West Side Story (1961) and The King and I (1956). Moreno like Brando gives a understated but effective performance. Genre favorite Pamela Franklin is also great in a role that sadly didn't give her very much to do. But, I think its Richard Boone (I Bury the Living) who really steals the show. Boone's character further gives this movie a off-kilter vibe and he is chilling without being so obvert about it.  

    The Night of the Following Day is not what I would call a brilliant movie and for all its charms it seems like it could have used a punchy plot. I almost wish they would have just went very Euro-sleaze/weird which the movie flirts with but never fully commits. Still, as I said above its still an entertaining watch and the movie never really goes the way you`d expect. The finale is certainly one that has divided people. Worth a watch, if only for the late '60s oddity that it was. 

Picture: The Night of the Following Day is certainly seems like its a step up in terms of clarity from the previous early 00's DVD release. The film has a noticeable uptick in color and clarity. Though some  scenes do suffer from lack of definition and blurring. There are some some artifacts present but nothing that is overly distracting. Overall, a good but not great transfer but, as I said one that is at least a step up from previous releases. 

Sound: The Night of the Following Day has a nice DTS 2.0 track. Dialogue comes through nicely as does the score and sound design. 

Extras: Night of the Following Day contains two commentaries: A new commentary by Tim Lucas and a second from director Hubert Cornfield. Also includes a Trailers from Hell w/Joe Dante and Theatrical Trailer.  

Honky Tonk Freeway (1981) Kino Studio Classics Blu Ray Review

Honky Tonk Freeway (1981) Kino Studio Classics 5/25/2021

Directed By: John Schlesinger 

Starring: William Devane, David Rasche, Paul Jabara, Terri Garr, Howard Hessemanm Beau Bridges, Jessica Tandy


    Disclaimer: Kino Studio Classics has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

    Honky Tonk Freeway (1981) was made on a staggeringly big budget of twenty-four million (which was the most expensive production at the time) and tanked hard at the box-office. The film has gone onto become a cult classic. A scheming Major named Kirby Calo (William Devane) bribes an official to get a ramp built through a small town of Ticlaw for tourism. When he is double-crossed the town takes matters into their own hands in this whacky comedy. 

     Director John Schlesinger best known for classics like Midnight Cowboy (1969) and The Marathon Man (1976) directs what could loosely be considered a half-baked attempt at a satire of American small towns but its a mixed bag. Part of me respects the attempt made by Schlesinger at a black-comedy that takes its aim squarely at the idea of the American dream and capitalism. The problem comes from the screenplay that tries at a half-hearted attempt at biting satire but doesn't ever go deep or far enough to be effective. 

    It baffles me that a huge budgeted film like Freeway was trusted to first time screenwriter Edward Clinton. Clintons only other screen writer credits prior to this was for four episodes of the soap-opera Another World. It feels like there are some interesting ideas but they are never fully formed. The end result is a movie that is aimless and tiresome at times. I also kind of did a double take when I saw this movie cost over twenty-million dollars as the movie doesn't really look expensive. I've actually seen better looking films that cost a fraction of this films budget. 

    I will give the film credit, it has some really funny bits but this bucks up against the mostly unfunny or dull moments. I think what for me was the highlight of the film was the amazing actors. Teri Garr (Young Frankenstein), Beau Bridges (The Landlord), William Devane (Rolling Thunder), Beverly D'Angelo (National Lampoons Vacation), Howard Hesseman (WKRP), even  future wet bandit Daniel Stern (Home Alone) and Peter Billingsley (A Christmas Story) show up.  It also has vets like Jessica Tandy (The Birds) and Hume Cronyn (Shadow of a Doubt). 

   Honky Tonk Freeway, much like Million Dollar Mystery (1987) (Review HERE) is a comedy that tries for lofty ambitions, cost a ton but ultimately failed with critics and at the box-office. I will say that Honky Tonk while a woefully misguided attempt does have some interesting themes and ideas going for it. The same cannot be said for Million Dollar Mystery.  Again, I come back to the sheer insanity of giving this much money to a non-IP (this movie wasn't based on any popular property-not even a book) and, then entrusting that to a screenwriter who had no previous experience. Furthermore, it had an A+ director at the helm. 

     Honky Tonk Freeway has a certain strange-charm which I think helped me get through the head-scratching screenplay. As I said it has a nice loyal cult following and, I certainly am not judging those who dig this. For me it could have used a better and more established screenwriter and a more streamlined narrative. 

Picture: Honky Tonk Freeway has a 4k scan. The film which turns forty-years old this year looks good. The colors are bold and the grain is smoothed and not chunky or blocky. Freeway has a few blurring moments but nothing that is at all distracting. Overall, this is a good transfer and the image retains a nice sharp clarity for things like costumes, sets and locales. The film isn't the most visually exciting but this 4k scan looks damn good. 

Sound: Highway has a DTS 2.0 track. Dialogue, music and sound design comes through nicely. 

Extras: Honky Tonk Freeway features a engaging commentary with producer Dan Boyd, Film historian and filmmaker Daniel Kremer and historian/biographer Nat Segaoff. 

Also includes a trailer. 

Friday, May 28, 2021

Snoopy Collection Four Film Collection Blu Ray Review

Snoopy Four Film Collection (1969-1980) Paramount Pictures 5/18/2021

Race for Your Life Charlie Brown, Bon Voyage Charlie Brown, Snoopy Come Home, A Boy Named Charlie 


A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1969)

Directed By: Bill Melendez 

Starring: Peter Robbins, Pamelyn Ferdin, Sally Dryer, Glenn Gilger 

    Charlie Brown (Peter Robbins) is in a rut, having seemingly failed at everything he tries. In order to get back his self-confidence he enters a spelling bee. A Boy Named Charlie Brown marks the first of five theatrical Peanuts cartoons (not be confused with the Holiday specials) and was written and overseen by Charles Schulz the creator of the series. It also was helmed by  Bill Melendez a long time animator, director and legend in cartoons. 

    People often say that cartoons that were aimed at both kids and adults is something that was invented within the latter part of the 20th century but- thats not really the case. Cartoons dating back to the art form itself has been always courting an older demographic- including the Warner Bros and Max Fleshier cartoons. The Peanuts as a comic strip was actually pretty groundbreaking in terms of its mature tone and beatnik arura. I mention this because the film which was written by Schulz as well as supervised carries that balance of child-friendly, summer time fun wonderment but also has humor meant for the older kids/adults in the audience. 

    It also is pretty daring in how it does things that you wouldn't expect in a kids cartoon. For example, its a beautifully piano sequences which is a visual feast combining mixed media and style in one amazing piece of animation. This is something you would never see in a kids movie sadly. If I had to lobby a complaint its that the film could have used a more streamlined plot which I think is something that a lot of the features suffer from to some degree. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this film which felt like it retained the style and charm of the strips as well as the beloved early Holiday specials. 


Picture: A Boy Named Charlie Brown turns forty-two this year and looks good on 1080p. This looks to be the same transfer used from the 2016 HD release. This means while yes there is an uptick in color the transfer is plagued with artifacts, scratches etc. On the one hand I think it helps give the movie its rough-and-ready charm however, it would have been nice to see this looking its best. 

Sound: Charlie Brown has a 5.1 track. Like the visuals the audio seems to be the same from the 2016 release as well. Its a very solid track though its mostly a front-centered one. The sound is a bit on the lifeless side but I think its perfectly serviceable-not terrible but a lot of room for improvement.  

Extras: None 

Snoopy Come Home (1972) 

Directed By: Bill Melendez 

Starring: Chad Webber, Robin Kohn, Stephen Shea, Bill Melendez 

     Snoopy Come Home (1972) is the second feature and see's everybody's favorite beagle in a solo adventure. Snoopy feels like he's unwanted at home and just anywhere he goes. When he gets a mysterious letter he sets off on a journey. I have to say that Snoopy Come Home is a bit better in terms of a streamlined story though it still has unneeded side stories that detract from the overall narrative. Bill Melendez once again directs and much like A Boy Named Charlie Brown once again does a fantastic job at capturing the wonder and magic of The Peanuts and of course once again voices Snoopy and Woodstock. Charles Schultz again writes the screenplay and crafts a nice balance of kid-friendly while also staying faithful to the more adult-humor. 

   The film is once again wonderfully animated and, though its not as experiment as Boy Named Charlie Brown it still has a lot of wonderful style. There is a rather colorful, even trippy sequence that perfectly fits in with the early '70s crowd. 



Snoopy Come Home is a funny, well animated film that is sardonic in its wit and ultimately a warm-hearted outing. 

Picture: Much like A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1969),  Snoopy Come Home seems to be the same transfer from the 2016 transfer. It still suffers from artifacts and pops but I will say the transfer still has its up side! The color really pops and it highlights the amazing hand painted animation style which is sadly not a thing anymore. I wonder if there was slightly better original material for this transfer because it is a step up. 

Sound: Again this seems to be the sound presentation as the 2016 HD release. The sound design, music and dialogue come through nicely but is mostly a front heavy presentation. Perfectly serviceable and does the trick.  

Extras: None

Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown (1977) 

Directed By: Bill Melendez, Phil Roman 

Starring: Duncan Watson, Greg Felton, Stuart Brotman, Gall Davis 

     Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown makes its HD debut in this set, which is pretty exciting! The title pretty much sums up but plot but: Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang go off to summer camp. All is fine until they run into a rival group. One of the events in the camp is a seemingly adult-free unsupervised river-raft contest. I think this might be my favorite of the set because the story allows for a nice ensemble. Its fun to get to know the colorful cast of characters that inhabit the world of Schultz's Peanuts. 

    I also love how the film has Charles Schultz brand of biting and sardonic humor which is aimed as much to adults as it does children. This brand of humor is where I feel the film is at its strongest. Once again though, I think the film tends to feel repetitive and there are some moments that while fun do feel like they only serve to pad the film out to feature length. Still. the movie has a lot of charm and I think that helps gloss over some pacing issues. As always the hand-painted animation is amazing. A really nice addition to the theatrical Peanuts canon and well worth checking out. 



Picture: Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown is the first of two films making their HD debut in this collection. And, you know what? Its a stunner! The hand painted animation looks clean and its not plagued with the artifacts that the older releases do. Grain is maybe on the heavy side but I think its smoothed out enough that it isn't distracting. I am overall super pleased by this visual transfer. 

Sound: Race for Your Life has a DolbyTrue HD track. The sound is again maybe on the tamer side but does offer a, in my opinion fuller overall sound vs. the previous releases. Dialogue and music come through in a nice robust and clear way. 

Extras: Theatrical Trailer 

Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don't Come Back) (1980)

Directed By: Bill Melendez, Phil Roman 

Starring: Arrin Skelley, Daniel Anderson, Patricia Patts, Laura Planting  

      Like, Race for Your Life, Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don't Come Back) (1980) makes it US HD debut with this boxset. Charlie Brown and the gang go to France in this international comedy. Similar to Race for Your Life, Bon Voyage showcases more of the Peanuts gang and, this time we get a wider scope. The story is full of Schultz's trademark humor which, like the previous films mixes adult humor and childlike wonder. The animation this time around is still really good. Though I will say that sadly the film while still stunning looking (with beautiful hand painted backgrounds) doesn't do anything experimental within the medium. This is also true for Race for Your Life. 

      The story is more streamlined but again, there is always some sub-plots or side stories that de-tour from the main narrative. Speaking of, I think that this probably has the best central plot out of all the films in this set. It has a really interesting story that isn't as by-the-numbers as the other films. It weirdly has a kind of mystery plot which has a nice pay-off at the end. And, as always the movie dazzles with charm and is just a fun, enjoyable watch. 

Picture: As I mentioned in my review Bon Voyage makes it US HD debut in this collection. And, again I am happy to report that this is a stunning looking release. This movie which turns forty-one really pops in terms of color and clarity. Artifacts and scratches have been cleaned leaving a pristine picture. 

Sound: Like the previous release this features a TrueHD track. The music and dialogue comes through nicely. Its not perfect but the overall sound presentation has a nice full sound to it. 

Extras: Extras include Travels with Charlie: The Making of Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown and Trailer 


New Film Review: Endangered Species (2021) Lionsgate Film Review

Endangered Species (2021) Lionsgate Entertainment VOD/Theaters 5/28/2021

Directed By: M.J Bassett 

Starring: Philip Winchester, Rebecca Romijn, Isabel Bassett, Michael Johnston, Jerry O'Connell 


    Its never a great thing when taking notes on a review the word 'Why?' is written and underlined. Such is the case with 2021's Endangered Species. A wealthy American family goes on a self-guided African wilderness tour without a guide or protection. What could possibly go wrong? When a rhino charges their car they are left to survive in the elements. Before I get into the numerous issues I want to first express what I think works about this movie. First and foremost the acting is excellent. Endangered has a lot going on in terms of emotional through-lines and each actor pulls their weight. Thankfully, no one over-acts scenes nor is anyone wooden or under-selling the situation. Normally I would mention the actors that stood out but honestly they all did a fantastic job. Cinematographer Brendan Barnes does an excellent job at captures the stark, unnerving but ultimately stunning locales. Whatever I may think of M.J Bassett, you have to give him credit for being able to craft some truly tension filled moments. 

   So...This is probably where the positives end. I keep coming back to the, 'Why?' of it all. This movie is a standard people going into a foreign land, making dumb choices and getting stranded or hunted and, in this case both. The film actually starts off fairly interesting with a solid family drama weaved into a fight for survival. Hell, they even had a male-gay character (more on that later). The thing is the writing isn't overtly bad, its just incredibly bland. Seriously, this movie never subverts or challenges in a way that elevates the material. Worse yet M.J Bassett uses the film to preach on a issue that is already well established and covered. Messages in movies are great but this one shoves it down your throat. Tepid and cliched writing plagues and pulls down any momentum that is set up in the first act. 

     As I mentioned they have a gay character but, of course they don't give him a love interest (because that would make it too real) and it feels like his sexuality is only used to up the already high emotional stakes. It feels like at best its woefully misguided pandering and at worst feels like the filmmakers giving themselves a great big-back on the back for being 'woke'. As someone who is Queer I found it not progressive but a rather eye-rolling bit of virtue signaling. Unhinged is a 2020 movie that had a thread worn 'one-bad-day' premise  but did enough interesting and bonkers stuff to keep it from feeling bland or boring. Endeared Species on the other hand brings nothing new to the table and worst yet preaches at you. Not fun, doesn't actually have anything interesting or new to say.  Honestly, its the kind of movie I'm glad I took a lot of notes for because its that forgettable. Best to leave this endangered.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939) Warner Archive Blu Ray Review

The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939) Warner Archive 5/18/2021


Directed By: Michael Curtiz 

Starring: Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Alan Hale, Vincent Price



     Between his Technicolor widely claimed Adventure The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) and what's considered his masterpiece Casablanca (1942) Michael Curtiz directed The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939).  As the title suggests the film depicts the love hate relationship between Queen Elizabeth (Bette Davis) and the Earl of Essex (Errol Flynn). Private Lives is one of those get big garish and lavish big budget historical that I am obsessed with. 

    Curtiz along with screenwriters Norman Reilly Raine and Aeneas MacKenzie take a lot of liberties with the actual saga of these huge real-life people but honestly, thats fine. Because, at the end of the day the movie is a briskly paced bit of dramatic eye-candy that is wonderfully sweeping, epic and is delightfully campy in its over-the-top nature. Made on over a million-dollar budget (which was a lot -remember this was during the Great Depression) this movie drips with top-notch production design and of course costumes. Orry-Kelly who worked on and dressed such films as CasablancaThe Maltese Falcon (1941) and An American in Paris (1951) (not to mention winning 3-Oscars) does maybe some of the best period costumes to ever grace the silver-screen.      

    More-over having the Bette Davis the larger than life actor playing the equally larger than life Queen seems to be the most inspired bit of casting. The high flying Flynn who Curtiz wisely previously cast in Robin Hood is charming, dashing and seems to be able to hold his own against the powerhouse of Davis. Even though Bette and Flynn battled behind the scenes the couple have a real chemistry together. As an audience member its great fun to watch Davis and Flynn trade dagger-like insults one minute and are passionately making out the next. The film also has a fantastic supporting cast including Henry Daniell, Olivia de Haviland, Vincent Price and Alan Hale Sr. (father of Gilligan's Island star Alan "The Skipper" Hale Jr). 

    The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex was a production that was rocky to say the least and, the movie only just broke even at the box office. Despite this I think the movie is a charming, fun and engaging bit of grand-Hollywood fluff. Its the kind of lavish big spectacle film that went out of favor when Hopper's motorcycle anti-hero roared into theaters with 1969's Easy Rider. And, though I loved the counter-culture shake up that happened in the late '60s and '70s I do admit I miss movies like The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex. If you have never seen it, I think its well worth a watch! 



Picture: Wow! The lavish colorful The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex is simply a stunning revelation in 4k. Colors pop and the this transfer retains a a lot of detail. I pointed out the amazing costumes by Orry Kelly  in my review and this picture presentation truly allows the audience to see them in all their splendor. You can see textures and very fine detail that made Kelly a multi-Oscar winning costume designer. The film has no scratches or artifacts and I honestly think its never looked this good on home video before. Grain is smoothed and is virtually impossible to see in most scenes. 

Sound: Private Lives has a DTS 2.0 track. Dialogue comes through nicely as does score and sound design. No unwanted background noise or audio drops present. 

Extras: Intro by Leonard Maltin, Dark Victory Trailer, Newsreel and a WB Cartoon and short film are playable as individuals or, more interesting as Warner's Night at the Movies which as Maltin explains was to simulate how it was to see a movie in 1939. Also included is: 

 The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex: Battle Royale (10mins) An enjoyable short featurette on the troubled production.  And, a trailer for the film. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Million Dollar Mystery (1987) Kino Studio Classics Blu Ray Review

Million Dollar Mystery (1987) Kino Studio Classics 5/25/2021

Directed By:  Richard Fleisher 

Starring: Eddie Deezen, Wendy Sherman, Douglas Emerson, Rick Overton 


Disclaimer: Kino Studio Classics has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 


        Million Dollar Mystery (1987) cost a whooping ten-million dollars and made barely a million dollars (Oh, the irony) at the box office. It also holds the rare honor or rather dishonor of having a zero-percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  The "plot" centers around a band of misfits all looking for a buried million-dollars. Meanwhile the FBI are hot on the trail of the money.  Despite this films rather notorious reputation I thought it was only fair to totally go in with any open mind. The movie was pretty much what I expected. To the film and Richard Fleisher's credit the movie moves at a nearly break-neck speed, delivering numerous gags and running jokes. You can tell that Fleisher is trying hard to make this thing work- and it just doesn't. 

   Where do I even begin? First off I think what I resent about this movie is it is clearly trying to be It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963) as the plot is basically the same. Yet, Richard doesn't have even a  small fraction of Stanley Kramer's talent and the movie doesn't begin to have the same magic and charm of its 1963 original. That might sound a bit harsh but the movie doesn't even try to hide the fact that the movie has nothing new to offer. Nor does it try to hide its mountain of influence and its not above making obviously references and outright quoting other better films. It doesn't help that the plot is aimless and the writing patently unfunny. The problem is the jokes are either too silly or just corny. It kind of blows my mind three different writers worked on this film.

       Besides a few notable the cast is largely unknowns or cult actors that never really made it big. I will say that the acting is really not that bad, especially given some of the dialogue that the cast was straddled with. I will say that the movie did have a few jokes that were actually pretty funny. And, for as paint-by-numbers as the plot is it did manage to have a few clever twists up its sleeves. I just wish that the filmmakers took the time to develop the plot more. Overall, its a pretty forgettable film but one that has its loyal cult following. Its honestly far from the worst movie I've ever seen and its a fairly breezy watch. Though, not one I would likely want to re-visit any time soon. 


Picture: Million Dollar Mystery doesn't seem to have a 2k scan but the film actually looks pretty good on 1080p. The image is vibrant and not dull or lifeless. The film also seems to have been cleaned up with no scratches or artifacts to been seen. It certainly helps that the film is under forty-years old and it seems the original material has been kept in good condition. For fans of this film I think you will be pleased with how this visual transfer looks. Grain is even fairly smooth and not chunky in places. 

Sound: Million Dollar has a DTS 2.0 track. Dialogue, score and sound design comes through nicely. Like the film presentation the sound is on the hearty side and pretty good for a standard 2.0. 

Extras: Extras include a commentary by film historian and author Bryan Reeseman. I have listened to other tracks by Reeseman and they are always well informed and engaging. 



Tuesday, May 25, 2021

New Vincent Price Titles Coming from Kino Studio Classics!

 Horror Fans Rejoice! Five New Vincent Price Titles Coming from Kino Studio Classics


Recently a wave of Vincent Price titles have been announced for late Aug-Sept. These include: The Raven, The Comedy of Terror, The Tomb of Ligeia, The Last Man on Earth and Master of the World. 

Expect Masters of the World, The Last Man on Earth, The Raven and Comedy of Terror Aug 31st and The Tomb of Ligeia Sept. 7th. 









Batman: The Long Halloween Four Brand-New Images!

 Batman: The Long Halloween (2021) Four Brand-New Images

Batman normally operates alone, but he finds allies on both sides of the law in Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One. While Police Captain James Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent act as his crime-fighting colleagues, the Dark Knight finds an unlikely partner in Catwoman. Voiced by the late Naya Rivera (in her final acting performance), Catwoman/Selina Kyle assists, romances and even comes to the rescue of Batman as the two-part film unfolds. 







J.J Abrams Super 8 (2011) UHD Review

Super 8 (2011) Paramount Pictures 5/25/2021

Directed By: J.J Abrams 

Starring: Elle Fanning, AJ Michalkla, Kyle Chandler, Zach Mills 


Disclaimer: Paramount Pictures has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 


     Steven Spielberg is a filmmaker that firmly established his style and talent early in his career.  Duel (1971) the directors first feature film (made-for-TV) set the stage for his raw talent to craft an excellent story and tension. And...of course he made a little movie called  Jaws (1975) which forever re-shaped Hollywood and created what we now know as the Summer Blockbuster. It wouldn't be until E.T (1982) where the director would perfectly distill childhood wonder in the backdrop of science fiction. This formula has often been replicated but never, in my opinion fully duplicated. 

     It seems only fitting that that Spielberg produced a love-letter of sorts to E.T and his other films with Super 8 (2011) directed by every Star Wars fans worst nightmare J.J Abrams. All jokes aside I probably haven't seen this film since it was a new release and after the hype and semi-backlash it was interesting to re-visit this film for its tenth birthday. Its weird to think that this movie, which is  a shrine to childhood innocents of building monster-model kits, seemingly endless summers, making movies with friends and of course aliens was released five years before the Netflix smash-hit Stranger Things (2016-) series. In a way the movie feels like the early part of the wave of nostalgia for the '80s and later on '90s. 

     Super 8 is that rare movie of someone clearly paying not so subtle homage to other films yet, actually feels like it is made well-enough to stand on its own two-feet. The film is incredibly fast paced yet to Abrams credit the movie also spends time developing the story on a emotional level whilst also building an inquiring mystery. While the movie does have some nice action-set pieces it doesn't sub them out for  plot and real motivation. Since were on writing I think this movie is nearly perfect in its set up, building of tension and release. At nearly two-hours the movie is brisk and entertaining but never feels like it has to sacrifice story in the process. 

       And, wow, I don't think this movie gets enough credit for such a spot-on production design that perfectly captures not only 1979 small town but also a feeling. Speaking of, while the film is set in '79 I love how the movie also offers up a nice throwback to Cold-War era sci-fi films that no doubt influenced people like Spielberg or his friends like Joe Dante (Gremlins). One thing Abrams has been rightly criticized  in the past for is being able to replicate style without really injecting his own. I think that here his full set of skills in storytelling and filmmaking are on full display. Abrams is hyper-focused here and you can see he puts a lot of rich details. The end result is a world that feels painfully real and mundane -until all hell breaks loose with the train. Speaking of, that sequence is incredible and doesn't get talked about nearly enough. Its hard to understate just how visually interesting the film is with a big scope yet somehow never loses its focus on its deeply personal story. This may seem easy enough but it takes a real writing skill level to pull off that juggling act. Its worth noting that the child actors are amazing and, honestly I couldn't find a single poor performance from anybody. 

Super 8 is a movie with thrills but tells a damn good story at the same time. It was really a blast re-discovering this film and I was happy to find out it holds up really well. 


Picture: Paramount has been a studio that has been dong a great job at taking films from their catalogue and re-releasing them in the latest and best format. Visually as well as thematically this movie harkens back to the late '70s and the movie rightly has a nice film-like quality to it. It was actually really awesome to see that Super 8 has a film-like look with smoothed out grain. The movie has a warmth to it visually and the UHD transfer I think captures that nicely. Darker lit scenes also really showcase a step up in terms of overall clarity. Super 8 is only ten years old so the movie always looked good but I think that this still is an improvement over the 1080p release. 

Sound: Super 8 is a movie where score, sound design and effects are important and wow, this TrueHD 7.1 offers a complex 3D sound. Sadly we didn't get an Atmos track here but I am impressed with this sound presentation nonetheless. During the bigger moments, including the train explosion you could really hear and even feel the power from all directions. 

Extras: Super 8's extras have been ported over from previous releases and includes: Commentary by JJ Abrams, Bryan Burk and Larry Fong, Featurettes, Deconstructing the Train Crash, Deleted Scenes and Credits. 



Monday, May 24, 2021

The Final Countdown (1980) Blue Undergound UHD 3-Disc Review!

The Final Countdown (1980) Blue Underground 5/25/2021

Directed By: Don Taylor 

Starring: Kirk Douglas, Martin Sheen, James Farentino 



Disclaimer: Blue Underground  has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

    1980's The Final Countdown not to be confused with the ear-worm pop song was a relatively large budgeted film (for the time) and managed to turn a small profit. The film has gone onto find a loyal cult-following despite a luke-warm critical reception at the time of its release. The film follows a modern aircraft that is thrown back in term to just before the events of Pearl Harbor. They must figure out how to get back to the present but also if they want to change the outcome or not. 

    The Final Countdown is a film I was well aware of but never actually had a chance to see until this release. Its often be said this film feels like an extended episode of The Twilight Zone and its easy to see why. The film certainly does have the high-concept strangeness that the landmark show was known for. I also admired how the setup is fairly straight forward and it never feels like the screenwriters have to do a lot of heavy lifting with its central premise. And, the film actually is pretty cool in how it juggles high-concept sci-fi with a good old fashioned action romp.  Kirk Douglas who at this point had long cemented himself as a screen icon and gives a wonderful performance here. Douglas gives this film the kind of prestige and polish and never hams it up. Martin Sheen, Charles Durning and Kathrine Ross further help elevate what could have been b-material into something special. You even have a small role in it for Troma founder and filmmaker Lloyd Kaufman. 

    The film is not without its issues and I think that the effects haven't aged the best and while the movie is engaging enough there are some lulls in the action that make the film drag a bit. I think the movie could have used a trim and a more streamlined plot. The movie though has enough charm and interesting plot though that I can tend to overlook some of its misgivings. 


Picture: The Final Countdown is outfitted with a brand-new UHD transfer. I think its safe that this film which is now over-forty-years old has never looked better. There is certainly a noticeable uptick in the brightness and things like skin-tone and costumes, locales and sets have nice crisp look to them. Thankfully grain is not chunky and well smoothed throughout. Of course outdoor scenes look truly pop with this transfer. I also am grateful that it doesn't have an overly worked or processed feel to it. 

Sound: Countdown features a Dolby Atmos track as well as a DTS 5.1 and 2.0 track. 

Extras:  As always Blue Underground has you covered when it comes to extras. Included is an Audio commentary with Director of Photography Victor J Kemper. Lloyd Kaufman Goes Hollywood: Interview with Associate Producer and Founder of Troma Lloyd Kaufman, Starring the Jolly Rogers: An Interview with The Jolly Rogers F-14 Fighter Squadron, Trailers, TV Spots, Poster and Still Gallery. Also includes the Soundtrack by John Scott and a collectible booklet featuring the Zero Piot Journal.  


Escape From Fort Bravo (1953) Warner Archive Blu Ray Review

Escape From Fort Bravo (1953) Warner Archive 5/18/2021

Directed By: John Sturges 

Starring: William Holden, Eleanor Parker, John Forsythe 


Disclaimer: Warner Archive has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

   Capt. Rogers (William Holden) is a seemingly ice-cold disciplinarian at a Union POW camp called Fort Bravo. A pretty young girl named Carla (Eleanor Parker) comes into town seemingly for a wedding. But, in fact she is there to help break out Confederate soldiers, including her boyfriend. Things are made more complicated when Rogers falls in love with her. 

    John Sturges was certainly known for his 'manly-man' movies having worked mostly in westerns, action and war films. Escape From Fort Bravo from 1953 is a well directed film that packs in a lot of action and romance into its scant ninety-seven minute runtime. The pace is really well handled with enough time for developing characters but also it never drags, knowing just when to bring on the shoot-outs and rough-and-ready fights. Though, the movie isn't as one-note as I initially thought and I have to give Sturges and screenwriter Frank Fenton credit for setting up Rogers as a complex character and also the emotional stakes with Carla.  

   Still, its not to suggest that the movie is groundbreaking in regards to subverting tropes and the movie is very much a standard western where you have a flawed but noble hero, in this case Rogers played by William Holden and that, the common enemy is Native Americans. I know this was very much a product of its time-it still makes me cringe. The movie isn't deep but Fenton gives us just enough motivation to be invested in the characters. William Holden gives a good performance as Capt. Rogers  and as I said he is given enough weight to his role to allow him to play up the nuances. Eleanor Parker probably best remembered for her role in The Sound of Music (1965) also shines in her role. This also features a great supporting cast from John Forsythe, William Demarest and Polly Bergen. Bergen its worth noting how quite an interesting career starring in everything from the original Cape Fear (1962) to John Waters Cry Baby (1990). She had over eighty-credits to her resume when she passed away at aged eighty-four in 2014. 

   The movie also has impressive production design, three-time Oscar winner Robert L. Surtees gives the film a grand scope with his photography and Jeff Alexander gives a wonderful score. The movie might lack depth but it tells a good enough story and has so much talent behind it that I think I can forgive some of its shortcomings. 

Picture: Escape From Fort Bravo is yet another 4k scan The film in another flawless looking film for Warner Archive. No artifacts or scratches to be found and the color tempt is steady throughout. I will say the film lacks some definition with a soft-look to it. I think that might be just in how it was filmed which WA has no control over. Its certainly a case of an excellent transfer that showcases the films technical merits. 

Sound: Bravo has a DTS 2.0 track. As always WA provides a nice audio presentation. No unwanted background noise or audio drop outs. Dialogue, score and sound design comes through nicely. 

Extras: Includes a trailer 

Saturday, May 22, 2021

My Fair Lady (1964) Paramount Productions UHD Review

My Fair Lady (1964) Paramount Pictures 5/25/2021

Directed By: George Cukor 

Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Rex Harrison, Stanley Holloway, Wilfrid Hyde-White


      1964's My Fair Lady directed by the legendary George Cukor seems to be genetically engineered to win Oscars, having won eight of them including Best Picture beating out films like Beckett (1964) and Mary Poppins (1964).   Most of my regular readers (all three) will know that I've been trying to broaden my film horizons and give musicals a fair chance. Based on the George Bernard Shaw play Pygmalion with book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner My Fair Lady was made on a budget of seven-million and grossed over seventy-two million plus untold millions its made over the decades on home video. The film tells the story of Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn) a lower-class flower girl with a thick cockney accent. Her life will change during a chance meeting with a snobby Professor Higgins (Rex Harrison) wagers that he cant make her into a prim and proper lady with perfect diction.  

    Shaw's play was a huge hit so  it seemed only a matter of time before a big budget Hollywood adaptation would come along. And, I think that film takes the best of the musical whilst also softening the rougher edges of of the Pygmalion play. I have to say even going into not being a huge musical fan I did really enjoy the songs for the most part and I think that the story and characters are engaging and compelling enough to carry me through a nearly three-hour long runtime. Audrey Hepburn gives such a dazzling performance in one of her most iconic roles outside of Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961). The emotional weight and core of the musical rests on her shoulders and Hepburn seems to sail through what was no doubt a demanding and difficult role. Rex Harrison is equally great and, like Hepburn has to flex his emotional range as well as his singing voice. And, of course you have a host an amazing actors and honestly there is not a sour performance or note to be found by anyone. 

    Its a credit to Cukor's amazing director that he could pull off such a big-lavish production with grand set pieces yet, makes the movie deeply personal at the same time. It also helps when you have a top-notch crew including production designer, cinematographer, lyrist etc. This movie is a well oiled machine where every single element coming together incredibly. You might even make the case that the movie is nearly perfect. I think what honestly keeps me from truly loving this movie is how the film gives a lot of agency to Eliza only to seemingly go back on that in the end. Its like this weird tag-of-war where it wants to progressive and also pulls it back to be regressive as to not alienate its older audience. It feels like it wants to have its cake and eat it too. 

Even if you don't like musicals I think that the film is engrossing, dazzling and charming enough that its hard not to get swept up into its spell. The movie is in my opinion isn't flawless but very nearly there. 

Picture: Paramount has been doing an excellent job at taking their treasure and polishing them up on home video! And, I must say that My Fair Lady is certainly among the studios crown-jewels in terms of an excellent picture presentation. The film which is over fifty-years old at this point looks stunning! The film which won the Oscar for best Costume Design (Cecil Beaton) and Color Cinematography (Harry Strading Sr.) is everything a UHD release should be. The image is pristine of course without a sign of artifacts, scratches etc. But more impressive is the color that is nicely graded. Colors pop yet thankfully it doesn't look overly bright or have an over processed look to it. Its clear to me a lot of hard work and thought has been put into this picture overhaul.  Skin tones natural and have a nice warmth to them. Small details like clothing textures really are a sight to see. This transfer really and truly highlights the amazing production design, costumes and cinematography. 

Sound: Like the visual presentation Paramount has taken great care with its audio presentation. We get a wonderfully big and bold TrueHD 7.1 track that really fills a room. 

Extras: Worth noting that all extras are included on the Blu Ray disc and includes: 

More Lovely Than Ever: The Making Of My Fair Lady Then & Now (57min) A vintage feature on the making of the film with some great interviews, The 1963 Production Kick-Off Dinner (23min) A rare and silent black and white home movie of the production., Los Angeles Premier 10/28/1964 (4mins) A newsreel of the premier in LA in black-and-white,  British premier (2mins) in color, George Cukor Directs Baroness Bina Rothschild (2mins) Audio expert of Cukor directing Rothschild, Rex Harrison radio interview (1min), Production Tests (w/Play All option) Lighting, Wildrid Hyde-White Makeup Test, Rain/Set, Covent Garden Lighting Test, Alt. Higgins/Pickering screen test, Alt. Audrey Hepburn Vocals: Show Me, Wouldnt it be Loverly, Comments on a Lady: Interview with Martin Scorsese and Andrew Lloyd Webber. 

Galleries: Cecil Beaton Sketches, B&W Stills, Color Production Stills, Documents and Publicity. 

Trailers: Teaser trailer w/city tags, With Pride Trailer, Awards Trailer, Theatrical Re-issue/Poster Illustration, Re-Issue Trailer/Poster Illustrations/ Reserved Seats, Theatrical Re-issue: Poster Illustration Awards, Theatrical Re-Issue.

Theatrical Featurette's: The Story of a Lady, Design for a Lady, The Fairest Fair Lady

Awards: Rex Harrison BFI Honor, Rex Harrison Golden Globe Acceptance Speech, Academy Awards Ceremony Highlights 4/5/65  

Subtitles

Friday, May 21, 2021

The First Official clip to be released from Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One.

 It’s the calm before the storm at Wayne Manor – on Halloween night – in the first official clip to be released from Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One.

 




Produced by Warner Bros. Animation and DC, the feature-length animated film will be distributed by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment on Digital and Blu-ray on June 22, 2021. 

 

Here is a link to the new clip entitled “Alfred & Bruce” as found on the WBHE YouTube page:


https://youtu.be/2Ud-AR67Tek



Synopsis: On Halloween night, Bruce Wayne (voiced by Jensen Ackles) and his butler Alfred Pennyworth (Alastair Duncan) discuss the lack of trick-or-treaters visiting Wayne Manor, and lament the deterioration of Gotham City. Little do they know what’s soon to come. Produced by Warner Bros. Animation, DC and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, the all-new feature-length Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One arrives on Digital & Blu-ray on June 22, 2021. 

Video Attic: New Film Review -New Order Neon Films

New Order (2020) Neon Films In Theaters 5/21/2021 

Directed By: Michel Franco 

Starring: Naian Gonzalez Norvind, Diego Boneta, Ferendao Cuautle 
 


Neon Films provided me with a free digital screener to review. The following review reflects my own honest opinion. 


Conceived six years ago, Michel Franco’s near-future dystopia feels ripped from headlines that haven’t yet been written. While protests rage in the streets, Marianne’s high society family prepares for her wedding. At first, only splatters of green paint and the appearance of Rolando, a former employee seeking emergency medical funds, intrude on the festivities. But soon the party is unable to keep the reckoning at bay, and what follows is a swift disintegration of law and order defined first by class lines, then by disastrous government recapitulation.

       The best way to sum up New Order is if the filmmakers would have made a Joker (2019) follow up to the after math of the social revaluation. Yet, the movie is marred by a lot of missteps. Director Michel Franco clearly is going for shock-and-awe with his sixth feature film. And, I think the movie does not disappoint when it comes to an oppressively brutal world it creates. The use of production design and stark claustrophobic camera work all really paints a blood-splattered vision of violet uprising. From a technical standpoint the movie is expertly done. 

      Though I have to say that ultimately the movie fails on what's its trying to convey. I think one of the issues is that Franco paints with a rather broad-brush and any kind of subtly or nuance is thrown right out of the window. And, I could even forgive a film that is maybe over-the-top in its allegory but I felt that the entire second and third out just totally got away from the filmmakers. The end result is a movie that feels like its trying to make some very timely points but just feels aimless in how it wants to express its core themes. 

      Not to mention it feels like the filmmakers undercut their own films message as the class-rebels only seem to be motived by making themselves rich-starting the cycle all over again.  Its especially painfully when you look at a film like Parasite (20190 which not only deals with class-struggle but does it in a way thats by no means subtle but has enough solid foundation in its story. Not to mention its a brilliant film in every way possible. New Order feels like it wants to shock you with its on screen brutality so that you will be distracted by the fact that the movie is way out of its element in terms of providing a thoughtful meditation on class-struggle. The movie is not without its merits and its overall well acted, well shot and has a great atmosphere. Its just at the end of the day the movie is a hollow attempt. 



Rare Silent Film Lights Of Old Broadway (1925) on HD From Kino Classics! Review

Lights Of Old Broadway (1925) Kino Classics 5/25/2021

Directed By: Monta Bell 

Starring: Marion Davies, Conrad Nagel, Frank Currier


Disclaimer: Kino Classics has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 


      Few were as big of a star at MGM than Marion Davies. Here she stars in a drama-comedy farce called Lights of Old Broadway (1925).  Davies does double duty playing twins separated at birth. One twin is raised by a wealthy family and the other is taken in by a sweet but poor Irish couple. Set in present day turn of the century New York the two meet by chance. There is also a sub plot about Edison and the coming of electric lights to the big apple. 

    Director Monte Belle never became a household name having only directed a little over a dozen films in his short career. The film is certainly a charming one with a nice mixture of drama, bitter-sweet romance and of course some levity to break things up. Monte film is rather static in terms of camera movement but he does employee some techniques like flashbacks which helps the film feel less stagey (and this actually is based on a stage play). I also liked the use of the three-strip technicolor process to highlight certain scenes. You know its a bigger budget affair when early films would use this special and expensive process. 

   The film highlights the feelings about immigration by the Irish in New York. In fact a pretty large sequence involves a political riot complete with brick throwing. Even though they are generally cast in a good light the film does lean into ethnic stereotyping which can feel pretty cringe-worthy. Davies who at this point had starred in over 20 films for MGM feels like she truly at home and at ease as an actor. And, I will say that in terms of her acting she is probably more subtle than most silent actors of the time. 

   The film is not without its weaker points which comes from holes in story and characters that felt like they could have been better fleshed out. Things like the entire Edison subplot felt like it could have been folded into the main thread better. But, I think that the movie is interesting enough with to overcome these shortcomings. Davies dazzles and the movie has a lot of heart. 


Picture: Kino Classics has provided film fans with a nice brand-new 2k transfer derived from the Library of Congress's 2018 35mm preservation. Its worth noting that also included is the rare three-strip color tinting sequence that was restored as well. The film for being nearly one-hundred years old looks fantastic.  Of course you get some image flicker and artifacts and scratches but even these are well maintained. The three strip color sequences seem to have been the most damaged as they are by far the roughest looking points of the film. Again, its nothing that is distracting and its a small miracle to even have these scenes intact at all. 

Sound: Broadway has a 2.0 track and a great score by composed, arranged and conducted by Robert Israel. 

Extras: Broadway includes a interesting commentary by historian Anthony Slide. An overall engaging and well researched track. 

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Deliver Us From Evil (2020) Well Go USA Blu Ray Review

Deliver Us From Evil (2020) Well Go USA 5/25/2021

Directed By: Won-Chan Hong

Starring: Jung-min Hwang, Jeong Min Park


Disclaimer: Well Go USA has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 


       An assassin named In-nam (Jung-min Hwang) is about to retire to Panama to track down the daughter of a former girlfriend who was a victim of kidnapping. A trans-woman named Yoo-Yi (Jeong Min Park) is hired as a translator in order to get her gender conformation surgery. The pair follow the trail which leads to a final showdown between a man called The Butcher, who happens to be the brother of one of In-nam's victims. Deliver Us from Evil (2020) seems like a pretty-by-the-numbers action film and whilst in a way it is, writer, director Won-Chan Hong has a few tricks up his sleeve. 

    The narrative about In-nam and his past relationship, and how this plays out with his daughter is the best thing going for this movie in terms of an emotional core. Its cliched but I think its just compelling enough for Hong to nicely thread the plot together. Probably more interesting is the film has a trans-character that has agency and is actually not in the movie to be mocked but rather has a real impact on the story. If I have to be nick-picky I would say that where this movie falls is that it feels like it rushes or glosses over certain plot points such as the love affair In-nam has with the mysterious woman that sets the entire plot into motion. Certain plot holes don't help matters much either. 

   However, I think that I was able to forgive a lot because the film is skillfully directed and, the writing is actually fresher than you might expect, especially within the action genre. Won-Chan Hong subverts the genre whilst also embracing some of its well worn troupes. Deliver Us also features some truly kick-ass action sequences that is well staged and nicely edited. The pace is nearly breathless with a lot of killer with few little filler. Speaking of...The movie is bloody-as-hell but you can certainly tell that Hong was holding back on the gore which is a shame. I wanted the violence to be cartoon levels which I think would have fit the films tone. I would also be remiss if I didn't mention the outstanding photography by Kyung-pyo-Hong (Parasite, The Wailing). This movie has a very interesting look and feel like Hong certainly helps elevate the material with his laser-focus on visual detail. 

Deliver Us from Evil is flawed in some areas but in all others excels. Its a pulse-pounding and surprisingly touching action film that changes up the genre in interesting ways. 

Picture: Deliver Us from Evil looks great in 1080p. Kyung-pyo Hong's cinematography is well highlighted here and the movie retains a lot of details in locales, sets and costumes. Colors pop but thankfully dont look overly processed. 

Sound: Deliver Us from Evil really delivers a nice DTS 5.1 track. The film is of course very sound design heavy and this track supports all the gun-fire, glass smashing, neck-breaking sounds. Really excellent and provides in my opinion a layered presentation. 

Extras:  Extras include Making Of, Filming Location and Trailers. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

The Columnist (2019) Film Movement DVD Review

The Columnist (2019) Film Movement 5/11/2021

Directed By: Ivo van Aart 

Starring: Katija Herbers, Claire Porro, Bram van der Kelen


Disclaimer: Film Movement  has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

    A writer getting revenge on their online-trolls? Did someone make a movie just for me? Femke Boots (Katjia Herbers) is a successful columnist but is ready to break out of this with her first book. She hits a road block in her book as her cynical editor wants massive re-writes and re-working of her original manuscript. Meanwhile, the flood of online trolls to her online column is getting worse, even including death threats. She goes to the police but they instantly shrug her off and the threats are not taken seriously. In fact, they tell her just to stay off platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Out of curiosity she looks up one of her trolls and to her shock finds that he is a next door neighbor. On an impulse she kills him and cuts off a finger. After the murder something clicks and she is able to write. Now, she must keep killing these online-bullies to keep her creative juices flowing. 

     The issue of online bullying and trolls that try and bring down artists and creative people is something that is sadly just a part of the internet. Ivo addresses this and uses it in a the form of a thriller, something that is long over due. I admit that as much as I loved the concept I was a bit cautious going into this film. I didn't want a film that was preachy but was nuanced enough to thought-provoking. Thankfully I think the film does a very good job at achieving its goal. Femke Boots is a very likable character but the filmmakers make it perfectly clear that we shouldn't love what she's doing and in turn doesn't glorify her actions. Brilliantly Ivo van Aart allows us to enjoy the first few kills, and we are every bit rooting for Femke during his Kill Bill style revenge. Its the kind of power-fantasy that can be so alluring because I think most of us have been the victim of some form of Internet bullying. This switches when, I believe its her third victim starts talking to her and, while yes he's still a piece of shit online-bully we start seeing the mans humanity. 

      It's important we get a scene like this because, while yes its a horrible and ugly thing people do, at the end of the day they are still flawed people. Had this not been in the case I dont think that film would have worked as well as it did. But, the core theme is really brought home in the form of Femke's daughter Anna (Claire Porro). You see, Anna is working on a free speech project at her school. In a wonderfully and brilliantly edited montage Anna gives a speech about how people are being killed in places in Russia for their online comments of rebellion, inter-cut with mother Femke who is literally killing people for their view points. Maybe thats a bit too-on-the-nose but I think it nails the point home while giving an example of another aspect of the film that I liked: the dark comedy. The film is serious, yes but it also has a wickedly black-sense of humor.  Like, you gotta chuckle at how biblical she is in regards to  how she takes the finger of her victims afterwards. Also the fact that she dates a morbid horror writer who is actually unsettled by the murders is a fun bit of irony. 

    On a technical side the film has wonderful camera work, production design and attention to detail and well done editing. Ivo also crafts a mood that is eerie and dread filled yet grounded in a almost painfully mundane reality. Katija Herbers (Westworld) plays Femke and she does a fantastic job! I think that this role is a key to the fail or success of the film and Herbers brings a subtle but effective performance that is the lynch-pin in the film working as well as it does. Claire Porro is great as well and the two are very believable as a mother-daughter duo.

      If I had to complain about the film its that I think the ending is somehow both incredibly satisfying in one regard but also maybe a little abrupt. Some critics may say that the core theme is a bit on the nose. And yes, that might be true yet writing and directing is so spot on I think it works despite itself. Again, had all of the trolls been one-sided ugly caricatures and, Femke being made out to be some white-knight, I dont think it would have had the same kind of gravity or depth. 

The Columnist is a darkly funny, twisted and satisfying modern cautionary tale. A must watch!

Picture: For being on DVD this movie looks quite sharp. Colors pop and the overall visual presentation is well defined. 

Sound: The Columnist has a really well 'executed' DTS 5.1 track. Sound design, score and dialogue come through heartily and the 5.1 track offers a nice complex sound presentation in my opinion. 

Extras: None. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Quantez (1957) Kino Studio Classics Blu Ray Review

Quantez (1957) Kino Studio Classics 5/11/2021

Directed By: Harry Keller 

Starring: Fred MacMurray, Dorothy Malone, John Gavin, John Larch


Disclaimer: Kino Studio Classics has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 


     Harry Keller had a pretty interesting career having edited more high profile movies then he did sitting in the directors chair. Here is takes on a western with Fred MacMurray who had made over a dozen films in the genre in his career. A group of outlaws head to Mexico but stop off at a ghost town called Quantez to lay low whilst their horses recover and they can rest for the night. Meanwhile, someone is a traitor among them in this slightly off-western.  

      Director Harry Keller does a good job at establishing a lot of tension and eeriness when the men enter the titular town of Quantez. Shots of the ghost town at night only help heighten the mystery and suspense. I also like how the town is at times bathed in this weird blue glow.  Screenwriter R. Wright Campbell who also wrote another Fred MacMurray western Gun for a Coward 1956 (Review HERE as part of the Western II Collection) does an interesting job at crafting a pretty off-kilter western-drama which also doubles as a at times paranoid and claustrophobic affair once the men enter the empty town. I will say that things tend to get repetitive and there is some dull moments that make the movie feel tedious. The movie also feels weirdly stagey as most of the action takes place in one room or in a backlot that doubles as the outside of the town. 

      This lull in the action is a shame because it kills any of the momentum Keller crafts. MacMurray is as always a likeable suave and handsome actor who, along with Larch feels like they carry the film. MacMurray has a gruff world weariness but also a sweetness that always comes through. John Larch does a good job at a rather loathsome, abusive outlaw. Larch best known for his later films like Dirty Harry (1971) and Play Misty for Me (1971) is pretty good in the role and I've always had a soft-spot for the character actor. John Gavin is in contrast is rather wooden in his performance, especially when next to Larch and MacMurray. Dorothy Malone who oddly was probably best remembered for her final role in Basic Instinct (1992) does a stellar job in a very thanklessly written role.  

    Quantez is a film that had some interesting things going for it but ultimately I found that the movie drags which really hurts any of the tension and mystery Keller worked hard to build. I don't mind a slower paced film but a frankly felt bored-which is the ultimate sin for a film. 

Picture: Quantez looks pretty good on 1080p. The film takes place largely at night and this is really where this upgraded transfer shines. The film retains a lot of clarity and has very little in the way of blurring or artifacts in the print. Even the grain levels are kept to a minimum. 

Sound: Quantez has a 2.0 track. Dialogue, sound design and score comes through nicely. No unwanted background hiss or drop out that I could detect. 

Extras: Extras include a feature length commentary by historian 

Supernatural Season 15 & The Complete Series Comes To Blu-Ray And DVD.

 The Longest-Running Genre Series in U.S. Television History Supernatural Season 15 & The Complete Series comes to Blu-Ray And DVD. 




                         SUPERNATURAL: THE FIFTEENTH AND FINAL SEASON

                                               On Blu-ray and DVD May25, 2021


Includes Exclusive Bonus Content featuring Two All-New Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, a Gag Reel and More!             


SUPERNATURAL: THE COMPLETE SERIES on Blu-Ray and DVD


Features All 327 Episodes and Countless Hours of Bonus Content from Every One of the 15 Seasons Plus a 68-page Collectible Book!

Available Day-and-Date

Supernatural: The Fifteenth and Final Season contains the final 20 epic episodes from the landmark series’ final season, as well as a bonus disc loaded with over two hours of special features including the special retrospective episode Supernatural: The Long Road Home. Also on the bonus disc, and exclusive to Blu-ray and DVD, are two all new featurettes, deleted scenes and a gag reel. The set is priced to own on DVD for $44.98 SRP ($49.99 in Canada), and on Blu-ray which includes Digital Copy (US only) for $49.99 SRP ($54.97 in Canada).  


Supernatural: The Complete Series contains all 327 thrilling episodes from the phenomenal series, as well as countless hours of bonus features from all 15 epic, not-to-be-missed seasons. Fans who purchase the Complete Series will also receive a 68-page Collectible Book filled with new images from the beloved series, set designs and letters to the Supernatural Family from both Eric Kripke and Robert Singer. The Complete Series is priced to own on DVD for $329.99 SRP ($369.99 in Canada), and on Blu-ray for $359.99 SRP ($399.98 in Canada), representing a substantial savings over purchasing all fifteen seasons individually.


Carry on with the thrilling and terrifying journey of the Winchester brothers in Supernatural: The Complete Series. Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) face everything from demons to vampires, ghosts, angels and pagan gods. And with the help of the fallen angel Castiel (Misha Collins), they discover that every threat they vanquish opens a new door for evil to enter.


Supernatural has spawned several novels, magazines, comics, games and even an anime series! Starring Jared Padalecki (Friday the 13th, Gilmore Girls) and Jensen Ackles (Smallville, My Bloody Valentine) as Sam and Dean Winchester, the fifteenth season also starred Misha Collins (24; Girl Interrupted) as Castiel, and Alexander Calvert (Arrow, The Edge of Seventeen) as Lucifer’s son, Jack. Produced by Kripke Enterprises, Inc. in association with Warner Bros. Television, the long-running series was created by Eric Kripke (Revolution, Timeless), and executive produced in its final season by Robert Singer (Timecop, Lois & Clark), Andrew Dabb, Robert Berens (Doom Patrol), and Brad Buckner & Eugenie Ross-Leming (Lois & Clark). 


With Blu-ray’s unsurpassed picture and sound, Supernatural: The Complete Series and Supernatural: The Fifteenth and Final Season will be released in 1080p Full HD Video with DTS-HD Master Audio for English 5.1. Both Blu-ray sets will feature a high-definition Blu-ray and a Digital Copy (US Only) of all episodes.


FINAL SEASON BONUS DISC SPECIAL FEATURES

Supernatural: The End of the Road (New)

Supernatural: Family Don’t End in Blood (New)

Gag Reel (New)

Deleted Scenes (New)

Supernatural: 2019 Comic-Con Panel

Winning Baby: A Supernatural Giveaway

Winchester Mythology: Midwestern Heroes

Supernatural: The Long Road Home – Special Retrospective Episode


DIGITAL

Supernatural is also available to own on Digital. Digital allows consumers to instantly stream and download all episodes to watch anywhere and anytime on their favorite devices.  Digital movies and TV shows are available from various digital retailers including Amazon Video, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu and others. A Digital Copy is also included with the purchase of specially marked Blu-ray discs for redemption and cloud storage (US Copy Only).


SUPERNATURAL: THE COMPLETE SERIES BASICS

Release Date: May25, 2021

Presented in 16x9 widescreen format

Running Time: Feature: Approx. 13,716 min

Enhanced Content: Approx. 3226 min (Bonus Disc: Approx. 164 min)

DVD Price: $329.99 SRP ($369.99 in Canada)

Blu-ray Price: $359.99 SRP ($399.98 in Canada)

86 Discs (85 DVD-9s +1 DVD-9 Bonus Disc) / 58 Discs (57 BD-50s +1 BD-25 Bonus Disc)

Audio: English (5.1)

Subtitles: ESDH, French, Spanish


SUPERNATURAL: THE FIFTEENTH AND FINAL SEASON BASICS

Release Date: May25, 2021

Presented in 16x9 widescreen format

Running Time: Feature: Approx. 843 min

Enhanced Content: Approx. 179 min 

DVD Price: $44.98 SRP ($49.99 in Canada)

Blu-ray Price: $49.99SRP ($54. 97 in Canada)

5 Discs (DVD-9s +1 DVD-9 (Bonus Disc) / 4 Discs (3 BD-50s +1 BD-25 Bonus Disc)

Audio: English (5.1)

Subtitles: ESDH, French, Spanish


About Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Inc.

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (WBHE) brings together Warner Bros. Entertainment's physical and digital distribution businesses in order to maximize current and next-generation distribution scenarios. An industry leader since its inception, WBHE oversees the global distribution of content through packaged goods (Blu-ray Disc™ and DVD) and digital media in the form of electronic sell-through and video-on-demand via cable, satellite, online and mobile channels. WBHE distributes its product through third party retail partners and licensees.