Articles

Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - April, 2014

ARTICLE INDEX

"47 Ronin" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movies-apr-2014-Ronin

Synopsis

Keanu Reeves stars in the action-adventure epic, 47 Ronin. After a treacherous warlord kills their master and banishes their kind, 47 leaderless samurai vow to seek vengeance and Joreclaim their honor. This band of ronin must seek help from Kai (Reeves)—an enslaved half-breed they once rejected—in their ultimate fight for redemption in a savage world of mythic and wondrous terrors. Kai becomes their most deadly weapon and the heroic inspiration for these outnumbered warriors to confront their enemy and seize eternity.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2014, Color, PG-13, 1 hour 51 minutes
  • Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
  • 1080P
  • 5.1 DTS-MA
  • Starring: Keanu Reeves,Hiroyuki Sanada, Tadanobu Asano, Rinko Kikuchi
  • Directed by: Carl Rinsch
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Here's an example of a classic tale that gets messed up in the telling. This movie tries too hard to be an epic. In order to become an epic, you need characters that you really care about. Reeves character is too shrouded and one dimensional, so by the end of the movie, you still can't connect with his character. The CGI in the movie is a bit over the top, and in some instances, very amateurish and fake looking. Again, a movie that relies heavily on CGI monsters and panoramic vistas of a fantastical countryside do not a movie make. (Avatar anyone?) Not that some of the action sequences were not fun, but the "get vengeance for our defamed master" route has been traveled a lot lately. The movie just kind of collapses under its own pretentiousness by the end. A rental at best.

Technical

Sound is very good with lots of surround fun and deep bass rumble from the war drums. The picture quality was generally sharp and clean, but some scenes were awfully grainy and the deep contrasts were washed out. Not enough to ruin the movie, but it can be distracting at times. Because of the picture inconsistency, I knocked it down a mark. Also, as I mentioned before, some of the CGI looks great and then other times it is bad enough to take you out of the moment.

Extras

Sorry, no 47 extras. Some deleted scenes, Re-forging the Legend, Keanu & Kai, Steel Fury: The Fights of 47 Ronin, Myths, Magic & Monsters: The FX of 47 Ronin. Also a digital copy and DVD version are included.


"Better Living Through Chemistry" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-Apr-2014-Chemistry

Synopsis

Sam Rockwell stars as Doug Varney, a small town pharmacist with an overbearing wife (Michelle Monaghan) and an uneventful life running the drugstore he bought from his insufferable father-in-law. Following a chance encounter with a lonely trophy wife (Olivia Wilde), Doug embarks on an exhilarating drug-and-alcohol-fuelled affair with the most glamorous woman he has ever met. Take a walk on the wild side in this murderously funny dark comedy which also stars Ray Liotta and Jane Fonda.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2014, Color, Rated R, 1 hour 32 minutes
  • Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
  • 1080P
  • 5.1 DTS-MA
  • Starring: : Sam Rockwell, Olivia Wilde, Michelle Monaghan, Ray Liotta, Jane Fonda
  • Directed by: Geoff Moore & David Posamentier
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

Can drugs, sex and rock-n-roll really turn a milquetoast into a totally transformed man about the town? Well, OK, not so much the rock-n-roll part, but the rest of the premise is valid. I found this film to be mildly amusing and Rockwell really plays the part of a cuckold husband very well indeed. If you want to see this film just to see Wilde in the buff...you will be sorely disappointed. I have seen other films (some much better) that tell a tale of a mousy man that gets his life turned around (or "turned on", in this case), but I liked how the whole story used dark humor to reach an enjoyably satisfying ending. I am completely flummoxed as to why Jane Fonda appears in the last 2 minutes of the movie, but hey, perhaps I just don't get "dark humor".

Technical

Excellent picture quality throughout. Colors are warm and solid. Details are razor sharp. Unfortunately, the sound quality, especially the center channel mix seemed a bit hollow at times. Some of the dialog sounded a bit tinny and un-natural. Your sub woofer sleeps through this movie.

Extras

A Digital Copy. That's all folks! However, it does come with over 10 different language subtitles. That's way more than I have seen for any film in a long time. Apparently they are ready for world wide distribution of this movie.


"Bagman" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movies-apr-2014-Bagman

Synopsis

John Cusack and Robert De Niro star in this action-packed crime thriller about a hit-man named Jack (Cusack), who takes an assignment to deliver a mysterious bag to his crafty boss (De Niro) with strict instructions not to peek inside. With the help of an elusive prostitute (Da Costa), Jack battles a mess-load of gunfire, a slew of crooked cops and unruly mobsters on a deadly quest to deliver the precious cargo and earn a big pay day. By the end of the night, he begins to think this assignment just might not be worth the money.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2014, Color, Rated R, 1 hour 39 minutes
  • Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
  • 1080P
  • 5.1 DTS-MA
  • Starring: John Cusack, Rebecca Da Costa, Robert De Niro, Crispin Glover, Dominic Purcell
  • Directed by: David Grovic
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Themes w/o nudity
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

I love DeNiro and Cusack as actors, so I had high hopes for this movie. Unfortunately, the movie played out like a bad David Fincher movie ala Twin Peaks. It contains a bevy of weird characters (a one-eyed pimp and a midget. And Glover was delightfully troubling) that harass Cusack all through the night at a seedy hotel outside of the Big Easy. The bag is, of course, a McGuffin. When the contents are revealed, all I could think of was the movie Seven...another Fincher plot device. Ultimately, the movie slides downward due to the poor acting of Da Costa who vainly attempts a Russian accent and later is revealed to be some sort of super hitman, err...person. It was supposed to be the big "OMG" twist at the end, but I was having none of it. If Fincher-type movies are your thing, rent this. For the rest of you, bag it.

Technical

In spite of many dark sets, most of which are overly lit out door scenes, the details, contrasts and colors are very good. Colored lights of vibrant reds and blues are used to set up the mood of the film early on. Dialog is clear and crisp. The surrounds help set up the tense mood and the sub jumps in near the end with an explosive finale at the hotel. This is another case of good disc, bad movie.

Extras

Behind the scenes and a Digital Copy are included.


"The Outsider" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movies-apr-2014-Outsider

Synopsis

Recalled from the battlefields of Afghanistan to identify the remains of his daughter, British mercenary Lex Walker (Fairbrass) arrives in Los Angeles to find that the body in the morgue belongs to a stranger. With his daughter now missing, Walker convinces a street-wise detective (Patric) that his daughter is still alive and in danger. The two follow a trail of high-tech intrigue that leads them to his daughter's former boss (Caan), a crooked cyber-millionaire who will do whatever it takes to protect his empire – including taking down anyone who gets in his way. Driven by desperation and rage, Walker must fight his way through an army of thugs and hired killers to save the one person that means more to him than life itself.

Specifications

  • Image Entertainment
  • 2014, Color, Rated R, 1 hour 34 minutes
  • Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
  • 1080P
  • 5.1 DTS-MA
  • Starring: : Jason Patric, James Caan, Craig Fairbrass
  • Directed by:Brian A. Miller
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Sensuality
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

Beware of any movie that casts an aging star that is on the downward slide of their career. How many B films baddies has Caan played in the last 5 years? Here he is a criminal mastermind. What nefarious crime network is he involved in? Credit card identity theft. Scary, right? So our hero is called back from Afganistan to pick up the body of his daughter who was bumped off by Caan because she "knew too much". Only when dad (Fairbrass) goes to retrieve her body, he finds that she is not dead. So rather than find her and get her safely outta Dodge, he combines forces with her and her 2 friends to put the hurt on Caan. All of this is just an excuse for our hero to bust heads, which he does, but without the panache of Van Damme or Statham. It's all fists and elbows. The other issue is Fairbrass has such a heavy British accent and mumbles so much that you can barely understand what he's saying throughout the entire movie. And I am not even going to mention the excessive use of flare effect on every light in L.A. that will drive you bonkers (Oops, I guess I did mention it). Overall, this film is too blunt and simplistic be another movie like The Limey. I recommend you leave this one outside.

Technical

The picture suffers from excessive grain and murkiness in the dark scenes. The afore mentioned flares are maddening and the camera work goes from shaky hand-held to rock steady...often in the very same scene. Please, pick a style and stick with it! The rest of the film is colorful, detailed and sharp, if somewhat flat in depth. The sound is punchy with some deep bass in the soundtrack, but none of that makes understanding Fairbrass dialog any easier to comprehend.

Extras

None.


 "Delivery Man" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Clements

movie-april-2014-delivery-man

Synopsis

Vince Vaughn plays David Wozniak, an unreliable and irresponsible man who makes his "living" driving a meat delivery truck for his father's butcher shop.  We also learn that he has fallen deeply into debt and is trying to grow hydroponic weed in his apartment to make up the difference.  Then his girlfriend, Emma (Smulder) [a cop, naturally] announces she is pregnant.  About this time a lawyer approaches Wozniak to advise him that he is representing 142 clients who claim to be Wozniak's biological children.  They want to know who their real father is and they are willing to go to court to make this happen.  (It turns out that Wozniak made numerous deposits at a fertility clinic in the early 90's and records indicate that he is in fact the father of 533 children!)  The attorney leaves behind a dossier containing detailed background information on the 142 children who have come forward.  Wozniak's curiosity will get the better of him.

Specifications

  • Dreamworks
  • 2013, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 45 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master
  • Starring: Vince Vaughn, Chris Pratt and Cobie Smulders
  • Directed by:  Ken Scott
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

The movie worked for me from the standpoint that I connected with the main characters and wanted everything to work out OK for them.  So I was sufficiently touched at the end and that was for the better.  But that is not to say that this movie wasn't largely a sophomoric effort.  (It was, but a lot less so than other Vaughn fims).  There is also a high predictability factor with this movie.  So it is due to the triteness and predictability that I am giving "Delivery Man" only 3 stars.  As with many other Rom Coms, my recommendation is to rent it on an evening when you are in the right mood.  If you are not in the right mood, then pass on it.

Technical

The picture quality of this disc is excellent.  Outdoor scenes in particular are vibrant and detailed with excellent contrast and natural color saturation.  I found some of the indoor scenes were perplexingly soft and so I am deducting half a star on this point.  The audio is fine with legible dialogue.  The musical score is clean and listenable but pales when compared to the musical reproduction on a movie such as "American Hustle".  So the audio on "Delivery Man" falls in the servicable if not specatacular category.

Extras

Building Family (making of featurette), Vince Vaughn: Off the Cuff (cast interviews), a Bloopers Reel and one Deleted Scene.


"King Kong vs. Godzilla & King Kong Escapes" (Blu-rays) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movies-apr-2014-Kong

Synopsis

The two biggest monsters of all time battle in the thrilling adventure classic, King Kong vs. Godzilla. When an underhanded pharmaceutical company goes to a remote tropical island to steal King Kong for advertising purposes, they get more than they bargained for. Meanwhile,a submarine crew unleashes reptilian terror when they melt a block of ice and release the ferocious Godzilla from his icy lair. When both meet, destruction occurs! It's King Kong to the rescue when a giant robot threatens to destroy Tokyo in the gripping King Kong Escapes! The action begins when the conniving Dr. Who builds a robot Kong in order to retrieve a highly radioactive Element X for his mysterious benefactor. When the robot proves less than reliable, the devious duo scheme to kidnap the real Kong from his remote island home of Mondo. Interfering with their plans are the heroic trio of U.S. Cmdr. Carl Nelson, Lt. Jiro Nomura, and Kong's current crush, Lt. Susan Miller. It's up to them to outwit the greedy ape-nappers in this sci-fi adventure that takes Kong to unprecedented heights of excitement.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios (Toho)
  • 2014, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 31 mins/1 Hr 36 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English 1.0 DTS-HD Master
  • Starring: King Kong & Godzilla
  • Directed by: Ishiro Honda
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Total Destruction!
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

The acting is bad, the picture quality barely acceptable, the sound is mono, Kong looks like a brown version of the abominable snowman from Rudolph, the plots are totally ridiculous, the "dubbing" is out of synch. You would think these 2 flicks are a huge waste of time...and you would be wrong! I love these movies because they remind me of my youth. I saw these in a theater when I was a kid. I loved them then and still enjoy them now. Only with BD, I can see them in all their uproarious glory. This Kong is not like the Peter Jackson version. Far from it! His glass eyes are covered by flickering paper eye-lids. His teeth are as bad as my Drivers Ed instructor from high school. You can see the seams in the back of his matted fur costume. But who cares? These are great movies to watch for the entertainment value alone...and your young kids can watch and marvel at the delightful campy acting and the amazing miniature sets that get demolished and trampled on by these 60 foot tall monsters. These are the "Americanized" versions, so there are a lot of cut scenes from the Japanese version that are replaced with American news commentators that speed things up a bit with the storyline. These old classics are just what you need to round out your otherwise "dull" Oscar worthy movie library. In the end, you'll go through a lot of pop corn and have a blast watching these Saturday afternoon classics. I sure did!

Technical

The picture quality is passable, with Kong Escapes being the better of the two films. Frames occasionally go out of focus, dirt and scratches mare the prints. Stock footage of the UN building and streets of Tokyo are grainy and washed out. Skin tones and colors are generally good, however. The sound is in mono, but actually quite clear and distortion free. In my opinion, all of these flaws just add to the campy charm of the whole movie. When was the last time you had so much fun with a movie compared to one that has too much CGI in its production? Sometimes low tech is King!

Extras

None


"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

movie-april-2014-hobbit2

Synopsis

Part Two of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy continues with Thorin Oakenshield’s quest to reclaim the desolated Dwarf kingdom of Erabor. With him are 13 other Dwarves and one Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins. Bilbo has already found the Ring of Power and uses it to great benefit as he helps his Dwarf comrades evade murdering Orcs, paranoid Elves, and hungry giant spiders. The band meets a strange man named Bard who smuggles them into a town near Erabor.

The Dwarves finally make it to the secret entrance into Lonely Mountain where Bilbo is sent in alone to retrieve the Arkenstone, Thorin’s royal legacy. In the ensuing battle, the dragon Smaug is awakened. Pursuing the Dwarves and Bilbo, he frees himself from the mountain and heads towards Lake-town. And we are left hanging until Part Three!

Specifications

  • MGM/New Line Cinema
  • 2013, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hrs 41 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD Master
  • Starring: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage
  • Directed by: Peter Jackson
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Only Peter Jackson can spend three long films to tell the tale of a medium-sized novel. After watching this and Part One, I think he’s more interested in creating Middle-Earth on screen than actually telling the story. Don’t get me wrong, the movie is very entertaining and I enjoyed watching it, as I have all his Tolkien films. Jackson is a master at drawing the viewer in to the point where you almost don’t perceive the passage of time; until you discover the sun has set while you were in your theater! I loved the production design and how easily I could tell the scale of all the characters. I’m still impressed by how Hobbits and Dwarves, though played by normal humans, appear so short compared to Men and other creatures. And the CGI constructs like Orcs or Spiders are truly a sight to behold.

Technical

The image is nearly reference-quality, and there is no real fault with the transfer. I just found there was a little too much smoothness in many faces. The Elves for instance always have a subtle glow about them but that means there is no texture or dimension in their skin at all. Then you cut to Gandalf and you can see Ian McKellen’s every pore and wrinkle. It just seemed a tad inconsistent, therefore the one-half star deduction.

The sound is super-detailed and crisp but I felt it was a tad polite. The battle scenes were fairly intense but not as bombastic as they might have been. The best part is the lush musical score utilizing a full orchestra; kudos to Howard Shore for another triumph. Your surrounds will get a fair amount of use but the sub doesn’t really wake up until the scenes with Smaug. Then Benedict Cumberbatch’s voice takes on a new definition of basso profundo.

Extras

Bonus features are light for such a blockbuster film. All you get is a behind-the-scenes documentary with Peter Jackson, a few production shorts, and a seven-minute featurette about the New Zealand location used to shoot the movie.


"The Nut Job" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movies-apr-2014-Nutjob

Synopsis

It’s time to go nuts for this action-packed comedy featuring the all-star talents of Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser, Liam Neeson, Maya Rudolph and Katherine Heigl. Surly (Arnett) is a mischievous squirrel with a mission: to find the tastiest nuts for winter. When he discovers a whole store filled with his favorite food, he plans a heist of nutrageous proportions. But the place turns out to be owned by ruthless bank robbers, so it’s up to Surly and his furry friends to stop the nearby bank heist and save the town.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2014, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 26 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master
  • Starring: Will Arnett, Katherine Heigl, Brendan Fraser, Liam Neeson
  • Directed by: Peter Lepeniotis
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Cartoonish
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

After reviewing Frozen, these movie characters just come across as flat and dull. The image quality is good, but not up to Pixar or Dreamworks standards. I noticed lots of detailed fur, bricks and grass, but feathers looked too plasticine and smooth. The story is basically designed to demonstrate that sharing is good for everyone. Unfortunately, the telling is done in a haphazard fashion that had me looking at my watch more than once. Don’t get me wrong. Sharing is a wonderful thing to do, but the story deals with sharing your excess. In this case, a story full of nuts that can easily feed the city parks denizens for an entire winter. A better example would have been sharing, even when you have little surplus yourself. That's a better test of character. That’s a more gratifying example to give our children. The closing credits include an animated Psy doing "Gangnam Style" with the characters in the movie. Seriously. It made me weep.

Will younger kids find this entertaining? Perhaps. But with better stories out there, why waste time with this one?

Technical

I mentioned the feathers already. The picture quality is still quite good and so is the sound. This is not the finest example of digital production I have seen, but it is not the worst. In the extras, there are two shorts you can view. The first one is standard def and very primitive looking. They also use some questionable language not found in the actual movie. Why use that particular short at all? It's not special or interesting. Even an amazing CGI picture can not help a movie with dull, one dimensional characters.

Extras

Bonus features are Deleted Scenes, Storyboards, The Great Nut Heist, Animated Shorts and End Credits Sequence.


"The Pirate Fairy" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-april-2014-the-pirate-fairy

Synopsis

Zarina is a dust keeper fairy that helps keep the reserve of pixie dust for Pixie Hollow. Not content to do things as they always have been done she experiments with creating different varieties of pixie dust. When an experiment goes awry she is banned from being a dust keeper anymore. Unhappy with situation she packs up and leaves Pixie Hollow.

A year later she returns, only with a far more nefarious plan. She has formed an alliance with a group of pirates in order to steal the pixie dust and enable the pirate ship to fly. Will Tinkerbell and the other fairies be able to stop her and return the supply of pixie dust to Pixie Hollow?

Specifications

  • Disney
  • 2014, Color, Rated G, 1 Hr 18 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD Master
  • Starring: Christina Hendricks, Mae Whitman, Lucy Liu (voices)
  • Directed by: Peggy Holmen
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Cartoonish
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Thankfully things have improved a lot since Peter Pan was originally released. The Pirate Fairy land is more diverse and multicultural than before. Though aimed at young girls, both my young sons found it to be enjoyable. I wish that they had cut the few references to boys, or shoes, or pink things that were in there to make it as girly as it is. It only amounts to a minute or so of the movie, and would not have affected the plot at all but would have kept it from reinforcing those gender stereotypes.

For young kids, The Pirate Fairy will keep them entertained. For adults, it’s over in 75 minutes.

Technical

The presentation of The Pirate Fairy looks wonderful. There isn’t a bit of color out of place, no edge enhancement or banding to be found. The soundtrack isn’t incredibly aggressive, but dialogue is clear and easy to understand.

Extras

Deleted Scenes, a few featurettes including one about crocodiles, sing-along-songs, and a couple animated shorts.


"Double Indemnity" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by John Johnson

Double Indemnity

Synopsis

Phyllis Dietrichson (Stanwyck) and Walter Neff (MacMurray) are having an affair, and Phyllis convinces Walter to have her husband (Tom Powers) take out a life insurance policy with a double indemnity clause that would double the amount of money that she would get in the event of his death. Then the husband is found dead near a railroad track, and the police report states the death was by accident. However, Barton Keys (Robinson), an insurance claims manager, is suspicious, and pursues his theory of murder, with the irony being that he is one of Walter's closest friends.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 1944, B&W, Not Rated, 1 hour 48 minutes
  • Aspect Ratio 1.35:1
  • 1080P
  • 2.0 DTS-MA
  • Starring: Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson, Tom Powers
  • Directed by: Billy Wilder
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: Suggestive
  • Language: No

Commentary

Film Noir is a category of films made in the 1940's through early 1950's, which were full of shadows (low key), cynical, sexual, and based in crime. Double Indemnity is one of the best, having been nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

Technical

The restoration of this 70 year old film is excellent, maintaining the dark angst that pervades the story. Black & White is probably the only way this genre of movies could be filmed at the time, as 1940's color film and shadows didn't mix very well. More importantly, color would have taken away from the visual impact.

Extras

There are several features, such as "Shadows of Suspense" and the complete 1973 remake of Double Indemnity. For the original 1944 version, note that there was an alternate ending to the one that was actually chosen for the movie. I suppose they test both endings with audiences before deciding on how to end the story. Here is a still from the alternate ending. You can see that it was not a pleasant finale. Notice the strong shadows, especially in the eyes. The stage was lit from above to produce this effect, and was a standard way of lighting Film Noir movies.


"Copperhead" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movies-apr-2014-Copper

Synopsis

The film is set in a small community in upstate New York, far away from the horrors of war. Yet, the conflict being waged far south is being felt here as well. The central character of the story is Abner Beech (Campbell, "The Rocketeer,"), a farmer who is against the war Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans are waging. He, along with his adopted son Jimmy (Josh Cruddas) and an Irish immigrant, are labeled "copperheads" for their stance against the war. His views alienate him from the community, including Jee Hagadorn (MacFayden), a righteous man who supports the war, and abolition, wholeheartedly, and not caring about the thousands of men who are fighting and dying, as long as they achieve victory. This is a third installment from the director that brought us “Gettysburg” and “Gods and Generals”.

Specifications

  • Warner Brothers
  • 2014, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 hours
  • Aspect Ratio 1.35:1
  • 1080P
  • 5.1 DTS-MA
  • Starring: Billy Campbell, Angus McFayden, Josh Cruddas
  • Directed by: Ron Maxwell
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Just like the peace activists from the 1960’s, Abner Beech opposes Lincoln’s war because he feels the states should do as they please and not be bullied by the Federal government. Besides, Lincoln is trampling the Constitution in his effort to keep the Union together. Lincoln may have been proven right, but Beech’s view is no less compelling. Just as a moral man may be for the war, another equally moral man may oppose it and this film shows us a part of the war most of us never read in the history books. The movie is somewhat slowly paced, but the character development is excellent. The acting, scenery and music are all top notch too. If you are a Civil War buff or just like a movie that sees things from a different perspective, I recommend this film highly.

Technical

The picture is clear and natural, digitally shot without the use of CGI. The upstate New York countryside is beautifully rendered and the colors are gorgeous. Most of the costumes exude details and earth tone colors. The musical score is very nice with sweeping strings and add to the on-screen drama that plays out. Natural sounds emanate from the surrounds with birds chirping and people bustling about the busy street. The sub came to life only about 2-3 times during the film, but this movie is very dialog driven.

Extras

None


"Touch of Evil" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-may-2014-touch-of-evil

Synopsis

Along the US-Mexican border, a bomb placed inside the trunk of his car murders a US businessman. Due to the location of the crime, the investigation includes both the Mexican authorities, led by Mike Vargas (Charlton Heston), and the American ones, led by Hank Quinlan (Orson Welles). At the same time, Vargas’s new wife Susan is kidnapped and held hostage in an attempt to prevent him from testifying against a crime syndicate the following week.

As the investigation ramps up, Vargas becomes aware of that boundaries and limits that Quinlan will push in order to blame someone for the crime. With a staff that is eager to follow along and more concerned with results than justice, it puts the two men at odds as they attempt to solve the case.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 1958, B&W, Rated PG-13, 1 Hour 51 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
  • 1080P
  • 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, and Orson Welles
  • Directed by: Orson Welles
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Touch of Evil is perhaps best known for the infamous 58-page memo that Orson Welles wrote after seeing the initial cut. Having left the country to focus on other projects, he allowed Universal to edit it themselves and found they did not understand how the film was meant to go together. Universal didn’t care to spend the extra time and money to do it correctly, and so the original release of Touch of Evil was a convoluted flop.

In the 1990’s there was finally an effort to reassemble a cut based on the memo that Orson Welles sent to change the original. While not his final cut, as he didn’t edit it, it is closer to what he had in mind than what was originally released.

The restored version is still a complex film to follow, but one that is well worth doing. From a long opening tracking shot to the final resolution, the film holds your interest. It certainly isn’t one to passively watch, or have on while you’re checking your email, as you’ll quickly find yourself lost and confused, but one that rewards you for the time you spend with it.

Technical

Most of Touch of Evil looks and sounds fantastic. There are occasional shots that are not as sharp as the rest, but they are usually quick and fleeting. The dual-mono soundtrack is clear and easy to understand though at times is dynamically limited. For a film from 1957, with elements that languished in a vault for over 40 years, it looks and sounds almost like it is new.

Extras

The most important feature is three different versions of the film: The original 1958 release, the extended preview version, and the edited memo version. All three are on the same disc and take advantage of seamless branching. The original 58-page memo from Orson Welles is also included in the packaging, so you can read all the changes he suggested be made. Multiple commentaries, the original trailers, and some featurettes are also included.