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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Action > Western > Civil War > Boxing > Biography > Biopic > WWI > Airplanes > Fire In The Amazon (1991/Anchor Bay Blu-ray) + Dances With Wolves (1990/MGM Blu-ray Set) + Raging Bull – 30th Anniversary Edition (1980/MGM Blu-ray w/DVD) + The Red Baron (2008/Monterey Video Blu-ray)

Fire In The Amazon (1991/Anchor Bay Blu-ray) + Dances With Wolves (1990/MGM Blu-ray Set) + Raging Bull – 30th Anniversary Edition (1980/MGM Blu-ray w/DVD) + The Red Baron (2008/Monterey Video Blu-ray)


Picture: B     Sound: B- (Dances: B)     Extras: C-/B/A-/C     Films: C+/B/A-/C+



When dramas take on serious topics, they can at least be interesting if they are ambitious and take themselves seriously, but if they really work, they become classics.  Four very different films are now on DVD that show the extent of those successes.


Luis Llosa’s Fire In The Amazon (1991) is a Roger Corman-produced film that is not as exploitive as his usual fare, though still with its share of violence and even sex, but having a young Sandra Bullock as its female lead (especially in a sex scene) has made it a curio for years.  Craig Sheffer (A River Runs Through It, Nightbreed) is a photographer and journalist who arrives in the Bolivia to investigate the likely murder of a union leader, but gets more than he bargains for when things turn out to be more corrupt and rotten than even he expects.  He also meets a political activist (Bullock) in from the U.S. trying to save the rainforests, a point that takes a backseat to sex, violence and what is essentially a revenge thriller.


This is not a great film, but an amusing one, typical of the naďve 1980s (a few years late of that decade) and would not be out on Blu-ray at this point without Bullock in it.  The film is amusing, has some good moments and is worth a look for the curious, but it is still not great.  However, it is better than many releases we’ve seen lately, which is actually sad.  The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image was filmed in 35mm and shows its age with more grain than usual (likely from the low budget, picking older, cheaper film stocks) but color can be very good, especially form some good locations and the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix is a limited, amusing upgrade from the harsh, distorted, old Ultra Stereo analog sound mix (this was a system inferior to old Dolby System A-type analog sound, so you know not to expect great sound) that only works so well.  The only extra is a trailer.


Kevin Costner’s Dances With Wolves (1990) has been shown so often on TV and released in so many home video versions, it is too many, but this is the first time it is on Blu-ray and is the Extended Cut we covered on DVD a while ago at this link:




The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition AVC @ 20 MBPS on Dances may be the best the film has looked to date, but the dated print and slightly older HD master (along with possibly not enough MegaBits to handle the great Dean Semler cinematography) hold back how good this looks.  I wish MGM had let Criterion handle this one, but there are still some fine shots here, just not consistently so.  Color is usually good, but can be uneven and lacking in shots.  They have also tried to upgrade the original 5.1 sound mix to a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1 lossless mix that does not sound as dynamic as the film at its best (the Image DTS DVD set and home theater favorite DTS Demo No. 4 disc) with the impact of the sound mix and John Barry music (which had been issued on Super Audio CD, so superior is its fidelity) held back by some compression and using what sounds like second-generation elements.  In addition, there is inaccurate directional encoding in the soundfield new to this release.  They should have left the sound alone.


Making its second Blu-ray appearance is Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull (1980) with includes an updated Blu-ray and DVD.  We covered the DVD in the Scorsese box set MGM issued a few years ago at this link:




The Blu-ray has the same exact sound and picture transfer with the same extras (also on the DVD) and then some from the older Blu-ray we covered at this link:




The new extras on this 30th Anniversary Edition include four new featurettes including new Scorsese and De Niro interviews: Marty & Bobby, Raging Bull: Reflections On A Classic, Remembering Jake and Marty On Film.



Finally, we have Nikolai Mullerschon’s WWI flying drama The Red Baron (2008) made in Germany and telling the story about the legendary flying ace Manfred von Richtofen (well played as an adult by Matthias Schweighofer) has become the hope of the German cause and though they will lose the war badly, he is a celebrity and cause for excitement.  We see his interaction with his fellow fliers, friendly relationship with and mutual respect for Allied flyer Captain Roy Brown (Joseph Fiennes) when these people fighting war still had a gentleman’s code and the result is a historical film that mixes good moments with some fell-good moments that do not work as well and seem contradictory.  This is not the first film on the subject, but it is distinct enough, has money on the screen, nice location, the actual planes and a good supporting cast including Til Schweiger (Ingloruous Basterds) as Verner Voss, Richard Krajco, Steffen Schroeder and Lena Headey as Kate Otersdorf.


To its credit, it is not as silly as other recent WWI films (namely the silly Flyboys), but it is ambitious and worth a look.


The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image was shot in Super 35mm film with its share of digital work, but looks pretty good throughout and even more than expected.  Unfortunately, we only get a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix instead of a lossless mix, but that is a shame since this is a good soundmix that could have really sounded great in something like DTS-MA, Dolby TrueHD or uncompressed PCM.


Extras include two featurettes: Red Baron: Making Of Visual Effects and Legends Of The Red Baron.  Yes, he is more than just a satire in a Peanuts comic strip.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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