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+
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
credit, it is not as silly as other recent WWI films (namely the silly Flyboys), but it is ambitious and worth
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.
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