Burn Notice: The Fall Of Sam Axe (2011/Fox)/Monty
Hellman’s Road To Nowhere (2010/Monterey)/Set Up (2011/Lionsgate)/Straw
Dogs (1971/ABC Pictures/Cinerama/MGM/Blu-rays)
Picture: B-/B-/C+/B- Sound: B- Extras: C/C/D/C Films: C/C/D/B-
at the action genre and how its acceleration in the 1980s has had some
unfortunate effects on the genre…
telefilm Burn Notice: The Fall Of Sam
Axe (2011/the extended cut is here) seemingly wraps up the adventures of
the title character played by Bruce Campbell after five seasons in his biggest
franchise success since the Evil Dead
films. We see the latest romp in
flashback as Axe describes it at a secret security meeting and trail, for
him. It can be amusing, but is far from
how energetic and witty the show was in its first few seasons and they need to
quit while they are ahead, bored at times in how little left there is for any
of them to do. Extras include Deleted
Scenes, a feature length audio commentary track by Campbell, creator Matt Nix
and co-star Jeffrey Donovan and featurette The
Fall Of Jeffrey Donovan.
Monty Hellman’s Road To Nowhere (2010) is the once great
director’s attempt to make a comeback.
The skillful mind that once helmed Two
Lane Blacktop (1971) wants to do a twisted mystery with filmmaking in mind,
but transport it to the digital era as we start by watching a movie off of a
DVD on a laptop, then move into the real world and how much the “based on a
true story” story is true, how much is not and is there something else going on
here. Ambitious and trying to show a
love of films, he just cannot juggle all of this to make it work as effectively
as he should despite his talents and ambitions.
The cast is not bad, but when all is said and done, this comes across as
a David Lynch imitator that pales by comparison to the real thing. It is still interesting at times and that
cast includes Cliff De Young, Waylon Payne, Tygh Runyan, Shannyn Sossamon and
Dominique Swain. Extras include a
Sossamon interview, Q&A from The Nashville Film Festival and Behind The Scenes featurette.
wacky did here is the latest Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson straight-to-video
release, Set Up (2011) which is so
bad, he has now replaced Cuba Gooding Jr. as the worst straight-to-video lead
in the history of the entire industry!
With that said, this mind-boggling disaster follows the “50 formula” of
women being raped and killed, men being killed, everyone turning on everyone
else and a gangster (or is that gangsta?) world that is colder than cold… and
as boring as every script he picks up.
Bruce Willis is somehow here as the head gangster of Detroit (we figured as a kid, he made his
fortune stealing and selling Die Hard Batteries) sleepwalking thought this
goofiness and Ryan Phillippe wasted as a criminal friend of our lead who cannot
act. His next project should be called
“Get a good script for a change or die trying!”
(try not to laugh to hard) include trailers, an interviews segment, two making
of featurettes and feature length audio commentary by Co-Writer/Director Mike
Gunther (now you know who to blame) and Stunt Coordinator Kyle Woods, who
sounds like he would make a much better director. Anyone who thinks they will see something
good or entertaining by buying or renting this is truly being “set up”!
brings us to a film that is actually rougher without trying and remains one of
the most controversial films ever made, Sam Peckinpah’s 1971 shocker Straw Dogs with an amazing performance
by Dustin Hoffman (as married mathematician David Sumner) among a mostly
British cast. Previously issued as a single DVD from MGM as
well as a Criterion DVD with a bunch of extras (long out of print and highly
collectible), we covered the basic MGM DVD at this link:
film is on Blu-ray from MGM and has hardly any extras, though they have
included a theatrical trailer and 3 TV spots.
Especially with the odd-looking remake coming out, why there are not any
new extras is odd. This is a very
personal film by Peckinpah who uses very violent situations to reflect his
ideas about human nature manhood and in this film, the Vietnam fiasco
which is all over the place. It is about
complacency and how even when the violence and pillaging is in your face, you
can still be in denial of it if you are helping it to happen in the first
strong and daring as the film is, it is also fair to say the film got away from
Peckinpah but still became a minor classic of the action/thriller genre though
its sexual politics and politics remain as shocking as A Clockwork Orange (released the same year) and is at least fully
realized as a mature, adult work unlike most of any kinds of films made in or
out of any genre today. Hoffman was one
of the biggest stars in the world when he made this and he manages to carry the
film, but the other actors (including Susan George as the wife who does not
tell him everything about her past, Peter Vaughn, T.P. McKenna and David Wayne
among them) make this a seamless film whose realism has hardly dimmed overall.
yourself before viewing.
digital High Definition image transfers on all four releases offer various surprises. The 2.35 X 1 HD image on Set Up is the worst of the four with awful shooting, editing,
sloppiness, shaky camera work, motion blur and other flaws that show how bad it
is. The 1.78 X 1 AVC @ 19 MBPS HD image
on Sam Axe is comparatively more
professional and it was made for TV! The
1.78 X 1 HD image on Nowhere also
had its share of softness (some of it intentionally due to the digital video
used in the narrative) and looks good along with the style picked, but is not
great either, but better than it would be on DVD. That leaves the 1.85 X 1 AVC @ 38 MBPS HD
image on Straw Dogs holding its own
against three works 40 years younger!
is in good but not great shape and with the possibility that a better print was
not available yet (not found, not restored), that might explain why this is not
a Criterion Blu-ray. However, MGM is
actually licensing this from Disney, who owns the ABC Network and its
theatrical film holdings that includes ABC Films and Cinerama Releasing, the
two entities who handled this film at the time.
This is still the best the film has looked on any home video format with
some great footage and shots, but enough soft shots and lesser film quality in
spots holds this transfer back.
also offer DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless sound mixes that are about the
same quality wise, but have different issues and flaws. Sam
Axe has some good sound for a TV production, but it is towards the front
channels, yet it is professionally recorded, while the same can be said for Road To Nowhere except that this has
many silent moments and the surrounds are not always engaged. It is also a dialogue-based film. Set Up
is almost the worst here again with its sound mix harsher than a new sound mix
should be and less active with a less than consistent soundfield despite its
use of loud music and sound effects.
Location audio recording is also hit and miss, so this is problematic
leaves Straw Dogs upgraded a few
years ago from its optical theatrical mono sound to a 5.1 mix including Jerry
Fielding’s remarkable music score, featured prominently here. Except for some slightly harsh edges, this is
a good upgrade and though this was never going to be a true surround sound
film, the remix choices are good enough.
However, if Criterion issues this in a few years, they should redo the
sound again to refine it further via the latest audio advances.
- Nicholas Sheffo