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Category:    Home > Reviews > Murder > Thriller > Mystery > Crime > Mercenary > War > Terrorism > French > Foreign > Cold In July (2014/MPI/IFC Blu-ray)/The Dogs Of War (1980/United Artists/MGM/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)/Nightcap (2000/aka Night Cap aka Merci Pour Le Chocolat/Cohen Media Blu-ray)

Cold In July (2014/MPI/IFC Blu-ray)/The Dogs Of War (1980/United Artists/MGM/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)/Nightcap (2000/aka Night Cap aka Merci Pour Le Chocolat/Cohen Media Blu-ray)

Picture: B-/B/B Sound: B-/C+/B Extras: C/C/B- Films: C/C+/B-

PLEASE NOTE: The Dogs Of War Blu-ray is now only available from our friends at Twilight Time, is limited to only 3,000 copies and can be ordered from the link below.

Here's a mixed set of new thriller releases...

Jim Mickle's Cold In July (2014) starts out with a potentially interesting set-up where Michael C. Hall (Dexter) plays a good father/husband who shoots and kills and intruder when his fingers slip out of panic. He is told he was a bad criminal with a bad past, plus a bad father, a father (Sam Shepard) who happens to have just come out of prison. He seeks out the man who killed his son and starts tormenting him, but then it turns out the person actually killed might be someone else, so they both have to get together to figure out what is really happening.

After things get uglier, the criminal father calls an old private investigator friend (Don Johnson in a nice, eccentric turn) as it turns out the police might be lying and worse. Unfortunately, the additional twists and turns get so sleazy that this becomes a violent spoof of itself that wastes some good actors, interesting locales and squanders any intelligent potential. Too bad, for it was good while it lasted.

Extras include feature length audio commentary track by the Cast & Crew (two of them), isolated music score track by Jeff Grace in lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 and with option commentary, Deleted Scenes and Early Previsualization Tests.

John Irvin's The Dogs Of War (1980) has always been a film I found a mixed bag and now, Twilight Time has issued a Limited Edition Blu-ray of the film with its short U.S. version and the slightly better International cut. A United Artists release anxious to cash in critically and commercially on Christopher Walken's blockbuster Deer Hunter success, he plays a mercenary who accepts money for a mission in an Idi Amin-style African dictatorship, only to get caught and tortured (guess this is supposed to outdo Michael Cimino's Russian Roulette sequences in Deer Hunter) barely escaping. Guess what? He's going back for revenge!

This fed too well into the reactionary 1980s and was no match for Deer Hunter or other thrillers or the few war pictures being made at the time (even Irvin's own later Vietnam film Hamburger Hill has its limits despite being one of the few that hold up) including a superweapon that does not seem too dated and battle scenes that are decent, if not the best. There is just something too slap-dash about the film. Walken's soldier of fortune accepts $15,000 for the initial mission that gets him in trouble, which is roughly over $47,000 as of this 2014 posting, which made me think he was foolish for not asking for much more. Then he is captured and that makes either amount seem a joke considering the risks. However, it is a film that deserves a Blu-ray release and this is as good as we expect it would get. Based on the book by Frederick Forsyth, Colin Blakely, Tom Berenger, Paul Freeman, JoBeth Williams and Ed O'Neill also star.

Extras include the Original Theatrical Trailer, Isolated Music Score track and another illustrated booklet on the film with another well-written essay by Julie Kirgo. Too bad Walken or Irvin were not able to do an audio commentary on the longer cut of the film.

Finally we have Claude Chabrol's Nightcap (2000/aka Night Cap aka Merci Pour Le Chocolat), one of the few films of his I actually like and it holds up well enough since I reviewed it over 11 years ago on DVD at this link:


Of course, it still has its obviousness and small problems, but Isabelle Huppert has become an even bigger star (this was her fourth film with Chabrol alone, making one of the all-time comebacks after being bashed for being in Cimino's Deer Hunter follow-up Heaven's Gate, now recognized as a bold, important film despite being a bomb in its time) and her work here is as smart as anything, possibly saving the film. She is the top reason outside of Chabrol that this will be an art house and thriller curio. Now you can see it for yourself in this impressive upgrade.

Extras include a new trailer for the film (versus the old one for its original release on the old DVD), booklet with an essay on the film by Peter Tonguette and feature-length audio commentary track by fans, critics and film scholars Wade Major and Andy Klein on the film and Chabrol.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on July is a digital HD shoot that has some good shots and some that look weak or limited, but we've seen worse. Outdoing it are the 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Dogs (with its purposely rough look lensed by the great Jack Cardiff) and Nightcap (which is purposely shot to be a little dark) rarely showing the age of the materials used and both superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film. In both cuts, Dogs is now just grainy and not additionally noisy like its previous transfers have unfortunately been, while Nightcap far outdoes and replaces the older U.S. DVD version with the best color and (narrowly) best definition of the bunch.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on July is a little harsh in its need to sweeten up its sound for its action and violence sequences to the point that it becomes almost a spoof of itself, while the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix on Dogs is even harsher, showing its age despite the fact that the isolated music score sounds better, making for the poorest sound here. Guess the original sound materials were only so good? That leaves the PCM 2.0 Stereo on Nightcap the surprise sonic winner here, issued originally in Dolby Digital theatrically, there was no 5.1 mix on the old DVD (with weak Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo) either, suggesting that was a last-minute decision. This is warm, rich enough and well-recorded, decoding nicely when you use Pro Logic or one of its variants.

As noted above, you can order The Dogs Of War limited edition Blu-ray, buy it while supplies last at this link:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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