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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Crime > Murder > Mystery > Gangster > Horror > Vampire > Sex > Action > Post Apocalyptic > Science Fic > Broken Horses (2014/Sony DVD)/The Hunger (1983/MGM/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/Mad Max: Fury Road (2015/Warner/Blu-ray 3D w/Blu-ray 2D & DVD)

Broken Horses (2014/Sony DVD)/The Hunger (1983/MGM/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/Mad Max: Fury Road (2015/Warner/Blu-ray 3D w/Blu-ray 2D & DVD)


3D Picture: B Picture: C/B/B & C+ Sound: C+/C+/B+ & C+ Extras: C/C+/B- Films: C/C+/B



PLEASE NOTE: The Hunger Blu-ray is now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.



Here are three new genre films worth being 'in the know' about...



Vidhu Yinod Chopra's Broken Horses (2014) is a mixed bag of a sometimes darkly comic tale that starts with a young man visiting his police officer father (Thomas Jane) on a shooting range to shoot targets when what seems like a freak accident (a bullet inside the wood behind one of the paper targets fires off, killing the officer), but another cop (Vincent D'Onofrio unfortunately playing to type) suggests it was a murder and that the young man should avenge his father! Forward to modern day and we see who has grown up, that things are still bad and the bad cop still controls things.


One brother (Anton Yelchin, who outside of the Star Trek revival seems to have a knack for picking odd projects that just keep missing the mark, no matter how ambitious or interesting) finds his brother (Chris Marquette) has fallen in with the bad cop. What will he do, especially since things became even more criminal? The film rightly has no easy answers, but any attempts to explore them is met with formula action/gangster storytelling that wastes a cast that also includes Sean Patrick Flannery and and Maria Valverde. I keep hoping this would go better, but as its 109 minutes rolled on, the cliches started to pile up. This might become a curio of sorts eventually, but I was disappointed, especially with the potential of the talent.


13 Behind The Scenes featurettes are the only extras.



Tony Scott's The Hunger (1983) is the late filmmakers first feature film, a highly stylized vampire film with more name talent than usual as a powerful female vampire (Catherine Deneuve) and her partner (David Bowie, who is not in the film enough and allows Scott to reference his work as the title character in The Man Who Fell to Earth (reviewed elsewhere on this site) to the film's ultimate detriment) look for new victims and deal with many temptations in picking the best victim at the best time, eternal life as the living dead notwithstanding.


Enter Susan Sarandon as an animal doctor who is experimenting with their behavior and is an author on the subject, getting the attention of Miriam Baylock (Deneuve with a very obvious name) early on. When the film is not overdoing the smoke machine and on set super-cancer level smoking, the editing and other subtleties have some good moments. However, style way overtakes ideas and substance making this an odd debut that did not help Scott early on. However, it is at least a different kind of vampire film and has been somewhat influential on several such films and too many TV series since.


MGM puts this out for the brief time they were MGM/UA and Warner Archive is issuing the film on Blu-ray finally to the relief of fans and the curious. It has become a time capsule in a way, not always good, but also boasts a decent supporting cast that helps it out 32+ years later including a young Dan Hedaya, Cliff De Young, Ann Magnuson, James Aubrey, Rufus Collins, Shane Rimmer and then-unknowns John Pankow and Willem Dafoe, later to work together in William Friedkin's highly underrated To Live & Die In L.A. (reviewed elsewhere on this site), so see this one once for what does work.


The one extra is a feature length audio commentary track by Scott and Sarandon that vies between the two throughout.



George Miller's Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) arrives three decades after the end of the original trilogy when it put Mel Gibson on the map. After several false starts, Tom Hardy takes over the title role and we get a relaunch that could have been tired or actually worked. Hardy does not erase Gibson's work in the role, but picks things up well. Instead of a rehash of the original film's murder/revenge plot, Max is haunted by unexplained losses as he is eventually abducted by would-be soldiers of a death-worshipping gang run by a semi-skull wearing ruler who makes empty promises in the cult following/worship role and controls the only clean water in a post-apocalyptic (nuclear, environmental, both or even more man-made reasons) Australia.


The more we learn about this nightmare world that Max has been dragged in (his escape attempt is shot more like a horror film than anything else), the uglier, more vulgar, more evil, more exploitative and sexploitative it is. A group of exploited women decide a group escape, led by Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron in easily her best action performance) who got that title from the mad leader, but now wants freedom and revenge. These women are hurt, angry and cannot take the abuse anymore. Throw Max and gangs outside of the ugly kingdom into the mix and violent conflict is unavoidable.


Miller and the whole cast and crew manage to deliver a smart, unique new film with a look and feel that echoes the original trilogy well, yet creates a new dark world without compromise and constant ugly realities throughout that inform a sense of honesty the action genre used to have up until the 1980s. The acting from the rest of the supporting cast is exceptional including Zoe Kravitz, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne as the main villain and Josh Helman among other actors I hope we see much more of in the near future.


Besides going all out instead of being 'franchise lazy' like most such films are today, the secret here is that Miller (who is an underrated director to begin with) has never sold out the characters, fans and the Australian action (and even Oz-ploitation) roots of the films or their predecessors. Instead of more money ruining things, it is actually on the big screen and that is why al that pre-production money and those delays were worth the wait. These are serious filmmakers (a declining breed of artists?) and like the Bond films keeping their British end up because it is a foundation of their identity, Mad Max: Fury Road is an Australian film first and never loses site of that.


Extras include Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and iTunes capable devices (our copy came with a lenticular cover slipcase), while the Blu-ray adds a terrific, multi-part Behind The Scenes/Making Of featurette that includes interviews, Deleted Scenes, how this was produced and a great segment of all the stunts done raw without any digital visual effects; how tough and great a shoot this really was. Impressive!



The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image transfer on Broken is weaker than it should be, but has the historic distinction of being one of the very last films to be shot on 35mm Fuji film, so though this can be on the soft side, it is to the credit of Director of Photography Tom Stern, A.F.C., A.S.C., that color is not gutted or manipulated in lame, weak ways to be hip. I was curious to see this one on Blu-ray and especially in a 35mm film print afterwards despite the film disappointing.


The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on Hunger shows some print age, but it also was shot with plenty of fog and smoke to a fault that looked hip at the time, but now looks more like a subliminal smoking-ad-as-music-video secretly sponsored by the entire tobacco industry adding great age to the film that took its cues from Kubrick and took them into problematic directions. I cannot imagine this looking much better without serous money spent. Director of Photography Stephen Goldblatt, A.S.C., B.S.C. (Outland, Cotton Club, Batman Forever, the first two Lethal Weapon films) pulls off a still-difficult shoot most camera people (especially those new digital with little to no experience) could not begin to know how to approach.


The 1080p 2.35 X 1 MVC-encoded 3-D - Full Resolution digital High Definition image and the 2D 1080p versions for Max are equally good with the 3D covering some of the 2D flaws and limits, but this is also a very rare digital shoot where the format is pushed to the limit and looks solid throughout, is never phony in the way it manipulates color or scenes and has a fine editing style that fits perfect with everything. Director of Photography John Seale, A.C.S., A.S.C., (Rain Man, The English Patient, BMX Bandits, The Hitcher (1986)) delivers his best work in years and some of the best in his career in what is a groundbreaking shoot for digital Ultra HD cameras. Seeing it either way will impress, though the anamorphically enhanced DVD version is on the weak side in comparison.


As for sound, Broken has a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that is not bad and has some healthy surround moments, but tis is dialogue-based and sometimes lacks a consistent soundfield, but that is still enough to match the slightly weaker-than-expected DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix on Hunger that shows its age a bit and might have called for at least a simple stereo upgrade if most of the music was recorded in stereo.


Needless to say the Dolby TrueHD 7.1 lossless mix on Max is the sonic winner here and one of the best sound mixes of the last few years, also here in Dolby Atmos 11.1 as it was in its best theatrical presentations. Like the previous three Max films, this has character, smart sound design and is as state of the art as the previous sequels were. Bass subwoofer sound is never phony or overdone as has been the tendency of most big budget films of late and the score by Junkie XL (aka Tom Holkenborg) simply adds further intensity and impact in a mix loaded with great demo moments.



To order the Warner Archive Blu-ray of The Hunger, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


http://www.warnerarchive.com/



- Nicholas Sheffo


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