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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Murder > Mystery > Politics > Soviet Union > Western > Action > Heist > Comedy > British > Suicide > WWI > Child 44 (2015/Summit/Lionsgate Blu-ray)/The 5-Man Army! (1969/MGM/Warner Archive DVD)/A Month In The Country (1987/Euston Films/Film 4/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)/The Surface (2014/E One D

Child 44 (2015/Summit/Lionsgate Blu-ray)/The 5-Man Army! (1969/MGM/Warner Archive DVD)/A Month In The Country (1987/Euston Films/Film 4/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)/The Surface (2014/E One DVD)/The Young Lions (1958/Fox/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)

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

PLEASE NOTE: The A Month In The Country and Young Lions Blu-rays are now only available from our friends at Twilight Time, limited to only 3,000 copies and can be ordered while supplies last, while The 5-Man Army! DVD is now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series. All can be ordered from the links below.

These ambition dramas have their moments, even when they ultimately did not work...

Daniel Espinosa's Child 44 (2015) is trying to do several things at once and that is where it gets into trouble. Tom Hardy plays a loyal Soviet soldier doing what Stalin's party line expects by exposing traitors to the Motherland and protecting the territory, but what seems like a strange child death turns out to be a murder, then one that is part of a pattern of murders that seems to be getting covered up. There is the overambitious soldier (Joel Kinnaman) who might or might not know something about this, but the murders have child exploitation involved.

The Stalinist policy is that murder is a Capitalist disease, so anyone who died could not have been murdered, but Hardy's soldier knows better. From there, the film goes back and forth between the hard life under Stalin (not enough of it), the murders, the mystery and who else might not be up to no good including an establishment military man (Gary Oldman) who may or may not also be hiding something.

This one runs 137 minutes and is a little longish, even with the additional acting talents of Noomi Rapice, Paddy Consadine, Jason Clarke, Vincent Cassell and others I had not seen before, but were pretty effective throughout. When all is said and done, it just does not mesh, yet it has some good moments and if you are a fan of the actors or curious about the subject matter, see it. Just be sure to be awake and have patience.

Extras include Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and iTunes capable devices, while the Blu-ray adds the featurette Reflections Of history about the making of the film and the background it is set in.

Don Taylor's The 5-Man Army! (1969) is the capable journeyman's entry into the Professional Western genre (a gang in it for the money) as Peter Graves (then having just successfully taken over as the heads of the Impossible Mission Force on TV's Mission: Impossible) takes on four partners to get a fortune in hidden gold if they can con their way through rebels, killers and other greedy predators. Bud Spencer, James Daly, Tetsuro Tamba and Nino Castelnuovo play the rest of the title team, but the action is not always as spectacular or the plotting as rich and clever as it could have been. Thus, it is a bit disappointing and I had not remembered it well despite seeing it eons ago. I see why. However, it is a curio and worth a look for better and worse.

A trailer is the only extra.

Pat O'Connor's A Month In The Country (1987) was considered lost for a good while, produced by the great British TV production company Euston Films (Van Der Valk and The Sweeney among others; see elsewhere on this site) making a less edgy, less violent film with a very young Colin Firth arriving in a town to save and preserve art hidden in the walls of a church. Living on the grounds is another man (Kenneth Branagh) already helping the in house reverend in other matters and follows how his work affects the town and starts to uncover some of its secrets.

Natasha Richardson is also very prominent throughout and it is a good film I had not seen since around the time of its original release. It is great that fans, Film 4 and Twilight Time have managed to find the film, restore it enough and that it is finally back. Though not a great film, it is a small film that works, is a rare feature film from an important production company, has some very key talent acting in it and is not as sappy as most lite British dramatic fare (lite comedy included or not), so even if it is only arriving as a Limited Edition Blu-ray, it is long overdue to be reissued and it is another fine film saved!

Extras include the good-as-usual illustrated booklet on the film including informative text and an essay by Julie Kirgo, while the Blu-ray disc adds a feature length audio commentary track by Kirgo & Nick Redmond, an Isolated Music Score and an Original Theatrical Trailer.

Gil Cates, Jr.'s The Surface (2014) is the surprise here with the under-appreciated Sean Astin as a man ready to kill himself out in the middle of a giant body of water in his speedboat when he finds another man (Chris Mulkey, also really good here) as the nearly dead victim of a small airplane wreck. He was out there to increase his personal wealth, but now he's stuck with tis young man who is now hiding what he was up to. They are most of the film and instead of this being a dumb formula stuck-in-a script, we get a real character study of the two men dealing with their lives, not certain of how to deal with each other as strangers and both realizing their own dead ends.

Instead of predictability, we get some heart and soul for once, but even at 86 minutes, this work has trouble keeping this and the good ideas going. The ending is not bad, but I think a few great possibilities of payoffs and making a few big statements were missed here. Still, this one is definitely worth a look and Mimi Rogers also shows up. Give this one a try.

Extras include a feature length audio commentary track, Photo Gallery, Deleted Scenes, Composer's Sessions featurette and documentary Inland Seas dealing with the protection and preservation of the great lakes.

Edward Dmytryk's The Young Lions (1958) is a very, very long (167 minutes!), uneven, choppy WWII drama with Marlon Brando as a (controversially then and now) Nazi played with some sympathy, Dean Martin surprisingly good as a name star entering the military and a surviving Montgomery Cliff (who had just barely survived a hideous, disfiguring accident on the set of the 70mm drama Raintree Country) a Jewish soldier trying to survive anti-Semitism amongst his fellow soldiers.

The film always has a good scene followed by two poor or flat ones and many of the bad ones simply do not add up or ring true, which allows this one to drag on and on and on too much, but it is worth suffering through the lesser parts once to get to what works. Dmytryk is not in total control of what is going on here and the screenplay is overdone and has made all kinds of changes from the Irwin Shaw book. To its advantage, the full scope frame is used and the supporting cast includes Maximilian Schell, Hope Lange, Barbara Rush, May Brit, Parley Bear, Arthur Franz, Lee Van Cleef and an uncredited L.Q. Jones. Ambitious, but all over the place, even in the end.

Extras include a text essay by Julie Kirgo in an illustrated booklet on the film including informative text, while the Blu-ray adds a feature length audio commentary track by Kirgo, Nick Redman & Lem Dobbs, Isolated Music Score and an Original Theatrical Trailer.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on the digitally-shot Child and black and white scope image on the 35mm shot Lions are the best transfers on the list, with only minor issues. Child has some detail limits, while Lions can show the age of the materials used at times and the monochrome gray scale can be a bit off at times, plus have some odd motion blur in very brief instances.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Month can show the age of the materials used too, but the color looks good, especially for a film that was almost lost. However, there are more than a few rough shots that comes more from the shoot than the print, but not too often.

That leaves both DVDs offering anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image transfers, Army from 35mm film and Surface from a digital shoot, but both are a little softer than they should be and Army could use a restored print to boot. Both would likely benefit from Blu-ray releases.

In the sound department, the three Blu-ray releases tie for first place, with Child and Lions offering DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes that are inconsistent (Child has dialogue variances, Lions comes from its original 4-track magnetic stereo soundmaster with traveling dialogue and sound effects, for which only so much can be done age-wise but it is a fine upgrade) and the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 1.0 Mono lossless mix on Month can more than compete because the sound has been well recorded throughout despite its age and budget limits to my surprise. And to think this was a lost film.

The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on Surface is very average since there is mostly dialogue to record throughout most of the film, while the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Army is down a few generations and could use an upgrade and cleaning.

To order A Month In The Country and Young Lions limited edition Blu-rays, buy them while supplies last at these links:




and to order The 5-Man Army! Warner Archive DVD, go to this link for it and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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