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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Melodrama > Thriller > Spy > Murder > WWII > Crime > British > Teens > Science Fiction > Police State > Eye Of The Needle (1981/United Artists/MGM/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)/The Hunger Games (2012)/The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)/The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 (2014)/The Hunger

Eye Of The Needle (1981/United Artists/MGM/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)/The Hunger Games (2012)/The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)/The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 (2014)/The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 (2015/Summit/Lionsgate/4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray Sets)/Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1965/Fox/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)

4K Ultra HD Picture: B+ Picture: B Sound: C+/B+ & B/B- Extras: C+/C+/C/C/C/B Films: C+/C+/C/C/C/B

PLEASE NOTE: The Eye Of The Needle and Hush... Hush Sweet Charlotte Blu-rays are now only available from our friends at Twilight Time, are limited to only 3,000 copies each and can be ordered while supplies last from the links below.

Next we revisit some old and new genre films, but start with an unusual spy entry...

Richard Marquand's Eye Of The Needle (1981) is based on the best selling Ken Follett novel with Donald Sutherland as the killer title character, a spy for the Nazis in WWII England, but they are in pursuit of him. The script wants to be a spy thriller, but even more of a drama and melodrama when he gets stuck on an island with a troubled married couple (Christopher Cazenove, Kate Nelligan), but too much of the film sides with that, cutting into the potential suspense and action aspects.

That was likely the point since the most recent Bond film had been Moonraker (1979, but For Your Eyes Only arrived the same year, so a more serious tone arrived in spy films, if only temporary) but the film comes close to being smug in this anti-Bond approach. Still, it looks and usually feels the period (Miklos Rozsa's score is a plus) and the cast (including Ian Bannen) are fine. I just always found the film very uneven and time has not changed my opinion on it. Still, it rightly has a following and this new Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray fills the need for this deluxe release for fans of the film. It is at least ambitious in what it tries.

Extras include another nicely illustrated booklet on the film including informative text and yet another excellent, underrated essay by the great film scholar Julie Kirgo, while the Blu-ray adds a feature length audio commentary track with Kirgo, and fellow music & film scholars John Burlingame & Nick Redman, an Original Theatrical Trailer and the Isolated Music Score in 3.0 lossless DTS-MA Stereo!!!

Speaking of Donald Sutherland, we next have all four films of a trilogy hitting 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray for the first time. The cycle of young adult action we are now seeing in steep decline started with Gary Ross' The Hunger Games (2012), so the cycle ran only four years! Such a surprise hit, it not only became a trilogy, the last film was split in two. All from the same director, Francis Lawrence's The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013), The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 (2014) and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 (2015) completed the story as it was, but even by the last film, interest had wained. We only previously reviewed the final film, which I made comments about the whole franchise on at this link...


Now looking back at the series in these really high quality 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays, it at least started out with some energy that made it a hit, but as the series goes on, the scripts become lamer (the first one was not that great to begin with) and it gets increasingly boring and melodramatic in the poorest ways. I also blame Music Video Director Lawrence, whose feature films (I Am Legend, Constantine (easily surpassed by the new TV version), Water For Elephants) are nothing to write home about (only one was a hit) and who only started to make better Videos in recent years after turning out ons with mixed results and memorability since the mid-1990s, so he is a 'safe, commercial' choice.

This does not allow for expansion of the material, but the producers are extremely cynical, wanting to do the likes of Battle Royale without the guts to have it be violent, honest, brutal or cold, plus (as noted before) Punishment Park without a point. What started out as passible becomes actually condescending and insulting by the end of the second film if no sooner (fighting against a police state is as fun as a trip to the shopping mall?) and the star power inevitably becomes more of a distraction than anything else, but the series has its fans and I doubt the series will ever look or sound better than it does in the new 4K editions.

Extras include Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and other cyber iTunes capable devices, while the regular Blu-rays repeat the extras from the previous releases including feature length audio commentary tracks for all four separate films, Making Of/Behind The Scenes featurettes for all four films (3 on the first, 1 on the second, plus Deleted Scenes, 3 on the third along with a Lorde Music Video and Deleted Scenes on the third and 8 on the final film) that is more than enough to overdose on all this. Needless to say it is for fans only at best and goes on and on and on and on at worst.

Finally we have Robert Aldrich's Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1965) in a new Blu-ray version, but it is surprisingly a Twilight Time Limited Edition licensed by Fox. We covered the older DVD a long while ago at this link...


And of course it is a spiritual sequel of sorts to Aldrich's Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962), issued on Blu-ray a few years ago and reviewed at this link...


Being able to see everything with more fidelity in this fine new transfer, what stands out (besides sets and locales) are just how much more effective the actors are (some of the best names in the business) than you could ever appreciate on DVD. They know they have a potentially big audience for this and give it their all, do not hold back and they way they interact is impressive, all working on the highest levels. Though I like Jane a little more (Crawford or not), this film is often its equal at times dispensing with in-joke humor for story and honestly about terror and human cruelty it might not always get credit for. It never wallows in its terror and gets on with it. That is why it is worth revisiting and should be seen at least once.

The other great thing here is that the DVD extras that include an original theatrical teaser, original theatrical trailer and several effective TV spots, and a solid audio commentary track by film fan Glenn Erickson is joined by two new extras for this release: a second feature length audio commentary track by film scholars David Del Valle and Stephen Peros, the Frank DeVol music score offered as an Isolated Music Score Track and a new illustrated booklet on the film with yet another excellent, on-the-money essay by Julie Kirgo. That makes this the definitive version of the film to own.

The 2160p HEVC/H.265, HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition 2.35 X 1 image on all four Hunger films look good in their own way and enough to tie for first place in high quality image playback. The first two films were shot on 35mm film to their credit and benefit in the Super 35mm format on with the first mixing Kodak & Fuji film, while the second strictly used Kodak Vision 3 negative stocks as well, but added the use of 65mm film. So plastered in digital effects and more than enough blue & green screen, the last two films are all-digital HD shoots with Arri Alexa XT cameras that make things slightly more phony. The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers on the regular Blu-rays are fine for the format, but lack the detail of the 4K releases, covering over the higher quality and visual errors in the 4K versions.

Despite being decades older, the 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image on Eye and 1080p 1.85 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer on Hush are more than able to compete with the regular Hunger Blu-rays. Rarely do the age of the materials used show, but these are far superior transfers to all previous releases of the films, with Eye lensed by the great Alan Hume, B.S.C., who actually holds back from his usual luster on films like the Bond classic For Your Eyes Only (1981) and TV classics like The Avengers from the mid-1960s. Thanks to Blu-ray, you can see the depth intended and despite some flaws, you can now experience the look and feel intended pretty much throughout on both films.

All four Hunger films are here in Dolby Atmos 11.1 lossless mixes on the new 4K discs that debuts an upgrade on the first film, while finally delivering the entire soundmaster for the sequels. They all sound fine with some good detail and depth, all professionally recorded and mixed, yet nothing memorable or special stands out about the sound design of any of them. Still, the first film has the most interesting mix as the makers where figuring out this world sonically. As noted before, the films become increasingly talky and that actually hinders the sonics. The Blu-ray versions all offer lossless 7.1 mixdowns, with DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) and Dolby TrueHD on the last two sequels. No, they do not sound as good as the Atmos versions, but they are just fine as mixdowns.

Eye and Hush were theatrical monophonic releases, both offered here in DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mixes that show the age of the films, but also sound better (Eye less so) than they ever have. Hush certainly is clearer here than on the old DVD version.

To order Eye Of The Needle and/or Hush... Hush Sweet Charlotte limited edition Blu-rays, buy them and other fine exclusives while supplies last at these links:




- Nicholas Sheffo


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