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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Drama > Relationships > Gay > Romance > Womanizing > African American > Poverty > Abuse > Identity > John Apple Jack (2016/Skycorner DVD)/Love In The Afternoon (1958/Allied Artists/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/Moonlight (2016/A24/Lionsgate Blu-ray w/DVD)

John Apple Jack (2016/Skycorner DVD)/Love In The Afternoon (1958/Allied Artists/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/Moonlight (2016/A24/Lionsgate Blu-ray w/DVD)



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



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



Next we bring together three love stories that may seem unusual at first to those expecting conformist, cliched relationships. That is, until you start to think of love itself...



Monika Mitchell's John Apple Jack (2016) is a tale of an old friendship that cold be about something more if the principals were not preoccupied in other ways. John (Chris McNally) has money, business success and is bedding as many men as possible, while Jack (Kent S. Leung) is an excellent chef now working at a restaurant John happens to own. However, John not only likes Jack, he may be in love with him and sleeps with all these other men (including some Asian men who have some similar looks and body-types) as a road to denial. Expect nudity and some explicit R-rated sex with comedy.


We've seen this before in the gay titles we've covered over the years, but what is a surprise is that despite the cliches and some formula, the attitude of the film and script is progressive in that it is not an insular 'gay' world or catering to a safe 'gay' viewership, but takes everything that happens as mainstream as anything in the heterosexual world and that is a sort of breakthrough that ought to catch on. This still is uneven, but it is not stuck in what one could consider a post-1990s, post-Gay New Wave rollback mentality and that is its best success.


A trailer is the only extra.



Billy Wilder's Love In The Afternoon (1958) may seem cliched in the older man/younger woman mode of what can be considered sexist, except that so many of Audrey Hepburn's films were just that and not just because it was sexism. Though it could still be considered that on some level, the truth is both Hollywood and her audience saw her as the last true female superstar lead of the Classical Hollywood era that was coming to a close by the 1960s. With TV to compete with, the studio system (no matter their problems) were not going to miss any opportunities to make such films, especially since most with her were hits and the older stars still had significant respect and audiences themselves. With Wilder still at the peak of his powers, how was a smaller studio like Allied Artists going to pass this up.


She lands up falling for Gary Cooper this time, though Maurice Chevalier is also here playing against his usual supporting comic effect role in conflict with Cooper, still conjuring Paris (Hepburn's second cinematic home) and as counterpoint to the comedy and drama and yes, this takes place in Paris. Cooper is a rich man still with a thing for the ladies when he comes across cellist Hepburn, who he becomes more interested in that even he expects. A comedy of errors also follows, but the film is a little uneven as well. I could suspend disbelief at the relationship just enough, but we get one down time too many that gets in the way of this really paying off.


The other issue is that Wilder and co-writer I.A.L. Diamond are trying to make a comedy in the mode of Ernst Lubitsch (Ninotchka among others) and that is not easy. If so, they succeed to some extent, but Lubitsch was so particular and specific that they just cannot finish what they start. Still, it is worth a look and nice to see on Blu-ray.


A trailer is the only extra.



Finally we have Barry Jenkins' Moonlight (2016), suddenly the Best Picture Academy Award Winner it more than earned being. Covering the life story of a young man named Chiron (brilliantly portrayed by no less that three actors we need to see much more of) who has to face some very ugly things. He lives in a tough part of Miami, the real Miami we rarely see, in poverty and hopelessness with no friends, no father and a mother (Naomi Campbell, the beautiful, great Miss Moneypenny of the Daniel Craig/James Bond films, in a stunning turn and amazing performance) who is slowly becoming a drug addict... a condition she is likely never to return from.


He may also be gay, made worse by a community that want to pretend no such men come from their community, so he has to face many awful things. One man (Academy Award Best Supporting Actor Mahershala Ali, so amazing here too) reaches out to him, which will help change his life, whose character is confirmed by a positive-thinking girlfriend (yet more amazing work, this time by the dynamic singer/dancer Janelle Monea, whose acting career is only beginning) and that sets the stage for Chiron.


Yet on top of all those amazing performances, the amazing screenplay, non-stop on-the-money directing and powerful story of those unheard, Jenkins is working on an even higher level (more on some of that in the tech section below) that makes the journey as powerful, existential and unbelievable as any film in the past year. It not only offers so many firsts, but it is the return of the repressed in all kinds of ways, as well as a melding of the gay new Wave and Black New Wave that happened at about the same time finally synthesizing into a pure cinematic experience. Sure, there's a few things we've seen here before, but so much we have not and in a few years, we will look back at this as a truly groundbreaking film building on the legacy of several other classics while still having its own total identity. And if Jenkins stays on this course, he will become one of the most important filmmakers around. See it!!!


Extras include Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and other cyber iTunes capable devices, while the Blu-ray adds three Making Of featurettes (Ensemble Of Emotions, Poetry Through collaboration on the music and Cruel Beauty: Filming In Miami) and a feature length audio commentary by Director Jenkins.



The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Jack (miscredited to its disadvantage as merely letterboxed on the back of the case) is a digital shoot and is pretty smooth for the most part, with some nice shots, consistently good shooting overall and in all manages to avoid looking generic. This is one of the better-looking gay-themed titles we've seen (of the few we've seen of late) and is pretty professional, more so than digital shoots with many more millions at its disposal.


The 1080p 1.85 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer on Love rarely shows the age of the materials used, with a new transfer off of the original 35mm camera negative materials that is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film on home video and up there with the best film prints ever issued of it. Monochrome film stocks were starting to become more light sensitive and that keeps the film looking more modern than you might think. Also expect some nice shots with depth, detail and Audrey throughout.


Last but absolutely not least is the 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Moonlight that is one of the best digital HD shoots in the history of independent cinema to date and one of the bets overall we've seen in any cinema at any price. Color use is superior, depth and detail get outright Kubrickian and there is a real heart and soul to the look throughout. I also very much like the editing.


As for sound, the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on Jack is not bad for the format, but it is well recorded and I expect would sound better in a lossless version, while the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix on Love is off of the original optical sound materials, but it is just an older recording not up to its image fidelity.


Thus, the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Moonlight is the sonic winner here, an exceptionally smart use of silence, sound, then multi-layered sound, new music and classic songs you have not heard in a long time if ever. One of the most thought-out mixes of the year, it boosts the power of its narrative, has a fine soundfield, is very well recorded, has a sense of warmth and impresses in even subtle ways throughout.



To order the Love In The Afternoon Warner Archive Blu-ray, go to this link for it and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


http://www.wbshop.com/



- Nicholas Sheffo


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