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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Crime > Denmark > Gangster > Japan > Yakuza > Action > Adventure > Fantasy > Myth > Melodrama > Coming O > Bridgend (2015/Icarus/Kimstim DVD)/Cops Vs. Thugs (1975/Arrow Blu-ray w/DVD)/King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword 4K (2017/Warner 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray + Blu-ray w/DVD sets)/Little Men (2016/Magno

Bridgend (2015/Icarus/Kimstim DVD)/Cops Vs. Thugs (1975/Arrow Blu-ray w/DVD)/King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword 4K (2017/Warner 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray + Blu-ray w/DVD sets)/Little Men (2016/Magnolia DVD)/Love Of A Woman (1953/Gaumont/Arrow Blu-ray w/DVD)/1944 (2015/Film Movement DVD)/Ronin (1998/MGM/Arrow Blu-ray)/Spotlight On A Murder (1961/Arrow Blu-ray w/DVD)/Subterranea (2015/MVD Visual DVD)



Picture: B/B+ & B-/A- & B+ + B-* & C/B/B & C+/B/B+/B+ & B-/B- Sound: B/B+ & B-/A- & C+/B/C+ & C/C+/B+/B+ & B-/B- Extras: C-/B/B/C/B-/C/B/B/C+ Films: B/B/C+/B/B-/B+/B/B/C



Here's a wide selection of dramas that also represent various genres from their serious side...



Bridgend


This interesting crime drama from Denmark, Bridgend (2015) that is beautifully made and very dark and unique in its storytelling. Featuring a strong performance by Hannah Murray (Game of Thrones, God Help The Girl), the film centers around a young woman who is the daughter of a Policemen, who ends up getting in with a bad bunch of people. Falling for a young man named Jamie, she soon discovers that her new friends would rather commit grisly suicides than ever leave their town. And that's just the tip of the iceberg of what's to come with her.


The film also stars Josh O'Connor, Adrian Rawlins, Patricia Potter, and Nia Roberts to name a few.


Presented on DVD in standard definition with an anamorphically enhanced widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, the film looks and sounds as good as it can on DVD, with (as mentioned) stunning cinematography and a tense soundtrack that add to the tension of the piece very well. A film like this definitely deserves the HD treatment, and this standard lacks detail in blacks and definitely lack of detail on the characters themselves.


Special Feature: Trailer.



Cops Vs. Thugs


Hailed by many as one of the best and grittiest entries in the Japanese Yakuza genre, Cops vs Thugs (1975), directed by Kinji Fukasaku (Battle and Honor Without Humanity) is a no holds barred shoot em up that is raw and completely unhinged. The film stars Bunta Sugawara, Hiroki Matsukata, Mikio Narita, Tatsuo Umemiya, Hideo Murota, and Shingo Yamashiro.


In Kurashima City, there are two Yakuza families that call of the shots; the Kawade, who use political connections to further their activities, and the Ohara, who have an alliance with the local police. Both of them are arguably untouchable until Ohara acting boss Hirotani usurps a staged land deal away from Kawade, thanks to the help of his police friend Kuno, and an all out war between good and evil (and evil against evil) breaks out. Soon, the good cops start to catch on and things get really messy! Who will walk away alive?


Included is both the 1080p Blu-ray and standard definition versions of the film, both of which are up to par with format standards and pretty nice looking. The HD presentation brings us the film in its original widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and an uncompressed PCM Mono audio track in Japanese with English subtitles. Also included is the standard definition DVD with a similar aspect ratio in anamorphically enhanced widescreen, but a compressed, lossy Dolby Digital Mono track. The differences between the two versions are pretty considerable with the HD version obviously being the victor.



Special Features include...


Beyond the Film: Cops vs Thugs, a new video appreciation by Fukasaku biographer Sadao Yamane


A new visual essay on cops & criminals in Fukasaku's works by film scholar Tom Mes


Theatrical trailer


Collectible Insert booklet and double sided cover art with newly commissioned artwork by Ian MacEwan



While a little dated, this is a fun Yakuza movie with plenty of action to please fans.



King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword 4K


Guy Ritchie's take on the classic King Arthur Legend (and his trusty sword Excalibur) gets the flashy reboot treatment, no doubt due to the success of the Snow White and The Huntsman films. Though not much of a box office success itself, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017) takes place in a Frank Frazetta-inspired fantasy world where modern fashion is evident, hairstyles, and some slang terms are used in casual conversation. Unlike Game of Thrones or even the forgotten Antoine Fuqua King Arthur (2004), which keeps a more period look to its fantasy world, this one doesn't quite know what time period its supposed to be in, but keeps with Ritchie's unique visual filmmaking style that fans of his work will come to recognize. At the end of the day, however many interesting ideas the film has, it doesn't quite feel necessary or fresh but more of the same.


The film does have an impressive cast, which includes Charlie Hunnam (Pacific Rim, Sons of Anarchy) Jude Law (Cold Mountain), Astrid Berges-Frisbey (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides), Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond, Amistad) Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones - fans will notice a few other familiar faces from the show in this as well) and last but not least the underused yet admirable Eric Bana (Star Trek) as Arthur's father, King Uther Pendragon.


When child Arthur's father (Bana) is murdered while trying to protect his family from a demonic presence ushered by the mystical sword Excalibur, Vortigern (Jude Law), Arthur's uncle, seizes the crown. Robbed of his birthright, and with no idea of who he truly is, Arthur comes up the hard way in the back alleys of the city fighting in bare chested brawls and breaking his back. When Vortigern is given an ultimatum from a mystical Octopus-esque Lady, he decides to hunt down and kill the young Arthur so that he can have the power to wield the sword and be an unstoppable force himself. However, the sword is stuck in stone and cannot be pulled by anyone but Arthur. When a mad search goes out for the boy, he of course ends up pulling the immovable sword and gets sucked into an altered state where he can clearly piece together the clues from his past. Unwilling to accept his true legacy, Arthur must fight his Uncle and regain his birthright, which isn't quite as easy as it sounds...


The film is presented on 4K Ultra HD disc with a stunning 2160p high definition transfer that is immaculate and provides vivid details that are missed in the (also included) 1080p Blu-ray release. The film has a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.39:1 and sound specs (same on both discs) in both lossless Dolby Atmos 11.1 and Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit mixdown for non Atmos playback). Like most films by Guy Ritchie, the film features kinetic action sequences that are the very weak choreographed between different camera formats (noticeably even some GoPro cameras were used for a few sequences), resulting in some interesting stylistic choices.


*I was not as impressed with the 1080p Blu-ray, finding it to have detail issues, which only increased on very weak, anamorphically enhanced widescreen DVD version with weak, lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 sound that overly folds down the Dolby Atmos 12-track soundmaster. The costly reshoots also obviously shook the already coherence-challenged film.


I'm not a huge fan of the score here by Daniel Pemberton (the underrated Man from U.N.C.L.E. remake), which features weird chorus numbers and experimental sounding tones while they should have stuck with the more traditional Hans Zimmer-esque sound. All in all, however, if you like loud fantasy epics, this disc may be a good one to show off the capabilities of your home entertainment system.


A digital UV copy is also included.


Special Features...


Arthur with Swagger (the only extra on the DVD)


Sword from the Stone


Parry and Bleed


Building on the Past


Inside the Cut: The Action of King Arthur


Camelot in 93 Days


Legend of Excalibur


Scenic Scotland



It seems like Hollywood should maybe lay off the King Arthur legend for a while. This film is watchable but nothing that will stand the test of time. It, much like Fuqua's versions (a PG-13 and R-versions exist), will most likely collect dust until another inevitable re-imagining comes along in a decade or so. Try John Boorman's Excalibur instead.



Little Men


An endearing look at modern day New York and a great coming of age/family drama, Little Men (2016) tells the story of a family that moves to New York after the death of a family member and centers around two young boys who become best friends in the midst of their parents battling over a dress shop. An interesting look at acting, theatre, and life in the big city, the film is realistic and well made, becoming an official selection at the Sundance Film Festival last year.


Little Men stars Greg Kinnear (Little Miss Sunshine), Jennifer Ehle, Paulina Garcia, Michael Barberi, Theo Taplitz, and Alfred Molina to name a few.


Presented on standard definition DVD with a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.66:1 and a lossy English 5.1 Dolby Digital track, the presentation is up to DVD standards in its compressed form and looks as good as to be expected.


Special Features...


The Making of Little Men


Casting Session: Tony (Michael Barbieri) and Jake (Theo Taplitz)


Theatrical Trailer


If you're a fan of coming of age dramas, then this is one that you won't want to miss.



The Love Of A Woman


It is ironic that the then-popular French director Jean Gremillon died the very year the French New Wave started. That moment caused a split between old and new filmmakers in that country that was not kind, much like the way Rock and Punk Rock split that great music genre. Either way, The Love Of Woman (1953) would be his last film and part of a melodramatic semi-cycle of tales of devoted medical people facing personal pain in the face of ignorance, despite their education, devotion to their profession, their faith in individuality and possible love ties. Usually the (selfless aka angelic and/or wonderful) medical person is incidental to the larger film, but not here where Marie (Micheline Presle) becomes the new doctor in town, replacing a man and getting the expected sexism and lack of faith you'd imagine. It might remind you of similar tales of teachers and nuns, but here it is.


Of course, she falls in love with an engineer named Andre (Massimo Grotti) in a smart screenplay that makes this more than just a soap opera or formula weepy 'woman's film' on the richer side you'd expect from the likes of Douglas Sirk at his peak. However, the melodrama can get thick and be a bit obvious, so its the moments of better acting and unexpectedly honest scenes that don't pander that makes this an interesting watch after all these decades. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but its worth a good look, especially because it shows the end of one era of a great cinema before the rise of another. Of course, some of what it says and shows is as relevant as ever, so you might want to see it at least once for yourself.


The 1.33 X 1 1080p black & white image off of the original camera material looks as good as it can for Blu-ray, but the PCM 2.0 Mono can only do so much for the age of the audio. The 1.33 X 1 standar definition DVD with lossy French Dolby Digital Mono makes the film look older and does not fare as well.


Extras include the DVD if you choose to count that (I won't), plus both discs offer In Search of Jean Gremillon, a feature-length documentary on the filmmaker from 1969, containing interviews with director Rene Clair, archivist Henri Langlois, actors Micheline Presle and Pierre Brasseur, and others, Reversible Sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jennifer Dionisio and in the FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Ginette Vincendeau.



1944


It is 1944 of World War II. Estonian soldiers find themselves between German and Russian armies. As they fight in the war, due to political affiliations one day, they are fighting for the Red Army, the next day they are fighting for the Third Reich. Estonian boys barely old enough to be men are forced to fight a war on 2 fronts with no idea which side they are on, much less if they will be fighting their own brothers the next day. All the soldiers just want to stay alive and go home, it is only too late to realize until after the battle they have shot their own countryman in Elmo Nuganen's 1944 (2015).


1944 in World War II, Estonia was in between the nations. Not knowing which side of the war they belong, they just side on which side would give them their next hot meal. While the soldiers dream of home and family, their loyalties are torn between their countrymen and brother in arms. What is the point of being a soldier if one has to kill their own countryman, there own neighbor? In the shadow of World War I, past allegiances could mean the difference between loyalists and traitors, the difference between life or death and sent to the gulag. On the battlefield, how do you kill someone who could of been your brother?


This was an insight into World War II, it shows what it is to be on both sides of the war. There are two types of soldiers, soldiers who care about their men and the people, and commanders who care about loyalties and winning (political) points. On the battlefield, there are no loyalties, just survival, humanity is a luxury cannot be afforded if one wants to survive. Forced to fight, shoot and kill your own people, how is a soldier to decide which side is he on?


The 2.35 X 1 anamorphically enhanced widescreen DVD image looks as good as it can for the format, very consistent with the look attempted, but the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is simply not as good and cannot match it. A Blu-ray would rectify that. Extras include bonus short film and trailers.



Ronin


The late, great, underrated John Frankenheimer's Ronin (1998) has stood the test of time, arriving as a formidable hit in its time and at a time when the Spy Genre was making a comeback, completed after Daniel Craig became the biggest James Bond since Roger Moore and Tom Cruise managed to parlay his first Mission: Impossible film into his most successful franchise. Other usually lame spy films also surfaced, plus a few underrated ones, but Ronin is sometimes in a class by itself. No sequels, prequels, toy tie-ins, remakes or rushed recyclings, it is as smart as any of them and I first raved about the film in its all-too-basic Blu-ray debut years ago at this link as the then-new format arrived...


http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/8306/Ronin+(1998/MGM+Blu-ray



Now back via Arrow with a ton of extras, the other great aspect of the film is that the decent picture from that Blu-ray has been topped by a new 4K transfer that has slightly better color range, more clarity, less noise without losing natural grain and more light and depth than anything since I saw it on 35mm film when it first hit theaters. Also, the film sounds better sonically, now regaining the punch, edge and richness the old 12-inch analog LaserDisc with DTS sound had, now presented here in lossless DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 that finally delivers the film as intended at home. In this respect, it can more than compete with just about any spy film out there sonically and it was a big DTS sound demo film at the time. The character the makers put into the mix is still very impressive now, so set your expectations high if you have not seen the film ever or for a long time. Arrow and MGM really deliver here bigtime!


Extras are a mix of older and new pieces including an excellent, vintage feature length audio commentary track by director John Frankenheimer, Brand New Video Interview with director of photography Robert Fraisse, Paul Joyce documentary on Robert De Niro, Ronin: Filming in the Fast Lane, an archival behind-the-scenes featurette, Through the Lens, an archival interview with Robert Fraisse, The Driving of Ronin, an archival featurette on the film's legendary car stunt, Natascha McElhone: An Actor's Process, an archival interview with the actress, Composing the Ronin Score, an archival interview with the underrated composer Elia Cmiral, In the Ronin Cutting Room, an archival interview with editor Tony Gibbs, Venice Film Festival interviews with Robert De Niro, Jean Reno and Natascha McElhone, Alternate ending, Theatrical Trailer, Reversible Sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jacob Phillips and in the FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector's booklet illustrated by Chris Malbon, featuring new writing on the film by critic Travis Crawford.



Spotlight On A Murder


The dark and mysterious black and white French thriller Spotlight on a Murderer (1961 - also known as Pleins feux sur l'assassin) is a mix of film noir and murder mystery. Directed by Georges Franju (his third film, see the Criterion Blu-ray of his classic thriller Eyes Without A Face elsewhere on this site) and starring Pierre Brasseur and Pascale Audret, this newly restored transfer by Gaumont has the classic film looking better than ever with impeccable detail and a bunch of new extra features. What grabbed my eye first was the stunning cover art by Peter Stain and checking out this film for the first time on Blu-ray disc, I found the film to be a very unique and interesting cinematic experience.


Count Herve de Keraudren, near death, decides to go into hiding and complicate matters for his heirs that must deal with his fortune after he dies. When his body isn't found, the heirs will have to wait for five years until they can inherit the money. This puts into motion a search for the body organized by the niece and nephews as they organize a Son et Lumiere show at the manor while busily looking for the missing body. However, the search for the corpse is nothing but easy, especially when murder becomes involved.


The newly restored 1080p version of the film is presented on Blu-ray disc with a 1.37:1 full frame aspect ratio (bookended by black bars) and a lossless PCM 1.0 Mono track that bests any previous version of the film on disc. Despite the age of the print and the condition, Arrow has done a fantastic job teaming with Gaumont to provide the sharpest image possible for the Blu-ray format. Also included is a standard definition DVD with similar but compressed Dolby Digital Mono that makes it play more agedly.



Special Features...


Vintage production featurette from 1960, shot on location and including interviews with Georges Franju and actors Pascale Audret, Pierre Brasseur, Marianne Koch, Dany Saval and Jean-Louis Trintignant


Original theatrical trailer


Reversible Sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork by Peter Strain



An interesting story that could be retold in a new manner today, I found Spotlight on a Murderer to be a fun trip to the past and a murder mystery that isn't easy to foretell the ending of.



Subterranea


The sci-fi indie Subterranea (2015) was a big winner at several different film festivals, including the Grand Prize Winner at the Vortex Sci-Fi Fest, but isn't anything too drastically different from films like V For Vendetta or Brick. From the Producer of The Man From Earth and directed by Matthew Miller, the film falls victim to 'the guy with a dark past who ends up not remembering who he is' syndrome that we've seen so many times before.


The film stars Bug Hall (American Pie Presents the Book of Love), Nicholas Turturro (NYPD Blue, The Night Of...), Amber Rose Mason, and William Katt.


Having spent his entire life in a dark cell as the result of a bizarre social experiment, never seeing the light of day or another human being, the "Captive" is released into society and must learn how to live for the first time as an adult. However, the answers to his past and why he was kept into containment for so long comes to light in a dark and disturbing way...


Subterranea is presented in standard definition with an anamorphically enhanced widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 track, the film looks fine on DVD in a compressed format. A high def version would fix many shots that lack detail here and help flesh out some of the color schemes in the cinematography, that isn't half bad admittedly.



Special Features include...


The Making of Subterranean


BTS Documentary


Deleted Scenes


On The Set - Timelapses



- James Lockhart, Ricky Chiang (1944) and Nicholas Sheffo (Ronin, Woman)

https://www.facebook.com/jamesharlandlockhartv/


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