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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Sports > Teens > Politics > Thailand > Crime > Japan > Gangster > Hong Kong > China > Civil War > Sex > Re > American Wrestler: The Wizard (2017/Warner DVD)/Apocalypse Child (2015/Candy Factory DVD)/By The Time It Gets Dark (2016/Icarus/KimStim DVD)/Hana-bi (1997/aka Fireworks/Film Movement Blu-ray)/The Pris

American Wrestler: The Wizard (2017/Warner DVD)/Apocalypse Child (2015/Candy Factory DVD)/By The Time It Gets Dark (2016/Icarus/KimStim DVD)/Hana-bi (1997/aka Fireworks/Film Movement Blu-ray)/The Prison (2017/Well Go Blu-ray)/Men Go To Battle (2015)/Puppylove (2013)/Soul On A String (2016/Film Movement DVDs)/The Summer Of All My Parents (2016/aka July-August/First Run DVD)

Picture: B-/B/B/B+/B-/B/B/B/B Sound: B-/B/C+/B+/B-/B/B/C+/C+ Extras: B/D/D/B/D/C+/D/C/D Film: C/B/C+/B+/B+/B/C/C+/C+

Here's a variety of recent dramas, mostly independent, you should be aware of....

American Wrestler: The Wizard

American Wrestler: The Wizard (2017) is another coming-of-age sports based film that pulls at the heartstrings and isn't unlike many of the other films that you've seen in the genre before. While not necessarily filmed or acting poorly, the film ends up being pretty mediocre in my opinion with a few recognizable faces and an 'inspired by true events' tagline but a storyline that feels old hat.

The film stars George Kosturos, William Fichtner (The Dark Knight), Jon Voight, Lia Marie Johnson, Kevin Schmidt, Shannon Collis, and is Directed by Alex Ranarivelo (The Dog Lover).

Set in the 1980s, a teenage boy (Kosturos) flees his war-torn home in Iran and resides in America, where he hopes to live a normal teenage life. When he joins the school's wrestling time, he finds his calling and ultimately takes the cake to become an honored player on the team while facing a laundry list of hostilities along the way.

Presented in standard definition with an anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 track, the standard definition presentation of the film looks fine and completely passable for DVD but, as with anything, could benefit in 2160p or even 1080p given its production value. No digital copy is included.

Special Features include...

Revisiting the Past

Script to Screen

Behind the Scenes

Andy Madadian and Shani Rigsbee

''Rise'' Music Video

American Wrestler: American Dream

Apocalypse Child

Mario Cornejo's Apocalypse Child (2015) is an interesting romantic drama that centers around a surfer who believes that his illegitimate father is none other than Director Francis Ford Coppola, who apparently was with his biological mother during the filming of Apocalypse Now. An intriguing premise for this Philippines-produced indie, the film features interesting performances and stunning photography.

Apocalypse Child stars Sid Lucero, Ana Abad-Santos, Gwen Zamora, Annicka Dolonius, RK Bagatsing, and Archile Alemania to name a few.

Set in Baler, a town known for its surfing, a surfing instructor and master of the waves named Ford (Lucero) feels as if he is wasting his life away under the sun. Struck by the season of surfing coming to an end, he is faced with several changes in his life that force him to confront his past and his future.

Presented in standard definition DVD with a 1.77:1 widescreen aspect ratio and a standard 5.1 surround sound track, the film looks and sounds fine for DVD minus some compression issues (however, the copy we have is a DVD-R). The film's exotic locations look great in the film and could be improved upon in a future HD release that I'm sure is inevitable.

No extras.

Seeing that this film won several awards on the festival circuit, it will be hopefully find a second life on disc as it is pretty interesting and solidly made. Looking forward to seeing more from Cornejo in the future.

By The Time It Gets Dark

This is a narrative surrounding the lives of several people from revolution of the '70s in Thailand to the modern era. The stories of a waitress working in a country cafe to a dinner on a river cruise ship. A young filmmaker interviewing former political writer about her life and the massacre of 1976 at Thammasat University. The political and cultural changes of Thailand. The modern generation and how they are living now in Director Anocha Suwichakornpong's By The Time It Gets Dark (2016).

This was one of those weird films that didn't really have a story or plot, rather it is about the setting and feeling. It takes a third person view of life as if one is looking back over life. It's NOT the story of a country's revolution, but more on how people lived their lives and through their struggles. Through quiet ambiance and nature, they reflect on the human perspective on life is so limited, that they can only see what is in front of them at that time, people react more than they think about the future. As it slowly moves forward in time to the modern age, we go from country to city, a new generation appears and takes over. And we have to wonder ...if this was what the future the previous generation wanted and died for.

This was a social political cultural film on Thailand, it paints a world in which students of the past rose up in anarchy towards the government. Their views on the government are anyone who works in the government are corrupt and they care more about lining their own pockets than helping the people. Having no main characters or plot made things feel like nothing really matters in history, regardless of human struggles or strife, people will continue to live throughout the ages, the sacrifices one generation makes are trivial and forgotten by the next generation. It raises a question to the audience of what gives your life, your generation any meaning?

The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image is as good as it can get in the DVD format here, but the lossy Dolby Digital sound is a bit lacking and there are no extras.

Hana-bi (aka Fireworks)

Nishi (Takeshi Kitano) is a disgraced cop would do anything to protect those he cares about, his partner was shot and his wife is dying from leukemia. He borrows money from the yakuza and ends up robbing a bank to pay back his 'loans', but when the yakuza finds out, they decide they want the rest of Nishi's money... the yakuza is about to learn, that Nishi is the last man they should ever mess with in Takeshi Kitano's Hana-bi (1997/aka Fireworks).

Nishi is a rough and ready street cop who was once known and feared for his violence and ability to get the job done. It is a imperfect world and a cop still has to eat and pay bills, and in a world gone wrong, even cops have to get dirty to make ends meet. All Nishi really wants is to live in peace with his wife's final days, but when the yakuza discover the source of his new found money they decide he needs to pay 'interest'. Nishi decides he had enough, and anyone who disturbs his peace ...will have to answer to him.

This film was an early release and success from Takeshi Kitano, like most of his roles he plays, he plays quiet man that speaks more through his fists and brutal acts of violence. That in order to do his job, he must be violent ...that in a corrupt world, police needs to be just a brutal and ruthless. But in the end, Kitano's character still has a code of honor which set him above the rest.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image looks great and the lossless 5.1 surround sound are great throughout. Extras include an audio commentary track, making of the film, essay on the film and trailers.

The Prison

Yu-gon is a disgraced police inspector sent to prison to do hard time, but there in the prison he soon learns the prison is no longer in control of the guards, has long since been in control of the prisoners. And through the prison, at night they take on various 'jobs' outside prison, but in a prison where there are no rules, how long can any man survive when everyone wants to be king of the hill?

In Na Hyun's The Prison (2017), Yu-gon was a policeman, but in prison he learn there are new rules, everything is controlled by the 'Captain' Jung Ik-ho. The Captain keeps the peace during the day, but at night he runs a criminal organization from inside the prison, a perfect cover for crimes where no on suspects the criminals are already on the inside of a prison. Those who are loyal are richly rewarded with money and power, those who aren't end up in various 'accidents', but secretly Yu-gon was sent in as a mole to find evidence. As he gets closer to the Captain he learns Ik-ho is always one step ahead of everyone else and he is not vicious because he is evil, but because like him he just wants to survive. But in the end... what can one man do against the entire system?

In a corrupt world of policemen, criminals, budget cuts and politicians only the vicious survives, regardless of a policeman or prisoner, everyone in the end is just trying to live and the live blurs between good and evil. Those who know how to work the system can even turn a prison into a paradise.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image is an HD shoot with issues throughout in blur, detail and inconsistency, while the lossless DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 surround mix is also uneven with some sonic issues. Extras include trailers.

Men Go To Battle

The feature film debut from Director Zachary Treitz, Men Go To Battle (2015) is a period Civil War piece with a humorous contemporary twist that is sharply made and pretty fun to watch. A winner at the Tribeca Film Festival, Men Go To Battle is a must see for fans of the Civil War or Western genres.

The film stars Charlotte Arnold, Steve Coulter, Samantha Jacober, Rachel Korine, and David Maloney to name a few.

Set in Kentucky in 1861, the film centers around two brothers Henry and Francis Mellon who are both struggling to maintain their family estate. When Francis' practical jokes go a bit far, Henry disappears and decides to join the arm in the ongoing Civil War. Facing both problems of the time and strained relationships, the brothers both try to survive in a difficult time in history.

Presented in standard definition with a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.66:1 and a lossy 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound track (and a 2.0 Dolby Digital track as well), the transfer of the film is up to standards and looks pretty good for the format.

Special Features...

Bonus Short Film: Operation Commando directed by Jan Czarlewski (Switzerland)

Director and Cast Commentary


Deleted Scenes


The coming of age drama Puppy Love (2013) is a film about the sexual awakening in a young girl as she meets an unhinged neighbor who is all about sexual freedom and the gnarly life of partying. The film is interestingly made, but at times a bit trying to root for this main character, who transforms from curious teen to asking her father if he would have sex with her. While I see what the film was aiming for in its themes and metaphors, I found it to be a bit silly and far fetched.

The film stars Salene Rigot, Vincent Perez, and Andrey Bastien as the leads.

Presented in standard definition DVD with a widescreen anamorphically enhanced aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and a lossy French Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track with English subs, the presentation here is standard and up to par with the format and presents the film in a compressed format.

No Special Features.

Soul On A String

Taibei the wanderer discovers a scared stone after killing a deer and he is given a pilgrimage by a monk, to bring the sacred stone back to a legendary holy mountain. Legend has it however, the scared stone is the key to the entrance of heaven ...and it seems like everyone know that he has it ...and they want it in Yang Zhang's Soul On A String (2016).

Taibei is a nomadic wanderer, he is lazy, a drunkard and even killed a man, but all that is put on hold when by fate a sacred stone falls into his lap. A Tibetan monk tells him he must return the stone to the Holy Mountain and all his past sins will be forgiven. Tasked with returning the stone to the Holy Mountain (which no ones knows where it is) he is followed unwillingly by his woman and a mysterious mute boy whom discovers a map drawn onto Taibei's back. On top of everything they are tracked by bounty hunters, mercenaries, and the son of the man he killed who wants revenge. Will Teibei be able to complete his journey and escape his wheel of karma or will his past catch up to him first?

The whole plot/setup of this story makes it seem like a comedy about to happen, but it seems it is more of a cautionary tale story of karma than comedy, that "Buddha has a plan for everything". Everything was filmed in the vast and beautiful plains and mountains of Tibet. By accepting and giving help to others will brings good fortune, while lying, cheating, stealing and killing will bring misfortune and set you down the path of evil.

The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image is as good as it can get in the DVD format, but the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix shows its age a bit. Extras include a bonus short film: The Rifle, The Jackal, The Wolf and The Boy, and trailers.

The Summer Of All My Parents

Laura, age 14, and her big sister Josephine are spending their summer between their divorced parents. Between boys and their secretly pregnant mother, Laura and Josephine are just normal tomboys. That is until Josephine starts gets involved with a boy ...from the wrong side of the town. Laura suddenly realizes, how much trouble they are in and that she just might have to grow up faster than her sister and parents in Diasteme's The Summer Of All My Parents (2016 aka July-August).

It's all fun and games playing pranks, causing trouble, and raising hell until it happens to you. Laura is your typical tomboy girl, going through teenage rebellion and puberty. Tell her not to do something and she will do it. As her older sister Josephine is getting interested in cute boys and her own sexuality, they are unfortunately blind to trouble until it is too late. This time, their 'pranks' could really land them in jail. Laura realizes if she continues down her path, she will only repeat the same mistakes as her family members and end up just like them, sad and never really happy.

This was your typical teenage drama movie, it is about kids wanting attention having fun and wild parties, but not taking any responsibility. It seems like a lot of the French movies enjoy making films of teenage girls going through puberty, learning about sex and sexuality and losing their virginity/innocence. It also seems to say that French girls like to have fun, but when it gets serious they runaway or cry in hopes of someone else fixing their problems for them. In the end it is a cautionary tale where the characters have to decide if it is time to grow up a bit. C'est la vie.

The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image is as good as it can get in the DVD format here too, but the lossy Dolby Digital mix shows its age a bit more than anything else on this list and almost earns a lower rating. Extras includes trailers.

- James Lockhart (Wizard, Child, Battle, Puppy) & Ricky Chiang



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